Thursday, May 30, 2013
I was shuffling through my ITunes account tonight, trying to find something to help string this post together. For the most part a lot my posts are written with classical music playing in the background to help keep me from rushing through things. The last thing I want to do is leave out an important piece of information. Classical music also doesn’t have a lyricist. Every now-and-then when I listen to anything with lyrics I tend to get my sentences jumbled by writing the lyrics to the song down as opposed to whatever thoughts are going through my head. So, since I’m writing about the Cleveland Indians, nothing I had in my arsenal was really helping me out creatively.
As much as Cleveland has been dumped on over the years I can honestly attest to say that most of it is exaggerated. Funny, but exaggerated. I am probably one of the very small percentage of people who had Cleveland in their “Top-five cities to visit” list last season, which is something that I had been looking forward to doing for the better part of a decade. I grew in a family that loved Rock and Roll. From Chuck Berry to Elvis. From The Beatles and Rolling Stones to Cheap Trick and The Darkness. Rock and Roll is the lifeblood of my family, well, on my mother’s side at least. I’m not going to go into detail on it now, but visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was very high on my “must do” list. While I was there I of course brought my IPod along to really live the experience more intently. The most important song on my playlist, this one.
My Uncle Tim and I have a kindred love for Ian Hunter which dates as far back as when he was originally in Mott the Hoople singing “All the Young Dudes.” This song though, and not the Presidents of the United States of America version that was used for “The Drew Carey Show,” just radiated my experience in that city. Even more interesting is the story behind the song. Mott the Hoople was doing a tour with David Bowie on the East Coast and at every venue they were met with half-filled crowds and were received rather negatively. When they got to Cleveland they were met with a pack house and amazing fans. Hunter states on his web site, "the inspiration for 'Cleveland Rocks' goes back to the old days when people used to make fun of Cleveland. Cleveland was 'uncool' and LA and NYC were 'cool'. I didn't see it that way. Lotta heart in Cleveland." The song was first released in 1977 under the title "England Rocks" on a single in the United Kingdom, predating the release of the "Cleveland" version by two years. Hunter has maintained, however, that Cleveland was the original subject of the song, stating on his web site, "I originally wrote 'Cleveland Rocks' for Cleveland. I changed it later to 'England Rocks' because I thought it should be a single somewhere and Columbia wouldn't release it as a single in the U.S. (too regional). 'Cleveland Rocks' is Cleveland's song and that's the truth." The response to this day is still overwhelming as it’s used as a victory song for all of their sports franchises and it serves as the unofficial theme song for the city. In recognition of "Cleveland Rocks", Hunter was given the key to the city by Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich on June 19, 1979.
The main reason I bring all of this up, besides the fact that I’m writing about an Indians hat, is because of the line, “I’ve got some records from World War II! I play them just like me granddad do! He was a rocker and I am too! Oh Cleeeeveland Rocks. Oh Cleeeeeveland Ro-ocks!” In lieu of my Stars and Stripes posts I couldn’t think of a more fulfilling line and song for this piece.
The Indians, like a lot of teams throughout Major League Baseball, offer military discount tickets and sometimes free tickets on special days when active, retired and off duty soldiers arrive in uniform. In 2012 the Indians held “Marine Week” from June 15-20 to pay tribute to the men and women brave enough to join the Marines. The event featured Marine rock bands, on-field celebrations and auctions featuring autographed by Hall of Fame Indians for charity.
One of the more interesting military stories involving the Indians over the last five years involved All-Star outfielder, and South Korean international, Shin-Shoo Choo who was nearly called back to his homeland to fulfill his country’s military obligation duties. Luckily, for his sake, things worked out for the better.
Since 1971 the Indians are one of the few teams in MLB to have a losing record on Memorial Day. Their 19-20 record featured a 1976 doubleheader with double wins against the Baltimore Orioles, not mention the Indians also had four of those days off due to travel and off days. The Indians also boast some of their weirdest streaks when it comes to Memorial Day. The first I noticed is that from 1971-1999 the Indians went 5-0 against the California Angels; however, after the Angels changed their name to the Anaheim Angels in 1997 they met up again in 2000 where the Angels finally walked away with victory. In 2004 AND 2005 the Indians had Memorial Day off; however, in both of those years they played the Oakland Athletics over the weekend. In both years the Indians swept the Athletics. As an ardent Athletics supporter I really hated finding this stat.
Upon looking at the numbers I marked on my hat I quickly realized that my “Cleveland Rocks” reference makes much more sense. All three of the players I’m paying tribute to spent time in the military during World War II. Now, Just as a heads up I’m not going to talk about their stats much due to the fact that I writing about all three again down the road.
#14- In 1942, at the age of 17, Larry Doby won the Negro National League batting title with a .427 average. It was his first year in professional baseball as a second baseman with the Newark Eagles.
Doby hit .325 with the Eagles in 1943 and entered military service at the end of the season. He served with the Navy at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois, where he played with the Negro baseball team. He was later stationed at Ulithi Atoll in the Pacific. Doby's early experiences in relatively integrated northeast New Jersey could not prepare him for the discrimination that awaited him in other places. He often spoke of how stunned and embarrassed he was when he arrived for training upon induction into the Navy in 1944 only to be segregated from whites he had played with and even served as captain for on teams while growing up.
Doby was back with the Eagles in 1946, batting .360, helping the team to the Negro League World Series title, and attracting interest from major league scouts. Doby began 1947 with the Eagles but signed with the Cleveland Indians on July 2, 1947, the first African-American to play in the American League. That same year he also signed with the Patterson Panthers of the American Basketball League as the first African-American in that league. Doby is rarely ever talked about when it comes to his life’s accomplishments. I found a quote by Bob Feller which best describes it, "He was a great American, he served the country in World War II, and he was a great ballplayer. He was kind of like Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, because he was the second African-American player in the majors behind Jackie Robinson. He was just as good of a ballplayer, an exciting player, and a very good teammate. He helped us win the World Series in 1948. He was a great ballplayer, a great American and an excellent teammate."
With that be sure to expect a full article dedicated to Doby in the future.
#19- Bob Feller went through a few number changes before he stuck with #19. Oddly enough, Doby’s #14 was one of them from 1937-1938, a decade before Doby was signed to the Indians. Feller played from 1936-1941 and had been in the Top-three for the American League MVP award in his last three years before becoming the first MLB player to enlist in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I found an article he wrote about his reason for leaving baseball, even if for a short time, and his time in the Navy. I figure why not let him tell it:
I never have to strain my memory to recall the day I decided to join the Navy. It was 7 December 1941. I was driving from my home in Van Meter, Iowa, to Chicago to discuss my next contract with the Cleveland Indians, and I heard over the car radio that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. I was angry as hell.
I'd spent almost six full seasons in the major leagues by then, with a record of 107 victories and 54 losses, and I had a family- related draft exemption, but I knew right then that I had to answer the call. I arrived in Chicago late that afternoon to meet Cy Slapnicka, the Indians' general manager, who had come there to talk about my contract for 1942, and told him about my decision. I then phoned Gene Tunney, the former world heavyweight boxing champion and an old friend. A commander, Gene was in charge of the Navy's physical training program. He flew out from Washington and swore me in on Tuesday, 9 December.
After my basic training, the Navy made me a chief petty officer and assigned me as a physical training instructor. It was valuable in its way, but I wanted to go into combat. I'd had a lot of experience with guns as a kid, so I applied for gunnery school and sea duty. After four months of naval gunnery school in Newport, Rhode Island, I was assigned to a battleship, the USS Alabama (BB-60), as a gun-captain on a 40-mm antiaircraft mount that had a crew of 24.
Action in the North Atlantic -- and the Pacific
I got what I wanted. The Alabama spent six months escorting convoys in the North Atlantic, and then -- in August 1943 -- went through the Panama Canal and headed for the central Pacific. Over the next two years, we saw action off Tarawa, and in the Marshalls, the Carolines, and the Philippines. We bombarded beaches to support amphibious assaults, served as escorts for aircraft carriers, and fended off kamikaze attacks. Two enemy bombs hit the ship during the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and we survived a typhoon that pummeled us with 80-knot gusts off the Philippine coast. The Alabama never lost a man to enemy action. The people we had on the gun crews were very good shots.
In March 1945, I was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Center and managed the baseball team there. In the third week of August, just 15 days after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, I went on inactive duty. It was back to baseball after that. I rejoined the Indians on 23 August and pitched eight games. I won five and lost three.
Serving in the military is almost always a defining moment for any young man or woman. You're young and impressionable. You meet a lot of new people, and you travel to new places. You learn to be on time, how to follow and, eventually, how to lead.
You Never Forget Combat
But it makes a difference when you go through a war, no matter which branch of the service you're in. Combat is an experience that you never forget. A war teaches you that baseball is only a game, after all -- a minor thing, compared to the sovereignty and security of the United States. I once told a newspaper reporter that the bombing attack we lived through on the Alabama had been the most exciting 13 hours of my life. After that, I said, the pinstriped perils of Yankee Stadium seemed trivial. That's still true today.
You and your comrades never lose touch. I've gone to my share of Alabama reunions, and all of us treat each other as shipmates no matter what else we've done or accomplished -- or haven't -- over the years. I still remember with pain the sailor who stopped by my compartment to talk baseball during one of our North Atlantic convoy runs. A few minutes later, he was missing. Apparently he'd fallen overboard into rough seas -- an accident of war.
Like anyone who has been under fire, I'm certainly not a war-booster. But I still believe, as I did that grim Sunday afternoon in December 1941, in a strong and well-equipped military and in the values that being in the service instills in the young men and women who don the uniform. I'm well aware of the hardships that our service members are enduring right now.
Serving Your Country
For myself, I wouldn't be unhappy if they re-imposed a draft -- not just because we need more troops to meet our needs, but because going through military training is such a character-builder for young people. Everyone ought to serve his or her country for a couple of years or more, even in times of peace.
I was at Great Lakes Naval Training Center a few months ago, where I'd been invited to speak to the graduates of the Navy's basic school, and someone asked whether I'd urge my grandson to sign up, as I had done. My answer was a resounding yes.
I'm still a Navy man at heart. And I'm proud to have served. –Military.com
Feller would go on to play 12 more season, all of which came with the Indians.
#42/6- There’s a reason I did this, and it has a rather simple explanation. Bob Lemon Made is MLB debut in 1941 as the #38, but it was changed in 1942 to #42. It would be the last number he’d wear until after returning from three years in the war in 1946 where he adopted the #6, which he only wore for one season. I picked them for the sake of him going away one person and coming home another.
He was born in San Bernardino, California on September 22, 1920. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians as a third baseman in 1938, and played in their minor league system until entering military service with the Navy in 1943.
Lemon served at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station in California for the first two years of his service. In 1945, he was sent to Aiea Barracks in Hawaii, and it was there that he made the conversion from infielder to pitcher.
All three players: Doby, Feller and Lemon served their country at the same time, and won the second World Series trophy in Indians’ together in 1948. All three are enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame together, and all three a true heroes within the Cleveland community.
KT- I wouldn’t be right to not mention this person in regard to Memorial Day, especially with his ties to the Indians Organization. Kevin Tillman, the brother of former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, was originally a 30th round draft pick by the Houston Astros back in 1996 out of Leland High School in San Jose, California. Not wanting to pass up on college, he enrolled at Arizona State University with his brother and was once again taken in the draft, this time by the Anaheim Angels in the 31st round of the 1999 Amateur Draft, which he was then picked up by the Indians.
Tillman played one season in 2001, splitting his time with the Burlington Indians of the Rookie League and the AA Akron Aeros of the Eastern League. He hit .241 with six home runs, six doubles and 24 RBI.
After the tragedy which took place in New York City on September 11, 2001, both he and Pat enlisted in the US Army with the Army Rangers, which they both completed. The two were then assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington and deployed together to South West Asia as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Kevin was in the convoy right behind his brother’s on April 22, 2002, the day that Pat was killed.
It’s a little weird to think that a full year has come and gone since I got kicked out of the MLB Fan Cave. Nothing about my termination surprised me; I had been telling the other Cave Dwellers that I was going to be the first person let go before the end of the first full week of the season. It was a damn shame too. The entire concept of what the Fan Cave is sold as is a fantastic concept; however, the execution has been questionable. Based on my experience, and the experience of others, it has very little to do with interacting with the fans. It’s merely a smoke and mirrors marketing ploy. I realize it makes me sound bitter, but nothing could be further from the truth. With the money I made in the short time I was there I traveled the continent, hitting 27 of 30 Major League stadiums, numerous Minor League facilities and catching an array of concerts. On my journey I made some amazing friends, got to meet some great players, got a few more MLB tattoos and most important, I met the love of my life Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie). I’ve done my best to not rip on or really say anything negative about the Fan Cave because after all, I have nothing to give but my gratitude as none of this would have happened without my experience. I just really wish there was way more fan involvement with the outside, like I tried to and have been incorporating every day.
This particular hat carries quite a bit of importance behind it as it was involved in one of the last challenges we were assigned before the first elimination. The concept was that we had to take a photo of something having to do with Memorial Day and the person who received the most likes on Facebook would win. Not a prize or anything, just a win. I knew this challenge was going to end with another loss for me due to the fact that anything involving fan voting of Facebook was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I never finished dead last though; usually somewhere in the Top-four. When we had some time off we all went our separate ways, scouring the city for a great photo. Fleet Week happened to be going on in New York City so a few of the other Cave Dwellers made sure to include men and women in uniform in their photos. I really had no idea what I wanted to do so I went over to the New Era Flagship store across the street from the Fan Cave to mull it over.
Now, I’ve been a novice photographer for years. I’ve taken quite a few classes for a number of years on the subject. Hell, I used to be able to develop my own photos. I bring this up because a lot of you who may follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook have probably seen a few of my photos. Actually, if you read my blog you see my photos every time. I need to point out that in almost every case I don’t try to take a Pulitzer Prize worthy photo; however, sometimes I do. As I was walking through the shop I was talking with the store manager Antoine, asking how he had been. You know, being friendly. I had my camera in my hand but I couldn’t find anything in there to shoot. Plus, the camera I was using was a Sony Powershot, not even one of my fancier cameras. As I said my goodbyes to Antoine and the staff I noticed the new Stars and Stripes display they had on the wall in the front of the store. I missed it when I walked it, but I definitely saw it on the way out. It was a block of cubby holes, all of which had New York Mets and New York Yankees hats inside of them. I couldn’t tell you why, but as I really took my time to look over the display and imagine popped into my head from an article I had read in my media ethics class at the University of Oregon. The article, from 2009, talks about the ban that was lifted after 18 years which prevented media organizations from showing photos of caskets containing soldiers who had dies during war. This topic is an interesting paradox because politicians were basically preventing the public from seeing the real casualties of war. The photo shown in the article I linked is a different one than what I saw, but still the same concept. As I looked at the hats on the wall I had an idea of telling a story through a photo, like I always do; however, this contest was strictly photos, no captions. So, with that in mind, I took this.
This photo was not cropped; I had to line it up perfectly without the use of a tripod. As I mentioned above, we were using Sony cameras, and I could have taken a much better photo with my camera. What you’re seeing, or at least my interpretation of it is a casket and the light shining above it Heaven. Upon looking at multiple photos of caskets being transported back from Iraq and Afghanistan there was almost always a common thing shown in all of them; closed in, almost claustrophobic shots with a light coming from above. I thought that this display was a perfect representation, especially with the tie-in with the Memorial Day theme. I took about 22 shots. Yes, 22, and yet with that camera this was the best I could get.
We weren’t allowed to use Photoshop or any doctoring program, so I was a bit out of luck on cleaning this photo up. Maybe I’m being too critical. Anyway, I emailed my photo in and didn’t tell anyone about it except for Tyler Hissey, the guy in charge of the Fan Cave Twitter account and Facebook page. The only reason I brought it up to him was because I was working on an article about the hats, covering their purpose and how the proceeds go to Welcome Back Veterans. You know what, here’s what I wrote…
For those who know me really well, it’s almost a given that I rarely go anywhere without a New Era MLB cap. Not only is it incredibly stylish, it also serves as a beacon for what I’m most passionate about: baseball. Baseball is more than a game; it’s a symbol of what make our country great. Baseball is fair. Baseball is just. And most importantly, baseball has been a positive token for our brothers and sisters who have fought for our country since the Civil War and served as an icon of goodwill when spreading diplomacy with other nations.
Since 2008 New Era has produced caps for all 30 Major League teams for both players and fans to celebrate our love of the game and our love of our country for Memorial Day and the 4th of July. In each of the past few years New Era released a white front panel with a red or navy back panel, and the logo for each team encapsulating the stars and stripes. In all years the proceeds went to Welcome Back Veterans, a program which addresses the needs of returning American Veterans and their families. For 2012 New Era is releasing a new design.
The panels of the new caps are of the traditional team colors for all 30 clubs; however the inside of each logo is filled with a digital camouflage appliqué similar to that of the uniforms worm by the men and women who serve. As the son of a veteran I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to those who give their time and their lives for the values and livelihood we all hold sacred; a fitting tribute to those who watch and play the game as we do, and yearn to come home to watch the games with their friends and family. This Memorial Day I will be proud to represent my team, but more importantly, I will be proud to give back and represent those who give everything they have.
Once again, for what it was, it was pretty good. Now, as soon as I told him this he then told me, “Oh that’s great. It’ll be good to get a second perspective.” The word second confused me, so I asked him to elaborate. This is when he told me that Kyle Thompson, the St. Louis Cardinals fan, had all ready done an article, but Hissey was really happy I did one too. Well, no shit I was going to write one. I don’t mean to get territorial, but in this case everyone who knew me, including the fine folks at New Era, all knew that wearing, writing and talking about New Era Caps was what I loved to do. Almost everyone else in the Fan Cave had at least one New Era Cap. Kyle had two; I was sitting on about 174 at the time. Soooooooo… I was a bit irked that Kyle would go behind my back and do that. This of course was a common theme for me as I assisted (or had other material stolen by) other people (mostly Kyle) throughout the two-and-a-half months I was there, and yet, I was not “contributing creatively” enough. Ummmmmmm… yaaaaaahhhh…
The Yankees have always had a longstanding, solid relationship with our nation’s military. I mean, with a name like Yankees it’s hard to shake. This last week a member of the front office was honored with a tremendous medal from the US Army in gratitude and tribute of all the hard work she had been doing since 1985. Senior Vice President of Marketing Deborah A. Tymon received the "Outstanding Civilian Service Award" from in recognition of her decades of service in support of the military. The award is the third-highest public service honor the U.S. Army can bestow upon a civilian.
Since joining the New York Yankees front office in 1985, Tymon has spearheaded many of the Yankees' initiatives involving the military and veterans. Among her many accomplishments, Tymon has been instrumental in developing the Yankees' close relationship with the Wounded Warrior Project, making injured veterans the focus of hundreds of public and private ceremonies and events. She has also been a regular contributor to the Wounded Warriors' annual Soldier Ride.
Tymon has organized the donation of thousands of tickets to active military members and veterans and was deeply involved in the creation of Military Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium.
On behalf of the Yankees, Tymon has led the effort to deliver thousands of care packages, including clothing, snacks, books and memorabilia, to active servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently, she worked with the USO to send thousands of gift packages to soldiers in the Middle East last holiday season.
"I'm incredibly honored and overwhelmed," Tymon said. "Over the years, I have had the great privilege of meeting countless members of the armed services. Their stories of sacrifice always leave me breathless. It has been an honor for me to give back to them with the support of the Yankees and show them the appreciation they deserve."
Tymon's father, James Tymon, served in the 6th Marine Division and 29th Regiment during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. –newyorkyankees.com
Since 1971 the Yankees have gone 23-18 while only missing three games on Memorial Day due to travel or days off. Surprisingly there isn’t really much to say in regard to patterns or teams faced other than the fact that they’re 4-1 against the Boston Red Sox and 0-3 against the Baltimore Orioles on Memorial Day. Sorry. I though I was going to find more.
After combing through record books and biography pages I picked a few solid, “lesser-known” members of the Yankees in which to pay tribute to with my marks. Some of you may not agree with my choices, no matter. I have my reasons and stick to my guns.
#8- He started out as #10 for his first year in the Majors 1929, but changed to #8 in 1930, which he kept until his final game in 1946. No, it’s not Yogi Berra. Prior to a few months ago I really didn’t know too much about this player other than his name, team he played for and a few notable moments throughout his playing career and I really have my friend Vanessa Demske (@vdemske) to thank for sparking my curiosity. See, Vanessa was a Top-30 finalist in this year’s production of the MLB Fan Cave as the representative for the Oakland Athletics, much like myself. We chatted a bit on Twitter and such during her campaign, but we became really good friends when we got together for Opening Day down in Oakland after she, unfortunately, didn’t make the final cut. Now, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, well, like myself, Vanessa has a few MLB tattoos herself; two of which I will cover in these blog posts. The first, of which is a full portrait of this particular player, Bill Dickey.
Dickey was Vanessa’s grandmother’s favorite player, and even though we didn’t go into much detail about that, I can confidently assume that Vanessa and her grandmother were really close.
Dickey made his major-league debut at Yankee Stadium on August 15, 1928, subbing for Benny Bengough. He broke into the hit column nine days later, on August 24, with a triple off George Blaeholder of the St. Louis Browns. Dickey played in ten games to close out the year and was a spectator as the Yankees won their third straight pennant and swept the Cardinals to take their second World Series in a row.
The 1929 season began the transition from the famed Murderers’ Row teams that had dominated the American League in the late 1920s to the Bronx Bombers era of the ’30s. As great as the Yankees were during the Murderers’ Row period, they were relatively weak at one position, catcher. Benny Bengough, John Grabowski, and Pat Collins shared the catching duties, but none of the three stepped up to take ownership of the position. Dickey’s arrival changed that; all three were gone from the Yankees roster within two years. “He’s going to be a great one,” Yankees manager Miller Huggins predicted of Dickey. Indeed, starting in 1929, Dickey caught in at least 100 games for the next 13 seasons. –Joseph Wancho SABR Project
Dickey played for 17 seasons from his 10 games in 1928 until the end of the season in 1946. As a catcher he is still one of the greatest hitter of all-time, batting .313 lifetime with 202 home runs and 1969 hits under his belt. While this may not seem like much for 17 years, something you need to take into account is that he did not play every game of each season. During his peak years (1929-1941) Dickey only averaged 119 games a season; the highest point being 140 games in 1937 and the lowest point being 104 games in 1934. From 1933-1946 Dickey made the All-Star team every season except 1935 and 1944-1945. From 1936-1939 he finished in the Top-six for the American League MVP award, the most notable being 1938 when he finished in second place behind Jimmie Foxx of the Red Sox after going .313/27/115. Foxx went .349/50/175 in 14 more games; no argument here. Dickey played in eight World Series, winning seven. He would win seven more as a coach from 1949-1956. In 1,708 games behind the plate, his fielding percentage was .988. His career batting average was .313, and he owned a .382 on-base percentage. In 6,300 career at-bats, Dickey struck out only 289 times.
Dickey entered the Navy on June 3, 1944, with the rank of lieutenant junior grade. He served as an athletic officer in the Pacific and managed the Navy team that won the 1944 Service World Series in Hawaii. He was honorably discharged in 1945.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1954, his 10th year on the ballot. Dickey passed away at the age of 86 in 1993.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be bestowed on a player is one that comes from a fellow Hall of Famer from a rival team, “Bill Dickey is the best (catcher) I ever saw,” said Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller. “He was as good as anyone behind the plate, and better with the bat. There are others I’d include right behind Dickey, but he was the best all-around catcher of them all. I believe I could have won 35 games if Bill Dickey was my catcher.”
#42- No, this is not Mariano Rivera. Lt. Colonel Jerry Coleman was born on September 14, 1924 in San Jose, California. He joined the United States Marine Corps and began his military career on October 23, 1942, as a naval aviation cadet in the V-5 program in San Francisco, California. After going through pilot training in Colorado, Texas, and North Carolina, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He received his wings of gold, signifying he was a naval aviator, on April 1, 1944 at Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas. He was assigned to Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, where he was trained to fly the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber. He was briefly stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and then was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California. He then boarded a troop ship and was sent to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands as a replacement pilot.
He arrived at Guadalcanal in August, 1944, and was assigned to VMSB-341, known as "The Torrid Turtles". He flew 57 combat missions, flying close air support, which VMSB-341 was the first squadron in the Marine Corps specifically designated to do, and flew missions in the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. In July, 1945, his squadron, along with other Marine Corps squadrons, was called back from the Pacific to form carrier-based squadrons in anticipation of the amphibious assault on Japan. With the sudden ending of the war in the Pacific, he remained stationed at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. In January, 1946 he was transferred from active duty to the inactive reserve list, and resumed his baseball career, playing second base for the Yankees. –HighIronIllustrations.com
Coleman was originally signed to play for the Yankees back in 1942; however, he didn’t make his Major League debut until April 20, 1949. From ’49 until 1951 he had his best years, finishing third for the AL Rookie of the Year award behind Roy Sievers of the St. Louis Browns and Alex Kellner of the Philadelphia Athletics. Coleman made the All-Star team in 1950, the only time in his career. That season he hit .287, had 150 hits, six home runs, six triple and brought in 69 runs. From 1952-1957 Coleman’s playing time dwindled at the keystone after the Yankees brought up on of their prospects; a kid by the name of Billy Martin.
In 1958, Yankees' General Manager George Weiss named Coleman personnel director, which involved Coleman scouting minor league players. Roy Hamey terminated Coleman from that position, when Harney became the Yankees' General Manager. It was only after Coleman met with Howard Cosell that Coleman considered becoming a broadcaster.
In 1960, Coleman began a broadcasting career with CBS television, conducting pregame interviews on the network's Game of the Week broadcasts. His broadcasting career nearly ended that year; he was in the midst of an interview with Cookie Lavagetto when the national anthem began playing. Coleman kept the interview going through the anthem, prompting an avalanche of angry letters to CBS.
In 1963 he began a seven-year run calling New York Yankees' games on WCBS radio and WPIX television. Coleman's WPIX call of ex-teammate Mickey Mantle's 500th career home run in 1967 was brief and from the heart: Here's the payoff pitch... This is IT! There it goes! It's out of here!
After broadcasting for the California Angels for two years, in 1972 Coleman became lead radio announcer for the San Diego Padres, a position he has held every year since but 1980, when the Padres hired him to manage (predating a trend of broadcasters-turned-managers that started in the late 1990s). He also national regular-season and postseason broadcasts for CBS Radio from the mid-1970s to the 1990s. Coleman is also famous for his pet phrases "Oh Doctor!", "You can hang a star on that baby!", "And the beat goes on", and "The natives are getting restless". During an interview in the height of the steroids scandal in 2005, Coleman stated "if I'm emperor, the first time 50 games, the second time 100 games and the third strike you're out", referring to how baseball should suspend players for being caught taking steroids. After the 2005 World Series, Major League Baseball put a similar policy in effect.
He is known as the "Master of the Malaprop" for making sometimes embarrassing mistakes on the microphone, but he is nonetheless popular. In 2005, he was given the Ford C. Frick Award of the National Baseball Hall of Fame for broadcasting excellence, and is one of five Frick award winners that also played in the Major Leagues (along with Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek, Tim McCarver, and Bob Uecker).
In the fall of 2007 Jerry was inducted to the National Radio Hall of Fame as a Sports Broadcaster for his years as the play by play voice of the Padres.
#38- This number only represents one year of this Hall of Famer’s career. It’s a lesser-known number he wore, the first of three to be accurate, but the first nonetheless which he wore in 1946. Lawrence Peter Berra, better known as Yogi, was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees in 1943; however, he joined the Navy not too long after his 18th birthday that same year.
"I sit and I thank the good lord I was in the Navy. We ate good, clean clothes, clean bed. You see some of these Army men, what they went through, that's the one I felt for." –Yogi Berra
In February 1944, he sailed for the British Isles on the USS Bayfield, where he was as a gunner's mate on board a rocket-launching landing craft in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, "It was just like a Fourth of July celebration," he later recalled. "Being a young guy, you didn‘t think nothing of it until you got in it. And so we went off 300 yards off beach. We protect the troops." For the next 12 days his boat was ordered to shoot down enemy aircraft. On one occasion they accidentally shot down an American plane, but were able to save the pilot. He served in a second assault on France for which he received a medal from the French government. Berra also served in North Africa and Italy, and was sent home to the United States after suffering a hand wound. He was then stationed at the New London Sub Base until his discharge. Six years after his time in the war he received the Lone Sailor award from the U.S. Navy Memorial, an honor given to sailors who use skills learned in the service to advance their careers. The president and Navy Memorial CEO said, "Our honorees are living examples of how service to country changes lives and helps develop leaders."
On September 22, 1946 Berra made his Major League debut wearing the #38. I’m not going to focus too much on Berra’s career today, as I have some larger slated down the road. The importance of this; however, is that Berra was a budding superstar like a lot of the other guys throughout the history of war; he was still a prospect. Prospect’s weren’t protected and sent to play baseball for their branch of service. At any given time Berra could have been killed, but like the men of his generation, love of one’s country trumps everything else. I honor Berra with his original number because he could have just as easily not have been wearing a number altogether. In my eyes, he’s the greatest player to ever don a Yankees uniform, and one of the few people to ever really live up to that name, a Yankee.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Before you make an attempt to read this article I must first ask that you click on this link and either watch the whole thing first, or having it playing in the background while you read on. I assure you, it’s not a virus or anything, just a little something to help get into the experience.
Prior to about a month-and-a-half ago I had never heard that song in my life. I’m not one to seek out newer music as my preference in new music/bands took a hiatus some time after the end of the year 2000. I’ve always been a bit of an old school guy, classic rock to be more specific. Most of that has to do with my upbringing; born and raised in the Bay Area I quickly became accustomed to one particular local band whose best-selling album was released the same year I was born, 1983. That band and that album; Sports by Huey Lewis & the News. I know a lot of you are feeling where I’m coming from on this, and a lot of you probably think I’m the biggest cracker around. It’s ok, to each their own. Truth be told I do listen to a lot of underground rap; mostly a lot of old school Bay Area stuff. There are certain sounds and instruments within songs that trigger a deep fondness from my past and the sensation it puts me through sends me into a frenzy to the point where I have to keep listening to a particular song over and over and over until I get my fix. In some cases, the same thing can be said about sports.
When I first heard “My Oh My” by Macklemore I was immediately hooked. As inspiring as the lyrics are, if you take them out you still have a pretty solid song comprised solely of a piano, drum and tambourine. But the one thing that gets me the most is hearing Dave Niehaus’s final call of the Seattle Mariners American League Division Series win against the New York Yankees, a game that still sends chills down my spine despite the fact that I didn’t grow up rooting for the Mariners. Nope, I’m an Oakland Athletics fan through-and-through, but one thing I have grown to know over the 30 years I’ve been alive it’s that you have to take a time out once in a while to appreciate the joys of others.
1995, first off, was kind of an interesting time period for me. I was 12-years-old and in my first year of Junior High School n Bakersfield, California. A few of my friends didn’t have a specific tam that they followed, but they were all very quick to say that Ken Griffey, Jr. was their favorite player. By default of Jr.’s presence with the Mariners that essentially made them my enemy; however, for that brief five-game series we all had a common enemy, the Yankees. My friends and I took turn watching each game at a different person’s house. I really didn’t care where, I was just happy to be watching playoff baseball, something that was taken away from all the baseball fans the previous season.
Until Game 1 of the series I had never really heard Niehaus’s voice. Living in Southern California we primarily got Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers games, and of course became very familiar with Vin Scully. Within the first few innings I was hooked on Niehaus, an appreciation that grew stronger once I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2000. There’s a certain grainy ripple that catches the back of his throat when he talks, much like Mick Jagger’s voice if you ever listen to the Rolling Stones’ albums “Exile on Main Street” or “Sticky Fingers.”
I think the line in “My Oh My” that gets me the most is, “the voice on the other end might as well have been God’s.” It’s an eerily true, but non-sacrilegious truth. No matter if it’s Niehaus, Billy King, Bob Sheppard or any other vocal figure of the game, to us, this is exactly how God should sound. The level of genuine excitement that exudes from Niehaus’s mouth as Griffey, Jr. is more than enough to make anyone believe that the unthinkable can happen.
Like my other Stars and Stripes posts, I compiled the Mariners Memorial Day record, but all ready wrote it in another post on May 13th. So, without further ado, my marks
“My Oh My”- I couldn’t think of a better way to mark this cap. David Arnold Niehaus was the lead play-by-play announcer for the Mariners from their inaugural season in 1977 until his death after the 2010 season. In 2008, the National Baseball Hall of Fame awarded Niehaus with the Ford C. Frick Award, the highest honor for American baseball broadcasters. Among fans nationwide and his peers, Niehaus was considered to be one of the finest sportscasters in history.
Niehaus graduated from Indiana University in 1957, entered the military, and began his broadcasting career with Armed Forces Radio. He became a partner of Dick Enberg on the broadcast team of the California Angels in 1969. Niehaus also broadcast the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL and UCLA Bruins football and basketball during this period.
In 1977, Danny Kaye, part-owner of the expansion Seattle Mariners, recruited Niehaus to become the franchise's radio voice. Despite working for a franchise who from its first year in 1977 until 1991 was without a winning season, his talent was recognizable, and Niehaus was considered one of the few attractions for Mariner fans. Even in the period before the team's memorable 1995 season, the Mariners were regularly one of the leading major-league teams in terms of the percentage of radios in use.
Blowers was on the television side of the broadcast when the prediction came true, and was simply laughing, with no explanation to the TV audience. Radio announcers Rick Rizzs and Dave Niehaus, however, recalled the prediction, restated it for the audience, and were beside themselves in laughter and disbelief as the prediction came true. Said Niehaus on-air, seconds before the event, "I've never been so excited on a 3-1 count in my life!” Here’s the clip so you can fully appreciate it if you haven’t seen it yet. Being the voice of a team was its pluses and minuses. On one hand you’re always the bearer of bad news if the team loses, but on the other hand, like in this moment, you can rekindle the childlike wonder of the game, that first feeling you had when you saw baseball for the first time. At soon as Tuiasosopo makes contact with the ball you can feel it tingle through your body as Niehaus giggles while trying to get the call out. Only something so absurdly brilliant came make a grown man act like that.
Niehaus suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack) at his Issaquah, Washington, home on November 10, 2010, and died at age 75 while preparing to barbecue some ribs on his deck. Heart problems had forced Niehaus to undergo two angioplasties in 1996, causing him to give up smoking and change his diet. He is survived by his wife, three children, and seven grandchildren. In a formal statement, Mariners Chairman Howard Lincoln and President Chuck Armstrong said "Dave has truly been the heart and soul of this franchise since its inception in 1977... He truly was the fans connection to every game." Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said "Today the Pacific Northwest lost one of its sports icons...Dave was an institution here starting with the team's first pitch in 1977. With all due respect to the great Alvin Davis, Dave is 'Mr. Mariner.'" At news of Niehaus's death, tributes came from Jay Buhner, Griffey, Jr., Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, other Mariners broadcasters, and fans.
Prior to the Mariners' home opener in 2011 against the Cleveland Indians the city of Seattle and King County declared that April 8 be "My oh My! Dave Niehaus day". A successful petition drive by Mariners fans Glen Garnett and Mark Caylor got the city of Seattle to give the block of First Avenue S. between Edgar Martínez Dr. S. and S. Royal Brougham Way the honorary designation of Dave Niehaus Way S. Up in the press area at Safeco Field a sign was unveiled giving tribute to Niehaus as well. A bronze statue of Niehaus was unveiled on Friday September 16, 2011 at Safeco Field. Niehaus 's longtime broadcast partner Rizzs presided over a private ceremony to unveil the statue. The statue depicts Niehaus at a desk, behind a microphone, wearing headphones with his Mariners scorebook in front of him. Niehaus is wearing a favorite necktie with tiny baseballs on it and a sport coat. He's holding a pencil in his right hand and wearing the 2001 All-Star Game ring on his left. The scorebook in front of him is open to the 1995 ALDS game against the Yankees. The pages are engraved with Niehaus's actual notes and scoring of the game. The scorebook is so detailed, you even see the word "Unbelievable" scribbled—and misspelled—at the top in Niehaus's handwriting.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Now, I’ve already taken you in a weird direction from the start. It’s ok. There is a reason for all of this. I’ve seen a lot of war films, and by that I mean Hollywood produced ones. As I go back in my head I replay some of the more famous scenes in them al lot of them have a very common scene which has become such a cliché over the years that you’ll all know what I’m talking about. The scene is a bunch of soldiers sitting around, talking about going home. There’s always one soldier who talks about “Going back to Yankee Stadium or Ebbets Field to grab a hot dog and watch the home team win.” At some point in time while this is going on the soldier is usual shot and killed by the enemy. But, if you really go back and find a lot of these films with that scene, they’re almost always talking about going back to New York before they’re killed. Now, go back to the scene I talked about above and tell me what you see; the exact opposite over every war film ever made. Everything about Inglorious Basterds was a creative, but opposite retelling of World War II. Yes, all of it could have actually happened, but it didn’t, and it still made for an entertaining film. As a die-hard baseball fan, but an even bigger movie fan, I couldn’t go long without bringing it up in one of my posts. With that, I’d like to give my apologies to New Era and the Boston Red Sox for making such a weird, but accurate connection.
Time to steer this one back around… for anyone who is an ardent hater of the Red Sox, kind of like I used to be, you really need to look past the game and realize that the Sox are one of the biggest charitable contributors in professional sports. One of the programs they helped start, Home Base Program…
Provides clinical care and support services to Iraq and Afghanistan service members, veterans and their families throughout New England, who are affected by deployment– or combat–related stress or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Offers clinical and community education about the “invisible wounds of war,” and the challenges of military families.
Conducts research to improve treatment and understanding of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and TBI.
We strive to be a model partnership of academic medicine and Major League Baseball in service to our military veterans—and their families.
In 2004 and 2007, following their historic World Series wins, Red Sox owners, management and players, along with representatives of Massachusetts General Hospital visited Walter Reed Medical Center and met hospitalized veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Red Sox organization was deeply moved by the visit, and sought to make a deeper, sustained commitment to serve our returning veterans and their families. With guidance from their colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Department of Defense, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and others, the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program was created.
The Red Sox vigorously promotes Home Base services during New England Sports Network (NESN) broadcasts, and owners, team management, players and their spouses are active in promoting the program throughout Red Sox Nation.
Home Base is generously funded through contributions from donors, and the philanthropic partnership of the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. The Red Sox Foundation hosts the program’s principal fund raiser, the annual Run-Walk to Home Base Presented by New Balance at Fenway Park. The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program is generously supported in part by Welcome Back Veterans (WBV), an initiative of the McCormick Foundation and Major League Baseball. - HomeBaseProgram.org
Since 1971 the Red Sox have gone and impressive 23-16 while only missing four games on Memorial Day. There are a few patterns that I found which are kind of interesting, and only one which makes me want to cry. I’ll start with the tearjerker. The best thing to keep in mind right now is that if you’re a fan of the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians or the Oakland Athletics like myself, you can pretty much count on losing to the Red Sox on Memorial Day. The Red Sox are 3-0 against the Twins, 4-0 against the Indians and 4-0 against the Athletics. As for something ore comical, since ’71 the Yankees are 4-1 against the Red Sox with their one win coming in 2003, which only went to bite them in the ass in the American League Championship Series at the hands of Aaron Boone. Too bad. I was kind of hoping that there would be some kind of consistency in 2004 and 2007 in regard to their World Series wins, but alas, there wasn’t; the Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles in ’04 and beat the Indians in ’07.
When it came to picking out numbers to mark this cap with, I couldn’t help but go with the two biggest names to serve during the wars.
#1- I had moved to Eugene, Oregon to attend school at the University of Oregon in April of 2007 through the middle of March of this year. In the six years that I lived there it wouldn’t be until the final week that I would find out that Bobby Doerr lived like 10-15 miles away from me in Junction City. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to Harold Doerr, a telephone company supervisor, and his wife, the former Frances Herrnberger. Bobby’s middle name, Pershing, was a tribute to General John J. Pershing, then the commander of U.S. military forces in World War I.
He graduated from Los Angeles' Fremont High School in 1936, after having already begun his professional career with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1934. Doerr broke into the majors in 1937 at the age of 19 and went 3 for 5 in his first game as a second baseman. In 1938 he became a regular in a powerful Red Sox lineup that included Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, and Dom DiMaggio. That season he led the league in sacrifice bunts with 22, and still managed to hit .289 on the season with 80 RBI. From 1937-1940 Doerr would put up solid numbers, but very few took notice.
In 1941 Doerr had a breakout year along Ted Williams who was in the midst of his third and most historic season of his career. From then until his last season in 1951 Doerr made the All-Star team every year except two (1945 and 1949). Because of the war, Doerr missed the entire 1945 season. He had made his home in Oregon and so reported for induction in the United States Army in Portland. He was first assigned to Fort Lewis and a week later reported for infantry duty at Camp Roberts. After completing the months of training, word began to circulate within his outfit that they were being prepared to ship out to Ford Ord, and then overseas for the invasion of Japan. President Truman brought the whole thing to a halt by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan. After the war, Staff Sergeant Doerr changed back into his Red Sox uniform and returned to the 1946 edition of the Red Sox.
From 1942-1950 Doerr finished in the Top-25 for the AL MVP every season, with the exception of 1945. His best finish was in third place in 1946, two spots behind his teammate Williams. Doerr hit .271 that season with 18 home runs and 116 RBI; however, Doerr still had a few more great years after that which became a confusing accomplishment based on where he finished in the AL MVP vote. In 1950 Doerr boasted a .297 average with a career-high in home runs (27), a career-high in RBI (120) and a career-league-high 11 triples and he was one hit shy of tying his career-high in that category with 172… and yet he finished 16th for the award that season. The element that makes this whole matter a bit more peculiar is that his teammate, Billy Goodman, finished in second place despite having significantly less of a total in every category with the exception of his batting average (.354). While that seems legit the reality is that Doerr played in 149 games that season compared to Goodman’s 110 games.
Doerr finished his career with a .288 average, 223 home runs, 1247 RBI and 2042 hits in 14 years. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 thanks to the Veteran’s Committee after getting only 25% of the 75% of the vote required to get in. Doerr’s #1 was retired by the Red Sox in 1988, but interestingly enough, it wasn’t the first number he wore during his career. In 1937 he wore the #9, but gave it up after once season. Funny how history may have shook out had he kept it.
#6- Johnny Pesky played with the Boston Red Sox from 1942 through the middle of the 1952 season when he was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of a nine-player deal which featured no one of particular note. Pesky was born in Portland, Oregon and attended Lincoln High School, and spent several years playing for local amateur teams, such as the Portland Babes, Bend Elks and Silverton Red Sox. The latter team was associated with the Silver Falls Timber Company, which was owned by Tom Yawkey, who also owned the major league Red Sox. A skilled ice hockey player, he once worked out with the Boston Bruins. Early in his playing career, Portland sportswriters would abbreviate his name to "Pesky" because it fit better in a box score. He would legally change his name to Pesky in 1947. His original last name was Paveskovich, which is Croatian.
Pesky was signed as an amateur free agent by the Red Sox before the 1940 season and spent the next two seasons in the minor leagues. In 1940, he played for the Rocky Mount Red Sox of the Piedmont League, where he was a teammate of future Hall of Famer Heinie Manush, who was the team's player-manager. After hitting .325 with Rocky Mount, he moved up to the double-A Louisville Colonels, where he also batted .325. The next year, he was in the major leagues.
Pesky finished in third place for the AL MVP that season, which would have for sure been a Rookie of the Year award had it been around prior to 1947. Pesky led the league with 205 hits, a rookie record at the time, as well as 22 sacrifice hits and a .331 average. This would be Pesky’s one, and only season until the end of World War II.
Pesky, whose father had been an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Navy before World War I, served at Amherst, Massachusetts in 1942. He was later at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he played shortstop for the Cloudbusters, and Atlanta Naval Air Station, where he met his wife, Ruth Hickey, who was also serving with the Navy. On June 13, 1943, Pesky graduated as an ensign from the assistant operations officers’ school at Atlanta. In 1945, Pesky was in Hawaii, where he played shortstop and managed the Honolulu Naval Air Station baseball team. When the season closed in October 1945 he was runner-up Most Valuable Player in the 14th Naval District league. Pesky later said, "I think that if I didn't have baseball to come back to, I'd have stayed in the Navy because it was clean and I kind of liked the atmosphere."-Baseball in Wartime
In 1946 Pesky picked up right where he left off. He again led the league in hits with 208 and hit a career-high .335. He made is one, and only All-Star Game appearance and once again finished as a runner-up for the AL MVP award, this time in fourth place. Pesky would again have the most hits in the league the following season with 207, and he once again came up short in the AL MVP vote, this time finishing in 18th place. 1951 would be the only other time where Pesky would finish on the MVP ballot. In Pesky’s final full season with the Red Sox he continued to put up solid numbers by today’s standards, which I can only assume were bottom of the barrel back then. Pesky finished his career in 1954 with the Washington Senators, two years after getting dealt to the Tigers. He finished with a .307 lifetime average, 1455 career hits and nothing else of real note sadly.
Pesky attended the 2004 World Series and, after the Game 4 triumph, was embraced by Boston players such as Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling as a living representative of star Red Sox players of the past whose teams fell short of winning the Fall Classic. He played a poignant and prominent role in the ceremony in which the World Series Championship Rings were handed out (April 11, 2005). With the help of Carl Yastrzemski, he raised the 2004 World Series Championship banner up the Fenway Park center field flagpole. Pesky also had the honor of raising the Red Sox' 2007 World Series Championship banner on April 8, 2008. On his 87th birthday, September 27, 2006, the Red Sox honored Pesky by officially naming the right-field foul pole "Pesky's Pole," although it had already been unofficially known as such. On September 23, 2008, the Red Sox announced that they would retire the #6 Pesky wore as a player to mark his 89th birthday and his long years of service to the club. Pesky's was the sixth number retired by the Red Sox; his number retired was the first to break the club's code to have a number retired: being in the Hall of Fame and having spent at least ten years with the Red Sox.
Pesky was a longtime resident of Boston's North Shore, living in Lynn and then Swampscott, Massachusetts. He was a visible member of the community, making personal appearances for the Red Sox. For years, he was a commercial spokesman on television and radio for a local supplier of doors and windows, JB Sash and Door Company. The commercials were deliberately and humorously corny, with Pesky and the company's owner calling themselves "the Window Boys."
On May 16, 2009 Pesky was given an honorary degree during Salem State College’s 199th commencement ceremony. On April 20, 2012, Boston Red Sox fans celebrated the 100th birthday of Fenway Park, and Johnny Pesky was a participant. He was wheeled out to second base in a wheelchair, aside Doerr, to join over 200 past Red Sox players and coaches through the decades.
#9- Aside from the fact that Ted Williams was one of the few ballplayers to see combat during the war, it’s important to remember that he did it twice. Williams was born and raised in San Diego. At the age of eight, he was taught how to throw a baseball by his uncle, Saul Venzor. Saul was one of his mother's four brothers, as well as a former semi-professional baseball player who had pitched against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Gordon in an exhibition game. As a child, Williams' heroes were Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals and Bill Terry of the New York Giants. Williams graduated from Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego, where he played baseball as a pitcher and was the star of the team. Though he had offers from the Cardinals and the Yankees while he was still in high school, his mother thought he was too young to leave home, so he signed up with the local minor league club, the San Diego Padres.
Williams played back-up behind DiMaggio's brother Vince DiMaggio and Ivey Shiver on the Padres. While in the Pacific Coast League in 1936, Williams met future teammates and friends Dom DiMaggio and Doerr, who were on the Pacific Coast League's San Francisco Seals. When Shiver announced he was quitting to become a football coach at the University of Georgia, the job, by default, was open for Williams. Williams posted a .271 batting average on 107 at bats in 42 games for the Padres in 1936. Unknown to Williams, he had caught the eye of the Red Sox's general manager, Eddie Collins, while Collins was scouting Doerr and the shortstop George Myatt in August 1936. Collins later explained, "It wasn't hard to find Ted Williams. He stood out like a brown cow in a field of white cows." In the 1937 season, after graduating Hoover High in the winter, Williams finally broke into the line-up on June 22, when he hit an inside-the-park home run to help the Padres win 3-2. The Padres ended up winning the PCL title, while Williams ended up hitting .291 with 23 home runs. Meanwhile, Collins kept in touch with Padres general manager Bill Lane, calling him two times throughout the season. In December 1937, during the winter meetings, the deal was made between Lane and Collins, sending Williams to the Red Sox and giving Lane $35,000 and two major leaguers, Dom D'Allessandro and Al Niemiec, and two other minor leaguers.
Williams made his Major League debut on April 20, 1939. During his first season he hit .327 and led the league in RBI (145) and total bases (344). He finished in fourth place for the AL MVP which, once again, probably would have been a Rookie of the Year award had it existed. Williams would go on to make the All-Star team over the next three season as well as finish in second place for the AL MVP award in back-to-back season (1941-1942) despite leading the league in home runs each year, leading the league in runs three straight years since 1940, generating the most walks both years and, how could anyone forget, winning two batting titles at which he hit .406 in 1941. As much as I can yammer in about that one, I’ll save it for a later post. Also, he kind of won the AL Triple Crown without much issue in 1942, yet he was still relegated to being the #2 best player in the American League behind Yankees stars Joe DiMaggio and Joe Gordon respectively. Needless to say, Williams was quickly making a name for himself as one of the greatest players in the game’s history.
In January 1942, Williams was drafted into the military. Williams had been classified 3-A due to the fact that his mother was totally dependent on him. When his classification was changed to 1-A following the U.S. entry into the war, Williams appealed to his draft board. The board agreed that his status should not have been changed. He made a public statement that once he had built up his mother's trust fund, he intended to enlist. Nevertheless, the press and the fans got on his case to the point that he enlisted in the Navy on May 22, 1942. Williams could have received an easy assignment and played baseball for the Navy. Instead, he joined the V-5 program and set his sights on being a Naval Aviator. Navy doctors were amazed when his eyes tested to 20/10 - a key to his hitting prowess. Since he had not attended college, Williams was first sent to the Navy's Preliminary Ground School at Amherst College, following the baseball season, for six months of instruction in various subjects including math and navigation. He achieved a 3.85 grade average out of a possible 4.0. The next four months were spent in the Preflight School at Athens, Georgia. From September to December 1943, Williams took primary training at NAS Bunker Hill, Indiana. He then went to Pensacola for intermediate training where he set records in aerial gunnery. Williams received his wings and commission in the Marine Corps on May 2, 1944.
Williams then attended gunnery training at Jacksonville where he once again set gunnery records. He then returned to Pensacola where he served as an instructor at Bronson Field. He played baseball for the base team, the Bronson Bombers, which won the Training Command championship that year. Due to an excess of cadets, instructors were mandated to washout one third of their students. Williams refused to washout good students for the sake of statistics and was called on the carpet for it. He stood his ground and replied: "If I think a kid is going to make a competent flyer, I won't wash him." From June to August 1945, Williams went through the Corsair Operational Training Unit at Jacksonville. He was in Hawaii awaiting orders as a replacement pilot when the war ended. Williams returned to the States in December and was discharged from the Marines on January 28, 1946. – M.L. Shettle, Jr. California State Military Museum
When Williams came back to baseball for the 1946 season, he was just as sharp as ever. He finally won the AL MVP award that had been just barely out of reach his previous two season. That year he hit .342/38/123 and continued his active streak of making the All-Star team, which he did every season for the rest of his career with the exception of 1952. In 1947 Williams won his second Triple Crown (.343/32/114), becoming the second player in MLB history and the first in the American League to accomplish the feat. He almost did it a third time in 1949. That year he hit .343 with 43 home runs and 159 RBI, the latter two he handily lead the league in; however, it was his batting average that came up short. Had Williams gotten two more hits throughout that season he would have tied Joe DiMaggio’s mark of .346. Williams still won the AL MVP that season, the second and final of his career.
On May 2, 1952, Williams was recalled to active duty due to the Korean War. He was now 33 years old, married with a child, and had not flown in eight years. He resented being recalled and said so years later. Williams was not alone in his unhappiness - many other WW II veterans recalled for the Korean War had similar feelings. These veterans felt they had done their share in World War II and it was someone else's job to fight this war. Especially after they were well established in their careers and had families. Additional resentment was felt because the Navy and the Marines recalled members of the inactive reserves instead of active reserves. He flew 37 combat missions and had a narrow escape when he crash-landed a flak damaged aircraft. Several missions were flown with John Glenn. Among the decorations he received was the Air Medal with two Gold Stars for meritorious achievement. Williams returned to the States and relieved from active duty on July 28, 1953. – M.L. Shettle, Jr. California State Military Museum
Williams missed four seasons as a result of both World War II and the Korean War. Given the fact that Williams was clearly in his prime for the first three years he missed, not to mention he was still kicking ass in ’52, Williams missed out on meeting or beating a lot of historical marks within the game. His .482 on-base percentage is still the highest in MLB history; however, he missed out on 3,000 career hits, tallying 2,654 for his career along with 521 home runs, 2,021 RBI and a legendary .344 career average. Williams easily made the vote for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Williams had a strong respect for General Douglas MacArthur, referring to him as his "idol". For Williams' fortieth birthday, MacArthur sent him an oil painting of himself with the inscription "To Ted Williams — not only America's greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur. General U.S. Army."
Going back to my opening statements about Inglorious Basterds, I think the one thing I really wanted to stress is that everything in the movie world was essentially backwards, or told with a great deal of fabrication. Just imagine if in Quentin Tarantino’s world the Red Sox were the ones dominating history, winning multiple World Series titles without the “Curse of the Bambino” hanging above their heads. Kind of mind-blowing.
And last, I really need to point this out. I started this post around 11:37 AM and finished at 3:02 PM on the nose. I bring this up because my stepfather Robert went and got the mail at 3:05 PM and set this on my bed just after I had finished taking the photos for this post (which I always do last).
I can’t help but laugh and keep a smile on my face. Until next time!
Sunday, May 26, 2013
If there ever come a point where you’re at a hardcore trivia competition, be sure to never forget this little factoid I’m about to bestow upon you. Which was the first Major League ball club to get its name from a military-based unit? Instinctually you might be prompted to say the New York Yankees. Well, you would be dead wrong. Believe it or not, it was the Detroit Tigers. There are various legends about how the Tigers got their nickname. One involves the orange stripes they wore on their black stockings. Tiger’s manager George Stallings took credit for the name; however, the name appeared in newspapers before Stallings was manager. Another legend concerns a sportswriter equating the 1901 team's opening day victory with the ferocity of his alma mater, the Princeton Tigers.
Richard Bak, in his 1998 book, A Place for Summer: A Narrative History of Tiger Stadium, pp. 46–49, explains that the name originated from the Detroit Light Guard military unit, who were known as "The Tigers". They had played significant roles in certain Civil War battles and in the 1898 Spanish–American War. The baseball team was still informally called both "Wolverines" and "Tigers" in the news. The earliest known use of the name "Tigers" in the media was in the Detroit Free Press on April 16, 1895. Upon entry into the majors, the ballclub sought and received formal permission from the Light Guard to use its moniker. From that day on, the team has been officially called the Tigers.
Taking pride and honoring the military has been a long-standing tradition with the Tigers, it has been especially shown with one of their Minor League affiliates the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Players, management and media officials have long gotten involved with or set up their own programs to show their support. Fox Sports Detroit’s Mario Impemba helped establish Military Veteran’s Program (MVP), a program that includes a ticket to the game, transportation to the ball park via the Fox Sports Detroit Fan Express, a t-shirt, food voucher and autographed photo of Mario Impemba. Veterans who participate in the program are selected from local Veterans organizations. MVP is part of the Detroit Tigers year-round support of troops and Veterans. Each year, the Detroit Tigers hold a special game to honor and recognize the sacrifice of the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces and those that have served before them. Through the Detroit Tigers Armed Forces Game Ball Delivery program, the Detroit Tigers recognize a service member who has recently returned from deployment or home on leave during a tour of duty prior to most home games. The Detroit Tigers also visit Veterans at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Detroit Medical Center throughout the season. Impemba also created Operation Opening Day to provide fans currently serving in the United States Armed Forces a DVD of the Tigers home opener for the last five years.
One of the more recent traditions the Tigers started a few years ago is a bit of recognition for local veterans by having them take the game ball to the mound which concludes with a round of applause from the crown at every home game. This tradition inspired Justin Verlander to do more for the veterans and has allowed wounded veterans and their families attend games in his personal suite for every home game he pitches. Verlander also attributes the gesture as inspiration from his cousin Christopher, who served a tour in Afghanistan, and his grandfather Richard who fought during World War II. Verlander has also donated more than $100,000 to Veterans Affairs medical centers in and around Detroit on top of his own charity group Verlander's Victory for Veterans Foundation. Say what you want about the guy if you’re a rival fan, you just can’t deny that he’s a total class act.
Since 1971 the Tigers haven’t exactly had the best of luck on Memorial Day, going 19-20 with four days off due to travel. The team they’ve played the most is the Oakland Athletics, splitting the series (as of now) 3-3. As far as any other notable moments; from 2001-2003 they beat the Cleveland Indians three consecutive times and they only played in one Memorial Day doubleheader in 1972 which resulted in two losses to the New York Yankees.
When picking out a few players to pay tribute to there were really only two guys that came to mind without having to do any bit of research. I think you’ll agree.
TC- Tyrus Raymond Cobb, The Georgia Peach, is arguably one of the most revered, feared, yet intriguing figures in modern American history. He was born in Narrows, Georgia in 1886, the first of three children to William Herschel Cobb and Amanda Chitwood Cobb. He played his first years in organized baseball for the Royston Rompers, the semi-pro Royston Reds, and the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League who released him after only two days. He then tried out for the Anniston Steelers of the semipro Tennessee-Alabama League, with his father's stern admonition ringing in his ears: "Don't come home a failure!" After joining the Steelers for a monthly salary of $50, Cobb promoted himself by sending several postcards written about his talents under different aliases to Grantland Rice, the sports editor of the Atlanta Journal. Eventually, Rice wrote a small note in the Journal that a "young fellow named Cobb seems to be showing an unusual lot of talent." After about three months, Ty returned to the Tourists and finished the season hitting .237 in 35 games. In August 1905, the management of the Tourists sold Cobb to the American League's Detroit Tigers for $750 (equivalent to approximately $19,164 in today's funds).
On August 8, 1905 Ty's mother fatally shot his father, who had suspected her of infidelity and was sneaking past his own bedroom window to catch her in the act; she saw the silhouette of what she presumed to be an intruder and, acting in self-defense, shot and killed her husband. Mrs. Cobb was charged with murder and then released on a $7,000 recognizance bond. She was acquitted on March 31, 1906. Cobb later attributed his ferocious play to his late father, saying, "I did it for my father. He never got to see me play ... but I knew he was watching me, and I never let him down."
Cobb played for the Tigers for 22 years (1905-1926), his last six with the team as a player/manager, and the final two years of his career (1927-1928) he spent with the Philadelphia Athletics. Cobb played every game as if it were his last, with reckless abandon. He showed this in the way he dug his cleats into whomever was standing on base, he showed it when he purposely never hit home runs for the sake that legging it out on the base paths was more honorable, and he physically took it out on the fans who cursed his name no matter their age, size or color. In today’s day-in-age Cobb probably would have been incarcerated before the end of his rookie season, but things were a little bit different in the old days; especially in Detroit.
I’m not going to go too deep into his stats, I’m actually saving that for a post in the future, but what I can tell you is the man is one of the greatest hitter the game has ever seen. He hit .366 lifetime with 4,189 career hits in which 117 of them were still home runs. Not bad for a guy who never tried to crush.
In 1918, Cobb was in his 14th season in big league baseball, but he was still at the top of his game. That season he won his 11th batting title, hitting .382 to pace the American League easily. But he didn’t collect 200 hits or put up any other gaudy numbers, largely because the season was shortened due to the Great War. Baseball had decided to end the schedule on Labor Day due to the hostilities between the Allies and the Axis Powers in Europe. Unlike the Second World War, where the U.S. entered the conflict in the off-season and players voluntarily entered the service, America did not begin to call up citizens for duty until a few months after declaring war in 1917. Major League Baseball players, for the most part, did not enter military service during the 1917 season. Therefore, outside of the military drilling, the 1917 regular season was barely affected by the overseas conflict. Cobb also applied to the Augusta, Georgia Draft Board, making himself eligible for military service. Cobb was placed in a special class. The military would draft younger men before turning to Cobb’s group.
The War in Europe dominated headlines in 1918. On a road trip to Washington to face the Senators, Cobb visited the War Department, where he took his mandatory army physical and applied for the Chemical Warfare Service. Spurred by patriotism and the memory of his grandfather’s service in the Civil War hero, Cobb felt compelled to get into the fight. A few days later, while Detroit was in New York to play the Yankees, Cobb received word that he had been accepted into the Chemical Warfare Service. He was to report in October.
The Chemical Warfare Service had been organized by General John J. Pershing in response to several deadly poison gas attacks on American troops by the Germans. The attacks had generated considerable outrage, and the creation of the CWS was front-page news. The CWS was created to perfect methods to withstand poison-gas attacks, but more importantly (and controversially), it was charged with developing poisonous gas weapons to be used against the Germans in Europe. Other baseball figures who would also serve in the CWS included Christy Mathewson, Branch Rickey, and George Sisler.
Following the end of the 1918 season and a few weeks at his home in Georgia, Ty arrived in New York and reported for duty on October 1. He was commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army, and after a relatively short time in accelerated training, he and his unit sailed for France. The Army hoped that Cobb and the other sports figures in the CWS would be effective in training enlisted men in the area of chemical and biological warfare. But according to Cobb, he ended up training “the darnedest bunch of culls the World War I Army ever grouped in one outfit.”
The training exercises in France, though they took place far behind the front lines, were extremely dangerous. Cobb would march his troops into an airtight chamber, where they were to quickly assemble their gas masks when they received a signal that the poison was about to filter into the room. However, on one occasion something went terribly wrong.
During one exercise, Cobb and his troops either missed or were slow to react to the signal and many of them stumbled from the chamber having inhaled the poison into their lungs. For weeks Cobb suffered with a hacking cough while a “colorless discharge” drained from his chest. Others were not so lucky – they died after the exposure. Christy Mathewson, the great National League hurler who also served in the CWS, inhaled so much of the gas while in France that he later developed tuberculosis. He died from the disease seven years later, in 1925.
Cobb had been in France less than a month when the war ended suddenly on November 11. The Allies, bolstered by the influx of American troops, had deflected the last German offensives and hurtled the aggressors back into the Rhine. When the Hindenberg Line was breached by the Allies, the Germans collapsed in disarray. Within a few weeks, Cobb was onboard the largest ship in the world – the U.S.S. Leviathan – one of the first transport ships back to the United States. Cornered by newsmen in New York upon his arrival, Cobb spoke modestly of his brief foray as a soldier.
“I hardly had time to get used to the idea [of being in the Army]. I’m proud to have been in uniform in some small way and to see our great nation dispel the enemy in such miraculous speed.” –Dan Holmes, Ty Cobb: A Biography
In 1929, the 18-year-old Greenberg was recruited by the New York Yankees, who already had a capable first baseman named Lou Gehrig. Greenberg turned them down and instead attended New York University for a year, after which he signed with the Tigers for $9,000 ($124,000 today). He mad his debut on September 14, 1930, getting only one plate appearance before the season ended. It would be three more years before he stepped onto a Major League field again.
From 1933-1941 Greenberg was one of the most dominant power hitter in the game. He missed a majority of two seasons (1936 and 1941) due to injury; however, he more than made up for it in the others years. In that nine year span he only hit below .301 once (.269 in 19 games in 1941). He led the league three times in home runs and RBI three times, but not all in the same year. His 183 RBI in 1937 is still the third-most in MLB history, and yet he only hit 40 home runs that season. I realize that 40 is still a lot, but compare that to today’s numbers and he would have easily cleared 200 RBI. He won two AL MVPs during this stretch. The first came in 1935 when he went .328/36/170, he led the league in both home runs and RBI that season. The second came in 1940 when he hit .340 with 41 home runs and 150 RBI, which both led the league again, but he also hit a league-leading 50 doubles.
On October 16, 1940, Greenberg registered along with fellow Americans between the ages of 21 and 35 for the first peacetime draft in the nation’s history. At his first draft physical in Lakeland, Florida, during spring training in 1941, it was found that he had flat feet. Doctors recommended he be considered for limited duty. But a second examination on April 18 in Detroit determined him fit for full military service.
On May 7, 1941, the day after hitting two home runs in his farewell appearance, Greenberg was inducted in the Army and reported to Fort Custer at Battle Creek, Michigan, where many troops of the Fifth Division turned out at the train station to welcome the slugging star. “If there’s any last message to be given to the public,” he told The Sporting News. “Let it be that I’m going to be a good soldier.” Greenberg was assigned as an anti-tank gunner and went on maneuvers in Tennessee. In November 1941, having risen to the rank of sergeant, he rode a gun carrier at a Detroit Armistice Day parade in front of thousands of cheering onlookers.
But on December 5, 1941, he was honorably discharged after Congress released men aged 28 years and older from service. On February 1, 1942, Sergeant Greenberg re-enlisted, was inducted at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and volunteered for service in the United States Army Air Corps. “We are in trouble,” he told The Sporting News, “and there is only one thing for me to do – return to the service. This doubtless means I am finished with baseball and it would be silly for me to say I do not leave it without a pang. But all of us are confronted with a terrible task – the defense of our country and the fight for our lives.”
On August 26, 1943, he was involved in a war bonds game that raised $800 million dollars in war bond pledges. Held at the Polo Grounds in front of 38,000 fans, the three New York teams combined as the War Bond All-Stars against an Army all-star line-up that featured Slaughter, Hank Greenberg and Sid Hudson. The War Bond All-Stars won 5 to 2.
He graduated from Officer Candidate School at Miami Beach, Florida, and was commissioned as a first lieutenant and was assigned to the Army Air Force physical education program. Asked in February 1943, what he thought was in store for baseball in the coming season, Greenberg replied: “Physical training for air corps men is my business now and I don’t have time to follow baseball close enough to make any predictions. I haven’t even seen a sports page for a week.”
By February 1944, Captain Hank Greenberg was a student at the Army's school for special services at Washington and Lee University. He requested an overseas transfer later in the year and was assigned to the first group of Boing B-29 Superfortresses to go overseas. He spent six months in India before being ferried over Burma to China where he served in an administrative capacity.
"I'll never forget the first mission our B-29s made from our base to Japan," Greenberg told Arthur Daley, writing in the February 14, 1945 New York Times. "I drove out to the field in a jeep with General Blondie Saunders who led the strike, and took my place in the control tower. Those monsters went off, one after the other, with clock-work precision.
"Then we spotted one fellow in trouble. The pilot saw he wasn't going to clear the runway, tried to throttle down, but the plane went over on its nose at the end of the field. Father Stack, our padre, and myself raced over to the burning plane to see if we could help rescue anyone. As we were running, there was a blast when the gas tanks blew and we were only about 30 yards away when a bomb went off. It knocked us right into a drainage ditch alongside the rice paddies while pieces of metal floated down out of the air."
Greenberg was stunned and couldn't talk or hear for a couple of days, but otherwise he wasn't hurt. "The miraculous part of it all was that the entire crew escaped," Greenberg continued. "Some of them were pretty well banged up but no one was killed. That was an occasion, I can assure you, when I didn't wonder whether or not I'd be able to return to baseball. I was quite satisfied just to be alive."
In the middle of 1944, Greenberg was recalled from China to New York, where his job was to take small groups of returning combat officers to war plants in New England and give morale-boosting talks to the workers. In late 1944, he was based at Richmond, Virginia, and in June 1945, he was placed on the military’s inactive list and returned to the Tigers.
Without the benefit of spring training, Greenberg returned to Detroit’s starting line-up on July 1, 1945, before a crowd of 47,729 and homered against the Athletics in the eighth inning. Greenberg’s return helped the Tigers to a come-from-behind American League pennant, clinching it with a grand-slam home run in the final game of the season. – Baseball in Wartime
Greenberg went on to have two more season in the Majors, one with the Tigers and one with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1946, his final year with the Tigers, Greenberg hit a career-low .277, but still managed to hit 44 home runs and 127 RBI, the latter stats once again leading the league.In 1947, Greenberg and the Tigers had a lengthy salary dispute. When Greenberg decided to retire rather than play for less, Detroit sold his contract to the Pirates. To persuade him not to retire, Pittsburgh made Greenberg the first baseball player to earn over $80,000 ($823,000 today) in a season as pure salary (though the exact amount is a matter of some dispute). The Pirates also reduced the size of Forbes Field's cavernous left field, renaming the section "Greenberg Gardens" to accommodate Greenberg's pull-hitting style. Greenberg played first base for the Pirates in 1947 and was one of the few opposing players to publicly welcome Jackie Robinson to the majors. That year he also had a chance to mentor a young future Hall-of-Famer, the 24-year-old Ralph Kiner. Said Greenberg, "Ralph had a natural home run swing. All he needed was somebody to teach him the value of hard work and self-discipline. Early in the morning on off-days, every chance we got, we worked on hitting." Kiner would go on to hit 51 home runs that year to lead the National League.
Greenberg was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956 in his 10th round on the ballot. In 1983 the Tigers retired his #5 jersey along with Charlie Gheringer’s #2 on June 12. The two were the first players to ever have their numbers retired by the Tigers.