Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18- Washington Senators

Like a lot of kids I grew up with, we all had dreams of breaking out in Major League Baseball. I recall as a youth always going to Pin Oak Park or Leo B. Hart Elementary School in Bakersfield, California to play ball with my friends almost every day after school. We all had our favorite players that we tried to mimic; mine of course was Mark McGwire. I always made sure to keep my knees bent, and do the slow wag of the bat while taking wide, open-mouthed chomps of my Big League Chew every time I was at the plate. While I didn’t have McGwire’s ropey forearms, I could still muscle a few over the chain-link fence that stood, what seemed like a mile away, 200 feet away from home plate. On the inverse of that, anytime any of my friends teed off on me and gave the Kirk Gibson fist pump while rounding the bases, I made sure to plunk them the next time they were at bat. We fought, we cussed, we spit, we got down and dirty, but most of all, we played until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. Every walk home from the ball field was taken right out of the movie “The Sandlot;” discussions of how to hit the opposite direction and knowing the proper way to play the angles off the wall if we were stuck in the outfield. We were all modern day Sparky Andersons, Tony Larussas and Earl Weavers on and off the field. Baseball was our life.

I bring up this bit of my past because it’s not all the different from any kid growing up in any city, small town or country in which baseball is a national sport. Some of us make it to the Show, while the rest of us move on with our lives; but we still make sure to visit the local stadium for a brief reminder of how precious, endearing and simple life once was when we were young.

One player in baseball history knew this all too well, but very few, and I mean very few, even have the slightest clue who he is. I’ll start with the hat though. From 1952-1960 the Washington Senators donned the navy blue and red in what would be the final nine years of the original incarnation’s existence. At the end of the 1960 season the Senators packed up and moved to greener pastures in Minnesota; a tale I wrote on February 15. Poor attendance and poor showings in the standings year-after-year, not to mention western geographical expansion (Manifest Destiny), helped aid the team in their departure. Not a lot of well-known players came from this era with the exception of Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Whitey Herzog (went in as a manager). But… as I mentioned above, one player in particular popped out and I had to pay tribute to him.

.293/0/2- Pompeyo Antonio "Yo-Yo" Davalillo Romero was born in Cabimas, Venezuela in 1931 and made his Major League debit for the Senators on August 1, 1953. Yo-Yo was the fourth Venezuelan born player to make it to the big leagues at the time, but like the others (Alex Carrasquel, Chucho Ramos and Chico Carrasquel); they only went down in the history books as a name. At 5’3’’ and 140 pounds, Yo-Yo wasn’t expected to do much other than take up space at shortstop; however, he was remarked by some to being a pretty decent defensive player despite six career errors… in only 19 career games. Yo-Yo’s career came to a close on August 23, 1953, and yes, before the season even ended. He had an average on .293, no home runs and two RBI for his career. He is one of the very rare cases of a player leaving the game under their own volition while in the prime of their career. I realize the term prime is a bit arbitrary in this case as his career never really went up or down, but for someone who was still physically able to play, it’s a pretty big deal. Yo-Yo had played Minor League ball for 11 seasons, nine of which came in AAA; however, the one thing that most guys back in those days (as well as today) will tell you is that all travel to games came via the team bus. As it turned out, Yo-Yo was deathly afraid of traveling by airplane. Therefore, he walked away from his shot on the top. Yo-Yo continued to play ball in Mexico from 1962-64, as well as back in Venezuela from 1965-66. He was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and even managed in the Venezuelan League for several years after his playing career ended.

Going back to my introduction, the case of Yo-Yo Davalillo is a reminder to all of us that we’re all destined for something great, but we don’t necessarily understand what that is until we come face-to-face with our dream once it’s attained. In my case, a series of injuries kept me from playing ball, but it didn’t keep me away from the game. I merely adapted and continued to love the game as I saw fit.

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