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.

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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. 

 

The excuse for leaving work today

My son texted me this…I don’t think my company would buy it…Of course being at Dodger Stadium would be hard but I will be there in spirit. If the Dodgers win today they will win the division…if they lose they are off to the wildcard game.

Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez – 14-10, 3.76 ERA) at Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Walker Buehler – 7-5, 2.76 ERA), 4:09 p.m. ET. The Brewers and Cubs are playing right now to decide their division.

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My Memories of 1977

In 1977 I turned 10 years old. It was the first year I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I started to watch Walter Cronkite reporting the world news. Keywords I remember were Sadat, Middle East, Son of Sam, Concorde, and Inflation. Local news would be Chris Clark on channel 5 an affiliate of CBS…keywords locally… Snow, Ray Blanton (the name would be more popular the next year…in a bad way), and Larry Schmittou…who would bring Nashville minor league baseball the following year with the “Sounds” a Reds farm team.

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I missed around 3 weeks of school because of it being either closed or the bus would not run down our rural road because of snow…sledding and exploring time! In Middle Tn… 1 inch of snow will shut down a city.

I remember Star Wars hit the theaters with lines around the corners. I didn’t see it the month it was released but soon afterward. It was everywhere and the talk of the school. We had never seen anything like it before.

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I remember Queen releasing News of the World. A friend of mine brought the album to school and we studied every inch of the cover (by Frank Kelly Freas), a giant robot picking up the bodies of the band. We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions played non-stop on the radio. This is when I started to explore other bands that weren’t named The Beatles.

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The TV mini-series Roots was huge and historic.

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I was watching Gilligans Island and it was interrupted by sad news. Elvis Presley was dead at 42 years old. My mom and other grown-ups around were really upset. I knew his songs and it was sad but I didn’t understand everyone’s reactions for someone they didn’t know. Three years later when I was 13 I understood perfectly clear when John Lennon was murdered. Three days after Elvis died Groucho Marx passed away…In October Bing Crosby passed away.

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I paid attention to the inauguration of Jimmy Carter as President in January. I would hear about peanuts, teeth and his brother Billy for the rest of the year…and about one of those keywords again…inflation.

I remember the Son of Sam killings. In August of that year, David Berkowitz was finally apprehended. He killed six people and wounded seven others. I also remember the blackouts in New York in July…

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The Concorde was all over the news that year. To a 10-year-old in 1977, it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.

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In March of 1977, I started to follow baseball. I’m not from California but my Dad always rooted for the Dodgers and it was passed down to me. I read from a young age about Babe Ruth, Christy Matheson, and the older players… but this was the first year I followed modern baseball from start to finish. Cey, Lopes, Garvey, Russell, Yeager, Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith, Don Sutton, Tommy John…I loved that team. I still can imitate the batting stance of all of the starters. Ron Cey was my hero and I played 3rd base in Little League because of him.

Our insurance salesman would come to our house every now and then and he knew I was a Dodger fan. He said he went to games in LA and would bring back something for me… I believed him totally. My mom told me not to get my hopes up as he was busy and might forget… A few weeks later…there he was with a Dodger 1977 pennant in his hand to give me…I still have it. I couldn’t believe the pennant in my hand came from the mythical Dodger Stadium where my heroes played.

They had four players with 30 or more home runs that year…Cey, Garvey, Smith, and Baker. They made it to the World Series but broke my heart. They played the Yankees and Reggie Jackson (it still hurts to type his name) hit three home runs in the sixth and deciding game to beat my Dodgers. It took a while to get over that…well I’m still writing about it 41 years later…but it’s always next year.

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I’ll close it out on Matchbox and Hot Wheels…I had a huge collection that I carried to friends houses to trade and race.

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If only life was that simple again…

 

The Boys of Summer

Opening Day…Baseball is back and I’m thrilled. I’ve always been a baseball fan first. No other sport matches up against it. It’s a game that takes a tremendous amount of skill to play. Most players who get drafted never get to play in the majors. Hitting a major league curveball is probably the hardest thing to do in all sports.

Anyway, there is nothing like spring training and the hope for a new season. Every team is tied at 0 in the standings. I really wish an MLB team was in the city I live in…we have an NFL team that I would trade in a heartbeat to get an MLB team. Baseball is not an action-packed game like basketball, soccer or hockey but there is a game within a game. When you get up to bat…no one is going to block for you…no it’s you against that pitcher … What I love is the different sized fields, no clock, no salary cap, players with quirks, fastballs that are 95 and above and the people who have the skills to play it right…it is a beautiful thing to see.

Baseball really hasn’t changed too much over the years except for instant replay and some small changes. What you see now is pretty much what you saw in the 1920s except the players make a tad bit more. It’s one of the few things in America that stays consistent.

It’s a game of numbers and history…From Honus Wagner to Babe Ruth to Ted Williams to Jackie Robinson to Willie Mays to Hank Aaron to Sandy Koufax to Clayton Kershaw to Mike Trout… No sport’ has a history like baseball. Numbers and players are markers in that history.

I love to listen to broadcasts on the radio and to catch a game in mid-summer after I get done with what I am doing. In an instant, I’m back on the little league and then high school field.

The cold weather is almost gone and it is time for me to follow my Dodgers all the way to a World Series again…but this time…win.