"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Bronx Banter

When & Where: S2 Game 8

Hey, here we are with another challenge from Where & When!  Yesterday was pretty easy, so I promised to give an interesting (read: toughie) locale that is also relative to certain recent events.  As far as things go, this mention was well earned:

Where & When S2 Game 8

I really like this one; plenty of intriguing details. I don’t have to provide any clues on this one, but not because I find it particularly easy (it will fool a lot of you for a while), but because the picture basically tells on itself the way I like. What I’d particularly like for you to do is figure out the name of a couple of these buildings, the general address and locale and a good idea when this picture was taken.  The first person with the exact answers, or the closest to the right answers will win the jug of cold root beer today.  As usual, all participants will get a chalice of cold cream soda for their efforts.  And I’m giving out a tray of brownies to the person who figures out why I chose this picture today.  (and if you do, I’ll be happy to explain myself).

You know the rules… yunnow, I have to just type them up and set them up as a reference page somewhere so I don’t have to repeat myself each time… well, have fun with this one (which I know you will) and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  Take care all, and… well, you know the deal.

Photo Credit: Shorpy

Where & When: S2 Game 7

Here we go again with another round of Where & When! I’m just going to jump right in with this one, because it’s fairly easy and I spent hours trying to find something like it, so I want to go to bed now…

Where & When S2 Game 7Some might look at this right away and know exactly what it is, some might just blink twice and wait for the experts to chime in.  But it’s a nice photo regardless, and that’s always a big part of why the game exists, no? So you know the drill by now; tell us where and when this photo was taken (show your math of course), and feel free to kick in any ancillary information about this photo or location; i.e. history, current conditions, future events and/or any interesting trivia associated.  Cold root beer for the first person to get the correct answers, and cream sodas for all participants.

I’m going to bed (Sunday night as I write), see you all later!

Photo Credit: Shorpy

Where & When: S2 Game 5

Well now, how about another round of Where & When? We’ve had a pretty good week with some interesting challenges, and I certainly would like to keep that run going.  So everyone grab their root beer mugs and their cream soda flutes and follow me:

Where & When S2 Game 5Plenty of clues in this one and definitely a set year this photo was taken.  So what I’d like for you to find out are the names and locations of the low building in the foreground and the tall building in the background as well as the name of the general area, plus the evident year this photo was taken.  As usual, a cold mug of root beer to the first person to give us all the answers and how they determined them, and a tall glass of cream for the rest of us.  I’ll be checking in throughout.  I think this is a pretty easy one, so no bonus today unless you come up with something really interesting about something in the pic or some event that occurred in the general region at that time.

Have fun and don’t peek at the credits!

Photo credit: Wired New York

Where & When: S2 Game 4

Hello again, welcome back to Where & When.  Yesterday’s game was a bit too easy for my tastes (though it was a very nice pic I couldn’t pass up), so I thought I’d track down another tough one and throw it at you.  This one is tough not so much for the location, but for the time. Here, you take a look:

Where & When S2 Game 4As you can see, there are a lot of clues about the location, but not too many about the time.  I suppose if you’re a history buff you can pinpoint the year by certain visual evidence and deduction… the resource I have doesn’t have a conclusion, so it’s up to us to gather where and when this was taken.

A cold barrel of root beer of choice for the one who can actually get the answers with specific references supporting both answers, a cream soda for everyone who plays.  I’ll throw in a scoop of french vanilla for anyone who might get my inside reasoning for possibly choosing this photo (and I know, it’s not fair but keep it to yourself and use any specific term or phrase I’ve often used if you get it).

Have fun, folks and I’ll be back again soon.  Show your path to enlightenment and don’t peek at the credits!

Photo credit: New York City Black & White

Where & When: S.2 Game 3

Welcome back to Where & When; our third episode of the new season.  Let’s keep the ball rolling along with a new stumper; I loved how you guys all teamed up with your clues on the last game, so lets put our noggins together on this little brainteaser:

Where & When S2 Game 3This shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, since it’s fairly distinctive and there are very strong clues all over.  Figure out the location and time period of this photo and you’ll get the usual first prize of a thought of cold root beer swishing around in a frosty mug approaching your mouth.  All of our contestants will get to pacify themselves with cool thoughts of a sweet cream soda doing the same thing.  As usual, I’ll check in when I have time throughout the day to cajole you if necessary and maybe even declare a winner. So as always, have fun, feel free to share your stories and don’t peek at the phot credit!

Photo credit: NYC Past

Where & When: S.2 Game 2

Greetings, kids and kittens, welcome back to another edition of Where & When. Our season premiere was very solid and we had a pretty good turnout (though I was remiss in declaring a winner since it seemed to be a group effort, so everyone gets a root beer), how about we follow up with some more excitement and discovery?

I’ve somehow stumbled upon some pretty interesting locales and buildings, so I’m rather amped to share them with you this week; provided of course that I have time to set them up like this. So c’mon, let’s get to the game, shall we?

 

Where & When S2 Game 2

This looks like a rather unique structure for New York, doesn’t it? It sort of reminds me of a beach resort hotel… well, at least one of those thoughts is relative to the location, or close to it.  The region was likely not as developed as it is now, but a place like this would certainly stand out in any era.  As usual, your job is to determine where this picture was taken and when.  There are enough clues in the picture to get a good idea when, but where is going to take some thinking.

There’s a frothing decanter of root beer waiting for the first person to answer both questions correctly, and a bonus scoop of ice cream for the one who can answer the bonus question of what this region looks like now; i.e. what has become of what you see in the photo.

All participants with good guesses or good stories will get a equally frosty glass of cream soda.  Cheers to all involved and I’ll try to get back sometime during the day (but as you can tell, I make no promises).  Enjoy!

photo credit: Library of Congress

Where & When: Season 2!

Greetings ladies and gents and welcome to a new season of Where and When! No, it wasn’t a dream or a passing fancy of some lunatic minds, it was and is a rather fun puzzle game for our readers to utilize their deductive skills in tracking down the answers to life’s important questions… well, trivial maybe, but all games involve a certain amount of seemingly useless knowledge. Back by popular demand (and a moment to spare in a busy work schedule), I’ve brought to you something new to disseminate and ponder.  But before we get down to the nitty-gritty, a little background for the newcomers to Bronx Banter and/or this game we play…

Earlier in the year, Alex posted an interesting picture here from another site of a New York City landscape from the early part of the 20th century (so near, and yet so far) in which the writer asked help in identifying the location depicted in the picture.  After some pondering and sharing of our observations within the picture, several of our loyal readers (myself included) concluded that the picture was an early photo of Manhattan’s West Side along the Hudson River; facing north from the busy piers near Midtown and peering far into the distance where the George Washington Bridge was just under construction.  By this we were also able to determine the probable date the photo was taken.  Riverside Drive was the dominant roadway, but the Henry Hudson Parkway was also under construction at the moment the picture was taken.

It was a fun undertaking, as I later wrote to Alex, and I suggested making a game out of it.  “You’re hired” he responded, and I’ve been the administrator of this effort ever since. I’ve experimented with rules and formats throughout, trying to make it fair and more involving for everyone as our readers are so widely dispersed that some miss out on the game due to the difference in time from here to there part of the globe, but I’ve compensated in creative ways to involve them as well.  In the end, I settled for a free exchange of ideas and suggestions with the stipulation that whoever answers he questions fully explain the process they used to find the answers (the journey can be equally as, if not more entertaining than the destination itself).  The winners (the first person to answer the questions correctly) would receive a theoretical root beer; a Banter tradition that began with the jinxing of anyone who posted an identical comment to the comment prior to his or her own.  The rest of the players were given cream sodas as a consolation prize for playing.  I had something special in mind for the person who tabulated the most wins in a year, but because my work schedule began to interfere with regularly scheduled postings, I tabled that idea for the time being (but it’s still under consideration).

About the scheduling; I tried to adhere to a two or three-a-week schedule of games, but I ran into two big problems: life (big problem, supersedes everything fun) and supply.  I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I try to find interesting challenges for these games and generally avoid stock footage of standard New York City easy-to-identify landmarks. There are many sites with different photos of many places around the city, but even some of those are nondescript and would not provide a fair amount of clues to present as a challenge.  So with those limitations, I’ve often found myself painted into a corner concerning what to present.  Alex and I have discussed this at length and he has encouraged me to open my definition of what I consider interesting challenges as it were, bearing in mind that some people may be seeing these locales for the first time.  With that in mind, I am being more open minded about what to present so that I don’t run out of material and also to allow one of my main goals to come into fruition: to educate and enlighten our readers and players about the history and appreciation of our great city and its region of influence.  The most important thing to remember is that it is a game and was born from and meant for fun.

So let’s have some fun, shall we?

Where & When S2 G1 C

Here we have an aerial photo of a region within the city that you may or may not recognize from certain features within the picture.  I think this is an easy one, but I’m sure that those of you not native to the region will want to look up some of the details in whatever manner you use to research. I can say this much, the features in this picture give a good indication of the time period of this photo, so I don’t have to drop many hints.  If you get it within the correct decade, you’ll get credit for the when answer.  So, if you answer Where this picture dipicts and When it was likely taken, you will win our traditional first prize, a frosty mug of high-quality root beer (which is always up for discussion).  As a bonus, if you can identify at least two major features within this photo with proper names from the time it was taken, you will get a scoop of ice cream to add to your root beer, making it a root beer float of course.  All players who participate in the discussion will receive a cold mug of cream soda for your efforts.  I will try to return during the latter part of the day to reveal the answers and discuss any trivia or history that’s associated.  You are all free to discuss whatever you like about it, but please avoid using the direct link in the photo credit (unless you find it during your research) and also as discussed before, show your math.

So ladies and gents, welcome back and have fun!

photo credit: Wired New York

Chit Chit Chatter

on air

Head on over to Slugball Radio and listen to me schmooze with host Matt Hughes.\

Or just click play below:

[Photo Via: Nieman Journalism Lab]

Nothing’s for Sale

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After three innings last night, with Yankee bats and helmets flailing across the field, the likelihood of a Yankee hit seemed much less than the likelihood of a no-hitter. Chris Sale, whose pitching motion suggests a constantly encroaching wedgie, was the full filth.

Despite facing the most dominant left-hander in the American League, the Yankees had a few things going for them. Jose Abreu is on the DL. Sale, in his first game back from injury, was limited. And David Phelps pitched very well. Phelps kept them in the game long enough that a little late magic could have proven decisive, but thanks to an insurance run against human turnstile Alfredo Aceves, the Yankees’ two runs in the ninth came up short. 3-2 White Sox.

The Yankees pitching staff has been well-decimated thus far and it’s especially apparent when running into two aces back-to-back. Jeff Samardzjia and Chris Sale retired 39 of the 46 Yankees they faced making the third base coach especially lonely as nobody ever visited him.  That the Yankees won one of these games lessens the sting somewhat.

The good news is that David Phelps has been getting better and going deeper into his games. Last night’s performance was the best of the year for him and he’ll need to pitch like this more often than not as all signs point to him becoming a mainstay in the rotation this season.

Phelps got tagged with the tough-luck loss when the White Sox staged a two-out opposite-field rally in the second. The key hit was a run-scoring double by De Aza down the left field line. Almonte executed the outstreched hero’s dive to near perfection, but the left-handed-spin had the ball tailing away from his glove and cozying up to the foul line. There were but a few square inches where the ball could have landed fair and also missed his glove, and there it landed. And there was the game.

The Yankees were relieved any time they saw relief pitchers these last two games and responded with runs. I hope the same applies for these other, more obviously mortal pitchers in Chicago.

 

 

“Sold Out” Crowd

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It was a dark and dreary night. Suddenly, the bottom fell out…

And that’s as far as I could go with this game before lapsing into headache-inducing ennui as we watched the home team; already missing Jacoby Ellsbury due to a sore hand, bore the peanut gallery with mediocre at-bats and mainly apathetic play.  Oh sure, Teix hit his second homer in two games and was on base more often than not, and sure Solarte continues to be a solid Everywhere Man while leading the team in RBI, and there seemed to be a bit of rally left in them from yesterday in the ninth from what I’ve read, but there just wasn’t overcoming another night where C.C. Sabathia didn’t even break 90 mph with his fastball, making his 80-83 mph change rather hittable and his other pitches treated with indifference by the Mariner bats.  It wasn’t so bad, he struck out 6 given that he was facing one of the weakest lineups in the AL, but that didn’t stop him from giving up four runs and nine hits in five innings, also brushing two.  For the second time in a row, the Yanks’ starting pitcher didn’t have much control., but this time he couldn’t gut it out (and it’s becoming debatable whether or not his missing gut is to blame). Hopefully it will warm up enough so we can see whether it’s just the inconsistent weather messing with everyone’s mechanics or if it’s decidedly the far side of C.C.’s career as an elite pitcher.

But that’s not what most people were concerned with; no, many wanted to know how Robbie was going to be received in his first return home.  I couldn’t really tell; I was listening on the radio (which didn’t help with the headache one bit), but when Robbie came up the first time, I thought I heard more booing than cheering.  Predictably, John and Suzyn thought they heard more cheering, while everyone else in the media thought the whole city of New York was booing.  Regardless, Robbie didn’t get the kind of welcome he was anticipating, striking out on three pitches.  His was a nervous energy that threatened to sabotage him all night, but after he and the Mariners gouged out four runs in the fifth against C.C., he came back in the seventh with an infield single, a stolen base (!) and a run scored on a Dustin Ackley single.  I think it was about this time that I (and apparently a number of others) decided to find something else to do. I tried to hang on, but the combination of Yankees empty at-bats and John & Suzyn on the radio beat me into submission and I popped in a DVD of cartoons.

All-in-all, this was just one of those games I wish I’d skipped; it was not demoralizing, but it was draining.  Like the lineup, I can’t bring myself to exaggerate the finer points of this game; it just left me with a headache and a lot of unanswered questions.

Is on/off what we can expect from C.C. for the rest of this season, never mind his contract? Is the rest of the starting pitching going to be able to hold up to the All-Star break without being decimated with injuries or fatigue/old age? Is carrying three position players on your bench (with one back-up catcher) really the best thing to do, even with the fact that your designated number five pitcher basically screwed your rotation and bullpen and now may have screwed it some more with an injury? Are Ichiro and Solarte really your best hitters right now? Is there a way that this team can break the funk they have against pitchers nobody really gives two spits about? Why can’t the stadium fans understand the word “irony”? And why, why does Yankee pitching seem to be the ambrosia for weak or badly slumping hitters on every team they’ve faced?

Tune in, turn on, drop out. I’m going back to bed…

[Photo Credit: Days of Our Trailer]

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make Anything Taste Like Chicken

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People.com http://greatideas.people.com/2014/03/31/crazy-baseball-stadium-concession-snacks/

I don’t know about you, but I was getting tired of alternating beat-downs with the other team; teams like the Red Sox and then the Angels beating and then being beaten by football scores, it just makes for bad Feng Shui.  So for the second and third game of this series, the Angels and Yankees agreed to rehearse a couple of taught dramas for the Broadway crowd, hijacking the fricken Rally Monkey with some fancy organ grinding of their own.  And grinding would be an apropos description of what The Notorious Tanaka did during the game; it was strange, yet gratifying how he managed to do his thing for 6-1/3 innings while the Yanks continued to struggle against unheralded pitchers.

Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t bad. In the first inning all his outs were by strikeouts, all swinging; an impressive feat considering whom he was facing.  Sure, Trout continued to show his Professional Hitter side with a first pitch single after the leadoff strikeout, but then Pujols struck out behind him, and following a Howie Kendricks walk, Aybar struck out.  But the Yanks for their part decided to make Garret Richards almost equally intriguing by striking out or otherwise doing practically nothing against him.  Richards, who was averaging five walks per nine innings was giving nothing away to Tanaka, who by the second time through the lineup was now starting to get hit. When he wasn’t getting hit, he was doing something that by now could be considered very odd: he was giving up walks. Seriously, up until tonight he’d only given up two walks in total. The fourth inning was especially troublesome because he loaded the bases after a leadoff double with a HBP and a walk before the Angels pushed a run across with a fielder’s choice. Tanaka was still striking people out, but it seemed different; a lot of pitches and a lot of foul balls added to the feeling that he wasn’t dominating. Nervous business, what with G. Richards looking more like vintage J.R. Richards.

But then we learned something else about Tanaka in the process: he really doesn’t give up.  He must have realized that his other stuff wasn’t working as well as we’ve quickly grown accustomed to, so he did something subtle that I can’t get my finger on, but whatever he did, he was getting outs.  He was still striking batters out, but those seemed like an afterthought to the fact that he was getting batters out at the right time. The defense came to back him up too, turning in routine ground-outs and fly-outs (or at least making them look routine). If he gave up a triple, he struck out the next batter to end the inning. Tanaka’s control was kinda iffy, he threw a lot more in fewer innings, but he somehow got the outs when he needed them. The lineup managed to push across a run with a walk to Teixiera, who came around to score after a Brian Roberts double and a Ichiro ground-out.

Then he gave up a homer to David Freese, the hero of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals Champeenchip, who was until then mired in an ugly slump with intermittent playing time. The way the Yanks were not hitting at that moment, you may have gotten the sense that this might be the moment Tanaka experiences his first loss in more or less two years.  Yes, it has to happen, but why against Mike Scioscia and the Angels? Ugh.. after Tanaka retired the side, the Yanks failed to score, leaving Tanaka set up for a loss. Perhaps Girardi felt bad and wanted to give Tanaka another chance to win by sending him out for the seventh, but by this time he was already hovering near 100 pitches, so after Collin Cowgill struck out, Joe took him right back out in favor of Adam Warren. Masahiro Tanaka: 6.1 innings, 5 hits (though it seemed like more), 4 walks (hmm…), 2 earned runs (huh…), and 11 strikeouts (how about that), leaving down one run.

Yet, all was apparently not lost and Warren picked up a little magic from somewhere, because after giving up another single to Trout, he got Pujols to ground into a double play and hold the line.  Next thing you know, bang, zoom! Teix hit one out and the score was tied.  Yay Tanaka wasn’t gonna lose! if nothing else, you had to feel good about that. Back in the game, now let’s get some more uhp, fergeddit, fly-outs and a pop-out and no more runs.  But you did get the sense that Richards was returning to norm, so strikeouts could soon turn into striking a hot iron.  Warren, now tasked with holding the line and perhaps getting a win, did his part in retiring the side in order, so the Yanks tried again in the eighth…

Then the funniest thing happened: Scioscia trotted out a reliever. Soon he trotted out another. Then another.  Then another and another… no, not really, but it was bad enough. See, what Scioscia already knew and hoped wouldn’t happen, and what we came to realize was that his bullpen was not very good at holding leads. Not very good at all, which was another oddity with the pitching tonight.  I’m not used to seeing a bad Angels bullpen, so I was surprised when the first reliever Michael Kohn walked Ellsbury , because yunnow, he’s Ellsbury and walking him is like giving up a double.  Kohn might’ve thought the same thing, because he spent more time stepping off and/or throwing to first than he did pitching to Jeter, who eventually struck out. But then he walked Beltran, which made Scioscia nervous and he brought in Nick Morande, who managed to throw the ball to everyone sitting behind home plate except catcher Chris Iannetta (though one was called a passed ball and Iannetta really wasn’t having a good game anyway); first Ellsbury and Beltran moved up, then Ellsbury scored, giving the Yanks the lead.  Brian McCann then gave a nifty solo scene with a HBP that was more by than hit; so convincing that the umps took a whole intermission to review the play and ultimately put him on first. Welp, time to send in the understudy, and that was Kevin Jepsen, who managed to secure a double play from our Soriano with an ug… well, sub-optimal at bat.

That brought us to what was potentially the last act, and the our new divo David The Hamma’ Roberston came to close out the show. Down went Stewart, in keeping with the theme of the night with the ubiquitous strikeout. But Iannetta walked, and his understudy John McDonald replaced him at first. J.B. Shuck managed to jive him over to second, and then… duh-duh-duhhhh our old friend Raul Ibañez came up for Cowgill.  Raul, though his average was quite low, was certainly capable of driving in a run or two as he had done 15 times beforehand.  This was indeed a scary moment, because if you lost him, you had to face the Deadly Duo, starring Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.  Robertson threw and Raul looked at strike one.  Another pitch and it was called a ball??? WTF BLUE!!!  You might also be thinking at this point, “nail him down… please!” The pitch, and Raul fouled it off.  Do it for Warren, he held it down and deserved to win it.  Do it Tanaka, he wasn’t himself tonight or what we’ve already come to expect of him, but dammit he deserved something for it. Do it because you can’t stand the Angels and particularly you can’t stand Mike Scioscia. And do it for the ones who stuck it out this long to see the win.  The Yanks haven’t had a lot of luck with close games like this over the past few years, so yeah… nail it down. The pitch… a half-swing. Did he go?

It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t look right, didn’t feel right, just didn’t seem right. But yunnow what? It tasted like chicken. Yanks win 3-2.

The Electric Spanking of Core Babies

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A day removed from the honor and hoopla of another Home Opener for the Yankees, which they happened to win , the Yankees returned for a second dose of Orioles baseball, courtesy of past manager and present raconteur Buck Showalter and company.  Ivan Nova, the imminent leader of the new school (if you will) facing Wei-Yin Chen; second in career major league wins to fellow countryman and former Yankee meteor Chien-Ming Wang. An intriguing matchup, no?

Uhh, nope.

In the first, Nova, who from what I was told had some issues in his previous start, but managed to work through them somehow, seemed perfectly content to pitch to contact; these were the Orioles after all, who seemed incapable of doing much of anything when they did make contact, or not so much that it mattered.  But then Old Man Jeter decided to go pastadiving on a windy, but indeterminate Tuesday afternoon and gave the Orioles some unexpected momentum.  The first run would score on a somewhat close play at the plate; Ellsbury showing a pretty good arm in CF threw home on a sac fly from Chris (Crush) Davis that hopped once kinda high before McCann, showing perfect form in allowing a clear alley for the runner to reach home plate, caught it and swipe-tagged in one motion, but too late to catch the sliding Markakis. Then Nova, still pitching to contact, hung something for Adam Jones whose eyes got really big and said “Hulk Smash!” and tanked it over the center field wall for a two-run job.  After some some quick words with himself, Nova decided to strike out Weiters and Cruz to end the bleeding. Already it was 3-0.

Yanks showed a little bit of initiative in the bottom, though it took them two outs to do it; Ellsbury managed to dump a single into shallow right, and Beltran doubled him in to get a run back. Soriano, who looks like he’s starting to catch up to the rest of the season skied out to end the inning and Nova came out to work again.  And labor he did; his pitches didn’t seem to want to listen to him too much as he gave up a single to second baseman Steve Lombardozzi (Jr.) and a well-executed drag bunt to Ryan (Hi Uncle Flash!) Flaherty, he of a 1-17 start to his season.  But Nova did flash some quick wit as Roberts gave him the cue; pirouetting nicely to catch  Lombardozzi off second.  Buck almost challenged the call, but maybe the pirouette looked too good to sully with doubt and instead settled for gnashing his teeth and shaking his head in disbelief as is his wont.  Nova was dealing now, his confidence seemed to falling back into place, but aww Schoop! He doubled down the third base line serving pasta in Port Jervis, and the score was now 4-1.

And nothing really happened until the fourth, when we all realized at the same time that the car battery was dead and Nova had nothing.  After Cruz flied out, the basement trio of Lombardozzi, Flaherty and Schoop each singled so that Markakis and Delmon Young each took a turn driving one of them in with a sac fly and a single.  That was it for Nova, and Cesar Cabral made his season debut while Nova left to a smattering of indifference. But since he cared, Roberts’ throw managed to pull Cervelli off first as Chris Davis beat his shift to first and they all gifted Nova with another one for the road. Cabral, for his part, walked the bases loaded before inducing a pop fly to left that almost caused more chaos, had not Gritner slid for second to avoid crashing into Jeter, who bogarted shallow left for the catch. 7-1.

But the Yanks showed some spunk. Soriano, he of the “he’s gonna be sooo bad this year” bat cannonballed one over left, and styled properly as a true home run hitter should. Why not? It was his 407th career HR, tying him at 50th with one Duke Snider who used to play somewhere on the opposite side of the universe (maybe we can talk about where in another post).  Cervelli followed with a sharp single to left. running hard like a hard single hitter should.  Roberts gave Chen, who was not spectacular but had a lot to work with, a hard time before singling on  3-2 to left (see a pattern developing here?) And then there’s this kid, this what’s his name? Yangervis Port Jervis? My friend, who I was watching the game with, couldn’t get his name straight no matter what I told him, As Kay, Cone and Singleton gabbed about his doubles power, he immediately powers a double to, yes, left, and my friend jumped up and said, “That boy’s name is ‘Doubles’!” (which immediately had me thinking of the possibility of a tie-in promotion with McDonald’s McDouble burger; worth a try if you’re high as some people would say).  Gardner followed with a RBI groundout and Jeter also grounded out, but the score was  now 7-4.

Vidal Nuño came on in place of Cabral in the fifth and retired the side on a Poughkeepsie Shuffle (4-6-3 double play) and a strike out of the suddenly hot Flaherty.  On the flipside, Ellsbury, becoming rather indispensable early on, hit a booming double and later stole third standing up before Chen had a chance to notice the sudden draft from second.  Nothing came of it though, and we all moved onto the sixth, where a familiar phrase floated in to haunt our man Nuño. It started out innocently enough with Schoop striking out, but then Markakis just had to single and then blammo! Delmon Young looped one over everyone’s heads and into the seats in left. The hits just kept coming after that, and the game shifted into a slow motion montage of carnage as Nuño was ripped apart from every angle. As he sighed and peered into the bullpen, the YES cameras showed us what he already knew: emptiness. No one was coming to the rescue. He was… taking one for the team.  11-4.

At this point I stopped taking notes and started thinking about what went well. Soriano’s showing some pop again. Jeter can still get a hit now and again.  Ellsbury is on a roll. I must take a trip to Port Jervis before it becomes de rigueur; hopefully find a nice hamburger or pizza joint. Roberts is still alive. Gritner still has his appendages. Betances, now there’s something else to cheer about; the kid looks like a Real Deal™ type that you hope the Yanks won’t destroy like the others they had recently. Good things can happen in bad places if you look hard enough for them; look at diamonds.  But since we’re looking at what is without a doubt a blood diamond at this point of the game, I have to inform or remind you that although Nuño managed to staunch the bleeding from that point and held his own for a couple more innings, there was no coming back from this.  No fight left em, save for one or two more McDouble by Doubles McJervis and the first homer of the season from Kelly Johnson (well, he had been fighting for that).  But between the time Girardi pulled the starters in the seventh and idiots were being gang-tackled by security to the vast amusement/relief of the paying leftover majority and up until that sidewinder Darren O’Day struck out Austin Romine, the rest of us had already pulled out of the parking lots and hit the Major Deegan or the New England Thruway, had flipped the channel or the flatscreen and took up horseback riding, mowing the lawn, paying the bills or returned to mundanity at work as the Yankees pulled their own pants back up and went quietly to their rooms to contemplate the spanking they had just received.

Deserve’s got nothing to do with this; see you in Hell, William Nathaniel Showalter III.  Yeah.

Final Score: 14-5.

[Photo Credit: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger]

Fly, Flied, Flew

In Game 5 of the 2000 World Series, Mike Piazza represented the tying run with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera was on the hill for the Yankees protecting the 4-2 lead and attempting to shepherd home another World Championship. Rivera uncorked an 0-1 cutter and Piazza appeared to make solid contact and drove the ball to center field.

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The ball took off and spun Bernie Williams around as he raced back in pursuit. But Shea Stadium isn’t a band box and the last second cut of Mariano’s signature pitch guided the ball past Piazza’s sweet spot and down towards the end of the bat. Bernie caught up to the ball easily before the warning track and the Yankees were champions again.

rivera2_600

Mike Piazza flied / flew out to center field.

Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct and expert linguist (among other things), says, “In  baseball, one says that a slugger has flied out; no mere mortal has ever “flown out” to center field.”

Before you trust him implicitly, be careful, dude’s a Red Sox fan.

Let us know your preference in the comments.

New York Minute

This Friday night, of the hundreds of bands that will play New York City, Special Patrol Group will attempt to blow the doors off Arlene’s Grocery at 7pm. It’s a tall task to blow the doors off a rock-n-roll club. It’s taller when it’s 7pm.

But for Special Patrol Group, this is a sweet slot. Their fans, largely drawn from the coveted demographic overlap between young parents and parents of young children, require a decent bed time so they can make pancakes and attend soccer practice at 9 AM the next day.

I know Special Patrol Group because I met one of the founders of the band, Matthew DeMella, at one of those Saturday morning soccer practices a couple of years ago. He’s a music teacher, a dad, a husband, and a fellow harborer of inappropriate expectations for post-toddler soccer players. And after we talked about that stuff, he told me about his band.

Here at Bronx Banter, Alex lends us insights about the creative process, almost on a daily basis. One of the things that he says a lot, and that I take to heart, is that just showing up counts for more than you’d think. I think that’s a Woody thing. And when Matt told me about Special Patrol Group, I immediately thought about the importance of showing up.

Special Patrol Group was formed in 2005 and they’ve been recording and “touring” ever since. But when you’re a teacher, a dad, a husband; when you attend soccer practice, make pancakes, and consider those events as essential, what’s left? How the hell can you rock and roll in a sliver? Hint: a big part of the answer is having an amazing wife who says, “O.K.”

The band is comprised of four regular members. Matt and his brother Jon play guitar, Katie Patrizio provides the vocals on more than half the cuts, and Mike Blancafor is on drums. Logistics present as big a challenge as anything else.

Jon DeMella, gifted with not only musical talent but also the unflinching ability to advocate for gigs that the band may not actually deserve, does promotion. He’s awesome at it. He lives in Seattle. Katie Schmidt had to miss a gig last Halloween because she got snowed in and caught pneumonia. It would be like Derek Jeter missing three months of the season.

Special Patrol Group , as expected from a band that only plays four gigs a year, is not flawless. But they’re comfortable on stage and with each other and that gives them sufficient leeway to find their groove before long. When they do, they’re a mash of seventies and late-nineties influences that suggest a group of musicians who’ve been loving and leaving different kinds of music their whole lives. 

The songs are intelligent, unafraid of complexity, and often contain some stretch that you will be humming to yourself on the way home. Matt says “Belle and Sebastian, Elvis Costello and Dinosaur Jr.” I think I hurt his feelings when I said “Pavement,” but that was intended to be a compliment.

After last year’s Halloween snowstorm, when their lead singer and most of their fans were unable to leave their homes, they played before an audience of two. Not their fault, but still, that had to sting. On some nights, they’ve had venues give them crap about not bringing enough paying customers through the door and they wonder why they signed up for this. But there are more nights when they fill it up. There are nights when the band clicks and the fans all get sitters and, in that sliver, they’re rock stars.

When Matt told me he was a teacher and had a band, I thought of Robert Pollard, the patron saint of teachers-with-bands. Pollard taught fourth grade as he pounded out a dozen lifetimes worth of dingy, unforgettable riffs. Guided By Voices was an influential band, and can mount credible reunion tours for each of their many incarnations. They packed in venues like Irving Plaza and Hammerstein Ballroom and us sardines chanted G-B-V until our throats ran red. And the prevailing wisdom on Guided By Voices is that they never made it.

“Making it” is important to most, and it’s attractive to all, but it’s an obvious trap. A saner calculation utilizes your own proprietary formula and measures things privately. I can’t speak for Special Patrol Group, but it strikes me that they wouldn’t dedicate this small space in their lives to something so big unless it made them feel good. They might aspire to more, but this is what they’ve got right now. And on Friday night they’re showing up, again, and that’s pretty great start.

 

For more information about the band and a list of available songs, click here. 

 

 

Technical Difficulties

Alex had some issues with the domain name this morning, so some of you may have had some issues accessing the site. The issue is fixed now, but it may take a number of hours for domain name caches out in the wild to clear. Alex is one of those still affected, so there may not be any posts from him this morning. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Chicago-a-go-go

Viciedo's ninth-inning homer cooked the Yankees (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Going into Thursday night, Ivan Nova had a 1.27 ERA in four starts in June. This is good, because Ivan Nova is suddenly much more important to the Yakees than he was supposed to be. A day after CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte both headed to the disabled list, with Adam Warren and Freddy Garcia looming, an authoritative, effective performance from Nova was an oasis of relief — though, speaking of relief, that part of the equation didn’t go so well. The bullpen, specifically Clay Rapada and David Robertson, worked together to take turn a 3-1 lead in the ninth into a 4-3 loss thanks to a three-run homer from Dayan Viciedo. It was not a particularly charming party trick.

Any last-minute loss is a tough one, but this one was particularly so because it wasted a now-precious good start. Stinging even more was Clay Rapada’s ninth-inning throwing error, which cost the team a double play and probably the win, and the question of whether it all could have been avoided if David Robertson had just started the inning. Girardi said afterwards that he was trying to avoid overusing Robertson given his recent injury and use. I think that’s understandable, but of course Robertson ended up pitching anyway, and there’s room to second guess if you’re so inclined. It was hard not to feel for Rapada watching his postgame interview, in which he looked downright haunted, as if he had just accidentally run over Derek Jeter’s dog.

The runs the Yankees did get came from two doubles in the fifth – Alex Rodriguez knocking Granderson home, and then Cano doing the same for A-Rod – and a Mark Teixeira solo shot in the eighth. Chicago starter Dylan Axelrod ended up with a solid line, even though at times it seemed the Yankees were about to crack him wide open: 7 innings, 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 Ks, 2 ER. In fact, it was just about identical to Nova’s except that the Yankee hurler tossed an additional third of an inning, struck out one more batter, and allowed one less run.

This series also gave Yankees fans their first glimpse of Kevin Youkilis in another kind of Sox uniform, which took me aback even though I was of course expecting it. Youkilis’ odd bat-waggling stance still makes me want to yell obscenities at my TV, just because - the guy is inherently infuriating - but I’m nevertheless a bit sad about his unpleasant separation from Boston, where up til just recently I imagined he might stay for his entire career. It’s not one of the world’s tragedies, but seeing him in the Chicago uniform – and whatever other uniforms are to come – will always be odd.  He was 0-for-4 on the night.

How much panic is necessary about the Yankees’ sudden pitching concerns is still unclear, and will largely depend on your individual brand of fandom. It doesn’t sound like Sabathia will miss much too much time, though of course you never know and I just reached down to knock on the wood floor after typing that. But we will not see Pettitte again until September, at best, bringing to a crashing halt one of the best stories of this baseball season. I was in upstate New York visiting my dad when the Yankees announced Pettitte’s return; there’s not much reception where he is, and when I checked my phone as we drove through a rare three-bar zone, the news was so unexpected that I wondered if the phone was actually working properly — as if somehow I had just received a delayed tweet from 2007. That he would not only come back, but do so the tune of a 130+ ERA and regularly pitch into the eighth inning, surpassed my dreams of a best-case scenario. Even his injury was caused by a comebacker, a freak accident, not age or rust. But so it goes.

Hopefully, the Yankees have employees guarding Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Nova 24/7, preventing staircase trips and cooking cuts and fending off stray meteors, lightning strikes and coyote attacks. I want their best men on it.

Yanks Win by a Nose, but Offense Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

Arod and Teixeira teamed up to record the final out of the game. (Photo: AP)

It wasn’t the resounding breakout game most Yankees’ fans have been desperately anticipating, but on the strength of three runs, and Alex Rodriguez’ game ending throw, the Bronx Bombers finally managed to squeak out a much needed victory.

May has mostly been a gloomy month for the Yankees, but one bright spot has been the baby steps taken by Phil Hughes. In tonight’s game, the right hander broke out of the gate strong, but then fell victim to two old bugaboos. In the top of the third, Hughes left an 0-2 pitch over the plate to Humberto Quintero, who promptly lined an RBI double into the right field corner. Entering the game, Hughes had allowed opposing hitters to bat an astounding .293/.341/.537 (or 191% better than the league average) when ahead in the count 0-2, so Quintero’s run scoring hit was only the latest in a season’s worth of frustration born of poor location.

The Royals added to their lead in the fourth inning when Jeff Francoeur drove a 2-0 fastball into the left field seats. The long ball has been a season-long tormenter of the Yankees’ starting rotation, but no one has been more vulnerable than Hughes, who has been victimized at least once in each of his starts.  In 47 1/3 innings, Hughes has now allowed 11 home runs, giving him the third highest rate per nine innings among all qualified major league starters.

The negatives aside, Hughes did manage to hold the Royals to only two runs over six innings, which was important because the offense wasn’t quite ready to bust out. The Yankees finally got on the board when Robinson Cano launched a long home run in the fourth inning, but the winning rally was much more subdued. In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees loaded the bases on a seeing-eye grounder, hit by pitch, and bunt single, setting the stage for another golden scoring opportunity. With the memory of last night’s failure with bases loaded still fresh in everyone’s mind, Derek Jeter fell behind in the count, but finally produced a run with a single that was flared into right. Would this be the hit that would jump start the Yankees’ struggling offense and put an end to their futility with runners in scoring position? Unfortunately, the answer was no. After Curtis Granderson’s ground out produced another run, Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez each went down swinging to end the rally.

Although the Yankees may not have exited the inning with good feelings, they did come away with the lead. Keeping it, however, wouldn’t be easy.  Over the final three innings, Joe Girardi used five different relievers to record the last nine outs (such is life without Mariano), but his master plan almost hit a snag in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs, Alex Gordon, who had doubled, was at third when Alcides Escobar hit a grounder that Rodriguez fielded deep behind the bag. Arod’s only play was to desperately put his entire body into the throw, which hurtled across the diamond as Escobar raced down the line. The ball finally nestled into Mark Teixeira’s outstretched glove just ahead of the base runner, giving the Yankees a victory by the narrowest of margins, and, perhaps, a one-day reprieve from having to answer questions about not getting the big hit.

Color By Numbers: To Homer, Or Not To Homer? Should That Be the Question?

Around this time last year, I took a look at the growing belief that the Yankees hit “too many home runs” and concluded there wasn’t much wisdom in that unconventional thought. However, following a recent period of offensive malaise, the same theme has popped up once again. So, let’s take another look.

Yankees’ Record in Homerless Games, Since 1918

Source: Baseball-reference.com

A fashionable statistic making the rounds this morning is the Yankees 0-8 record when the offense fails to hit a home run. Despite the very small sample, this still seems to be a very intriguing relationship, especially when you consider that in half of those games the Yankees only allowed four or fewer runs. What’s more, the team’s bottom-four and six of the bottom-10 games in terms of WPA (win probability added) also happen to come from among the eight they’ve played without hitting a home run. So, it seems as if the team’s offense has suffered from a feast or famine syndrome with the long ball. However, that doesn’t mean the problem is “too many home runs”.

Yankees’ 10 Lowest WPA Games, 2012

Source: Baseball-reference.com

So far this season, 91 of the Yankees’ 177 runs, or just over half, have come via the home run, which compares to 44% cumulatively between 1996 and 2011. Of course, it should also be noted that the Yankees’ current run/game average of 4.76 is almost three-quarters off the .5.48 rate posted from 1996 to 2011. In other words, the Yankees aren’t hitting too many home runs. They just aren’t scoring enough runs, which is mostly a byproduct of a recent dry spell with runners in scoring position (it wasn’t too long ago that the team was scoring at a historic pace).

Just as the Yankees have found it difficult to win when they don’t hit a home run, the team has had good success when its pitchers keep the ball in the ballpark. Unfortunately, there have only been seven such occasions, which is by far the lowest percentage of homerless games since at least 1918. With the exception of C.C. Sabathia, Yankees’ starters have given up more than their fair share of homers, which, in turn, has significantly mitigated the relative power advantage that the team usually enjoys. This is the real problem.

Percentage of Games in Which Yankees Have Not Allowed a Home Run, Since 1918

Source: Baseball-reference.com

It’s easy to understand why so many Yankees’ fans harp upon the team’s offense. Historically, the Bronx Bombers have been a team defined by the strength of its bats, so when the lineup underperforms those high expectations, it becomes easy to point the finger at the offense. Having said that, just because the offense hasn’t been a weakness doesn’t mean there isn’t reason for concern. Although the Yankees’ offense is still very strong when compared to the rest of the league, it might not be good enough to overcome the team’s underperforming rotation. That’s why the Yankees biggest concern shouldn’t be the number of home runs hit by its lineup, but instead the amount allowed by its starters.

Color By Numbers: Who Needs a Hit?

A walk is as good as a hit. Even though some traditionalists might view such a statement as sabermetric hokum, that sentiment has been expressed by coaches from little league to the majors for who knows how many years. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make it true. In many cases, a hit is much more valuable than a base on balls, but in terms of preserving precious outs, both are equally effective.

With the Rays in town, it’s the perfect time to examine the relationship between batting average and on-base percentage. Over the first two games of the current series at Yankee Stadium, the first two hitters in the Tampa lineup have been Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena, whose relatively low batting averages make them seem like an unlikely pair to feature in the first two slots. Leave it to Joe Maddon to think outside the box, but, in this instance, his strategy isn’t very unorthodox.  You see, Zobrist and Pena have two of the highest on-base percentages on the team.

Having a high on-base percentage despite a low batting average isn’t very common, but in Zobrist and Pena, the Rays have two of the top three hitters in terms of the differential between both rates (Zobrist is first at .152 and Pena is third at .150; Dodgers’ AJ Ellis is second at .151).  Both hitters also rank among only 13 qualified batters who currently have an on-base percentage at least 150% greater than their batting average, so teams facing the Rays might be lulled into a false sense of security if they only focus on the latter.

Hitters with OBP to BA Ratios of At Least 150%, Qualified Batters in 2012

Source: Baseball-reference.com

With an on-base percentage that is 184% of his batting average, Brewers’ second baseman Rickie Weeks has managed to salvage some value from the disappointingly slow start to his 2012 season. Like most of the members of the list above, his high ratio is mostly the result of having a subpar batting average. However, there is one standout. Reds’ All Star first baseman Joey Votto has piggybacked on a very respectable batting average of .291 with an on-base percentage that ranks fifth in the National League, which is par for the course for the former MVP, whose career ratio is 130% (.406 OBP vs. 312 BA).

If Weeks maintains his current rates, he’d break the current on-base versus batting average differential record of 182% (based on qualified seasons), which was set by Braves’ outfielder Jimmy Wynn in 1976. That season, the Toy Cannon only hit .207, but, thanks to a league leading 127 walks, still finished in the top-10 in on-base percentage. In total, 175 players have had a qualified season with an OBP/BA ratio of at least 150%, but none has been more impressive than Barry Bonds’ 2004 campaign. That season, the homerun champion won the batting title with a .362 average and still managed to post a high multiple by reaching base in a remarkable 61% of all plate appearances.

10 Highest OBP to BA Ratios, Qualified Seasons since 1901

Source: Baseball-reference.com

It’s hard enough for a hitter to reach base at a high multiple to his batting average in a single season, much less for an entire career. However, 19 players with at least 1,000 plate appearances have managed to turn the trick, and chief among them was Mickey Lolich. In his 16 major league seasons, which spanned the advent of the DH rule, the former Tigers, Mets, and Padres pitcher ended his batting career with more walks than base hits (105 to 90). As a result, Lolich’s on-base percentage was nearly double his batting average, a discrepancy that easily ranks as the widest in baseball history.

Hitters with Career OBP to BA Ratios of At Least 150%, 1901

*Indicates pitchers.
Note: Based on a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Among position players, West Westrum’s 164% multiple ranks as the largest differential, but the most impressive divergence probably belongs to Gene Tenace, whose on-base percentage was 161% higher than his batting average in over 5,500 plate appearances. Tenace, a catcher/first baseman whom some regard as a borderline Hall of Famer, ended his career with a very impressive OPS+ of 136, making him a prime example of a hitter capable of providing significant value over and beyond his relatively low batting average.

What about the other end of the spectrum? For a look at those hitters whose ability to reach base rests solely on their bats, join me for a companion piece over at the Captain’s Blog.

Observations From Cooperstown: Memories of Moose

Moose Skowron looked like a character out of “Moon Mullins.” Or in a more contemporary sense, he had the appearance of a secondary character in “The Simpsons.” With his lantern jaw, thick jowls, and military crew cut, he possessed the look of a man who could put his fist through your chest and pull your heart out.

Appearances are often deceiving, and they were exactly that with Skowron, who died at 81 on Friday after a battle with lung cancer. Oh, he could be gruff and curt on the outside, but once you opened a conversation with him, you discovered a down-to-earth guy who enjoyed telling stories from his days with the Yankees. And when you’ve played with characters like Mickey Mantle, Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford, or managed for one-of-a-kind legends like Casey Stengel, you’ve got good material to work with.

There were other deceptions with Skowron. Like many fans, I always assumed that Skowron’s nickname came from his size, his power, and his brute physical strength. He was six feet, two inches, 200 pounds, with much of frame wrapped in muscle. Well, the true origins of his nickname had nothing to do with his physical dimensions. When Skowron was a boy, his grandfather gave him an impromptu haircut, which made the youngster look like the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Skowron’s friends called him “Mussolini,” and the family adapted by changing the nickname to “Moose.” By the time he was playing major league ball, everyone was calling him Moose. One of the few exceptions was the Topps Card Company, which always listed him as “Bill Skowron” on his cards.

After signing with the Yankees in 1950, the organization tried him as an outfielder and third baseman, before realizing he lacked the athletic agility needed of those positions. He moved to first base, where he was blocked by players like Johnny Mize and Joe Collins. He finally landed in the Bronx in 1954, when he platooned with Collins, before becoming an everyday player by the late 1950s.

How good was Skowron in his prime? Well, he was very good. From 1957 to 1961, he averaged 20 home runs a season while qualifying for five consecutive American League All-Star teams. During that stretch, he twice slugged better than .500; he also received some support for American League MVP on two occasions.

As a right-handed power hitter, the old Yankee Stadium was hardly made to order for Skowron. But he adapted, developing a power stroke that targeted right-center and right fields, where the dimensions were far more favorable for hitting the long ball. Skowron’s right-handed hitting presence was importance, given that most of their power hitters hit from the left side (including Roger Maris, Berra and the switch-hitting Mantle.) If opposing teams loaded up on left-handed pitching, Skowron could make them pay.

Skowron really had only two flaws in his game. A classic free swinger and bad ball hitter, Skowron could sometimes hit pitches up his eyes, but he could also flail away at other pitches outside of the strike zone. Since he didn’t walk much, his on-base percentage suffered. Skowron’s other weakness involved his health; he simply could not avoid injuries. One time, he hurt his back while lifting an air conditioner. On another occasion, he tore a muscle in his thigh. There were broken bones, too, including a fractured arm that resulted from an on-field collision. With such injuries forcing him to miss chunks of games at a time, he often played 120 to 130 games a season, instead of the 150 to 160 that he would have preferred.

The 1961 season provided contrasts and quandaries for Skowron. On the down side, his slugging percentage and his on-base percentage fell. More favorably, he hit a personal-best 28 home runs while playing in a career-high 150 games. Batting out of the sixth and seventh hole, Skowron provided protection for the middle-of-the-order thumpers, a group that included Maris, Mantle, and Berra.

As he often did, Skowron elevated his play in the World Series. In the 1961 Classic against the Reds, Yet, it was in the 1961 World Series. In five games against the upstart Reds, Skowron slugged .529 with one home run and five RBIs, reached base 45 per cent of the time, and hit a robust .353. Then again, Moose was almost always good in the Series. In 133 at-bats stretched over eight World Series appearances, Skowron hit eight home runs and slugged .519. In Game Seven situations alone, the Moose hit three home runs. If you believe in the existence of clutch, and I do, then Skowron belongs near the top of that list.

Skowron put up another good season in 1962, but his age and the presence of a young player in the system changed his status within the organization. Believing that Joe Pepitone was headed toward superstardom, the Yankees decided to trade Skowron that winter. They sent him to the Dodgers in exchange for Stan Williams, an intimidating veteran reliever who liked to throw pitches up and in as part of his quest for strikeouts.

In some ways, Skowron could not have been traded to a less ideal situation. Newly built Dodger Stadium, which had replaced the Los Angeles Coliseum as the Dodgers’ home, had a ridiculously high mound and outfield measurements that did not favor sluggers like Skowron. He also had to face a new set of pitchers in the National League; outside of World Series competition, Moose had little familiarity with senior circuit pitching. To make matters worse, Skowron did not play first base every day, instead platooning with Ron Fairly. Moose hit a miserable .203 and ripped only three home runs in well under 300 plate appearances.

To the surprise of many, Skowron still had something left for the World Series. Playing against his former Yankee mates, he swatted a home run and batted .385 to help the Dodgers to a four-game Series sweep.

World Series heroics aside, the Dodgers questioned whether Skowron had much left. So they sold him to the Washington Senators. He hit well during a half-season in the Capital City, but when the team fell out of contention, he was sent packing to the White Sox in a mid-season trade. Skowron hit well over the next season and a half, but slumped badly in 1966 before closing out his career in ’67.

Yet, there was much more to Skowron than on-the-field highlights and accomplishments. He made news off the field, sometimes in frivolous ways and sometimes through embarrassing situations. Let’s consider a couple of episodes from the 1960s:

*During the 1963 season, Skowron and several other Dodgers made a guest appearance on the TV show, “Mr. Ed.” Skowron, catcher John Roseboro, center fielder Willie Davis, and Hall of Fame left-hander Sandy Koufax played themselves. In the main plotline of “Leo Durocher meets Mr. Ed,” the talking horse gives batting tips to Durocher, who was billed as the Dodgers’ manager even though he was actually a coach under Walter Alston. Durocher is supposed to relay the tips to a slumping Skowron. Moose and the other Dodgers then watch in amazement as Mr. Ed completes an inside-the-park home run against Koufax. (In a complete aside, Durocher also appeared on an episode of “The Munsters,” and was once again mentioned as the Dodgers’ skipper. Either Alston wanted nothing to do with Hollywood, or someone was trying to send him the message that Durocher was the real Dodgers manager.)

*While training with the Dodgers in Vero Beach, Florida, he decided to make a surprise trip to see his wife at their home in Hilldale, New Jersey. When he arrived at the house, Skowron found his wife in bed with another man. Infuriated by the surprise discovery, Skowron proceeded to pummel his unwanted guest. Shortly thereafter, Skowron was charged with assault, though many were sympathetic to his situation.

Skowron had better long-term success with other relationships, particularly his fellow Yankees. Beloved in the Yankee clubhouse, Moose became especially close friends with Hank Bauer, a rough-and tumble character in his own right. They often made public appearances together, including numerous visits to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend signings. I remember meeting Skowron and Bauer back in the late 1980s, while I was still working in sports talk radio. They were signing at a table outside one of the many card shops on Main Street. I wanted to interview the two of them, but I was intimidated by Bauer’s raspy voice and Skowron’s rugged appearance. Feeling like a rookie cub reporter, I settled for making a few innocuous remarks to the two ex-Bombers.

It remains one of my regrets. I never did have another chance to interview either Skowron or Bauer. That was a real mistake on my part, losing out on the opportunity to have a real chat with Skowron, one of the game’s great storytellers.

If there is any consolation, some of Skowron’s stories can be found on You Tube, and in the many books that serve as oral histories of the Yankee franchise. This was a guy who was good friends with Mantle and Berra, a guy who knew Whitey Ford, a man who played with Maris, a guy who dealt with the idiosyncrasies of Casey Stengel. Skowron was a man worth listening to, a link to an era that was long ago, but an era that we always want to re-visit.

Moose was a man that we’ll miss.

Bruce Markusen is co-author of the newly revised edition of the book, Yankee World Series memories.

(Photo Credit: Washington Post; Alex Belth.)

[Editor's Note: Bruce will be on leave for the foreseeable future while he works on a book. We'll miss his weekly posts and he will drop in occasionally with a Card Corner piece. Meanwhile, we wish him good luck with his project and thank him for being the man.]

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