Tag Archives: New York Giants

Mel Ott Rare Batting Photos

The Unusual Swing Of New York Giants Star Mel Ott

Mel Ott swing sequence 1

It’s hard to imagine in this era where everyone is recording everything, that there is very little film of the old time great players (pre-1950) actually playing.

Because of this when all-time, all-star lists are drawn up the players, modern ballplayers usually get picked over old-timers because there are few people alive who saw those old-timers play. There are exceptions like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and other greats who have superb stats or reputations that have carried into the 21st century. They get named to those all-time lists. But many of the early 20th century’s great players are mostly forgotten.

A case in point is Mel Ott, the  slugger who played his entire career with the New York Giants from 1926 until 1947. Ott had 2,876 hits, 511 home runs, drove in 1860 runs and hit .304 in his 22 year career.

The left-handed hitting Ott had one of the strangest batting stances in baseball, lifting his right leg high in the air while the pitch was on the way to the plate.

In this rare sequence of photos Continue reading

New York Teams Spring Training Photos 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s

Old Photos Of New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants Getting Ready For The Season

New York baseball teams have been heading south for spring training for over 100 years.

Here are some photographs showing the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants during spring training from the teens until the thirties.

Yankees spring training St Petersburg March 5 1930The New York Yankees doing their running drills March 5, 1930 St. Petersburg, Fl

Brooklyn Dodgers spring training 1920sThe Brooklyn Dodgers at their spring training complex circa early 1920’s.

Carl Hubbell winding up in Havana Feb 20 1937New York Giants ace Carl Hubbell warming up in Havana Cuba Feb 20, 1937. Continue reading

An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman, Author of Kramer vs. Kramer, Talks About His Latest Book: My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir

My Old Neighborhood RememberedThe neighborhood is the Bronx. The time is World War II and the post war years. And the writer is Avery Corman. His newest book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (2014) Barricade Books, is his first non-fiction book and is filled with wonderful recollections of growing up.

After graduating college Corman was working on the fringes of advertising and with the encouragement of a friend, Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns; I’m Not Rappaport; etc), he took a stab at writing a book. That effort was published as Oh God! A Novel (1971). After that hurdle Corman never looked back and he became a full-time novelist. Oh God! was eventually made into a very popular movie in 1977 starring George Burns and John Denver.

Some of Corman’s other acclaimed novels include The Bust-Out King (1977), The Old Neighborhood (1980); 50 (1987); Prized Possessions (1991); The Boyfriend from Hell (2006) and his most famous work, Kramer vs. Kramer (1977) which was adapted into a movie in 1979 and was the winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Avery Corman’s success must partially stem from his middle-class upbringing in the Fordham section of the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s, where he admits he was not the best student when it came to math and science, but did well in the humanities and was surrounded by a loving, extended family.

My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir is more a series of vignettes rather than a straight autobiography and that style comes off well. Corman shares his memories of childhood during World War II up until he becomes a successful author in the late 1960’s. He paints beautiful word pictures, sometimes tinged with sadness, of growing up in a wondrous place that no longer exists. Most of the stories offer short bursts of family life, games, food, education, sports and all the things that contributed to making the Bronx a special place to grow up in.

Corman’s stories resonate with a tender glow of friendships, family and the feeling that neighborhoods were once really neighborhoods, where the familiarity of rituals, people and places were ingrained in the surroundings.

Here are parts one and two of an exclusive interview with Avery Corman.

Part I, Avery Corman talks about what made the Bronx a special place during the war. His unique living situation and school life.

In part II Corman Continue reading

October 3, 1951 A Day Brooklyn Dodgers Fans Would Love To Forget

The Moment Bobby Thomson Hit His “Shot Heard Round The World”

Bobby Thomson connects, Oct. 3, 1951, catcher is Rube Walker, umpire is Lou Jorda photo: Wide World

Bobby Thomson connects, Oct. 3, 1951, catcher is Rube Walker, umpire is Lou Jorda photo: Wide World

This article is titled “A Day Brooklyn Dodgers Fans Would Love To Forget” but in actuality Brooklyn Dodgers fans are dwindling in number.

You’d have to be at least 60 years old to have any memory of “dem bums” playing at that great ballpark known as Ebbets Field. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, breaking everyone in Brooklyn’s hearts.

The day the Dodgers left Brooklyn for smoggy L.A. was a horrible moment, but no moment was as painful for Dodgers fans as the Giants bottom of the ninth inning comeback of a best two out of three playoff series with the Dodgers.

On Wednesday October 3, 1951 one of the most memorable events in all of baseball history occurred. A seen in the photo above, Dodgers fans were devastated when the New York Giants third baseman Bobby Thomson hit a one out, three run home run to left field off of Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, to give the Giants a 5-4 miracle win at the Polo Grounds and propel them into the World Series against the Yankees. Continue reading

Alvin Dark Slides Home Safely At The Polo Grounds – 1950

Al Dark – Giant Star And Religious Man

Andy Seminick Al Dark May 27 1950

Dark Deed

New York: Alvin Dark of the Giants plows home safely from third in the eighth inning of the game with the Phillies at the Polo Grounds May 27. Action came in Don Mueller’s grounder to Eddie Waitkus at first. Eddie ran in for the ball and threw to catcher Andy Seminick in an attempt to nail Dark, but the throw was late. Umpire is Al Barlick. Phillies won, 8-5. credit: (Acme) 5-27-50

(UPDATE 11/13/2014 – Alvin Dark dies of natural causes at age 92)

Al Dark is 92 and living in Easley, South Carolina. He is at peace with his life and can look back on a very successful fourteen year playing career in which Dark compiled a .289 career batting average, had over 2,000 hits and was a three time all-star.


Alvin Dark at home in Easley, SC in a 2012 photo: Erik S. Lesser for the San Francisco Chronicle

Dark said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on the eve of his 90th birthday, “I never drank, never smoked, never chewed, never anything like that. It was all against my sports upbringing. I feel very fortunate. And very happy. God blessed me.”

After his playing career ended in 1960 at the age of 38, Dark managed four teams over the course of 13 seasons winning the pennant in 1962 with the Giants and the World Series with the Oakland Athletics in 1974. Athletics owner Charlie Finley dumped Dark after the 1975 season when the team went 98-64, but the Athletics were swept in three games by the Red Sox in the divisional playoffs. Finley had previously fired Dark in 1967 with the Kansas City Athletics.

According to sportswriter Harold Parrott, Finley fired or technically “did not rehire” Dark, not for losing the playoffs in 1975 but for something Dark said at a prayer meeting!

Dark recounted what he said in the prayer meeting in his autobiography When in Doubt, Fire the Manager: My Life and Times in Baseball, “You know — and I’m saying this with respect — Charlie Finley feels he is a fantastic big person in the game of baseball. And he is. He has accomplished things, and I give him credit for building up the ball club. But to God, Charlie Finley is just a very little bitty thing that’s lost, and if he doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior he’s going to Hell.”

Shortly after he was fired Dark claimed he held no grudges against Finley and delivered a sermon at a church in Louisville saying, “I really care for Charlie Finley, my family and I pray for him; in fact we have Christians all over America praying for him.”

When later asked by a reporter, “Would you ever work for Charlie Finley again?”

Dark said, “If I thought that was what the Lord wanted, certainly.”

Scorecard! Who Needs A Scorecard?

The Death Of The Scorecard At The Ballgame

Scorecard vendor at the Polo Grounds 1949 - photo William C. Greene

Scorecard vendor at the Polo Grounds 1949 – photo William C. Greene

Recently I went to a baseball game at that imitation ballpark in the Bronx they call Yankee Stadium. After being gently frisked at the admission gates and going through the turnstiles, the thing that did not greet me was what you see above: a vendor selling scorecards.

You could buy a scorecard, but not for 10 cents as it was at the Polo Grounds in 1949. The archaic idea of a scorecard costs $10 at Yankee Stadium and is available at the souvenir shops spread throughout Yankee Mall Stadium. The scorecard is buried in some glossy souvenir publication which I did not purchase, nor did anyone else.

When I used to attend a lot of games in the 1970’s and 80’s buying a scorecard was a no-brainer. From anywhere from a reasonable 25 cents in the early 1970’s to two dollars in the late 80’s, filling out that scorecard and having a program was a nice memento of a game I went to. There is a certain enjoyment derived from scorekeeping and having a permanent record of a game you are attending.

I just dug this program of my closet from a game I went to on Thursday evening September 6, 1973. The Yankees came back in the bottom of the eighth inning after trailing 6-5 on a three run home run from Mike Hegan to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6. Bobby Murcer and Roy White also homered for the Yanks. The time of the game was 2:22.

In my childish way I merely recorded outs as fly outs, ground outs or line outs without denoting the fielders who made the play. As you can see my scorekeeping leaves a lot to be desired, but for a little kid I think I did a pretty good job. Eventually I learned to score correctly.

For 30 cents they packed a lot into 28 pages. Continue reading

A Close Play At The Plate In Game 3 Of The 1951 World Series

Alvin Dark Slides In Safely As Yogi Berra Drops The Ball And The Yankees Fall Apart

Giants shortstop Alvin Dark is safe at home plate as Yankees catcher Yogi Berra can't handle the ball

Giants shortstop Alvin Dark is safe at home plate as Yankees catcher Yogi Berra can’t handle the ball

NEW YORK: ERROR FOR BERRA – Giant Alvin Dark is safe at the plate as Yogi Berra drops the ball trying to tag him. Bobby Brown threw to Berra from third on Monte Irvin’s grounder in the Giants big five-run sixth inning. The National League champs made it their second victory over the Yankees in the third game of the 1951 World Series at the Polo Grounds, Oct 6, with a 6-2 score.  Credit (ACME) 10-6-51

The New York Giants had every reason to believe that this was the year they would win the World Series. They had defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers just days before in a best of three tie-breaker playoff series. On October 3, Giants fans witnessed the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff” – Bobby Thomson’s dramatic 9th inning home run off of Ralph Branca that propelled them into the Series against the Yankees.

The World Series would be a match-up between cross-river rivals and their respective rookie stars Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and it would end up being the finale for Joe DiMaggio’s career.

On October 6, 1951 with 52,305 fans packed into the Polo Grounds, the largest crowd ever to see a World Series game in a National League ballpark, the Giants fans were cautiously optimistic.

The series was tied at one game apiece and the Giants were holding a slim 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, when depending on how you look at it, the Giants erupted or the Yankees fell apart. Continue reading

Jack Harshman, New York Giants…Slugger?

Pick A Bat, Any Bat

Jack Harshman NY Giants 3 16 1950

Jack Harshman first came up to the major leagues with the New York Giants for five games in 1948 at the age of 20, with a reputation as a slugging first baseman. In 1949 he spent the entire season at the Giants top AAA farm club in Minneapolis where he clouted 40 home runs and knocked in 111 RBI’s while batting a respectable .270. The Giants had expectations that Harshman was going to be able to translate his minor league success into the majors. This March 16, 1950 photograph’s caption says:

Simply “Bats” About The Game

Phoenix, Ariz: New York Giants’ first baseman Jack Harshman, who has been slamming the ball with great style during exhibition games, might well wind up being “Rookie of the Year.” Here, Harshman selects a bat prior to displaying his “diamond” skill in a game. Credit (Acme) 3/16/50

Harshman ended up playing only nine games with the Giants in 1950. He played all season in the minors in 1951 hitting 47 home runs. He was called up again by the Giants in 1952 for three games and was sent down again to the minors for the entire 1953 season. He had been in the Giants organization for six years and played a grand total of 17 games in the big leagues. His low minor league batting averages (.218, .230 etc.) was a major contributor to preventing his progress with the Giants. On September 19, 1953 Harshman was sold to the Chicago White Sox.

Jack Harshman 1956 ToppsThe White Sox converted Harshman to a pitcher. In his first season with Chicago in 1954, Harshman struck out 16 Red Sox in one game and pitched a 16 inning complete game 1-0 shut-out against the Tigers. In that game, it is estimated that Harshman threw 245 pitches. Thank goodness there were no modern day pitch counts! From 1954 to 1957 with the White Sox, Harshman won 48 games while losing only 34 with a 3.33 ERA.

I never saw Jack Harshman play, but I have a few of his baseball cards, and he always looks happy in them. Maybe it was because he had found success as a pitcher rather than a hitter.

Harahman went on to play for Baltimore, Boston and Cleveland before being released by the Indians in October of 1960 at the young age of 32. His career won and lost record was 69-65. His hitting, which was so hyped when he was breaking into the game, was not a factor in his career. In 521 career at bats, Harshman hit 21 home runs (not bad for a pitcher) drove in 65 runs and batted .179.

As far as the news publicity photo, maybe one bat would have been sufficient instead of nine.

When Ballplayers Spent Time With The Fans

Bobby Thomson and A Young Fan

Sure it’s just a posed publicity photo, but there was a time when ballplayers actually did interact with fans.  At the New York Giants’ spring training home in Phoenix, Arizona,  Bobby Thomson demonstrates to a little cowboy, Dennis Filan age five, the proper way to grip a baseball bat on March 6, 1953.

Thomson, who will forever occupy a spot in every Giants fans heart for hitting the most famous homerun in baseball history the  “shot heard ’round the world” in 1951, was typical of  many ballplayers before astronomical salaries became the norm for baseball.  These players spent time among the fans.

Not only that, most players worked other jobs in the off-season to make ends meet. They lived among regular people, who went to the ballgames and had daily interactions with them. In New York and many other major league cities, most players took public transportation or walked to the ballpark from their homes. The players were an integral part of the community they played in.

It’s one of the reasons baseball is so screwed up today. The players are completely out of touch with ordinary people. These multi-millionaire prima-donnas who call themselves baseball players are entertainers/businessmen first.  Baseball just happens to be their road to money and fame.  The schnooks who pay for seats and in turn those egregious salaries, are always kept at a safe disatnce away from the players.

Give me one Bobby Thomson over one hundred Alex Rodriguez’s any day.

Jackie Robinson Packs Up And Retires

A Classy Man Calls It A Career – January 7, 1957

55 Years Later- Remembering The December 13, 1956 Trade That Shocked New York

In this January 7, 1957 photograph Jackie Robinson packs up the contents of his locker from Ebbets Field, his home for his entire ten year major league career.

After the 1956 season Jackie Robinson’s legs were gone. He was no longer the player he once was and he knew it. He batted a respectable .275 with ten homers.  But rather than continue playing with eroding skills, Robinson would retire at the age of 37.

One problem: except for his family and future non-baseball employer, Robinson didn’t tell anyone of his decision.

The Dodgers shocked everyone including Robinson, with a December 13, 1956 trade to the New York Giants for Dick Littlefield and $35,000 for the Dodger legend.  After the trade announcement, fans of the Dodgers were outraged. Brooklynites believed that Robinson would retire rather than play for the hated crosstown rival Giants, but they did not know Robinson had already decided before the trade that he was retiring.

All Robinson would publicly say was he would “inform the Giants by January 14, if he would play in 1957.”

The reason Robinson couldn’t announce his retirement was because he had signed a contract to write an exclusive article for Look magazine, about his retirement in December which would not hit the newsstands until January 8.

When he announced his retirement on January 7, many Dodger fans were happy he would not be playing for the Giants.  Robinson said he had decided to take a position with Chock full O’Nuts as Vice President of personnel rather than play baseball.

Whether Robinson would have played for the Giants had he not retired is open to speculation.

click to read Robinson's letter

Robinson’s January 14, 1957 letter to Giants owner Horace Stoneham takes the high road. Robinson says he appreciates being offered the chance to play for the Giants, but he has “decided to devote his full time to business opportunities.”