"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2005

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Meat Market

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are close to signing Kyle Farnsworth to a three-year deal worth more than $17 million. Last season Cliff and I agreed that “Meat” was a fitting nickname for Carl Pavano, but if the Yanks ink Farnsworth, Pavano will face some stiff competition for the moniker. They have different builds–Farnsworth is sculpted and looks as if he just stepped out of a comic book, and I’m willing to bet that ol’ Kyle is a good deal dimmer than Carl. At least we know he’s effective in a brawl. Farnsworth is the proto-typical “million dollar arm, ten cent head” Nuke Laloosh hurler. Perhaps he’s better than I give him credit for, and maybe he’ll be as good if not better than Flash Gordon, but I’m still cautious. He does throw gas, and has a nasty breaking ball, but there is something about the guy I just don’t trust. This might not be fair, but the sports radio caller in me is thinking Benitez-lite (and Armando is good, just dubious in big spots). Oh, well. I don’t have to like the guy. Hopefully, I’m wrong and he’ll be a success if he comes to town.

Fight the Power

When Vic Power went into a restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas in the early 1950s, a waitress promptly told him, “We don’t serve Negroes.”

“That’s okay,” Power answered, “I don’t eat Negroes. I want rice and beans.”

On this date in 1952, Jackie Robinson appeared on the TV program “Youth Wants to Know” and was asked if the New York Yankees were bigoted toward black ballplayers. According to Jules Tygiel’s seminal book “Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy,” Robinson replied, “I think the Yankee management is prejudiced. There isn’t a single Negro on the team now and very few in the entire Yankee farm system.” The two most notable black prospects in the organization were Vic Pellot Power and Elston Howard. Power, who passed away yesterday after a lengthy battle with cancer, remembered years later, “I think they were waiting for my skin to turn white.”

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Fool’s Gold

As the Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez-to-center field story gained steam yesterday, it was refuted by both Brian Cashman and Joe Torre. That didn’t stop Steven Goldman, Mike Lupica, and Murray Chass from weighing in on the matter though. Even if the story is just that, a story, it managed to capture the back page of both the Daily News and Newsday on a day when Billy Wagner and the Mets were celebrating their new union.

In other news, the team is reportedly interested in signing relievers Flash Gordon, Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Myers. They also came to a one-year deal worth $650,000 with Kelly Stinnett to replace John Flaherty as Jorge Posada’s back-up.

Short Change?

There are some Met fans who’ve loved to chide the Yankees as the best team money can buy over the years. Welp, that diss goes out the window now that Omar Minaya and the Mets are doing their best impression of the big, bad Bombers. (I’m actually excited for the Shea faithful and hope their team wins the NL East next year.) Meanwhile, the Yankees are reportedly interested in Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Myers for their bullpen, while the Phillies are hot after Flash Gordon. Johnny Damon is still (fortunately) a pipe dream to play center field in New York next year, and many inside the Yankee organization feel that Brian Giles will likely remain on the west coast (or land in Toronto perhaps).

So how about this for a development? Joe Torre told Reuters yesterday that the team has been thinking about the possibility of moving either Derk Jeter or Alex Rodriguez to center:

“We’ve thought about it,” Torre told the international wire service. “We just haven’t made a commitment to that. We haven’t broached it with the shortstops.”

…”That’s happened before, hasn’t it?” Torre told Reuters. “Bobby Murcer, Mickey Mantle. Hank Aaron came up as a second baseman. Robin Yount went to center field. It certainly is a consideration.”

As Sam Borden notes in the Daily News:

Speculation about Jeter making a move to the outfield isn’t new and, if one of the players were to move he’d be the more likely candidate. Even before A-Rod arrived in New York there had always been a small segment of the Yankee population proposing that the captain’s ability to read the ball off the bat and his uncanny ability to go back and catch fly balls over his shoulder made him a natural candidate to finish his career as an outfielder.

Typically, however, that sentiment has been dismissed as totally far-fetched.

…”Jeter would do anything, and so would A-Rod for that matter, to help this ball club win,” Torre told Reuters.

Count me as one of the small segment of Yankee fans who’ve believed that Jeter would make a decent center fielder. Yeah, Robin Yount was always the comp that came to mind too. But while I still believe that Jeter would be a better gamble in center than Rodriguez, Yount was 29 when he made the transition back in 1985, whereas Jeter turns 32 next May (Murcer, Mantle and Aaron were all far younger than that when they moved). Those couple of years could make a big difference in how effective Jeter could be. I would be surprised if the Yankees actually went ahead with such a radical experiment, still, it’s interesting that Torre even mentioned it. What if Jeter moved to center, Rodriguez went back to short and the Bombers inked Nomar to play third?

Calm Before the Storm

With the winter meetings drawing near, Ken Rosenthal has been extra busy these days. In his latest column, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers are very interested in Brian Giles. Considering Giles’ reported desire to remain on the west coast, it isn’t crazy to think that the Dodgers are the favorites now. Meanwhile, the Phillies are suddenly making a strong push for Flash Gordon. With B.J. Ryan off the market, and Billy Wagner likely to remain in the National League, the selection of established quality relievers are dwindling quickly. Regardless, they all seem in line to make a pretty penny before reporting to camp. According to Anthony McCarron in the Daily News:

As one agent who represents a free agent reliever this winter put it: “Were we happy about the Ryan contract? Oh, yes.”

So, what are the Yankees going to do?

Pass

Rich Lederer thinks that the Padres are making a huge error letting Brian Giles get away:

I’ll take an All-Star and a replacement player over two middle-of-the-road types. In other words, I would have no problem paying a “difference maker” $10 million per season even if it limited me to giving another guy the minimum ($316,000 in 2005). I believe using one’s resources in this manner will generally beat the alternative of paying two average players $5 million each, especially when it involves free agents.

Let me be a bit more specific. I think the San Diego Padres are making a big mistake not signing free agent outfielder Brian Giles. The team had reportedly offered him a three-year deal worth $25.5 million earlier this month, then rejected a proposal from his agent for three years at an estimated $30 million.

…Aware that Giles’ power totals have receded the past few years, we also drilled down and noticed that his road stats ranked 7th in AVG (.333), 1st in OBP (.463), and 20th in SLG (.545), “while placing 6th in OPS behind only Derrek Lee, Jason Bay, Travis Hafner, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera. Put another way, Brian outproduced Carlos Delgado, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, and Manny Ramirez on the road.” I forgot to mention last time around that these six players are averaging about $15M per year and $12M even if you exclude A-Rod. This information seems appropro now.

Some think that Giles will eventually wind up in St. Louis. I still hope the Bombers nab him. I think he’d be a fine Yankee.

Sit and Wait

While Bill Madden explores why New York may be losing its appeal for free agents around the league, the Yankees still find themselves in the race to land Brian Giles:

Giles’ agent, Joe Bick, said yesterday he had told the Padres that Giles would be “moving on” after San Diego rejected a recent contract counter-proposal. Asked if the Padres no longer were an avenue for Giles, Bick said, “Correct.”

…It’s unclear what this means for the Yankees. Several team executives felt that Giles hadn’t shown enough interest in New York, though they had let it be known Giles could have a contract with the parameters of three years, $30 million-$33 million. The Padres reportedly offered Giles $25.5 million before Bick’s counter-offer.

Bick said he was convinced the Yankees still were interested. “I have no reason to believe otherwise,” Bick said. “Brian (Cashman, the Yanks’ GM) has been forthright about exploring other possibilities and I would expect him to do that.”
(N.Y. Daily News)

Meanwhile, according to News reporter Anthony McCarron:

The Yankees have been getting calls from opposing teams wanting to trade for Carl Pavano, who endured a forgettable 2005 season marred by ineffectiveness and injury. But even in a winter in which they perhaps have been hamstrung by a lack of attractive trading chips and a reluctance to deal young players such as Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees say they are not shopping Pavano.

“We think he’ll help stabilize our staff instead of taking away from it,” GM Brian Cashman said. “Everybody’s available for the right price and if there were something we thought made sense, we’d listen. But we look at Carl as a guy who will be a big contributor. That’s why people are asking about him.

Lastly, Ben Shipgel takes a look at the market for relief pitchers, while Ken Rosenthal blasts Toronto for the enormous contract they just gave to B.J. Ryan:

Several major-league executives were in disbelief when they heard the reported terms. Their shock will turn to anger if the deal is completed and they are forced to bid for free agents in a grossly inflated market. Major League Baseball officials would be equally outraged, knowing their pleas for fiscal responsibility are again being ignored.

“It’s so shocking, it’s almost laughable,” one executive said of the Ryan deal.

…Three years, $27 million would be a more sensible price for Ryan, and frankly, even that sounds high — all but the best relievers fluctuate in performance from year-to-year. Then again, Ryan wouldn’t be the last free agent who gets ridiculously overpaid this off-season. The industry is awash in revenue, and the owners are following their historical pattern, spending as mindlessly as Paris Hilton and making players wealthy enough to date her.

It’s a good season to be a relief pitcher. Sounds like everyone is going to get paaaaaaid.

The Fool on the Hill

I remember playing stickball out in Brooklyn four or five summers back. On one particular afternoon I was pitching and getting pounded. I wasn’t fooling the batters with anything. If I tried to be cute, I wasn’t coming anywhere near the box on the wall. When I tried my best David Wells and simply put the ball over the plate, they murdered me.

So there I was, getting pounded, aiming the ball, with no confidence that I could throw strikes or record an out. Now, this was a friendly game of stickball, played with a group of semi-competent/semi-serious jocks. At one point, when I looked exasperated, my brother, who was on my team that day, walked over to me. I took off my cap and mopped my brow with the top of the hat and exhaled. Man, was it hot. I was red-faced and sweating and feeling all alone. And guilty. Here I am costing my team runs and my two fielders are standing around with their hands in their pants waiting for you to stop stinkin up the jernt.

“You okay?” He asked and touched my arm. He knew I was starting to implode and also knew there was nothing he could do to make it any better. But he’d been in the same spot before, just as I had been in the position of ptiching well, retiring hitters with relative ease. “Hey, this is supposed to be fun, remember?”

Oh yeah, funny how it’s hard to lose sight of that when you can’t throw a strike and everything else you toss up there is getting whacked around the vicinity. Mind you, this was just a knock around game of stickball played by some baseball nerds in Brooklyn on a Saturday morning.

But at the very least, it was a simulation of the same situations pitchers encounter all the time. This came to mind this evening when I stumbled across “Pitchers Do Get Lonely,” a column that Ira Berkow published in the New York Times back on July 22, 1987. The lead went as follows:

With the Yankees losing 18-3, in the bottom of the eighth in Texas–even after a few days, the score still reads like a typographical error—Lou Piniella did the unusual, though not the unreasonable. Rather than waste one of his regular relief pitchers in that forlorn enterprise, he saved his sirloin and served the Rangers chopped liver.

The chopped liver was Rick Cerone, normally a catcher.

Cerone was fetched because he sometimes throws batting practice, and gets the ball over the plate. Cerone admitted later that he was excited about pitching in a game. “It’s something you always dream about,” he said.

He arrived with the bases loaded and none out and, though he balked once and allowed two runners to score, he retired the Rangers on three straight batters, which included a near-grand slam by Ruben Sierra and a near-home run by Bobby Witt.

How did he feel on the mound?

“Scary,” said Cerone. “It’s lonely out there.”

Amen to that, dude. It sure can be.

No Relief

How do you spell Relief?

Mike Piazza’s old spring training Tango partner Guillermo Mota, a talented right-handed set-up reliever who had a down year in 2005 after two fine seasons in 03-04, was included in the Josh Beckett trade at the last moment. According to The Boston Globe:

The Sox, according to a major league source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, threatened to call off the deal because of health concerns over Beckett unless the Marlins included Mota. And so, on the busiest shopping day of the year, the Sox can sit back today pleased with not only a full cart of goods but what appears to be at bargain prices.

In adding the 32-year-old Mota to the deal, the Sox had to sweeten the deal only with Harvey Garcia, a 21-year-old righthander who in 32 games with Single A Greenville last season went 3-5 with a 2.01 ERA in 44 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Daily News reports that B.J. Ryan, the hard throwing southpaw coveted by the Yankees and a host of other teams around the league, is close to signing a five-year, $47 million deal to become the closer of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays are also rumored to be hot after starting pitcher A.J. Burnett, and may even trade their erstwhile closer Miguel Batista to the Rangers for Kevin Mench, the only outfielder in the majors with a larger noggin than Godzilla Matui.

Beckett, Mota, Ryan–who’d be moving from Baltimore to Toronto, the chance of Burnett joining him: the AL East is adding some arms. With Billy Wagner set to to ink a big deal either with the Mets or back in Philly, Trevor Hoffman remains as the best high-profile reliver left on the market. I doubt that there is any chance that he’d want to become an eighth inning guy at this stage in his career, what with so many saves already to his name, but he’d be a swell cherce to set-up Rivera. Again, I don’t think Hoffman’s ego could handle it (understandably so too), but with Ryan gone, it’s a nice little fantasy.

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Serve You Up (Like Stove Top Stuffin’)

Carlos Delgado, who I’ve always found to be one of the more likable players in the game (he sure has a million-dollar smile), is headed for Flushing, and last night the Phillies sent Jim Thome to the White Sox in exchange for Aaron Rowand and other things. The Yankees had been interested in Chicago’s center fielder, and according to Newsday and the Daily News, may now try and work a deal out with the Phillies for their 29-year old part-time center fielder, Jason Michaels.

Brian Giles remains a possibility as well. It appears that he will not be able to work something out with the Padres after all. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

The likelihood of Brian Giles returning to the Padres next season took a severe hit yesterday when the club rejected a three-year proposal that the right fielder’s agent said was “significantly less” than what Giles can get elsewhere.

“We’re going to go forward with the assumption that the Padres and Brian are not able to make a deal,” agent Joe Bick said. “We’ve been holding off moving in a different direction in hopes of getting something done with the Padres, but there’s no reason to believe that’s going to happen.”

…”We felt that if we had made this sort of financial commitment to Giles, it would really not allow us to do much else,” [GM, Kevin] Towers said. “We have several areas we need to address. I understand their position, but I do not see us ever meeting that offer. We don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket.

“I don’t want to say Giles is a goner. Right now, we’re going to look at other places. I’m sure they will as well. But at the dollars right now, I don’t see us going there.”

The Yankees, Cardinals and Cubs are just three teams that are likely to go there.

Regardless, or irregardless as they sometimes like to say in the Bronx, best wishes to all for a safe, satiating and soporific Holidaze afternoon.

Gorilla My Dreamz

With the Red Sox and Mets grabbing the local headlines this week, and the Yankees chillin on the back burner, I’ve been thinking about books devoted to the Bronx Zoo Era for the past two days. One of the better, yet lesser known ones is, “Pinstripe Pandemonium” a slim record of the 1983 season written by Village Voice reporter Geoffrey Stokes. That season had plenty of infamous Yankee turmoil, but Stokes’ book stands out for it’s thoughtful passages on Don Baylor, Steve Kemp, and Goose Gossage. Here is the Goose talking about the nature of his job:

“Sometimes, after a bad loss, I’m amazed that I can go out there the next day and do anything at all. But fortunately,” he grinened, “there’s this gorilla in me that just takes over.

“Of course,” he added, returning to the subject of rhythm, “when it does, somebody’s gotta keep it on a leash. I don’t care how fast you throw; if you throw nothing but fastballs, there are hitters in this league that are gonna catch up to you. Somone’s gotta slow me down.

“But that’s hard for a cather to do. If I’m gonna get beat, I want to get beat on my best pitch, not on some off-speed thing that’s just supposed to set the fastball up. But what happens is, I get out there, and I throw a ball at ninety-five miles an hour easy, so I just gather up my strength and try humming the sombitch at a hundred. I’m out there, and I feel that with just a little more effort, I could throw the sucker right through the catcher–and maybe halfway through the umpire, too.

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Shut Out

”Everybody in the game would love to have him,” said a major league executive, who added that most teams stayed away from Beckett because they were unwilling to take on Lowell’s salary. “He’s got a plus fastball, a plus breaking ball, and a plus changeup, and he comes right at you. He’s a horse.”

…”I’ll bet you that Lowell has a hell of a year,” said a major league scout who has tracked both Lowell and Beckett since they broke into the big leagues. ”He got down on himself last year, but he’s a great young man. In that park, he’s going to hit a lot of balls off that Wall and over that Wall.”
(Boston Globe)

As the Yankees find themselves coming up short in the free agent market, the Mets rolled out the red carpet for Billy Wagner yesterday and the Red Sox and Marlins were on the verge of closing a deal that would send erstwhile Yankee Mike Lowell, and power-pitcher Josh Beckett to Boston for three minor league players, including Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. Lowell makes a lot of money and had a terrible season last year, but he’s also solid defender and maybe, just maybe, he will rebound hitting at Fenway Park. I’ve always been fond of the guy because of his Yankee roots and his steady demeanor. I saw him walk into Shea Stadium a few years ago, and in person, he’s got the George Clooney vibe down pat.

Beckett still has two years before he becomes a free agent and is nothing short of a stud. He has shown flashes of greatness–as we Yankee fans remember all too well–but seven trips to the DL in the past four years has prevented him from staying on the field never mind becoming an elite pitcher. The potential is clearly there: I can easily see Beckett emerge as one the American League’s best starters. His health has to be a concern, but he’s not making an obscene amount of money and when he’s right, Beckett will be handful for the rest of the league to deal with.

David Pinto opines:

So Boston has a new ace. I also take it that Bill Mueller is out of the picture. At this point I’d much rather have Mueller than Lowell. Mike’s career took a big plunge in 2005, and I don’t believe it’s a fluke. Lowell came into 2005 a .277 career hitter. Given his 500 at bats, the 95% confidence interval for Mike’s expected hits was 119 to 158. Mike banged out just 118 hits in 2005. Rather than just being bad luck, it looks like Lowell decline was real.

…Long term, this is a good deal for the Marlins. Beckett helps the Red Sox for the next few years (barring injury), but I’m afraid Lowell is going to prove to be useless. The Red Sox seem to be taking the path of winning now rather than rebuilding from within. Maybe that was the heart of the difference between Theo and Lucchino.

Rich Lederer adds:

I asked Jim Callis of Baseball America last night for his perspective on the trade. Jim follows the Red Sox closely and is an expert when it comes to evaluating young players. “Ramirez and Sanchez are two of Boston’s four best prospects, along with Jon Papelbon and Jon Lester. There probably wasn’t another team out there willing to give up a shortstop prospect and a starting pitching prospect combo as good as Ramirez and Sanchez.”

…Despite parting with two of its best prospects, Jim thinks the trade is a good one for Boston. He has heard that Jesus Delgado might be the third minor leaguer in the deal. “Delgado is an interesting guy. He had Tommy John surgery and missed 2002-03. Works at 95 and hit 97-98 last year out of the ‘pen in low-A. Good curve at times, not much of a changeup yet. Promising arm but far away. Not a bad third player if he’s the guy.”

…I believe more teams should be making these types of trades. Every team can’t make a legitimate run at the World Series. Some need to retool for the future. If nothing else, transactions like this allow for lots of discussion and analysis. As for me, I think the Red Sox-Marlins trade can be summarized as follows: a Beckett and Lowell in hand beats three players in the bushes.

It is cold and rainy in New York, but there’s a blister in the sun up in Boston. It’s been a strange off-season thus far for Red Sox fans, but perhaps this will give them something to be thankful for come Turkey Day.

Relief?

According to the Associated Press, right-handed relief pitcher Jose Veras says that he has signed a one-year deal with the Yankees.

Steve Lombardi takes a closer look at the bullpen over at Was Watching.

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Those Were the Days…

Hardly a peep about the Yanks to start the holiday week. The Mets are busy entertaining Billy Wagner and it appears that the Marlins are set to have another tag sale, but all is quiet in the Bronx. So I thought this might be a good opportunity to dig in the archives and pull out something in honor of giving thanks. Thanks for the relative sanity the organization has presented to the fans over the past decade, and thanks for the memories for the wild old days.

The Bronx Zoo Yankees would make for a great movie. It may be redundant to make a fictionalize version of a team that was so theatrical in it’s own right, but that’s okay. If they can make full-length features out of Scooby Doo and Fat Albert, they can make one on the 70′s Yankees too.

I doubt it would ever happen in George’s lifetime, but it’s a cinch for a comedy classic. Too bad that 70′s Retro is now passe. I picture the Bronx Zoo movie to be a cross between “Slap Shot” and “Boogie Nights”; “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Turning Point”; “The Bad News Bears” and “The Poseidan Adventure.” And maybe a dash of “Car Wash” to top it off. It would definitely have to have a “R” rating.

The costumes and soundtrack alone would be worth the price of admission. Get a group of terrific spaz method actors, and you’re set.

Ed Linn’s book “Steinbrenner’s Yankees” details the Billy, George, Reggie years expertly, and provides excellent fodder for a script. Bill Madden and Moss Klein’s “Damned Yankees” is also essential Bronx Zoo reading. (Both books can be had for peanuts on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles used section on-line.)

Here is an example that caught my funny bone: It is spring training, 1977. Reggie Jackson had just brought his star with him to Yankee camp after the Big Red Machine swept the Yankees the year before. Already, the camp was fraught with tension. But Reggie doesn’t appear in this scene…

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Plenty of Nuthin’

Not a lot of encouraging signs for the Yankees and the free agent market over the past few days. The search for bullpen help is looking kinda grim at this point. Reports from Newsday and The Daily News suggest that the team is not close to any kind of deal with Brian Giles. Joe Torre, whose recruitment call to reliever Scott Eyre did not convince the southpaw to come to the Bronx, has reportedly been playing phone tag with Giles. While some feel that Giles–likely a one-year, part-time stop-gap at center–isn’t suited to the position, others suggest there is no way he’ll come to New York either.

Fortunately, the Bombers don’t appear to have any interest in trading for Florida’s Juan Pierre, but they have poked around about free agent Johnny Damon, who is bound to earn a pretty penny from someone by the time training camp opens.

The other news that made the rumor mill a few days back was that Carl Pavano was unhappy in pinstripes last year and wants to be dealt. The Tigers is the name that has popped up as a possible suitor. There’s been nothing from Pavano directly, and I have to say, I’ve got precious little sympathy for the man. I understand that New York and Boston aren’t suited for everyone–fair enough. But don’t take a boatload of dough and then start riffing. Hey Stoonatz, what did you think it was going to be like in the Bronx? What, were you born yesterday, you incredible putz you?

Say Hey!

Jane Leavy, who wrote the acclaimed Sandy Koufax biography, is currently researching her next project, a biography of Mickey Mantle. Originally, her latest book was going to be about Willie-Mickey-and the Duke, but, due to several factors–including the fact that for all of the ink spilled on Mantle there hasn’t ever really been a great book about him–it is now a Mickey book. That doesn’t mean that Mays and Snider won’t still figure prominently in the narrative though. Currently, Leavy is interested in hearing from anyone with any recollections or memories of all three players. In particular, she’d love to find someone who saw Mays play stickball in the streets of Harlem, and anyone who was a Willie-guy and would make the case that he he was the best of the three.

As far as Mantle goes, Leavy wrote me in a recent e-mail:

“These are the dates of major interest in Mantle’s career that I will focus on. I would want to speak to anyone who attended any of the following games or who has a particular memory associated with these events. I am also looking for anyone who saw him at The Claridge Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Needless-to-say any fabulous Mantle anecdotes are welcome. I set up a new e-mail address where I can be contacted. It is: BaseballJaneDC@aol.com.”

March 26, 1951—spring training game at Bovard Field at USC
April 17, 1951—major league debut
May 1, 1951—first major league home run
October 5, 1951—Injures knee in Game two of the 1951 World Series
October 6, 1951—Hospitalized at Lennox Hill in NYC
October 2, 1952—appears on “I’ve Got A Secret”
April 17,1953—first “tape measure home run” at Griffith Stadium in DC
May 17, 1953—appears on “What’s My Line
May 13, 1955—hits three home runs
June 5, 1955—Comisky Park home run off Billy Pierce
May 30, 1956—hits ball off Yankee Stadium facade off Pedro Ramos
Sept. 30, 1956—beats Ted Williams for batting title to win Triple Crown
October 8, 1956—catch preserves Larsen’s perfect World Series game
December 28, 1956—appears on “The Bob Hope Show”
May 16, 1957—The Copacabana brawl
Sept. 10, 1960—Tiger Stadium home run off Paul Foytack
Sept. 29, 1961—admitted to hospital with hip infection
October 8, 1961—plays game four of the World Series with blood seeping through his uniform.
May18, 1962-collapses in the first baseline trying to beat out a grounder to short in the bottom of the ninth.
May 22, 1963—hits ball off Yankee Stadium facade off Bill Fischer
Sept. 1, 1963—Hang-over home run in Baltimore
October 15, 1964—hits his 17th World Series home run off Barney Schultz in the ninth inning of game three of 1964 World Series.
Sept. 18, 1965—Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium
Sept. 20, 1968—last home run
Sept. 28, 1968—last at bat
March 1, 1969—Announces his retirement
June 8, 1969-Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium.
April 9, 1970—appears on Dick Cavett show
May 12, 1970—appears on Mike Douglass show
May 5, 1971—appears on Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
August 10, 1974—inducted into Hall of Fame
June 15, 1977—appears on Dinah Shore talk show
February 2, 1983—Banished from baseball because of his affiliation with The Claridge Hotel and Casino.
April-May, 1983—appears on CBS Sunday Morning
August 20, 1985—appears on Late Night with David Letterman
October 20, 1988—interview with Bob Costas
December 29, 1989—Billy Martin funeral
October 21, 1991—interview with Bob Costas
January 7, 1994—Enters the Betty Ford Clinic
March 12, 1994—Billy Mantle dies at age 36
June 8, 1995—Receives a liver transplant
July 28, 1995—Last press conference
August 13, 1995—Dies at age 63
December 20, 2000—Mickey Mantle Jr. dies at age 47

If you know of anyone who may be able to help out, please pass this along. I know Leavy sure would appreciate it.

What to Do?

General Manager Brian Cashman met with the Yankee brass down in Tampa yesterday to discuss the team’s course of action this winter. While they are hot on Brian Giles, reports have it that BJ Ryan is not likely to come to the Bronx as a set up man. Scott Eyre signed with the Cubs yesterday. Tom Gordon wants to close. Do all signs point to knucklehead Kyle Farnsworth? Oy.

Vitamins L-O-V-and E

I’ve got a guest article over at Rich Lederer’s Baseball Analysts site today. It is a piece about women and baseball and well as a tribute to a great friend of mine. The post is one that is close to my heart and if you have the time, head on over and check it out. Thanks.

Mr. Torre is on the Line

Whether or not it is a long shot, the Yankees appear to be serious about the possibility of bringing Brian Giles to the Bronx. Brian Cashman has spoken with Giles’ agent six times in the past ten days, and Joe Torre has even picked up the phone, as he did with Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi in the past, to brief Giles on what it is like to play in New York. According to The Daily News:

“In those situations, I just want to talk to (players) about what it’s like to come to New York,” Torre said, speaking generally about his approach to these types of conversations. “It’s not that complex. I remember when I did it with (Mike) Mussina, who people said he wouldn’t want to come here. I just want to give them an idea of what’s true about playing here and what’s not.”

Meanwhile, Michael Morrisey reports in the Post that Cashman spoke with Bernie Williams’ agent, Scott Boras briefly on Tuesday:

“I told him, it’s for another day,” Cashman said. “In the event there’s a role here for Bernie, it would be a secondary role, not an everyday situation.

“And how we approach that every winter is that doesn’t get pushed up front. We deal with that after we tackle the other areas: our bullpen, if we can upgrade center field.

“That’s all I can say. We haven’t had any negotiations with Bernie at this point.”

I like Bernie so much that I would be happy to see him return in Ruben Sierra’s role. But as several fans have pointed out recently, Williams on the bench makes them nervous, mostly because they feel that Torre–who loves his veterans–would wind up giving Williams far more burn than he deserves.

Lastly, Matt Smith, a left-handed pitcher in the Yankee system has been discussed as a possible addition to the major league bullpen next season.

The Gang’s All Here

On a hot August evening last summer I met a guy named Bill Kent on my way home. We got to talking and as it turns out, he is a great New York Giants fan. He told me that he gets together with a group of old Giants fans several times a year and invited me to come along to one of the gatherings. I missed the shindig in September but last night, I headed up to the Hunan Balcony on Johnson avenue in Riverdale–just a few blocks away from my apartment–for Chinese and baseball with a dozen or so other fans.

I used to swear by the old Groucho Marx line (filtered through Woody Allen) about not wanting to belong to any kind of club that would have someone like me for a member, but am happy to say, I’m way past that now. I am honored to hang around or be associated with a group of baseball nerds, regardless of their age. There was a reporter there from The Riverdale Press who is a few years younger than me, and we were by the far the youngest of the group. Most of the guys were Giants fans, but there was also a Dodger fan, and a guy who was simply a baseball fan too. Some kept up with the Giants once they moved to the west coast, while others gravitated to the Mets, and even more, to the Yankees.

They were great company. I peppered them with questions about Leo the Lip, Bill Rigney, Alvin Dark, and the Polo Grounds shuttle, a train that ran from Manhattan over the east river and into the Bronx. As we were breaking up for the night, Steve, who I had not gotten the chance to really chat with because of where we had been sitting, asked if I had gotten a satisfactory answer to my subway question. I told him that I hadn’t, and being a subway buff, he gave me the skinny. As it turns out, the 9th avenue El, which was discontinued in 1939, went up the west side of Manhattan and then curved over into the bronx, over a bridge that is no longer there, and connected with the Woodlawn line (or the Lexington avenue line, the 4 train, as it is more commonly known). Well, when they took down the line, they kept the last portion of it, primarily as a way to get from the Bronx to the Polo Grounds.

The baseball talk was terrific. Bill, holding court, made some announcements about a mailing list and getting a Giants newsletter, and then had some random interjections like, “They’ve got brown rice if anyone wants.” There were stories about Yankee third baseman named Celerino Sanchez, as well as the slow-footed catcher Ernie Lombardi, who evidentally was even slower than the Molina brothers are today. Bill told us of the time that he and a kid from his neighborhood, a wiseass named Lenny, heckled Lomardi from the bleachers at the Polo Grounds before the game. He was busting on Lombardi for being so slow and Lombardi went after little Lenny with the high-pitched voice and according to Bill, chased him the length of the field. Bill said he spoke to Lenny not so long ago, and Lenny was still sore about Lombardi going after him.

The guys had terrific faces–one looked like he could be related to Yogi Berra, another like he could be Whitey Ford’s cousin. One guy looked like Ron Silver, another like basketball broadcaster Bill Raftery, another like a cross between Edmund Wilson and Gordon Jump. One fella brought posters to show us, and another is writing a book about Bill Terry. And even better than their mugs was their accents–bonafide New Yorkese, man. It was like listening to music–everyone gabbing over each other. Really, I was in heaven. I mean, how great is it to learn about a guy with a name like Celerino Sanchez eating chicken with Broccoli with a group of baseball guys in the Bronx? Riddle me that.

Oh, and when the fortune cookies and orange slices came, everyone grabbed for the cookies but nobody read their fortunes aloud. Know what mine said? “Love.” I’ve never had a one word fortune before, but that one just about said it all.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver