Category Archives: beisbol

Poets Priests And Politicians

Sting turned sixty this month; one day before Dave Winfield did. I’m not sure how much they followed each others careers, but I followed both closely as a tween then teen. I got my first radio around 1980. It was a little portable AM thing, but it was mine. And some AM stations still played current music back then. I was aware of rock music before then. Some kids up the street would play the main riff from “Smoke On The Water” over and over again. But Zenyatta Mondatta had just come out and this was different. It was rock, but it wasn’t blues based. It had a reggae influence. The guitars just sounded… different. I’m not sure if MTV was around yet. We didn’t get cable. But Casey Kasem’s “America’s Top Ten” would show videos. So my brothers and I would watch “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and other hits of the day.

Yesterday I wrote about some creative baseball players. Today I wanted to mention some baseball poets, priests, and politicians. There have been other poets associated with baseball; including Marianne Moore, Donald Hall, and Carson Cistulli. But there is an active warrior-poet in the bigs. Pitcher Miguel Batista once wrote a serial killer thriller, but he also writes poetry. If you peruse that article, it mentions Fernando Perez as a possible major league poet.

I don’t know if Batter’s Box still does these, but they used to hand out Allan Travers Awards. Travers was a student at Saint Joseph’s in Philly who was recruited by the Tigers to take the mound against the A’s after Detroits players walked off the job in protest of a Ty Cobb suspension. He got shelled. Travers had a higher calling, though. He became a Catholic priest. St. Joe’s, incidentally, has made a greater contribution to sports, and it isn’t Delonte West or Jameer Nelson. From professor Sean Forman created Baseball Reference; one of the greatest achievements of Western Civ. The priesthood itself has made contributuions to understanding baseball. Fr’ Gabriel Costa is a sabermetrician. One wonders if West Pointers eschew bunts and work the count. Finally, former Oakland prospect Grant Desme retired to join a seminary about two years ago.

Many baseball folks got involved in politics. The most famous may be Jim Bunning. He was a Hall of Fame pitcher, not the best one in Cooperstown, but he made it. Along with Robin Roberts and others, he helped the Players Association become a force against the owners. Later, he became a Senator from Kentucky. Unfortunately, towards the end, he was suffering from dementia. What isn’t well known is that one of Bunning’s contempo pitchers also had a political career. Juan Marichal held a cabinet position in the Dominican Republic.

As for the police, there;s always Kevin Romine. Austin’s dad investigates auto theft in L.A.. Maybe he was the guy who found the Dude’s ’73 Torino.


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Media Play

I haven’t written much about baseball lately. Truth be told, I haven’t watched much since the Red Sox collapsed. Maybe I will write a post-mortem on their season, but what can I add that hasn’t already been said? I have been reading about the World Series and it does sound like a classic. Albert Pujols evoked memories of Reggie Jackson over the weekend with his three homer game that was likely the best one game hitting display ever in WS history. Then, on Monday nite, there was the biggest telephonic mixup since last week when Derek Lilliquist misheard TLR. (I have a tendency to think of Carson Daly and Total Request Live when I see Tony LaRussa’s initials.) I’m pulling for Texas to win. They’ve never done it before. They are the AL representative, and Saint Louis has one plenty of times; including five years ago. Bill Lee picked the L.A. Dodgers as the NL’s answer to the Yankees, but I picked Saint Louis when I was in high school and had a fling with the Mets. They were a team to respect, but not like. (I was glad to see Whitey Herzog get inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.)

There used to be a chain of stores called Media Play that sold books, DVDs and CDs. I liked it, but it went out of business around the time Saint Louis defeated Detroit. Today, I wanted to highlight three former baseball players that personify that store’s merchandise; an author, an actor, and a singer.

Before Jim Bouton, there was Jim Brosnan. Brosnan wrote two in-season diaries; The Long Season and Pennant Race. I have yet to read the latter, but I thought that the former was better than Ball Four once I finally read it. Plus, he didn’t have to have Leonard Schecter help him write it. Bouton’s book may have been more historic at the time he wrote it, but I didn’t read it until at least ten years after it came out. Brosnan was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of Eternals four years ago. If you ask me, that is a higher honor than getting a plaque in Cooperstown.

Chuck Connors was an Eisenhower-era Man. He played baseball and hoops and was also Lucas McCain on “The Rifleman.” I’m still in search of the elusive Center of the Entertainment Universe, but he might be it. Dennis Hopper appeared on that Western. And Hopper is The Center of The Hollywood Universe. Connors connects you to the NBA, major league baseball and the Pacific Cast League; which was still big back then. There’s also a football connection. Sid Gillman appeared on the show. He was one of the most influential coaches in football history; practically invented film study. His coaching tree is like a sequoia.

Last but not least, I checked out Dave Marsh’s New Book of Rock Lists the other day and came across Lee Maye. I had heard of The Rifleman even if the show was before my time, but I wasn’t familiar with Maye at all. Phill Millstein argues that this doo wopping outfielder was the best combination baseball player-musical artist. Check the link out.

I was on Monday Night Sports a month ago and he suggested that the reason some players of that era moonlighted in other entertainment fields was because sports salaries weren’t as high as they are now and they needed the money. He may have a point. Ironically, I was talking about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and their joint holdout. Chuck Connors helped act as an intermediary between the two pitchers and the Dodgers.

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More about the Leaders of the Free World (and baseball!)

I visited the FDR Home in Hyde Park with my wife and mother-in-law a couple of months ago. It was right after the Bowash earthquake of 2011 and right before Hurricane Irene (why don’t they name earthquakes, too?)

I picked up a souvenier in the gift shop. It was a set of documents relating to presidents and our national pastime. I think it has something from everyone from Hoover to Clinton. My favorites are the JFK telegrams regarding Jackie Robinson and the memo from Donald Rumsfeld recommending that Gerald Ford call Sparky Anderson to congratulate him on the Reds 1975 World Series win. Ford was more of a football man and I know he opted to watch Michigan-Michigan State instead of Game One of the World Seires. (Check out my post from last week about the presidential diary.)

Take a click and enjoy!

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Harry Dalton for the Hall of Fame?

I have piece over at Baseball Past and Present about Harry Dalton’s Cooperstown credentials. I feel it is rather timely, seeing how the Brewers are trying to make the World Series and he was their GM 29 years ago when they once made it all the way to Game Seven but lost to the Cardinals.

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No Fear

Baseball games are like fingerprints. No two are exactly alike. Baseball games can also be like ancestors. They live on in memories even more than twenty years. It isn’t always what happened, but who did it.

Seems like yesterday, but these are memories from almost half a lifetime ago. When I was in the 101st, I roomed for a while with a guy named Page. To this day, I cannot listen to Garth Brooks or any country music of that ilk. He gave me a lifetime’s fill of it. He was as bald as Homer Simpson, yet he was as hirsute as Captain Caveman. Page was constantly bumming dips of Copenhagen from me, but he was a good egg. He was from Nebraska, but his family was originally from Billerica, Massachusetts. So, like me, Page was a Red Sox fan. I think they could get WGN in his little burg, so he also liked the Cubs. The peacetime army was a remarkably inefficient operation. In the afternoon, we often had nothing better to do then clean our M-16s, so he’d go up to his room and put Harry Caray on and have a pinch between his cheek and gum as we disassembled our rifles, brushed off the rust, then reassembled them. (I don’t know what alloy Colt used for those, but it oxidized rather quickly. Even in Saudi Arabia, they’d rust.)

Ladison came to TCAE after doing a year’s tour of duty in Korea. He was from somewhere up north in New York. I think he resided so far up north that he bathed in the Saint Lawrence. He drove a white Lincoln Town Car. It had an onboard computer that was state of the art for the time. It could calculate your gas mileage in real time. It was like Lunar Lander! I don’t know where Ladison’s baseball heart lay, but I believe that, when it came to football, he was a Bears fan. They enjoyed a vogue at the time.

One time, Page and Ladison got the bright idea to take a road trip up to Chicago on a Friday nite. “Chitown is the dope.” Ladison said. He would call Chicago Chitown. If he liked something he’d call it dope. He’d also cackle liked a wounded chicken when he was excited. I told then them that I’d get a full nite’s sleep and join them the next day. “I can’t sleep in cars.” I said.

“Not even Ladison’s Town Car?” Page asked. “It has its own zip code.”

I passed. The only guys we knew back then who had cell phones were some guys in the motor pool who were running a midnight auto parts theft ring, But somehow, I was able to get those guys on the horn Saturday morn and track down where they were staying. So I got in my Cavalier and hauled balls north. I-24 ran northwest from Fort Campbell, up past Paducah and into Illinois. I took that until it intersected with I-57 and went north. I’d been that way before with Vinroe. We liked rocks so we went to Garden of the Gods. Back when we were in Monterey, we once took a trip to The Pinnacles.

I was outside of Watseka, Illinois when I got pulled over by a state trooper. He had clocked me going 101 MPH. It was a sunny day; the road was as straight as a yardstick through the prairie. It was dry and there was little traffic. Who knew that I could coax that much speed out of four cylinders? But I did, and, at that speed, I was representing the Screaming’ Eagles. I didn’t have enough to cover the ticket. I was stationed at Fort Campbell, not Fort Knox. But the trooper let me go with a promise to appear later that summer at the Iroquois County Courthouse and I continued my trek north.

Before I had met up with them, Ladison and Page had taken pics of Wrigley and Soldier’s Fields. The Cubs were out of town, so we took in a White Sox – Yankees game. Geographically speaking, it would have made sense if Ladison was a Yankees fan, but I forget if he was. It was the last season for old Comiskey Park. They were building a new one where the parking lot used to be. There had been talk of the team moving to Tampa or elsewhere, but they’re still in town twenty years later. Comiskey was the third major league park I’d been to. I’d been to Fenway around a dozen times. I was TDY at Fort Devens the previous fall and caught the closing day matchup between Boston and Milwaukee. It was a quick game; everyone wanted to go home. Terry Francona was the Brewer’s DH. I also saw the Red Sox play the A’s in Oakland a couple of years earlier when I was stationed at DLI, so this was my first non-Red Sox major league game that I would attend; if you don’t count a spring training game I caught once driving through Arizona.

That was an awful Yankee team that year. They hadn’t seen the postseason since 1981, but they still had the best overall record in the Eighties. They did this despite, or maybe because in part, they used more players in that decade than any other team. But they had hit the abyss in 1990. Stump Merrill had replaced Bucky Dent as the manager about a month before the game. George Steinbrenner was on the verge of a suspension by Fay Vincent due to his dealings with Howie Spira.

The White Sox were in first place. That was a surprise after their 1989 season. But during that year they were able to acquire Sammy Sosa, Scott Fletcher, and Wilson Alvarez for the price of one aging Harold Baines. Fletcher was key. He helped shore up the defense behind their young pitching staff. Chicago was streaking. They’d won the last eight games and that was what put them in a tie with Oakland for first. (This was the dominant A’s team that had trouble in the World Series; winning only one out of three from 1988-1990.)
If we went to the game on Sunday, we would have seen Andy Hawkins no-hit the White Sox, yet lose to them 4-0. Fay Vincent’s Politburo on Statistical Accuracy wiped it from the record books because Hawkins didn’t go nine innings. Outings like the one Hawkins had were rare (although Matt Young had a similar one around that time), but the game we saw may have been more important in a cosmic sense.

Melido Perez was starting against Dave Lapoint. Perez was Pascual Perez’s younger brother. I can still recall an item in Sports Illustrated about Pascual driving in circles on I-285 trying to find the way to Fulton County Stadium. That day, Deion Sanders spoke with Michael Kay of the New York Daily News (YES, it was the same Kay who now does play by play.) Sanders denied rumors that Mel Hall and Claudell Washington were bad influences on him. Hall is in prison now and Washington had problems with cocaine. Sanders didn’t have these problems, but he angered Chisox catcher Carlton Fisk earlier in the season by jaking after hitting a popup. Fisk, incidentally, was having a rebirth at 42 in 1990.

Page, Ladison and I sat somewhere near first base. The Yankees took a 7-0 lead in the third but the White Sox put up five runs over the next two innings. It wasn’t enough, though and New York would end up winning 10-7. A Yankee rookie hit his first two major league home runs during the game. It wasn’t Kevin Maas. The rook was third baseman Jim Leyritz. He was a converted catcher. Leyritz would go back to that position and eventually become a World Series legend. The King, as he liked to call himself, crashed his car into another car a few years back. The other driver was DOA. He was drunk, but the other driver was drunker.

I left the next morning and returned to Fort Campbell via US 41 in Indiana. I was trying to avoid SCMODS. Besides, I like going on different roads for variety’s sake. The road bypassed Terre Haute, home of the Indiana State Sycamores. Larry Bird went there a decade earlier. I also got to see Evansville; home of Don Mattingly and an ill-fated college basketball team whose plane crashed when I was young. Donnie Baseball was the Yankees those days.

The Fourth of July was a few days later. I celebrated by riding with Vinroe somewhere and popping a yellow smoke grenade that we found on the back forty during the spring. Later that July, Vinroe would roll over his V-dub on I-24 with me riding shotgun. I was supposed to go back up to Illinois for my court appearance that Monday, but I was in the hospital. They rescheduled but fate intervened when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and I was deployed a month later. They let me off with a huge fine (although I suspect the judge was disappointed that he couldn’t give me a dressing down in court. Here were some places that couldn’t stand the military back then.) I’d joke occasionally that they named the Watseka high school gym after me because my fine made it possible to renovate it.

No Fear was a popular logo back then. (Soon, hypercolor tees and B.U.M Equipment would follow,) It was on t-shirts and car windows. Well, we were in our early twenties and had no fear. We were in the bulletproof stage of tequila. This feeling of invincibility led to a pattern of recklessness. We were living to run and running to live. Going eight miles a minute (or at least 101 MPH) for months on end. There was fast driving. That wasn’t the first ticket I got, nor was it the first car Vinroe totaled. There were poor choices. A year earlier two other guys and I tried to steal a wooden statue while the Monterey Police Department was watching.

Eventually, we settled down. Vinroe is in IT. Page teaches. Last I heard, Ladison was selling Amway. It took me years, but I settled down, too. I’m married now. Gave up snuff five years ago, drive soberly at a more reasonable speed. I push paper from pile A to pile B so that salesmen don’t have to. Now I worry about deadlines and commitments. What to leave in? What to leave out? But Leyritz was a jock and remained in a state of suspended adolescence. Mel Hall used to wear batting gloves in his back pocket to wavy bye-bye to pitchers as he circled the bases after hitting a dinger. Now he’s doing a stretch in the hoosegow. Then there’s Lenny Dykstra. Nails has quite the rap sheet.

Given the money and adulation athletes receive at an early age, it is a wonder that there aren’t more cautionary tales like his. I think it is mainly the adulation. I knew jocks in high school. I wasn’t one myself, but I was athletic enough to escape the treatment they’d give to some of the nerds and other outsiders. I had no leaping ability or hand eye coordination, but I had a little speed and was willing to sacrifice my body. I went to high school with a guy who made it to AAA. His baseball coach was also the gym teacher and he’d help him and tyrannize some of the kids. One time I was hanging out with friends in Hartford. It was the offseason and he walked into the bar we were hanging out in. He had an entourage. He may’ve changed by now, but it is hard to mature when you were given a big head at an early age. It was hard for me and I was just some soldier; a chairborne Ranger in the 101st.


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The End of Baseball Blogging and the Last Blogger

Steve Treder makes a good point in this BTF thread that went political soon after it started:

There is something, though, to the notion that “it used to be better,” and it’s this: there was a time when we could engage in genuine, passionate and interesting discussions about various baseball topics — PEDs, the DH, fielding metrics, interleague play, and so on — because there was a certain freshness to them. We hadn’t yet beaten them to a horrible death. But we have now. Do we really need to have a discussion about whether the DH is a good rule? Is there anything that all of us hasn’t said about a question such as that, gazillions of times?

Someone was mourning the good old days when Baseball Think Factory was known as Baseball Primer. In some respects, I miss those days, too. But life goes on, we hope. I think about writing about other topics besides baseball.

This past week I started two or three projects that I’ll probably never finish. One had nothing to do with writing. It was an attempt by me to see if there was a way of factoring semiprimes by treating them all as differences of squares. For a man with no math beyond calculus, this was a dangerous experiment. I have about 1500 words of a totally uncomprehensive history of organized crime on a legal pad. And I have been thinking about using the format of the Pulp Fiction screenplay to write about a famous baseball game from years past.

I did read a short book about the beginning of the Civil War by Emory Thomas and thought for a moment about tracking down some Vietnam vets and start an oral history project on that war. How was your weekend?

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Greenies – An Appeal to Readers

Does anyone here know how teams and players acquired greenies back in the Sixties? Who were the suppliers? I’m sure this was discussed in the steroids threads at BBTF, but I didn’t follow those too closely.


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If Imitation Is Homage, The Wall Street Journal Loves Me

Six Degrees of Jack McKeon

I didn’t write anything about Jack McKeon, but this fits the style of some of my work going back to the Mike Morgan piece I wrote ten years ago.

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Calling Nate Silver

Quinnipiac University has two polls about baseball fandom out this week. One from Pennsylvania and the other from Connecticut.

Overall, most Keystone staters prefer the Phillies, but that might be because they are in the most populous part of the state. Isn’t it sometimes referred to as Pennsyltucky? The New York teams have made some inroads. Some might be commuters who moved to PA for more affordable housing.

I’ve called Connecticut the Alsace=Lorraine of the Boston-New York rivalry. I shouldn’t look to deep into these results. I’m not 538/ But it appears that men are from New York and women are from Boston ;).

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Week 2 Thoughts

Not a good week so far. The Red Sox did take two against the Yankees. The rest of the news wasn’t as good.

When he was on the team, I thought that Manny Ramirez made the Red Sox more interesting. Who else would hide in the Green Monster? Or inexplicably cutoff a throw from center? Or high-five a fan in Baltimore while doubling up a runner? Winning’s great, but it is even better if it is done in an entertaining manner.

I once called Satchel Paige Free Darko. Manny’s had some of the same characteristics, but I’m not sure if Free Darko is the correct term. I may be misinterpreting their philosophy. The Germans probably have a word for the quality in players I’m talking about; great, or very good at the least, and someone you’d make the extra effort to go see.

He scuffled with Kevin Youkilis and the traveling secretary in ’08 and was traded to the Dodgers. He was suspended 50 games in ’09 because he tested positive for hCG; a fertility drug. If the internets aren’t lying, steroid users take this after a steroid cycle to start testosterone production back up. Late last year, he was exiled to the White Sox.

This winter he signed with Tampa, as did Johnny Damon. He was supposed to return to Boston this week along with Damon, but abruptly retired. I heard about it from Joe Castiglione while listening to the home opener on WVEI. He didn’t say it at first, but later on he read a report that Manny had failed another drug test. I’m scratching my head over this. This is like driving through an announced DWI checkpoint after stopping at a bar for a few cold ones.

The Ray’s didn’t need Manny’s presence when they came to Boston. They swept the rain-shortened series. My seat of the pants prediction system had them second to the Red Sox in the division and a strong contender for the wild card over the Yanks, Orioles and Jays.

I haven’t written about the concept of Maranvillains or the beauty of baseball lately. I’m no longer sure that this is why I watch baseball or if that was ever the case. But this Patrick Sullivan article from last year brought to mind the antithesis of Rabbit Maranville and his heirs: Dice-K.

Also, just like so many other Red Sox fans, Daisuke drives me nuts. He works slowly and walks way too many batters. In his final four seasons for the Seibu Lions, Matsuzaka averaged 2.3 walks issued per nine innings. For the Red Sox, his 162-game average BB/9 has jumped to 4.3. Combine the walks, his inefficiency and his unreliability from a health standpoint and it’s all just very maddening.

I like to think that I have a healthy attitude towards sports as part of a balanced life. I’m not one who lives and dies with my favorite sports teams, but even I find him maddening. Some day I’ll have to come up with a list of these guys. As frustrating as Matsuzaker (/Remdawg) might be, Steve Trachsel was probably worse.

But Monday night’s game ended early. I’m not sure what was going on in Dice-K’s head, but he was grooving the ball in the first inning. The wheels fell off in the second and I ran some errands. There was no tension in the game. You knew early on what the likely decision would be.

Tim Wakefield is sort of the anti-Manny. He’s not flashy; doesn’t stir up any controversy. Bill Plaschke and Mikey Adams probably like him. And he might secretly be paying the Red Sox to pitch. But his starts were appointment television over the years for me. Why? He throws the knuckleball.

The knuckler is going the way of the polar bear, but it is one of my favorite pitches to watch. Wakefield and R. A. Dickey used it as their bread and butter pitch. Dickey gets the ball moving in the 70s, but the average Wakefield pitch goes about the Interstate speed limit. But he is a long reliever now; Terry Francona’s loss cigar. (Come to think of it, those guys may be going the way of the polar bear, too.) Wake couldn’t top the bleeding either. The only question remaining in the late innings was whether or not Rays leftfielder Sam Fuld would hit for the cycle. He didn’t, but he did better by a base. He hit two doubles, a triple, and a homer. The end result was a 16-5 loss. Tuesday’s game was a return to baseball normalcy, but Boston was still on the losing end of a 3-2 game.

Carl Crawford is only batting .152 with one double and two walks. People say that he’s pressing. I’m not sure what that means. I have a mental image of two hoopsters trying to trap a point guard in the backcourt when I hear that term. I’m not Walt Hriniak, but I do wonder if his extreme open stance is killing him. I’m not the only one who thinks this. Some folks are talking about the same issue in this Rotoworld thread.

The Jays are in town now. I caught a few of their games with Boston last year and they have an exciting approach to baseball. They may not take pitches much, but Jose Bautista and company rake. ‘Til next time, happy baseball.

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