The pitiful pickoff of Frenchy

The other day, while sorting through my collection; I came across two pieces that actually fit into a pretty funny story that I once read.  I’ve always loved the lighter side of the game and this story certainly fits that bill.

s-l1600On August 14, 1935 as the Brooklyn Dodgers were hosting the Chicago Cubs at the Polo Grounds, colorful Dodger outfielder Frenchy Bordagaray landed himself on second base.  Brooklyn Manager Casey Stengel, who was coaching first base, called time-out and walked over to Frenchy.

“Now looka-here Frenchy,” said Stengel.  “I want you to stand on this here bag until you see the batter actually hit the ball in play.  I mean stand right on it.  Don’t take a lead, don’t even move away from it six inches. Do you understand what I’m saying to you Frenchy?”

“Why certainly,” Frenchy replied.

The explicit instruction was necessary as Frenchy had a penchant for getting picked off of second base.

Moments later, Cub pitcher Larry French spun around and tossed a pickoff throw to second base.  The shortstop, Billy Jurges snatched the throw and tagged Frenchy for the out.01221201 (2)

On his way back to the dugout, Frenchy was approached by a very irritated Stengel.
“Whatsa matter with you?  Weren’t you standing on the bag like I told ya?  How could you get picked off?” Stengel inquired.

With a shrug, Frenchy simply said, “I haven’t the slightest idea!  I did just as you told me.  I stood right there on the bag, not even moving six inches off of it!  I just stood there tapping my foot on the bag waiting for the hitter to bang one.”

“I see,” said Stengel.  “Then how did Billy manage to put you out?” he asked.

Throwing his hands up in frustration, Frenchy said, “Beats me Boss, he must have tagged me out in between taps!”

 

 

Jim “Catfish” Hunter

01241202Little Cameron woke up early this morning.  To give Mom a quiet house and a chance to sleep in today, we packed up a little bag of supplies and headed out to run some errands.  My parents live about 15 minutes away so we decided to bring “Sunny and Pappa-Daddy” Egg McMuffins for breakfast.  My birthday was last week so my Mom handed me a small gift bag with a gift and a page from last week’s Virginia Pilot.  The article was from the travel section and featured a quick story on the opening of the Jim Catfish Hunter museum in Hertford North Carolina.  Located in the Perquimans County Chamber of Commerce building, the exhibition takes up two rooms and features memorabilia from Hunter’s high school days through his major league baseball years with the Athletics and the Yankees.

At first glace, Jim Hunter may be seen as one of the more “colorful” baseball Hall of Famers.  The nickname “Catfish” gives that impression.  The nickname was actually given to him by the owner of the Oakland Athletics Charlie Finley.  When Jim Hunter signed his first professional baseball contract, Finley asked if he had a nickname.  “Jimmy” was Hunter’s response.

Seeing that “Jimmy” wouldn’t be giving Finley very many promotional opportunities, he fabricated a story on the spot – “You left home when you were 6 years old.  Your momma and daddy couldn’t find you.  When they did finally find you, you had landed two catfish and had a third on the line.  They have been calling you ‘Catfish’ ever since.”

After listening to this new story about himself, Hunter said, “Mr. Finley, no one has EVER called me ‘Catfish.'”

Finley simply said, “I just gave you $75,000.”

“Yes, sir.  My name is ‘Catfish,'” Hunter replied.

Hertford is just a few hours from me and makes for a nice day trip.  I’ll certainly be taking Cameron down there to check it out once he’s old enough to appreciate it.


The Jim “Catfish” Hunter Museum
118 W Market St (In the Chamber building located in Historic Hertford)
Hertford, NC 27944
(252) 426-5647

 

 

The “Say Hey Kid” comes to Norfolk

01231201Growing up here in the Hampton Roads area, I have always been a fan of our local triple-A baseball team.  Up until 2007, the Tidewater Tides served as the AAA farm team for the New York Mets.  That partnership lasted 38 years.   Dropping the “Tidewater”, the team is now called the Norfolk Tides and is serving as the AAA farm team for the Baltimore Orioles.  As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I attended many games with my parents and grandparents.  I became a Mets fan solely because I could turn on the TV and tune in to the Mets game and see some of the same guys that I had once seen play here locally.  If you look back through the 38 year relationship between the Tides and the Mets, it’s amazing to see just how many players came through this area on their way to the big leagues.

I happened to also love press photos – don’t ask me why.  A few months ago I came across this pretty cool piece of Willie Mays playing an exhibition game against the Tidewater Tides on June 8, 1979 at the old Metropolitan Stadium.  Mays of course had been retired for 6 years at that point and was serving as a coach.  After being brought into town to help boost ticket sales, he was given 2 at bats and stroked a pair of singles to help the Mets to an 8-6 victory over the Tides.  The ’79 Mets team, led by Joe Torre was less than stellar.  Posting a 63-99 record, their efforts were good enough for a 6th place division finish.

In regards to Metropolitan Stadium (or “Met Park” as the locals used to call i
t); it was torn
down in 1991 to make way for a fancy-shmancy USAA Insurance building (my buddy works there).  The Tidewater Tides were moved south to the banks of the Elizabeth River where their new home would be called Harbor Park.  They dropped the “Tidewater” and are now known as just the “Norfolk Tides”. As a little-league player, I had actually attended a few baseball camps at Met Park.  It’s hard to believe I’ve stood in the same batter’s box as the great Willie Mays.

Below are two shots of Met Park.  The shot on the left looks to be from the ’60’s I would guess.  The shot on the right was taken in the winter of ’91 just before it was torn it down.

MET PARKMET PARK LAST DAYS

 

 

 

Gary “The Kid” Carter

01011101I’m finally getting around to another Gary Carter post.  Quite ironic as the original intent of this entire blog was to give me an online spot to showcase and discuss my Carter collection.  I’ve been collecting anything and everything pertaining to Gary Carter since I guess around 1987.  Needless to say, I have quite a collection.

My wife thinks its weird and I think she felt I crossed the line when I bought a polo shirt that Gary had worn at one of his charity golf tournaments.  She wants to know why I’m buying clothes worn by other men.

She clearly doesn’t “get it”.

 

One of my favorite pieces is this post card of Gary.  The painting was done in 1989 by Jeffrey Rubin and was featured in a book containing about 25 other baseball related post cards.  The book was released in 1990 and simply carries the title of “Baseball”.  I received the book as a gift from my parents for Christmas.  I’ve since lost most of the other cards in the book.  This one survived the past 26 framed and displayed proudly on a bookshelf.

Card collectors will instantly recognize the image as it is also featured on Gary’s 1989 Score baseball card.  I may be biased, but I think that card is one of the more iconic cards of that set.

THE Cincinnati Reds!? Yes, you failed to mention that…

01101205The other day I was going through some old Sports Illustrated issues and came across this issue from October of 1990.  I had sent this to Chris Sabo the year after the Red’s World Series sweep of the A’s.

Sabo was a hero to all little leaguers with bad vision because he made it cool to wear those goggles.  Before the plastic goggles, kids just had to wear their regular glasses. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, contact lenses weren’t really an affordable option for many of us.  I was fortunate enough to have vision that didn’t go south until high school so I didn’t have to deal with glasses or goggles.

Thinking back to this time period, I think it was the summer before 5th grade that I met a new kid in the neighborhood.  Probably 1989 or 1990 I’d say.  His name was Zach and we had a lot in common.  Naturally, we spent most of the summer fishing in the pond by our house, swimming in his pool, or playing catch.  Both of us were big baseball fans so one thing was for sure, whether we were fishing, swimming or playing – we were definitely TALKING about baseball.

We spent a lot of time tossing the ball around his front yard and while I played little league that summer, Zach had just moved to town so he never made it onto a team that year.  I remember one particular evening, Zach and I were playing catch and his step-dad pulled up in the driveway.  He gets out of the car, pops his trunk and pulls a well-worn catcher’s mitt out.  He motioned for the ball  and joined in.  After a few tosses, he gave Zach and I a few quick pointers on the fundamentals of throwing.  He was clearly a little bit more educated on baseball fundamentals than the average dad with a glove in his trunk.   I thought he would make a great little league coach one day.

We continued to toss the ball around as he shared a few stories about guys named Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose.  He tossed a few more and then headed in the house.  I asked Zach how his dad knew so much about those guys and this is the part that I will never forget for the rest of my life…

As Zach tossed the ball back to me and just as casual as one could say it, Zach says,

“Yeah, he was a catcher for the Reds.”

Wait.  What?!

Now we had been buds for all of 5 weeks, we talked about baseball every chance we had, and never ONCE had this come up.

Not one single time.

I felt betrayed.  I had never been so mad in my life.  That summer I had major-league royalty right under my nose the entire time and didn’t even know it.  How could this family factoid be something that he didn’t see the need in sharing?

For the life of me, I cannot remember Zach’s step-dad’s last name.  Over the years, whenever I think about it, I’ll run a few Google searches to see if I can find any pictures of the guy.  I remember seeing some pictures of him with the big-name Reds players.

Thinking back, it was never a team picture that he showed me.  Only single pictures of him with guys like Rose, Concepcion, or Perez.  He was in the full uniform and definitely on the field with those guys.  As I try to piece together those memories, I think he may have been a bullpen catcher  in the mid 70’s or something.   Crazy to think that he may have been part of that World Champion ’76 team.

Zach moved a few years later and we lost touch.  His old house is still there and I drive by it when I go see my parents.  Every time I see his front yard, I remember the day that kid told me that his dad was a professional baseball catcher like it was nothing.

 

 

TTM Success – Ryne Sandberg

01211203Good Sunday evening everyone!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  The sun came out today which was a welcome sight as we’ve been in a relentless weather pattern here lately which has brought what seems like nothing but rain and clouds for the past few weeks.

Even a rainy day can be made better when a TTM return shows up.  Yesterday it was a great return from Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

Mr. Sandberg added a nice bold signature on my 2011 Topps Tier One and I think it looks great.  I’ve always liked his signature despite the illegibility of it.    It’s always seemed like a “curvy” signature to me and seems to combine both his first and last name.  Doesn’t hurt that the card is just absolutely beautiful as well.  Topps really hit a home-run with the design on these Tier One cards.

Despite breaking into professional baseball as a 3rd baseman in the Phillies organization, Ryne is widely considered one of, if not THE greatest second-bagger in the history of the game.  During his 11 year career, Sandberg earned 9 Gold Gloves (’83-’91), 7 Silver Sluggers (1984, 1985, 1988–1992), NL MVP (1984), and was nominated to the All Star Team 10 times (’84-’93).  Sandberg was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 with just over 76% of the votes.

Despite bleeding Met’s blue and gold, growing up as a baseball fan in the ’80’s I could not help BUT be a Sandberg fan.  It didn’t hurt that I hung with a best-bud who’s family was from Chicago.  Needless to say, there were lots of Chicago Cubs (and Bears) posters and cards in his room and even more debates on who was better, Backman or Sandberg.

I don’t think I ever really had much of an argument.  Backman may have a WS ring (’86) but he’s far from a Hall of Famer.

 

Lou & George

01221201I’m a Mets fan through and through but I’ll tell you what, there’s just something about the Yankees that I love.  I guess I have always appreciated the deep rooted history dating back to 1901 when they actually played as the Baltimore Orioles (not the same Baltimore Orioles as today), the simplicity of the classic pinstripe uniforms and the long list of baseball legends that has worn them.  The 27 world championships doesn’t hurt either!

If you haven’t read Damned Yankees by Bill Madden and Moss Klein, I highly recommend it.  A self-described no-holds-barred account of life with “Boss” Steinbrenner, the book tells what it’s like — for better or for worse, to be under the Yankees circus-tent working for “the Boss.”  Featuring a collection of Yankee tales spanning between 1973 – 1989, the book is absolutely hilarious and features the usual cast of Yankee characters from that time frame – Munson, Gossage, Jackson, Guidry, Berra, Mattingly, Nettles, and of course Billy Martin.

To tie into my 1978 Topps Lou Piniella TTM signature above, let’s talk about Sweet Lou. First off, I thought I had a signature on something featuring him in his Yankees pinstripes. It would seem that all I have is the Royals card.  Maybe I’ll write to him and inquire on getting some Yankees items signed.

Okay, so back to the book.  Stories about Lou Piniella are scattered throughout.   There was the time The Boss fined Lou for showing up to the ’82 spring training overweight; also known as the “Great Piniella Weight War.”  The grand total taken from Piniella’s wallet was $8,000.  $7,000 for being 7 pounds over the 200 and another $1,000 for tossing a baseball to some kids in the bleachers after a game.  What made this story so funny was the fact that Steinbrenner let Lou know about the fine through the media.  This obviously did not sit well with Lou who had more than a few choice words for the writers to quickly get into their stories.

Then there was the 1988 season which saw Lou as the general manager of the Yankees.  While on the phone with the general manager of the Houston Astros (discussing a possible Winfield trade),  Lou was interrupted by Steinbrenner who had just burst into his office.  Steinbrenner, completely ignoring the fact that Lou was on the phone (working), frantically gestured for Lou to hang up and to come with him.  Lou, thinking that Steinbrenner had news of a better trade offer, quickly got off the phone with the Astro’s general manager. “Come with me,” he ordered Piniella.  They left the office, hurried through the front gates and began walking around the outside of the stadium.  As the Yankees were gearing up to play an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, the ballpark was bustling with fans.

“Don’t let anyone recognize us,” Steinbrenner told Piniella as he shoved him behind a large bush.  How could people NOT recognize the general manager and the owner of the Yankees slinking around the ballpark with hundreds of baseball fans milling around the ballpark!

“Stay down! Don’t let anyone see you!” Steinbrenner loudly whispered.

“What the hell are we doing here George?” Piniella asked.

“I’m sick and tired of these free passes being given out!” Steinbrenner responded. “There are too many people getting free passes and I’m sick of it.  You’re going to put a stop to it right now.” he barked.

“I want you to hide here and count how many people come and get free passes and then find out who they are.” the Boss told him.

Piniella couldn’t believe it.  Here he was the general manager of the New York Yankees. A business executive who was supposed to be working out winning trades and at the very least watching his own team on the field.  Rather, instead the Boss wanted him to hide in some bushes like a child.

Needless to say, the complimentary pass-crisis took priority over the Winfield trade (that the Boss had been demanding for months by the way) and it’s no wonder that the Winfield trade never happened.

Not included in the book is a story about Piniella’s first introduction to Steinbrenner after he was brought over from the Kansas City Royals.  It’s worth reading and sportscaster Tim Lewis over at All Around Tim does a fine job sharing it. I’ll let you head over to his blog to enjoy it.

 

Terry Collins – New York Mets Manager

Let’s wrap up this Friday evening with another Mets post.

Cameron received a great return TTM this afternoon from current New York Mets manager Terry Collins.  The inscription reads – “To Cameron – A real fan – Terry Collins”

I’ve always liked Collins and his managerial style.  01181201
With his old-school attitude, he’s an every-man’s manager and isn’t afraid to stick his neck out for the team.  This is especially important for someone managing in a city where the media can be absolutely ruthless.  Collins has been described as a “working stiff just happy to be working.”  It doesn’t hurt that he’s actually pretty good at it too.  As a respected baseball “lifer” he knows that every decision he makes as the skipper of a big league club is expected to be made with the intent of only one outcome – winning.

Critics will always call into question his 2015 World Series Game 5 decision to leave Matt Harvey in to pitch the 9th.  Harvey went on to give up 2 runs and the Mets lost the game. The logical decision would have been to bring in the closer Familia to toss the 9th.  Would the ending have been any different?  Even with a Mets game 5 win, the series was headed back to Kansas City for a game 6 and 7 anyways.  What were the odds that the Royals would lose those two games at home?  Probably slim to none.  So with that being said, you learn from the past and you move on.  2016 is a new year.  Hopefully we will see the post-season again and the outcome will be different.

I recently read an article in which Collins stated that the game has changed so much over the years and it is now a “young man’s game”.  He was referring to the technology, charts, and advanced statistics  that have taken over the game.  “I’m not sure how much an old-school guy can add to the game today” he said.

Later in the interview, Mr. Collins remarked, “I’m not going to sit there today and look at all of these (expletive) numbers and try to predict this guy is going to be a great player. OPS this. OPS that. GPS. LCSs. DSDs. You know who has good numbers? Good (expletive) players.”

Well said Terry, well said.

 

Bob Friend – Practice Makes Perfect…

My son Cameron just turned 1 last week and what a crazy year it has been!  It’s been fun watching his personality start to develop as he grows into a little person.  I’ve always been a “planner” so I’ve certainly got my eyes on the future for him.  We’ve set up his savings
01081202account already, the college fund is up and running, and I’m debating on whether or not I should just go ahead and start now teaching him to hit from both sides of the plate.  Being a switch hitter may generate more baseball-scholarship dollars one day.  All jokes aside (not really) and without even knowing whether or not he will ever like baseball, I decided to start a little project for him.

I started writing baseball players letters back when I was 9 years old.  My first “success” was a postcard from Johnny Bench with his signature printed on it.  I still have it and even though it’s not a real signature, it’s still one of my favorite pieces.

After looking at a stack of 8×10 photos of baseball players, I decided to mail a few off to some retired players.  My note explained that I planned on giving the photo to my son one day.  I asked the player to personalize the photo and make a short inscription.  Mr Friend was happy to oblige and personalized this photo of him at Shea Stadium in 1966.  He wrote:  “To Cameron – Practice Makes Perfect – NLAS ’56, ’58, ’60 – Good Luck”.  The return is absolutely perfect and I can’t wait to give it to Cam one day.   Mr Friend is a great through-the-mail signer.  This request took 5 days to get back to me.

Bob Friend is nicknamed “The Warrior” as he averaged 39 starts per season between ’56 through ’60.  1955 was unique in that Friend posted a 14-9 record for the Pittsburg Pirates and led the National League in ERA with 2.83.  He was the first ever pitcher to do so for a dead-last team.

Being credited with wins in the ’55 and ’56 All Star Games, Friend shares the record for most All Star Games won.  His ’55 start saw him strike out Mantle, Berra, and Williams.

It was an unfortunate turn of events in the ’60 World Series where the Yankees got the best of him in both of his starts as well as a save opportunity.  Game 7 saw Friend being called in from the bullpen to preserve a 9-7 lead in the ninth.  Friend gave up singles to Bobby Richardson and Dale Long when manager Danny Murtaugh replaced him with Harvey Haddix.  Haddix then proceeded to give up a single to Mantle, scoring Richardson and advancing Long.  A grounder by Berra scored Long tying the game 9-9.

Of course, the ending of this game is well-known and regarded by some as “the greatest game ever played.”  It was Bill Mazeroski who faced Ralph Terry in the top of the 10th with the score tied.  It was a 1-2 fastball that Maz sent sailing over the wall in left, crowning the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Champions.  The Series of 1960 would go down as Mantle’s “biggest disappointment in his career.”

One of the most durable pitchers of his time, Friend averaged 232 innings pitched and 13 victories for 15 years.  Had those numbers not been for some of the worst teams in baseball, Friend would likely be in the Hall of Fame.

You’re never going to watch that…

01071201That’s what my wife said to me the “other day” as I opened up a package and pulled THIS beauty out of it.  She’s since said it about 100 more times.

Well, full disclaimer here – let’s use the term “other day” loosely.

Like, super-loosely.

Okay, so I’ve had this sweet VHS instructional video for almost 2 years now and no, I have not watched it.

But let’s be honest, it makes a great addition to my Gary Carter collection AND the fact that Seaver and Mantle are also featured in the video just sweetened the deal.

I remember my Granny renting this video from the local video shop and bringing it over to my house.  I was 1o and home sick from school.  She had come over to watch me while my parents were at work.  While I remember little of the actual video, I do remember watching it over and over (and over) for the 5 days that I had before the video needed to be returned to the video store.  01071202

This video was released in 1987.  Carter was already a big star with New York and just coming off of a World Series championship.  The year prior, Seaver had just finished up his Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox (the trade to the Red Sox would be great content for a future post) and Mantle of course, was a living legend.

My father in law has let me borrow his VHS player so that I can watch this tape.  It even has a built in DVD recorder so I can copy the tape over to a DVD and watch it all the time.

Who am I kidding. She’s right, I’ll probably never watch this thing.