Sunday, May 27, 2012


“Ozzie's School of Management” by Rick Morrissey ( Times Books, $26.00, 288 pages) is a book that is way out there. Peppered with profanity, irreverent, outrageous, sometimes ringing true, and other times out there – this is a book for fan’s of Ozzie Gillen late of the White Sox now prime time with Miami. Morrissey covered Ozzie and his antics for eight years in Chicago as sports columnist for the Sun-Times. He has done a good job presenting seamless stories, entertaining and outlandish. Ozzie's Ten Commandments are a must read. One can you can hear the thick Venezuelan accent speaking about strategy, dust ups, memorable moments. sub-Sub-titled "Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse and the Doghouse, this tome should be required reading for fans of its subject who says if he had it to do all over it would be as a bull fighter in his native Venezuela.
          “Starting and Closing” by Don Smoltz with Don Yaeger (William Morrow, $26.00, 304 pages) is a look inside the man who was one of baseball’s most enduring and endearing characters on and off the playing fields. This is a book shown through the filter of Smoltzy’s final season but it is much more than that. Faith, flexibility, sticking to a task, “starting and closing” as the book’s sub-title announces, all of this is part of a terrific reading experience. Just as Smoltz was an all purpose pitcher, a guy who had the goods, the same can be said about this highly readable work.
          From the University of Illinois Press comes “A People’s History of Baseball” by Mitchell Nathanson ($29.95, 272 pages). A professor of legal writing at Villanova, Nathanson peppers his actual 219 pages of heavy prose with notes, a bibliography and a lengthy index to reach the book’s announced 272 pages. There are some take aways here, but overall these ruminations are more than twice told stories told better the first time around.
          For those who did not get enough about Penn State, Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky with all the hype and hoopla and dissection in the media – there is “Game Over” by Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak (William Morrow, $26.99, 224 pages). Veteran authors, guys who know their way around a story, Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak have done due diligence here. If you are interested in more frontstage and backstage on the horrific narrative of “JoePa’s” once little piece of paradise – this is the volume for you.
          “Fenway Park Trivia” by Bill Nowlin (Rounder Books) is an effort created by a man who knows more about the park than most and he struts his stuff all over the place in this tiny terrific tome. Fact and fancy intermingle nicely. GO FOR IT
          “You Stink!” by Eric J. Wittenberg and Michael Aubrecht (Black Squirrel Books, paper, 332 pages) has an off-putting title but it describes a tone that clearly and cleverly focuses on terrible big league teams and pathetic players. Nicely done!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

TALKIN' YANKEES: Quips, Quotes, Asides, Philosophy and More (Part I)

Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris
    They are baseball's greatest franchise, a team of legends, ghosts, marker moments, odd characters. So much has been written about them and the talk stream stretches out through many decades. Herewith, a small sampling of some of the more memorable observations, enjoy.
        On the Yankees
    "I would rather beat the Yankees regularly than pitch a no-hit game." - Bob Feller
    "It was a death struggle every day being a Yankee ­ you either won or you lost. There was no second place. Half of us were nuts by the end of a season." - Jerry Coleman
    "When I was a player and we would play the Yankees in spring training, even though the game didn't mean anything, it was a special day." - Joe Torre
    "I wish I'd never see them again. I wish they'd disappear from the league." Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox 
    "Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie and cheating on your income tax." - Columnist Mike Royko
    "Hating the Yankees isn't part of my act. It is one of those exquisite times when life and art are in perfect conjunction." -  Bill Veeck
     "Going north from spring training, we'd pass through small towns and people would be out there early in the morning as the train went by, waving to us. I don't know how they got the word ­ but we'd be having our breakfast in the diner and they'd be there." - Jerry Coleman
    "You kind of took it for granted around the Yankees that there was always going to be baseball in October." -  Whitey Ford
     "This isn't just a ball club! This is Murderers Row!" ­ sportswriter Arthur Robinson, 1927
    "There has never been anything like it. Even as these lines are batted out on the office typewriter, youths dash out of the AP and UP ticker room every two or three minutes shouting, 'Ruth hit one! Gehrig hit another one!' "   - sportswriter Paul Gallico
    "I was known as a Yankee killer. My best year against them was 1953.  I beat them five times and shut them out four times.  You just played a little harder against them." - Mel Parnell
    "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel." - Joe E. Lewis
    "Rooting for the Yankees is like owning a yacht." - Jimmy Cannon
    "The majority of American males put themselves to sleep by striking out the batting order of the New York Yankees." - James Thurber
    "They have, what, 26 World Series titles? But that doesn't mean they are going to beat us. We deserve to be here as much as they do. I'm not trying to get Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig or Mickey Mantle out. I'm trying to get the Yankees' lineup out today." - Curt Schilling of Arizona, before Game One, 2001 World Series
    "Somebody told me that we beat the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth! I still don't believe it!" - Mark Grace, 2001 World Series
    "When my Yankee career is over I'll play anywhere, but I'm positive that I'll never find a team quite like the Yankees." -Bernie Williams
    "These are your Yankees. They leave their hearts on the field for you."  - Joe Torre
            Yankee Stadium
    "When I come here, it's like standing on hallowed ground." ­Cal   Ripken
     "It was so large and the fans there were so rabid. It was amazing for me to go out there and stand on the mound and look around and realize that was the place that Ruth built." -Bob Feller
    "Most guys won't admit it, but it can be an intimidating thing your first few times there. All the lore of the stadium and the mystique can be difficult to deal with."  -   Al Leiter
    "It is the most magical ballpark ever built. Playing there as a Yankee was like being in the Marines, the feeling that you were in a special ballpark, special town, special uniform, special history." ­ Phil Linz
    "When I went to the American League as an umpire, I had never been to a major league ballpark . This was 1963. You went out of the umpire's dressing room and down the hallway and up the ramp and stepped out onto the field. Here's this kid from Little Rock, Arkansas standing in New York City in Yankee Stadium. It was a pretty incredible thing."  - Bill Valentine
     "I loved Yankee Stadium because I was left-handed. I usually faced mostly right-handed hitting teams there. The fence in centerfield was 461 feet away, and left centerfield was 457 feet. As long as you kept the hitters from hitting the ball down the line, it was a great park to pitch in." - Whitey Ford
    "Being from New York, it meant a lot for me to play in my hometown. I knew every nook and cranny there, and we had the fans behind us. Back then, you had the monuments in the outfield and that was unbelievable." - Phil Rizzuto
    "The cathedral of baseball." - David Cone
    "Baseball heaven." - Randy Johnson
    "The stadium is a part of the Yankees and the Yankees are a part of the stadium. That will never change." - Chuck Knoblauch

    "I was in the right place at the right time." -- Mel Allen

                Ed Barrow
     "You ought to know that you're making a mistake." ­ to Red Sox owner Harry Frazee on the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees
                Yogi Berra   
    "Congratulations on breaking my record last night. I always thought the record would stand until it was broken." ­to Johnny Bench who broke his record for career home runs by a catcher.
    "I didn't say the things I said "
    "The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
    "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."
    "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
     "He must have made that before he died." --on a Steve McQueen movie, 1982
    "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."
    "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
    "The future ain't what it used to be."
    "A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it's home or on the road."
    "I take a two hour nap between 1PM and 3PM."
    "90% of the putts that are short don't go in."
    "Baseball is 90-percent mental. The other half is physical."
    "You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn't enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left."
    "Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded."
    "It gets late out there early," referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium.
    "He is a big clog in their machine."
    "I've been with the Yankees 17 years, watching games and learning. You can see a lot by observing."
    "Baseball is the champ of them all. Like somebody said, the pay is good and the hours are short."
    "All pitchers are liars and crybabies."
    "Bill Dickey learned me all his experience."
    "I want to thank you for making this day necessary." -- to fans in hometown St. Louis for giving him a day in 1947 at Sportsmen's Park.
    "I've known this guy so long. Can't he spell my name right?" -- after receiving a check that said "Pay to the order of Bearer"
    "I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house."
      "If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them."
    "Pair off in threes."
         "The other teams could make trouble for us if they win." -- as Yankee manager
    "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."
    "We have very deep depth!"
    "It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much."
    When asked what time it is -- "Do you mean now?"
    When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars - "If the guy was poor, I'd give it back"
    When asked by a waitress how many pieces she should cut his pizza into -- "Four. I don't think I could eat eight."
    When asked why the Yankees lost the 1960 series to Pittsburgh-- "We made too many wrong mistakes."
    When told by Yankee manager Bucky Harris to think about what was being pitched to him  -- "Think? How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"
    When told Ernest Hemmingway was a great writer -- "Yeah, for what paper?"
    When asked what his cap size was at the beginning of spring training -- "I don't know, I'm not in shape.""
    "It's deja vu all over again."
    "It ain't over until it's over."

                On Yogi Berra
    "You can't compare me to my father, our similarities are different." - Dale Berra
    "They say he's funny. Well, he has a lovely wife and family, a beautiful home, money in the bank, and he plays golf with millionaires. What's funny about that?" - Casey Stengel
    "He'd fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch." - Casey Stengel
    "Where he was especially dangerous was in the final two innings. You couldn't pitch to him. He had no weaknesses. He was the most dangerous hitter ever." ­Jerry Coleman
    "Not only was he lucky, he was never wrong." ­ Whitey Ford
    "Yogi's face is his fortune." Mike Stanley

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Remembering Carl Beane: "The Voice" of the Boston Red Sox Will Be Missed

Wally and Carl Beane

Remembering Carl Beane: "The Voice" of the Boston Red Sox Will Be Missed 

The stunning news  came across all media channels: Carl Beane, 59, died after his SUV crashed against a stone wall and a tree in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

A local announcer in the Boston area for many years, the affable Beane drove a Suzuki whose rear tire cover showcased his name.  Police determined that it was a single-car accident and that his vehicle, heading north, crossed the double solid lines, left the road and hit a tree and a wall. No passengers were in Beane’s vehicle. No other automobiles were involved in the crash.

Talented, honed in to his craft, a pleasing personality, Carl Beane will be missed by those who knew him and the millions who listened to his voice at Fenway Park.

I got to know Carl Beane just a little bit while I interviewed for my book Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of Red Sox Nation. Humble and knowledgable about all things Boston sports, the public address announcer par excellence was just a pleasure to speak to.

His memories and perceptions added very much to my book. What follows is just a taste of the late Carl Beane:

CARL BEANE:  The first time I went to Fenway was in 1957. We lived in Western Mass., and my dad didn’t drive, so we took the bus. We’d eat lunch in Bickford's and then we would walk about two miles from the bus station to Fenway. My dad was always able to get seats in section 18, right between home and first; we'd have a clear view of everything. He had been following the Red Sox since 1933 when he was about nine years old, the year Thomas Yawkey bought the ball club.

CARL BEANE: Opening Day 2003 was my first day as public address announcer. I couldn’t wait. All I got to say was “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, may I have your attention please? If your car is parked on Lansdowne Street you have 10 minutes to move it or it will be towed.”

That was my first announcement. I got booed.

When I told the crowd the game was postponed because of rain, I got booed even more.

I had always been a big fan of Sherm Feller. His style wasn’t “Big Me.” It was just do the information in a regular sedate voice.  He absolutely mentored me.

My opening announcement at Fenway begins: “Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. Welcome to Fenway Park.” 

That is what Sherm always said. At the end of every announcement, I'll add “Thank you.” Sherm did that, too. I sit in Sherm Feller’s seat in more ways than I can say. 

On April 11, 2007, Dice-K was at the ready for his first Fenway Park start. Every single seat was filled before the first pitch. The attendance was 36,630.

CARL BEANE:  The game was live in Japan both on radio and on TV and there was a national Japanese media contingent at the ballpark, 170 members. I announced him in Japanese: "Now welcome to Boston, number 18, Daisuke Matsuzaka.”

He looked up. I could tell that he was very happy.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The 1927 New York Yankees,Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Company: How Murderers' Row Shaped Baseball

When Yankee owner Colonel Ruppert's "Rough Riders," as some called them, were not going head to head against their American League competition, they were playing exhibition games in Buffalo, Omaha, Rochester, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis...

Everyone in the little cities and small towns wanted to catch a glimpse of the Babe, Lou and the others. Wherever the Yankees went, there were always packed ballparks and playing fields. The team was a magnet, a syncopated jazz band playing a baseball song with the Babe leading, striking up the band with his home run baton, his bat. Whole towns came out early and they stayed late studying the moves of "the Colossus of baseball," how he walked, how he ran, how he swung a bat, how he caught and threw a baseball, how he joked and wrestled with kids in the fields of play, how many different kinds of home runs he hit. Demand for the Yankees came from all over. Murderers' Row even played exhibition games in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, National League cities.

In Omaha, Nebraska, the King of Clouts, Ruth, and his protégé the "Prince of Pounders," Gehrig seemed genuinely happy to make the acquaintance of one "Lady Amco" who was known as the "Babe Ruth of chickens." She was a world champ at laying eggs. The morning the Babe and the Buster met her she produced on cue, laying an egg for the 171st straight day. In Indianapolis, the Sultan of Swat failed to homer or even swat the ball out of the infield in his first three times at bats.

Each time the smattering of boos and heckling became louder, all good natured, of course. According to reports, Ruth in his fourth at bat tagged the ball, and it leaped over the fence in right field into the street bouncing into box cars in a nearby freight yard. That was the story.

And its punch line: "I guess I did show those people something, make fun of me, will they," the Big Bam boomed going into the dugout. In a dilapidated park in Ft. Wayne, Indiana before 35,000 against the Lincoln Lifes, a semi-pro team, the scene was all too familiar. Hundreds of kids screamed, ached to ogle, to get an autograph or just to be close to George Herman Ruth, their idol.

The Bambino, to save his legs, played first base, as was his custom many times during those exhibition games. Gehrig played right field. Going into the tenth inning, the score was tied, 3-3. Mike Gazella was on first base when Ruth stepped into the batter's box. Always the showman, signaling to the crowd that they might as well start going home, the Big Bam poked the ball over the right field fence giving the Yankees a 5-3 win. Hundreds of boys who had been relatively controlled and contained mobbed their idol as he crossed home plate. It took quite a while before Ruth and the Yankees could clear out of the park.

Wherever the exhibition games were staged, overflow crowds sat in the outfield watching the action. Attendance records were broken. Mobs cheered. They roared and howled and jumped to their feet, marveling at the power and magic of the mighty Yankees and especially George Herman Ruth. "God, we liked that big son of a bitch. He was a constant source of joy, Waite Hoyt said. "I've seen them kids, men, women, worshipers all, hoping to get his name on a torn, dirty piece of paper, or hoping for a grunt of recognition when they said, 'Hi-ya, Babe.'

He never let them down; not once. He was the greatest crowd pleaser of them all." In a game played at Sing-Sing, New York against the prison team, Ruth slugged a batting practice home run over the right field wall and then another over the center field wall. "I'd love to be riding out of here on those balls," one of the prisoners joked. During the game the Sultan of Swat turned to the crowd of cons in the stands and bellowed in that big booming baritone voice of his: "What time is it?" Many of the cons shouted back the answer. "What difference does it make?" the showman Ruth yelled. "You guys ain't going anyplace, any time soon."

The Yankees were going anyplace they could play baseball. On May 26 they were at West Point. Entering the Mess Hall at noon to dine with the Cadets for lunch, the team from the Bronx received a standing and enthusiastic ovation from the 1,200 West Pointers. Before the baseball exhibition game began at West Stadium, "Jidge" Ruth presented members of the Army nine with autographed baseballs and a specially autographed baseball to the leading ball player of each of the twelve companies.

The Yankees used virtually their regular lineup except that Ruth and Gehrig switched places in the field. Earle Combs walked to start the game. Mark Koenig singled. Babe Ruth was struck out by Army pitcher Tim Timberlake and that got a mighty rise from the Cadets.

James Harrison later described the scene in The New York Times: "'Aw, he didn't try to hit the ball,' said one of the cadets. 'He was just trying to make us feel good.' " However, the truth of the matter was that the Big Bam was so eager to hit a homer for the Hudson folks that he went after bad balls which he couldn't have reached on a stepladder.

No matter. A good time was being had by all until lightning, thunder and a soaking rain brought the festivities to a quick conclusion after just two innings. The Yanks, as usual, won another, 2-0. It was said that the Babe got a big kick playing in exhibition games. It was said that he liked that time to show off his skills, play without pressure, and have fun. That was what was said. But there was also the unpublicized financial benefit. At the beginning of his participation in exhibitions gigs, Ruth received 10 percent of the gate receipts. That arrangement ballooned later to a guaranteed $2,500 against 15 percent of gate receipts.

Just how many became fans of the Yankees after attending those exhibition games cannot be measured. Just how many heard about the dramatic doings of the team and became lifelong fans of the team that were calling "Murderers' Row" is also beyond calculation.