The Big Fella by Jane Leavy

This is one of the many books on Babe Ruth. He was one of the most written about person in the 20th century. Jane Leavy took a different approach to write the book. She jumps around in time periods but it’s not distracting. I found out things I never knew about the Babe and that is the reason I wanted to read it. Thanks to Hanspostcard again for another great recommendation.

When I was growing up I read everything I could about Babe Ruth. I never was a Yankee fan and never will be but I do love this period of the Yankees. Unfortunately, some people think of Ruth as this huge obese baseball player because of movies like the terrible “The Babe” in 1992. When Babe came up he was a great athlete and didn’t start getting out of shape until his last years. One thing that I would love to see about the Babe is a well-made movie…we have yet to see it.

The man’s popularity was only rivaled by Charlie Chaplin. If anyone was made for a time period it was this man. He could be crude, brash, stubborn, and generous and was the idol of millions of kids during the 20s and 30s. He was so much better than anyone of his peers that it seemed unfair. The man could rise to the occasion when needed. He did everything big, whether it was hitting a home run, striking out, or living his unfettered life.

Sometimes an athlete is just so much better than his peers and they would be a generational talent. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordon would be in this select group.

When Babe retired in 1935 with 714 home runs the closest player to that mark at the time was his old Yankee teammate Lou Gehrig with 378 home runs (after the 1935 season)…that is a difference of 336 home runs. That is domination.

Ruth had an agent by the name of Christy Walsh. Walsh was basically the first sports agent of his day. He created a highly successful syndicate of ghostwriters for baseball’s biggest stars, coining the term “ghost writer” in the process. Walsh, in many ways, was a pioneer in the public relations field. The relationship between the two was interesting to read about.

The Babe made 70 grand a season playing for the Yankees and at least the same on advertising and barnstorming across the nation in small towns bringing baseball to towns that never would have seen Major League Baseball in the offseason. He was still grossly underpaid for the money he brought into the Yankees. When he would play, the crowds would increase dramatically.

Although black players were stupidly not allowed to play in the Major Leagues at that time, Babe and Lou Gerhig’s teams played black teams in towns all around in the offseason.

If you have interest in Babe Ruth I would recommend this book and Robert Creamer’s book Babe Ruth: The Legend Comes to Life.

“I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” – Babe Ruth

 

 

May 25, 1935: Ruth hits the last 3 home runs of his career

84 years ago today on May 25, 1935, Babe Ruth was a Boston Brave in his last season in the Major Leagues. He was showing his age at 40 years old and the Yankees let him go and he signed with the Braves.

The Braves traveled to Forbes Field to play the Pirates and were 8-19 going into the game. Babe was hurting and out of shape. He rose to the occasion one more time in his long career. He ended up going 4-4 with 6 RBI’s and most importantly 3 home runs. His 712, 713, and 714th of his career.

The last home run he hit on this day would be his last in his career. Pirates pitcher Guy Bush pitched to him in the seventh inning and Ruth not only homered (his second off Bush for the day and third altogether of the day) but the ball went out of the park. Not just over the fence but clearing Forbes Field’s right field roof—for the first time in the ballpark’s 26-year history.

That is called going out in style. Babe Ruth had a dramatic touch about him and would rise to the occasion time and time again.

Babe would not get another hit in his career but he would retire five days later on May 30, 1935. His wife and agent wanted him to retire after this game but he wanted to honor his commitment to the owner of the Braves to play through Memorial Day Weekend.

 

 

 

 

My 5 Favorite Baseball Announcers of All Time

This list will be different for every baseball fan. Many times it’s your team’s announcer and other times it’s a network announcer you grew up with. I tend to like announcers who are not complete homers although some I like… like Harry Caray. He made it fun even though he openly rooted for the Cubs…and Budweiser.

There are many more that could be on this list.

Related image

5: Harry Caray – He injected fun into the game. It was like a fan announcing the game. He wasn’t technically the best baseball announcer but he was enjoyable.

Related image

4: Mel Allen – I remember Mel when I was a kid on “This Week in Baseball.” That voice was a part of my childhood.

Related image

3: Bob Uecker – “Just a bit outside” the more I listen to him the more I appreciate him.

Related image

2: Jack BuckNOT Joe… You could hear his excitement for the game in his voice. For me, the best is between Jack and…

Image result for vin scully

1: Vin Scully – Being a Dodgers fan I was spoiled by Vin Scully… my number 1 favorite. If you tuned into a Dodger game you would not know who employed Mr. Scully. He would not root for the Dodgers and he knew when not to say anything and let the action speak for itself.

Vin

Jack

 

 

Babe Ruth’s last surviving daughter dies at 102

Julia Ruth Stevens, the adopted daughter of Babe Ruth, died on Saturday in an assisted living facility in Henderson, Nev.

Babe Ruth married Claire Hodgson on the opening day of the 1929 baseball season. He adopted Julia, and Claire adopted Dorothy (Babe Ruth’s biological daughter) in 1930, and they all lived together, with Claire’s extended family, in an apartment on West 88th Street.

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/26218325/babe-ruth-last-surviving-daughter-dies-102

Thurman Munson

On August 2, 1979, I remember the news that afternoon at 6 saying that a plane crash happened in Canton Ohio and Thurman Munson was dead. It was shocking because he was only 32 years old and catcher for the Yankees.

Image result for thurman munson

While I was watching the 77 and 78 World Series there was one player I dreaded seeing at-bat with men on…, not Reggie Jackson…it was Thurman Munson. He is the only then Yankee player that I liked and respected.

Thurman is more remembered today for how his life ended than being a very good baseball player. He didn’t look like a prototypical Yankee. He was short and squatty with a sometimes difficult personality. He never did hit with a lot of power, the most home runs he ever hit in a season was 20. He ended up with a career batting average of .292 and an OBP of .346…very good for a catcher in that time period or now.

He was born in Canton Ohio in 1947 and grew up in a dysfunctional family. He kept progressing at baseball and attended Kent State. He was drafted with the 4th pick of the draft by the Yankees in 1968. He played with the Yankees from 1969 – 1979. Munson won Rookie of the Year in 1970.  He was a 7-time All-Star and an MVP in 1976. Thurman hurt his shoulder in the mid-seventies and had problems throwing the ball to second but he played through it all.

He had a rivalry with Carlton Fisk with the Red Sox and was fun to watch play. He was grumpy with reporters but good with kids and teammates. Former GM Gabe Paul said, “Thurman Munson is a nice guy who doesn’t want anyone to know it.”

He missed his family and wanted to be at home. He learned to fly and bought a prop plane so he could go home every night after a game. He kept progressing from plane to plane until he bought a Cessna $1.4 million twin-engine jet. He was practicing takeoffs and landings that day and came in and clipped some trees. He had three passengers, David Hall, and Jerry Anderson.

The plane caught fire as soon as it landed. Munson was conscious but had suffered serious spinal damage and couldn’t move. Anderson and Hall tried to pull Thurman to safety but the main door was jammed. Munson’s legs were trapped inside the crushed fuselage and wouldn’t budge. By the time the two men burst through the emergency exit, the smoke had consumed the entire plane. Hall and Anderson jumped out of the jet barely surviving. Thurman was dead at 32.

At the time I thought Thurman would be in the Hall of Fame. His numbers at the time of his death were comparable to Carlton Fisk. Munson appeared on the ballot in 1981, two years after a plane crash ended his life, and never got more than 15.5% of the vote.

Here is a list of his accomplishments from Wiki…but remember he was passed in many categories after he died.

  • 1st all time – Singles in World Series, 9
  • 10th all time – Batting average by catcher, .292
  • 11th all time – Postseason batting average, .357
  • 11th all time – Caught stealing percentage
  • 16th all time – On base percentage by catcher
  • 20th all time – OPS by catcher
  • 24th all time – Slugging by catcher
  • 26th all time – Hits by catcher
  • 26th all time – Runs by catcher
  • AL Rookie of the Year (1970)
  • AL MVP (1976)
  • 3× Gold Glove Award
  • 3 AL Pennants
  • 2 World Series titles
  • 7× All Star

 

 

Baseball in the 1970s

Growing up in Tennessee I was and still am a huge baseball fan. My father grew up liking the underdog Dodgers with Jackie Robinson when they played in Brooklyn while his brothers were Yankee fans. In 1977 I started to watch baseball and through my father connected with the Dodgers. He was more of a college football fan (Tennesse loves football) but I never got his passion for that. I watched some baseball before 77 but I was totally lost in it from then on.

Watching the 70s baseball was a special event. The hair, mustaches, and every color of uniform were interesting. For some reason, the Oakland A’s uniforms were my favorite.

Image result for oakland a's 1970s

I’ve always liked the individualism of baseball. No rigid measurements in baseball parks like football or other sports. Every park is a unique home. There were cookie cutter (multi-purpose) parks with astroturf like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The 8th wonder of the world Astrodome in Houston. A very old Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The pavilion and palm tree Dodger Stadium. The ivy-walled Wrigley field in Chicago and the oh so green Fenway Park.

Baseball wasn’t as accessible then as it is now. You had to wait for the Saturday game of the week and Monday night baseball. That made it more special. There were certain teams they showed more than others. I was lucky, the Dodgers were one of the teams. I remember a lot of Pirates, Reds, Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodger games because they all were very good.

I remember the players of that time so well. Thurman Munson (the only then Yankee I liked), Al Hrabosky (The Mad Hungarian), Dave Parker (He looked like the biggest man ever), Luis Tiant, Oscar Gamble (the cool hair), Bill Lee, Willie Stargell, Greg Luzinski, Gary Maddox, Mike Schmidt, George Foster (who I met a few years ago), Joe Morgan (who I liked better as a player than announcer), Catfish Hunter.

I could probably still mimic most of the players batting stances now.

Some of the managers were just as popular as the players for different reasons. Earl Weaver (one of the pioneers of sabermetrics), Billy Martin (could make about any team win…for a short time), and Sparky Anderson.

Some events I remember are Disco Demolition Night in Chicago (exploding disco records) and 10 cent beer night (that turned into a riot in Cleveland…who would have guessed that?).

My favorite player… Hands down Ron Cey. Steve Garvey was the marquee name of the Dodgers but Ron Cey would come through in the clutch and had a better batting eye than Garvey. I played 3rd base in little league and on up because of Cey. His nickname was “The Penguin” because he ran like one. I tried running like that until the coach asked me what was wrong with me…he thought I was hurt.

When the Dodgers traded Cey to Chicago it broke my heart. He went on to do good with the Cubs but to this day I don’t understand that trade.

I still watch baseball and don’t miss a box score and it is still a game full of characters…maybe not as colorful now.

 

 

 

 

 

Don Newcomb

Don Newcomb passed away yesterday February 19, 2019. I don’t remember him playing because I’m too young. Being a Dodger fan all of my life I have read about his playing days and him talking to and mentoring the younger players with today’s Dodgers.

He was born on June 14, 1926, and played in the Negro Leagues finally making it to the Major Leagues in 1949 with the Brooklyn Dodgers winning Rookie of the Year. He won a World Series (the only one Brooklyn won) in 1955. He won the Cy Young Award in 1956. He battled alcoholism in the 50s and 60s. He mentored everyone from  Maury Wills, Steve Garvey, Orel Hershiser, Mike Piazza, to current players Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw and manager Dave Roberts.

At 92 he would still come to the ballpark and talk to the Dodgers and opposing players.

Here is a link. http://m.thecourierexpress.com/sports/national/bc-bbn–obit-newcombe-nd-ld-writethru/article_cad2236f-faad-5d8f-ad10-bc430854b7e9.html

The Dodgers released this today.