• And Speaking Of Nick Johnson

    Posted by on July 7th, 2011 · Comments (0)

    Eric Chavez may in fact be the new Nick Johnson, but there will always be a place in my heart for the original Nick Johnson.  When  last heard from, Nick signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians.   This took place in March of 2011.  He spent a few more months getting himself ready to play and then set off on his quest to return to the majors.  He got as far as Triple-A with the Columbus Clippers when, surprise, surprise, he found himself back on the DL.  His last game to date was June 27, at the time he had an OBP of .304,  with 1 RBI in 56 plate appearances.  He has only one extra base hit (double) and has struck out 15 times!  Actually if you are old enough (and I certainly am) the original Nick Johnson is the new Ron Blomberg.

    Killebrew To Enter Hospice

    Posted by on May 13th, 2011 · Comments (5)

    To fans my age Harmon Killebrew was an opposition slugger of great concern.  I saw him launch many a baseball into the night air at the old stadium.  As I watched him round the bags yet again, someplace down deep within the anger that comes with being a fan, his class always came through.  Whenever I heard him being interviewed or when Jim Kaat use to speak of him you could tell he was everything you would want in a baseball hero.  He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1984.  He hit 573 lifetime homers winning an MVP award and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting 6 other times.

    He has decided to end his battle against esophageal cancer and enter a hospice showing guts and class any of us can only hope to have when our time comes.  His wife is at his side, still very involved with the Twins the players have requested the team wear the 1961 retro jerseys for all home games to honor the great slugger.  His #3 jersey will be on display in the Twins dugout for the remainder of the season.

    The Pujols Thread

    Posted by on February 15th, 2011 · Comments (28)

    Being old enough to have lived through the shock of  Bobby Murcer being traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds, Ken Rosenthal’s speculation on Fox Sports concerning a possible Pujols for Teixeira trade caught my eye.  Is something like this even remotely possible?   How could the Yanks not make this move if it somehow came their way?  It might cost 350 million for 10 0r even more but how do you not dive in?  The only hesitation, the haunting thought before pulling the trigger, could this turn out to be another AROD in the making?

    Mathews and Jeter: “Legacy Players” Then and Now

    Posted by on November 27th, 2010 · Comments (1)

    If the  term “legacy player” had existed in the 1960’s,  Eddie Mathews would have qualified.  Mathews played 3rd base for the Braves, not just the Atlanta Braves, but the Milwaukee Braves, and the Boston Braves.  Mathews is the only man to play for the team in the the three cities the Braves called home.  In 1966, Mathews hit 16 homers and drove in 53 runs with an OBP of .341. .  Did I mention Mathews finished the 1966 season with 493 career homers.  At that point in time only Ruth (714), Mays (542), Foxx (534), Ted Williams (521) and Ott (511) had over 500 homers.  Mathews at 493 was racing Mickey Mantle at 496 to see who would be the next to break the 500 career home run mark.  On December 31, 1966, Mathews the all time Braves 3rd basemen, the only player to have played for the team in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta, 7 home runs from 500  was traded along with two others to Houston for a pitcher named Bob Bruce (3-13 ERA 5.34) and Dave Nicholson (10 homers 31 RBI and 92 strike outs with a .246 average). In 1967 Bruce  was 2-3 for the Braves in 12 appearances, and Nicholson played in 10 games driving in 1 run in what would be the final major league season for both.  Mathews went on to the Hall of Fame, and his number (41) is retired by the Braves.  Anyone who remembers Mathews will always think of him as a Brave.

    I thought of Mathews as I was mulling over the Jeter situation.  Things have sure changed for legacy players.   As much as I would love to see Jeter get hit number 3,000 in a Yankee uniform it just may not happen.    If $45 million over three years won’t get  this thing done then I say wish him the best and prepare to move on.   When old timers day 2021 rolls around, and number 2 exits the dugout, the stadium will rock and all this will be long forgotten.     

    The Yankees need to plan for 2011, either Jeter recognizes his marketplace reality and signs, or the Yankees start looking in a different direction.  This needs to get done in the next few weeks.

    Giant Oddities & Ryan Hopes

    Posted by on October 24th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    The Giants have  appeared in the fall classic only four times since their arrival on the West Coast in 1958.   Each appearance has been a first or  last of  one sort or another.

    In 1962 the Giants took on the Yankees in what you might consider to be  a farewell to a golden era series.  The teams, long time subway series rivals, were meeting for the first time since the Giants moved away.   The Yankee victory in a thrilling series marked the final championship  in a run that started for the Yankees forty years earlier with a victory against the Giants.

    The San Francisco Giants made their second series appearance in 1989, with BART  (Bay Area Rapid Transit) replacing the subway as  the two Bay Area teams squared off for the first time.  The series, which became known as the earthquake series, saw the Giants swept away by the A’s in four straight.

    2002 marked the third San Francisco Giant World Series appearance,  the opponent, and World Series winner,  the Anaheim Angels, in their first World Series appearance.  The Angels were one of the original expansion teams, and the second of that group to win a World Series.

    2010 the Giants find themselves once again battling a first time World Series team, the Texas Rangers, another of the original expansion teams.  And speaking of expansion teams…..

    Nolan Ryan has some rather odd points of interest on his resume.  In addition to being the last active player from the 1960’s to appear in a major league game, Ryan has spent his entire baseball life working for one of the four original expansion teams.  He played for the 1969 Mets(the Mets first championship team) , he was on the 79 Angels (the Angels first Western Division Championship), the 1980 Astros (the Astros first division championship) and now he is the President and co-owner of the first Ranger pennant winner).  I think it’s amazing that Nolan’s long and storied baseball career has been spent with these four clubs.

    A Jerry And MO-JOES

    Posted by on September 21st, 2010 · Comments (0)

    I was listening to a bit of Mike Francesa this afternoon the topic at the time, Jerry Manuel, Joe Girardi, and last but not least Joe Torre.

    As we know Joe will no longer be the Dodger manager and at the age of 70 wants to continue to manage!   We can reasonably assume Jerry Manuel will be fired at the end of next week (if not sooner) by the Mets.  Joe Girardi (according to the Francesa speculation) might want to go home and manage the Cubs, leaving two New York teams potentially looking for a manager.  Starting to get the picture.

    Question One,  If  Girardi were to leave should the Yankees consider Torre?

    I don’t know about anyone else but I wouldn’t hire a 70 year old Torre to manage the Yankees.  I don’t think Cashman wants any part of  Torre,  so I see no real chance of Torre returning.

    Question Two,  Should the Mets consider Torre and should Torre consider the Mets?

    The Mets need to make something happen but I doubt the Met fans will buy into the Torre  routine for very long if the team doesn’t make the playoffs, and to do that they need talent.  The Mets would be better off spending on free agents (Lee for example).  I think Torre would take the job if offered  but I have a feeling the Mets won’t  offer (just a hunch).  I see Wally Backman getting the job.

    Question Three,  Will Girardi leave the Yankees?

    I think he might especially if he wins the World Series again, Girardi might be able to  get a five year deal out of the Cubs and I don’t think the Yankees will match the offer.  I think there is certainly a chance of Girardi winding up with the Cubs, and Girardi might see a day in the not to distant future where the Yanks  have to do some rebuilding lasting over several seasons.  I hope Girardi returns, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.  I wouldn’t have said that a month ago.

    MY 9 (Not)

    Posted by on August 7th, 2010 · Comments (4)

    According to my count the Yankees are now 5-7 on MY 9 games.   Tim McCarver up next and then ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, what a treat.

    The Not So Great Gamere

    Posted by on July 25th, 2010 · Comments (5)

    Frank Messer, Phil Rizzuto and Jerry Coleman made up the Yankee play by play team in 1969.  Why do I bring this up? Well, Bill White was discussed earlier in the day in a post done by Steve.   Bill of course joined the broadcast team of Messer and Rizzuto in 1971, so we have a slight continuity problem, who was the third man in 1970?  Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you the sad tale of a man named Bob Gamere.

    Bob was barely 30 years of age when he signed on for the 1970 season as the third man in the booth.  Before “burn baby burn”, before “AROD has just hit an ABOMB”, there was “see you later Danny Cater” the home run call for the Yankees first baseman at the time.  It was a Gamere creation (and not exactly overused, Cater only hit 6 homers all year).  Gamere had another one used from time to time, when a Yankee reliever started warming up he would give his name (let’s say it was Jack Aker),  he’d say “Aker is throwing up in the bullpen”.  With material like that it should come as no surprise he was let go after the 1970 season. 

    Gamere did not go gently into that good night emerging in 1973 as the host of a local show in the Boston area known as “Candlepins for Cash”.  Candlepin Bowling is a variation of 10 pin, these type shows were popular in the 1970’s, Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy hosted a show of this type on Channel 9.  Gamere’s show had a very nice 7 year run (1973-1980) which he then parlayed into a sports anchor position on a local TV station in Massachusetts.  Bob was let go after he ran into some legal trouble (sorted to say the least) and reinvented himself again hosting a radio sports talk show. 

    The name “Great Gamere” followed in the 90’s as Bob became a football betting expert.  His ad’s ran in the Post and News (I own Monday Night Football  1 (900) etc kind of stuff).  As that business concluded in the early years of the 21st Century, Bob found himself in more serious trouble this time with the Feds.  Bob was charged in October 2008 with using his home computer to send emails with child pornography videos attached!   I’ll save you the rest of the very sorted details.  Bob pleaded out in September 2009 and was sentenced at the beginning of 2010 to 5 years in prison, plus after his prison term ends, a lifetime term of supervised release. 

    It might interest fans to know it was none other than Howard Cosell who recommended Bill White to Mike Burke (Yankee President at the time) when Gamere was thankfully let go at the end of the 1970 baseball season.

    Mr. Smith (As In Charley) Goes to The Bronx

    Posted by on July 24th, 2010 · Comments (1)

    Colin Curtis two strike pinch hit appearance this week brought me back to some bad old day memories with the Yankees of the late 60’s and a two strike pinch hit appearance by a player named Charley Smith.  Curtis as we all know blasted one into the seats two strikes and all, Charley Smith, well let’s go back and meet Charley….

    Charley’s career spanned the 1960’s his first major league appearance was in 1960,  with the Dodgers, his last in 1969, with the Cubs.  If you were to look up the word journeyman in a baseball dictionary, Charley’s face might appear next to the definition.  Between 1960 and 1969, Charley played for the Dodgers, Phillies, White Sox, Mets, Cardinals, Yankees, Giants (spring training 69) and the Cubs.    

    Charley’s career numbers, 771 games played, 2,686 plate appearances, 69 homers, 281 RBI, .239 BA with OBP of .279,  while not spectacular were enough of an inducement to involve him in some pretty big name trades in the 1960’s.  In 1961, Charley was traded by the Phillies to the White Sox for Roy Sievers, who led the American League in homers in 1957.  In 1965 Smith was traded by the Mets to the Cardinals for 1964 NL MVP winner Ken Boyer.  In 1966 he was on the move again this time to the Yankees for two time MVP (60, 61), single season home run champ, Roger Maris.

    Charley’s stay with the Yanks was not a good time for anyone.  Smith was brought in to replace the sure-handed Clete Boyer at third (he was even assigned Boyer’s number 6).   He certainly was no Boyer in the field, or at the plate, his two year power totals, 10 homers and 45 RBI were less than Boyer’s final year in pinstripes.  In fact (and now we come full circle) his only Yankee claim to fame was a mini pinch hit streak, he had five consecutive pinch hits and was closing in on the record at the time.  It was late in the game, a Yankee batter (can’t remember the name) had a two strike count on him, Houk looking down the bench decided to pull a surprise move and go with his hot pinch hitter.  He waved the batter back to the dugout and sent Smith up to the plate.  This was it, Charley’s day in the sun had arrived (well not exactly, it was a night game), but alas it wasn’t to be, Charley struck out.  Things were different for the Yankees in those days, most things didn’t have happy endings. 

    Charley is one of two players I can think of (the other is Dick Tidrow) who played for both New York teams and both Chicago teams, I don’t know if there are any others.

    The Great All-Star Home Field Debate

    Posted by on July 12th, 2010 · Comments (1)

    The outcome of All-Star Game being used to determine home field for the World Series is the worst idea in sports.  The All-Star Game has more in common with a game in sunny Florida in early March than it has with any regular season contest.  The roster is now up to 34 players almost all of whom expect to appear in the game, how can that be a legitimate premise for determining a major advantage in the sport’s most competitive series.  Selig’s commitment to continue this idiotic policy aside, I have a couple of suggestions which I would like to put up for discussion.

    World Series

    I actually had no problem with the rotation system that existed for decades, but apparently that’s not good enough any more.  I’m against using best record which was suggested on  yesterday’s Yankee telecast, because not all records are created equal, the Yankees schedule is a little more competitive than the Reds or Pirates for example.  The World Series winner should determine the home field for the following year’s World Series.  American League team wins, home field for the next  World Series belongs to the American League representative,  National League wins their representative gets home field advantage.  This would allow the World Champion team from the prior year to defend it’s title owning home field advantage if that team made it back to the World Series.  It also gives  fans in cities not represented in the series an interest in which team wins.  In 2006, the Tigers and Cards met in the series, Yankee fans had nothing at stake, but imagine home field for next year’s World Series on the line and  all of a sudden you have an interest in which team wins.

    All-Star Game

    The All-Star Game should be self contained, whatever value can be added to the “bragging rights” should be related to the All-Star Game.  Why not allow the winning league to determine the site for the following year’s All-Sar Game.  It could be chosen at random, it could be rotated whatever.  ESPN could add an hour special the Wednesday after the game featuring the determination for next year’s contest. 

    One final point, home field advantage in the World Series between 1950-1979 wasn’t such a prize.  The team that had home field won only 9 of the 30 World Series played over that period.  The Yankees of 51 and 53 and the Giants of 54 had home field and won.  The Pirates of 60, the Yanks of 61 and the Cards of 64 won.  The A’s of 73, the Reds of 76 and the Yanks of 77 won.

    W. B. Mason

    Posted by on July 6th, 2010 · Comments (1)

    My Yankee baseball experience is more a matter of  YES watching than a live in person spectator experience, W.B. Mason ads thus become part of the daily trails and tribulations of the Bronx Bombers.  Up until this year I always gave the W.B. Mason ads a passing grade, but this year, no way.  The ads make no sense, what are they selling, office supplies at reasonable prices or Green Mountain coffee pitched by an unattractive crew of  graveyard shift blue collar workers.   I don’t know who sold the company this ad campaign, but at least in my opinion, it doesn’t work.

    McCarver Said What

    Posted by on June 27th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    I generally listen to Tim with half an ear, it’s easier that way.  Last night,  Tim was speaking of Del Crandall the old Milwaukee Brave catcher,  he then commented that the Braves became the Milwaukee Brewers.  They didn’t of course, in 1966 the Milwaukee Braves became the Atlanta Braves. The 1969 Seattle Pilots did become the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.

    Tim also mentioned that he was surprised to learn that the Dodgers had more Hall of Famers than the Yankees.  I was surprised to learn that also.  I was surprised enough to actually check Baseball Reference.com.  The numbers are pretty close, the Dodgers have 45 players and 9 managers for a total of 54, while the Yankees have 41 players and 11 managers for a total of 52.  The devil of course is in the detail, and when details start coming into play the information supplied by Tim doesn’t stand up.  When you count only players who actually played the Hall of Fame portion of their career with the Dodgers the number drops to 9.  The Yankees have 17 and that does not include Winfield or Jackson, although an argument could be made for one if not both.  I counted 3 Yankee managers, and 4 Dodger managers, although a case could be made for counting  Durocher as a Dodger manager, which would then give them 5.

    June 24, 1970

    Posted by on June 25th, 2010 · Comments (4)

    The date might not ring any bells, but it seems to stand out in the minds of a lot of fans of  a certain age.  I am one of them.  It was a Wednesday, the Yanks had returned from a road trip and were off to their best start in years.    The club entered that Wednesday afternoon with a record of 40-26, on tap two against the Indians, an afternoon doubleheader.  I’ve heard Mike Francesa talk about that doubleheader, he was there that day, and so was I.  Michael Kay spoke about it several times this week and a new book, titled “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” mentions it.   School had just ended, the taste of sweet anticipation of the summer ahead was in the air.

    In the first game, Mel Stottlemyre was pitching well but he got hurt and had to be removed from the game, he had pitched four innings.  Now, maybe this is just me, but something changed about him after that day.  He never seemed to be the same pitcher again.  I checked his record, after that date he was 59-62 for the remainder of his career.  Before that date, he was 105-77. 

    A big moment in the game came when Steve Hamilton threw his “folly floater” to Tony Horton.  Horton, at the time 25 years old and full of talent, played first base for the Indians.  Horton  swung  almost helplessly at the floater, fouling to rookie catcher Thurman Munson.  Horton crawled back to the dugout.  It was some scene.  Very funny.  Two months later this 25 year old star would attempt suicide, he never played in another major league game after August of 1970. 

    Ray Fosse was the Cleveland catcher that day and another star on the rise, Fosse and Munson both 23, looked like the elite catchers of the future in the American League.  Less that a month later,  Pete Rose plowed into Fosse on a bang bang play at the plate at the All Star Game effective ending Fosse’s day at the top.  He went on to have a representative career for sure, but never came close to being star.

    Of course that day belonged to Bobby Murcer who blasted a homer in the first game and three in the second (four consecutive at bats).  He carried that streak into the next night, but after a first inning walk, he failed to hit a homer his next at bat.  The attendance was about 32,000, a great crowd for the Yankees of that era, but the stadium was still half empty.  My friend and I upgraded (at no cost) our seats between games of the doubleheader and found ourselves in box seats in a nest of Indian fans.  How great it was to watch the smiles wiped off their faces with each Murcer blast, the last one pulled the Yankees out of a 4-3 hole, giving  them the lead at 5-4, a lead which they would never relinquish.

    The Yankees split the doubleheader losing the first game 7-2 and winning the nightcap 5-4.  The Orioles (the eventual World Champs) lost to Boston that evening putting the Yanks 2.5 out of first.  Let me tell you, this was a big deal for Yankee fans.

    I mentioned the fact that Mike Francesa was at the game, I also mentioned that I was at the game.  I heard an interview on Kay’s radio show with someone else who claimed to be in the dugout that afternoon as Bobby had the game of his life.   The man’s name, Ron Blomberg.   Ron played for the Yankees, in fact,  he was a first round draft pick.  He was a piece of work (I’m going to do a post on him soon) .  I find no record of him being on the Yankees  in 1970.  He was on the roster of the Syracuse Chiefs all year so his memory may be like many other things with Ron, a little off.

    Tony Cloninger, Been There Done That, But Better!

    Posted by on June 14th, 2010 · Comments (0)

    Jorge Posada had one hell of a weekend hitting two grand slams, and former Yankee bullpen coach Tony Cloninger knows how he feels.  July 3rd, 1966 Cloninger pitched 9 inning besting the Giants at Candlestick, but that wasn’t the big story.  He gave up 3 runs on 7 hits but that wasn’t the story.  On that Sunday, Cloninger hit not one but two grand slams and had an RBI single as the Atlanta Braves (first year in Atlanta) demolished the Giants 17-3.   Cloninger set the record that day for RBI’s by a pitcher  which still stands.  He is the only pitcher to ever hit two grand slams in a game, and is only one of 13 players to accomplish the feat.

    Ralph Houk

    Posted by on June 7th, 2010 · Comments (3)

    When Girardi got tossed in yesterday’s game, I noticed he had gone out to argue without his hat.  It reminded me of  former Yankee skipper Ralph Houk, who used his hat as a prop in many  confrontations with  umpires.   He would sometimes slam it to the ground, repeatedly take it off and put it back on, slam it to the ground and kick it, Ralph’s hats certainly got a workout.

    Ralph had a very unusual career as a major league skipper.  He took over from Casey Stengel in 1961, winning World Championships his first two seasons and a pennant his third.  He is the only manager to start his major league career in such a spectacular  manner.  In 1964 he becomes the Yankee GM with a pennant to show for his first year in that position.  In one of the oddest turn of events in baseball history, Ralph decides to fire Yogi as manager after the 1964 pennant winning season, and hire Johnny Keane the manager of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Call it the curse of crossing Yogi, call it the evil eye (CBS became owners of the Yankees), but Ralph’s luck  had just run out.

    Ralph’s second run as Yankee manager starts 20 games into the 1966 season when he fired Johnny Keane.  The Yankees record at the time 4-16.  The Yankees would finish last his first year back and ninth (in a ten team league)  in 1967.  After that, the club would have a series of .500 type seasons finishing around the breakeven mark each year through 1973 with the lone exception of 1970.   In 1970, the club won 93 games finishing second a distant 17 games out of first.  Ralph resigned after the final game in 1973.

    Ralph wasn’t gone for long, he was back at the helm for the 74 season this time leading the Tigers to four dismal seasons winning  between 57 and 74 games each season before his final Tiger campaign in 1978, where he won a respectable 86 games.  Ralph resigned after the 1978 campaign.

    In 1981 he takes over as manager of  Boston finishing in 5th place for the first half of that strike season and 2nd place for the second half of the season.  He manages the Boston club for three more years finishing 3rd, 6th and 4th in his final campaign as major league manager.  He resigned after the 1984 campaign.

    So there you have it, best start to a career as manager and  ends with 17 straight seasons without winning so much as a division title. Amazingly, he never was fired from any manager’s job in spite of the fact that his teams only contended twice in those 17 years (losing both times).

    Ralph had his odd quirks as a manager.  For example, he liked his lead off hitter to be a second baseman.  Bobby Richardson was the lead off hitter between 61-63, his OBP for those years .295, .337, .294.  Horace Clarke led off between 1967-1973, his highest OBP was .339 (1969), lowest .258.  In 1972 and 1973, leading off both seasons, he scored 65 and 60 runs respectively.  Ralph did not allow his pitching coach to visit the mound, all visits were done by Ralph.   Ralph decked a singer/movie star named Gordon MacRae in the late 1960’s in a nightclub for making a pass at his wife.  Ralph is the oldest living major league manager, he turned 90 last August.

    Deja Vu All Over Again

    Posted by on June 2nd, 2010 · Comments (2)

    Hello, my name is Joseph Maloney, I want to first thank Steve Lombardi for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you from time to time on baseball and especially the Yankees.  

    Kicking off my career as an author with such a strange first title, you may wonder where I am taking you.   The events that took place tonight in Detroit to near perfect gamer Armando Galarraga, took me back to another near perfect gamer, Milt Pappas, who like Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game by an  umpire’s bad call.   Bruce Froemming was the name of the  guilty party behind the dish on that day in September 1972.  Pappas,  who pitched for the Cubs, retired the first 26  San Diego Padres before running the count 3-2 to Larry Stahl (a former New York Met).   Froemming called the next pitch, ball 4.  The Cub catcher of the day, Randy Hundley, always claimed that Froemming not only got ball four wrong, but ball two and three as well.  Pappas stated at the time that all the pitches that were called balls were closer than Larson’s strike 3 (finally a Yankee reference) in 1956.

    Again thanks for welcoming me to WasWatching.