Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Win World Series Tickets and Help a Worthwhile Charity…

July 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

…what could be better?  State Farm is sponsoring a contest, Go to Bat, that is teaming up with MLB to support worthwhile charities.  During last week’s Home Run Derby, Pitch In For Baseball was selected to participate in State Farm’s Go To Bat campaign.  

[if you are in a hurry to win your tickets, you can fast forward to instructions below]

Books on Baseball is a member of the Baseball Blogger’s Alliance (BBA).  This group has gone “all in” to support the Pitch in for Baseball charity. This connection now gives  BoBers the unique opportunity to win tickets to the World Series, as well as help out a worthwhile charity!  It’s a win-win!

Pitch in For Baseball in an organization who mission is to share the gift of baseball by collecting new and gently used equipment and shipping it to children all over the world, as well as here in the U.S.  Anyone is eligible, so long as the community has a genuine need for youth baseball and softball equipment and the kids want to have fun. Pitch in for Baseball normally works with leagues and programs in the community that have the ability to distribute the equipment and have a demonstrated track record of working with kids.

Here’s how it works:

  • Register for your chance to win World Series tickets.
  • When you register, you will get a chance to designate a charity that could win up to $25,000/week.
  • To designate Pitch In For Baseball as your charity, select PUBLIC BENEFIT as the charity category and then choose Pitch In For Baseball from the drop down list.
  • Revisit each day (you only have to register the 1st time) and play the ‘Go To Bat’ online game to increase your chances for tickets and Pitch In For Baseball’s chance at financial support
  • That’s it! And you can help young people from all over the world have the chance to play the greatest game on earth…
  • Play often–and good luck!

“Bupkis” for Baseball Retirees? Where’s the Moral Outrage?

July 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Book Review, Business of Baseball

The number of multi-millionaires within the sport of baseball is well chronicled.   I naively imagined that all this wealth would trickle down to take care of the retired players who paved the way for today’s current players–a rising tide lifts all boats.   I was mistaken.   Fortunately, there is a book, A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve by Douglas Gladstone, that lays open the entire embarrassing situation. 

Similar to baseball’s benign neglect of Curt Flood’s and Marvin Miller’s contributions, today’s well-paid players are ignoring a group of retirees caught in a technical pension no-man’s land.

Over time, baseball has revised its pension eligibility requirements several times.  The pension fund first came into existence in 1947, when you needed five years to qualify for an annuity. Twenty-two years later, in 1969, that requirement was lowered to four years. And finally, in 1980, as a result of the threatened strike that was averted over the Memorial Day weekend, the requirements were lowered to what they currently are: one game for medical benefits and 43 days of service credit for an annuity. What remains is a “doughnut hole” for players who had at least 43 days of service but not 4 years– nada, zilch, bupkis, nyet, nothing–a “bitter” cup of coffee indeed!

While “Father Time” has predictably dwindled the number of players caught in this predicament, over 800 still exist.  That number may not seem high, but consider it is greater than the number of active players on all 30 major league teams today. Many of them are beset with the same economic woes that folks on Mainstreet USA are currently feeling.  Moreover, because of the labor relations rules, there is no current advocate for these players within the players union infrastructure. 

Some retired executives and players, such as David Clyde, former Texas Rangers’ bonus baby, have taken up the casue.

Luckily, David Clyde’s ex-wife’s family ran a lumber business, and he worked at that job for almost two decades, retiring in 2003. But old slights linger; even now, Clyde is not able to mask his disappointment that MLB hasn’t been able to offer him or any of his comrades a helping hand.

“I think the owners are prepared to drag their feet on this issue for a long time,” he says. “After all, the longer it takes for this to be resolved, the less people they have to pay. Maybe that’s been their strategy all along.” As for Clyde’s feelings regarding the union, he credits Don Fehr for exerting an almost Svengali-like influence over the players during his run as executive director of the players association.

“I don’t believe today’s players have a clue as to what’s going on and what’s happening to the guys who played before them,” he said. “I don’t think they know anything about our situation. In fact, I think if Fehr had told all the players to walk off a cliff that was 700 feet high up in the air, and told them that, if they did, they’d all get a share of $10 million, I think they’d all walk off that cliff together,” he added.

Source: http://www.abittercupofcoffee.com

In interviews, Gladstone points out that MLB can address this inequity in one of two ways. 

  • It can amend the pension eligibility requirments during the next round of baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks.  These talks are scheduled to begin early in 2011 to replace the current players’ union agreement which expires in December 2011, or
  • At any time, MLB can create a “lump-sum” mechanism for these retirees without being part of the CBA negotiations.  This payment sturcture was previously used to compensate Negro League players.

While no one really can pinpoint why this inequity hasn’t been addressed, it is clear that today’s players, and their representatives, are largely unaware of the 874 players’ plight. I am hoping that keeping a harsh spotlight on this issue will “embarrass” MLB into doing the right thing.

Check out Gladstone’s website for additional information about his book and this issue.

Also, check out former player Bob Locker’s paean to Marvin Miller — ThanksMarvin.com


Book Review: The Curse: Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Or Do They?

July 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Book Review, Your Turn

Andy Van Slyke was a terrific ballplayer in his day; known as much for his irreverent and spontaneous sense of humor as his remarkable “Gold Glove” defensive skills in centerfield; he was a fan and sportswriter’s favorite throughout his 13 year major league career. His partner in crime for this particular book – Rob Rains – is a very gifted writer who also happens to be the most prolific author of Cardinal baseball history – and the men who made Redbird history – since Bob Broeg’s engaging stories, dating back well over a half century ago.

Together, these guys really know baseball; and they know how to concoct a great piece of fictional folklore about one of baseball’s most storied – and frustrating – franchises in history: The Chicago Cubs.

Anyone who follows baseball with any degree of regularity is quite familiar with the last century of Chicago Cubs agony – from the Billygoat Curse of 1945, to the shocking Meltdown of 1969, to the Great Postseason Collapse of 1984, to the recent torment of poor Steve Bartman in 2003; if something can go wrong with the Cubbies, it always does. Even when they had the best regular season record in the National League in 2008, the Cubs were mysteriously blown out of the postseason by the Wild Card Arizona Diamondbacks, in the very first round. Naturally.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I recently became aware of this particular book, ordered it right here on Amazon, received it earlier today, and polished it off in one sitting. I had no idea what was in store for me as I began reading this remarkable and thrilling piece of fiction. To say Andy Van Slyke has a very complex and fascinating “story-telling imagination” is an understatement. The saga he devised kept me on the edge of my seat, as the surprising plotline unfolds within the 317 pages of this wild ride of contemporary and outrageously entertaining fake Cubs “history”.

I loved it, and whether or not you’re a Cubs fan or even a baseball fan in general; it doesn’t really matter; you’ll love it, too.

Larry Underwood, a Books on Baseball friend, has been kind enough to share this book review with us.  Larry, a retired executive from Enterprise Rent-a-Car,  is an author himself and has recently penned Life Under the Corporate Microscope: A Maverick’s Irreverent Perspective. His book has a 5-star rating from amazon with 42 reviews.

Your Turn is a regular feature of Books on Baseball that spotlights our BoB friends as guest book reviewers. 

See Trailer for the Book below

See link to interview with Andy Van Slyke about the book

Book Synopsis

 Something terrible has happened to the Chicago Cubs, turning a promising season into a sorrowful summer in the Windy City.

Leading their division, and sporting the best record in the National League a week before the annual All-Star break, the Cubs come crashing back to earth…literally. A plane crash changes their season – and the future of their franchise – forever.

The Curse: Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Or Do They? by former major league player Andy Van Slyke and veteran baseball author Rob Rains, is a thrilling fictional journey through the Cubs’ recovery from the plane crash and their attempts to re-build their lost season.

After the crash, an interesting cast of Cubs characters emerges. The manager is a burned out baseball veteran who was fired as the team’s Triple A manager after going into the stands to attack a fan. One of the key players turns out to be the great-great grandson of the centerfielder of the 1908 Cubs, who were the last Cubs team to win the World Series.

The authors accompany the reader on a history course of the Cubs’ failed pennant attempts of the past, learning about the Curse of the Billy Goat; about the collapse of the 1969 Cubs; watching the ball squirt through Leon Durham’s legs in the 1984 playoffs; and cursing Steve Bartman and how he got in the way of the 2003 Cubs’ pennant clinching moment.

With that legacy of losing, and with the inconceivable tragedy of the plane crash hanging over their season, the Cubs fight to create a new history. The story’s end is a jaw-dropper. You’ll never read another baseball book like The Curse.


Book Review: The Midsummer Classic

July 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Book Review

Retrosheet  and other web-based resources are priceless reference tools. These tools allow you to access the boxscore and play-by-play of every major league game you ever attended or strip-mine decades’ worth of historical data for previously unknown statistics and trends. However, in certain circumstances, they fail to convey the magnitude of certain high-impact events such as playoff tilts or All-Star Games.
 
Unlike the protagonist of Robert Coover’s creepy The Universal Baseball Association who preferred fantasy baseball to the real thing because “the box scores were enough”, there are many times when I find that box scores are not nearly enough.
 
While slightly outdated and increasingly hard to find, The Midsummer Classic remains the indispensable reference book and storytelling treasure about the All-Star Game.  It was put together by David Smith and David Vincent of Retrosheet and SABR historian Lyle Spatz, and details not only the play-by-play but also behind-the-scenes anecdotes for every All-Star Game from 1933 through 2000.  This includes the double All-Star Game years of 1959 through 1962.
 
While the play-by-play data is the same as what’s available online today, Midsummer Classic excels in two areas where Retrosheet falls short: game stories, and easily accessible leader boards.
 
Take, for example, this excerpt from their article on the historic 1983 All-Star Game: 
The fiftieth anniversary of All-Star competition occurred exactly fifty years to the day after the first game.  For this occasion, baseball returned to seventy-three-year-old Comiskey Park as the site of the first game hosted the gala for the third and last time.  There were many special celebrations for the game that was originally conceived as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
 
As part of the festivities, ninety former players participated in an Old-Timer’s Game on July 5.  Among those present was Lefty Gomez, who started and won the 1933 game.  Gomez threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the 1983 All-Star contest while flanked by eleven survivors of the inaugural game.  In another tribute, on game day the U.S. Postal Service issued a new twenty-cent stamp in Chicago honoring Babe Ruth, who had homered in that first game. 
The excerpt above is a great example of the type of information surrounding the game not available in articles about the game from top-notch websites such as Baseball Almanac.
 
Similarly, their description of one of the All-Star Game’s more controversial moments, the Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision in 1970, helps revise conventional wisdom on the subject: 
This violent game-ending play has become an enduring part of the story of Pete Rose.  It is often written that Rose severely injured Fosse and ended the catcher’s career as an effective player.  Although one can certainly argue that Rose was wrong to smash into Fosse the way he did, the claim that Fosse’s career was ruined is simply not supported by the evidence and may best be seen as a myth or a legend.  In the short run, Rose suffered much more than Fosse.  The collision was on July 14, and Rose did not play again until July 19.
On the other hand, Fosse started in Cleveland’s next scheduled game on July 16 and played every game for the next nine days, including a doubleheader on the 24th, in which he caught both games!  At the time of the All-Star Game, Fosse was batting .309 in 291 at-bats.  He finished the season at .307 in 450 at-bats.  His season was cut short by a broken finger on September 3.
In addition to the boxscores, detailed play-by-play, and exhaustively researched game articles, Midsummer Classic also includes a wealth of career All-Star Game leader boards (such as consecutive games played) and single-game record holders (such as most hits allowed by a pitcher in a single game).  There’s also an article on the origins and subsequent rise in popularity of the Home Run Derby.
 
Sadly, this invaluable resource book concludes with the 2000 All-Star Game.  More recent games could be resurrected on the Internet, but it’s sure nice to have it all on one’s shelf in a single reference volume.  Maybe, these fine authors will consider a second edition to take us through the 2010 game just concluded.  One can only hope…
 
BoB rating: Home Run (even slightly dated, it contains valuable information on nearly 70 years of baseball history!)

Curt Flood and Baseball’s Reserve Clause

The inspiration for a story can come from the most unlikeliest of places. On my recent trip to Maine, I happened to pick up the Bangor Daily News and read a very compelling editorial (see entire text and link below) that described how Curt Flood’s landmark struggle to overturn baseball’s time-worn reserve clause has opened up unprecedented financial opportunities for athletes such as Lebron James of the NBA’s Miami Heat.

In 1969, Flood, after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Phillies, took exception with baseball’s belief that an individual team owned his contract for life–the reserve clause.  Flood believed that he should have the opportunity to “shop” his services to the employer of his choosing. The restrictiveness of baseball’s reserve clause has been an issue between players and owners as far back as the the 1890s.  As an example, Branch Rickey, known as a shrewd businessman, stockpiled players in the minors and was particularly tight-fisted with pay raises he gave players who had no leverage in their negotiations other than to stop playing baseball. 

Flood eventually took his fight all the way to the US Supreme Court where he lost a 5-3 decision with one judge recusing himself.  However, the loss brought intense scrutiny and visibility to the inequity of the reserve clause and eventually players, led by Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith, were allowed to become free agents.

I am humbled to admit that, until recently, my knowledge of Flood was sketchy and mostly tainted by his unsuccessful stint with “my” Washington Senators during their last season prior to their abrupt relocation to Texas.  In addition, during this period in American history, opinionated black athletes like Flood and Muhammad Ali, with his opposition to the Vietnam war, were generally broad-brush-painted as “trouble makers” or “malcontents” because they dared challenge the status quo. 

Fortunately, time has softened the rough edges from our collective memories and re-viewed these contributions in a much more noble light.   With respect to Curt Flood, it is also fair to point out that he had flaws, some of which detracted from his legitimate legal pursuits.  However, on balance, Flood’s contribution to the more equitable treatment of athletes remains his lasting legacy and, in my opinion, an underappreciated one.

There is a recent book on Flood that tells the entire story–Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports by Brad Snyder

Link to Snyder’s book website

Snyder, a lawyer and baseball writer, gives an account of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood’s failed though influential suit against Major League Baseball, offering both a sturdy revision of Flood’s biography and a polemical defense of the pro-player fight of which Flood was a part. Benefiting from a lawyer’s pen, the intricacies of the terms “reserve clause” (which bound players “to their teams for life”) and “baseball’s anti-trust exemption” are quickly and clearly explained, as the world of 1960s Major League Baseball is brought to life. Before “free agency,” players had few rights; after the 1969 season Flood fought being traded to Philadelphia, taking his battle to the Supreme Court. While the narrative drags at points, the stories of those central to Flood’s case (like Marvin Miller, director of the Player’s Association, and Arthur Goldberg, Flood’s chief lawyer) are vividly rendered. Most compelling, however, is the portrait of Flood’s humble upbringing (in working-class Oakland) and the racism he experienced during his early years on the field (“name-calling, segregated facilities, and second-class citizenship”). This account both serves to explain why Flood was “serious about sacrificing his playing career to sue baseball” and helps reposition Flood as a successor to Jackie Robinson’s “lifelong battle against injustice.”  Publishers Weekly

Below is an excerpt from wonderful blog post about Curt Flood by Mark Anthony Neal.

Though Curt won his seventh Gold Glove, in October of 1969, after his twelve years with the team, the Cardinals decided to trade Flood and three teammates to the Phillies under baseball’s standard Reserve Clause. The reserve clause was a part of players’ contract that bound the player, one year at a time, in perpetuity, to the club owning his contract. So began the battle that made Flood, the “father of free agency.” In a dangerous career move, Flood famously resisted the trade, sacrificing a $100, 000 salary and the continuation of his storied career. After consulting with the Players’ union, Flood submitted a landmark manifesto to baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, demanding that he be declared a free agent: He stated, “It is my desire to play baseball, in 1970 . . . I have received a contract from the Philadelphia Club but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs.

Here is the entire article from the Bangor Daily News, 7/13/10 p. A6

Before ‘The Decision’7/13/10

Before “The Decision,” the July 8 ESPN show in which Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player LeBron James announced he would sign a contract with the Miami Heat, there was another decision. Almost 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case that pitted St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Curt Flood against Major League Baseball. Though Mr. Flood did not win the case, he helped turn the tide so NBA stars like Mr. James are able to weigh $100 million offers from a half-dozen teams.

Mr. Flood, who played from 1956 to 1971, was a three-time all-star and seven-time Gold Glove winner whose lifetime batting average was a respectable .293. After playing for the St. Louis Cardinals for 11 years, the team traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies. In an unprecedented act of defiance, Mr. Flood refused to report to the Phillies. But this was not the act of a spoiled and petulant professional athlete.

It’s important to understand the relationship between players and teams in those days. In baseball, team scouts found prospects in high school, college and in semipro leagues, and signed them to contracts. Once the player signed, he was bound to the team for his professional life, unless he was traded or retired. Professional football and basketball teams drafted players from college; those players, too, had not choice but to sign with the team that drafted them and stay for the duration.

After refusing to report to the Phillies, Mr. Flood wrote MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in late 1969, demanding to be declared a free agent: “After 12 years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several states.

“It is my desire to play baseball in 1970. I have received a contract offer from the Philadelphia club, but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decision.”

The commissioner denied the request, Mr. Flood sued claiming MLB had violated anti-trust laws, and the case ended up in the Supreme Court. The court ruled 5-3 (one justice who owned stock in Anheuser-Busch, which owned the Cardinals, did not vote) to uphold the existing arrangement. No active players supported Mr. Flood during his battle, and after he returned to baseball in 1971, he was harassed by some of them.

Yet a decisive blow had been struck. Four years later, when two pitchers who hadn’t come to terms with their team played an entire season after their contracts had expired, an arbitrator ruled they could become free agents. This spelled the end of the reserve clause in professional athlete contracts, enabling players to opt-out after a prescribed number of years as free agents.

In 1998, Congress approved the Curt Flood Act, which banned baseball’s anti-trust exemption that allowed the reserve clause. For that, and for Curt Flood, LeBron James and the other big-ticket free agents should be grateful.


DiMaggio Streak Ended Today–July 17, 1941

July 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball History

On this day, 69 years ago, Joe DiMaggio’s legendary hitting streak ended.   Joe DiMaggio holds the Major League Baseball record with a streak of 56 consecutive games.  The “Streak” which began on May 15 and ended July 17. DiMaggio hit .408 during his streak (91 for 223), with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs. After the streak ended, DiMaggio began a 16-game hitting streak. DiMaggio would hit safely in 72 of 73 games, another record.

DiMaggio also had a long hitting streak while playing for the San Francisco Seals of the legendary Pacific Coast League.  In 1933, he hit in 61 straight games.  Joe Wilmoit has the longest minor league streak, 69 games in 1919. For College Division I players, Robin Ventura has the longest streak, 58 straight games in 1987 for Oklahoma State University.  This year, Garret Wittels of Florida International got to 56.

Joltin’ Joe was eventually named MVP for the 1941 season.  The award was somewhat controversial in that Ted Williams hit .406 during the entire season.

Here is Yankee Clipper in a video accompanied by his theme song

Here are all of the streaks in MLB history 30 games or longer.

Rank Player Team Games Year(s)
01 Joe DiMaggio New York Yankees 56 1941
02 Willie Keeler Baltimore Orioles 45 (44) 1896–97
03 Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds 44 1978
04 Bill Dahlen Chicago Colts 42 1894
05 George Sisler St. Louis Browns 41 1922
06 Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers 40 1911
07 Paul Molitor Milwaukee Brewers 39 1987
08 Jimmy Rollins Philadelphia Phillies 38 (36) 2005–06
09 Tommy Holmes Boston Braves 37 1945
10 Gene DeMontreville Washington Senators 36 1896–97
11T Fred Clarke Louisville Colonels 35 1895
11T Ty Cobb Detroit Tigers 35 1917
11T George Sisler St. Louis Browns 35 (34) 1924–25
11T Luis Castillo Florida Marlins 35 2002
11T Chase Utley Philadelphia Phillies 35 2006
16T George McQuinn St. Louis Browns 34 1938
16T Dom DiMaggio Boston Red Sox 34 1949
16T Benito Santiago San Diego Padres 34 1987
19T George Davis New York Giants 33 1893
19T Hal Chase New York Highlanders 33 1907
19T Rogers Hornsby St. Louis Cardinals 33 1922
19T Heinie Manush Washington Senators 33 1933
23T Harry Heilmann Detroit Tigers 32 1922–23
23T Hal Morris Cincinnati Reds 32 1996–97
25T Jimmy Wolf Louisville Colonels 31 1885–86
25T Ed Delahanty Philadelphia Phillies 31 1899
25T Napoleon Lajoie Cleveland Naps 31 1906
25T Sam Rice Washington Senators 31 1924
25T Vada Pinson Cincinnati Reds 31 1965–66
25T Willie Davis Los Angeles Dodgers 31 1969
25T Rico Carty Atlanta Braves 31 1970
25T Ron LeFlore Detroit Tigers 31 (30) 1975–76
25T Ken Landreaux Minnesota Twins 31 1980
25T Vladimir Guerrero Montreal Expos 31 1999
35T Cal McVey Chicago White Stockings 30 1876
35T Dusty Miller Cincinnati Reds 30 1895–96
35T Elmer Smith Cincinnati Reds 30 1898
35T Tris Speaker Boston Red Sox 30 1912
35T Charlie Grimm Chicago Cubs 30 1922–23
35T Lance Richbourg Boston Braves 30 1927–28
35T Sam Rice Washington Senators 30 1929–30
35T Goose Goslin Detroit Tigers 30 1934
35T Stan Musial St. Louis Cardinals 30 1950
35T George Brett Kansas City Royals 30 1980
35T Jerome Walton Chicago Cubs 30 1989
35T Sandy Alomar, Jr. Cleveland Indians 30 1997
35T Nomar Garciaparra Boston Red Sox 30 1997
35T Eric Davis Baltimore Orioles 30 1998
35T Luis Gonzalez Arizona Diamondbacks 30 1999
35T Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals 30 2003
35T Willy Taveras Houston Astros 30 2006
35T Moisés Alou New York Mets 30 2007
35T Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals 30 2009

Negro Leagues: New Postage Stamp Series Unveiled

The US Postal Service has unveiled a new stamp series honoring baseball’s Negro League players.

Almost all of them are gone now, fading memories kept alive through grainy photos and dog-eared newspaper clippings their children and grandchildren keep near.

But now the black baseball players and their contributions to the culture and history of a country that once shunned them are being honored. The U.S. Postal Service released a set of stamps Thursday honoring early Negro Leagues players.

“Make no mistake about it. All these athletes were trailblazers on and off the field,” said Gregory D. Baker, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “Through their unsung civic endeavors, the (Negro) leagues and their players raised awareness and started a conversation about the standards of social justice in our country for all people regardless of race or gender.”

The Negro Leagues were formed in 1920 by Rube Foster, a visionary black athlete, manager and businessman. In their heyday, they were both popular and profitable, drawing white and black fans alike to see such greats as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and “Cool Papa” Bell.

“The 2,600 men and women who played in the Negro Leagues embodied the essence of our country,” Baker told several hundred people who packed the museum’s legends room. “They celebrated the notion that regardless of where you come from or your financial or social status, each of us can make a difference.”

Read the rest of the article here…

See story of the famed Negro team, the Homestead Grays,  below

Beyond the Shadow of the Senators : The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball by Brad Snyder

Snyder looks at the roots of Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball, but examines that historic event from a variety of angles. This well-documented and enjoyable account illuminates the life of Sam Lacy, a crusading black journalist for a Washington, D.C., black weekly, and his efforts to force major league baseball to integrate. But the book is also a fascinating and largely untold story about the unholy but profitable alliance between Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators, and the dynamic but shady Negro League team owner Cum Posey, founder of the Homestead Grays, a storied Negro League franchise founded in Pittsburgh. Using the burgeoning black middle class of WWII Washington, D.C., as a social backdrop, Snyder details how Negro League owners like Posey allied themselves financially with white Major League owners, renting segregated Major League ballparks (at exorbitant rates) for their Negro League teams while the white teams were on the road. The practice became particularly profitable in Washington after Posey moved his Homestead Grays (and such black stars as Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson) to D.C. from Pittsburgh in 1940. Disgusted by the Senators’ racist owners and the team’s inept play, black fans flocked to the pennant-winning Grays’ games, which outdrew the Senators’ games. Snyder also sketches the lives of great players like Buck Leonard with great sensitivity, insight and historical context. The book tells two stories: one is how the Griffiths, a legendary baseball family, killed baseball in Washington, D.C., through their own narrow-minded greed and racism; the other is the story of Lacy and Wendell Smith, his fellow black Hall of Fame sportswriter, and the extraordinary black athletes of the Negro Leagues and their determination to play baseball at its highest level.

Source: Publisher’s Weekly


Wild and Wacky Injuries — new Darwin Award Candidates

July 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Remember the earlier BoB article on baseball’s Darwin Awards? Since then, Kendry Morales broke his leg during his walk-off home run celebration in May ? Courtesy of Jayson Stark, ESPN, here are some of 2010’s wierdest injuries.  Do any of them deserve to be included in BooksonBaseball’s Darwin list?

Injuries of the Half-Year

First prize: A lot of bizarre injuries have made this list over the years. And a lot of bizarre stuff has happened to the Angels over the past half-century. But we still can’t believe that our very own eyeballs witnessed the sight of their best hitter actually breaking his leg trying to jump on home plate after a walk-off grand slam. Well, it happened to poor Kendry Morales on May 29. And walk-off hoopla may never be the same. Of course, that’s a good thing. Now if we could just ban those shaving-cream pies.

Second prize: Has there ever been a year when hitting a home run was this hazardous to the health of the hitters? Orioles bopper Luke Scott sure doesn’t think so. He blew out his hamstring roaring around first base while trying to run out a June 30 homer he wasn’t sure was gone. So he wound up taking 35.76 seconds to stagger around the bases. And that’s the slowest trot of the season, according to the trot-timer geniuses at wezen-ball.com. You can find Scott’s dramatic base-by-base splits here, believe it or not. But it’ll be a while before he can work on smoothing out his next trot, because he’s been on the disabled list ever since. Scott’s reaction to all this, to the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly: “It sucks. I am glad the ball went out. But this is frustrating.”

Third prize: We bet you thought the worst thing that could happen to you while putting on a shirt was popping a button. Tell it to lovable Astros utility dynamo Geoff Blum. He popped his elbow last week while slipping on his shirt after a game — and wound up needing arthroscopic elbow surgery. Obviously, the shirt didn’t cause the chips and loose bodies to show up in his elbow. But you can never discount the Revenge of the Fashion Police at times like this. Former Astros pitching great and current broadcast-wit Jim Deshaies told Half-Year in Review he only used to worry about chips while removing his shirt: “When I took off my shirt,” Deshaies reported, “the only chips they found were a half-eaten bag of Lays Potato Chips.”

Special injury citation: Here’s what kind of year it’s been in Baltimore: The Orioles had a guy hit a home run (that’s good), only to have him pull a hamstring 100 feet into his trot (that’s bad). And they innocently set out to film a promotional commercial (that’s good), only to have one of their best pitchers (Brad Bergesen) hurt his shoulder by throwing too many pitches — at game speed (that’s bad). OK, the commercial shoot actually took place in December. But Bergesen now has a 6.40 ERA and hasn’t been the same since. “The production company that came in wanted it to be as realistic as possible,” Bergesen told the Sun. “And I was trying to please.” Wow. Find this team some stunt doubles!

Honorable mention: Yet another home run injury: Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny strained a lat muscle while hitting a May 21 grand slam, and hasn’t thrown a pitch since. … Phillies reliever Ryan Madson had to spend two months on the disabled list after blowing a save, drop-kicking an innocent folding chair and breaking a toe. … Andre Ethier did a number on his Triple Crown ambitions by somehow fracturing his finger during batting practice. … Two different Pittsburgh second basemen (Bobby Crosby and Neil Walker) wound up with concussions after running into two different right fielders. … And Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez had to visit the disabled list after aggravating his elbow while pitching — in that already legendary 20-inning game with the Mets.

Read the rest of Jayson’s great article here..


Jack Armstrong, the Once and Never-Again All Star

July 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Baseball History

In the 1930s and ’40s, Jack Armstrong was The All-American Boy.  His adventures spanned radio, comic books, a film serial, and ultimately the TV cartoon Jonny Quest.  This was all before my time….
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I am Jason Miller, Books on Baseball contributing writer.  Stay with me as I weave a sometimes circuitous story of how I came to learn about Jack Armstrong, his many incarnations, and his indelible connection to baseball.
 
However, from a very young age, I started associating Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, with baseball.  When I was nearly six years old and about to become a big brother for the first time, I was given a copy of the June 1979 Baseball Digest as a you’re-a-big-boy-today reward.  Steve Garvey was on the cover.  This ill-advised purchase began a lifelong addiction to Baseball Digest.
 
 
I was still a bit young at the time for Baseball Digest’s prose style, and was confused by the comparison of Steve Garvey to Frank Meriwell and Jack Armstrong.  Who were these people?  The irony of those two lead paragraphs, including the sentence:
 
Steve Garvey is real, a slugging first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers who matches the image of any All-American Boy and tosses fear into opposing and teams.
 
would not become obvious until many years later.  But, in my mind, the association between Jack Armstrong and baseball was forever cemented.
 
Imagine my delight, a decade later, when I learned that Jack Armstrong, a real life Jack Armstrong, was pitching for the surging Cincinnati Reds, and was going to start the All-Star Game.  Who was this guy?  With a name like Jack Armstrong he had to be a star, right?
 
To everyone’s surprise, Armstrong had a great first three months of 1990.  Sure, in 1988 and ’89 he was really not on anybody’s radar outside of the Queen City.  Even as a first-round draft pick he’d gone a combined 6-10 in his first two seasons with the Reds, and had an unimpressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 1:1.
 
Entering the ’90 All-Star Break, though, Armstrong was 11-3 with a 2.28 ERA for a team that was dominating their division and would go on to even bigger things in a Red October.  Jack’s ERA was below 2.00 as late as June 19th.  He had much better control than before, rarely walking more than three men in a game and picking up several seven-or-more strikeout outings.
 
On May 3, 1990, Armstrong shut out the Mets for 7 2/3 innings [http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1990/B05030NYN1990.htm]], helped out by a pair of home runs from the mighty Joe Oliver.  This performance drew the attention of even the New York media and led to the following myth-making comparison in the following day’s Bergen County Record:
 
OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Born in Englewood and a star at Neptune High School who went on to pitch at Rider College and the University of Oklahoma, 6-foot-5, 220-pound Cincinnati right-hander Jack Armstrong fulfills the qualifications for the obvious nickname, All-American Boy, like the fictional character of the same name.
 
Armstrong  pitched very well in the actual All-Star Game.  He went two shutout innings, giving up only a single to Wade Boggs, for which he could hardly be blamed.  He even struck out both Jose Canseco andMark McGwire, a poetic example of All-American Boy guile defying the notion of better living through chemistry.  Later on, teammates Randy Myers and Rob Dibble would each hurl a shutout inning, in a game the Senior Circuit eventually lost 2-0.
 
Armstrong’s performance, however, was overshadowed by CBS announcer Jack Buck, who inexplicably sang a few bars of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” during the game.  MLB Network occasionally re-airs this Midsummer Classic as part of its “All-Time Games” block, and Buck’s crooning never fails to amuse me.
 
That was the end of the line for Jack Armstrong.  He went just 1-6 in the second half of 1990, his one win costing him 116 pitches across 6 innings (including two wild pitches, and plunking the non-threatening Rex Hudler with a pitched ball).  He didn’t start a game after August 24th and pitched just once, in relief, in the World Series.
 
Bouncing down the standings from Cincinnati to Cleveland to the expansion Florida Marlins, Jack lost 45 games over the next 3 seasons.   His career was wiped out by a rotator cuff injury, with his last appearance coming in April 1994  He would never duplicate those three months in early 1990, and his lone All-Star appearance was merited only by the fact that those three months came before the break rather than after.
 
But fear not: there is a Jack Armstrong, Jr.  There is still the hope that another Jack Armstrong will start an All-Star Game and keep those All-American exploits alive.
See the latter-day Jack Armstrong do a back flip


All Star Game Prediction Results..the votes have been tallied!

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under BoB Surveys

We had a huge response to the BoB request to predict the outcome of the 2010 All Star game.  Over 50 or you ventured a guess.  The majority of you thought, like most pundits, that the AL squad would prevail again.  About 20%, however, bucked conventional wisdom and thought the Senior Circuit would win the mid-Summer classic.  Before we reveal the winners, I would like to acknowledge a couple of interesting responses:

  • Alan Winsor went out on a limb–“I suspect the winner will be the team that has the most runs when the last out is made will win the game”
  • Larry Underwood is the only person that predicted the low-scoring, pitchers duel.  He got the winner wrong, but was spot on with his game theme.
  • Frank Matz had the score perfect, but had the wrong league winning…

And now for the winner…or, should I say winners.  There were actually two people we need to single out,  both were very close.

  • Rob Anderson predicted the score NL 4-3.
  • Kate Doden predicted the score NL 5-3.

Nice going Rob and Kate and thanks to everyone for participating!


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