Dec 14

Thanks Dad.

Good afternoon folks.

I don’t like going this long without posting for you, but have been away. I drove to Ohio Sunday to visit my father, but the visit was unfortunately extended for a funeral.

Everybody loves their father for their own reasons and I am no different. There are some I can’t share and others I do so openly and proudly.

The most important was his love for his family and the moral principles he lived by, but another was his love for baseball, which he gave to my brother, George, and myself.

Among my earliest and fondest is he coached both our Little League teams. It was here where I learned sportsmanship and Little League baseball is to learn the game and have fun.

His belief was if you showed up for practice you would play regardless of how good you were. The games were seven innings and everybody played at least three. If for some reason you didn’t play three, you automatically started the next game.

The emphasis was enjoyment of the sport, not winning, and definitely not learning at a young age one had limited talent. There would be plenty of time for that in high school sports. There would be plenty of opportunities for life to disappoint and he didn’t believe Little League baseball should be one of them.

Where our league’s boundaries ended at the town line, today there’s a Little League World Series that is not only televised, but extends to foreign shores.

We went for ice cream after the games, win or lose. I grew up and played at a time when there were not even sponsors from local businesses, let alone corporate advertisers and television commercials. It was a time when the game had its natural disappointments, like committing an error or striking out and ten year-old kids don’t need cameras stuck in their faces.

It was a simpler time, one when I wasn’t exposed to the more negative and disturbing aspects of sports.

It is almost cliché to mention it, but the best times were playing catch and him hitting me grounders and fly balls in the front yard. We never shot baskets or tossed a football. It was always baseball.

Growing up, there was no such thing as cable and we only had four channels. We’d sometimes watch “The Game of the Week’’ and almost always the Indians.

Those were bad Indians teams that featured Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Max Alvis. I remember the first game he took me to, won, 5-0, over the Orioles. Years later, when I covered the Orioles, they had every box score in franchise history so I copied that game’s and sent it to him.

My dad took me to a lot of games at old Cleveland Stadium, and when I briefly covered the Indians for a small local paper after college, I was glad when I got to take him.

One of the best perks of the job was getting to take him to spring training and buy him World Series tickets when the Indians finally made it. Too bad he never got to see them win it all. Would have been nice.

My dad grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and when I covered the Orioles, former Dodgers pitcher Rex Barney was the PA announcer and I brought him up to the press box after a game to introduce them. When I came back to the press box nearly an hour later after working the clubhouse, I was happy to see Barney still talking to him.

The Dodgers were his team and he told me about Ebbets Field and Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Carl Furillo. Our family has roots in New York and New Jersey and we’d visit every summer after Little League season and he’d take me to Yankee and Shea Stadiums.

One year, he insisted we see the Mets against the Dodgers to watch this guy pitch. During my first spring covering the Mets, I got to meet the pitcher.  I introduced myself and told him I didn’t want to interview him – although I did – as much as I wanted to tell him how my father thought it was important I see him pitch.

Then Sandy Koufax asked me what game it was and when I sheepishly told him the Mets ripped him, 10-4, he said he remembered.

Like all fathers and sons, we had our rocky moments, but whatever they were, we always were able to talk about baseball. And, many of our later conversations were about baseball and the Indians.

My dad was 85 and was ill on and off for his last ten years. He was a shut-in and derived much of his pleasure watching the Indians and baseball, often with my sister, Anne.

Baseball was a passion and there are millions like him who feel the same way he did about the sport. This is something I wish the owners of the sport realized about its fans; that people love and cherish the traditions and simplicity of the game. I wish they understood this before they tinker and attempt to change the sport.

My dad taught me a lot of things, but I will always be grateful to him for giving me his love and appreciation of baseball.

I will forever love and miss him, and sure I will never watch another baseball game the same way.

Thanks, Dad.

 

Nov 27

Why revenue sharing and the luxury tax aren’t doing what they are supposed to.

You can get dizzy trying to figure out the various formulas for revenue sharing and the luxury tax, but some things are givens. There will always be some teams willing to spend because the objective is to win.

There will also be some teams not willing to spend and find comfort in using their small market status to free load off the big spenders because they are still making money. Pittsburgh and Kansas City have been notorious for using their revenue sharing income not to reinvest in players but to pay their electric bill.

I’m tired of hearing about small market – which should really read small revenue market teams – not fielding competitive teams because of the market they play in. It is inexcusable for a team such as the Pirates to have 20 straight losing seasons. How can the Orioles have 14 losing years playing in a gem of a ballpark like Camden Yards? Seems incomprehensible.

How Bud Selig can allow this is beyond reason. Also crazy is penalizing teams that go over the limit to take away draft choices. It stands to reason that a team having fewer draft picks will compensate with more spending in trying to build.

I’ve never been for revenue sharing because it promotes free loading, but the system is not likely to go away. If they are insistent on such a system, the receiving teams should be required to spend a designated percentage on player salaries. And, while we’re at it, there should be a minimum amount a team MUST spend on payroll.

 

Jul 31

Today in Mets’ History: Orosco beats Pirates twice.

Jesse Orosco had one of those days relievers only dream about on this date in 1983 when he beat the Pirates in both ends of a doubleheader, winning the first game in 12 innings, 7-6, and the nightcap, 1-0, also in 12 innings.

OROSCO: Iconic image.

Orosco, who pitched for the Mets, Dodgers (twice), Indians, Brewers, Orioles, Cardinals, Padres, Yankees and Twins (those last three teams all in the 2003 season), appeared in a major league record 1,252 games.

Orosco is the subject of one of the most enduring World Series photographs when he tossed his glove into the air after striking out Marty Barrett for the final out of the 1986 Series.

OROSCO CAREER

 

 

Jun 25

I’m glad Davey is back

Of all the managers I’ve covered, Davey Johnson might be the most intriguing. He heard, and marched to one drum, that being his own. He might be the only person to be named manager of the year and fired on the same day.

JOHNSON: He's back.

Many of the memories I carry from covering Major League Baseball for over 20 years happened off the field and not during a game, such as the afternoon in Baltimore when I was sitting next to Johnson during his pre-game press briefing.

Johnson was winding things down, when unprompted, threw out this nugget. Maybe it was to mess with our upcoming off day.

“You know,’’ he began in that slow drawl of his, “I’ve been thinking of moving Cal Ripken to third base.’’

Nugget? For an Orioles’ writer then, it was a bombshell. And, to make it more interesting is he floated the idea without talking to Ripken. He knew we’d all flock to Ripken like ants at a picnic, and this might have been his way of testing the waters.

Another time, Bobby Bonilla – the ultimate team player – didn’t want to play as the DH, this coming several weeks after saying he’d do anything to help the Orioles.

When he name wasn’t in the lineup, Johnson told us Bonilla had a sore ankle and underwent treatment. When asked about his ankle, Bonilla let loose the following obscenity: “Why don’t you ask the (bleeping) manager how it is?’’

Johnson was shaming Bonilla to DH.

Any team Johnson manages is his team, and he takes crap from nobody. Not an iconic figure like

Ripken, not a faux star such as Bonilla, and not a prima donna rookie.

Johnson had his way of dealing with players, and one was to utilize the press, and we were all willing to scoop up what he said.

The Orioles were in Milwaukee one year and going through a miserable stretch, and on this day they blew a game to the Brewers in the late innings. The clubhouse at old County Stadium didn’t have a manager’s office. Instead, there was a desk adjacent to the trainer’s room and players passed by us throughout the interview.

Speaking loud enough where everybody could hear, Johnson took apart his team, basically holding a team meeting in front of the press. No cursing, no yelling, no name calling. But, it was clear he was angry and not in a tolerant mood.

Johnson, of course, as he did with the Mets, got his point across.

Later in that series, Johnson made a decision I didn’t understand.

“Davey,’’ I asked. “I’m not being a wise guy. But, I don’t know as much baseball as you and don’t understand that decision. Could you explain?’’

As Johnson stared at me for a couple of seconds, I felt his glare go through me, but I never released eye contact. He realized I wasn’t kidding, that I didn’t understand, so he laid it all out for me.

So sarcasm, just teaching. Johnson loves to talk about the intricacies of the game. He’s a great teacher, and he’s going to a team in the Washington Nationals that could learn from him.

When it comes to strategy and analyzing a game, few can do it like Johnson and the Nationals are lucky to have him in their dugout. He will make that team smarter and concentrate on the fundamentals.

The Nationals still don’t have the overall talent to compete this year or next, but they will be better.

I’m glad Davey is back in the game and can’t wait until the Nationals are in town.

 

Jun 17

Today in Mets History: Marvelous Marv.

Maybe it isn’t so odd this occurred the day after the Mets lost on a balk in the tenth inning, a disappointing end to what was a good road trip that dropped them below .500 once again.

MARVELOUS MARV

 

On this date in 1962 – the year when the Mets seemed to have invented the word `amazing,’ – it was all about Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who personified those early teams.

Throneberry appeared to hit a two-run triple against the Cubs in the Polo Grounds, but was called out for failing to touch second base. When manager Casey Stengel raced out of the dugout to argue the call, first base coach Cookie Lavagetto stopped him and said, “Don’t argue, Case. He missed first base, too.’’

How can that not make you chuckle?

There were a lot of great stories about the 1962 Mets, several of them involving Throneberry.

Throneberry played for the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics and Orioles before playing the first two seasons in Mets’ history.

He was demoted to the minor leagues in 1963 and replaced by Ed Kranepool. He retired after that season as a .237 hitter with 53 homers and 170 RBI.

THRONEBERRY CAREER NUMBERS

There was a gentleness about Throneberry, who maintained a sense of humor. Many years after retiring, Throneberry appeared in the Miller Lite ads that featured sporting legends.

THRONEBERRY COMMERCIAL

WARNING: If you click on to this you might spend an hour watching the other links to commercials.

Throneberry passed away at age 60 in 1994.