Monday, January 23, 2012

Odd and Interesting Old Yankee Stadium Facts for Hot Stove League Reading

Odd and Interesting Old Yankee Stadium Facts

This time of year baseball and to my mind Yankee fans get especially restless for the season or at least spring training to get underway. Not a substitute but at least a quick reading fix for your reading pleasure--Strange, Odd and Interesting Yankee Stadium Facts.

1. Some wanted the brand new Yankee Stadium in 1923 to be called "Ruth Stadium." Owner Jake Ruppert wanted Ruppert Stadium. They settled for the nickname "the House That Ruth Built."

2. It took 500 workers 185 days to build the original Yankee Stadium.

3. At the start, names of Yankee players were imprinted in white chalk near the top of their lockers.

4. The practice of selling more tickets than existing seats lasted until a 1929 stampede in the right field bleachers left two dead and 62 injured.

5. Negro League teams who played at the Stadium when the Yanks were on the road were barred from using the Yankee dressing rooms. Instead, they were obliged to use the visitors' dressing room.

6. "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" was staged before 61,808 on July 4, 1939. His uniform number four was the first in baseball history to be retired.

7. In 1941, Yankee president Ed Barrow offered Civil Defense the use of Yankee Stadium as a bomb shelter in case of attack. He thought the area under the stands could provide a safe haven.

8. On August 16, 1948, Babe Ruth died of throat cancer at age 53. His body lay in state at Yankee Stadium and was viewed by more than 100,000 fans.

9. The last home run at the original Yankee Stadium on September 30, 1973 was hit by Duke Sims in his seventh day as a Yankee. A coin toss that day tabbed him to play. It was not until much later that Sims realized the significance of his home-run shot.

10. The film "61" was filmed in Detroit, not at Yankee Stadium. Billy Crystal explained the Motor City ballpark architecture was better able to be made to resemble that of the Yankee Stadium of 1961.

11. Sal Durante, the guy who caught the ball Roger Maris hit for his 61st homer, snagged tickets the day of the game at a less-than-sold- out Yankee Stadium.

12. Mickey Mantle originally wore number six, but equipment manager Pete Sheehy switched him to seven after Mantle was recalled from Kansas City.

13. 20,000 letters that Mickey Mantle never answered were not bid on in the old Yankee Stadium fire sale in 1974.

14. There was widespread and indiscriminate disposal of valuable items during demolition of much of the Stadium in the mid-1970s.

15. Among the items sold in the refurbishment "fire sale" at Yankee Stadium were player jockstraps, which had names on them for identification when they came back from the laundry. The selling of these jockstraps was stopped because of sanitary reasons.

16. In 1976, a homer by Chris Chambliss gave the Yankees the American League pennant. Such a mob crowded the plate that Chambliss was taken back a few minutes after hitting the homer, and he finally touched home plate.

17. All kinds of crazy things went on in the bullpens--some of them outlandish and some of them sexy--lots having to do with food.

18. In 1988, behind a wall that was closed off for decades, a scorecard, a program and what was supposedly the bases for the 1936 team were unearthed.

19. The less-than-capable 1990 Yankees had but one starting pitcher who won more than seven games, nine-game winner Tim Leary--but he also lost 19.

20. On September 11, 2001, within 90 minutes of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center, Yankee Stadium was evacuated.

21. Ron Guidry, a good drummer, once kept a trap set at Yankee Stadium and also played in a post-game concert with the Beach Boys.

22. Joe Torre was witness to all three perfect games in Yankee Stadium history: He saw Don Larsen's beauty as a 16-year-old fan, and the gems of David Wells and David Cone from the dugout as Yankee manager.

23. Bob Sheppard holds the record for seeing the most games at Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Faux NBA: Caveat Emptor, Got Game? Or Gotcha?

What was to be a Christmas gift for all pro hoops fans happened on December 25th. Like Santa Claus, the NBA returned to town. But unlike Santa Claus, this Faux NBA was not as gifted and gift-giving as the real NBA.
The lockout produced a truncated, compressed National Basketball Association schedule that at times seems as it was thrown together without any concerns about game quality, player's health, fan's remorse. Perhaps Chicago's Derek Rose says it best: "Every game now seems to be like "a back-to-back game."
Back to back to back to back is one of the themes of this sorry season. Other themes include mental fatigue, tired legs, weary bones, a bunch of even more injured players than ever and ejected and dejected coaches and a schedule from hell.
Players nowadays decline more than ever to speak to the media after games. Shooting percentages, minutes played, enthusiasm, spirit, verve, excellence, effort - -all seem to have belonged to the other NBA, not this Faux NBA.
Players reported late, out of shape. Trades were made. Guys have struggled in many instances to fit in ­ for some there is doubt they ever will. A lack of any kind of a true training camp contributed to all of this. Players bonding, chemistry coming together, that was then.
Today malaise rules most teams. Energy baskets most of the time are reminders of times past not highlight reel stuff for today. Players are "out," "day to day," "uncertain for tonight's game." On the bench players are in expensive suits, scowling, smiling, subdued but not "having game."
According to Washington coach Flip Saunders, "Too many summer exhibition games bred "many bad habits. Those summer nights made it seem "a lot of things are going to be very easy," Saunders continued, "and turned out not to be."
Boston's Kevin Garnett is the poster child commentator.
"It's where we are -- we'll continue to work at this thing and get it better," he said. "It's not something that we're just going to hope and pray and wish, and all the good things like that. It's something that we're going to have to continue to work on. This is not easy. If we made it look easy in the past, it's not easy so far."
Coaches are castigating players for lack of toughness, for being out of shape, for playing with an attitude to stay out of harm's way. All await the time when the Faux NBA becomes the real National Basketball Association.
In the meantime there is "maintenance day," massage, and cold whirlpool baths. More treatment for sore muscles. And swelled heads.
Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing about it all. Quite frankly, there should have been some control over a game that got away from us but still costs the same amount of money (sometimes more) to attend.
Quite frankly, maybe some refunds are in order.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Best Baseball Team Ever: 1927 New York Yankees

The talk of the town usually at year’s end and new year’s beginnings usually gets down in many sports quarters to rankings of the best of the best. Agreement is sometimes a hard fought but not often achieved goal. I, however, have a no-brainer for all - -hands down or up as the case may be - -the best of the best baseball teams is the ’27 Yanks.

The club was so consistent in every way that its roster was not ever changed that glorious season. The team began with ten pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders, five outfielders, and ended that way.

There was no shuttling of players up and down from the minors. The 25 guys who began the season remained on the big league roster all season long, tying a record for fewest players used by a major league team. On that legendary squad was an ex- teacher, a railroad fireman, a bartender, a former full-time boilermaker, a seaman, a logger, a cardsharp, a guy who had studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, one whose youth was spent climbing tenement stairs in New York City delivering laundry, another who swam in the Hudson River and made the rounds of local pool halls. Possessed of an almost royal aura, another player had attended the finest prep schools and sported thousand dollar diamond rings. The ’27 Yankee ranks also included a meat cutter and an ex-vaudevillian, a talented painter, artist, writer and singer, a skilled piano (jazz and classical) player. There were some former farm boys and farmers. And there were a few who had never known anything but playing baseball. Average age of the all-white team was 27.6.They came from diverse backgrounds, had very different personalities, backgrounds, educations, interests, skills, avocations. Baseball boned them together.
The total payroll for that 1927 team was an estimated $250,000. Average salary was $10,000 as compared to $2,699.292 for the 2006 Yankees. Salaries ranged from Julie Wera's $2,400 to Babe Ruth's $70,000. That 1927 Yankee team had a pronounced German- American flavor from its owner beer baron Jacob Ruppert to Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mark Koenig, Bob Meusel, George Pipgras, Dutch Ruether and half Germans Waite Hoyt and Earle Combs. Although Some of tha 1927 bunch lacked a true formal education, a collegiate flavor permeated the roster: Lou Gehrig (Columbia), Miller Huggins (University of Cincinnati), Joe Dugan (Holy Cross), Benny Bengough (Niagara University), Earle Combs (Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College), Mike Gazella (Lafayette), Ray Morehart (Stephen Austin College, Texas), Myles Thomas (Penn State), Bob Shawkey (Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania), Ben Paschal (University of Alabama), Dutch Ruether (St. Ignatius College, now San Francisco University) One player (Babe Ruth) was educated at St. Mary's Industrial School. Another had been in an out of one room schoolhouses in cotton county locales. Mark Koenig, Joe Grabowski, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Julie Wera were the only 1927 Yankees born in the 20th century.

The shortest players were catcher Benny Bengough and utility man Mike Gazella. Bob Meusel was the tallest Yankee at 6' 3" and Babe Ruth was the next tallest at 6' 2". Other six footers included pitchers Wilcy Moore, Herb Pennock, George Pipgras, Dutch Ruether, infielders Lou Gehrig and Mark Koenig, and centerfielder Earl Combs. Only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig weighed more than 200 pounds.

Only Lou Gehrig would start every game (155) at first base.Second baseman Tony Lazzeri appeared in 113 games. Mark Koenig got into 122 games at shortstop, Joe Dugan 111 at third base. Earl Combs started all but three games.

The final statistics on Ruth and Meusel would be misleading. The Babe would start 95 times in right field and "Silent Bob" 83 times in left field. But they flip-flopped starts at Yankee Stadium and in a few parks on the road. Six men accounted for almost 90% of the innings pitched.

There was an almost grotesque quality to the team collectively as well as individually. One player was only able to sleep sitting up. He had a heart condition that he kept secret from his teammates. Another seemingly unfriendly, at times very quiet, was an epileptic. Tony Lazzeri’s health condition was never mentioned by the press. One was taciturn, some would say miserable, a drinker, a scowler who looked at the world about him with annoyance and anger. One worked off-season as a mortician. Another (Lou Gehrig) was a "mama's boy," reportedly a virgin,very uncomfortable in the presence of women. He enjoyed fishing by himself for eels and living in an apartment with his parents.

There was one (Babe Ruth) whose hearty belches sometimes rattled bats stacked in the dugout, who slugged down great quantities of beer, ate prodigiously. His prowess with women was the talk throughout baseball.

Another was an uneducated dirt farmer, aged 30, or was it 40. There was also a Kentuckian, a church goer, a non-smoker, non-drinker, a man who never cursed and read his Bible on the road in hotel rooms. This terrific, talented team had it all including a four game sweep of the Pirates to roll to the world championship. It was a group of men who totally dominated baseball. It was a group led by Babe Ruth a free swinger in a free swinging time. Babe Ruth was the king. The 1927 New York Yankees were the royalty of baseball.

And if you loved the Yankees, it was the best of times.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

NBA Team Nicknames, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The NBA is back and so is Dr Harvey Frommer!

Back in the day as some are apt to say, I was interviewing and writing Red on Red. It was the autobiography of the legendary coach of the New York Knickerbockers ­ Red Holzman. He is still the only coach to ever win an NBA title with the Knicks, in fact he won two.
Red was a walking history book when it came to pro basketball. He was especially informed about league trivia. He also knew had to spin a tale.
Before his days as Knick coach, Holzman plied his trade as a pretty good scout for the team. "I was scouting a kid from Czechoslovakia," Red said. "We decided to give him a vision test. I got hold of an eye chart and told the kid, 'All right. Let's hear you read the bottom line.' "'Read the bottom line?' he asked, 'I know him.'"
But back to the subject at hand - -NBA team nicknames.

There are all kinds of team names and nicknames in the world of the National Basketball Association, and even more interesting explanations of how these came to be. And although some clubs have moved from city to city, they kept the original nicknames they began with which makes for some odd combinations.
The Knicks and the Celtics are the only teams still playing in the NBA in their original cities. The name Knickerbockers dates back to when New York was New Amsterdam, and the city's Dutch settlers wore trousers bunched up at the knee known as "knickers." The name Celtics was given to Boston in 1946 by Walter Brown, the founder of the franchise.
"We'll call them the Boston Celtics," he said. "The name has a great basketball tradition, especially when you think of the original 'Celtics' team. Boston is full of Irishmen; so we'll put the players in green uniforms and call them the Boston Celtics after their Celtic ancestors."
The Atlanta Hawks were once the St. Louis Hawks, and before that they were the Milwaukee Hawks. Even before that in 1948, they were the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. The three cities referred to Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa. Way back in 1831, the Blackhawk War was fought in that tri-cities area, and that's how the original Blackhawk's nickname, later shortened to Hawks, came to be.
The Rochester Royals played in the NBA for nine seasons and then transferred to Cincinnati. The name Royals was kept. In 1972, the franchise moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and the name was dropped to avoid confusion in the Kansas City area as the Kansas City and the Omaha baseball teams both used the name Royals. The new name for the NBA basketball franchise became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings and, in 1975, simply the Kansas City Kings. A decade later, when the team moved to California, they became the Sacramento Kings.
Not many people realize that the Denver Nuggets were charter members of the NBA. But that team only lasted one season. When the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association came into the NBA, they had to change their name because the Houston Rockets already existed. So the Denver franchise took the "Nuggets" name of the original franchise, which was appropriate for an area with a history of gold and silver mining of nuggets.
Charlotte, Miami, Minnesota and Orlando are among the newer teams in the NBA. All have interesting "name" stories. Originally, the Charlotte team was named the Spirit, but that didn't go over too well. It was soon dropped, and a contest was launched among fans to come up with a new name. Runner-up names included: the Charlotte Gold, the Charlotte Knights, and incredibly the original name - the Charlotte Spirit.
As every NBA fan knows; the winner was the Charlotte Hornets. Miami also held a name-the-team contest and received more than 5,000 entries. Some of the names that didn't make it included such choices as Palm Trees, Beaches, Suntan, and Shade.
Heat beat them all out. As one clever official explained, "When you think of Miami, heat is what comes to mind."
Over 6,000 entries were submitted for the Minnesota team name. The choice came down to Timberwolves vs. Polars. Timberwolves easily won. That animal is native to Minnesota, and no other professional sports team ever thought to use the name.
The "Orlando Sentinel" sponsored a name-the-team contest in that Florida city. As with Minnesota, the competition came down to two names: Magic and Juice. Orlando general manager Pat Williams explained why Magic won out: "Magic is synonymous with the Orlando area. We have the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld, and the tourism slogan here is 'Come to the Magic.'"

Some claim that the Chicago Bulls got their name from stockyards in that windy city. It was actually the franchise's first owner Richard Klein who came up with name in 1966. The rookie mogul liked "bulls" because of their power and toughnees. And his wish was to have team sporting those ahaving a team that had that quality.
The Pistons came into being early on in NBA history - back in 1948. They were known then as the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons. It was a case of an owner naming a team for himself and the business that he ran. Fred Zollner owned a huge piston-manufacturing company. In 1957, the team moved to Detroit, and Pistons moved right along with it.
Way back in 1925, there was a Philadelphia Warriors team in the American Basketball League. In 1946, when Philadelphia joined the NBA, it took its nickname from that old team. Many years and many miles later, the Golden State Warriors are a descendant of the old Philadelphia Warriors. They've gone through a couple of geographical shifts. Philly became the San Francisco Warriors, San Francisco became the Oakland Warriors and Oakland became the Golden State Warriors.
A few years back a newspaper guy came up with the idea of teams trading names. The suggestion had some merit, but it was no dice. What the guys thought was that the Utah Jazz become the Utah Lakers and the Los Angeles Lakers become the Los Angeles Jazz.
Actually, both Utah and Los Angeles have names from cities both franchises vacated. Utah came into being in 1979, when the New Orleans Jazz moved there. That New Orleans basketball team is only a memory, but the Utah Jazz kept their name and team colors. The Minneapolis Lakers made the move to L.A. before the 1960 season and took with it its nickname that comes from the state of Minnesota's motto: "the land of 10,000 lakes". There aren't many lakes in L.A. or that much jazz in Salt Lake City - so maybe that newspaper guy had a good idea after all.
Here's how the three Texas NBA teams got their names. The Houston Rockets were once the San Diego Rockets. The name has worked well for both franchises - linked to space programs and industries. The San Antonio Spurs got their short name in a public naming contest - a name that makes you think of Texas, and the same is true of the Dallas Mavericks who came into being in 1980. A Dallas radio station sorted out many suggested names in a "name-the-team" contest and picked Mavericks thinking it had Texas flavor.
In 1963, the old Syracuse Nats were sold and became the Philadelphia 76ers. Anybody who knows anything about American history, knows how Philly got its name.
In 1968, the new Phoenix franchise offered a cash prize and a couple of season tickets to the winner of a "name-the-team" contest. "Suns" was the winning name, but runner-ups included Scorpions, Rattlers, and Dust Devils.
Two years later, in another "name-the-team" contest in Portland, nearly 200 people contributed for a new franchise name - Trail Blazers.
The New Jersey Nets began life in the American Basketball Association and were known as the New Jersey Americans. In 1968, the team left New Jersey and moved to Commack, Long Island and were re-named the New York Nets.
The reasoning was that since the New York metropolitan area had the football Jets and the baseball Mets, why not the basketball Nets? Just before the 1977-78 season, the franchise moved back across the Hudson River to New Jersey. There were some who thought the original name -New Jersey Americans - should be brought back, but the name Nets moved right along with the team.

What's in an NBA Name? Part III
A guy named R.D.Treblicox of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin got himself a brand new car for coming up with the name Bucks back in 1968 for Milwaukee's NBA team.
His pick beat out names like Stags, Skunks, and Stallions. R.D. said, "Bucks are spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile."
Treblicox knew both his bucks and his basketball. Alliteration was probably one of the reasons for the name Cavaliers winning out in a Cleveland newspaper competition back in 1970. But that name in recent years has been de-emphasized in favor of "Cavs."
I guess some of the media and a lot of the fans think that Cleveland's former name was a bit too ritzy for an NBA club. When the Indiana franchise came into existence in 1967 in the American Basketball Association, the owners said they named the team Pacers because they intended to set the pace in professional basketball. And when Indiana joined the NBA in 1976, the name Pacers went along.
The present Washington team began life as the Chicago Packers in 1961, and was named by its owner after his packing company. A year later, the name was Zephyrs. In 1963, the team was in Baltimore and was renamed the Bullets after the city's first basketball franchise that got started in 1946.
That club picked up its Bullets' name because it played its games near a foundry that made ammunition during World War II. In the 1973-74 season, a new name surfaced - Capitol Bullets. The name was never politically correct until Washington owner Abe Pollin finally changed the name to the Wizards in 1997.
The location of a huge Boeing aircraft plant in Seattle was the inspiration for Howard E. Schmidt's suggestion of SuperSonics as a name back in 1967 for the Seattle NBA franchise. Mr. Schmidt was rewarded with a free trip to Palm Springs, California and season tickets for Seattle's first basketball season. And the franchise got itself a nice space-age name.
Toronto, the NBA's 28th team and its first expansion franchise outside of the United States, picked up its Raptors name in a "Name the Team" contest. Its Canadian partner in Vancouver dubbed itself "Grizzlies", because Grizzly bears are part of the scene in British Columbia. The animal is also part of the mythology of the area.
One of the oddest name situations involves the Los Angeles Clippers who, in another life, were the Buffalo Braves. (Caution: you may have to read this explanation twice).
In 1971, the City of San Diego lost its NBA franchise when its team moved to Houston and became the Rockets. Seven years later, the Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego. The owners weren't too thrilled with San Diego Braves as a name. So one of those name-the-team contests was staged, and the winning entry was, you guessed it, Clippers. That was because, once upon a time, lots of beautiful clipper ships passed through the great harbor of San Diego.
There probably were never clipper ships in Los Angeles, but in 1984 when the franchise moved there from San Diego, the name Clippers came along.

And that's a slam dunk!