… cried out a Yahoo news headline earlier today. Now, I accept the fact that the former major league pitching prospect [albeit not a very highly regarded one when he was scouted by the old Washington Senators], Senor Fidel, is a reprobate. If you prefer that I describe him as a commie bastard who has *no* right to criticize “the good ol’ USoAY,” there ya go Sparky.
That said, it doesn’t mean he’s not accurate.
Best that can be said, we’re damned good at it.
Quite a legacy we’re leaving to our children. Quite a legacy, indeed.
… and few remember that he won four World Series rings as a bullpen coach [three with the Oakland A's and one with my beloved New York Metropolitans]. Thoughts and prayers to his family.
This reminds me of my all-time favorite bullpen coach, Joe Pignatano, an original New York Met. I caught the one and only foul ball in my life and he hit it- a weak rolling ground ball down the third base line. It was during BP at the PG in ’63. Actually it was in ’62, but I so like that last sentence. [Once again, silly me.] Aside that, Piggy was from New York [a good thang...] and he was famous for growing a garden of tomatoes and herbs [...an even better thang?] in the Shea Bully. His coaching career with the Mets spanned the Gil Hodges/Yogi Berra eras, far and away my personal favorites.
Speaking of Yogi, Vern was among the myriad of catchers who played behind him or came up in the Yankee organization. Others include: Charlie Silvera [whom I interviewed on Sports From The Top of The Hill], Aaron Robinson, Gus Niarhos, Sherm Lollar, Ralph Houk, Clint Courtney, Johnny Blanchard, Elston Howard, Darrell Johnson, Cal Neeman, Moe Thatcher, Hank Foiles, Jake Gibbs, Elvin Tappe, Harry Chiti, Jim Robertson, Jesse Gonder [future Met], Gus Triandos, Lou Berberet, Ken Silvestri, Hal Smith, and Billy Schantz. Just those, is all.
l-r: Bill Dickey, Yogi, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson
Is this one awesome picture?
photo from the book “Few and Chosen,” by Whitey Ford and Phil Pepe
Alba, Missouri lost one of their own today. Clete Boyer died. He was the third brother [Cloyd and Ken] in his family to play in the majors and with all due respect to Graig Nettles, the best fielding 3rd baseman in Yankee history.
With all due respect to Brooks Robinson and Billy Cox, Clete Boyer was the best fielding 3rd baseman ever, I believe. [A's Eric Chavez is creeping up on the list.]
With all due respect to Clete Boyer, his late brother Ken was a better all around 3rd baseman than either Clete or Brooks.
Ed Mathews was Ken’s superior [Ken was much better than Ron Santo] and Mike Schmidt was even better than Mathews.
Only a fair hitter [he did have a little pop in his bat-162 lifetime homers], Clete anchored the infield on the 1961 Bronx Bombers, the best team I ever saw play. His skills helped make them great.
Clete was the first American professional to be traded [from Hawaii in the PCL] to a Japanese league when he was dealt to the Tayio Whales for former Dodger John Werhas in 1971.
For years after his playing days were over Clete coached for Billy Martin. They were known to have hoisted a few. I’m about to hoist a brew myself in both their memories. And Ken’s memory too. Also Eddie Mathews and Billy Cox. RIP all.
In September 1965, the war in Viet Nam was escalating at an alarming pace. I received an invitation from Sam for a pre-induction physical. Within three months, the chances were I’d be marching off in khaki with a future in fodderdom. This thrilled me not. By than I was tokin’ along to Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. All I knew about the military at that time came from watching Sgt. Bilko, listening to radio personality Jean Sheppard wax nostalgic about Lt. Cherry and reading books such as “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Catch 22,” and “Soldier in the Rain.” The Air Force recruiting Sarge had moving lips [an indication that he was lying] spewed and promises of technical training. Tech School gave me training to input data in an already obsolete computer.
Almost every working day during the nearly three years I spent at Travis Air Force Base, my Capy-tan, Robert L. Woods, would ask me about the whereabouts of my name tag. “Back in the barracks, sir,” is the way I’d normally answer. His pasty face would turn red as he spewed his nonsense [to me] about conformity. One day, in a premeditated attempt to stroke him out, I told him that it was my wish to go incognito from then on and that, for security purposes, I wanted to be addressed by my serial number, not my name.
He told me that day that because of my attitude he wouldn’t recommend me for overseas service. I had to spend the rest of my “Air Force career” in California. I asked that he reconsider and not put me in the “briar patch.”
He just wouldn’t relent.
He’s the “Frank” and the “Willie” of stand-up. George Carlin is far and away the most prolific comic of our time. More importantly he takes on all that is “holy” ["I was a Catholic until I reached the age of reason" is one of my favorite Carlin lines.]
A friend of mine told me that he recently caught the former Hippy-Dippy Weatherman’s performance and that “he seemed angry.” I reminded him that Carlin makes his living by observing mankind. A lot of what he sees “ain’t funny, McGee.”
I note, with sadness, the passing of 80 year old Clem Labine. Clem was best known as a Brooklyn Dodger relief pitcher in the 50s. He preferred relieving because he enjoyed the thrill of coming in when the game was on the line. Vin Scully, long-time Dodger announcer, said that he “had the guts of a burglar.” I remember reading about him in The Boys Of Summer, the classic by Roger Kahn. What stands out most in my recollection is the way Clem’s son, Jay, struggled to establish an identity of his own. The younger Labine, as I recall [and this is off the top of my head - no surprise, it all is] lost a leg in Korea [It was Viet Nam, not Korea, Dodger Deb reminds me. She's *the* Dodger maven of all time]. It was a wonderful insight to father-son relationships and misplaced heroism in our country.
Later in his career, Labine was selected as a member of the first Mets team. I remember how used he felt early in 1962 when he was cut from the team in the first few weeks of the season, without being given a fair chance to succeed. Clem felt that he was only asked join the Mets because of his Dodger ties and the pre-season publicity they derived from choosing him and other [arguably] over-the-hill former “Brooklyns” [a Red Barber term]. Another player cut the same day was Joe Myron Ginsberg. As a Jew, he felt used in much the same way. The Mets [George Weiss, was their decision maker] got a lot of “run” in the heavily Jewish New York area press because of his presence on the team. They both refused to “go quietly into the night” and never saw the light of day on another Major League roster. Hmmmmm.
It was never my intent to use this blog to write obituaries. That said, once again, here goes.
Hank Bauer lived to be 84. We should all be so lucky. He was a war hero and more often than not the leadoff hitter for the mighty Yankees of the 50s… Early on, he platooned with Gene Woodling, a hitting machine. Both men hated the role. Late in his career he was traded for Roger Maris [and Joe DeMaestri]. He went on to manage the As for Charlie Finley [assuring himself a place in heaven] and, later, the Orioles. He led them to their first World Series victory in 1966.
He was “Charlie Hustle” before Pete Rose.
I can still hear the voice of public address announcer Bob Sheppard. “Leading off for the Yankees, playing right field, number 9, Hank Bauer, number 9.”
In addition,Lew was a terrific hitter [for a pitcher :-)].
In 1957 “Saliva Lou” [sometimes he signed autographs Lou, at other times Lew. Ver vehst?], a reputed spitballer, set the mighty Yankees on their collective heels by winning three games in the World Series. That was some Braves team. Start with [then] future Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Henry Aaron, Ed Mathews and Red Schoendienst. Add a pitching staff that not only included Burdette, an All Star, but also Don Buhl, Bob Rush, Juan Pizzaro, Carlton Willey and Don McMahon. In addition there were solid players at every position. Tough as nails Johnny Logan, old Cub Andy Pafko, power hitting Joe Adcock, Frank [Joe's brother] Torre, slick Billy Bruton, Del Crandall, [the premier catcher in the National League] and Wes Covington [an unlikely fielding hero of that series]. The bench included than future Met Felix Mantilla, terrific backup catcher Del Rice, Nippy Jones [He of shoe polish fame], future New York Giant Danny O’Connell and phenom Hurricane Hazel. Man for man, that was as good a ball club as I’ve ever seen.
One of my favorite Braves, Johnny Logan, ss.
Don McMahon, reliever supreme.
The great Ed Mathews, 3b and…
… Red Schoendienst, 2b. Hall O’ Famers both.
Outfielder Johnny Demerit, future Mets expansion draft choice.
Billy Bruton, solid in center.
Former Senator Bobby Malkmus played some infield for the ’57 Braves.
What can I say, that hasn’t been said, about pitcher Ray Crone? He was once a New York Giant and that makes him very special to me.
Outfielder Bobby Thomson, former and future New York Giant.
The great Warren Spahn, #21
Future Pirates manager, Chuck Tanner, of. [and father of Bruce]
Juan Pizarro was a 20 year old rookie pitcher n 1957
Dick Cole played some infield for the ’57 World Champions.
Del Crandall wore #1 and was the #1 catcher in the NL by ’57
Capable Del Rice backed up Crandall.
Carl Sawaski backed up Del Rice.
Rookie Bob”Hawk” Taylor got a “cup of coffee with the Bavos in 1957.
Andy Pafko platooned with…
… Wes Covington, a surprise defensive star in the ’57 Woild Serious.
Ray Shearer played outfield, ever so sparingly.
Nippy Jones, from Sacramento.
Danny O’Connell, a future Giant in 1957
Bob “Hurricane” Hazle was the “Natural” in ’57
Gene Conely, “posted up” the Brave rotation.
Bob Buhl was the worst hitter in baseball, but a solid pitcher.
Carlton Willey, future Met.
Bob Trowbridge had the most interesting name on the team.
Years later, Ernie Johnson Jr. would announce Brave games. His dad [pictured bellow] was a part of a terrific pitching staff.
Joey Jay was the first former Little Leaguer to make the majors.
Dave Jolly, another solid reliever.
Bob Rush came over from the Cubs with…
… infielder Casey Wise.
Red Murff, after his pitching career ended, became a scout for the Mets and signed Nolan Ryan.
Felix Mantilla, excellent utility infielder for the Braves. While playing every day for the Mets, later on in is career, he didn’t show much excellence.
Mel [smoke the ] Roach, another fine utility infielder.
Yet another utility infielder was Harry Hanebrink.
Fred Haney was the skipper.
Here’s Fred, with his coaches:
Joe Adcock was a terrific hitter…
… as was Frank Torre, his platoon mate.
Pitcher Phil Paine is pictured bellow.
Another former Cubby, Taylor Phillips pitched for the Braves in ’57.
Henry Aaron, in his prime.
The absolute worst thing about getting old[er] is recognizing more and more names in the obituaries. Today I read that former pitching ace Steve Barber [the first Baltimore Oriole to win 20 games] passed away. He was only 67. Led by Paul Richards, the Orioles of the very early 60s assembled a group of young pitchers that was nicknamed the “Baby Birds.” There was Barber, Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas and [a not so young] Billy Loes, a former Dodger from Jackson Heights, who once lost a ground ball in the sun. [As an aside, their first baseman was Bob Boyd. My New York accent makes this amusing. To me and me alone, perhaps.]
Later in his career, Barber was a member of the Seattle Pilots. His portrayal in the Jim Bouton book, “Ball Four,” gave me insight into how baseball organizations cut slack to players with a history of success. Never “sore,” his aching shoulder was always “almost” ready.
Steve went on to pitch for the Angels, Yankees, and Giants, without regaining star status.
Better, of course, to be a “has been” than a “never was.”