I Never Smoked Astroturf


I’m no expert on country music (but I did see Crazy Heart last week), so I apologize in advance if I flub this. Garth Brooks trained with the Padres back in the late 90s. He had a number of influences, including Charley Pride. Pride was a rara avis; a black country singer. Brooks would go on to influence another one; Darius Rucker formerly frontman for Hootie and the Blowfish. Brooks was the King of Country for a while; even though folks like Kinky Friedman called him the anti-Hank on “Imus In The Morning.” Then his throne was usurped by Tim McGraw.

McGraw’s dad was the pitcher Tug McGraw. Tug did not acknowledge Tim as his son until Tim was 17 years old, his son being the product of a brief fling, but the two later developed a close relationship. McGraw was part of the “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets of 1973. He later helped the Phillies win their first World Series title in 1980. It only took them 97 years. Another lefty in the bullpen for the Phillies that year was Sparky Lyle. Lyle was acquired from the Texas Rangers in mid-September and appeared in 10 games. Lyle was stolen by the Yankees from the Red Sox for Danny Cater and sat on cakes in the Bronx during the prime years of his career. He was on the 1976 squad. That was the team that finally brought back the AL title after a 12 year drought.

In August, the Yankees picked up Cesar Tovar for the stretch drive. As a kid, I remember Tovar because I had the 1977 Baseball Encyclopedia. For his 1968 season, his position was listed as ALL. He played all 9 positions one game that year. He was the second of only four players to do this. (Jose Oquendo played all nine positions, but not in one game. Ditto Bobby Reis.)

Tovar played for Missoula in the Pioneer League was back in 1960. A tovarich on the team was a former Negro League pitcher trying to hang on. He came to the Memphis Red Sox as a teen phenom for a couple of years before joining the Army. He played on a service team that included Leon Wagner, J.C. Hartman, and Willie Kirkland. After playing in Montana, the hurler tried to catch on with a couple of expansion teams. When he realized that even the Angels and Mets weren’t interested in him, he decided it was time to hang up his spikes and find another career. That pitcher’s name was Charley Pride. He still gets involved with the Texas Rangers. Conway Twitty and Roy Acuff also played a little ball, but Pride went further than those two country singers.

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Filed under baseball, beisbol, Degrees

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