Yogi. Icon.

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“You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.” – Yogi Berra

When you were a kid and you opened that Topps or Bowman pack of baseball cards, and you pulled a Yogi Berra card out, you were batting 1.000. He WAS the catcher of his day. After all, he was THE catcher of the mighty New York Yankees.

Nobody used his card for spokes.

Nobody traded away his card.

Besides Mickey’s card, this was the one to savor.

After all, every kid loved him. He spoke like no one before or since. And somehow, you understood him.

He was one of us…kids from the Midwest or the Northeast or the South or the West. Yogi was us.

He may have passed, but we will never forget him.

We will come to yours, Yogi, just so you can come to ours.

Play Ball!

Did You Know

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In his book, ‘Is This a Great Game or What?‘, ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian wrote, “Baseball is the only major sport in which some of the standard-bearers have been dead for fifty years, and a team that hasn’t played in eighty years, the 1927 Yankees, are still mentioned in casual conversation.”

Recently, at a bar with some friends, the majority of discussion centered around the ‘Did you know…’ friendly betting game. It is a great way to win a beer or two with your friends at a bar, backyard or ball park.

Did you know when the first touring ballplayers went overseas to play exhibition baseball? If you said it was in the winter of 1888-89 you would be correct. That winter a team of baseball’s first All-Stars went around the world promoting the game of baseball and Albert Spalding’s sporting equipment.

Did you know where the All-Stars played? The teams played very competitive games while touring Ceylon (Sri Lanka), New Zealand and Australia as well as Italy, France and England.

Did you know why the 1904 World Series was never played? The 1904 World Series was canceled due to: stubbornness. Yep. John T. Brush, President of the National League champion New York Giants, simply refused to play the returning American League champion Boston Americans, otherwise known as the Red Sox.

Did you know there were triple headers? Although there were common place in the late 1800’s, the practice was a rare one. In the modern era, the Reds and Pirates played in the first (and last) triple header in 1920. The Reds took two of the three games. They are now prohibited due to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.

Did you know who the first DH was? That would be Ron Blomberg, on April 6, 1973.

Did you know who the first National Leaguers to DH? The first ones to get an at-bat (within minutes of one another) were ‘The Rickey’ Henderson (SD) and Glenallen Hill (SF).

Did you know which National Leaguer hit the first home run? That would be ‘The Rickey’.

Did you know who was the first pitcher to pitch a no-hitter in the modern era? Chick Fraser of the Philadelphia Phillies threw the first no-hitter in the modern era against the Chicago Cubs.

Did you know the score? 10-0.

Did you know how many were in attendance? 1,200 were in attendance.

Did you know, which city has the most dead ballplayers buried? St. Louis has the most dead ballplayers in a single cemetery. An astounding 180 Baseball Players are laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

Did you know how many of those guys were Hall of Famers? None were in the Hall of Fame.

Did you know where the most ballplayers are buried on the West Coast? The record for number of baseball players buried in on the west coast belongs to Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma California. No fewer than 55 former major leaguers are laid to rest.

Did you know two players who are Hall of Famers buried there? Joe DiMaggio leads the way, along with teammate Frank Crosetti.

OK, now did you know who the first President of the United States was to attend a major league baseball game? That would be President Benjamin Harrison.

Let’s face it, the last part of the season is like that. But thanks to Mr. Kurkjian, you can play this game all year-long.

Play Ball!

Chuck Klein Says…


On the 1935 Goudey baseball card series, known as the Gehrig series, there is a blue strip on the card that states ‘Lou Says’. Without question Lou Gehrig was THE player of that year. But part of the series was dedicated to one Chuck Klein. Yes. There was a strip on the card that stated ‘Chuck Says’.

Why Chuck Klein? He is one of only of six players ever to have had five or more consecutive 200-hit seasons since 1901. Imagine, only six players have ever accomplished this spectacular feat. The ‘Hoosier Hammer’ was one of the great sluggers in the late 1920s and in the 1930s. He was the first player to be named to the All-Star Game as a member of two different teams, as he played for the Phillies fifteen years (1928-33, 1936-39 and 1940-44), the Cubs (1934-36) and the Pirates (1939). He is acknowledged as one of the Top 100 players all-time. The right fielder was named to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

He was one of the great Philadelphia Phillies. The Great Depression hit the city hard, and as unemployment climbed, fans stopped coming to baseball games. Attendance at Baker Bowl, where the Phillies played, dropped from 299,000 in 1930 to 156,000 in 1933. The Phillies were on the verge of bankruptcy. The team owner Gerald Nugent had no choice but to unload his most valuable player to help satisfy the club’s debts. And so on November 21, 1933, the Phillies traded Klein to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Mark Koenig, outfielder Harvey Hendrick, pitcher Ted Kleinhans, and $65,000 in cash. The Cubs paid their new outfielder $30,000, the highest he made in the Major leagues.

While with the Cubs, he was injured, he was part of the team that got them to the 1935 World Series.

After one season with the Pirates he was back with the Pirates in 1940. One of the few bright spots of the season came on September 4 with the Phillies held ‘Chuck Klein Night’ at Shibe Park to honor their longtime slugger. More than 18,000 fans attended the game, the largest crowd to watch a Phillies game all season.

For a few bright years, Chuck Klein was one of the great stars of the game. He is honored by not having his number retired but by have an old English type-font ‘P’ retired by the Phillies. He is one of only two to be so honored. The other? Grover Cleveland Alexander. They join #1 Richie Ashbury, #14, Jim Bunning, #20 Mike Schmidt and #32, Steve Carlton for a team founded in 1883..

There were only five other players to accomplish the feat of hitting 200+ hits in five or more consecutive 200-hit seasons. Al Simmons (1929-1933); Charlie Gehringer (1933-1937); Wade Boggs (1983-1989); Ichiro Suzuki (2001-2010) and Michael Young (2003-2007).

All of these players are members of the Hall of Fame or will be upon eligibility.

Play Ball!
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Community

Baseball is not just a sport. It is an integral part of what America is built upon. It is a gathering…an event. It is a pastime. Most important, it is a community.

Years ago, sitting with my Grandparents where, in their usual seats at a Braves game in old Milwaukee County Stadium, a phenomena of life was created as it became a safe zone. The people who sat around them had faces that were well-known to me. In front of Grandma, was Mrs Pauling; in front of my Grandfather was Tom, Mrs. Pauling’s husband. Next to my Grandfather were George and Betty Thompson. Behind them was Billy Franzen, who owned a big Chevy dealership on the South side and studying for his PhD in women. Next to him was Billy J., who owned the 1500 Club on Lincoln. Don and Mary Jane sat behind George and Betty. Kaye and Big Bill sat behind us. Good thing because Big Bill a former Marquette basketball player would have blocked our view. ‘Smokin Stein’ Kaczmarski and one of his family members sat behind my Grandparents. Tony and Dorothy Shiro usually sat where I was sitting, but on this day as they were kind enough to give Grandma the tickets for when we visited, it was our hallowed ground, for my brother and me.

Sitting on the end of the row, my favorite seat in the whole wide world, also meant that one was, among other things, the passer of food and drink to the rest of your row. And you got to know each and every vendor who supplied them. There was Bob the Beer Guy (only Miller sold in this ballpark, thank you very much), Lefty the hot dog vender who would toss dogs like footballs with perfect spirals with mustard packs following on the same flight behind it until you said ‘no more’. And of course, Snooky, the beleaguered Cubs fan who was forced to wear a Braves cap while peddling Coke. And they got to know who you were, as they were the invaluable key to our safe zone, making sure you were alright and making sure you knew where you were at all times in the Stadium. This was the community of Section 16.

Baseball is best as a community event. Season ticket holders have made this happen for years and many more years at a stadium near you, made up the core of the cloistered village. This community was built upon hard-working people from all walks of life, workers who built their lives from the ground up and who went to the games to leave every problem in life behind them. This was a mental-free zone where you could concentrate on only one thing…the thrill of being at the ball park with all of its sights and smells that will free you forever. That, along with your new-found friends who lived in this community gave solace to this little piece of sanity. There was the smell of the hops and mustard, Secret Stadium Sauce and the bratwurst, hamburgers and dogs on the grill. The popcorn popping, the smell upon the opening of the fresh salty flavor in the cracking of another bag of peanuts. There are probably more peanuts eaten at a ballgame than at any other single time or event in your life, unless you worked for Planters. And of course, there was the unforgettable overwhelming aroma of that stinky cigar that ‘Smoking Stein’ smoked which was ever-present when the wind blew from South to North. Never buy a LaPalina no matter how much you like CBS. I am convinced that this is another solid reason why he single-handedly is responsible for the boost in sales of Advair in Milwaukee today. All of this rolled into one identified where you were… smack in the middle within the community of the game.

There were the arguments, of course. Was that ump really blind? Was Mathews better than Mantle? Simple stats flew through the air like paper in the wind. No WARP here. We dealt in real stuff…runs, hits, wins, loses, home runs, BA’s, RBIs (not RBI. We were not politically correct at that time.), double, triples, strike outs and balls. No OPS or OPS+ or IBBs, RAR, oWAR, dWAR, oRAR nor XYZs. No Rtot or Rdrs’ either. While stats are the conjunctions of the game, the pitching and hitting are the train within this community. While hitting is for show, pitching was for all the dough. And Milwaukee had the pitching.

The announcers were like big brothers or the best uncles in our lives. They were the stars the stars looked up to. Earle and Blaine led the other important box car in our community’s train, Miller High Life & Clark took us out to the park. Later Kent got in there too. And who could forget, looking up at the press box and seeing the likes of Harry, Bob, Mel, Jack or Vinny. These were our unmet friends…our buddies that brought us those ‘inside’ bits of information which we could recite the next day to our friends in an attempt to impress them with our knowledge of the game. You relished these tiny morsels of inside info. It was the foundation, along with the info on the back of the Topps, in how you would be graded on the ladder of baseball standing in your life.

While all of these reflect yesterday, today there are few who can weave the magic lexer any better than Mr. Sculley. The other day, during one of the epic Dodger/Giants games (now put on your earphones. Beats or ear buds and really listen in the voice of Vin), he said: ’Now coming to the plate, is Nori Aoki…the pest. And the reason why he is a pest is that he is always challenging the pitcher and the opposing team. Did you know, that when he comes up for the first time facing the starting pitcher of the other team, he is batting .257. But when he comes up for the second time against the same pitcher, he is hitting about 100 points higher. And if he faces that starting pitcher for the third time in the game, he is hitting over .400.’ Ye Gads! With information like that I could have had a career writing the backs of the Topps cards.

These types of words were the essence of conversation the community passed along to one another throughout the game. For most in the community, the baseball game on the radio was the constant in their lives. It was way more than white noise. When Earle said that it was time for the 7th Inning stretch, just after he caught another foul ball in his fishing net, Billy would get up and turn around to face the entire stands in his tee-shirt with the big ‘bow tie’ logo on the front. It simply would not be a game unless Billy did that. You actually knew these folks so well. For instance, my brother Mike still remembers our Grandmother asking where the Paulings were during a game, and Betty, three seats away, amazingly answered, ‘Tom and Lona are at their grand daughter, Mary Ann’s, baptism.’ And the game went on. Now the community was officially informed by the town crier. And for the rest of the game, mumblings about what Mary Ann looked like filtered in and out while the box score was being kept. In the margin of that program against the Dodgers, there was a notation…not of the official attendance but of the simple note: ‘MaryAnn’. There was always talk about Billy F. and his latest girl friend from Rosary or was it St. Mary’s College? The question centered around when he would bring her to the game so we could all give him a standing ovation for his courage in asking her out without crashing down the light poll on South 20th Street. This was the community. When my Grandfather missed a game because of his induction into the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus, the next game both Betty and Lona had brought cookies and a cake for my Grandmother to take home for those evenings when my Grandfather would be at Knights meetings when the Braves were out-of-town.

Baseball is, yes, a game. But in America it is so much more than that. This community, this family, cares and shares and lives on well past the sale date. In fact, when you go back to the ball park today, to see those same seats in the new stadium where ever you are, you look for those folks, who have all passed along with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daffy, Lawrence and Mae and Dizzy and Warren. But if you look real hard, there is Billy standing up during the 7th inning stretch, turning around to the crowd, puffing out his chest and wearing a tee-shirt with a ‘bow tie’ logo on the front. Yes. Next to him is that girl from Rosary or was it St. Mary’s? ‘And if you’re not here it’s a shame…’

And the answer to the first question is ‘Yes’.

Play Ball!
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Fate of the Seams

79 have done it in baseball history. 50 of those were in the Senior Circuit. While the game has been played for well over a Century, no Ranger ever did it, including the time as the Senators. No Twin has ever done it, including the time as the Senators. Needless to say, no Senator ever did it. Sandy Koufax is the only pitcher in history to do it three times for the Dodgers. Nolan Ryan, was only one of three pitchers to ever do it twice. And of course as a member of the Hall of Fame, he did it once in each league, the only player to accomplish that feat. Dodgers did it six times. The Yankees did it five times. The Brewers and Athletics are the only teams to have done it four times.

This past Thursday, Milwaukee Brewer, Mike Fiers did it…he struck out all three Dodger batters he faced, Enrique Hernandez, Carlos Frias and Joc Pederson, perhaps the hottest hitter in the league, in the top of the 4th inning. Nine pitches. Three strike outs. 9 pitches, 9 strikes and 3 outs. It is called the ‘Immaculate Inning’.

This obscure stat began on June 4, 1889 when John Clarkson of the Beaneaters struck out Jim Fogarty who led the league in stolen bases (99), Big Sam Thompson, the right fielder who led the league in home runs that season with 20, and the big first baseman, Sid Farrar, of the Philadelphia Quakers in the top of the 3rd in Boston.

The famous names that have done it are impressive. Rube Waddell of the Athletics did it in 1902, Lefty Grove was the other pitcher who did it twice in 1928 for the Athletics. Billy Hoeft of the Tigers did it in 1953. Jim Bunning of the Tigers did it in 1959. Al Downing of the Yankees did it in 1967. Ron Guidry of the Yankees did it in 1972. Roger Clemens of the Blue Jays did it in 1997, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox did it in 2002. Felix Hernandez of the Mariners did it in 2008. Dazzy Vance of the Dodgers did it in 1924; Robin Roberts of the Phillies did it in 1956; Sandy Koufax did it three times for the Dodgers in 1962, 1963. Tony Cloninger did it for the Milwaukee Braves in 1963. Bob Gibson did it in 1968. Milt Pappas did it for the Cubs in 1971. Bruce Sutter of the Cubs did it in 1977. David Cone accomplished the task in 1991. Orel Hershiser did it as a Giant in 1998. Randy Johnson did it twice, once in 1998 as an Astro and the other in 2001 as a Diamondback. Ben Sheets accomplished the task for the Brewers in 2004.

So where does Fiers accomplishment rank, a portend of the future as a great pitcher or along with the likes of Pat Ragan, Joe Oeschger, Bob Bruce, Pedro Borbon, Lynn McGlothen, Joey McLaughlin, Jeff Robinson, Rob Dibble, Sloppy Thurston, Danny Jackson, Jeff Montgomery, Stan Belinda, Doug Jones and the like.

Only 79 did it. As beautiful as it was, it is a ‘Fate of the Seams’.

Play Ball!

Calling Dr. McDreamy

Since the greatest warrior of Homer’s Iliad, slayed the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troyhe, how he was killed near the end of the Trojan War by Paris, still sends shivers through the heart of any athlete. We know Achilles was shot by him in the heel with an arrow. But now, one of the warriors of baseball faces a long rehab as he fights through the stunning pain of the imaginary arrow into his Achilles’ heel. Mathew Melton wrote, ‘From radios to broadband, streetcars to subways, and megaphones to smartphones, there was baseball. With that sublime inspiration, there also comes a callous reality to the game. How else can you describe a sport where the very best hitters fail seven out of every ten times they enter the batter’s box? Or where the very best teams leave the park losers at least sixty times during the season? However, the game (and life) are not always kind to its members.’

Around the major leagues, they are dropping like flies. And the season has just begun. Now that Dr McDreamy is no longer working on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, perhaps he can help out in The Show as this has turned into a Season of DL.

In just one week, from March 20-26, 2015 this is the designated list:
Chicago White Sox placed RHP Matt Albers on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. broken little finger on right hand
Chicago White Sox activated RHP Jake Petricka from the 15-day disabled list.
Chicago White Sox placed RHP Javy Guerra on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 13, 2015. Right shoulder inflammation.
St. Louis Cardinals placed RHP Adam Wainwright on the 15-day disabled list. Left achilles and left ankle injury.
Toronto Blue Jays activated RF Michael Saunders from the 15-day disabled list.
Toronto Blue Jays placed C Dioner Navarro on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 22, 2015. Strained left hamstring.
Oakland Athletics placed 2B Ben Zobrist on the 15-day disabled list. Medial meniscus tear in his left knew.
San Diego Padres activated RHP Ian Kennedy from the 15-day disabled list.
Boston Red Sox placed RF Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, 2015. Right hamstring strain
Tampa Bay Rays activated 1B James Loney from the 15-day disabled list.
Tampa Bay Ray activated LHP Drew Smyly from the 15-day disabled list.
Tampa Bay Ray placed LHP C.J. Riefenhauser on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19, 2015. Left shoulder inflammation.
Tampa Bay Ray placed 2B Ryan Brett on the 15-day disabled list. Left shoulder subluxation.
Tampa Bay Ray transferred LHP Jeff Beliveau from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Left shoulder soreness.
Miami Marlines placed LF Christian Yelich on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Lower back strain.
Baltimore Orioles placed 2B Ryan Flaherty on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, 2015. Right groin strain.
San Diego Padres placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23, 2015. Left calf strain.
Seattle Mariners placed RHP Hisashi Iwakuma on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 21, 2014. Right Lat Strain.
Houston Astros activated RHP Josh Fields from the 15-day disabled list.
Los Angeles Angels transferred RHP Josh Fields from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Left core muscle injury.
Philadelphia Phillies placed RHP Sean O’Sullivan on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18, 2015. Tendinitis in his left knee.
Washington Nationals placed LHP Felipe Rivero on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18, 2015. GI bleed.
Colorado Rockies placed RHP LaTroy Hawkins on the 15-day disabled list. Right Bicep Tendinits.
Colorado Rockies activated LHP Jorge De La Rosa from the 15-day disabled list.
New York Mets placed C Travis d’Arnaud on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Fracture of his right little finger.
New York Mets placed LHP Jerry Blevins on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Distal radius fracture of his left arm.
New York Mets transferred RHP Zack Wheeler from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Recovering from March 2015 Tommy John surgery.
Milwaukee Brewers placed C Jonathan Lucroy on the 15-day disabled list. Broken left big toe.
Milwaukee Brewers placed 2B Scooter Gennett on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 20, 2015. Left hand laceration.
Chicago Cubs transferred 3B Mike Olt from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Hairline fracture in his right wrist.
Arizona Diamondbacks placed 3B Jake Lamb on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19, 2015. Left foot stress reaction.
Arizona Diamondbacks transferred C Gerald Laird from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.

Thirty-two DL actions in seven days. And did you notice how many were pitchers? Eighteen were hurlers. Of these, probably the most devastating was the loss of ace right hander, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals. His injury was really quirky. (See above) Wainwright suffered his injury in the fifth inning of last Saturday night’s game against the Brewers as he was running out a pop-up. Wainwright, who has pitched four scoreless innings, was running to first when he came up lame after hurting his left ankle. The 33-year-old (34 in August) missed the entire 2011 season thanks to Tommy John surgery. Through four starts this season, the three-time All-Star has posted a 1.44 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9. For his career, Wainwright has pitched to a 2.98 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

What does all of this mean? If you read articles, blogs and listen to the pendants, here are some of the topics they have made for discussion on the subject:

Goofy scheduling.
Lack of team training year round. Individual training rather than team training.
Short term attitude
Over paid.

But what is probably more logical is what Ben Charington, GM of the Boston Red Sox said two and one-half years ago on the subject. “I think players put their bodies in positions that they never did before in the name of performance. Pitchers manipulate the ball like never before: cutter, sinker, split, multiple types of fastballs. This all requires different finger pressure, different hand position at release. When this happens, it could very well change the torque on the elbow and shoulder. Pitchers have had to do this because hitters are so much better. They’d get killed if they weren’t manipulating the baseball. But it could come with a downside — more stress on the joints.”

No matter the reason why, injuries cost team owners tens of millions of dollars and change the pennant race landscape. For some, it ends their season before it can bloom.

As Melton wrote, ‘For a select few in the game’s history, their greatness was never fully realized.’ Players like Eric Davis, Rick Ankiel, Juan Encarnacion, J.R. Richard, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Nomar Garciaparra, Bo Jackson and Mark Fidrych had career ending injuries’. Others, who had fantastic careers, struggled through injury to finish their baseball life, players like ‘Junior’, ‘Sandy’ and ‘Mickey’. But they are the exceptions.

What will this year’s host of injuries tell us about the future?

All we can do is…

Play Ball!

Purgatory

The design of life, leads to death. This is caused by the body when it stops breathing. No oxygen. No life. The body is made up of Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Chlorine, Sodium, Magnesium with fractions of Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium and Florine. Then there is the next step.

In baseball, teams are born and designed with chemistry. They are dependent up young, dynamic players who are eager to prove themselves in The Show and older players who are eager to win one last time. For many, it would be the first time to reach the top of the mountain. The team is made of rookies, journeymen and stars. It is usually put together by a general manager who molds the team for just the right moment to explode upon the scene and win. The team is led by an experienced baseball man who understands the nuisances of the game and who has majored in psychology of life. This last part is critical. As it is up to him to bring a team to peak performance, each and every day, by making sure the right words are said to the right players at the right time. For instance, as Orel Hershiser recently commented during a Dodger telecast, Tommy Lasorda made sure his players did everything possible to win the big game. And to Lasorda, every game was THE big game.

If any part of this preparatory does not work, the team will fail to reach its full potential and win a Pennant.

The next step is in the simplest of terms, Purgatory…a place where old teams go to become ready for their next life. It is a place for cleansing and a time of emptiness as many of the fans who once went to the stadium no longer fill the seats as they are fully aware that this team has no present. And, in a society that is bent on making it happen now, patience is not a virtue. Thus the dichotomy. Purgatory is not a good place for a baseball owner. That is why he is reluctant to make changes.

The Milwaukee Brewers are headed for Purgatory, not in Utah, but metaphorically. When the last great class graduated from AAA (that’s Triple A baseball) and headed to Cream City, fellows like Hart and Weeks, Fielder, Gallardo and Braun made Miller Park one of the most exciting places on the planet. They had All-Star talent with a spirit of success in every stage of their baseball developmental lives. They won where ever they went. They invented new ways to celebrate home runs (see above) and made the faithful believers. They made runs at the top, several times, but never finishing higher than the final game of the National League playoff. So close. So painfully ghostly.

Today the team is faced with the errors of the past, the sins of gluttony. They mortgaged their farm system talent to make one last run at a playoff berth over the past few years. Last year, as three of the last of the Great Quintet came back for the ring, hope turned into absolute horror as two were in their finals days in a Brewer uniform and the other coming back from banishment, seeking absolution for his sins. That dream faded like a discarded ice cube left outside on the pavement of an Arizona summer’s day. Now it is time for Purgatory. It is time to rebuild. But that will not be easy to accomplish because they lack both quality prospects down on the farm (not Stanford but the minor leagues) and tradeable veterans. Their cupboard is bare. While the fans are hungry for victory, there are no brats on the grills with Secret Stadium Sauce nor beer on tap. That is what Purgatory is like for the Pigsville Phaithful.

The A’s have Billy who can pull magic from a dry fountain and relieve the thirst of defeat. The Cubs have Theo who brought the searchers out of the near hundred-old-desert of defeats in Beantown. The Brewers need minds like these to move out of Purgatory in our time. They need new leadership to have the insight of Rickey (Branch, not Weeks) and the dugout tenacity of McGraw (John not Tug) whom Connie Mack once stated, ‘There has been only one manager – and his name is McGraw’.

Where do we find them…those people who are winners in their design and execution of baseball management? How do we rebuild with such a poor hand that is delt? How long will it take to turn it around, if that is even a certainty in a land so barren of pennants? And, perhaps even more important considering its market size, can Milwaukee compete ever again? This is a town where half of the television signal goes to the fishes to the East and cows to the North and West. What kind of TV deal can it negotiate? All it has going for it right now is a face of the team sitting on the DL and nearly 3 million fans who will show up in a snow storm. And the guy in right field who is trying to play ball under a constant ring of ‘Mea Culpa’.

We are now entering the next phase of a team’s baseball life. And the chants are clear…’Mea Culpa’…they are silently praying for someone with Devine intervention to hear. We are all #watchingattanasio. ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’. It is time for cleansing. It is bead-time in this council grounds of the Potawatomi, this gathering land the Algonquian called beautiful land. All we want is a hope to win and…

Play Ball!

Great Day To Play Two

Running up the box seat steps behind the Brewers dugout at old County Stadium between innings to make a food run was always an adventure. Everyone seems to have the same idea at the same time so it takes a bit of bobbing and weaving. Up to the Grandstand level, to the right, then a quick left, down the ramp, a snap hook right and you are in front of the most wonderful aroma one can imagine…that sweet smell of fried onions and Secret Stadium Sauce mixing with the finished bratwurst in a tray on the grill more than ready for the hoards gathering behind me. Like in golf, that was the vision in my head as the top of the third was about to conclude.

It is always good to visualize what you want to do. Then you are sure to get there without too much disappointment.

Making the move as the pitcher was about to throw on a 3-2 pitch, it was clear to make the mad dash. But as I was about to hit the top step leading to my right turn on the grandstand level, appearing on the left, as some of the crowd was standing up to stretch their legs, was a man, much bigger than I had thought he would be. He was smiling and waving back to the crowd, as he was also probably heading in the same direction I was about to continue. But he was instantly identifiable with that same 1954 Topps picture now facing me in real-time. He hadn’t aged from when that card photo was taken. Without hesitation, I reached out to shake his hand and Ernie smiled and said, looking directly into my eyes, “Great day to play two, isn’t it.”

Ernie Banks was in the enemy’s camp and nearly everyone was giving him a wave, applauding, running up to get his autograph, all smiling and some of us lucky enough to just shake his hand. It was just a natural thing to do.

So much has been written and said about what he did on the playing field or in the City of Chicago. I had known about Ernie, since childhood when my next door neighbor, Snooky, a diehard Cubs fan, opened that pack of Topps on his front steps. All of us gathered around to see what he had gotten out of that fresh wrap of glory. Then, out popped the coveted Banks rookie card. On the back of card #94, this baseball Wikipedia of its day told us all we wanted to know. Obviously a rookie. Earnest Banks. Born in Dallas, TX, January 31, 1931. 6’1”, 180 lbs. “After gaining recognition as the top ranking player in the Negro National League, Ernie came to the Cubs from the Kansas City Monarchs in September 1953. Seeing only limited service with Chicago last year, the former Army Artillery man hit for 22 total bases and looks like a real hot prospect for a regular Bruin infield berth this season.” 10 games, 35 At Bats. 3 Runs. 11 Hits. 1 Double. 1 Triple. 2 H.R. 6 RBIs. .314 Batting Ave. 19 Put Outs. 33 Assists. 1 Error. .991 Fielding Percentage. And as the Inside Baseball cartoon at the bottom of the back of the card said, ‘Ernie was an all around athlete as a student at Booker T. Washington High in Dallas. He starred in track, basketball, football and of course baseball.”

We devoured every word as gospel on the back of those cards and in moments, Ernie’s stats were burned into our heads.

Now he was smiling at me and shaking my hand. Sputtering something like, ‘Great to see you, Ernie.’ in return and attempting to pull out of his two-handed immense grasp of my right hand, his magic words came out.

I now made the visioned journey with a quicker lift than previous, anxious to get back to the seats to tell the family who I had just met. Amongst the ‘Oh. Wow’s’ and a quick look over their shoulders to see the man I was talking about, he was no long there. But if you looked down just a couple of sections, there he was, still shaking hands…still smiling…and still looking every bit of the legendary hero of so many, including my friends, Snooky and Lenny.

It is a memory that will always be with me even as he has now passed to play two with the Big Guy.

You can imagine the conversation. ‘Not a bad start, Earnest. Now enjoy the rest of time.’

Play Ball!
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Dither Of Delusion

In nearly every winter, the one constant is that the Chicago Cubs are the front-runner for something or another. And this Fall, before winter comes, those lovable losers from the Northside, are at it again, maximizing on a hungry press corp of baseball delusionals and the pretend flexibility and depth of the Northsiders pocketbook. Losers are losers. Just look at the Brewers.

This year as we approach the 70th Anniversary of the last time the Chicago Cubs were in a World Series (of course they lost), the hilarious rumor machine indicates that the Wrigleyites are the front-runner for getting Joe Madden as their manager. Writers are insisting Madden is compatible with the Cubbies GM. They are writing that Madden will accept a #25 million, five-year contract. Writers are writing. But nobody is reading because ‘Nobody Reads The Newspaper Anymore’.

The Cubs got into the World Series in 1945 because most of the great players in the game were still serving in the military during World War II. And because of travel restrictions, the World Series of 1945 had the first three games in Detroit at Briggs Stadium and the remainder in Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Cubs came back from Detroit winning two of the first three games. And they still lost the World Series…at home! This is the very definition of a loser.

While some may claim bias, due in part that a Milwaukee Brewer fan is making this point, there is no fear to worry. The Milwaukee Brewers are losers as well. Their owner has never been in a World Series let along win one. Their General Manger has never been in a World Series but he has been named into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Their Manager has never led his team to a World Series although he did play in one (1984) where he played in two games as an outfield and a pinch runner. His team lost. Their third base coach has never led his team into a World Series. He may have known someone who won in a World Series. The very best one can say about this group is that they are non-achievers at the highest level.

So one can see, Cub fans, that Milwaukee fans just don’t like your team. But, in reality, our team is no better except for the fact that we can actually go to all of our games and not have them postponed for bad weather. We even let Cleveland play in Miller Park when their weather is bad. And, we can park near our stadium for a game.

There is no dissolution in Milwaukee. The Brewers fortunes are tied to the men who lead them. If you lose, you are rewarded with an extension in your contract. But there has been a couple of exceptions. One of our managers, was leading his team to the playoffs and got fired a few games before the season ended. He now is managing in the World Series. Look over at the Kansas City dugout and you can catch a glimpse of him along with the guy who filled in for him by winning a play off spot for the Brewers and then was not giving him the managerial spot the next season. OK. That a lot of ‘hims’ but it is Sunday.

Play Ball!

He Did What?

As we are now in the last 40 days and 40 nights of the regular season in baseball, its time to clear out our mental wastebasket.

Let’s Hear It For The Tough Guys. Cleveland pitcher, Ray Caldwell on this date in 1919, was flattened by a bolt of lightning in his debut with the team. However, he recovered to get the final out of the game and defeated the Philadelphia A’s, 2-1. So you think you were tough!

In the first game of a double-header that was getting completely out of hand, on this date in 1940, Ted Williams came in from Left Field to pitch the last two innings against the Detroit Tigers in a 12-1 loss. For the record, ‘The Thumper’ allowed three hits and one run but struck out Tiger slugger, Rudy York and finished the game with a 4.50 ERA. By the way, Joe Glenn, who caught Babe Ruth’s last pitching appearance in 1933 was William’s catcher. In another rare occurrence in this game, Williams went 0 for 4 with a strike out batting fourth in the lineup behind Jimmy Foxx.. And that rarely happened in his entire career. He was batting .342 at the time.

Fans have a long history of second guessing managerial and umpire decisions. As for the latter, just look at Friday’s Milwaukee Brewer game in the 8th inning as it ended with an out called as Aramis Ramirez as he slid into third base and the Pittsburgh third baseman missed tagging the base. But how would you have liked to have been a coach or manager (Zack Taylor) for the St. Louis Browns on this date in 1951? In a season that produced just 51 wins and 102 losses, In another of Bill Veeck’s zany PR stunts, ‘Fans Manager’s Night’, a thousand fans behind the Browns dugout were given ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ placards to vote on decisions by the Browns coaches. The fans coach the Browns to a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia A’s.

Today in 1983, you would not want to be a Toronto Blue Jay. After six Major League seasons playing infield positions, Baltimore Oriole Lenn Sakata moved behind the plate to catch relief pitcher Tim Stoddard who had also just entered the game. The Blue Jays looked to take advantage of this situation but Stoddard was ready for them. He picked off, in order, Barry Bonnell, Dave Collins and Upshaw to record all three inning outs. It had to have been a record.

Probably would not have wanted to be Manager Paul Owens on this date in 1983. Pete Rose did not play in Philadelphia’s 5-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants which ended Rose’s consecutive games played street at 745. Owens had planned to use Rose as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, but Joel Youngblood ended the game with a two-run home run off Steve Carlton in the bottom of the ninth for the victory.

And, just for the record, what if there were a brief gust of wind on this date in 1894 in Washington, DC. Why you asked? Chicago catcher Pop Schriver became the first player to catch a ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument.

And you thought you knew everything there was about baseball. Now you do know some of the crazier things about August 24th.

Play Ball!

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