"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: May 2009

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How Humiliatin’

I never did like Carl Pavano much when he was in pinstripes but I didn’t necessarily enjoy ragging on him. It became inevitable at a certain point–he didn’t leave us any cherce but to bust on him–but it wasn’t something I relished. 

 popeye-doyle2

Now, I really don’t like the dude. With his fat arse and crooked nostrils and current success on the mound.  Whadda Bum.

On Sunday afternoon, Pavano pitched well against the Yankees for the second time this year. He was even better today than he was at Yankee Stadium in April, throwing slop effectively, mixing speeds, getting ahead, and keeping his pitch count low. A steady wind blocked fly balls from sailing into the seats and Pavano got by on a steady diet of fly ball outs. 

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Flip ‘Em like Stacks of Flap Jacks

pancakes

Carl Pavano goes for the Indians today against Phil Hughes. As you may know, Pavano has pitched well of late. This is not an amusing development for Yankee fans–it’s revolting, actually. I hope the bats keep it up this afternoon and put a whuppin’ on Mr. Pavano. It would also be nice to see Mr. Hughes throw another good game, wouldn’t it?

Happy Sunday and Let’s Go Yan-Kees.

We’re Only Buggin’

birds

There have been some strange imagery in Cleveland the past two nights as bugs and boids have swarmed the field. The little bugs floated through the air for the entire game on Saturday. From the center field camera it looked as if both teams were playing inside a bottle of club soda. Seagulls swooped and soared in the outfield and into the stands.  

Fausto Carmona didn’t have much and the Yanks made quick work of him.  Solo homers by Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher put New York on the board in the second, and they added five more in the fourth, thanks in part to a couple of errors by the Indians. Derek Jeter, who had the big hit in that inning, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano each collected two hits; Hideki Matsui had three. 

CC Sabathia was strong early on, not as much after getting the lead, but he muscled his way through seven, allowing three runs. CC is pitching well, now (5-3, 3.46 ERA). And that’s a beautiful thing.

David Robertson looked good and threw a scoreless eighth, while Jose Veras, Felix Heredia’s heir apparent as the run fairy, gave up a couple in the ninth.

Final Score: Yanks 10, Indians 5.

Coupled with a Red Sox loss, the Yanks are now 1.5 games ahead of both Boston and Toronto.

Your Dreams Were Your Ticket Out

jimmy-smith

While most of Cleveland will be paying attention to Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals tonight, CC Sabathia returns home to face the Tribe. I’d love to see Lebron James and the Cavs force a Game 7 but the smart money has the Magic winning this one going away. Still, one can always dream, right?

In the meantime, Sabathia has been pitching well of late. Let’s hope he throws another good game and gets plenty of support from the Bronx Lumber Company.

C’mon boys, make it a Saturday Night to savor.

I see Sunshine, I want to Play

roller

Game ain’t ’til tonight, so get out there and enjoy the day.

Bow Down to a Player that’s Greater than You

Don’t have to like him, but the man is a great player.  The Nuggets brought out the best in Lakers who polished Denver off in Game 6 last night.

kobe

Kobe’s line? 35 points on 12-20 shooting (9-9 from the line), 6 boards and 10 assists.

Wahoo

The Yankees left the bases loaded in the first inning of tonight’s game against the Indians – Posada, finally back, struck out – but it didn’t turn into One of Those Games. Although Pettitte left in the sixth with the vague yet ominous-sounding “back stiffness,” both he and the Yanks’ heart attack of a bullpen were solid, and New York won 3-1.

The Yankees took the lead in the second when Derek Jeter singled in Nick Swisher, and Mark Texeira’s bases-loaded groundout knocked in Brett Gardner. One inning later, Swisher hit a sac fly, Cano scored, and the Yankees had their three runs, which was enough. Cliff Lee looked pretty good tonight, but not 2008 good. Meanwhile Pettitte pitched well up ’til his untimely departure, and Aceves and Rivera took things from there. Nice clean win, even though the dreaded midges showed up for a while in the early going (shudder). And with all due respect to Francisco Cervelli it was great to see Jorge back, especially since he went 2 for 3 with a walk and a double.

The Red Sox lost to Toronto tonight, which means the Yankees are alone in first place for the first time since… wow, 2006? We were all so young then.

-

I don’t know a lot about Cleveland, really… never been there, don’t know anyone from there. When I think “Cleveland”, I think:

-Swarms of gnats
-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
-LeBron James
-Drew Carey

That’s about it, really, plus “Look Out Cleveland,” by The Band, which is an excellent song. But I actually picked the Indians to win their division, and I’ve always kind of liked them (awful racist logo aside), and so I’m rooting for them to play better. As soon as the Yankees leave town.

Finally, in other good news, the Mets have acquired RHP Lance Broadway. Not that I know a damn thing about Lance Broadway — and a quick glance at his stats has not exactly left my jaw on the floor — but, needless to say, that man was born to pitch in New York City. You don’t mess with destiny.

Cleveland Indians II: Baby Boogaloo

The Indians helped open the new Yankee Stadium last month, and while their 22-run outburst in the third game of that inaugural series (most of the runs coming off Chien-Ming Wang and Anthony Claggett) is what sticks in the mind, they only managed a split of the series. In fact, the Indians had not won more than two games in a row prior to their just-completed four-game sweep of the Rays in Cleveland. When the week started, they were 17-28 and 8.5 games out of first place in the American League Central.

Things just aren’t going well for the Tribe. Travis Hafner is back on the disabled list. Grady Sizemore his hitting just .223/.313/.411 and is now DHing due to a sore right elbow that could soon land him on the DL. Since leaving the Bronx, they’ve turned over more than half of their bullpen, restocking with veteran retreads including Matt Herges, Tomo Ohka, and former Yankee Luis Vizcaino, and two fifths of their starting rotation has landed on the DL, with Anthony Reyes possibly out for the year.

Still, that sweep of the Rays was encouraging, and despite the injuries to Hafner and Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta’s power outage (.342 slugging, one homer), they’re third in the AL in runs scored per game. That’s due in large part to a tremendous comeback season from Victor Martinez (.359/.434/.557), a nice rebound by Asdrubal Cabrera (.321/.385/.439, seven steals in eight attempts), and a strong showing from right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (.289/.408/.457). They’re also benefiting from the fact that their non-stars (including Cabrera) are performing at or around league average, preventing any drains on the lineup beyond those being created by Sizemore, Hafner, and Peralta, the last of whom is at least getting on base more than a third of the time.

Their real problem has been pitching. Their starting rotation has a 5.70 ERA, better than only the Phillies’ among the thirty major league teams. Their bullpen as been a bit better, but still ranks ahead of the relief units of just four American League teams. Amazingly, Carl Pavano, who will face Phil Hughes on Sunday, is one of the three Cleveland starters who hasn’t hit the disabled list. After a rough start, Pavano has pitched well over his last six starts (5-1, 3.58 ERA), and Cliff Lee, who faces Andy Pettitte tonight, is leading the staff with a 3.04 ERA, but Fausto Carmona, who faces CC Sabathia tomorrow, is pitching like 2008 all over again (6.42 ERA, more walks than strikeouts), and the back-end of the rotation is halfway between a mystery and a horrorshow. Meanwhile, Kerry Wood is closing like Joe Borowski, converting eight of ten save opportunities, but with a scary 6.35 ERA, and the team’s sub-par defense isn’t helping matters.

Getting back to tonight’s starters. Lee is also pitching like it’s 2008, posting a 1.86 ERA with a 4.33 K/BB ratio over his last eight starts. However, he’s not getting any run support. The Indians have scored zero or one runs in five of his ten starts, are averaging 2.87 runs per game for him, and have gone just 2-8 in his starts, though one of those wins came at Yankee Stadium in the only game this season in which Lee has received more than five runs of support. The Yankees, meanwhile, are 7-2 in Andy Pettitte’s stars despite his comparitively inflated 4.30 ERA. Over his last five starts, Pettitte has compiled a 5.46 ERA, but the Yanks and their AL-leading offense have still gone 4-1 in those games and scored six runs in the one they lost.

Meanwhile, Jorge Posada’s back, catching, and batting sixth, making the league’s best offense that much better. Kevin Cash is in Scranton. Brett Gardner is in center for the still achy Melky Cabrera, and the bottom third of the order is now Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, and Gardner. Not bad at all.

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Because I’m Hot like Sauce

sauce

I was poking around the cookbook section at the bookstore a few days ago and thought it’d be fun to come up with a list of essential cookbooks (Joy of Cooking, Jacques Pepin’scomplete techniques book, Marcella Hazan, etc). On that note, it might also be cool to compose a list of essential food items that I’ve always got in my pantry: Maldon salt, a good bottle (or three) of olive oil, HP sauce (or Daddy’s if I can find it), fresh horseradish from the L.E.S., a container of cornichons…I have to think of it some more.

One item that is a sure shot member of the list is a bottle of Sriracha Chili Sauce. Last week, there was an article in the Times about this staple Chili Sauce. Check it out.

corny

Baby!

This one is for Amelia:

News of the Day – 5/29/09

Today’s news is powered by . . . Cliff’s new bundle of joy!  Off we go!

Jorge Posada is on his way back to the Yankees lineup, playing six innings in an extended spring game on Thursday and then flying to meet the team.

Posada has been sidelined since suffering a strained right hamstring on May 4 in New York. The Yankees have an off-day on Thursday and will open a four-game series at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Friday.

“The hamstring is feeling good,” Posada told The Associated Press in Dunedin, Fla. “I’m happy with everything. The most important thing was just running, seeing some pitches and getting the timing down.”. . .

Additionally, outfielder Melky Cabrera will rejoin the Yankees on Friday. Cabrera was examined by Yankees team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad in New York and supported the diagnosis by head trainer Gene Monahan of a bruised right shoulder.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Cabrera — who crashed into a fence chasing a fly ball in the first inning on Tuesday — would be sidelined five to seven days.

Imagine Mark DeRosa as a big hunk of tuna, bait on a hook. One of the looming shadows circling below is that of the New York Yankees, who are weighing options and haven’t decided whether to take a shot at the versatile veteran.

[My take: Another corner outfielder?  Would he supplant Cano at 2B?  Otherwise he’s a pretty expensive (but versatile) bench player.]

Brian Bruney’s visit to Dr. James Andrews went as well as the Yankees could have hoped, as the famed orthopedist found no structural damage in the reliever’s injured right elbow.

Bruney was diagnosed with a right flexor muscle strain, the same injury that landed him on the disabled list from April 25 to May19. Bruney will rejoin the team in Cleveland before tomorrow’s game and will undergo a throwing program.

“We’re happy the diagnosis isn’t a surgical situation,” GM Brian Cashman said. “It’s just how long it will take for him to heal.”

[My take: Give him some truth serum along with that rehab . . .]

He is Phil Coke, who is tied with Veras for the staff lead in appearances, with 21. It is no wonder Coke was chatting before Wednesday’s game with a Texas Rangers reliever, Eddie Guardado, whose nickname is Everyday. Despite Coke’s mixed results — 1-2 with a 4.43 earned run average — Girardi has found him indispensable.

“He has three quality pitches,” Girardi said. “He’s able to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate, he has an equalizer in his changeup to get right-handers, and he’s got a good slider to get left-handers. Really, what he does is he just pitches. He locates, he changes speeds and he works both sides of the plate.”

  • SWB Yanks add a Bush:

It seems the Yankees have signed 29-year-old Paul Bush out of the independent Atlantic League and assigned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Bush is a right-handed pitcher with pretty good numbers — 1.62 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 16.2 innings — and logic would dictate that he’s going to fill the hole in the Triple-A rotation.

But Bush is a reliever.

Those 16.2 innings have come in nine games with the Somerset Patriots. Bush spent the previous seven seasons in the Atlanta Braves organization, including 22 games in Triple-A. Of his 175 minor league games, only 29 were starts, and each of those starts came in seasons when the vast majority of his outings came out of the bullpen. Seems to me that the last thing the Yankees need is another Triple-A reliever, but I’m sure they have a plan.

  • Does Cashman have his head in the clouds, and not on the field?:

Remember those wind tests the Yankees were said to be doing on their new stadium? Well, whatever is going on with them, no news has crossed General Manager Brian Cashman’s desk. And since he puts together the roster, he would probably be in the loop.

“I don’t have any answers about wind studies,” Cashman said. When I asked if he still believed the dimensions were the same as before, as some folks have disputed with visual evidence, Cashman said, “I’ve been told they’re the same. I know they’re supposed to be the same.”

Supposed to be the same doesn’t mean “the same.” It’s a bandbox. Take the number of home runs the old Yankee Stadium allowed and double it. That’s basically what has happened. But Cashman insists he doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the dimensions,” he said, explaining that most of the homers he’s seen have been legitimate shots.

[My take: So if its NOT the dimensions, then it must be the wind patterns, right?]

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Yessir, That’s My Baby

at home in her crib for the first time

Amelia Louise Corcoran

Born at 6:10 pm on May 26

6 lbs, 11.8 oz, 19 1/2 inches long

She rocks, as does her mom, both of whom are doing great.

I’ll be a bit preoccupied in the short term, but I’ll do my best to continue to pull my weight around these parts while adjusting to my new lifestyle. If I come up a bit short, at least you know I’ve got a good excuse.

Then Again Maybe One of Us Won’t

Wise cracks.  Dumb laffs.

You Could Look it Up

Higher Learning

trinity-college-library-dub

 

And think about how much fun you could have lookin’ it up in spots like these

Hands On

There was an interesting article in the Times magazine last weekend about the benefits of working with your hands:

A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to “keep things on track.” I taught briefly in a public high school and would have loved to have set up a Ritalin fogger in my classroom. It is a rare person, male or female, who is naturally inclined to sit still for 17 years in school, and then indefinitely at work.

The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience. I have a small business as a motorcycle mechanic in Richmond, Va., which I started in 2002. I work on Japanese and European motorcycles, mostly older bikes with some “vintage” cachet that makes people willing to spend money on them. I have found the satisfactions of the work to be very much bound up with the intellectual challenges it presents. And yet my decision to go into this line of work is a choice that seems to perplex many people.

My mother’s father was a mechanic (His wife did not approve; she thought it was beneath her to be married to a man who got his hands dirty for a living).

I have never had any interest in taking things apart and figuring out how how they work. If something breaks I pay someone to fix it. For the longest time I thought I was less of a man because I wasn’t inclined to fix, construct or build things. In many ways, I didn’t have much in common with my grandfather but I always admired him, the breadth of his knowledge, his casual confidence. He was a true artisan.

This article made me think of my grandfather. It made me stop and appreciate his calling.

hand

News of the Day – 5/28/09

Today’s news is powered by a couple of gals out-doing that famous scene from “Big”:

New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada may be able to rejoin the team for a weekend series in Cleveland after missing more than three weeks because of a strained right hamstring.

“It’s possible as early as Friday, yeah,” New York manager Joe Girardi said before Wednesday night’s game at Texas. “He’s a big bat we’ve been missing. He’s another big bat to add to the middle of that order. We’ll wait to see how he feels and go from there. If he feels fine, there’s a good chance we’ll activate him Friday.”

Posada caught for five innings in an extended spring training intrasquad game on Wednesday.  . . .

Posada ran from first to third on a single and threw out a runner trying to steal second base in the intrasquad game.

  • Melky fought the wall and the wall won:

New York Yankees center fielder Melky Cabrera missed Wednesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers with a strained right shoulder, and could be out through the weekend.

Cabrera exited Tuesday night’s game against Texas after running into the wall while trying to make a catch in the first inning. . . .

Cabrera had an MRI exam Wednesday that was negative. Girardi said Cabrera wouldn’t be in Wednesday night’s lineup, with Gardner starting in center.

Girardi said Cabrera could be out until Monday night’s series finale against the Indians.

“We’re going to call it day to day. but it’s probably going to be more than a day or two,” Girardi said. “I don’t necessarily think it will be a DL thing — getting to the end of the weekend in Cleveland or Monday, that would be really good.”

  • When will Girardi deploy his CMW?:

Still in the unfamiliar role of a long reliever, Wang said Tuesday that manager Joe Girardi told him there are still no plans to insert him into the rotation and that he will continue with the Yankees as a reliever for now.

“He talked to me yesterday and said he doesn’t know when,” Wang said.. . .

. . . Wang has spoken in a team-first manner, but the two-time 19-game winner would clearly prefer to be starting.

As of this moment, though, there are no clear-cut opportunities with which to give him that chance. Girardi said that Hughes will make his next scheduled start on Sunday against the Indians in Cleveland, which leaves Wang as a reliever for now.

“I think he’s somewhat frustrated by it,” Girardi said. “It’s the way you’d expect anyone to be if you’d been through what he’s been through the last couple of months. I believe he understands that he’s here to help us, and we feel really strongly that he can be a big part of this club. We need to get him back to where he needs to be.”

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Ka-Boom

texas

The Yanks beat-up the Rangers last night to the tune of 9-2. Godzilla Matsui hit two home runs–and took what seemed like an eternity to round the bases; he looked like a tired farm animal who’d been pullling the plow for too many years–Derek Jeter added three hits, and Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano also homered.  AJ Burnett pitched okay and clearly got plenty of help from his hitters. He threw close to 120 pitches in six innings, didn’t allow a run and gave up just three hits but also walked four. He also finished the game with seven strike outs.

“There were no mistakes,” Burnett told the New York Times. “Everything was where I wanted it to go, for the most part. Fewer walks and you can go deeper in the game, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Perhaps the best news of the night was watching Chien-Ming Wang look sharp in two innings of relief.  If he can return to his former self, then, man that gives the Yanks some decent pitching…Muh-hu-ha-ha.

The win, combined with a Boston loss, pulls the Yanks into a tie with the Sox for first place.

Where There is Smoke…

Enough mincing around, AJ Burnett needs a win. 

sam

Which is good timing, cause it’d sure be nice to see the Yanks win this series and stay on the good foot.

Ya Heard?

The Heart of the Matter

p1_coolbaugh2

I have a stack of new baseball books waiting to be read. At the top of the list is Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America by S.L. Price. It is about the death of Mike Coolbaugh who was killed by a foul ball during a game several years ago.  Price is one of the more elegant journalists going today; he’s a true craftsman. 

The New York Times has a terrific interview with Price today:

S.L. Price: I first wrote this story for Sports Illustrated, but even early in that process felt it growing beyond the bounds of a magazine story. In my 15 years at S.I., I’ve probably never felt as satisfied with a piece while at the same time knowing there was so much more to tell; I had 50,000 words of notes by the time I filed. The stories of Bill Valentine, Bo McLaughlin, Jon Asahina and Warren Stephens — people in the park the night Mike was killed who had had personal experience with the damage a ball could do — made up a paragraph or two in S.I., and they alone summed up huge chunks of baseball history, major and minor. Then, as I got a sense of Tino Sanchez’s grief, and the parallels between his career and Mike’s, I knew I could explore modern ball by retracing their paths.

And lastly, throughout the reporting, I had this strange experience. It’s a dark moment, obviously, but while talking to everyone involved I kept thinking, “I know this is a tale of woe, so how come I feel so good?” Because everyone — at this extreme moment where there was no place to hide or fake it — kept doing the right thing. Tino in his anguish showed great respect to Mike and the life he lived, the Coolbaugh family repeatedly reached out to Tino to let him know they didn’t blame him, to support him, and, he says, that pulled him from a very dark place. The Colorado Rockies voted Mike’s family a playoff share — it ended up over $230,000 — in 2007, though they didn’t know him and he’d only been with the team three weeks and the history of stingy ballplayers goes back as far as the game’s origins, and then they refused to talk about it. The national media wanted to celebrate them, but the players and management wouldn’t say who came up with the idea, how the vote went, nothing. It was too important to talk about. Meanwhile, fans all over the Texas League and minor league baseball donated money night after night, $1 here, $5 there, to give to the Coolbaugh family. And no one did this because they thought the media might notice.

When a story whipsaws you like that — from brutal loss to heartfelt compassion — when you feel good and bad at the same time? Then I’m pretty sure it’s a story worth telling in a book.

Card Corner: Will The Real John Mayberry Please Stand Up?

mayberry

FOX broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver provided some of the funniest unintended humor of the season when they mistook a Panamanian gentlemman for former Yankee and Royal slugger John Mayberry during Saturday’s nationally televised broadcast. Thankfully, Ken Rosenthal caught up with the real Mayberry—the one who actually happens to be the father of Phillies rookie John Mayberry, Jr. Sadly, Mayberry’s legacy remains as obscure as the ability to identify him at Yankee Stadium over the weekend. Twenty seven years after he last suited up as a major leaguer—in pinstripes, no less—he remains a relatively forgotten player, despite being one of the top left-handed power hitters of the mid-1970s.

Emerging as a top prospect in the Houston Astros’ organization during the late 1960s, John Claiborne Mayberry found his path to the major leagues impeded by first basemen like Bob “The Bull” Watson and Lee “The Big Bopper” May, one of the main pieces acquired in the ill-fated Joe Morgan trade. With no place to play their young power protégé, the Astros decided to include “Big John” in a trade that brought pitching prospects Jim York and Lance Clemons from the Kansas City Royals. The Astros would end up regretting that transaction almost as much as the Morgan mega-disaster.

Beginning in 1972, Mayberry and Amos Otis teamed up to provide the main sources of power for the Royals. When the Royals added the Hall of Fame bat of George Brett and the speed and defense of Willie Wilson and Frank White to the Mayberry-Otis core, the expansion franchise came together to win the first of three consecutive AL West titles in 1976.

During his halcyon days in Kansas City from 1972 to 1975, Mayberry put up power numbers that equaled the best of any left-handed American League slugger, with the possible exception of a fellow named Reggie Jackson. In those four seasons, Mayberry crunched 107 home runs, despite having to play half of his games in cavernous Royals Stadium, a boneyard for home runs. Big John twice compiled slugging percentages of .500 or better, and twice surpassed the .400 mark in on-base percentage. He drew 122 walks in 1973, and another 119 free passes in 1975. He also reached 100 RBIs in three of four seasons. Now let’s look at Jackson. During that four-year window, Reggie hit 122 home runs, while playing in a slightly easier park for home runs in Oakland. He achieved slugging percentages of .500 or better in each of the four seasons, but never topped the .391 mark in on-base percentage. He never came close to drawing 100 walks, reaching a high of 86 in 1974. He reached 100 RBIs in only two seasons, though he did come close the other two times.

Was Reggie better than Big John during that four-year arc? Yes, especially if we consider Jackson’s ability to steal bases and his cannonlike throwing arm in right field. Yet, Mayberry was close, closer than most fans might think at first glance. In spite of the similarity in numbers, Mayberry remained painfully underrated, mostly because of Jackson’s postseason heroics and a larger-than-life personality.

Mayberry also lacked the staying power of “Mr. October.” Beginning in 1976, Big John’s game started to fall off badly. He appeared to sleepwalk through parts of the 1977 Championship Series, which the Royals lost to the Yankees. Suspecting that the play of Mayberry was being affected by cocaine and alcohol abuse, a furious Whitey Herzog convinced the front office to rid the team of its cleanup hitter in the spring of 1978, when the Royals sold him to the Blue Jays in a cash deal. The media never publicly reported Mayberry’s alleged problems with drugs, but his level of abuse became common knowledge among the game’s insiders. That’s why so few baseball people expressed shock or outrage when the Royals acquired only a small sum of cash for their No. 1 power hitter, who was still only 29 years old. To the best of my knowledge, Mayberry has never publicly acknowledged problems with drugs, but the stigma remains in baseball circles.

Mayberry revived his career partially north of the border, compiling OPS numbers of better than .800 in three consecutive seasons for the Jays. A poor start for Mayberry at the beginning of the 1982 season, coupled with the Yankees’ struggling fortunes, would bring the two parties together. With the Yankees thankfully abandoning their disappointing run-and-stun offense headlined by Dave Collins and Ken Griffey, George Steinbrenner decided to remake the team in midseason—a common occurrence in the 1980s. The Boss began to target potential trade candidates. At the same time, the Blue Jays furiously shopped Mayberry, whom they believed was cooked at the age of 33. Much to the delight of the Jays, the Yankees put together a fairly hefty package for Mayberry: prospects Jeff Reynolds and Tom Dodd and veteran first baseman Dave Revering.

Suffering from a severe case of wishful thinking, I was thrilled with the trade. First, it marked the end of the “Bronx Burners,” an experiment that manager Gene “Stick” Michael never seemed to embrace. And more importantly, it brought the Yankees the kind of player I’ve always loved in the Bronx—the left-handed slugger. I loved watching the super-sized Mayberry stand at the plate, striking the kind of intimidating pose that only Willie Stargell could do better. If the Yankees could no longer have Reggie Jackson, they could at least have Big John Mayberry.

Unfortunately, the trade occurred about a decade too late to benefit the Yankees. Weighed down by a slowing bat and growing flab in his midsection, Mayberry couldn’t crank up the power anywhere near his levels in Kansas City, or even in Toronto. (I really have no idea whether Mayberry was using drugs while with the Yankees, partly because I never heard the drug rumors until five or six years ago.) In 215 Yankee at-bats, Mayberry lofted only eight home runs, leaving him with a slugging percentage of .353, his worst in six years. The power-deprived Yankees, who needed a lot more help than Big John could provide, finished four games under .500 and ions behind the division-winning Brewers of Harvey Kuenn. About the only consolation that came from the Mayberry trade was the failure of any of the three ex-Yankees to do anything in Toronto. Revering, Reynolds, and Dodd all flopped for the Jays’ organization, either at the major league or minor league level.

In the spring of 1983, my father bought me a complete set of the newest Topps cards, which included a nifty action shot of Mayberry wearing Yankee pinstripes. I liked the card, but it would soon become a novelty item. During the latter days of spring training, the Yankees came to the same conclusion the Jays had determined the previous summer. With a growing supply of first basemen and designated hitters, the Yankees gave Mayberry his unconditional release.

Shortly thereafter, when no teams came calling, Mayberry decided to retire. As far as I know, he had never returned to the Stadium since, certainly not for any Old-Timers’ Games or to throw out any ceremonial first pitches. That all changed on Saturday, when Mayberry made it back the Stadium, not to watch the home team, but to watch his talented son begin his own major league climb. As a bonus, he saw junior hit his first major league home run.

So the next time that Big John makes it back to the Bronx, we’ll know it’s him. That’s a promise from Buck, McCarver, and the rest of us.

Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books on baseball and can be reached via e-mail at bmarkusen@stny.rr.com.

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