Monday, November 27, 2006

"Bury My Heart at Cooperstown" and Other Holiday 2006 Reads


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 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.