Monday, December 04, 2006
Sidebar features add to your reading pleasure: John Scheuerholz, general manager extraordinary is profiled, the history of the Federal League is documented, top minor league players are given interesting close ups. There is also a highly intellectual look at the 100 best pitchers of all time - as ranked by the "Hardball Times" Number one Roger Clemens through Number 66 Bob Friend to Number 100 Waite Hoyt. And if all of the above is not enough - there are stats galore. "The Hardball Times Baseball Annual" is truly a hot stove league treasure.
"Speed, Guts and Glory, 100 Unforgettable Moments in Nascar History" by Joe Garner (Warner Books, $26.99, 240 pages) is an omnibus tour of some of the great moments in the sport. The gang is all here from Dale Earhardt to Jeff Gordon to Tony Stewart and on and on. If you are a fan of Nascar you must own this beautifully edited, incredibly laid out, master effort. It seems there is a bit of a publishing swell out there to rank things in sports. In addition to "100 Unforgettable Moments in Nascar History" there is also "The 100 Greatest Days in New York Sports" by Stuart Miller ($35.00, 464 pages). The book has an interesting premise and features such events as John Starks of the New York Knicks and his dunk over M.J. in the 1993 eastern conference NBA Finals, the Giants manhandling of the Chicago Bears in the 1956 NFL championship game, Babe Ruth's record setting 60th in 1927 at Yankee Stadium, the Subway Series return in 2002 - Mets/Yankees, and on and on and on. If you are a die-hard Big Apple sports fan - and want to read the old stories again - this is the book for you. However, it could have been a better read with more careful editing - -there is repetition and some clumsy sentence structure throughout.In the same collection category - there is "Sports Illustrated Great Football Writing" edited by Rob Fleder ($26.95) and "The Best American Sports Writing", Michael Lewis guest editor (Houghton Mifflin, 416 pages, $28.00). Both are replete with wonderful and entertaining writing about their respective sports.
UP AND COMING: From Public Affairs in spring 2007 - THE GASHOUSE GANG by John Heidenry and from Simon and Schuster from Jonathan Eig will come a book on Jackie Robinson's first year. There is also to look forward to "CRAZY '08" -by Cait Murphy, Smithsonian Books, about the fabled 1908 baseball season.
Monday, November 27, 2006
The idea was rare, simple if a bit macabre - a book about how many former major league baseball players met their fate. Or as the sub-title of the tome states: "Salacious, Sad and Surreal Deaths in the History of Baseball." That is the story of "Bury My Heart at Cooperstown" by Frank Russo and Gene Racz (Triumph, $14.95, 261 pages). The gang's not all here, not yet, but there are stories galore of the Yankees of Murderers Row, of suicides, of those too young to die, of tragic and sudden demises. For me (finishing up the next Harvey Frommer sports book that has him amply covered) the most moving story was of Eddie Bennett, Yankee hunchbacked batboy and good luck charm. The guy who guarded and fondled the bats of the great 1927 Yankees, hit by a cab, after weeks of very heavy drinking, he died in his rented room of alcoholism on January 16, 1935. He was just 32 years old. It is stories like these and others that make "Bury My Heart at Cooperstown" a memorable read! And for further involvement with this subject matter check out the site: the deadballera.com and From the University of Nebraska Press comes three books with interesting baseball angles: "Three Finger" by Cindy Thomson and Scott Brown ($26.95, 250 pages) about legendary hurler Three Finger Brown, "Baseball's Natural" by John Theodore ($14.95, 136 pages) about Eddie Watikus of the Philadelphia Phillies and "Baseball Without Borders" edited by George Gmelch ($19.95, 326 pages). As always the price for U. of Nebraska Press books is a bit inflated, but the works are carefully produced.
HIGHLY NOTABLE: "Coach," (Warner, $14.99, 285) a wonderful and moving read reviewed by your diligent reviewer when it was in hardcover is now in paperback. Edited by Andrew Blauner with a foreword by Bill Bradley, the terrific tome has 25 writers musing on sports people who made a difference in their lives. For those among you into oral history and into pro football - "Hail Victory" by Thom Loverro (Wiley, $24.95, 302 pages) should be right up there on your sports bookshelf. Filled with insights galore, stories by such as Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Jacoby, George Pepper and other eloquent tellers of tales - this multiple memoir of the Washington Redskins is fabulous!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
There was the sad news today out of Downers Grove, Illinois that three time All Star hurler Johnny Sain passed away. He had paired with Warren Spahn to create one of the top one-two pitching punches in baseball history.
A poem in The Boston Post in 1948 by sports editor Gerald Hern led to the famous phrase about the Braves' two terrific pitchers and had commentary in it about the rest of the staff:
"First we'll use Spahn, then we'll use Sain, Then an off day, followed by rain. Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain, And followed, we hope, by two days of rain.".
A four-time 20-game winner, later a top reliever, John Franklin Sain was a successful pitching coach for the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Detroit and Atlanta.
The battle cry of the 1948 Boston Braves "SPAHN AND SAIN AND PRAY FOR RAIN" is one of the more famous language gems in a sports that has had many. For your edification and reading pleasure, some more follow:
"Danish Viking" - George Pipgras, for his size and roots.
"Daddy Longlegs" - Dave Winfield, for his size and long legs.
"Death Valley" - the old deep centerfield in Yankee Stadium - a home run here was a mighty poke.
"Dial-a-Deal - Gabe Paul earned this one for his telephone trading habits.
"Donnie Baseball" - Don Mattingly was the only player in any sport to have a nickname with the actual name of his or her sport in it. Some say it was coined by Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay; others say it came from Kirby Pucket. Kay takes the credit; Mattingly gives the credit to Puckett.
"Ellie" - affectionate abbreviation of Elston Howard's first name
"Father of the Emory Ball" - Rookie right-hander Russ Ford posted a 26-6 record with 8 shutouts, 1910
"Fireman" - The first to have this nick-name was Johnny Murphy, the first great relief pitcher who put out fires. Joe Page picked up this nick-name for his top relief work later on.
"Five O'clock Lightning" - At five o'clock the blowing of a whistle at a factory near Yankee Stadium signaled the end of the work day in the 1930s and also what the Yankees were doing to the opposition on the field.
"Flash" - Joe Gordon earned this nick-name because of his fast, slick fielding and hot line drives.
"Four hour manager" - Bucky Harris, who put his time in at the game and was finished.
"Fordham Johnny" - for the college Johnny Murphy attended.
"Friday Night Massacre" - April 26, 1974, Yankees Fritz Patterson, Steve Kline, Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, and half the pitching staff were traded to Cleveland for Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, and Ceil Upshaw.
"Gator" - Ron Guidry, who came from Louisiana alligator country.
"Gay Caballero" - Lefty Gomez for his Mexican roots and fun loving ways.
"Gay Reliever" - Joe Page for his night owl activity.
" Gehrigville." Bleachers in right-center at Yankee Stadium.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
This is a book to buy, to keep, to savor. It is one that features more than 100 color and black-and-white illustrations and most noteworthy -10 removable facsimile reproductions of rare Mantle memorabilia including his minor league contract 1949 signed by Mantle and his father, a publicity form questionnaire May 1950 filled out in Mantle's own hand, an autographed photo.
The quality of all the visuals as well as the writing and re-telling of stories collected over the years focused on the "Mick" is moving and special. The book is highly recommended.
Another highly recommended book is "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis (Norton, $24.95, 299 pages). The #1 bestselling author of "Moneyball" is at it again with his story of Michael Oher, destined to one day be a NFL multi-millionaire. We travel with Lewis through a journey and understanding. Oher, one of 13 children, father unknown, his own name unknown, his mother a crack addict is how we begin. The book's narrative arc sweeps us along on the ride of a young man who until 2004 had never even touched a football and never ever played left tackle - to a moment in time where his size, strength and agility made him into a lottery-like treasure in the world of football. "The Blind Side" is a terrific and engrossing read.
"Perfect Once Removed" by Phillip Hoose (Walker and Company, $19.95, 176 pages) is timed to the 50th anniversary of the Don Larsen perfect game, October 8, 1956. It is a memoir of the author, then nine years old, whose whole life changed from that event.
"Lute! The Seasons of My Life" by Lute Olson and David Fisher (Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press, $24.95, 304 pages) is an engaging and well written memoir about the Arizona basketball head coach legend.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The Pirates won the first game of the series. Then Yankee bats took over .The New Yorkers won Game Two 16-3, Game Three 10-0. Behind the pitching of Vern Law and Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh won the next two to take a three games-to-two lead. The see-saw series saw New York tie things up with a 12-0 shutout from Whitey Ford.
All of that set the stage for Game 7, a contest that stands as one of the most memorable games in World Series history.
The Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit to take a 7-4 lead going into the bottom of the eighth. The Bucs scored five runs in the eighth inning, the final three on Hal Smith's homer, to take a 9-7 lead. A Yankee two-run rally in the top of the ninth tied the score, 9-9. Forbes Field was a madhouse.
Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the home ninth against Yankee right-hander Ralph Terry. The count on Maz was 1-0. At 3:36 P.M. it seemed there was no other sound in the ballpark except for the crack of the bat of Mazeroski against the ball pitched by Terry. Maz thought the ball would reach the wall so he ran all out of the batter's box.
Yogi Berra backed up in left field, then he circled away from the wall, watching the ball go over his head and over the wall. Then Yogi dropped to his knees in despair and anger.
Forbes Field was just the opposite it rocked. The Pittsburgh Pirates had their first World Championship since 1925. Bill Mazeroski became the first player to end a World Series with a home run.
"It's hard to believe it hadn't been done before," Mazeroski, the greatest fielding second baseman in Pirate history, said "Every day of my life I think of that home run. Wouldn't you if you had hit it? People always are reminding me of it. I suppose it must be the most important thing I've ever done."
"I was an 8 year-old Yankee fan in 1960," Bob Costas mused." I literally wept when Bill Mazeroski's home run cleared the ivy-covered wall of Forbes Field. I believe I have come to terms with it, and can see Mazeroski for what he really was: one of baseball's all-time great players.
"Mickey Mantle batted .400 with three homers, 11 RBI's, eight runs scored and eight walks in the series. It was not enough. "We outscored them 55-27," Mantle complained, "and that was not enough. The best team lost."
Five days after the series ended, Casey Stengel was fired as manager of the Yankees.
This was well before the Steinbrenner era.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
The first ball was thrown out by New York Mayor LaGuardia. Everyone settled in on that summer-like day to watch the match-up of Brooklyn's Kirby Higbe and New York's Atley Donald in the first Subway Series between the two teams.
The game moved to the ninth inning with the Brooks clinging to a 4-3 lead. Higbe and McDonald were long gone. In their place were Brooklyn's Hugh Casey and Yankee reliever pJohnny Murphy.
The burly Casey got Johnny Sturm and Red Rolfe on ground balls. That made it seven in a row for him. Tommy Henrich was next. The count ran full.
"Casey goes into the windup," Mel Allen described it. "Around comes the right arm, in comes the pitch. A swing by Henrich . . . he swings and misses, strike three! But the ball gets away from Mickey Owen. It's rolling back to the screen. Tommy Henrich races down toward first base. He makes it safely. And the Yankees are still alive with Joe DiMaggio coming up to bat."
That fabled call by Allen succinctly and dramatically described what happened. Tommy Henrich recalled: "That ball broke like no curve I'd ever seen Casey throw. As I start to swing, I think, 'No good. Hold up.' That thing broke so sharp, though, that as I tried to hold up, my mind said, 'He might have trouble with it.'"
Owen, who ironically, that season, set the National League record for 476 consecutive errorless chances accepted by a catcher while setting a Dodger season record by fielding .995, was the goat.
There were those who thought the game was over when Henrich swung and apparently struck out on the Casey 3-2 pitch. A few Yankee players were headed down the runway to their locker room. Police, positioned in the Dodger dugout, were out on the field prepared to handle crowd control. The police, it was later claimed,were an issue for Owen trying to come up with the passed ball.
A shaken Casey was roughed up for four runs. The Yankees wound up beating the stunned Dodgers,7-4. The next day a four hitter by Ernie (Tiny) Bonham gave the Yankees a 3-1 victory and the world championship again.
For the Dodgers, it was "Wait 'til Next Year" again.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
OLD ACHES AND PAINS Luke Appling performed for two decades with the Chicago White Sox. A .310 lifetime batting average was just one of the reasons he was admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1964. His nickname stemmed from the numerous real and imagined illnesses he picked up playing in 2,422 games, while averaging better than a hit a game. Appling was born April 2, 1907, and in 1950 was still playing major league baseball, aches, pains, and all.
OLD RELIABLE Tommy Henrich played for the New Yo* Yankees from 1937 to 1950. His lifetime batting average was only .282, but the value of Henrich to the Yankees was in his clutch hitting. Time after time he would come up in a key situation and deliver. His nickname had its roots in his ability to function under pressure and to perform reliably with distinction.
OLE PERFESSOR Hall of Famer Charles Dillon Stengel was an original. Born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri, he played in the majors for 14 years and managed for 25 more—with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boston Braves, the New York Yankees (10 pennants), and the New York Mets (four tenth-place finishes). He had seen it all, and in one of his more coherent statements, he said, "This here team won't win anything until we spread enough of our players around the league and make the others [teams] horseshit, too." The statement underscored the ineptitude of the early Mets. Loquacious, dynamic, vital, Casey could lecture on baseball and life for hours and hours, and that was just part of the reason for his nickname. Actually, in 1914 Stengel held the title of professor at the University of Mississippi, for he spent that year's spring-training coaching baseball at that institution. That's how he really came by his nickname.
$100,000 INFIELD That was the price tag and the nickname given to Eddie Collins, "Home Run" Baker, Stuffy McInnis, and Hack Barry, the players who composed the infield for Connie Mack's 1914 Philadelphia Athletics.
"WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR" A plantive refrain echoed annually by the fans of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, this phrase was an expression of eternal optimism and faith in the ability of their beloved bums to make up for all the failures and inadequacies of years gone by. It especially applied to the World Series. In 1941, for example, the Dodgers won the pennant but lost the World Series in five games to the New York Yankees. In 1947 the Dodgers won the pennant and lost again in the World Series, this time in seven games, to the New York Yankees. They lost in the 1949 World Series to the Yankees; they bowed in the 1952 World Series to the Yankees; they were defeated in the 1953 World Series by the Yankees—but 1955 was "next year." The series went seven games, and the Dodgers
defeated the New York Yankees and became World Champions at long last.
WALKING MAN, THE Eddie Yost played nearly two decades in the major leagues. His lifetime batting average was only .254, but that didn't keep him off the bases. Yost coaxed pitchers into yielding I,614 walks to him—almost a walk a game through his long career.
WEE WILLIE He was born March 3, 1872, in Brooklyn, New York. He died on January 1, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York. His name was William Henry Keeler. A lefty all the way, he weighed only 140 pounds and was a shade over 5'4". His tiny physical stature earned him his nickname, but pound for pound he was one of the greatest hitters baseball ever produced. Keeler played for 19 years and recorded a lifetime batting average of .345, fifth on the all-time list. He collected 2,962 hits in 2,124 games, spraying the ball to all fields. Wee Willie's greatest year was 1897, a season in which he batted .432, recorded 243 hits and 64 stolen bases, and scored 145 runs. He swung a bat that weighed only 30 ounces, but as he said, he "hit 'em where they ain't" —and that was more than good enough to gain Keeler entry into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1939.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
In my narrative and oral history, here is Charlie Wagner, one more time.
Dubbed "Broadway" because of his stylish way of dressing, Charlie Wagner was the second oldest living former Red Sox player, the longest serving. He was born December 3, 1912 in Reading, Pennsylvania and was but 5 years old when the Red Sox won the 1918 World Series. "Broadway was a spry 91 years old when Boston won it again in 2004.
CHARLIE WAGNER: The Red Sox signed me in 1935, I knew the job wouldn't last. In '35, I was 7-16 at Class-B Charlotte, which I wasn't happy about, but my skipper said I was a prospect. The next year I was able to win 20 games at Class-B Rocky Mount and 20 at Triple-A Minneapolis in 1937. And the next year, 1938, I made the big club.
Charlie Wagner's major league debut was April 19, 1938. After being used by the Red Sox in both starting and relief duties, the young hurler ad his first full season as a starter in 1941, the second arm in a pitching rotation that included Dick Newsome, Mickey Harris and Lefty Grove. Finishing with a 12-8 record, three shutouts, Wagner posted an ERA that was the best on the Boston pitching staff and the 3rd best in the American League.
CHARLIE WAGNER: The Boston writers hung the name "Broadway" on me. People said it was because of the stylish way I dressed, still dress, I guess. But I wasn't a rowdy. My second year we got Ted Williams. We were sitting at our lockers one day, Lefty Grove was next to me, Jimmy Foxx next to him and Ted comes in bellowing: "Okay, who doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, doesn't chase girls and goes to bed early?"
The office of manager Joe Cronin was next to us, and he came and said "Ted, Wagner's your man." A lot of these guys played with him, but I lived with him, and it was a joy.
We became very good friends. He got up early, and I got up early. We didn't drink or smoke. No nightclubs and all that stuff. We were good roommates. Ted liked company, but he was a loner in a sense. He liked company when he wanted company.
We lived at the same hotel in Boston. It was the Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road, the nicest hotel. You could hide away there, and nobody would know it. It had a roof garden. I used to go in there and sit in the corner and watch people come in. Ted could look out the window early morning and see which way the wind would be blowing at Fenway Park. Sometimes, he would get a little angry: "Do you see that wind blowing straight in from right field. You lucky pitchers!"
Ted would fly out and fly back. He liked to do things alone. But he had a friend everywhere in America. He knew how to handle success, he knew how to handle the test.
Wagner served in the Navy after the 1943 season, one in which he compiled career highs in wins, complete games, innings pitched and strikeouts. He returned to the Red Sox in 1946. His final game was August 8th of that year, and it ended a six-season Major League career spent totally with the Red Sox, 1938-42, 1946.
But the end of his active playing career was just the beginning of his long tenure with the Red Sox as assistant farm director, scout and spring training special instructor. Still in uniform in spring training, Wagner is driven around the Boston's spring training camp on a golf cart. He looks and listens and offers tips gained through the years to pitchers. There have been so many players scouted and helped by "Broadway" through all the decades like Reggie Smith.
CHARLIE WAGNER: Reggie Smith had all the potential, which was apparent, but he had to settle in and take his lumps. He was moved from third base, to second, then the outfield. He finally found his niche. He had the best arm of his time and as good as any that's ever been in baseball. We tried him at second base and then we put him in right field. Right field is a tough place to play. They always say that you put your least talented player in right field-- but right field is an important place because you got to make the throw to third base. it. He would throw from any place, anywhere on the field and the ball would never hit the ground.
Charlie Wagner has seemingly never hit the ground. He has been the man in motion for the Red Sox, a tremendous friend to Ted Williams and so many others.
CHARLIE WAGNER: It's hard for me to talk about him. I talked to him over the phone maybe twice a week for a long time. And the last few weeks, why, his voice started to pepper down and just, unfortunately, he was just tired of being sick. We had a lot of great days together, a lot of them.
The Red Sox celebrated their 100th anniversary on May 27, 2001, with a pre-game ceremony. And there on the field at Fenway was Charlie Wagner - throwing out the first pitch to Carlton Fisk.
Then on July 6, 2005 in a special ring ceremony at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pennsylvania. Dr. Charles Steinberg, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Red Sox, presented Wagner with his "World Series"ring.
CHARLIE WAGNER: The ceremony tore me apart. I sure appreciate it. Wearing this ring means so much to me that I can't explain it. Cherish your memories.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The recent ground breaking for a new Yankee Stadium to be ready for business in 2009 led your faithful scribe to muse on the one that has a couple of more seasons left in it. Only Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are older. It’s where Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne made his "Win One for the Gipper” speech, where Johnny Unitas won the 1958 NFL championship in the so-called "Greatest Game Ever Played," where Muhammad Ali fought. It’s where Casey Stengel hit the first World Series home run for the old New York Giants - an inside-the-park job in Game One of the 1923 World Series, where Mickey Mantle blasted a fly ball off the third-deck facade, 109 feet above the playing field and 374 feet from home plate. It’s where Thurman Munson's locker remains the way it was the day he died in a 1979 airplane crash with his Number 15 jersey and catching gear still intact.
From 1903 until April 11, 1913, the New York Highlanders on their way to becoming the New York Yankees - played all their home games at Hilltop Park. Then they became tenants of the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. In 1920, Yankee attendance, boosted by the drawing power of the sensational new slugger Babe Ruth, doubled to 1,289,422, more than a hundred thousand more than the Giants.
The relationship between the two franchises, never especially cordial, turned even more testy following that 1920 season. The next year, the Giants told the Yankees they were no longer welcome as tenants at the Polo Grounds and should vacate the premises as soon as possible.
Ironically, Yankee co-owner Jake Ruppert had thought of demolishing the Polo Grounds and constructing a 100,000 seat stadium to be shared by the Giants and Yankees. Now, however, he and his partner Colonel Tillinghast l'Hommedieu Huston announced plans to build a new ballpark for the Yankees alone. It would be, Ruppert said, along the lines of the Roman Coliseum.
On February 6, 1921, the Yankees issued a press release announcing the purchase of ten acres of property on the site of a lumberyard in the west Bronx obtained from the estate of William Waldorf Astor for $675,000. Directly across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds, it was at the mouth of a little body of water called Crowell’s Creek. Identified as City Plot 2106, Lt 100, the land had been a farm owned by John Lion Gardiner prior to the Revolutionary War. “It was all farmland,” recalled former Giant ticket taker Joe Flynn. “It was beautiful. You could get fresh milk and vegetables there.”
Two weeks before construction on the stadium began, Rupert bought out Huston’s ownership share of the Yankees for $1,500,000. The White Construction Company began work May 5, 1922, agreeing to complete the project "at a definite price" ($2.5-million) and by Opening Day 1923. The architectural firm, Osborne Engineering Company of Cleveland, Ohio, was under mandate to create the greatest and grandest ballpark of its day. Original plans called for the Stadium to be triple decked and roofed all the way around. It was to be shaped like the Yale Bowl and contain towering battlements enclosing the entire park that would render events inside "impenetrable to all human eyes, save those of aviators." Those without tickets would have no view of the action.
Alas, this initial, soaring grand plan was quickly abandoned in favor of less ambitious designs. Yankee Stadium was indeed a gigantic horseshoe shaped edifice circled by huge wooden bleachers. But the triple-decked grandstand did not reach either foul pole. And whether Ruppert liked it or not, action on the playing field was to be highly visible from the elevated trains that passed by the outfield as well as from the buildings that were to sprout across River Avenue.
The new ballpark was to have unique touches, however, such as "eight toilet rooms for men and as many for women scattered throughout the stands and bleachers" and a decorative element that would become the logo feature of Yankee Stadium: a 15-foot deep copper facade adorning the front of the roof, covering much of the Stadium's third deck giving it an elegant and dignified air. Another singular element of "The Yankee Stadium", as it was originally named, was a 15-foot-deep brick-lined vault beneath second base that contained electrical, telephone, and telegraph connections and allowed for a boxing ring and press area to be set up on the infield. Yankee executive offices were moved from midtown Manhattan and located between the main and mezzanine decks; an elevator connected them with the main entrance.
The first ballpark to be called a stadium, the last privately financed park in the major leagues, the new park boasted 10,712 upper-grandstand seats and 14,543 lower grandstand seats locked in place by 135,000 individual steel castings on which 400,000 pieces of maple lumber were held down by more than a million screws.
The park’s dimensions favored left-handed power, read Babe Ruth. The right-field foul pole was but 295 feet from home plate, although it was 429 feet in right center. The left-field pole was but a short 281-foot poke from home. Right-handed batters had to contend with a 395-foot left field and left center. The park’s deepest points were a distant 460 feet away. The outfield warning track was initially made of red cinders, later of red brick dust.
Yankee Stadium’s inaugural game took place April 18, 1923. . . .
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The Boston Red Sox came into existence in 1901 and remained one of the most successful of all baseball franchises through the first 19 years of the team's existence. They were known briefly as the Americans and Somersets and then Pilgrims. Boston won the first "modern" World Series in 1903 and repeated as champions of the American League in 1904.
But the rough and cynical manager of the New York Giants John J. McGraw - born in Truxton, New York , one of nine children of a father who was a nine dollar a week railroad man - refused to allow his team to face Boston in post-season action. The Giant manager deemed the American League an inferior organization. He wasn't right about everything despite his often saying he was.
By the early 1910s the nickname for the Boston American League team was the Red Sox. They moved into Fenway Park in April, 1912, and that initial campaign in the little ball park was a momentous one. Boston captured the American League pennant and won the World Series.
Those were the glory years for Boston's Red Sox. In 1915, 1916, and 1918 the franchise repeated as pennant winners and won post-season championships. Those teams were built around a great pitching staff and terrific hitting especially from the outfield of Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis. The rest of the supporting cast fit in quite well.
Manager Bill Carrigan, Boston manager from 1913-16, made the most of his pitchers like Joe Wood, Carl Mays, Dutch Leonard, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Ray Collins. Pitcher Babe Ruth was on the scene for the 1915,1916 triumphs.
The New York Highlanders (they officially became the New York Yankees in 1913) were a sad counterpoint to the attractive, successful and glamorous Red Sox. In their first 16 years of existence, the New Yorkers finished under .500 eight times, and last in the league twice.
After the Red Sox won the 1916 World Series, Harry Frazee, a former Peoria, Illinois billposter, purchased the club from Joe Lannin. All agreed that the future looked bright for Frazee and the Bostons.
"Nothing is too good," declared Frazee who hadn't even paid Lannin for the purchase of the team, "for the wonderful fans of the Boston team." Hub zealots should have taken Frazee at his word. For as the future was to show time and time again - Frazee meant exactly what he said.
He had a home in Boston, but Frazee's main residence was on Park Avenue. He had made the comment that the "best thing about Boston was the train ride back to New York." A show business wheeler-dealer who owned a theater on 42nd Street in Manhattan, close by the New York Yankees offices, Frazee was a gambler. And he was always hustling, scuffling about for a buck, always overextended in one theatrical deal or another.
And the rest . . .as the cliché goes . . . is history.
HIGHLY NOTABLE: If you are a baseball fan who loves good reading, good photos, good stuff - then you must be a reader of the new, exciting and wonderful magazine:"108" Baseball history, culture, and community are all in its pages. And so is your faithful scribe!
Go now to its website for more info and to subscribe. http://108mag.com/
Tell them that Harvey sent you.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
“Let Me Finish” by Roger Angell (Harcourt, $25.00, 320 pages) is the gifted author’s autobiographical essays from the “New Yorker” focused on a youth growing up in New York during the Prohibition era in the company of the his mother, a founding editor of the New Yorker, his gifted father and his famed step-father, E.B White. We are there with Angell in his memory “Here at home inside a Jane Austen novel, I passed my college weekend, carving Sunday roasts and getting the station wagon service, lacing up skates, sharing by radio the fall of Paris and the night bombings of London . . .having fallen not just in love but into a family.” And we are there with him watching Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mel Ott, through through later years and four decades at the “New Yorker” evolving into one of America’s best of the best baseball writers.
Roger Kahn’s “Into My Own” (St. Martin’s Press, $24.94, 320 pages) is a look back through 60 years in journalism. Profound, sad, witty, insightful, considered, “Into My Own” is the Brooklyn-born Roger Kahn at his very best musing on Robert Frost, Mickey Rooney, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, Jackie Robinson, Jack Dempsey and on and on.
“Each night . . .I try to look forward to morning,” Kahn concludes. “Like Robert Frost, we remember our old loves and our old poems, but most of the time we look ahead. Now in my eighth decade, I continue to follow the great creed of intellectuality with Brahms and Shakespeare and Milton’s mighty line. But still, too, I relish thieves, gypsies, and, lest I forget, ballplayers.” Kahn’s newest belongs in a prominent place of your sports bookshelf!
HIGHLY NOTABLE: “Casting a Spell” by George Black (Random House, $23.95, 244 pages) is a love of a book tracing as it does about 150 years of American culture with a specific focus on the obsessive (for many) world of fly fishing. We are there with author Black in the remote Maine trout stream, in backwoods China, in all kinds of unique places. Black first picked up a fly rod when he was past 40 – and the Scotsman can claim to have never pout the rod down – willingly ever since. Thnis is a book you will not be able to put down – willingly.
Also from Random House is “Touchdown 2006” by Andy Benoit (Ballantine, $15. 95, 186 pages) a primer on the coming NFL season. The author, a college soph, has self-published the guide since he was eleven years old.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
With the Yankees and the Red Sox in another dance in 2006 - -fighting for all the marbles - the whole timeline of their battles, epic and ordinary, for your reading pleasure is at:
RED SOX VS YANKEES Battle Timetable
To order RED SOX VS YANKEES: The Great Rivalry or other Frommer books - - go to
Harvey Frommer Sports
Saturday, July 22, 2006
For those who can't get enough of Bill Lee - - and why would anyone want to - now out and available in paperbacks are "The Wrong Stuff" (Three Rivers Press, $13.95, 278 pages) and "Have Glove Will Travel" (Three Rivers Press ,$13.95, 300 pages). Both belong on your sports bookshelf. Humorous, insightful, irreverent - the Lee Collection presents the "20 something anniversary edition" of "The Right Stuff" and the companion "Spaceman" treat about Lee's baseball vagabond adventures and mis-adventures as a star major league hurler, as a mediocre big leaguer, as a baseball lifer. Both books were written with the especially able assistance of Richard Lally, author of three international best sellers. Still in a humorous vein is "Why My Wife Thinks I'm an Idiot" by Mike Greenberg (Villard Books, $22.95), a self deprecating look at the author and his work by the co-host of "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on ESPN Radio. Greenberg is a busy, busy guy also on ESPN2, an anchor on ESPN's "SportsCenter." He is billed as one of America's fastest rising sportscaster - he is one of its busiest as the book shows. A sportsaholic, a family man, a guy with opinions and heart - Greenberg is living the life. Read all about it.
"The King of Swings" by Michael Blaine (Houghton Mifflin, $26.00, 256 pages) is one of those rags to riches stories, one that is surely stranger than fiction. It is all about a golfing star who has been largely overlooked, Johnny Goodman, working class caddy who went all the way up to become the 1933 U.S. Open champion. In doing so, Blaine became the last amateur to nip the pros in their own sport. Anchored in an era, detailed, "The King of Swings" truly swings.
"Home Plate Don't Move" by Eric Zweig who once worked on the grounds crew for the Toronto Blue Jays (Firefly Books, $15.95, 176 pages, paper) is a winner. More than 400 quotations appear in the pages of this attractively designed book ranging from Dizzy Dean's: "Son, what kind of pitch would you like to miss?' to the cleaned up Ted Williams brag: "All I want out of life I that when I walk down the street, folks will say there goes the *******greatest hitter who ever
lived." With Ted's expletive included it sound more like him.
For fans of Larry Dierker who spent virtually his entire adult life with the Houston Astros in one way or another as player, broadcaster, manager - this book "My Team" ( Simon and Schuster, $25.00, 275 pages)will be of interest. For the rest of us it is optional focusing as it does on Dieker's dream team from his years in the game. This is a book that will stir controversy (and maybe that was its intent). The author establishes a mandatory 10 year a requirement for being on "his team" - leaving off the team such as Sandy Koufax because of that stipulation. There is also a mish-mash of facts, figures and theories that confuse and beg the questions. But for the beach or backyard - "My Team" is worth a browse.
"52 Great Florida Golf Getaways" by Ed Schmidt, Jr. (Pineapple Press, 192 pages, paper) is a handy book to carry about if you are in Florida and seek some action on the links. Concise, clearly written, It is part guide and part history.
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