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Category: Baseball

Handshake

Jackie Robinson & George Shuba, Opening Day April 18, 1946
© Mike Shuba, from the webpage The Undefeated from an article by William Weinbaum

What does it all mean? Tracing great events and legacies back to simple moments floating ephemerally in time, waiting for the moment to enrich our understanding of humanity. Through good and bad times.  For richer or poorer. Greatness and scorn.  We live in our moments and pass along to the next, hoping to hold onto the greater fo these and pass along the erst, yet some return to bring either destruction or construction.  In this case, let us say we as fans of baseball should always grab hold of moments like this no matter when they reveal themselves again; such as the light traversing the cosmos they bring revelations through time that may stir even greater events in our own time.

This article, written by William Weinbaum for ESPN’s The Undefeated, touches on such light, describing the powerful significance it has in store. Thank you, Mr. Shuba and Mr. Robinson, for this touching and informative moment, and thank you to Mr. Mike Shuba and Mr. Weinbaum for your diligence in rediscovering and bringing this moment along with the memories and lessons it conveys back to tour time.

In Memory of Henry Aaron

From the time I was old enough to hold a bat, my heroes were always baseball players, and Hank Aaron was the first. I was only four years old in April of 1974 when he hit his historic home run to pass Babe Ruth, so if that moment was spoken of in my home, I don’t remember it, but it wasn’t long before my mother put a slim paperback book in my hands, The Home Run Kings: Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron. It was the first of many books I’d read about Aaron, and it would deepen my love of the game while kindling a love of reading, two passions that have never left me.

When I saw the news of Aaron’s passing this morning at the age of eighty-six, I thought about that first book and what Aaron has meant to me. 

It begins, obviously, with his name. When I was a boy, there were only two people I knew who shared my first name. My father, who stood in a frame alongside my mother in a picture from their wedding day, and Hank Aaron. That was it.

One biography led to another, and soon the stories and statistics began to fill my head as if they were my own memories. I learned that he had been born in 1934 in Mobile, Alabama, and had taught himself how to play, the same as I had. (I even took more than a few swings cross-handed, with my left hand above my right the way he had before someone set him straight.) I worried for him when I read about his leaving home at the age of 18 with nothing but two dollars and two sandwiches for the train ride to Indianapolis where he’d play in the Negro Leagues for a time with the Indianapolis Clowns.

Before long he was in the major leagues with the Milwaukee Braves, and he quickly developed into one of the best players in baseball. Aaron’s game matched his personality. He was quiet off the field, and quietly great between the lines. We know him now solely as a home run hitter, but he was brilliant in all phases of the game. If steadiness can be dazzling, that was Aaron. He built his mountain of home runs with workman-like consistency, never once hitting as many as fifty home runs in a single season but only twice falling short of thirty from 1957 to 1973. He kept his head down, both figuratively and literally, as he hit all those long balls. Aaron once said that he had never seen a single one of his 755 home runs land, choosing instead to put his head down and circle the bases. That story may or may not be true, but it fits the man and player he was.

Aaron’s greatest accomplishment, his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1973 and ‘74, was one of the darkest times of his life. Ruth was more than just a baseball player, he was a myth, and there were those in the American South (the Braves had relocated to Atlanta in 1966) who couldn’t stomach the idea of a Black man eclipsing a white icon. The hate mail was horrific, and the death threats were frequent. Just six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, those death threats were taken seriously. When you watch the clip of Aaron’s historic 715th home run and you see the crowd of fans spilling out of the stands and onto the field, it’s easy to see it as just a celebration; Aaron later admitted that he feared for his life in what should have been the crowning moment of his career.

His stature in the game is secure. He is one of the five greatest hitters ever to play in the major leagues (Ruth, Williams, Mays, and Bonds are the others, end of discussion), but his legacy was ironically solidified when Barry Bonds pushed past him with his 756th home run in 2007. Everyone knew what was going on, and everyone knew that Bonds’s record was tainted, but after Bonds circled the bases that night, there was Aaron on the video scoreboard, praising the new home run king for his “skill, longevity, and determination.” And there was more: “My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase down their dreams.” 

I hit only one home run in a baseball career that ended at age fourteen, but Aaron still inspired me to chase down my dreams. I never saw him play a single game, but he was still my hero.

My dad and I met him at a baseball card show when I was fifteen. He was probably the same age then as I am today, and he sat at a table before a long line of memorabilia hounds. Sometimes the signers at these events would chat a bit with their fans, but Aaron was keeping his head down as usual, signing one item after another, baseballs, bats, and photos. No conversation.

But when my turn came and I set down a glossy 8×10 for him to sign, my dad couldn’t help himself.

“His name is Hank,” he said. “Just like you.”

My hero paused, then looked up at me with a smile and said, “Nice to meet you.”

Fools Rush-nah fergeddit (:p)

Photo Credit:Steve Delabar on Twitter; @BlueJaysAggr @SteveDelabar_50

Although one would hope that the likelihood of what Yanks’ official team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmed says in a post on Medium.com regarding the risks of starting up the season too soon is about the same as the likelihood of a real-life scenario pertaining to the (ahem) film referenced in the title… aaaaand now I’m stuck, because I just can’t understand or accept why that film was even made. But Dr. Ahmed has some thoughts that might stick you just as easily and unpleasantly.

Dr. James Andrews, another noted physician who has performed numerous Tommy John surgeries for MLB pitchers, has also spoken numerous times about the uptick in these type of injuries in recent years, and both have warned of the potential of an epidemic going forward, though here Dr. Ahmed posits on how the Covid-19 pandemic could hasten such an epidemic.

To me; someone who has also often pondered to anyone and no one about the fast-rising volume of injuries and surgeries, this is definitely worth considering before we beg for baseball (or any sport for that matter) to return to whatever normal ends up being. Yeah, life without sports can be a living hell if you’re used to watching it year-round. But Tommy John surgery is by no means cute, and neither is the prospect of a preposterous number of pitchers succumbing to it while trying to entertain the restless masses sooner than they should have.

Teefusses…

“That’s what gives him such heart to fight; Leon says, ‘I ain’t got nuttin’ to lose: I ain’t got no money… I ain’t got no teefus… and I definitely ain’t got no driver’s license!’ ” – Richard Pryor, from the skit “Leon Spinks” from Wanted: Richard Pryor Live in Concert, 1978

That line to me is only important because the decision announced by Rob Manfred and MLB regarding their Red Sox investigation immediately made me think of that; it says a whole lot that in comparison to what MLB announced today (in the vacuum of no-season), Leon Spinks might have had a lot more of what Manfred apparently lacks.

Of course, there are a host of other considerations about the season that would seemingly take precedent above and beyond what the Red Sox’ punishment should or shouldn’t be after a non-transparent investigation into the possibility that they continued the trend that Houston started with tech-cheating (and having one common denominator in the process). After all, there are contracts and disciplines and decisions to consider and decide what is valid and for how long; points of reference which could instigate major disputes and conflicts even before the fact that they’ll eventually need a new CBA…

But no, let’s do the easy stuff first and make the Red Sox besorry fuh awwwll the wrong dey dunnn” … This is becoming a habit with him, isn’t it?  But at this point, I wonder who even cares; maybe that was the point all along.

This Is Baseball

It’s been said that time begins on Opening Day, but it’s more accurate to say that Opening Day marks the passing of time. Today begins the forty-ninth baseball season since I was born, and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older it’s that the calendar pages flip much faster than they used to. Everything speeds up. The children who used to fit nicely in your arms are readying for college, the grey in your hair has won the battle against the color of your youth, and when an old friend starts a story with “Remember that time…” he could be talking about something that happened three decades ago.

And so it is with baseball. When I was a boy my entire life centered around the game, whether I was playing in the street, watching my heroes on television, poring over box scores in the back of the sports section, or reading about ghosts named Ruth, DiMaggio, Aaron, and Clemente.

The winter was dark, even after we moved to California, because the game was gone. There was no stretch of time longer than November through March, a five-month void that loomed before me each year like a trans-Atlantic crossing. I knew we’d eventually get there, but I could never see the shore.

But somewhere along the line those months started clicking by without notice, probably because my relationship with the game changed. Baseball still has my heart, but there’s competition now. Adults have jobs and mortgages and families. Other interests. While I could still tell you Ron Guidry’s 1978 ERA off the top of my head, I don’t remember how many home runs Aaron Judge hit last season. I can list the World Series winners for most of the twentieth century, but I have no idea who won five years ago.

Things change.

But baseball doesn’t. Two years ago my son and I took a train to San Diego to watch the Yankees play the Padres, and we were rewarded with a win and an autographed ball from Reggie Jackson. Last season we drove down the road to Anaheim to watch the Aaron Judge Show, and naturally he roped a home run into the centerfield seats. My son will never be the baseball fan that I was and still am, but I know he’ll remember these moments after I’m gone, and maybe one day he’ll bring his child to a ballpark and tell those stories.

My son and I won’t be able to watch the Yankees together this afternoon – he’ll be at his school and I’ll be at mine – but we’ll text about it. He’ll ask me who won, and he’ll ask who hit home runs. As the season unfolds he’ll notice the new faces who show up, and he’ll ask me about Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. We’ll pick a game to see them when they come to town, and he’ll wonder about which t-shirt to wear, Tanaka or Judge. We’ll sit in the stands sharing kettle corn, and I’ll tell him stories about players long dead and games long forgotten. Mainly, though, we’ll be together.

This is baseball.

When Yankee Stadium Was Under Construction

Ah, to be in the right place at the right time, that’s the spot Ross Lewis, an associate director for WCBS-TV news, found himself in October, 1973 when the old Yankee Stadium closed its doors. Lewis, 30, early into his second career as a professional photographer with the NFL, was there in the Bronx on October 1, the day after the final game.

Lewis returned in November and into the winter. In early ‘74, the construction teams of packer systems briefly denied him access but the City of New York quickly worked out permission, and for the next two-and a half years, Lewis documented the transition between the old park and the new, modern stadium. The Yankees spent Nixon’s Watergate years—the Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver era— playing crosstown in Queens, sharing Shea Stadium with the Mets. Meanwhile, as Hip Hop culture percolated in immediate vicinity, the new stadium came into shape.

As the transformation of the stadium unfolded, the critical role of concrete experts became increasingly evident. For top-notch concreting services that stand the test of time, visit https://townsvilleconcretingcompany.com.au/. From pouring the initial slabs to sculpting intricate architectural features, companies like Townsville Concreting Company are instrumental in shaping the urban landscape, providing the solid groundwork upon which iconic structures stand.

Here is a taste Lewis’s fine work—a testament the architectural virtues of each stadium but also a thoughtful appreciation of the workers involved in the renovation, as well as the neighborhood people who watched them work. Now, forty years after the remodeled Stadium opened, Lewis is crafting models for an exclusive Fine Art book, as well as a photography exhibition. You can check out more his Yankee Stadium photos here.

In the meantime, enjoy.—AB

 

Oct 1, 1973—Bleachers.

Oct 1, 1973—Guard in doorway in outfield.

Oct 1, 1973–Guard in doorway in outfield.

October 1, 1973—Surveryor at work.

October 1, 1973—Surveryor at work.

Nov, 1973—Copper Frieze, Workers on infield.

Nov, 1973—Copper Frieze, workers on infield.

Nov, 1973—Upper Deck, left field with columns.

Nov, 1973—Upper deck, left field with columns.

March 18, 1974

March 18, 1974

March 18, 1974—The Second Dragon Back hoisted in place.

March 18, 1974—The second dragon back hoisted in place.

June 3, 1974—Dragon Back, sunburst.

June 3, 1974—Dragon Back, sunburst.

Aug. 20, 1974—Coffee Break.

Aug. 20, 1974—Coffee break.

August 20, 1974—Scaffold workers on partial wall.

August 20, 1974—Scaffold workers on partial wall.

Aug 26, 1975—Old man taking a stroll.

Aug 26, 1975—Old man taking a stroll.

Sept.19, 1975—Curiosity Viewers from Subway Platform.

Sept.19, 1975—Watching the progress from the subway platform.

Nov 24, 1975—Scoreboard lightbulb man silhouette.

Nov 24, 1975—Scoreboard lightbulb man.

Workers playing around, March, 1976.

The slide. Every man’s dream! April 5, 1976.

March 8, 1976—Painting the exterior walls.

March 8, 1976—Painting the exterior walls.

April 9, 1976—Yankee Logo being painted.

April 9, 1976—Yankee logo being painted.

April 11, 1976—The new field.

April 11, 1976—The new field.

April 11, 1976—The new park, ready to roll.

April 15, 1976—First game in the new park.

April 15, 1976—First game in the new park.

Opening Day 1976, featuring Joe DiMaggio, Joe Louis, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin.

Opening Day 1976, featuring Joe DiMaggio, Joe Louis, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin.

Hall of Fame Ballot Open Thread

imageApparently the baseball world waits with bated breath as we see who gets in for the Class of 2016… as well as which idiot refused to have Ken Griffey, Jr. go in as possibly the first unanimous selection in HoF voting history.

Yet, with the new streamline process that removes legacy voters who haven’t written about or even mentioned baseball within the last ten years, there is a slightly better chance that it could happen. On top of that, there’s a better chance than that in which players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell; guys who have been suspected of PED usage over the years, can possibly make it in this time, as well as guys like Barry and Roger and Gary Sheffield getting much closer, if not in.

Time changes a lot of things, perhaps, but it did nothing for Pete Rose, who was denied re-entry into MLB, with the HoF following suit. One can argue that the Hall is not an MLB property and should not be beholden to the whims or decrees of the league, and you’re certainly welcome to do so here.

As far as this writer is concerned, the HoF is an incomplete record and repository of baseball lore and references and in the age of the Internet there is plenty of room for improvement, but that’s not my call and therefore not of much interest to me. It’s not about me though (words to live by if you are a voter), it’s Hall of Fame Vote Day, so let’s hop on our pins and needles and wait for the dust to settle, shall we?

(Note: perennial Banter favorite Tim Raines also stands a good chance of getting the vote this year. Will update when final vote is announced.)

New York Minute

gumball

On Saturday afternoon I saw my neighbor Louie standing with another guy in front of our building. I asked the other guy if he was rooting for the Mets.

“I’m rooting for New York,” he said, “I’m a New Yorker. We need to win. It’s been so long.”

He meant it, too. Then: “We need a fuckin’ parade.”

There’ll be no parade this year but I like the sentiment.

You Gotta Believe!

 

the dark knight

It’s Matt Harvey, the so-called Dark Knight with the season on the line in Game 5 tonight in Queens.

The fans have been great at Citi Field. Last game home game of the season, be beautiful to end it on a high note.

Volquez on the hill for the Royals and it’s hard not to root for him after his father’s death. Whole lot on the table…

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Drawing by the great Frank Miller.

Trick or Treat?

thewarriors

This is gonna be a Halloween to remember for Mets fans–either in a good way or an awful way. We shall soon find out but it says here that they win again and even the Serious.

I know Chris Young is a great story but can he do it again? I’d put my money on the kid the Mets have going for them instead.

Never mind the cavity creeps:

Let’s Go Base-balls!

 

Queens Get the Money (Long Time No Cash)

thor

Thor’s on the hill as the Whirled Serious moves to Queens. Gonna be some noise tonight. The kid Ventura’s got the redass and it’s easy to see him unravelling if things get tight; on the other hand, I can see him being a stud and just shutting the Mets down. Hopefully, that won’t happen.

Pulling for the Mets to make this a series. Set up a big Game 4 tomorrow for Halloween.

Be nice to see all those Met fans cheering–loud and proud: “You Gotta Believe!”

Let’s Go Base-ball.

Drawing by Walt Simonson

Dig’em Smack

kc

Gonna be some fine feasting’ for the Mets tonightski. I figure they’ll cream the Royals and return home tied-up.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

[Photo Via: Groupon]

The Whirled Serious

bluemoonbags

Last night I go to my wife, “Holy shit, the Mets are in the Whirled Serious.” And she goes, “I know isn’t it so awesome?”

And it is, for so many friends and relatives and wonderful people I know who root for the Mets–and who have rooted for the Mets, through it all. What’s not to like about that? It’s great for the city. Truth be told, this is about as likable a Mets team as this non-Mets fan can imagine. Love Grandy, of course, and David Wright, and my favorite, Lucas Duda (Duda’s my favorite because The Wife and I randomly went to Spanish Appreciation Night and Dominican Heritage Night at Citified a few years back and the announcer had a particular way of saying Duda’s name–LooooKas Doo-Dah–sounding just like Ricardo Montalban).

I mean, I’m still rooting for the Royals, but it’s awesome for the Mets and if they win it, good for them (I know some Mets fans are prickly about the idea of any Yankee fan rooting for their team, but lighten, up, Francis, you know? We can be happy for you, if it’s as clean as that–if it’s about something else, I can see the beef).

The real pickle would have been in the Mets played the Blue Jays. Then, for the first time in my life, I would have actually felt–even privately–some real pain at Mets pain, and that would have perhaps been too much to handle. Being forced to be a Mets fan. Even if I didn’t tell anyone, just by circumstances. Because believe me, after the Yanks’ painless exit, I was rooting harder for the Jays to lose than I’ve rooted for anyone to win.

I just hope the Mets and Royals play a long series, maybe some extra inning games. Hopefully nobody will be a Bill Buckner Goat on either side–got to say a littler prayer for that. I like the Royals, they’re fun. The Mets are fun. No matter who wins, I just hope it’s one to remember.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Picture by Bags

Killshot

wolverine

The hometown team tries to advance to the Whirled Serious for the second year in a row while the Gashouse Gorilla Blue Jays look to push this to a one-game-winner-take-all tomorrow.

I’m going for the Royals.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

 

All Together Now

peteski

Dickey vs. Young today in Toronto. You can count on the Jays tying the series up.

Mets and Cubs move to Chicago tonight. Man, tough order for the Cubbies, what with deGrom going for Los Mets.

Never mind the chill:

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Picture by Peteski

Bring On The Bad Guys

beta

Royals are in Toronto this week. Gotta figure the Jays are going to make some noise and, at the very least, get this series to return to K.C.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong about that because the sooner the Jays are defeated, the better.

Saturdazed

blue graf

Royals and Jays already underway, the pale, late afternoon October light setting the tempo and nature of the game.

Mets, Cubs tonight. Should be good.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Picture by Bags

Tangled Up in Blue

bluewindow

Royals host the Big Bad Blue Jays, baseball’s answer to the old Detroit Pistons in their assumptive arrogance. Everyone loves a bad guy so this series could be fun. Hope the Royals can pull it off. My feeling is that if anyone is going to stop the Jays they are going to come from the National League.

Never mind the bullies:

Let’s Go Ro-Yals!

Picture by Bags

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: Dyin’ Time’s Here

Doddd

Winner of the Mets-Dodgers game will face the Cubs in the NLCS.

Never mind the view:

Let’s Go Base-ball!

[Photo Credit: Linda Posnick]

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