Sadly, no more. There are no more hawkers in the stadiums shouting out, ‘Programs. Programs Here! Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program.’ It is a sound that has passed, like coins dropping in a coin operated telephone in a telephone booth or the ring of a landline phone in the home.
This year, the fans of the Cream City ball club could use the sound of the program hawker. For the money-pinching owners of Pigsville’s Nine, most fans will have trouble knowing who’s on first, what’s on second or I don’t knows on third.
For the record, the first baseman is Eric Thames. ‘Who?’ Eric Thames. Elig temjeuneun nugu-ibnikka? (‘에릭 템즈는 누구입니까?’). He’ll make $4,000,000 and is taking over for Chris Carter who made $2.5 million last season but was headed for arbitration which could have earned him $8+ million. After all, he was the National League Home Run champion. Thus, in the Brewers way of thinking, they saved $4+ million. You have to understand Brewer thinking. They save $4 million and gained 30 points in a batting average. Yet that is all hypothetical because Mr. Thames has been hitting against Korean baseball league pitching for the last three years. 오 좋은! Wow!
At second will be Jonathan Villar. ‘What?’ He is taking over from Scooter. Villar’s salary will be $512,900.
At third will be Travis Shaw. ‘I don’t know’. Shaw? He will earn $515,000.
At shortstop will be Orlando Arcia. ‘I don’t give a damn’ will earn $507,500.
In left will be one of the few we know…Ryan Braun, if he isn’t traded in the next couple of months before he reaches his ability to block any trade starting in late May, when he becomes a 10-year veteran who has spent his past five seasons with his current team. He will earn $20 million.
In center, Keon Broxton. ‘Hit like the second half of last season’ will earn $508,500.
In right, Domingo Santana. ‘Don’t Get Hurt Santana’ will earn $513,800. Catching will be Andrew Susac. Not ‘today’. But this season, Susac, who replaced Maldonado who replaced Lucroy, will be making $507,500.
Compared to last year’s starting lineup, this year’s projected edition will save approximately $4.5 million less than last year. In fact, according to SPOTRAC, the Milwaukee Brewers will have the third lowest 25 man roster salary in the entire Major League. It is estimated that the team salary will be $41.175 million. Watch out, San Diego and Tampa. Milwaukee is coming after your cheap crown.
They have traded away one of the best catchers in baseball for somebody. They have traded away a veteran third baseman for somebody. They have released the National League’s home run champion for nobody.
If they trade away Braun, they will fly by the San Diego and Tampa and threaten the Salt Lake City Bees for salary.
What an accomplishment.
The Cream City Nine’s owner, who has never won a pennant much less a World Series title, will threaten most of the top Major League owners in profit. He knows that the Milwaukee fans will pack the stadium for Tiddlywinks. OK. That may be a stretch, but ‘program hawkers’ will be needed. Perhaps they can have a ‘Tiddlywinks Night’ to introduce all of the new faces.
We’ll be watching, Mr. Attanasio. We’ll be watching.
‘The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.’ Sara Teasdale
April showers bring May flowers but not in Pigsville.
On May 24th, 2007, Ryan Joseph Braun came up to the Majors. By that date next season, he will no longer be wearing Blue…Milwaukee Blue as in True Blue Brew Crew.
What was so promising…with him becoming one of the best players in the game, crashed down around him when he was declared out for most of the 2013 season because of prohibited drug use. He lost all respect. He lost all commercial ties. He lost partnerships. He lost friendships. He lost his dignity.
There is a soulless emptiness at the bottom. It is nowhere land. No friends and plenty of enemies. People turn away when you are sighted walking toward you. People, who were once your friends, don’t respond to emails. People who once welcomed your contact, do not respond to phone calls. They are always conveniently out. People whom you have helped when they needed help ignore you. You are persona non rata, literally a person not appreciated. ‘Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.’ stated General George S. Patton. Ryan Braun was on the bottom.
That is what hit Braun squarely in the face. ‘Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.’ Muhammad Ali said. In Braun’s case, it wasn’t even at all. The only thing going for him was his contract which would tie him to the Milwaukee Brewers through 2020.
He was once the Rookie of the Year; he became the third-fastest major leaguer to reach 50 career home runs; in 2008, he reached the 150-RBI milestone faster than any major leaguer since Boston’s Walt Dropo needed only 155 games, in 1949–51; was a starting outfielder for the NL in the 2008 All Star Game, finishing first in player voting; Braun hit his 30th home run, becoming just the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first two seasons as he hit 71 home runs in his first two seasons, tying him with Pujols for fourth all-time as Joe DiMaggio topped the list with 75 home runs, followed by Ralph Kiner (74) and Eddie Mathews (72). He was the toast of all the baseball world. Apple released a commercial for a new iPhone, that showed a clip of Braun’s 10th inning walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008, which kept the Brewers’ Wild Card hopes alive. Gatorade used the same clip in its November 2008 “League of Clutch” commercial.
But imagine, only behind DiMaggio, Kiner and Mathews. Here was the star Milwaukee was praying for.
In 2009, Braun was named to Sporting News’ list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking #32. In 2011, he rose to #16. He was named to the Team USA in the 2nd World Baseball Classic. On September 23, Braun hit a three-run, 450-foot home run that sealed the Brewers’ NL-Central-clinching victory. He was named MVP of the National League that season. And in 2012, Braun was awarded the 2012 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the fifth year in a row. His five consecutive awards was the longest active streak in the major leagues.
Then the fall.
Like Phoenix rising, he began a comeback. “I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed—all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates.” He was seen in around Milwaukee even in the cold dead of winter, in the parking lot assisting in various charity drives, thanking the fans for coming out. He was at every Brewer Fest during the off-season, signing autographs and taking tons of pics with the fans.
However, 2014 was not a good year. With that time off, he was heckled in nearly every ballpark in America. He stood quietly in left field. He took the heat. Fans were angry. Opposing fans were merciless. In spring training, even in Maryvale, opposing fans yelled and screamed offensive insults. During the regular season, if you ever attended a game in Phoenix or Chicago, you heard the raw, cutting insults smashing through the air, mother’s quickly covering their children’s ears. ‘What did you do that for, Ma?’, was the response. On the field he managed to be only a mere shadow of what he had been before. A .300+ hitter, he battled insults and injury coming away with a .266 average and only 19 home runs. But after another off season of rest, he came back and there were bright spots which appeared as he lifted his average .285 with 25 home runs while suffering from a bad thumb and back and once again became an All-Star. Then this season, he finally found his old form, batting well above .300 for the season, often in the top five in hitting, and as of today, reached the 30 home run level with 88 RBI.
They still yell insults at him in a couple of towns, particularly Phoenix and Chicago. But for most good baseball fans, they have stopped the childish insults.
Ryan Braun is back. He is world class in the outfield, back in his old position in left field and is back as a world class hitter. And that is bad for Brewer fans.
The owner now has a valued commodity with which to enrich his pockets, drastically decrease his costs, and is dangling his star player in front of an ownership group where he does business (Los Angeles) like a fresh piece of meat. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of only six teams that Braun has named as favorable as part of his no trade clause contractual rights. And just as the trade deadline neared, his piece of meat was dangled hard. The Dodgers agreed to trade the oft injured and big time trouble fielder Puig along with a host of injured and players to be named later. The only thing that saved Milwaukee fans from this disgusting trade was their general manager’s inability to agree with the Dodgers on those players to be named later. In the meantime, Braun was in the clubhouse waiting to see if his long career with the Pigsville Nine was over.
But this is not the end. The Milwaukee Brewers owner is a classic meat dangler. He is a hedge fund man. He knows value of meat…fresh, hard hitting meat that is one of the best pieces of steak on the baseball planet. By next May, Braun’s 10/5 rights kick in. At the end of May, when Braun accumulates 10 years of service time, Braun will gain full no-trade rights, which will complicate any trade the Brewers try to make involving him. Though Braun could waive those for a situation he likes, it’s another factor that has to be worked into negotiations, and one that could further complicate any deal that the Brewers try to make in the future.
Thus this next week, take a look at the magnificent talent playing left field for the Milwaukee Brewers. It may be the last time you will see this quality of baseball player wearing the Milwaukee Blue. Winter is coming and with it, the old meat man will be behind the counter dangling for every team owner to mouth-water over. He has USDA Prime in his freezer. And the owners of the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Diamondbacks and Marlins and any other owner willing to part with a bunch of no-name players for a star, are all invited to attend the bidding war in Pigsville.
What a nightmare of a season for some of these teams this year. Catastrophe hit a number of them while several decided to rebuild, which means drop in attendance and a groan from their fans. In Milwaukee it is called SOT, the ‘Same Old Thing’.
In Minnesota, first Prince and now this? In Atlanta, what’s new? For Cincinnati, this proud franchise can’t seem to get past the Redbirds, Pirates and now the Cubbies. For the Diamondbacks, it should come as no surprise. They only have two players. But for the Astros and the mighty New York Yankees, it is an entirely different story. In Houston, is this the flash-in-the-pan season of truth? In New York, this is simply not acceptable. George must be rolling over in his grave. Spend the money, sons. That’s how you get a winner in the Big Apple! Now you run the risk of Trump not showing up to your games because you’re no a ‘Winna’.
Have these teams season ended in May?
OK. Here is the question after the first near 30 games of the season: Can the Brewers, Braves, Reds, Padres or Diamondbacks win 63 games this season? Can the Astros, Twins or Yankees win 63 games this season? While it seems to be a crazy question considering it contains the New York Yankees, what is universally linking these teams to this question is their pitching or lack thereof.
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.
They are New York’s second team. And there are plenty of reasons for that position. They are the Diamondbacks-of-the-East as far as ineptitude in making trades. While the D’Backs trade players away who have been, and for some become future All-Stars, the Mets are reluctant to trade to improve without including the Yankee-type head fakes and faints to get the majority of fans in their mind-set before they make a trade. It is the ‘trade dance’.
Then there are the Brewers. A lovely team formerly in pinstripes, the team from the Cream City dances the Polka. No Metropolitanism here, these are the beer and brat team of the Midwest. They have heart. They cry a lot. They leak out the possibility of something new in the bush when rarely does that exist. They never believed that ‘one in the hand’ is better stuff. Go for the unknown hope of the future…never for the reality of today. That just isn’t parochial. And if there is one trait the citizens of Pigsville are known for, they are and forever will be parochial. ‘Hail Mary full of grace…’.
These two teams were made for each other in trades. After all, Frankie Rodriguez came to the Crew via the Mets. But this is another year. And we have a few examples of this amazing dance as the Loveables attempt to fill the holes at third, at short, in the outfield and at first at the bane of the Brewers. They have good noses. They can smell these things. After all, they are the Mets. They have extensively scouted Jean Segura, the young shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers who will be moved because of a bright young star in the bush leagues. Remember, ‘One in the hand’ philosophy? But the Mets have sent out signals, via the press, that they don’t like his ‘free swinging’. Using the press to push the price down? What would you expect from the home of ‘The Donald’. Segura has shown some upside and is young. Plus, he has three more seasons under club control. That makes him affordable. If there is one thing those lovable Mets like is ‘affordability’. It solves every question in a press conference. All of this for a guy who stole first base.
Moving to the waltz, there is the Aramis Ramirez dance, as the veteran Brewer third baseman is on the Mets radar. He is the one sitting against the wall of the ballroom. A notorious late season hitter, he is at the end of his playing career. But he still has some pop in his bat, as evidenced on Saturday night. But those lovable Mets have again floated a lovely head fake of ‘who would play where’ if Ramirez were acquired. It’s all so wonderful to see a fully orchestrated Metropolitan talk-fest prior to decision making. ‘Run it up the flagpole and see which way the wind blows’ seems to be a favorite tack out at a sea called ‘Citi’. After all, they would only be obligated to pay the last couple of months of his $14 million contract. (Let’s see, $14 million divided by 6 times 2…) He is the ultimate rent-a-player. They, through the press, let it be known that they don’t like his play on both sides of the ball (per Joel Sherman of the New York Post via Twitter). That means they really must like him.
While all this is going on, the Brewers have the Twins and Rangers looking at Neal Cotts; The Padres looking at Gerardo Parra, along with the Giants who have ‘loved Parra forever’ according to Andrew Beggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (via Twitter). They wanted to get him from the D’Backs but then Arizona didn’t want to trade him to a division rival. Note to D’Backs: you have no rivals until you field a winning team. The 2001 Championship is just a memory. The Angels are also looking at Parra. And of course, those crazy Mets have leaked out that they would like a left-handed hitting outfielder who plays in Milwaukee. Head fake!
Surprisingly, The Mets haven’t said anything about their bullpen. The Blue Jays are looking at Francisco Rodriguez. Everybody in need of a first baseman are looking at Adam Lind of the Crew including those Loveables.
Why all of this interest in a team in last place in the National League Central? Last year at this time this same team was in First place. The only addition since their collapse was Jonathan Broxton who has disappeared in a fog of ineffectiveness. Along with the acquisition of Will Smith who became a Brewer in one of the most despised trades in Milwaukee history (OK…Stormin’ Gorman to Cleveland was a doosey) when traded to KC for Nori Aoki, they also got rid of the numb Roenicke as a manager.
Point is, the teams who are chasing this year’s dream of winning a pennant and a World Series championship, see weakness in the Brewers executive ranks. The non-effective General Manger is in limbo as he is in the process of being offered the face-saving transition to upstairs where he will be in charge of Zoo Nights in August with the title of ‘Head of Whatever’, a title passed down by Harry Dalton in his quiet dual with Buddy Selig, the ex-used car ex commish. Craig Counsell is in line to become the next GM. The San Diego Padres interim manager, could succeed Counsell in the dugout. The third base coach would be replaced; Garza would be sent to limbo on permanent DL and all the world would be better in Cream City. Weak GM? Lower costs for players needed. The Mets love this type of upheaval.
That’s how the Mets play ball..err dance. Floating rumors and letting the pot boil with ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots’. That’s the way those dizzy Metropolitans like to play the game. And their record shows exactly what a success that has led to. Of course, Milwaukee is not much better. Looks like a marriage made in baseball heaven. #watchingattanasio
When the play on the field is less than spectacular, fans throughout baseball can always smile when their mascots cavort. In a season gone wrong, for many it is only habit which keeps fans coming back. It’s hot out. The summer is long. Kids demand it. Moms and Dads everywhere seek the shade of the stadiums as a brief respite from the daily tasks of raising their children.
That’s baseball in many parks in America this June, the last Sunday of June, 2015.
In Philadelphia there is the Phillies Phanatic. The team’s manager resigned this week. What? A manager resigned rather than letting the team axe him so he can walk away with the monies that are owed him? Yet there is always the Phanatic…the one with the wobbly stomach whose antics are some of the best in all of sport. Many, this season, just go to the ball park in the City of Brotherly Love to see what the Phanatic will do on that day. They already have a pretty good guess on what the team will do.
In Milwaukee, they have a bunch of mascots. There is barrelman roaming the stands as the original mascot come to life. Bernie is in his chalet ready to make that slide in case this team is a memory of Harvey’s Wallbangers. And then there are the ‘sausages’…Klement’s Racing Sausages.
Twenty-two years ago, when the team was as bad as they are today and would remain until the ‘Prince’, Ricky, Cory and Ben would save them from obscurity and the misunderstanding of the game by the Family Selig, one of the team’s sponsors, Klement Sausage Co. wanted to put their product on the field as the ‘Racing Sausages’. If you were in the stands on that day in 1993, you witnessed one of the greatest spectacles in sport. Yes. Greater than the skier falling off the ski jump in the ‘Wide World of Sports’ opening on ABC. Yes. Greater than Howard’s call, ‘Down goes Frasier. Down goes Frasier’. The sausages racing in from left field to somewhere past the first base bag, had the crowd betting ‘ons ons’ on the sausages.
By the way, if you don’t bet on Polish this season, you are going against the house. It is named in the honor of Max Surkont who ate himself out of major league baseball during his stint as a Milwaukee Braves ‘sausageing’ himself beyond recognition as he dined on a number of them each and ever night. But I digress.
Back then, in the 90s, the crowd went wild. And well before the day of social media, everyone in the community began talking about it, even in the boardroom of Splinter Pickles where it was discussed whether ‘Pangborn S. Pickle’, the company mascot, should challenge Klements, another south side food manufacturer, to a duel in the sun. But alas, the Splinter board found out it would cost sponsorship monies and that deal was out. Their lawyer, the Grand Russ Pickel said in a statement, ‘No Dill!’.
Up in Little Chute, the executive committee pondered introducing ‘Jack’s Rolling Pizzaman’ and challenge the sausages. After all, they were once a sponsor of the pregame Brewers broadcasts in the 80s. But it was decided that ‘Pizzaman’ would be too difficult to make in motion unless it could be done on a big wheel. In the search for the perfect penny farthing, the search for a rider in a pepperoni pizza suit simply could not be found. Jim, who ran Jack’s and didn’t want it named Jim’s, said: ‘No Dill!’
But in Waukesha, the chessemen at Milwaukee Cheese were not to be outdone. The Swiss owner felt they could have a wheel of cheddar challenge with a cheese race of their own in the Fifth Inning, rather than wait for the Seventh. Always looking for a way to one-up the competition when it came to shelf space in the grocery stores, the cheese czar felt Cheddar could challenge Swiss along with Jack (the cheese not the pizza) and Havarti and bring the crowd to its feet. Preparations were made but alas, Klement’s had a non-compete clause in its contract with the Brewers leading advertising station and the head of that, W.T.M. Steve, said ‘No Mold’ to the cheese king. That was grating.
Thus, and to this day, Klement’s has been putting on a show, so great, that even the Cubbies on the North Side of Chicago have called them in to entertain their crowd from time to time. That of course is considered almost sacrilegious and some of the sausages refused to go down to the Windy land of chewing gum, gaining career applause from the sauced-up crowd in Milwaukee (Secret Stadium Sauce). After all, they are the Cubs. Well done, link. Well done.
And here we are today. When you stand for that stretch and the sausages are announced, call out ‘Polish’ as your ons-ons bet. Chances are pretty good it will win by at least seven links.
Remember, and now for a moment of silence, all of this began with the legendary San Diego Chicken. RIP, Chicken. The kids of San Diego are sad today because they will never see the legend perform in what led to that ‘thing’ in Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
P.S. The Presidents in DC are not included because their team is a traitor and are leading their division. But Teddy’s OK. The racing big heads in Phoenix are not included because they have arguably cheated because they thought everybody was doing it so why not for the team that is owned by the guy who owns all the baseball cards. As for the Mets, they are not included because they are associated with the Big Apple in Center Field and because of their nearness to ‘The Hair’, one and only, ‘The Donald’. The Twin City dude is not included because his team is only a couple of games out of the lead. We’re talking losers here, folks. Nuff said.
In Grateful Memory Baseball Award goes to ‘Youppi!’, the mascot of the Montreal Expos, as it was the first mascot to be thrown out of a Major League Baseball game. On August 23, 1989, in the 11th inning, while atop the visitors’ dugout, Youppi! took a running leap, landing hard and noisily on its roof, and then sneaked into a front row seat. L.A. Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda, complained to the umpires and Youppi! was ejected. Come on, Tommy. What were you thinking? Youppi! was abandoned as a mascot after the Expos franchise moved to Washington in 2005, but was adopted by the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens team on September 16, 2005, as potentially the first sports mascot to switch their allegiance from one sport to another, while remaining in the same city. Go, You ol Youppi you.
In 1958, two teams ventured out of the East and settled on the West Coast, the Giants of the National League in San Francisco and the same league’s Dodgers who settled into Los Angeles. Along with the Bums came their announcer, Vince Scully. And from that date, just 14 years after the Invasion of Normandy, baseball and the West settled into a love affair that has lasted for over a half a Century.
Baseball is played out West and of the eight teams West of the Pecos, four of them have .500 or better records this season, with one team a game under .500. But in the Senior Circuit, three are above .500 including the two originals. They play baseball out in the West.
For many, fans have long gone to bed when the West Cost games begin and end. It’s as if they don’t really exist in the East until those teams have to travel to the left coast. And when they get there, throw those team’s records out. This is the land of pitching. If you are in Seattle, the King resides up there and you don’t want to face the King. In San Francisco, it’s the home of Madison and Timmy. Down in LaLa, Clayton and Greinke rule. Further South, just North of North Island, James and then Kimbrel reside. In other words, when you go out West, young man, you better bring your hitting shoes.
On Saturday night, there was a game that proved this point. Both starting pitchers, Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, fired bullets. At one time during the game, Kershaw and Garcia had 0-2 pitch counts on 18 batters, 10 of those by Kershaw. With that kind of pitching, there is a good chance you will not get a good pitch to hit. And in fact, only the right fielder, Grichuk, got a single hit off of Dodger pitching on the evening. Garcia, beginning the bottom of the Seventh inning, had only thrown 77 pitches. But in the next five pitches, he gave up a double down the third base line which eluded the third baseman who moved over from Second base after the original third baseman, Carpenter, was hit earlier in the game and had to leave. Then, Kozma’s replacement at second, Wong, couldn’t handle a hot line drive which drove in the second run (this was after Puig had driven in the first with a double to the gap in right center). A game of inches? Yes. A game of what ifs? Yes. In five pitches the game was over. Garcia only threw 87 pitches in his outing, good enough to win most games, but in three games this year, the Cardinals haven’t scored any runs for him.
Throughout all of this, Vin Scully gave us all a delightful presentation of the game along with a history lesson on why this date is so important to Americans.
As Vin Scully told the story that wrapped in and out of pitches, in the Ninth Inning as the Dodgers were putting away the Cardinals and shutting the out, 2-0, he weaved his magic as he said, “a young man who waded ashore in Normandy on this date 71 years ago who was to become a great American writer…he pops up to the catcher for the second out…who had the first six chapters of his novel stuffed in his back pocket…and another guy who is trying to get noticed in the game…and the young man on that fateful day who was in the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach was JD Salinger…a roller down the third base line, foul….and the great American novel was ‘A Catcher In The Rye’. ‘Poor guy’…now 1-2 on Matt Holiday who fouls it off again….who can ever forget Holden Caulfield…fast ball got him looking. Do us all a favor…please tell your children and grandchildren what June 6th is all about. 12 Cardinals strike out tonight and the Dodgers remain in first place, a half a game in front of the San Francisco Giants. Good night, everybody.”
And only those of us on the West Coast could hear this fascinating melding of a sporting event in the time of our lives, on a day with a Triple Crown winner became the 12th ever to accomplish that feat, and on a date with destiny that changed the world forever so many years ago.
For those of you back East, you missed one of the greatest story telling blendings in history by a Master of the Art who ventured West fifty-seven years ago. Good night, Vin.
The first part of Spring is over. The fields are vacant all over Arizona and Florida where the Show put on its previews-before-Broadway best for the past month and a half before opening tonight. Kinks were worked out. Arms got stronger. Hitting got in sync with mid-season form. The routine of the marathon called a season began. Umpires appeared to be under special scrutiny as the new rules of challenging calls came into play. Pitchers pitched. Hitters hit and Aramis Ramirez hit doubles and didn’t slide once. And if he does, fire the idiot third base coach. Now its time. As Humphrey Bogart said, “A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.”
Tonight the season begins but without one of the best pitchers in baseball. Clayton Kershaw was placed on the DL on Saturday. He looked so very sharp during Spring Training. Hyun-jin Ryu is starting tonight in his place. Mike Trout of the Angels just signed one of the biggest contracts for easily the best young player in the game. Miggy signed a huge contract with the Tigers because he is Miggy and has back-to-back MVPs under his belt. But, without Prince, will he be pitched around? But enough about hitting.
The Western Division of the National League will be different this year. The challenger, Arizona, will be working without its opening day starting pitcher, Patrick Corbin and its top reliever, David Hernandez. Both will be out for the entire year with Tommy John surgery, which Corbin had perfumed a few days ago. Pitching wins pennants. The D’Backs won’t be that fortunate this season. They will begin the season with Brandon McCarthy taking the mound on Opening Day. Then on Tuesday, Wade Miley starts. Trevor Cahill will start on Wednesday. Then there are the Giants. They win the World Series every two years. Last year they didn’t. Starting on Monday, left hander Madison Bumgarner takes the Opening Day mound against the D’Backs in Phoenix. Matt Cain, the big right hander will start on Tuesday. Tim Hudson will begin game #3 on Wednesday and the incomparable, right hander Tim Lincecum will start on Thursday. Guess who is in the driver’s seat now? As for the Padres, Andrew Cashner will be the starting pitcher tonight against the Dodgers, his first Opening Day starting assignment. On Tuesday, Ian Kennedy, the former D’Backs ace who was traded to San Diego last year at the deadline, love Petco Park. He is 7-2 in it and a great 2.41 ERA. Then on Wednesday, Tyson Ross is on the mound for the Padres. He has a terrific slider. All right-handed, they play in a pitcher friendly big park. As for the Dodgers, now its Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren. On Monday night in Miami, the Colorado Rockies open the season with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound. On Tuesday, a second left hander, Brett Anderson, will take the mound. On Wednesday, a right hander, Tyler Chatwood, starts. Then on Thursday, another right hander, Juan Nicasio will start for the Rockies.
Why highlight the Western Division? You know, the California teams plus two? This is where the battle will be the greatest. With the biggest payroll in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers are EXPECTED to win everything this year. Arizona is expected to be challenging all the way. San Francisco is always tough. The San Diego nine is up and coming. And the Colorado Rockies play a mile high. It is a tough place to play especially for visiting pitchers who try to throw breaking balls.
So, the guess for this season’s team out of the West will be the San Francisco Giants. Pitching wins and they have the pitching.
No matter who you root for this coming baseball season, more than likely you will be cheering for a minor league caliber team. The New York Yankees signing of Tanaka, giving them a powerful starting pitching lineup along with one of the best catchers in the game, gives them a battery no one else can match. Even with the loss of Cano and Granderson, they will be overwhelming favorites to win the American League pennant. Across the country, the Los Angeles Dodgers have similar talent. Powerful pitching wins games and pennants.
What does talent do to a team? If we are judging baseball teams, talent is everything, especially when you consider pitching. So if you are not a Yankee, Dodger, Nationals, Cardinals, Tigers, Rangers and perhaps a Giant fan, you are an also-ran fan. At least, at the very best, you are an always-hopeful fan. If you are an A’s fan, you are always hopeful. If you are a Pirates fan, you are hopeful another miracle can happen. If you are a Rays’ fan, you have talent and a manager. If you are a Red Sox fan, hope is a built-in principal of life. If you are a White Sox fan you are hopeful the new guy can do what that Dodger kid did last season. To the rest of baseball, there is no hope.
Consider the Brewers. Pitching you have Vonnie and the rest. That’s a 12 win season. They were still playing the buyer’s remorse game with Garza on Sunday morning. But, as of 2P on Sunday, the Brewers signed Garza (for details go to: The Brewers signed Garza. http://www.facebook.com/overtheshouldermedia). Thus pitching would have been same-ol, same-ol if he hadn’t signed. That’s one hole filled. At catcher you have Lucroy. He is a very good craftsman with a good bat. But his arm is not there. At first you have nothing but the largest group of has-beens and wannabe’s in the history of first base. At second, you have a young hopeful. At shortstop, you have a legit All-Star. At third, there is a tiring veteran player on his way out of the game in the last of his contact years. In left you have a young hopeful…untested but a young hopeful. In center, you have a gifted defensive player who you hope can hit like he did in the first half of last year’s season all of this season. In right you have a guy who one will have to hope he can play without his meds. Watching a fallen star will be brutal in opposing ballparks. Watching in Miller Park will be a lot of shaking of heads and wondering what would have been. You don’t know what his season will be like . How long has it been since he didn’t play with some assistance? That’s on the field. In the dugout the Brewers have average managerial talent and the worst third base coach in baseball. If they get hot at the early part of the season, then perhaps the owner will give the GM the monies to pull off a bold move. Let’s hope it is not for one of their young pitchers or their shortstop. That’s a lot of hope.
Consider the Cubs. Here is an ownership family that says all the right things but simply are very conservative when it comes to spending their money. They have a new ballpark in Mesa for Spring Training. They have a good starting pitcher. They have a hopefully good first baseman. They have an erratic but hopefully improved shortstop who is All-Star quality. Yikes! Its been a long time since Gabby took the Cubbies to the land of dreams.
Consider the Mariners. They have Cano. They have one of the best pitchers in the game. They have an unknown in Cory Hart. They have, however, missed out on one guy who could have put thrill back into the Northwest. Tanaka. They have a new President. When will this management learn not to give up on their great players? When are they going to stop letting ‘The Kid’ go away? A-Rod escape? Johnson let go? And the idol, arguably the best player in the first decade of this Century traded away to the Yankees…Ichiro? Hey…how about another manager? It is time this management stops playing Nintendo and begins understanding that baseball is a game of professionals. Welcome to Peoria this spring.
Consider the Angels. Tanaka was simply too young for them to acquire. They want to give the Arte billions to old, over-the-hill players. Understand A.J. is available for behind the plate duties. Isn’t it time to trade the best young player in the game to the Yankees? He may be too young to keep around those gray hairs who pack the halo’s lineup.
Consider the Padres.
Consider the Rockies. Talk about tight. This ownership’s idea of building a team is in building a party deck in right field. They have a 40-year-old relief pitcher in LaTroy. Doesn’t he understand that the air is thin up there in Denver? Pitchers can’t throw curves in that atmosphere. To win they need to have hammers…big hitters who can win the game 15 to 14 in nine innings.
Consider the Diamondbacks. It is just too bad they couldn’t pull off the deal with Tanaka. They brought in Goldy to assist in convincing the young Japanese star to make the Valley of the Sun his home. It could have given new hope to a team that has disappointed many during the past season or two. Here was a team on the verge of dominance with one of the best coaching staffs in baseball. Now there is no great young outfielder to chastise. Two great coaches in Baylor and Williams have left. They have overpaid an underperforming catcher. And they still have no #1 pitcher. Bullpen? What bullpen?
Consider the Braves. No catcher. No money. Could be a decade of doom for the transplanted Milwaukee nine.
Consider the Orioles. Their manager has done what he has always done in the past. He takes nothing and pushes them to the almost-near the top. He is there again. Can he finally do what he has never done before and win the pennant and World Series? Davis and Hardy need more pitching.
Consider the Indians. Wow! When you get Axford and call that an improvement, I have a bridge I want to sell you. Back to the minors.
Consider the Reds. Why is this team located near one of the biggest package goods manufacturers in the world without funds to rebuild their incredible past? P&G…buy this team and give them some money to make they one of the greats again. Baseball needs it. This is the team who really started it all in the city where pro baseball began. Goodyear will be a terrible place to watch this Spring Training.
Consider the Royals. George Brett must be put into a position to do what John Elway has done in Denver. Ownership has to unload its pockets and provide Brett the monies that can rebuild a once proud franchise. Aoki is a monumental trade improvement. Watch him hit against Darvish and Tanaka. There is hope in KC. Surprise will be a great place to watch baseball this spring.
Consider the Astros. It is a few years off before they will be a power. But will they be able to compete without being paid for their television contract. It seems Comcast owes them monies from last July, August and September. The local Comcast is declaring bankruptcy. The Astro’s are saying Comcast is doing a slight-of-hand. No money…no power. They have the money to improve. We all know they have the city to attract top players.
Consider the White Sox. Money? They have it in spades as they are part owner of the same cable network that carries the Cubs. They are making money hand over fist but can’t seem to do anything to improve their team except to extend their manager’s contract. Yet they did add one key player from Cuba, first baseman Jose Abreu who may be the next big thing in baseball. By sharing Camelback Ranch with the Dodgers this spring, the crowds should be large and boisterous. Unfortunately, there is little shade at Camelback Ranch.
We are only a couple of weeks away before the pitchers and catchers report. Arizona is going to be a great place to begin the season to find out what’s shaking for 2014. Besides, the first games are only a month away in AUSTRALIA. Yep. The D’Backs and Dodgers open the Major League Baseball season Down Under.
Thanks Commish. Great job. Do you have any idea what that gate would draw in LA or Phoenix?
“He stood out like a brown cow in a field of white cows.”, Eddie Collins said. While still in high school, this ‘brown cow’ was offered contracts with both the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. His mother said no. He was too young to leave home. Instead, before his Senior year in high school, he signed and played with the then major league of the West, the Pacific Coast League’s local team, the San Diego Padres. This was Nuxhallian. A kid, ‘The Kid’ graduated and rejoined the Padres for his second year and entered the starting lineup on June 22nd with an inside-the-park home run in his first at bat. That season he would lead the PCL in hitting with a .291 average and 23 home runs, all of this in about 100 days and pushed the Padres to win the PCL Championship. That was 1937.
Born Teddy Samuel Williams (that’s right…not Theodore), this mother’s son did not take to his Mom’s Salvation Army soldiering nor her evangelism, but instead to a bat and a ball, for which he would gain immortality in the world of 109 stitches.
Then, history rewritten by baseball, states that Ted was signed as an amateur free agent in December 1937. In fact, the General Manager of the Boson Red Sox, one Eddie Collins, traded for his favorite brown cow and in turn, gave the San Diego Padres (who had been paying the brown cow for two season, hopefully more than hay and oats) two major league ballplayers and two minor leaguers plus $35,000. You’ve gotta love the story telling by the historians of baseball. That’s where baseball’s fictional tale and Mr. Williams’ amateur status ends.
He spent one year with the Minneapolis Millers, then the Red Sox Triple A club, where he crafted his art of hitting and won the American Association Triple Crown. Then in his very first Major League game, on April 20, 1939, on Opening Day, the torch was passed. It was on that day, for the one and only time, Ted Williams played against Lou Gehrig. Ten days later, Gehrig played in his 2,130 consecutive game. He went hitless in that game against the Washington Senators and in the next game, at Detroit, he took himself out of the lineup. Tiger fans, upon the announcement being made over the public address system, gave Lou Gehrig a standing ovation. He never played in another game again. On June 13th, he went to the famed Mayo Clinic. On July 21st, the New York Yankees announced his retirement from baseball. On June 2, 1941 he died.
Gehrig was THE player before Williams. He was the torch bearer between Babe Ruth and ‘Teddy Ballgame’. Gehrig was the last man to have won a triple crown with .363 BA, 49 HR and 159 RBI in 1934. Here was the only player in history to have 400 total bases per year for five seasons.
Ted Williams was worthy of carrying on the tradition as he was the youngest man ever to hit .400 (.406 in 1941) and seventh youngest to ever win a batting title. Sure there was Joe DiMaggio, who throughout Williams early career, was his main rival. But for pure hitting, no one compared to ‘The Kid’. He was one of 15 men to win the Triple Crown and only the second ever to win it twice (the first being his former manager of the Minneapolis Millers, Rogers Hornsby). He also hit .388 sixteen years later in 1957 (age 39) and the oldest ever win the batting title at the age of 40 in 1958. ‘Teddy Ballgame’ was an All-Star 17 times; finished with a career .344 batting average, seventh best in the history of the game and 20 points better than DiMaggio; won the MVP twice; was the Runs leader six time and leader in doubles twice; took the Home Run title four times, and, perhaps most important, was the wingman for Marine Captain John Glenn in Korea.
He served his country through his military obligation not once, but twice. He volunteered and entered Naval Aviation which lead to his commission as Marine officer. He retired from the Marines after serving in both the Second World War and the Korean War. He was honored by earning an Air Medal with two gold stars; the Navy Unit Commendation, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W Bush; awarded the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with service star; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with two service stars; the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation; the United Nations Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
On his 40th birthday, he received an oil painting of his hero with the inscription: “To Ted Williams – not only America’s greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur, General, U.S. Army”
Greatest hitter of all-time? How about the greatest United States Military Veteran baseball player of all-time!
The ‘Splendid Splinter’ was an American original, the last player to bat .400 in a season. He was simply magnificant.