Category Archives: Baseball

The Night The Audio System Failed At Yankee Stadium

30  Minutes Of Baseball Bliss As The Audio System At Yankee Stadium Fails – September 14, 2017

9 14 17 Yankee Stadium audio difficulties signThey say if you go to a baseball game there’s always a chance you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

But it’s not only what I had never seen before, but what I didn’t hear. What happened Thursday, September 14, 2017 during a Yankees – Orioles game was unusual.

For the first time in my life, I attended a major league baseball game and the national anthem was not played before the start of the game. No, it wasn’t the second game of a real doubleheader (remember those?)

Not only was the national anthem not played, no sound was heard in the ballpark except the cheers of the crowd, calls of the vendors and crack of the bat. Continue reading

Gene Michael Architect Of Late 90s Yankees Dynasty Dies at 79

Gene “Stick” Michael Was More Responsible For The Yankee Championship Teams In The Late 90s Than Anyone Else

Gene Michael awaits the throw to second base as Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio makes his slide (1970).

Former Yankees shortstop, manager and general manager Gene Michael died today September 7, 2017 at the age of 79 of a heart attack at his home in Oldsmar, FL.

Michael was a slick fielding light hitting shortstop who played on Yankees teams from 1968 – 1974, that were a shadow of the former Yankee teams.  From 1921 -1964 the Yankees had appeared in 29 World Series, winning 20 of them.

If The New York Yankees futility of the late 1960s and early 1970s was epitomized by their second baseman Horace Clarke, then Gene Michael would unfairly be attached to that failure with his double play partner.  Horace Clarke, was a career .256 hitter and average fielder who hit a total of 27 home runs with the Yankees from 1965 – 1974. Because Clarke’s career coincided with that of Michael’s the two were paired together unfairly as the face of Yankee ineptitude.

But there was never any question that Gene Michael was a decent ballplayer and a great competitor.

The “Stick,” as the six foot two skinny shortstop was nicknamed, had baseball smarts and could execute the plays a lot better than an average player. That is what kept Michael on the team. A .229 lifetime average usually won’t ensure your spot on a major league roster unless you can hit thirty or more home runs a year. Yet Michael was valued by teammates and some fans as a hard-nosed, crafty ballplayer.

One thing that Michael did that you rarely see anymore was pull the “hidden ball trick.”Michael said he would only pull it if his pitcher was in trouble.

Michael would have the ball in his glove as the pitcher would be getting ready to pitch and Michael would sneak up on an unsuspecting runner as he began to take a lead off second base and apply the tag. It’s called a bush league play today. Completely unprofessional. I disagree. It showed smarts and initiative to pull it off and I question why it is not tried more often today. I once witnessed Michael do this in person and didn’t realize what had happened.

Michael was smart in other ways. In a May 25, 1973 game against the Texas Rangers Continue reading

6 Uncorrected Baseball Card Errors

Topps Made A Mistake

When you produce thousands of baseball cards over many decades you’re going to make some mistakes. Eagle-eyed baseball card collectors usually catch the errors. They would then write in to Topps baseball card company and sometimes the cards would get corrected.  Some mistakes were pretty obvious and could have been caught and corrected.

None of these were.

For a couple of these cards, if you are an old time baseball fan, you might recognize what the mistake is. For the others it takes a sharp eye. See if you can spot the mistake on each of these cards.

First our lead photo of the 1957 Topps Hank Aaron card. The mistake is not that his proper name is Henry, not Hank. Look closely.

Second, the 1969 Topps Larry Haney card. The Seattle Pilots lasted only one season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. Haney’s error is difficult to discern.

Third up is the 1959 Topps card of 1957 World Series pitching star, Lew Burdette. Lew looks pretty serious doesn’t he?

Fourth is the man who is probably better known for the surgery named after him rather than his pitching career. Tommy John won 288 games. This is his 1969 Topps card.

Claude Raymond’s 1966 Topps card poses him looking up at something. Should he really be looking up?

Before Billy Martin’s multiple managing stints with the Yankees, he was the manager of the Detroit Tigers and before that the Minnesota Twins. This is his 1972 Topps card.

So what are the errors that Topps didn’t catch and never bothered to correct?

The first card of Hank Aaron is probably the easiest error to spot. The print is reversed. Look at Aaron’s uniform number 44. Most people know the great slugger batted right handed, not left.

Next, you probably wouldn’t pay much attention to Larry Haney’s card. It shows the catcher posed ready to catch a ball.  Ardent students of the game know that almost no left handed catchers have ever played major league baseball. No, Haney is not the exception, once again, Topps reversed the negative. It is the same photo Topps used of Haney for his 1968 card except they got that one right.

With Lew Burdette’s card, one mistake is right in print and it is not a big deal. It is “Lew,” not “Lou.” But that is not the big error. Lew Burdette had a sense of humor. He asked his teammate and future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Warren Spahn if he could borrow his glove. That would be fine except that Spahn was a lefty and Burdette was a righty. Many children wrote to Topps in 1959 informing them of the “mistake.” Continue reading

Babe Ruth Buys Back His 700th Home Run Baseball

Babe Ruth Wanted His 700th Home Run Baseball Returned To Him, So He Bought It

What He Paid Might Surprise You

73 years ago on July 13, 1934, Babe Ruth walloped his 700th career home run.

The caption reads:

Babe Ruth Hits 700th Home Run

Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run of his Major League career on July 13 clouting one of Tommy Bridges offerings out of Navin Field, Detroit. The mighty Bambino is shown above with Leonard Beals, who received $20 from the Babe for retrieving the ball.  7-14-34 credit: Acme Photo

The ball went over the right field bleachers and out of the ballpark, landing on Plum Street among some automobiles parked across the street. It was estimated the ball traveled 500 feet,

When he connected, in the third inning, Babe immediately screamed out loud to Yankee third base coach Art Fletcher, “I want that ball! I want that ball! Bring whoever caught it around to the clubhouse and I’ll give him twenty dollars.”  The Yankees went on to win the game 4-2.

The Yankees sent out word to find the person who had retrieved the baseball. That turned out to be 17-year-old Lenny Beals (whose real name was Bielski). Bielski was taken into the ballpark to watch the rest of the game.

Interviewed in 1973 by the Detroit Free Press, Bielski told his version of that memorable day: Continue reading

I Want That Baseball! What Some People Would Do For A Foul Ball – 1947

You’ll Never See Fans Go For A Baseball Like This Again

God forbid someone was to try and climb the backstop screen at a baseball game today. If this situation seen here happened now, a potential climbee would be pulled down, arrested and barred from the stadium for life.

If no one from the ballpark interfered with you, you could fall, break some bones and then hire a lawyer and sue the team for not protecting you from yourself.

Seventy years ago this was obviously not the case.

The place is Shibe Park in Philadelphia, The date is September 7, 1947. The Philadelphia Athletics would sweep a Sunday doubleheader from the Boston Red Sox by scores of 7-4 and 4-3. Times of the games: 2:19 and 1:50.

But for part of one inning this mad dash for a foul ball was the entertainment for the 32,464 fans in attendance.

Amateur Aerialists Steal Baseball Show

Philadelphia, PA… When a high foul ball lodged in wire mesh screen behind the home plate in the 8th inning of the Boston-Philadelphia game at Shibe Park, these two boys stole the show from the diamond in their efforts to race for the ball as a souvenir. Neck-craning spectators may be seen in the lower foreground. A television camera is peeping through the screen on the center. The upper boy got to the ball and got back to terra firma safely, much to the relief of the crowd. 9-8-47 photo: Mike Freeman, International News

Continue reading

New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day Has Become Mediocre Ex-Yankee Day

Why The New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day Has Become A Joke

1955 Old Timer’s Day (l-r) Frank Home Run Baker, Ray Schalk, Dazzy Vance, Ted Lyons, Gabby Hartnett and Joe DiMaggio (photo: Acme)

Sunday June 25, 2017 the New York Yankees will hold their 71st Old TImer’s Day.

There was a time when baseball’s immortals and Gods showed up at Old Timer’s Day games. Take a look at this video below and you can understand my disappointment at what passes today for Yankees Old Timer’s Day. If  you have any sense of the history of baseball, this assemblage of players at Yankee Stadium taped on the field by Greg Peterson in 1982 will blow you away.

Maybe the disappointment stems from the fact that with a few exceptions there are almost no former Yankee players of the Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt; Allie Reynolds; Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra caliber still living. The pomp and ceremony of recent Yankees Old Timer’s Day is now somewhat revolting to watch.

Old-Timers Day started with a gathering unlike any other. In 1939 former Yankee teammates of Lou Gehrig gathered to honor him after he had stopped playing due to contracting the illness, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) that would eventually take his life and now bears his name. It was at this occasion that Gehrig made his “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” speech.

Starting in the 1940s, Yankees Old Timer’s Day became an annual event where former baseball stars from other teams squared off against former Yankee greats. The players who graced the field at Yankee Stadium to play in a spirited and fun exhibition game were among the best to ever play the game. Over the years other teams held their own Old Timer’s Day. Now the Yankees are the only team in baseball that still holds an Old Timer’s Day .

At previous Old Timer’s Day fans would see opponents such as; Ty Cobb; Lefty Grove; Dizzy Dean; Al Kaline; Stan Musial; Ted Williams; Warren Spahn; Hank Greenberg; Bob Feller; Bill Terry; Pee Wee Reese; Duke Snider; Willie Mays and dozens of other “real” stars.

A collection of Hall Of Fame participants at the 1968 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium (l-r) Red Ruffing; Bill Terry; Luke Appling; Bill Dickey; Joe Medwick; Frankie Frisch; Pie Traynor; Joe DiMaggio; Bob Feller and Lefty Grove.

As the Hall-of Famer’s and greats started passing away the names showing up at Old Timer’s Day gradually became less glamorous, until they started delving into quasi-stars and then marginal players.

I am not certain when exactly it ended, but the Yankees stopped inviting players from other teams to participate in Old Timer’s Day.

Over the last 15 years, you may have noticed Old Timer’s Day has become a Yankee love-fest of a few former stars such as Paul O’Neil, Roy White, Willie Randolph, Joe Pepitone and a lot of what can best be described as one season wonders or ordinary ex-Yankee players.

There are still some great former Yankee players who show up to participate in the festivities most notably Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and this year a rare visit by Sparky Lyle.

Many of players the Yankees invite to Old Timer’s Day are nondescript. Yankee management must feel that today’s fans prefer seeing some of these “greats” that have participated in Old Timer’s Day over the last few years:

Brian Boehringer; Scott Bradley; Homer Bush; Bubba Crosby; Chad Curtis; Brian Dorsett;  Dave Eiland; John Flaherty; Bobby Meacham; Jerry Narron; Matt Nokes; Dan Pasqua; Gil Patterson; Andy Phillips; Aaron Small; Tanyon Sturtze; Marcus Thames and others of that ilk. Continue reading

How Don Hoak Scared The Hell Out Of Me When I Was A Kid

Don Hoak Becomes The Bogeyman

Don Hoak was a professional baseball player for 11 seasons. From 1954-1964 Hoak played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. By all accounts he was a nice man and a decent player who had a career .265 batting average.

In real life Don Hoak probably never intentionally scared a child. Little did he know one day this baseball card would affect one superstitious, naive, ignorant kid.

One day when I was about 7-years-old I acquired some old baseball cards from the 1960s from my grandfather. I showed them to an older boy and when he came to Don Hoak  he said, “you know, he’s dead,” as he handed the card back to me.

Well I stared at the card and I got the willies. An actual shudder ran down my spine.

“Dead? What do you mean, dead?” I said.

My simpleton mind knew what dead meant, but I did not have much real life experience with death.

All I knew was that I was holding a dead man in my hand. How could he be dead? This card is only a few years old and he couldn’t have been an old man?

“How’d he die?” I needed to know.

“I don’t know but he died a few years ago (1969)” my companion said. Then he added, “He may have been murdered.”

Wellllll  now I was transfixed for about a full minute. This simple 1964 Topps baseball card of a smiling ballplayer took on new meaning. Continue reading

President Trump And The First Pitch of The Baseball Season

President Trump Won’t Throw Out The Ceremonial First Pitch On Opening Day

Donald Trump in 2004 throws out the ceremonial first pitch photo: Kathy Willens AP via Newsday

The major league baseball season opens this weekend on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Though it might have been “great” or “terrific,” President Trump will not throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals opening game on Monday, April 3.

Why?

Probably because rudeness has become our nation’s new normal.

President Barack Obama threw out ceremonial first pitches and was booed by thousands of fans. It’s almost certain that if President Trump were to show up at opening day, the jeers would be deafening.

There was a time in this country, not very long ago where the office of the President of the United States was shown respect, even if you vehemently disagreed with the president’s policies or even loathed him. The president showing up at baseball’s opening day was an occasion to celebrate our national pastime and have the president participate in a tradition. Continue reading

If MLB Really Wanted To Speed Up Baseball…

MLB About To Introduce Two Ridiculous Rule Changes To “Speed Up” The Game.

Why The Changes Are Bad And What They Should Do Instead.

These fans watching baseball in the 1940s don’t look bored at all. That may be because the average length of a 9 inning baseball game in the 1940s was about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Baseball is a slow and boring sport. The games are too long. There is not enough scoring.

These are some of the complaints that have been lodged against the National Pastime.

The only part I’ll agree with is that the games are definitely too long.

MLB executives and the players union are trying out two changes this year in the minor leagues to  speed up the game. After trial periods, it is likely these changes will be permanently adapted in the major leagues. They may indeed speed up games by a few seconds. For the vast majority of games these changes will have little effect and do more damage than good to the overall structure of baseball.

There are other changes that would be more practical and easy to implement to dramatically shorten all games without changing baseball itself. I’ll discuss that after we review the two proposed MLB rule changes.

The first proposed rule change is that a team will be able to declare an intentional walk without the pitcher throwing any pitches. The pitcher’s manager will just signal for an intentional walk and the batter will go to first.

The second rule change is even sillier. In extra inning games, starting in the tenth inning each team when they come to bat will start the inning with a man already on second base.

So why are these changes beyond foolish?

Let’s look at the first proposal, the announced intentional walk. Although it sounds like an easy strategy to walk a batter intentionally, it is sometimes not so simple to throw four balls that are nowhere near home plate.

There are pitchers, such as the Yankees Dellin Betances, who when called upon to execute an intentional walk, every ball they throw can be an adventure. A wild pitch is always a possibility. Lobbing the ball to the catcher is hard for some pitchers. There are also quite a number of pitchers who throw the ball too close to the plate, so the batter can swing at the ball. Every now and then you’ll see something that you rarely see. Here are just two recent examples.

Miguel Cabrera drives in a run on an intended intentional walk.

Gary Sanchez of the Yankees nearly hits a home run on a pitch that was meant to be a ball.

As I pointed out many pitchers really have a hard time throwing a ball intentionally outside of the strike zone when the situation is called for. This is far more common than you might imagine. Wild pitches can change the outcome of a ballgame, especially with runners on base as seen here in multiple cases:

Then there is the opposite effect, where the defense pulls a tricky play.

In the early 1970s I recall seeing Reds superstar Johnny Bench get fooled at the plate. It happened on the biggest stage possible; game three of the 1972 World Series.

Bench had a 3 and 2 count when A’s manager Dick Williams paid a visit to the mound. Williams talked with pitcher Rollie Fingers and catcher Gene Tenace and made it seem like Williams told Fingers to intentionally walk the dangerous slugger. Because as Tenace returned to the plate to await the next pitch from Fingers, Tenace, stood up, put his hand out calling for an intentional ball four.

And guess what? Tenace jumped right back behind the plate and Fingers threw a slider for strike three, stunning Bench and everyone watching. It was a deft move you don’t see very often.

I couldn’t believe that I found the moment on YouTube.

In 1996 Dennis Martinez and Tony Pena of the Indians, successfully pulled the same move on Blue Jays star John Olerud.

It’s true, these flubs are extremely rare, but they do occur. The automatic intentional walk is a shortsighted rule change and ends up removing strategy from the game.

One other thing: how does the new rule go down in the record books? Will the pitcher be credited with four pitches thrown? What happens when you are at three balls and one strike, do you just declare the walk when you want to intentionally pass a batter or does the pitcher still have to throw a pitch?

The second rule change of starting the inning of an extra inning game with a man placed on second base to begin the inning is simply ludicrous.

No nail-biters anymore, no strategy – it’s just get this game over with. This is what MLB is saying.

Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, is in favor of bringing the rule to the major leagues if the minor league experiment works.

Torre said, “Let’s see what it looks like. It’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch. As much as it’s nice to talk about being at an 18-inning game, it takes time.”

Really Joe? How many games went to 18 innings or more in the past ten years? How many times did a manager use their whole pitching staff?

In the entire history of Major League Baseball there have only been 46 games that have gone more than 19 innings. On average less than 10 games per year last 15 innings or more. If a manager goes through his entire pitching staff, well he’s not a good manager. Believe it or not many fans enjoy marathon games. It’s the time of those exciting games that gets people sleepy, not the number of innings.

If you want to ruin baseball then this rule change is perfect.

By the way: how would the scoring work for putting a runner on second? Idiotically.

The pitcher didn’t allow the runner on, so why penalize him and the team when a ground ball to second for an out advancing the runner to third and then a fly ball can result in a run. The pitcher and the team was essentially defensively effective, but could lose the game.

This rule is MLB being lazy and coming up with a dumb solution just to shorten games and appeal to younger fans with limited attention spans. It’s like MLB took a page out of the NHL rule book with hockey’s overtime shootout to decide tie games. That adjustment has been horrible for hockey and its fans.

Now what are the ways to speed up baseball games significantly?

Change # 1 – Enforce rule 5.07 (c) of the Major League Baseball rule book which states:
“When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball. The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

Did you realize rule 6.02a (8) says:

If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when: The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;

Have you ever seen that enforced? I haven’t. But I’ve seen pitchers call the catcher to the mound six separate times for one batter or take over 30 seconds between each and every pitch.

I’ve noticed and counted the time between pitches in many games. Most pitchers take between 22 -27 seconds to throw a pitch after receiving the ball back from the catcher. Some pitchers are agonizingly slow, like the Dodgers Pedro Baez (over 30 seconds between pitches) and Kenley Jansen (27 seconds between pitches). There are many hurlers who can transform their own fielders into a trance-like state with all that inactivity.

There’s no excuse for this. Watch R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle pitch and the game moves at a brisk pace. Unfortunately they are the exceptions. Most pitchers take wayyyyy too long between pitches. Put up a pitch clock and give the pitchers a little leeway- 15 seconds and have them throw the pitch or call it a ball. Figure saving at least 5  seconds per pitch with 260 total pitches being thrown. total time shortened per game: minimum 26 minutes
Continue reading

He Didn’t Play Baseball With Fidel Castro

Not One Of Fidel Castro’s Baseball Teammates

The Havana Baseball Monkey 1950s

The Havana Baseball Monkey 1950s

There is a myth that the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was an excellent baseball player during his collegiate years. It was claimed he was so good that major league scouts were following him. He was even offered a major league contract.

The whole story is untrue. There is one known photograph of Fidel Castro in a baseball uniform.

One thing Fidel Castro did do with baseball was effectively kill off the flow of major league talent from Cuba to the United States.

So how does this monkey photograph relate to Fidel Castro? Was the baseball monkey a mascot of one of Fidel’s teams?

There is no relationship except we thought it was a very strange photograph.

This 1950s news photograph above has lost its original caption. the note on the back says “Havana baseball monkey.”

Several things to ponder:
If this is your mascot, what is the name of your team?
That is one terrible place to lay out a baseball field. Continue reading