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 →
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 →
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 →
October 6, 1950 World Series, Game Three – Yankees Hold off The Phillies in the Top of the Ninth
Remember when the World Series used to be played and concluded by early October? Of course you don’t unless you are over the age of 50.
The endless rounds of playoffs, a 162 game season and the elimination of scheduled doubleheaders during the regular season have lengthened baseball’s post-season to an interminable length. Baseball’s fall classic is moving closer to becoming a winter classic. If there is a game seven this year, the World Series will conclude November 2.
Maybe that’s okay if the game is played in Los Angeles, but if it ends up in Cleveland, Chicago or Boston you can rest assured the players will not be playing under the best possible conditions and the attendees will not be warm.
Let’s look back to a simpler time. The year was 1950. The date – October 6 and game three of the World Series was played at Yankee Stadium. The Philadelphia Phillies lost the first two games of the series to the New York Yankees by scores of 1-0 and 2-1. The sequence of photos from above capture exciting action that would probably be against the rules today Continue reading →
55 Years Ago Today Roger Maris Hit His 59th Home Run Putting Him One Behind Babe Ruth
In the pre-steroid era of baseball, Roger Maris had one magical season. Shown above, Maris connects for his 59th home run of the season on September 20, 1961.
Maris would hit 61 home runs during the 1961 season, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 60.
Yet Maris’s accomplishment wasn’t considered an “official” record. That is because Ford Frick, the former sportswriter and then Commissioner of baseball, ruled that Maris had to beat Babe Ruth in the same number of games that the Babe was eligible to play in 1927, which was 154.
If Maris did not hit 60 by his 154th game the record would be denoted with an asterisk, indicating that Maris had more opportunities (163) than Ruth did.
The news caption for this photo reads:
Baltimore, Sept 20 – Homer No. 59 For Maris – Roger Maris of the New York Yankees swings into the ball in the third inning tonight as he connects for his 59th home run of the season. The blow came against Baltimore Orioles pitcher Milt Pappas. If Maris can add one more during the game he will equal Babe Ruth’s official 1927 record of 60 in 154 games. He has hit two homers in one game seven times this season. The ball is just a streak as it flies off the bat, right. (AP wirephoto)
How They Squeezed 45,400 Fans Into Boston’s Fenway Park
There’s only one way to get 45,000 people into Boston’s Fenway Park and that is to let the fans sit everywhere, including the outfield.
Yes that’s right, square on the field of play.
Boston’s owner Tom Yawkey never spared expenses when it came to his beloved Red Sox. After the 1933 season during the height of the Great Depression, Yawkey decided to update Fenway Park.
The biggest changes would be the new outfield stands in center and right field. And of course the new 37 foot tall left field wall which would eventually become known as the Green Monster.
During the renovation on January 5, 1934, a large fire destroyed the bleachers and the outfield walls which had wood, oil and debris stored under them.
After the clean-up, work was quickly resumed and the new outfield stands were made fireproof, being encased in reinforced concrete. The new electronic scoreboard indicating balls, strikes and outs was an innovation. The feature known as Duffy’s Cliff, a hill in left field, was removed, leaving only a small incline.
Mickey Mantle at bat as Yogi Berra waits on deck World Series Game 7 October 10, 1956 – photo: Ed Stein
The Yankee Hit Parade
Ebbets Field, N.Y. – This unusual photo of Mickey Mantle at bat and Yogi Berra (8), Yankee catcher on deck waiting for his turn with the lumber, typifies both hopes and fears of this series. Taken in the eighth inning of today’s final game, it shows Dodger catcher Roy Campanella ready to receive and plate umpire Dusty Boggess ready to call. In the background is the crowd as poised as Mickey himself. Mickey hit three homers in the series, though he only got out one hit out of four at bats in today’s game. Berra was one of today’s heroes for the bombers. He hit a pair of two-run homers and got a grand-slam homer in a previous game in the series. Yanks shut out the Dodgers 9-0, for the game and the series. 10-10-56 photo by Ed Stein
The year 1955 witnessed the end of the Brooklyn rallying cry of “wait until next year” when they finally defeated the New York Yankees in an exciting seven game World Series, highlighted by Johnny Podres’ stellar pitching for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers hoped to repeat as champions and even forced a seventh game at their home ballpark at Ebbets Field.
But it was not to be.
After having a perfect game pitched against them by Don Larsen at Yankee Stadium in game five, the Dodgers went back to Ebbets Field down three games to two to the Yankees. Continue reading →
The New York Yankees Are About To Become The First American League Team To Win 10,000 Games
You can love ’em or hate them, but the record speaks for itself. While seven National League franchises have attained 10,000 career wins, the New York Yankees will reach that mark sometime in September, becoming the first American League team to do so. They currently have 9,971 wins. (All statistics as of August 2, 2015.)
No other American League team is close to hitting this number. It will probably take another eight or nine years for another A.L. team to get there because the Boston Red Sox are second in A.L. career victories with 9,193.
Following Boston, the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are neck and neck with 9,064 and 9,061 wins respectively.
Bear in mind that some of National League teams have been around since 1876 so N.L. teams had a bit of a head start in reaching 10,000 wins. There is also futility for some teams. Realize the Philadelphia Phillies who came into existence in 1883 have still not won 10,000 games (total wins 9,505).
The franchise with the most wins all-time are the San Francisco Giants, Continue reading →
A Dying Babe Ruth In Memorial Hospital July 29, 1948
New York – Babe’s Most Recent Picture – This picture, taken at Memorial Hospital here July 29, is believed to be the last picture of the baseball idol. It was made just before the Babe’s most recent relapse. With him is Steve Broidy of Allied Artists movie studio, who is presenting Ruth with a check for the Ruth Foundation for underprivileged children. The homerun king’s condition today was critical. photo – AP, August 11, 1948
Babe Ruth June 13, 1948 in Yankee locker room
On June 13, 1948 just six weeks prior to the above photograph being taken, Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium and put on his old uniform for the last time as his number three was retired by the Yankees. After the ceremony the uniform would be shipped off to Cooperstown to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The day was hailed as Silver Anniversary Day at Yankee Stadium officially marking the 25th anniversary of “The House That Ruth Built.” Sixteen members of the 1923 Yankees came to the ceremony and even participated in a two inning old-timers game against a team of Yankee all-stars from other years. But everyone was there to see the man himself, Babe Ruth.
Friends and old teammates lined up and approached Babe before the ceremony and he obligingly signed autographs for everyone. After others had spoken, Ruth emerged from the dugout to a huge ovation and made a short speech in a raspy voice telling the crowd how happy he was to be present, how proud he was to be the first man to have hit a home run at Yankee Stadium and how glad he was to be with his old friends again.
Babe Ruth, William Bendix and a studio executive on the set of The Babe Ruth Story
Returning to the story of our original photograph, the last one of Babe Ruth, the emaciated Babe was probably happy to receive a check for the film The Babe Ruth Story, based on his life . But he could not have been pleased with the film which starred William Bendix. Continue reading →
Mantle swung the bat literally as hard as anyone who ever played the game. You would see his forearms and biceps bulge as he whipped the bat through the strike zone on a slight incline. Watching Mantle swing you could literally see that every muscle in his six foot frame was converging to pulverize the baseball.
When Mantle connected cleanly with the ball, the sound was unique. There was a sharp crack that resonated through the entire ballpark and that ferocious swing would drive countless baseballs deep into the gaps or frequently farther, with balls settling in the outfield stands or bleachers for a home run. There was no home run, like a Mickey Mantle home run.
Mickey Mantle steals 2nd base and slides hard 1950s. photo: Marvin Newman
In his prime there were few fielders like Mickey Mantle, who could come out of seemingly nowhere to snag a drive hit in the gap, that when first hit, was thought to be uncatchable. Mantle’s arm could throw bullets, so runners had to think twice about taking an extra base or tagging up when the ball was hit to Mickey.
Mantle played hard breaking up double plays and stealing bases when necessary, even though he was playing on notoriously bad legs which would hamper his entire career. Continue reading →