Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #82 Sketchbook Night Game

23 01 2021

This summer I did a post about Sketchbook Day Game – I also had their other baseball themed beer a couple months after that. It’s called – Night Game!

Brewery: Sketchbook Brewing Co. in Evanston, IL

Beer: Night Game

Description:  “Double IPA with Mosaic Hop and honey.  Huge tropical fruit, citrus and floral flavors and aromas.  The malt is simple and lends a drier and refreshing IPA.”

This is basically their Day Game beer – a “Midwest” IPA with honey – but as an imperial IPA.  So 8% plus ABV instead of 6%.  It was a bit sweeter than the regular and obviously packed a bit more punch.  I enjoyed this one – but actually liked the Day game better.

The Day Game beer I enjoyed when baseball was on COVID hiatus and during a Field of Dreams viewing in our house.  Conveniently, I had the Night Game version in September when baseball was back and I was able to watch a night game!

Medium:  I had it from a 16 oz can, I’m sure they also put it out on draft.

How it’s related to baseball:  It’s named after a baseball term!  This is one of 2 beers with this theme.  This one, as the nighttime version, is meant to be drank at night when you don’t need to worry about staying as sober!





RIP Lou Brock, 1939-2020

21 01 2021

As I mentioned in my last post – I unfortunately have a lot of these posts to catch up on.  In fact, since I posted a tribute to Tom Seaver, the baseball world lost another 300 game winner.  So many Hall of Famers have passed away over the past 1-2 years.

Seaver, who passed away on August 31 of last year, was the first of these.  Unfortunately Lou Brock followed him less than a week later.

Like Seaver, Brock was before my time – he was a few years older and actually finished up his career in 1979, which is just before I was born.  Rickey Henderson has always been my favorite non-Reds player, and he’s always tied to Brock for the stolen base records he broke.

Louis Clark Brock was born in 1939 in Arkansas but moved to a small town in northern Louisiana shortly thereafter.   He grew up poor and black in the South, well before the Civil Rights movement.  He didn’t pick up baseball until just before High School, but when he did – he put together a stellar high school career.  From there he went to Southern University on an academic scholarship.  But he struggled in school, and lost that scholarship.  He again turned to baseball to earn a scholarship athletically.  He didn’t fare too well his freshman year, but his sophomore season (1959) he broke through, leading Southern to the NAIA championship.  It was the first and, to this day, only time a Historically Black University has won a national baseball title.  Brock returned for his junior season and Southern made it to the semifinals.

His success earned him tryouts with both Chicago teams, opting to sign with the Cubs that summer.  He starred for their minor league affiliate St. Cloud in 1961, earning a quick cup of coffee for them at the end of the season.  He made the major league squad the next spring training, batting a solid .263 and stealing a modest 16 bases.  Of course, that was the year Maury Wills lit the basepaths on fire, becoming the first player in modern times to steal 100+ bases.  This ushered in the most prolific era of stolen bases in the game’s history.

Lou’s hitting was above average and his baserunning was stellar, but as a defensive outfielder he was subpar at best.  After a slow start to the 1964 season, the Cubs traded him to the Cardinals in what became one of the most lopsided deals in MLB history.  The trade was for Ernie Broglio (along with some other players), who would go on to win only 7 more games in his big league career.

Brock, however, began to thrive in St. Louis.  He was given the green light on the basepaths, stealing 33 bases in 100 games.  He hit .348 for the Cardinals and helped them leapfrog the Phillies and Reds to win the NL pennant.  Against the Yankees, Lou had a solid World Series.  He hit .300 and smashed a home run in the deciding game 7 to help St. Louis to its first title in 18 years.

With the green light continuing, Brock stole 63 bases the next year – the first of 12 straight seasons he would steal 50 or more.  He notched his first time leading the league the year after that, swiping 74 bags.

The Cardinals made the World Series twice more in Lou’s career – 1967 and 1968.  Both series went 7 games.  In 1967 they again took home the championship against Boston.  Brock hit .414 and stole 7 bases, scoring 8 runs.  It was a performance worthy of Series MVP in most years, but his teammate Bob Gibson took that honor home by winning 3 games.  The next year the Cardinals lost to the Tigers in one of the greatest Series ever.  Brock was even better – matching his series record 7 stolen bases from the previous year.  He hit .464 and tied another series record by knocking 13 hits.  Both the steals and hits remain records for a single World Series; Brock’s 14 total WS stolen bases remained tied with Eddie Collins for the career record.

From there, Brock continued his base stealing and had a season to remember in 1974.  During his age-35 season, he stole an incredible 118 bases – shattering Wills’ record from 12 years earlier.  It was an incredible jump, even for Brock – it was 44 bases more than his second highest tally!

The Cardinals never regained their success of the mid-late 60’s, but Brock stayed with the team until 1979.  At the age of 40, he collected his 3,000th hit and hung up his cleats after a solid campaign that saw him make the All-Star team and hit .304.  He had broken Ty Cobb’s career SB record two seasons earlier.

Rickey Henderson has since broken most of Brock’s stolen base records, and the two always seem indelibly linked.  I have baseballs signed by both of them and I made sure to display them side by side in a case that holds two balls.  Brock was 81 when he passed away, so he lived a long life, but he always seemed to be in great shape when I saw him at the couple hall of fame ceremonies I went to – so at the same time he still seemed too young.  Rest in Peace, Lou!





RIP Tom Seaver, 1944-2020

18 01 2021

It’s 2021 and I’m picking the blog back up again.  Unfortunately – I have a lot of these posts to catch up on.  A number of Hall of Famers have passed away since the middle of 2020.

Tom Terrific was a little before my time – he finished up his career in 1986 when I was a year or so from getting into sports and baseball.  He’s a tad older than my parents – and because of his time in Cincinnati and having the same first name as my Dad, I’d always kind of liked him.

Tom Seaver was born in 1944 in Fresno, CA and despite his talents as a baseball youngster, he stayed local for a first couple years of college.  Eventually, though, his talent got noticed and he was recruited as a Junior to attend the prominent baseball program at USC.  After a stellar season in 1965 got him noticed – he was drafted by the Dodgers in June that year, but opted not to sign with the team.  The draft used to be in phases back then, and in the next phase of that draft (January 1966) the Braves drafted Seaver and signed him at some point in late February to a contract.  The signing bonus was for $40,000 – a hefty sum at the time – and it garnered much more news than his drafting had.  An unusual rule came into play here.  It was against MLB rules to sign a player when his college team was playing, and even though he wasn’t pitching for USC had already played some games that year.  Commissioner William Eckert voided the contract with the Braves, who had chalked the violation to an honest mistake.  Most teams hadn’t started playing their season yet, but the warm-weather Trojans had.

But Seaver was now ineligible to continue his college career due to signing the Braves contract.  It was a bit of catch-22.  Eckert determined that any teams willing to match the Braves’ initial offer would enter a lottery for Seaver’s services.  The Phillies, Mets and Indians all bid to play, and the hapless Mets were the name drawn out of the hat!

The rest as they say, is history.  Seaver pitched one season in AAA Jacksonville and in 1967 came up to the Big Leagues for good.  He won the Rookie of the Year, going 16-13 with a 2.76 ERA.  2 years later, he put in a case as the best pitcher, winning the Cy Young award (25-7, 2.21, 208 K’s) while leading the Amazin’ Mets to the most improbable World Championship in history.  That was the first of 9 straight years where he struck out more than 200 batters – matching a record set by Bob Gibson (and interestingly – never broken since then).  He won 3 Cy Young awards in that timeframe, might have deserved another, and got the Mets back to the World Series in 1973.  Though they lost in 7 games to the A’s that year – Seaver had effectively taken over from Gibson as the best pitcher in baseball.

But a few years later, in one of the more shocking trades of all-time, the Mets dealt Seaver to the Reds in the middle of the 1977 season after contract disagreements.  The most notable player the Mets got was Pat Zachry, and Seaver had a few stellar years with the Reds – including going 14-2 in the strike shortened 1981 season for the team that had the best record in baseball (but was kept out of the playoffs due to the structure).  Seaver was on the downside of his career after that.  He went back to the Mets for one season in 1983, and finished up his career in the AL with the White Sox (where he won his 300th game) and Red Sox.

While he played 40% of his career elsewhere – Seaver is forever linked with the Mets.  He’s the “one guy” for that franchise, and Mets fans mourned the day he passed away last August.  Seaver’s health had waned in recent years as he battled dementia, which along with complications from COVID-19 led to his death.  There’s an argument he’s the greatest right handed pitcher of all-time, but no argument he is up there in the discussion.





Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #81 Sketchbook Day Game

18 07 2020

It’s been about a year since I did one of these posts.  I actually timed having this beer with watching Field of Dreams a few weeks ago.

Brewery: Sketchbook Brewing Co. in Evanston, IL

Beer: Day Game

Description:  “Day Game is brewed with Mosaic Hops for bright pineapple and grapefruit flavors and just a touch of Honey for a smooth body and soft honey finish.”

This is a “Midwest” IPA with honey.  It’s got a great balance of bitterness rounded off by that touch of honey – was very enjoyable beer to put down while watching Field of Dreams.

Medium:  I had it from a 16 oz can, I’m sure they also put it out on draft.

How it’s related to baseball:  It’s named after a baseball term!  This is one of 2 beers with this theme.  This one, as the lighter version, is meant to be drank during the day time so you stay a bit sober!





Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #6 – Field of Dreams

10 07 2020

It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these – and frankly it had been a long time since I’d watched a baseball movie!  This is one of my “Baseball & Culture” posts, and I finally got around to doing my favorite baseball movie.  Field of Dreams is seminal, and if you’re willing to forgive a few some cuss words (I am, my wife doesn’t like it) – it’s actually a movie you can watch with kids.  My 7 and 5 year old watched it with us and were enthralled!

Here’s the obligatory statement** – SPOILER ALERT!

**that hopefully isn’t necessary on an obscure baseball card blog on a post for a 1989 movie that is widely considered the greatest baseball movie of all time

Movie/Studio: “Field of Dreams”, Gordon Company, 1989

Director: Phil A. Robinson

  • Kevin Costner – Ray Kinsella
  • Amy Madigan – Annie Kinsella
  • James Earl Jones – Terrance Mann (aka JD Salinger)
  • Ray Liotta – Shoeless Joe Jackson
  • Gaby Hoffmann – Karin Kinsella
  • Burt Lancaster – Moonlight Graham
  • Frank Whaley – young Moonlight Graham
  • Timothy Busfield – Mark the brother-in-law who gets disturbingly angry at his niece!
  • Dwier Brown – “Dad”

Field of Dreams was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and two other Oscars (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Score).

Plot:

After growing up in Brooklyn with a widowed father who taught him his love for baseball – Ray Kinsella went to USC and met his wife Annie.  He got in an argument with his father (John) and stopped playing catch with him when he was a teenager – and then told his dad that John’s hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was a criminal.  Those were the last words he said to his Dad, who died while Ray was away at USC.  He now lives on his farm in Iowa with his wife Annie and daughter Karin.

One evening, walking through his cornfield, he hears a voice – “IF YOU BUILD IT, HE WILL COME“.  Ray deduces that he should build a baseball field there, and this will let the long deceases Shoeless Joe play baseball again.  His wife has her doubts, but she’s a child of the 60’s and agrees to let him follow his heart despite the financial impacts to their farm.

After Ray spends months building the park, a ballplayer appears.  Ray recognizes him as Shoeless Joe, a ghost who came out of the cornfield that is the edge of the new park’s outfield.  Joe has a catch with Ray and asks if other players can come with him when he returns.  When they do, Annie and Karin see the players, but Annie’s brother Mark (a banker) cannot and warns Ray he’s ruining his family financially.  Later, the voice comes back and tells Ray to “EASE HIS PAIN“.

Ray & Annie attend a local PTA meeting organized to ban books by radical (and aloof) author Terence Mann (who is meant to be Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger).  Ray realized the voice was referring to Mann, who had coincidentally named one of his characters “John Kinsella” just like Ray’s father.  Ray drives to Boston to take Mann to a game at Fenway Park, and after some tense moments the old author agrees to go.

At the game, Ray hears the voice again – “GO THE DISTANCE“, and sees the career MLB stats of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham on the Fenway scoreboard – 1 game in 1922, no at bats.  Mann at first denies hearing the voice, but as Ray is about to leave , Mann admits he too heard it.  The pair drives through the night to a small town in Minnesota where they learn that Graham had been a beloved local physician but he had passed away 15 years ago.  But Ray runs into the physician during a late night walk, transported briefly to 1972.  Graham tells him he was content he left baseball to become a doctor.  Ray and Mann leave for the drive back to Iowa and on the way – pick up a young hitchhiker with a baseball bag who calls himself Archie Graham.  Arriving at Ray’s farm, they find that now – not only are some of Shoeless Joe’s teammates there, but they have brought some other All-stars from the early 1900’s to field a second team.  They need one more to make 18, and Archie Graham is perfect for the role.  He gets his one at bat – and a few more – against Major League pitching.

The next morning, the players are back, but so is Mark – who still can’t see them.  Mark tells Ray he’s brokered a deal that will save his family from financial ruin if he sells the farm.  Karin speaks up, saying that people will come to watch the ball games, and Mann seconds the notion in an epic monologue.  Mark, frustrated with Karin, knocks Karin off the bleachers and she is choking.  Too far away from town to get a doctor, Graham leaves the field to save here, but becomes the older version of himself as he walks across the diamond.  Now unable to return to his ball-playing youth, old Dr. Graham again reassures Ray that he has no regrets.  He disappears into the corn – and now Mark can see the players and realizes Ray needs to keep the farm.

Shoeless Joe invites Mann to enter the corn, and Mann goes with him. Ray wants to go, but Joe tells him he’s not invited.  Then Joe repeats the original phrase – “IF YOU BUILD IT, HE WILL COME“.  Ray turns to home plate to sees his father – as a young ballplayer – taking off his catcher’s mask.  Ray gets to introduce his father to his wife and daughter, then have a last catch as father and son.  As they do, hundreds of cars are seen driving toward the field, and it is apparent that the people “will most definitely come”.

Big League Players in the Movie:

There are none that I’m aware of.  But it’s a hell of a cast.

Baseball card connection:  Unlike Costner’s other late 80’s baseball hit, there are very few baseball card ties to this movie.  I can’t remember any discussion of cards within the movie, and there’s only one card I know of that shows a character in the movie.  It’s naturally an uber-expensive one at that.  In 2016, Topps released an autographed mini of Costner with the name “Kinsella” at the bottom.  You’d have to pay multiple hundreds of dollars to score this one.

There’s also a little known card set of famous baseball writers that has the author of the inspiration for the movie – “Shoeless Joe”, by W.P. Kinsella.

Moonlight Graham also got some cards made after the movie, but it’s about the actual player not of Burt Lancaster.

Best quote:  I could go all day here and ultimately, it’s not just one.

“If you build it, he will come” – the voice that speaks to Ray.  This is the easiest and quickest to jump the mind.  The voice says a couple other things, but ultimately it comes back to this quote and all that Ray did was to have his Dad meet his granddaughter, and more importantly to have one last catch with his son.  I can’t watch that part without shedding a tear or fifty – if your dad died before you could say what you needed, of if (like me) he’s still alive and you haven’t played catch in 30 years, this is a movie for baseball fans and their dads.

“Is this Heaven?” – Shoeless Joe.   “No, It’s Iowa”  – Ray

See a good chunk of the the dialogue from Terrance Mann (aka JD Salinger and played by James Earl Jones) below.

Best song:  “The Place Where Dreams Come True” – There are a few notable songs from the 60’s and 70’s throughout the movie, but the main score is the most recognizable.  This is the last composition of the film before the end credits and I think has most of the main tunes you’d recognize from the film incorporated.  The score of the film is wonderful, and plays a big part in how meaningful the film was and has stayed.  It’s composed and conducted by James Horner.  Horner’s score for Field of Dreams was nominated for an Academy Award, losing out on the Oscar to the score for The Little Mermaid.  Horner, who died in 2015, would have his day – he won the Best Score Oscar for Titanic, which won Best Picture as well.  He composed the score for 2 other Oscar-winning Best Pictures, Braveheart and Avatar.

Other Notable facts:

  • Robinson and the producers did not originally consider Kevin Costner for the part of Ray because they did not think that he would want to follow Bull Durham with another baseball film. Obviously this obstacle was overcome.
  • Ray Liotta has apparently never seen the movie.  His mother was sick during filming and he associates it with that.
  • Mann is based off of J.D. Salinger.  Salinger threatened to sue if his name was used (not sure why the book was OK but not the movie), so they changed the name to Terrance Mann.
  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were extras in the Fenway Park scene
  • Madigan’s husband Ed Harris is believed by many to be “The Voice” – but Robinson won’t confirm who it is.
  • Field of Dreams was never #1 at the box office – it was 2nd the week of May 12, 1989 behind See No Evil, Hear No Evil – a comedy I’d never heard of until looked this up.  It ended up being a stronger word of mouth film.  Major League, which was released a little earlier in 1989 and did reach #1 for 2 weeks, grossed $15 million less than Field of Dreams that year.

Shoeless Joe, played by Ray Liotta, is the main former player in the book.  There are too many former players to mention at this time, but at some point I may go back to watch the movie again and update this post for all the players in the film.

***************

I’ve got to say, I hadn’t watched this movie in over a decade.  I wish that wasn’t true.  If you’re a baseball fan, you should watch it once a year at least.  It’s ahead of its time in many ways.  Most apparent to me was that it deals with racism in a way that made me feel like we haven’t moved forward at all in the past 21 years.  We watched this a couple of weekends ago when the George Floyd related protests were still very new, and it was poignant.  But the other part is that Kevin Costner plays a guy a lot like the baseball card collector in me.  I just love this game better than any other, in many ways because of the connection with my Dad.  It was hard to watch and not feel extreme sadness at the labor wars that MLB has had over the past 4-6 weeks.  They have a plan to move forward with the 2020 season – I believe it will be derailed by this virus – but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the sport, way more than I did in 1994.  Maybe that’s because I’m older.  I have 3 kids, we’re trying to figure out if the oldest (who f*cking loves baseball) has a health issue.  I don’t have time to be forgiving on the “billionaires v millionaires” issue.   This movie helps me remember what I love about this sport, and I wish it was mandatory watching for every MLB player, executive and owner.  Take the time to watch it again if you love baseball – you won’t be disappointed!  There’s a last quote I didn’t put above, from James Earl Jones.  America has forgotten this, I hope someday we can get it back.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”





Finishing off a promo set… sort of

20 05 2020

I have kind of neglected a set of posts I started 3 or 4 years back.  Neglected in that I didn’t post them, not that I was necessarily not making progress on the subject.  I started doing posts called the “Elusive Eight”, as a method to show which cards have proved particularly… Elusive … in tracking down.  The 1995 Topps Promo spectralite parallel version of Travis Fryman has been on the list since day 1!  I’ve had eBay searches for this card for at 7 years.  I check COMC, Beckett and Sportlots every month or two (at a minimum).  I’ve tried other… less acceptable… means.   Just kidding, really just those first two things.

One of the eBay searches came up in my email a month ago.  And it looked promising, it’s a Travis Fryman spectralite card.  It is numbered PP5!  It has “pre-production sample” in the 1994 stat line!  OK!

Except, as noted in the eBay auction that I bought it from – it’s a Proof.  It doesn’t have the gold foil on the front!

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades… and occasionally in baseball card collecting.  At least this particular baseball card set for me at least!  I’m counting this bad boy.  The promo sets came one per pack of 1994 Topps, with 9 of the regular promos and one spectralite version.  I could keep buying up those factory sets until I got one, but that didn’t seem as prudent to me as paying $5.31 for this card (plus $2 shipping) and calling this set, and the 1995 Topps Master set, finito!

Here’s a scan of all the promo sets.





RIP Al Kaline, 1934-2020

18 05 2020

The last of my 4 missed “in memoriam” posts is Al Kaline, who died early last month.  His death didn’t quite hit as close to home as Frank Robinson’s did, but he’s a guy who I’d got an autograph before and remember him seeming super nice like many of the greats from his generation.

Al Kaline was born in December 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression in Baltimore.  His father was a semi-pro ballplayer and Al got his genes from his dad and went on to have a historic high school career.  The Tigers scout that signed him (Ed Katalinas), thought that Kaline “was the prospect that a scout creates in his mind and then prays that someone will come along to fit the pattern.”  He was signed right after high school, and because the Tigers were particularly bad in the years leading up to 1953 – he got some playing time as an 18 year-old.  He’s become one of the answers to various trivia questions like “who had 100 hits in his teens”.  In fact, Kaline won a batting title and led all of MLB in hits before he was allowed to buy a beer.  In that 1955 season, his 2nd full year (3rd season overall) with the Tigers, Kaline hit .340 with 200 hits.  He never eclipsed those totals again, but he became a metronome of consistency for the Tigers for the next two decades.

Kaline played his entire career with the Tigers, and while he never won the MVP he was the runner up twice and placed 3rd another time.  He was an All-Star 15 of his 22 seasons and was renowned for his Gold Glove winning defense in both Center and Right Field.  He could cover ground or showcase a live arm depending on what was needed.  To showcase his longevity – Kaline was a standout rookie in 1954, but in 1968 he was the best hitter on the World Series champions.  Mickey Lolich (deservedly) won the 1968 World Series MVP, but Kaline hit .379 with 8 homers and 2 RBI in the game’s biggest stage.  He finished his career with 3,007 hits, helping the Tigers to one other postseason berth in 1972.  His 399 homers are such an interesting stat – I’m glad he got over the 3k hit barrier! He’s one of those rare players who played 20+ years with the same team.  Like all the other guys I’ve posted about the last few weeks, the baseball world surely misses him.





RIP Frank Robinson, 1935-2019

11 05 2020

The third of my “in memoriam” posts that I’m catching back up on is the one that hit home the most.  Frank Robinson was a Red, one of the ten numbers retired by the team.  The trade they made to send him to Baltimore easily represents the biggest mistake the Reds made.  I’d argue it’s the second biggest “oops” trade in the history of baseball behind the Red Sox dealing Babe Ruth to the Bronx for cash.

Robinson is one of the greatest players in baseball history.  But he sometimes gets forgotten.  He’s one of the great black players who stormed baseball after segregation had truly ended, but he’s always remembered after Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and even sometimes after Roberto Clemente.  He didn’t play in New York so he isn’t revered like Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider.  But he had the numbers and talent to be mentioned with all those guys.

Robinson grew up in West Oakland California, the youngest of ten children.  He signed with the Reds out of high school in 1953 and climbed his way to the big leagues in 1956, where he took the National League by storm.  Slugging 38 homers, Robbie tied a rookie record that stood until Mark McGwire broke it in 1987.  He led the NL in runs scored and won the Rookie of the Year award. The Reds hit MLB record-tying 221 homers that year; they went 91-63 and were eliminated from pennant contention on the second to last day of the season.

From there, he was a consistent slugger in the latter half of the 50’s who led the Redlegs to general success they hadn’t seen in over a decade.  They couldn’t break through, however, until 1961.  Robinson really broke out that year, hitting 37 homers and knocking in 124 batters to take home the NL MVP.  Robinson’s great season was out-shined by the home run chase between Roger Maris and Mantle.  The Reds made the World Series, though they were sent home in 5 games by the Bronx Bombers.

Robinson was 4th in the MVP voting the next year, and statistically he was actually even better (39/136/.342, leading the Majors with 51 doubles and 134 runs scored).  He was solid if not quite as outstanding the next few years, and Cincy management thought they were seeing a decline and attempted to jump ahead of it.  They packed Robinson off to Baltimore for Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson.  Pappas pitched 2+ so-so years for the Reds and Simpson logged a total of 138 at bats for the franchise.  Robinson, meanwhile, put together one of the great seasons in baseball history in his first year for the Orioles.  In his career, Robbie led the league in homers, RBI and average one time each – all of them in that 1966 season.  He hit .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBI in an era that had become known for pitching domination.  The Orioles steamrolled the American League and then the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.  Robinson was the Series MVP, and is kind of viewed as the ultimate “I’ll show em” in baseball history.  Robinson got hurt the next year and was never quite as effective; but he did help the Orioles to three more World Series berths, including one win over his former team in 1970.

Robinson finished his career out for the Dodgers, Angels and Indians, and in Cleveland he became the first black manager in MLB history.  He managed 4 different franchises – notably being at the helm for the Montreal Expos during their transition to Washington DC.  He was involved with MLB’s leadership through much of his later life, and was universally respected and admired throughout the game.

I’ve got Robbie’s autograph on a couple items – a baseball that’s part of my collection of 500 Home Run autos, and the card above.  I’ve had the idea of getting autographs of Reds MVP’s on their MVP year card; his is the only one I actually got.  My dad grew up near Dayton, and loved the Robinson and Ted Kluszewski teams from the late 50’s.  He was really nice both times I met him; the second time was in Chicago and I mentioned that my dad loved him and Kluszewski, he said “Big Klu was something else”.

Robinson died last February, and the world was a worse place after losing him.





RIP Willie McCovey, 1938-2018

9 05 2020

As I mentioned in my last post, I missed a number of “in memoriam” posts that I do when a Hall of Famer passes away.  This is the third of four Hall of Famers who passed away since I stopped paying much attention to this blog.

Like Doerr from a couple days ago, I always thought of McCovey as the main sidekick to one of the all-time greats.  But Willie M #2 stands out on his own.  “Stretch” was another really interesting read on the SABR biographical website.  I always thought of him as a physical specimen, but there are some specifics of his career that I just didn’t realize.  For example, when he debuted in 1959, he won the NL Rookie of the year while playing every game at first base.  The year before, fellow HOF-er Orlando Cepeda had won the Rookie of the Year for the Giants while also playing every game at first base.  There’s almost no way this will ever happen again for a position player.  But while it’s amazing, it also meant the Giants had a tough time figuring out where to play these 2 particular future Hall of Famers.  They had some amazing talent – with Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and of course Mays, they had a few years with five Hall of Famers on their team.  They made the 1962 World Series, but never could lock down a title.

In that series, McCovey famously made the last out with what many described as the hardest ball they’d ever seen hit.  There were 2 out, the Yankees held a tenuous 1-0 lead with Mays on second and Matty Alou third.  Unfortunately, McCovey’s screamer was hit right to Bobby Richardson and that was the last chance he’d get to play in the Fall Classic.

McCovey is a member of the 500 home run club, and I’ve been able to recite that total of 521 matching the great Teddy Ballgame for about 31 years.  But when I looked closer at his stats, I realized he was probably the best player in baseball for a 3-year span (1968-1970).  And it was interesting to read that pitchers feared his line drives more than any towering home runs.

I’ve been a collector of autographed baseballs for guys with 500 homers and/or 3,000 hits.  I never did get Stretch to sign a ball at the shows I went to; he was at a couple early shows but his declining health kept him away in the later years.  Like Doerr – he was quite the player, much more than a sidekick and I’ll always think of him when I see a homer hit into the water at Pac Bell Park.

 





RIP Bobby Doerr, 1918-2017

7 05 2020

I missed a number of “in memoriam” posts that I do when a Hall of Famer passes away.  Four Hall of Famers have died since I last did one of these posts, and while it feels a little weird to do a tribute to guys who passed away years ago, I’m all for consistency.  Plus, this is quite a list; 3 of the 4 were either a member of the 500 Homer of 3,000 Hit clubs.

The first one was not, but he’s a great man to write about nonetheless!  Anyone who lived into their 100th year, played Major League Baseball and fought in World War II lived an interesting life.  I’ll start with the closest connection I had to Mr. Doerr.  My wife and I went to Cooperstown for the first time in 2009, mainly for Rickey Henderson’s induction.  I was always a big Rickey fan growing up, he’s my favorite player that never played for the Reds.  We stayed at a great Bed & Breakfast up the lake a mile or 2 from downtown Cooperstown.  The B&B had 3 rooms, and obviously was full for Induction Weekend.  One of the other two groups were two guys who came every year, and got “seats” as Doerr’s guest (I assume every HOF-er gets a few seats for family or friends).  The guys seemed just a tad bit older than me but a big baseball fan as well.  Doerr was one of the guys godfathers, and it seemed really cool that he got his family friend a seat every year.

Doerr was born in 1918 in Los Angeles and started playing professionally at the age of 16 for the Hollywood Stars – who in 1936 were moved to San Diego and became the minor league San Diego Padres.  It was there that Doerr played his first season with a lanky young San Diego kid named Ted Williams.  After that season, future fellow HOF-er Eddie Collins scouted Doerr for the Red Sox and picked up his contract.  As Williams was a couple years younger, Collins said he’d come back for him.

Doerr made the Red Sox the next year, and went 3-for-5 in his Opening Day debut as the team’s leadoff hitter!  He wasn’t a full-time regular until the next year.  Gold Gloves weren’t a thing back then, but Doerr would have been a regular winner at 2nd base in the 1940’s.  He was a great defensive player from the start, became a competent batsman by his second year and was an offensive star leading up to the War.  In 1944, he led the AL in slugging but was called away to war with a month left in the year while the BoSox were in the thick of the pennant chase.  He finished 7th in the MVP vote, though had he not missed the last 29 games may have won the award.

He came back in 1946 and along with Williams led the Red Sox to their first World Series since Babe Ruth was toeing the mound in Boston.  He was Boston’s best hitter in the 7-game loss, going 9-for-24 in the Series.  They never made it back.

Doerr was still a star for 4 or 5 years after the war, but hurt his back midway through the 1951 season.  He decided he’d had a good career, and at 33 hung up his spikes.  From there he worked on and off for the Red Sox, and was the hitting coach for the Blue Jays for a time.  He spent a lot of time in his home in Oregon.

Doerr was the 13th HOF-er to pass away since I started this blog.  He died 2 and a half years ago, and I always thought of him as Ted Williams’ sidekick.  While that may have been true, when I read through his SABR website to do this post, I was struck by how down-to-earth he seemed.  He was the last living player to debut in the 1930’s, and the baseball world certainly misses him.