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The Glory of Baseball

A place to share your passion for the game.

Updated: 2018-02-21T06:21:47.250-08:00


It's Time


Ok, you got me. I've been derelict in my duties as an editor and haven't sent an update in a long while. Forgive me, but the latest news in recent weeks with PEDs has soured my outlook. I will be leaving on a sabbatical from this blog, hoping things turn around in the near future. TTFN

Baseball's Most Mediocre Managers


Eric Wedge, decidedly mid-level manager.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Brian Goff, Contributor, 5/30/2013

Last week I listed the best managers over the past 40 years in MLB.  These estimates flow out of  each manager’s impact on winning percentage after taking into account the GM, owner, performance prior to the manager, and population.  Here, I’m looking at the flip side of the same coin – the ten worst managers over 1970-2011.  That’s not exactly right – it’s the worst ten who managed at least 7 years.

An oddity in sports management, and, for that matter, any management setting is the mediocre or bad manager who keeps landing good jobs.  I’ve labeled it the “Kevin Loughery Syndrome” after the former NBA coach who parlayed 3 successful ABA seasons into a 5-team NBA career with an overall winning percentage of 0.417 – a number well below his closest coaching peer.  Somehow, employing a coach with experience, even bad experiences, seem to carry the day for various general managers and owners.

The MLB manager’s on my list don’t come close to approaching that kind of futility.  In fact, while all of the “worst” of these long tenured managers on my list had a net negative contribution to winning, the size of the negative impact is very small.  In this respect, a better title is most mediocre long-tenured MLB managers. The number of seasons includes partial seasons.
  1. Darrell Johnson (3 teams, 8 seasons)
  2. Phil Garner (3 teams, 15 seasons)
  3. Buddy Bell (3 teams, 9 seasons)
  4. Jim Riggleman (4 teams, 12 seasons)
  5. Jim Fregosi (4 teams; 15 seasons)
  6. Tom Kelly (1 teams, 16 seasons)
  7. Rene Lacheman (4 teams, 10 seasons)
  8. Ralph Houk (3 teams, 21 seasons)
  9. Eric Wedge (2 teams, 10 seasons)
  10. Pat Corrales (3 teams, 10 seasons)
In some cases, such as Ralph Houk or Eric Wedge, the individual managed part of their tenure prior to or after to my period of analysis.  In the case of Houk, the exclusion may influence his inclusion in the list since he won two World Series with the Yankees in his first two seasons.  The case of a manager such as Tom Kelly is a unique and interesting case.  While most of the others on the list experienced consistent mediocrity, Kelly’s Minnesota twins won two World Series over his 16 seasons, which helps explain his long tenure with the team in spite of an overall uninspiring record.

MLB's Best Managers And GMs


ATLANTA - OCTOBER 11,2010: Manager Bobby Cox #6 of the Atlanta Braves against the San Francisco Giants during Game Four of the NLDS of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Turner Field on October 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)ForbesSportsmoneyBrian Goff, Contributor, 5/22/2013Over the past 40 years, who are the best MLB managers and general managers?   I recently explored this question in an academic piece published in Managerial and Decision Economics.  Of course, one could just take winning percentage or championships won, but where managers have taken over successful teams, continuing that success is not as impressive as turning a team around.  In addition,  some franchises, such as the Yankees, are located in large metropolitan areas and given league revenue sharing practices, can turn this population base into a big financial advantage.  Finally, managerial relationships are hierarchical — the owner answers for everybody, the general managers, typically, makes roster decisions with managers making on-the-field decisions.  The methods that I employed took account of all of these issues using data from 1970-2011.Interestingly, in comparing managers with GMs, the latter didn’t matter much prior to the 1990s.  Or, at least, very little difference existed between GMs so that one was just as valuable as another.  In the 1990s onward in the “Moneyball” era with much more attention paid to predictive characteristics of performance by some GMs rather than simply how players look in their uniform or the most obvious physical attributes, the general manager role exceeded that of managers in terms of explaining winning and losing.      Top 10 Managers:Bobby Cox (Toronto, Atlanta)Danny Murtaugh (Pittsburgh)Walter Alston (Los Angeles)Earl Weaver (Baltimore)Danny Ozark (Philadelphia, San Francisco)Tony LaRussa (Chicago AL, Oakland, St. Louis)Davey Johnson (Cincinnati, Baltimore, New York NL, Los Angeles, Nationals)Sparky Anderson (Cincinnati, Detroit)Joe Torre (Atlanta, New York AL, Los Angeles)Jerry Manual (Chicago AL, New York NL)Honorable Mention: Ron Gardenhire, Dick Williams, Terry Francona, Dusty BakerWith the recent retirement of Tony LaRussa, none of the Top 10 are still active.  Among the active managers, Gardenhire, Fancona, and Baker head the list.               Top 10 General Managers  Brian Cashman (New York AL)Bob Howsam (Cincinnati)John Schuerholz (Atlanta)Theo Epstein (Boston)Joe Burke (Kansas City)Joe Brown (Pittsburgh)Paul Owens (Philadelphia)Walt Jocketty (St. Louis)Al Campanis (Los Angeles)Haywood Sullivan (Boston)Honorable Mention: Dan Duquette, Ron Schueler, Joe Gariagiola, Pat GillickA natural reaction to this list might be “Cashman has all the money to spend — no wonder he’s on top.  However, his individual contribution and ranking already takes account of the size of the Yankees’ market as well as taking over a team already enjoying a degree of success.  On the other hand, given that Theo Epstein is still active and his new team, the Cubs, are not faring so well, at least so far, his ranking would likely fall with expanded data.Here is a link to a draft version of the article on which these results are based.[...]

20 best baseball quotes of all time


Photo: Early poster for baseball: "Cheer up - show your colors"by Vance Garnett Washington Times May 1, 2013 Baseball is the most talked and written about of all sports. Below are 20 of my favorite quotes of all time. Some might be from before your time, but they are all gems. 1. "Hit 'em where they ain't." That was "Wee Willie" Keeler explaining the secret of his hitting prowess after setting a record in 1896, for his 45 game hitting streak, which stood until 1941, when the record was broken by "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio. 2. "I should of stood in bed," complained boxing manager Joe Jacobs about the bitter cold weather for the opening game of the 1934 World Series between the Saint Louis Cardinals "Gashouse Gang" and the Detroit Tigers. 3. "I'd rather be lucky than good," said Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez about the "breaks of the game" on any given day. 4. "A ballplayer should quit when it starts to feel like all the baselines run uphill," said Babe Ruth as he neared the end of his career. 5. "Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League," wrote sports editor Charlie Dryden in the San Francisco Examiner, in 1909. 6. "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken feathers," lamented Joe Kuhel upon being fired as manager of the bottom-dwelling Washington Senators, in 1949. 7. "Young man, if that bat comes down, you're out of the game," yelled umpire Bill Klem when an angry batter tossed his bat 20 feet in the air upon being called out on strikes. 8. "I ought to break this trophy into 32 pieces," graciously said number 42, Jackie Robinson, upon receiving the award for outstanding play in 1947. 9. "The Hell with Babe Ruth!" shouted Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal during WWII, in retort to the American G.Is insulting their Emperor. 10. "I had a better year," Babe Ruth told a reporter who asked why his salary was higher than that of the president of the United States. 11. "He would be the league's best pitcher if the plate was high and wide," wrote Bob Cooke, sportswriter for the Herald Tribune, about the wildness of a Dodgers pitcher. 12. Asked how he enjoyed rooming with Babe Ruth, "I room with his suitcase" answered Ping Bodie, whose real name was Franceto Sanguenitta Pizzola. 13. "A hotdog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz," said legendary film star Humphrey Bogart. 14. An anonymous taxi driver in Manhattan gets credit for this one. Being told by a passenger who hopped into his cab that the Dodgers had three men on base, he asked, "Which one?" This was because the previous day (Aug. 15, 1926), two "Bums" had been called out when three players tried to occupy third base at the same time. 15. "The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing." So said Dizzy Dean the day after being hit in the head by a pitched ball in the1934 World Series. 16. Asked to make a comment upon the death of his long-time teammate Joe DiMaggio, baseball's premier philosopher, Yogi Berra, said: "He was the best living player I ever saw." 17. "I always had to be right in any argument I was in," Ty Cobb said, "and I wanted to be first in everything." 18. "A bad call in baseball is one that goes against you," read a TV Guide article. 19. "I've never left a game before it ended," said Richard Nixon. "You never know when there could be a big turnaround in the game." 20. "Some day I'm going to have to stand before God," said Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, "and if He asks me why I didn't let that Robinson fellow play ball, I don't think saying 'because of the color of his skin' would be a good enough answer." These, then, are some of my favorite baseball quotes. Watch for an upcoming column called, "20 More Favorite Baseball Quotes." Meanwhile, feel free to let me know some of yours favorites. Until then see you in the bleachers.[...]

How Sam Lacy helped integrate Major League Baseball


The movie "42" omits the story of the Baltimore sportswriter, but Robinson himself understood the influence of the black pressSam Lacy, The First Black Sports Writer By Charlie VascellaroBaltimore SunApril 22, 2013Like most films depicting historic accounts of real-life events, the bio-epic "42" carries the immediate disclaimer that it is based on a true story, leaving room for interpretive analysis and creative license. Consequently, dramatic interpretations are by their nature subject to scrutiny and debate.While the film sticks close to the well-chronicled historic record regarding Jackie Robinson's unique place in time as the first African American to play in the major leagues, its sins are mostly of omission. Focusing tightly on the milestone season of 1947, the movie hurries through the arduous process by which Robinson and other African American players who followed him got to the big leagues. No recognition for Robinson's breakthrough given to anyone other than Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey.Of great influence in lobbying for the integration of major league baseball was the battle waged by members of the black press, among them Sam Lacy, who began his professional career as a sports writer for the Washington Tribune in 1926, moving on to become assistant national editor for the Chicago Defender and later the long-time sports editor and columnist for the Baltimore Afro-American.Born on Oct. 23, 1903, in Mystic, Conn., Lacy was on the cutting edge of the development of black athletes in professional sports. His career as a professional journalist spanned over eight decades. He died in 2003 at the age of 99. In his 1998 memoir, Lacy recalled his and other writers' efforts to push for integration of professional sports."In the mid-1930s, black sportswriters kept tabs on what was going on in their own communities and in national sports involving blacks; at the same time, we tried to keep the heat on that period's racial segregation in sports," recalled Lacy, who made repeated unsuccessful attempts to meet with baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.Despite Lacy's ongoing efforts through the 1930s and early 1940s, it remained evident that there was no movement toward integration coming from baseball's policy makers. This became even more apparent during the early years of World War II when blacks fought side-by-side with their white countrymen overseas but couldn't break through, even though major league rosters were depleted by the military draft.Some of the game's best and most celebrated players were beginning or continuing tours of military duty that would keep them off the ball fields for as many as four years. By 1944 the major league terrain was so dramatically altered that the previously unimaginable occurred: a World Series pairing of the perennially lowly St. Louis Browns, pennant winner for the first time in the team's 43-year existence, with the St. Louis Cardinals.Sam Lacy continued his attempts at meeting with Landis throughout and after the 1944 season, offering his availability at any time and place, but Landis died that November. While Landis' death certainly came as good news to integrationists at first, the appointment of Landis' replacement, Senator A.B. "Happy" Chandler of Kentucky, appeared to be a serious setback to the movement. Upon hearing the news, Lacy filed his column from out of town, writing: "It appears that his choice was the most logical one to suit the bigoted major league operators, of which there is a heavy majority on hand."However, it was under Chandler's stewardship that the breakthrough would eventually come. Surprisingly enough, in a statement issued from the commissioner's office shortly after his being named to the post, the new commissioner said, "I don't believe in barring Negroes from baseball just because they are Negroes."After writing a letter to each of the 16 major league team owners urging that a committee to examine the desegregation issu[...]

Long gone, Ebbets Field continues to live on in lore


Ebbets Field is set to spring back to life in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic "42." (Warner Bros. Pictures)Iconic home of the Brooklyn Dodgers hosted its first regular-season game 100 years agoBy Evan DrellichSpecial to MLB.comNEW YORK -- Ron Schweiger, the official historian of Brooklyn with a rabbinical demeanor, had never met Bob McGee when a reporter called to invite them both to lunch.Schweiger and McGee are both Brooklynites. Schweiger never left, but McGee, an urbane spokesman for a local utility company who recites poetry at the table then apologizes for doing so, lives in suburban Westchester County and works in Manhattan.They were already kindred spirits, through a mutual childhood love and their time at Brooklyn College. Once a newspaper man, McGee moonlights as an author. He wrote a canonical history of Ebbets Field, the ballpark of his childhood, and the work cites Schweiger. Still, they remained strangers until March. In near caricature, Schweiger chose a diner along Flatbush Avenue for gab."April 12, it comes out," said Schweiger, who has pristine replicas of the original blueprints of Ebbets Field in his memorabilia-filled home. "The coming attractions, I can't believe -- did you see?""They make Ebbets Field look like Ebbets Field," McGee said. "I don't know how they did it. It must have been computer-generated. It had to be, how did they do it?""I mean, when I saw this, when the actor who's playing Jackie," Schweiger went on, "he's walking up the ramp, and he gets to the top -- there's Ebbets Field. There's the inside of the ballpark.'""That's the way Ebbets field looked," McGee said. "Exactly the same."They're talking about "42," the Jackie Robinson biopic that opens in theaters on Friday. Most anyone for whom Ebbets Field was a cathedral will have similar feelings -- deity of talk Larry King, for one. The stadium in the movie was indeed computer-generated, using a stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn., as the backdrop."I was at [Jackie] Robinson's first game," King said. "So when they showed that scene of that Opening Day, I was up in the bleachers for 50 cents. And I lived at Ebbets Field in my childhood."Hosting a show on Ora TV now after leaving CNN, King sat in Sandy Koufax's suite at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day last week. Famously, King and Koufax went to the same high school in Brooklyn, as did Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Fifty-one years after the opening of Dodger Stadium, King and Koufax engaged in a similar diner prattle of nostalgia. Their conversations, without fail, always settle on home."Always," King said. "Back toward Brooklyn, back toward growing up. Back toward what was."One hundred years ago Tuesday, Ebbets Field hosted its first regular-season baseball game. Philadelphia downed the Brooklyn team, then better known as the "Superbas," 1-0, in front of a crowd of about 10,000.The glory of the 1940s and '50s was still a long ways away. Cartoonist Willard Mullin didn't create the famous Brooklyn Bum cartoon character, the unofficial avatar of a self-contained city, until 1937.Had Ebbets Field somehow stood, its centennial would have been sandwiched between Fenway Park's in 2012 and Wrigley Field's in 2014.It's not without irony that Dodger Stadium, a magnificent park in its own right, received a $100 million facelift this winter."This is the second chance that Ebbets Field never had," said Mark Langill, the Dodgers' official historian. "Normally, you would not have a facility this old undergo a renovation."More than most years, reminders of Ebbets can be found all around of late: The movie, for one. In addition, Citi Field, Wilpon's jewel and the home of the Mets, was created in Ebbets' likeness. It's a fine coincidence that the All-Star Game will be hosted there in the year of the centennial.And just a few months ago, in December, a flagpole from Ebbets was positioned in front of the Nets' new arena, Barclays Center. Barclays Center was built exactl[...]

With release of Jackie Robinson movie, don't forget baseball's other black pioneers


 From left, Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson pose at Ebbets Field in New York on April 15, 1947. (AP)By Fay VincentMarch 29, 2013FoxNews.comIn a few days, the new baseball season and a new baseball-centered film arrive. The film, “42,” takes its title from the uniform number of Jackie Robinson and documents his travails and celebrates his achievements as he left the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1947 to become a Brooklyn Dodger and the first black major leaguer.I have long held the old Negro League ballplayers in special regard for keeping our game alive during the long years when players of color were denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues. Some superb players played only in the Negro Leagues, including Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston and others.But some were young enough when the gates fell to have been able to play in the majors. To my good fortune, three former major league stars who had begun as Negro League players -- Larry Doby, Joe Black and Ernie Banks -- became good friends of mine, as did “Slick” Surratt, who played only in the Negro Leagues, and they had much to tell of their experiences in segregated America.I wanted to share their stories, so some 20 years ago these four – only the ebullient Banks survives -- accompanied me as we visited several colleges to talk to kids about their baseball lives and especially about the significance of the Negro Leagues.The number of surviving alumni of the Negro Leagues is now tiny. But many of their stories have been preserved. I did extended interviews of many former Negro League players, and the tapes of those interviews are available at the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.In those interviews and in the talks that my traveling companions gave at the colleges we visited, it became clear to me these men took their baseball seriously and played with pride at the highest level permitted to them.Surratt told me the players were paid at essentially the level of high school teachers in the black community, yet a symbol of pride they wore coats and ties when the travelled. Their busses may have been fully depreciated but their dress signaled their self- respect.The baseball played in those leagues was of a high caliber, and the players were skilled professionals. Yet there were other dimensions to their lives.I once asked Slick why the players played so hard and to win. He smiled wryly at me and then asked if I wanted the baseball answer or the real reason. I asked for both.“Well,” he said, “we played hard because we never knew whether there was some young kid named Willie Mays who might be there to try out for the team after the game, and we were afraid of losing our jobs. And then there is the real reason.”He paused for effect.“You see the winning team got the best girls.”Remember, his name was “Slick.”At one college we visited, after Larry Doby had explained the problems of not being able to eat at the best -- but white only -- restaurants in Southern towns, a young black student challenged him: “Why did you accept that? Why didn’t you just insist on being served? Why were you so laid back?”Larry was patient and gentle: “Young man, let me explain something to you. If we had been difficult or ornery, one of two things would have happened and maybe both. We surely would have been arrested, and we might have been killed. You understand?”The student had little familiarity with the Jim Crow era, and as a result, the impact on students of the dignified and elegant black ball players was dramatic.Wherever we went the kids thronged around the players to hear directly of experiences none of them would ever share and few of them could imagine. The simple eloquence, however, of the players made our visits to the colleges some of the most memorable times of my life. The play[...]

From rookies to legends, Koufax leaves mark on camp


Special advisor to chairman provides knowledge of game, link to Dodgers' pastDodgers play-by-play legend Vin Scully sits down with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax to discuss lefties, pitching and the DodgersSee the video here2/28/13:By Ken Gurnick / MLB.comGLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sandy has left the building.In Elvis fashion, Sandy Koufax finished his initial 10-day Spring Training assignment as special advisor to the Dodgers chairman Thursday having left an unforgettable impression, even on fellow legends."The owners have done so many things correctly that have lifted the spirits of fans and everybody in the organization and by bringing Sandy back have added to the optimism," said another iconic Hall of Famer, Vin Scully."They've been able to bring back someone whose name has always been linked to the Dodgers, and I'm sure the fans think the owners have done another smart thing. That's the way I look at it. It's just great."Zack Greinke might win 20 games this year, but the early leader for best acquisition is the 77-year-old Koufax, who won't throw a pitch. Koufax said he will attend an Old Timers Game at Dodger Stadium on June 8 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 World Series team and perhaps drop in on the club at a series or two on the East Coast."Beyond that, I really don't know," he said.The hiring of Koufax has been universally praised as a coup by the new Guggenheim Partners ownership. In the past, Koufax has been a Spring Training visitor to see staff friends, but always as a private citizen. He hasn't worked for a club since a stint as a Dodgers Minor League instructor from 1979-89.In addition to the obvious public relations bonanza of the hiring, management wanted to tap into Koufax's teaching strengths, as well as fortify an ongoing mission of reconnecting with players from the Dodgers' glory years."I grew up like that with the Yankees," said manager Don Mattingly. "[Mickey] Mantle, Catfish [Hunter], Whitey [Ford]. The Yankees would bring all of them back. Mickey just kind of hung around being Mickey. He was great. Catfish, he and I would go to a back field and he would pitch seven innings to me. He could still throw all right, and he'd try to get me out."If you have resources like that, it's just foolish not to use them. And having them around helps your players understand the history of the game. I want guys like that and Tommy Lasorda around, I want them asking why I did this and why I did that. I want the best information. I want Sandy challenging our way of doing things if he thinks there's a better way."The Dodgers quickly slid Koufax into their daily program, and he worked one on one with many pitchers in camp, especially three of the starters he has counseled in the past -- Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Chris Capuano.But Koufax also worked with relievers like Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra, and young Major Leaguers like Josh Wall. Midway through his stay, the role expanded to one-on-one morning sessions with the top pitching prospects in Minor League camp -- Zack Lee, Chris Reed, Angel Sanchez, Jose Dominguez and converted third baseman Pedro Baez, who Koufax said shocked him by displaying "four Major League pitches" even though he's thrown only one inning in his life, in instructional league."When I came back to the organization in 2001, one of the major goals was to get the Dodgers back to the way they taught pitching for so many years," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "They had gotten away from it, from the way it was taught by the great pitching coaches like Red Adams, Ron Perranoski, Dave Wallace and Sandy."The great thing about having Sandy around is to listen to the stories of success, not just his great talent pitching, but his ability to say in simple terms what we're trying to accomplish. I've always felt that I'm an extension of him in that way. And[...]

Disabled Navy veteran Jacobs is part of Dodgers' tryout thanks to Lasorda


Daniel "Doc" Jacobs at Dodger Tryout[San Gabriel Valley Tribune]By J.P. Hoornstra, Staff WriterL.A. Daily News2/28/2013GLENDALE, Ariz. – Like a mouse creeping up an elephant, the thought of playing baseball with Dodgers officials watching made Daniel "Doc" Jacobs nervous."I still am nervous," Jacobs said Thursday, minutes after his audition was over.On a back field at Camelback Ranch with the other participants in an open tryout with the Dodgers, Jacobs was a world away from Ramadi, Iraq. Seven years and three days earlier, he was on a battlefield in Ramadi when an IED exploded beneath him, killing the Marine with him and shattering his body.Jacobs underwent more than 50 surgeries, including an amputation of his left leg below the knee. Within years, he became the first amputee to return to active duty in the Navy.On Thursday, the 27-year-old was number 627 – nothing more than the number on his back, nothing less than a hero."Once we kicked off the war in Iraq, I decided that I wanted to go in and serve and carry on my family heritage," he said. "Everybody in every generation in my family has served. I didn't know if we were ever going to fight a war again so I wanted to definitely go fight in a war, really fight for our freedom."Jacobs said his great-grandfather fought in World War II, and an ancestor on his mother's side fought in the Civil War.His other dream was to play Major League Baseball.The opportunity arose a year ago when Jacobs met former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda at a California Disabled Veterans Business Alliance meeting and shared his dream. Lasorda invited Jacobs to try out on the spot; Jacobs obliged and decided not to wear the hat of his childhood team, the Cleveland Indians."I didn't want to disrespect him by that," Jacobs said.Unless you were looking closely at his left leg, Jacobs' tryout was indistinguishable from most. He fielded a pair of ground balls cleanly but long-hopped both throws. A backhand was hit to his right side, but it went under his glove and rolled onto the outfield grass. Another backhand met Jacobs' glove cleanly, but he short-hopped that throw.For Jacobs, there was more to the tryout than what could fit in a scouting report."It's all about the experience, and letting America and these guys know that not all disabled veterans are going to be a statistic in the news," he said. "I'm here to combat the suicide rate, homicide rate, divorce rate statistics. I just want to get out there and prove to America there are awesome disabled veterans out there and we are making a stand against that."[...]

Koufax Dons Dodgers Uniform for First Time Since 1980s


                                                  [Paul Sancya/Associated Press] Sandy Koufax signing autographs in Phoenix on Thursday.February 22, 2013By Karen CrouseNew York TimesGLENDALE, Ariz. — Ed Farmer, the voice of the Chicago White Sox, will tell you that as a teenager he heard the voice of God and that it belonged to Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame left-handed pitcher.When Farmer heard Friday that Koufax was working with pitchers on a field at the Dodgers' spring-training site at Camelback Ranch, which it shares with the White Sox, he made his way over to pay homage to the man he credits for his 11-year major league career.At 18, Farmer said, he was introduced to Koufax by Alvin Dark, who was managing Farmer in Cleveland, the team that drafted him in the fifth round of the 1967 draft. According to Farmer, Koufax commented on the size of Farmer's hands and said, "You're going to have a big curve ball.""He showed me how to throw the curve," Farmer said. "He made me a lot of money."For the first time since the late 1980s, Koufax is back in a Dodgers uniform. He is spending 10 days at training camp as a pitching instructor, lured back to the franchise that made him famous by the team's head of marketing, Lon Rosen, and president, Stan Kasten.During a morning throwing session, he gave pointers to Zach Lee, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley and Ryu Hyun-Jin, a left-hander from South Korea who said Koufax is a celebrity in his country too."That's because of Chan Ho Park," Koufax said with a shrug, referring to the first South Korean-born player in the majors, who broke in with the Dodgers in 1994.Koufax, who spent 11 years beginning in 1970 as a Dodgers minor league instructor, said he was approached by Rosen about returning to the franchise in some capacity at a Dodgers game last summer, proof, he said that he is not the J.D. Salinger of baseball as has been written. "I'm at the Final Four, I go to ball games, I go to golf outings, I go to dinner," he said. "I live my life."Koufax is 77 and wiry, 35 pounds lighter than his pitching weight but nimble enough to toss a baseball and shag balls after bunting practice. Asked about his arthritic left elbow, which hastened his retirement in 1966, Koufax joked, "You haven't seen me throw anything, have you?"The art of pitching is summed up in his book in one sentence: "Get people out.""There are so many ways to pitch," he said. "There's the best way to throw and then there's pitching."Koufax said he is impressed with what he has seen so far from the Dodgers pitchers, a star-studded group that includes Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke.One of his favorite aspects of baseball, in his day and now, Koufax said, is the camaraderie of the clubhouse. The players, he said, "have kind of included me in some stuff." He added, "It's kind of fun."He noted that camps are far smaller than in his day. "We had 600 players in camp," he said. "Players were wearing A,B,C,D on their uniforms beside their numbers."He described baseball as if it were some precursor to today's reality television shows, where a small cast is assembled from mass tryouts. "This was before free agency," Koufax said. "So you'd have 600 players in camp and if 100 players were injured, they went out and signed 100 more."Now, he added, "It's about protecting your assets because you don't have too many."In Koufax, the Dodgers have a golden resource. He is able to connect with players young enough to be his grandchildren. Among fans of all ages, he remains a beloved figure. A man approached Koufax to tell him his Sou[...]

Michael Jordan at 50: Remembering his forgettable baseball career


Michael Jordan turns 50 on Sunday, and few will spend much time looking back on his baseball career.                                                            AP PhotoBy Steve Politi The Star-Ledger, February 16, 2013nj.comThe P.R. guy for the visiting minor-league team was clear: His right fielder would only do interviews if he made an impact on the game.So as the fly ball headed toward the left-field wall in Zebulon, N.C., on that sticky night in July 1994, you can forget the rule about no cheering in the press box. It came up a few yards short, as too many of them did for the 31-year-old rookie with the Birmingham Barons that summer, but it was good enough for a sac fly.And good enough for us.“I’d like to put in that request for Michael Jordan!” I said.Maybe the first thing you remember about Jordan is the shot that propelled North Carolina to the national title over Georgetown in 1982, or the mesmerizing layup when he changed hands in midair against the Lakers, or the iconic shot that gave him his sixth and final NBA title.Jordan turns 50 Sunday. He authored far more than 50 transcendent moments in his career, all of them still as fresh now as when they happened – and plenty of them filling the ESPN airwaves and Sports Illustrated pages this week because he is still among the most popular athletes in the world.That sac fly in tiny Zebulon, home of the Carolina Mudcats, will not make any of these lists. Still: This is how I often remember Jordan now, standing outside the squat cinderblock building where the visiting team dressed with about 200 fans pushing so hard against a nearby fence I worried for their safety.It couldn’t have been more surreal. Here was a team of so-so prospects and washed-up former big leaguers, all riding a bus – a specially outfitted bus, thanks to him – with a multi-millionaire superstar from another sport who was as famous as anyone on the planet. Here was Michael Jordan, less than an hour from where his basketball career first exploded, giving interviews about a meaningless sac fly in a Double-A baseball game on the edge of nowhere. “My teammates – I told them I was going to come out here and play a practical joke that I was going back to basketball and retiring from baseball,” Jordan said, cracking a smile. “But for me to do that, you guys would take it an extra step. And I don’t want to do that.”That was all that mattered, of course: Getting back to basketball. Jordan leaving the sport was especially hard to comprehend in North Carolina, where he led Dean Smith to his first national title as a freshman in 1982. His retirement and baseball dalliance wasn’t just a curiosity in his home state. For many, it was a betrayal. I was an intern at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., that summer, assigned to the minors because they were the lowest rung on the ladder. Fans weren’t waiting for him to stop chasing a curveball, but to stop chasing this weird baseball dream, period. He was 31 and in the prime of his career, and the reasons he stepped away from basketball were real. He was burned out after winning three straight championships with the Bulls. He was emotionally drained after his father was murdered on the side of a highway the summer before.Still, regardless of the motivation, piling on became fashionable. “Michael Jordan has no more business patrolling right field in Comiskey Park,” Sports Illustrated wrote, “than Minnie Minoso has bringing the ball upcourt for the Chicago Bulls.” Wasn[...]

Reversing Course on Reports About a Classic


                                                                          RKO/PhtofestGary Cooper portrayed the left-handed slugger Lou Gehrig in “The Pride of the Yankees." February 8, 2013By Richard SandomirNew York TimesBefore the release of "The Pride of the Yankees," the 1942 biographical film about Lou Gehrig, there were reports that movie magic had been needed to solve a critical problem: making Gary Cooper, a right-handed movie star who was definitely not a ballplayer, into a credible version of the left-handed Gehrig, a Hall of Fame slugger with a .340 career batting average.Lefty O'Doul, a former major leaguer, had been hired to convert Cooper into someone who could at least pretend he was a left-handed hitter and first baseman. But just days before the film opened, Shirley Povich, a Washington Post columnist, called reports that O'Doul had succeeded in his work "a heap of hokum." Instead, he wrote, "everything you see Cooper doing left-handed in the picture, he's actually doing right-handed."The effect was achieved, he said, through trickery. Cooper would hit, catch and throw right-handed, but the film would be reversed to make it look as if he were a left-hander. To perpetuate the illusion, Cooper would run to third base on a hit, not first, and would station himself at third instead of first. The letters across the chest of his Yankees uniform would be sewn backward.Everything, Povich said, "worked out beautifully."Now, more than 70 years later, one researcher believes that reports by Povich and others about the cinematic sleight of hand were largely untrue but that a small amount of flipping probably took place. The researcher said that O'Doul's tutelage probably enabled Cooper, who was 40 when the film was made, to bat and catch left-handed with passable skill, although throwing was another matter."O'Doul knew a lot about teaching baseball," said the researcher, Tom Shieber, a senior curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "You can't sell Cooper short. I heard he wasn't much of an athlete, but if you look at his swing, it had a funny loop to it, but it wasn't bad."Shieber began analyzing the film last month and ended up spelling out his conclusions in a lengthy article early this week on his personal blog, he pored over the film's frames, Shieber began to see how difficult it would have been for the director Sam Wood and the film's technicians to execute all the changes needed on the field for the film to be successfully reversed.All the players in the shot with Cooper would have had to have the letters on their jerseys sewn backward to be read correctly when the film was flipped.If Cooper wore a glove on the opposite hand, the other infielders would have had to do so, too. And if the first-base running lane was erased, an exact replica would have had to be drawn down third base.Too many dominoes had to fall for the trickery to be worth the filmmakers' trouble, Shieber said. "Like a complicated conspiracy theory, every aspect of the plan would have to have been carefully planned out and perfectly executed," he wrote.With an expertise in assessing the authenticity of historic uniforms, Shieber concluded that Cooper's Columbia University jersey in the movie "buttons together such that the left portion of the shirt placket is on top of the right," which is common for men's shirts. The same hold[...]

The oldest baseball you have ever seen


Via Slate, the story (and image) of a really old baseball. I mean, really, really old ...

"During the War Between the States, the game was played on the battlefields and even in wartime prison camps. Baseball was, after all, portable, and even amid the horrors of war, soldiers sometimes found opportunities to play on the vast open fields where they needed only a bat, a ball, and a few willing participants.

This ball was found and retrieved in 1862 in Shiloh, in southwestern Tennessee, on the grounds of one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles. The ball is inscribed: "Picked Up on the Battle Field at Shiloh by G.F. Hellum." Giles Hellum was an African-American who worked as an orderly for the Union Army at Shiloh. He later enlisted as a soldier in the 69th Colored Infantry."

Above is the actual baseball in question; this spring, this and many other artifacts will be featured in a new online museum, The National Pastime.*

Former Mets pitcher Darling's love for baseball fulfilled in many ways


Former Mets pitcher and current SNY sportscaster Ron Darling spoke at the Rider University baseball team's First Pitch Dinner.                                              [Donte Carty/Rider University]By Paul Franklin, NJ.comJanuary 27, 2013LAWRENCE – He figured he would go to law school, business school or maybe work on Wall Street."I was going to do what everyone at Yale does,'' Ron Darling said Saturday night, prior to speaking at the fifth annual Rider Baseball First Pitch Dinner. "I thought I'd do four years and then got on to my life.''Instead he went on to play professional baseball, being drafted by the Texas Rangers his junior year of college.But even then, in the spring of 1981, he still thought he would spend most of his days in a suit and tie."When I got a signing bonus I was like, "Ah, hah-hah, I got you now!' Once they figure out I can't play I'll use that money to go to law school.' Sixteen years later I was still playing.''Most of his years were spent pitching for the New York Mets, including the 1986 World Series championship season.After completing his pitching career in 1995, Darling eventually returned to the game as an announcer, and for a while now has been a TV analyst for Mets games and nationally for TBS.Darling, 51, was introduced as the keynote speaker by Allentown resident Tom McCarthy, TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Phillies.The event, which included a silent auction of impressive memorabilia, acknowledged this year's Rider baseball team and coach Barry Davis."Quite honestly, the last time I was able to have fun playing baseball was in college,'' Darling said. "After that it becomes a real occupation. Not everyone moves on to the major leagues, not everyone moves on to the minor leagues."But you remember these college days forever. I still have friends from those days.''He still loves the game, though he wasn't really reminded of that fact until beginning his broadcasting career in 2000."When I started watching games and talking about them, and getting paid to do so, it was just about the neatest job in the world. I'm as lucky as can be,'' Darling said. "I'd like to say I prepared for this my entire life, but I didn't. I'm just blessed, and made the most of my opportunity."A lot of these kids will be going into different fields in life,'' he added, transitioning to the evening, "and when you get those opportunities they will be very much like in baseball. You have to get that hit, you have to get that strikeout, and you will be presented with those challenges probably thousands of times."How many times you're successful will probably determine how successful you'll be in life.''Baseball has certainly been that for him, a game, he said, that offers a rhythm rarely felt in other sports."Baseball is like watching a play, or a great movie,'' Darling said. "If you're a lover of baseball, time doesn't mean anything to you."I've never seen him play, but when baseball's great it's gotta be like Miles Davis; like free-form jazz. That's what gets me going. The Mets had a difficult year last year but on June 1 Santana threw a no-hitter. You never know when baseball is going to sneak up on you and give you a gem.''Just like in life. Sometimes even in college.[...]

Former Major Leaguer Don Buford Keeps the Dreams Alive


Don Buford is the new director of MLB's Urban Youth Academy. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)Bill Dwyre, L.A. TimesJanuary 22, 2013The 75-year-old Buford, who played football and baseball at Dorsey and was part of the famed Orioles of the late 1960s, comes out of retirement to be the director of MLB's Urban Youth Academy in Compton. It is early Monday morning, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But Don Buford is not standing on a stage and talking about having a dream.That's not his style. Besides, he has already lived one himself, the kind Dr. King preached about.Buford has a new job, which is to enhance dreams for others. Few could be better suited.The former major league baseball star will turn 76 on Feb. 2. He lives in Sherman Oaks and was happily retired to a life of four rounds of golf a week. The family was raised, he had done his work, his stature as a major league player for the White Sox and the Orioles over 10 seasons was established. Life was summertime, and the living was easy.His was a story of success and good fortune, at a time when minority athletes swam upstream a lot.He played high school football at Dorsey, a running back weighing 150 pounds, "soaking wet," he says.He also played infield on Dorsey's baseball team, although the term "infield" was questionable."Just dirt," Buford says.He wrote lots of letters to big schools, even visited UCLA and a few others, but was turned down. This was 1957, 10 years after Jackie Robinson had broken the major leagues' color barrier. Walls remained up.Asked whether the college turndowns were because he was 150 pounds or because he was black, his eyes flash and he says, "Both."He went to L.A. City College for a year, was recruited off the campus to play quarterback two weeks before the first game with Pierce College, knew little about the position and ended up making a long touchdown run for a 6-0 win."Quarterback," he says, laughing. "I didn't throw for 600 yards. I didn't even throw for six."The next year, he walked on to the USC baseball team. He asked legendary coach Rod Dedeaux whether he could, Dedeaux said OK, and Buford became the first black baseball player at USC. That was 1958, the year USC and Dedeaux won one of its many national titles. Buford even played running back and defensive back, still 150 pounds, on the Trojans football team. He needed financial aid, Dedeaux had none, and they worked out a deal in which he would play both sports and be funded by football."I remember starting spring football practice No. 7 running back on the depth chart," Buford says, "and by the end of the camp, I was No. 1."For Buford, this was all a prelude to a major league baseball career that got him to the Orioles, from the White Sox, in 1968, and made him part of the famed Baltimore team that produced legends such as Boog Powell, Jim Palmer and Frank and Brooks Robinson. Buford was the left fielder and leadoff hitter with that bunch.They were managed by Earl Weaver, a legend himself, who died last week."Earl gave me my shot," Buford says. "I had known him in the minor leagues. He once ordered Dean Chance to hit me with a pitch. When I got traded to Baltimore, Earl was the third base coach and Hank Bauer was the manager."Buford came to the Orioles as a utility player. Second and third base, where he played with the White Sox, were taken. So he asked Weaver to tell Bauer he could also play the outfield. Weaver suggested Buford tell Bauer himself. Buford did, but Bauer said he was sticking with the lineup he had. Then Bauer was fired at the All-Star break, Weaver took over, and the switch-hitting Buford was on Weaver's first lineup card in the outfield, where he remained for five years.He ended with a c[...]

Black Baseball Pioneers Aided King's Message


Civil Rights Roundtable - 08/18/12Don Newcombe, Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron lead discussion on race and sports at the Civil Rights Movement Roundtable DiscussionSee Video HereBy Richard Justice / MLB.comThere they stood, Pee Wee Reese's arm draped casually over Jackie Robinson's shoulder. And the world became a little bit better place."Something in my gut reacted to the moment," Reese would tell The New York Times some 50 years later. "Something about -- what? -- the unfairness of it? The injustice of it? I don't know."It was 1947 or 1948 during (or just before) a Dodgers-Reds game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, and Robinson was enduring some of the ugliest taunts -- profanities, racial slurs, threats -- he would hear.Reese had taken a more private stand for Robinson at the beginning of Spring Training in 1947 by refusing to sign a petition protesting the presence of a black player. And then that day in Cincinnati he could listen to the hatred no longer.His gesture quieted the crowd and sent a message to his Brooklyn Dodger teammates who were still uncomfortable with Robinson. That a son of the Deep South would offer his very public acceptance of baseball's first black player became a seminal moment, not just in baseball history, but in the American civil rights movement.Actually, it might have begun right there in Cincinnati, rather than in a Birmingham, Ala., jail in 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. outlined the battle to come with: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."King would later tell Robinson and other black baseball pioneers -- Larry Doby, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin, others -- how much he admired them for their courage and for how they'd changed the country and helped clear a path for all who would follow.A few weeks before King was killed in 1968, he told Newcombe, "You'll never know how easy you and Jackie and Doby and Campy made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field."Newcombe remembered those comments during a 2009 interview with the New York Post's Peter Vecsey."Imagine, here is Martin getting beaten with billy clubs, bitten by dogs and thrown in jail, and he says we made his job easier," Newcombe told Vecsey.And so on this day in which we honor King and pause to remember the men and women who suffered and sacrificed in the name of racial fairness, Major League Baseball should be proud of its role in forcing people to see the world in a way they'd never seen it before.Perhaps that's Robinson's most important legacy: He changed a game, and along the way, he helped change the world.He didn't just open doors for Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and the hundreds who followed in his footsteps. Nor did he simply help make the Major Leagues possible for Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal and other Latino players.He did way more than that. There were countless battles still to be fought in the civil rights movement, battles over schools and restaurants, over hotels and housing, when Robinson played his final game for the Dodgers in 1956. But the battle was joined right there on a baseball diamond in 1947.Commissioner Bud Selig proudly calls baseball "a social institution," and as he often says, with that label comes the responsibility to always try and do the right thing. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a moment to salute King's courage and his dream. But it's about the foot soldiers, too.It's about Jackie Robinson, who made the world a better place by having the guts to put on a uniform and endure incomprehensible ugliness. He did it because he saw an opportunity to strike at racism's ignorance and cruelty.It's about Frank [...]

Scouts Dinner Thrills Star-Studded Audience


Actor Harrison Ford with Commissioner Bud Selig before Saturday's Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation dinner.[]By Quinn Roberts / MLB.comLOS ANGELES -- The stars came out Saturday night at the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation's 10th annual "In the Spirit of the Game" dinner at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. Not only were the baseball greats out in full force for the event, but Hollywood icon Harrison Ford was in the building to raise money for the foundation and to hand out a few awards. "You don't get many events like this one," Hall of Famer Dave Winfield said. "This is when we all come together and get to see people and share stories, give awards and raise money. Baseball is a great family. "It is a great chance to catch up with old friends and support a great cause." Red Sox chairman Tom Werner took home the Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award for his leadership with the Red Sox Foundation, while Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully were also honored. Mattingly was given the Tommy Lasorda Managerial Award and Scully received the Bud Selig Executive Leadership Award. "It is an overwhelming thrill to be recognized and receive the award," Scully said. "I enjoyed every minute of it. It really is a marvelous, wonderful evening. "The scouts are the backbone of baseball. I have always thought it is the hardest part of the game -- not just to say someone is a good player, but they project how far they think a player will go."Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Ferguson Jenkins were also on hand to receive awards, while Larry King was a special presenter. The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation was established in 2003 to help scouts in need, whether from job loss, illness or financial hardships. More than $1 million has been raised.Much of the money raised on Saturday night came from a silent auction that coincided with the dinner. Guests walked through rooms filled wall-to-wall with sports, music and movie memorabilia ranging in price from $40 to $10,000. Dennis Gilbert, chairman and co-founder of the PBSF said collecting memorabilia for the silent auction is a year-round process.  "It is a whole year's worth of work, but it is worth it for these scouts," Gilbert said. "Everyone in baseball understands how important the scouts are. It really warms my heart to see so many people here and watch them interact with each other." Mattingly, who still recalls the scout who signed him, was amazed at the turnout. "With this being my first time at the event, I am just taking it all in and learning about everything that the foundation does," Mattingly said. "It is a good night for baseball. The Foundation is so important. They are the ones who find the guys in small and big towns all over the world." Current Twins general manager Terry Ryan and former Pirates GM Larry Doughty also received the George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting, while the Hairstons -- Jerry, Jerry Jr., John and Scott -- were awarded the Ray Boone Family Award. Mike Arbuckle, Wayne Britton, Doug Gassaway, Larry Himes and Gary Johnson also received the Legends in Scouting Award. Saturday marked the second consecutive year that MLB Network broadcast the event."This truly is a powerful example of how much baseball cares," said Selig, who presented Scully with his award. "It really is a remarkable evening. This shows how much the baseball community cares about the sport and the people in it." Quinn Roberts is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League[...]

Baseball scouts benefit from Beverly Hills fundraiser


 Hall of Fame Pitcher Ferguson Jenkins will be honored at the Scouts Foundation Fundraiser hosted by Dennis Gilbert [Photo: Jim McKnight, AP]By Bob Nightengale, USA Today SportsHe lives next door to Stevie Wonder.He hangs out with Larry King. And he has done business with everyone in the entertainment industry from the late Michael Jackson to Madonna to Dr. Dre to Mary Hart.Dennis Gilbert may be an insurance salesman by trade, but he quietly has emerged as one of the most influential and trusted men in Major League Baseball.He has Commissioner Bud Selig on speed dial. He chats several times a day with Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. He regularly dines with Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff. He'll lunch one day with former All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and soccer star Mia Hamm, and have dinner the next night with Hall of Famer George Brett."There's no one in baseball that has more passion in this game than Dennis," Wolff says. "If he's not a Dodgers' game, he's at an Angels' game. If they're on the road, he's watching games on TV."In my earlier days after I bought the A's, it was kind of embarrassing. I'd walk into the locker room with Dennis, and my own players would know Dennis more than me.''  Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer will be honored at the Scouts Foundation Fundraiser in Beverly Hills.[Photo: Gail Burton, AP]  What Gilbert is perhaps best known for is hosting MLB's version of the Academy Awards show. It's called the Professional Scouts Foundation's "Spirit of the Game'' Fundraiser and will be held Saturday at the Beverly Hills Hyatt Regency Plaza. A sell-out crowd of about 1,500 will honor legendary scouts, players, executives and managers. Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Ferguson Jenkins will be honored, along with Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. The presenters will be Hall of Famers and actor Harrison Ford."It's one of my favorite nights of the year,'' Selig said.Says Boston Red Sox special assistant Gary Hughes: "You know how big this thing has become? It used to be held at the same hotel as Golden Globe awards, but we outgrew it. (The hotel) was big enough for Hollywood, but not big enough for us.''The foundation, hatched 11 years ago by Gilbert, Arizona Diamondbacks executive Roland Hemond and White Sox special assistant Dave Yoacum, has raised nearly $4 million. Dozens of out-of-work or retired scouts have gained financial assistance through the foundation, assuring that their mortgages and health insurance are paid. And, in some cases, funeral costs.The advent of the Moneyball era and teams replacing scouts with statistical analysts created the need for the foundation. "There were 103 scouts let go that winter,'' Hemond said. "Dave Yoacum said, ''m really concerned about all my friends that have been dismissed.'  Right away, Dennis says, 'Let's start a foundation.' This is beyond my fondest dreams. To think, if it wasn't for Moneyball, there would be no foundation.''If not for Gilbert, 65, a former Boston Red Sox minor-league outfielder who later became a premier baseball agent and is now a White Sox special assistant, baseball's Academy Awards show would have all of the pizzazz of a Gilligan's Island re-run. The after-party runs into the next day when Gilbert and his wife, Cindi, host a luncheon for about 250 scouts."The thing I'm amazed about is the enormous amount of time Dennis spends on this,'' Reinsdorf says. "This is not where he makes his living, but he sells virtually every ticket himself. When Dennis is passionate about something, he throws all of h[...]

Fascination With a New Yankee's Jewish Roots


 Some Boston Red Sox fans were surprised when they learned of Kevin Youkilis’s Richard SandomirNew York TimesDecember 12, 2012It has been a game of sorts over the years — marveling when ballplayers turn out to be Jewish and straining to expand the parameters of the religion so that as many players as possible can be included.For years, Kevin Youkilis has been a leading figure in this odd, but entertaining, sport that was elevated to on-air comedy in 2006 when the actor and comedian Denis Leary, in an extended bit of shock, wrestled with the startling fact that his beloved Red Sox first baseman, with a name like a Greek omelet, was, incredibly, a Jew.“Now, Youkilis, is he a Greek kid?” Leary asked that night during a visit to the Red Sox television booth. When told that Youkilis was, in fact, Jewish, Leary reacted with manic glee. “That’s fantastic,” he said. “That’s one bottle of whiskey away from being Irish Catholic. They got the Manischewitz, we got the Jameson’s. It’s the same guilt, the same bad food. That’s fantastic. We got a Jewish first baseman!”The Youkilis family story is as traditionally Jewish as you can get — filled with name changes and tales of persecution in Eastern Europe — and now that the hard-nosed 33-year-old veteran with the unusual batting stance has signed with the Yankees, his background should especially resonate in the New York market, where many fans are Jewish and have immigrant roots similar to Youkilis’s.The Youkilis family was not originally named Youkilis. Far from it, although exactly what occurred on the other side of the Atlantic more than a hundred years ago is more spoken lore than documented fact.“There are so many stories in the family,” Mike Youkilis, Kevin’s father, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “But we’ve agreed on one.”In that story, there was, sometime in the 1800s, a teenager with the last name Weiner, who is believed to have been Kevin Youkilis’s great-great-great-great-grandfather — give or take a great — and who lived in what is now Romania. Fearing the Cossacks, who were no friends of the Jews, and of being drafted at age 16 into the army, he fled to Greece.“Apparently, there was a family friend there with a name like Youkilis,” Mike Youkilis said. “A couple of years later, he got homesick, and when he decided to go home, he couldn’t come back with the name Weiner or he’d be thrown in jail. So he took the Greek name. He met a lady and they married in Romania and started to have kids. And we kept the name.”Edward Youkilis, Kevin’s uncle, could not recall relatives ever suggesting that the name be restored to Weiner. “We grew up with everyone thinking we were Greek, but never once did I hear a relative say let’s change it back,” he said by telephone. “It wasn’t something we thought was unusual in those days.”Changing back to Weiner would have deprived Red Sox fans of shouting “Yoooouuuk!” at Youkilis after he emerged as a stalwart in the Boston lineup.Mike Youkilis’s father, a jeweler, and his 10 siblings ultimately left Romania for the United States, all detouring first through Canada. Some settled in Cincinnati, where Mike owns a wholesale jewelry business, and where Kevin was raised. When Kevin was in the minor leagues and making little money, his father said that he told him, “I’ll put you to work here.”“But he hated it,” Mike Youkilis added. “The joke was, ‘If you don’t start hitting, you’ll be doing this.’ ”One aspect of the fascination with Jewish ba[...]

When Marvin Miller Almost Hired Richard Nixon


by Matt WelchHit & Run Blog at reason.comNov. 27, 2012Marvin Miller, a labor economist, liberal Democrat, and former top United Steelworkers Union negotiator who revolutionized the economics of professional sports during his 1966-82 run as head of the Major League Players Association, died today at the ripe old age of 95.Miller is as responsible as any other American for the concept of free agency in professional sports. As the New York Times obit puts it:When Mr. Miller was named executive director of the association in 1966, club owners ruled much as they had since the 19th century. The reserve clause bound players to their teams for as long as the owners wanted them, leaving them with little bargaining power. Come contract time, a player could expect an ultimatum but not much more. The minimum salary was $6,000 and had barely budged for two decades. The average salary was $19,000. The pension plan was feeble, and player grievances could be heard only by the commissioner, who worked for the owners.Through a series of hard-fought negotiating sessions, court decisions, arbitrations, press conferences, and strikes, Miller, in constant warfare with buffoonishly autocrat MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, won the right for players of qualifying tenure to shop their services to the highest bidder in a (mostly) open labor market. Salaries boomed, but so did competition, quality, and overall industry revenue. By 2012, the minimum salary had grown to $480,000 (over 10 times the inflation-adjusted amount in 1966), and the average salary to $3.4 million (x25), while the number of pro teams had nearly doubled. But like any big change between 1966 and 1982, baseball's economic revolution wasn't just about money–it was also about race. Miller, a refined, thin-mustache type (and a very knowledgeable New York baseball fan), had a keen sensitivity of how vestigial racism among owners, the press, and various regions of the country poisoned the experience of black and Latino ballplayers. His great memoir, A Whole Different Ball Game: The Sport and Business of Baseball, is filled with poignant anecdotes about vilified black players such as Alex Johnson, Dick Allen, and Curt Flood, reminding us that with newfound economic liberty came the ability at long last to speak, act, and even dress like free men.The result, I argued in a 2005 Reason piece titled "Locker-Room Liberty," was liberating (and hugely entertaining) for the country as a whole:Operating in a subculture far more socially conservative than those surrounding the professional arts, athletes of the mid-to-late '60s and '70s forced their reluctant and occasionally hostile audiences to confront issues of race, war, and free expression, and we are all better for their efforts.Muhammad Ali opposed Vietnam and the military draft years before it was cool, while encouraging a generation of kids to give themselves new names and manipulate the formerly all-powerful media.  Three decades before metrosexual was a word, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath shocked male football fans by parading around in mink coats, posing as an "Olivetti Girl" in a sexually charged typewriter ad, and filming commercials for pantyhose.Knuckleball pitcher Jim Bouton ripped the lid off of professional baseball's Ward Cleaver packaging with his pussy-and-pills 1970 memoir Ball Four; two years later Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich became the most famous wife swappers in the country. Bill Walton convinced the notoriously square UCLA coach John Wooden that smok[...]

When Marichal and Spahn Dueled for a Game and a Half


                                          Associated PressA homer by the Giants’ Willie Mays, right, in the 16th inning gave Juan Marichal a 1-0 complete-game victory over the Milwaukee Braves and Warren Spahn, who also went the distance, on July 2, 1963.From July 2, 2008, NY TimesBy Richard SandomirFrom the ninth inning on, Juan Marichal pleaded with his manager, Alvin Dark, to stay in the game. Why shouldn’t he keep pitching? Marichal, the San Francisco Giants right-hander with the high leg kick, had held the Milwaukee Braves scoreless. And the Giants had not scored against the ancient left-hander Warren Spahn.“I begged Mr. Dark to let me stay a few more innings, and he did,” Marichal said of the game 45 years ago Wednesday. “In the 12th or 13th, he wanted to take me out, and I said, ‘Please, please, let me stay.’ Then in the 14th, he said, ‘No more for you,’ and I said, ‘Do you see that man on the mound?’ and I was pointing at Warren. ‘That man is 42, and I’m 25. I’m not ready for you to take me out.’ ”Marichal said his catcher, Ed Bailey, was telling him: “Don’t let him take you out. Win or lose, this is great.”Marichal was tired of arguing with Dark — he said he told Willie Mays that he thought Dark was angry at him — but not of pitching as the innings piled up.“I felt good,” Marichal said Tuesday by telephone from the Dominican Republic. “The weather was nice. It was cool. I was strong.”Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey said in interviews that a delectable tension was building in the field behind Marichal at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.“They were the types of pitcher who kept you on your toes,” McCovey said.McCovey nearly ended the game in the ninth with a fly ball he stroked far over the right-field foul pole that was ruled foul by the first-base umpire Chris Pelekoudas.“It appeared to go out fair and wind up foul,” said Lon Simmons, who called the game for the Giants on radio with Russ Hodges. McCovey said: “I think Chris was admiring it so much that he forgot it was fair. You had to admire it. I hit it pretty good.”The duel continued, with neither pitcher losing his control or leaving.“After the 10th, they threw nothing but fastballs,” Cepeda said.“Maybe,” McCovey said. “But I can’t imagine Juan throwing only fastballs.”In the 16th, Marichal retired Frank Bolling and Hank Aaron on flyouts. Denis Menke singled to left, but Norm Larker grounded out to end the inning.With one out in the bottom of the inning, Mays slammed Spahn’s first pitch over the left-field fence. The Giants won, 1-0. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Spahn as saying that he threw Mays a screwball that “didn’t break worth a damn.”Marichal told reporters that his back ached. “Oh, she hurts,” he said.His pitching line: 16 innings, 8 hits, 0 runs, 4 walks and 10 strikeouts.Spahn’s line: 15 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts.Even by the standards of pitching in the 1960s, when complete games were common and pitch counts irrelevant, the Marichal-Spahn duel was extraordinary.“In those days, nothing surprised us, but when you look back, it was amazing,” Cepeda said. “In those days, Juan was pitching 25, 26, 28 complete games every year.”Marichal and Spahn’s performance nearly duplicated an Au[...]

Even in Autumn of Life, You Can Be a Ball Boy for the Giants


The Giants Are Partial to Senior Citizens Who Shag Fouls; Mr. Zarzana's Blooper                                    Jim Carlton / The Wall Street Journal Balldudes Daryl Gault (left) and George Zarzana Sunday at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park.By Jim Carlton, Wall Street JournalOctober 18, 2012SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Giants have fielded their top talent for the Major League Baseball playoffs this week, but even some of their most elite have made errors.There was, for example, veteran George Zarzana's blooper in Sunday's opener in the National League Championship Series. Mr. Zarzana suited up for the game against the St. Louis Cardinals, jogged confidently onto the field and settled into his position.Then he promptly fell off the stool.Mr. Zarzana's position was next to the dugout behind first base, and he would be called a ball boy if he were a little younger. At age 72, he last played baseball when Jimmy Carter was president, and that makes him a balldude in Giants parlance.He is in good company in this club. Most Major League teams field the familiar teenage ball boys and ball girls to shag fouls outside the outfield foul lines. The Giants are partial to a cadre of foul-chasers mostly over the age of 60.Now, the Giants' most elite balldudes are getting coveted starting positions in the postseason. That sometimes means, said Mr. Zarzana after his tumble, that "we've got 42,000 people watching us make fools of ourselves."The Giants' roster of about 70 balldudes and 20 balldudettes take to their stools during the regular season. But the postseason dudes are a cut above, says Sue Petersen, who manages the dudes and says she chose the ones she considers her most reliable to take the field for the championship series."It's a thrill I only thought about as a kid," says balldude Gary Fralick, 62, who built the wooden stools. "You get the best seats in the house, and people want your autograph, too."San Francisco is believed to be the first team in the Majors to start using old ball boys, in 1993, and since then some other clubs have copied parts of the program. The club originally called them the "Spry Seniors," but the team, fans and broadcasters now all call them balldudes. "The team was under new ownership back then, and they were looking for creative ways to do things," says Ms. Petersen, executive director of the Giants' Community Fund nonprofit arm.The dudes program, which the team expanded to include some younger friends and relatives of old-timers, has attracted some controversy. The two dudes who work the games—one behind first base and the other behind third—used to sit on folding chairs. But after season-ticket holders complained that their views were being obstructed, Ms. Petersen put the dudes on tiny milking stools that make them look even funnier to some."You've got these 73-year-old men sitting in these ridiculous little chairs like 5-year-olds," says Jon Miller, Giants broadcaster for radio station KNBR-AM, who often points out balldude antics during his broadcasts."You try not to make a fool out of yourself, but the more you do, the more the crowd loves it," says Mr. Zarzana, the balldude manning the first Giants-Cardinals game.For the balldudes, though, this is serious business. Some pay up to $500 to attend Giants' Balldude Camp, usually in June,[...]

Bob Uecker Is Still On the Active Roster


Mark Yost, Wall Street JournalMarch 31, 2011Maryvale, Arizona'Who's chuckin' today?"That's all the pregame preparation Milwaukee Brewers radio broadcaster Bob Uecker put in before the start of a recent spring-training game between the Brewers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But entering his 41st season in the booth for his hometown ball club, he was more than ready."It's all up here," he said, tapping the side of his head."Up here" can be an interesting place. Mr. Uecker is in a league of his own when it comes to baseball play-by-play men. Part comic, part encyclopedia, he can recall an amazing number of pertinent facts when the game is on the line, and have a heck of a lot of fun when it isn't. His crazy side tends to win out more often than not.Most of his humor is self-deprecating, like his oft-repeated line that during his playing career he once went "O-for-June.""I never make fun of the players," he said. "I make fun of situations and try and find the humor in things, but it's never at the expense of the other guy."No one's more amazed than Mr. Uecker that he's hung around baseball this long. When he speaks to Little League groups, he says to parents, "Hey, if I can make it, your kid's got a shot."Mr. Uecker was born in Milwaukee, but in the Uecker mind simple facts take on a life of their own. By his telling, he was born on an oleo run to Illinois because the family couldn't get colored margarine in Wisconsin."I remember it was a nativity-type setting," he said during his 2003 acceptance speech for the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. "An exit light shining down. There were three truck drivers there. One guy was carrying butter, one guy had frankfurters and the other guy was a retired baseball scout who told my folks that I probably had a chance to play somewhere down the line."He grew up watching the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers. In 1956, he signed with the major-league Milwaukee Braves, which had relocated from Boston in 1953. His playing career, which spanned four teams, including the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, was less than stellar. He's still in the top 10 for most passed balls by a catcher in a season (1967). But in his defense, he was catching for Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro, whose specialty was the knuckleball, a very difficult ball to catch. After retiring in 1967, Mr. Uecker was briefly a scout for the Brewers. But he was notorious for turning in reports that were unreadable and covered with food stains."I knew then that he wasn't going to make it as a scout," said former Brewers team owner Bud Selig, now the commissioner of Major League Baseball. "So we decided to try him as a broadcaster."Mr. Uecker quickly became a fan favorite. He gained nationwide fame as one of the Miller Lite All Stars in an ad campaign during the 1970s and '80s for Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co.; as Harry Doyle, the play-by-play man in all three "Major League" films; as George Owens on the 1985-90 sitcom "Mr. Belvedere"; and as a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show," where Johnny Carson dubbed him "Mr. Baseball."But that national recognition pales next to the icon status Mr. Uecker has achieved in Milwaukee, which he dismisses with an "aw shucks" wave of the hand. "He's such a big part of summer in Wisconsin," said Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, who grew up in Whitefish Bay. "It's really almost like he's a friend or a member of your family."His "family" was shaken l[...]

Eddie Mayo - 1945 World Series MVP


Eddie in 1945 with the Tigers - photo courtesy of Wikipedia Credit Mary McGrathA famous athlete becomes my stepfather. By Mary McGrathOctober 20, 2012studiocity.patch.comBaseball is in full bloom right now. We’re rooting for the Tigers. Why? Among other reasons, my stepfather, Eddie Mayo also played for them. In fact, he was World Series MVP in 1945. How cool is that?My mom started seeing Eddie around 1975, after his wife passed away. Eddie had always admired his “Ginny”, largely because he was also her brother-in-law. Yes, you guessed it. Eddie married his wife’s sister. Hey, it kept the family intact. If you marry your sister-in-law, you don’t have to explain yourself over and over again. Mom and Eddie had known each other for decades, so it made perfect sense. After the wedding, they spent many years on Pacoima Court, spending summers in Maryland where Eddie had a home, before they finally moved to the desert in 1989.In watching these riveting baseball games, I wonder what it must have been like for Eddie to be a professional athlete. There’s the discipline, the traveling, the fans, and all the pressures from the crowds. I’m sure the celebrity status was trying at times, along with the challenges of raising a family and supporting a wife.Eddie used to say that baseball was the most difficult sport. You had 1/10th of a second to assess the pitch and decide whether to swing or let it go by. As I watch the pitchers on TV, I wonder about the recipe of a ball before it is thrown. Will it be a fastball, a curve, slider, changeup or something else? Teresa and I used to play softball, and even those slow pitches were sometimes impossible to hit.Imagine a hardball hurling toward you at 100+ mph, and you can see how difficult it would be for any professional athlete to execute a swing correctly.One of Eddie's many baseball cards. Photo courtesy of Morguefile Credit Mary McGrathAccording to the Internet, Edward Joseph Mayo, nicknamed "Hotshot" and "Steady Eddie," was an infielder for nine seasons in Major League Baseball, playing for the New York Giants, Boston Braves, Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers.But Eddie’s best years were with the Tigers, where he played second base from 1944 through 1948. In 1945, he helped lead the Tigers to the American League pennant and to victory over the Cubs in the seven-game World Series. That year, the Sporting News crowned him MVP. The gold and diamond ring he wore was like a large satellite on his hand, and a physical tribute to his athletic accomplishments.After his career in baseball ended, Eddie ran a very successful tile business, and then did very well as a restaurateur. The competitive spirit was always with him, and after marrying my mom, he even taught my twin sister Teresa and I the fundamentals of golf. Now that’s the toughest game in my book!Eddie was married to my mom for about 24 years and deeply devoted to her. After she passed in 2000, he continued with life without her, until he passed away in 2006 in Banning, California. At the time, he was 96, and considered the oldest living former Detroit Tiger, and the eighth oldest living former Major League Baseball player.Eddie and I had our tough moments at times, especially after my mom died, but for the most part, we got along pretty well. And it’s the good times that I try to remember. Life’s too short to harbor negativity.So, here’s to you Eddie, wherever you may be. May yo[...]

Babe Ruth's Lincoln - Bought by Baseball and Car-loving Texan


Lonnie Shelton, a baseball fan and car collector, poses for photos with the 1948 Lincoln Continental he recently bought in Amarillo, Texas. The car belonged to baseball great Babe Ruth. (Photo: Roberto Rodriguez/AP)October 18. 2012 USA Today & The Associated PressLonnie Shelton finally owns the car that hits it out of the park when it comes to fulfilling fantasies — a regal blue 1948 Lincoln Continental two-door hardtop coupe. It was Babe Ruth's last car."The first time I saw the car," Shelton said, "I fell in love with it. I bet I stayed there two hours looking at it, sitting in it, asking questions about it. There are several 1948 Lincoln Continentals out there, but none like this one."George Herman Ruth owned the car before his death on Aug. 16, 1948. You couldn't get more famous than the Babe. Old Yankee Stadium was called "The House That Ruth Built."Ford Motor presented Ruth, who retired from baseball in 1935, with a new Lincoln Continental in 1948 as a measure of its appreciation for his tireless devotion to Little Leaguers and baseball.Before he died of cancer, Ruth spent many of his final days traveling across the country in his Lincoln, giving speeches and hitting lessons to Little Leaguers."The car has 81,000 miles on it," Shelton said. "That's not so many miles now, but back then that was a lot of miles for a car. So The Babe did some traveling. And then after he passed away the car was driven all over to county fairs and all kinds of places."Shelton, 61, of Pampas, Texas, is semiretired, and his passions in life include grandchildren, wife, baseball and car-collecting. His love of cars mainly reaches out to mint-condition muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s.But when Shelton found out The Babe's last-known owned car was parked in the Texas Museum of Automotive History near the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, he had to see the beautifully maintained machine in person.Shelton first saw Babe's car three years ago. Recently, he was looking for parts for some of his older cars on the Internet and found a Dallas-area man who had parts in stock."We got to talking and he was also the curator for the car museum," Shelton said.Once in Dallas to pick up the car parts, Shelton learned the car's owner was serious about selling.Shelton jumped at the chance to own a piece of baseball lore. Shelton said he signed a non-disclosure agreement with the man who previously owned the car and is not allowed to divulge his name. Shelton did say the man is a Texan.Shelton said he has signed information from Ford Motor confirming the car was a gift to Babe Ruth in 1948. Shelton said he also has documentation from Claire Ruth, Babe's wife, writing about the car. Claire Ruth died in October 1976."Buying it had nothing to do with the car," Shelton said. "It had all to do with the love of baseball. And the history of baseball and that gentleman who was involved with it. There was nobody that rivaled Babe Ruth back then."The car is in pristine shape with original interior and car color — "I call it Yankee blue," Shelton said.The speedometer reaches 110 miles per hour. The radio works and takes about 15 minutes to warm up because of the glass vacuum tubes used in that era. The doors and windows work by hydraulics. The steering wheel is huge by today's standards. The license plates are black and feature the orange words: THE BABE.[...]