Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: 'Bob Oldis - A Life in Baseball' by Stephen Bratkovich

Spending eight decades involved in Major League Baseball, Bob Oldis has a lifetime of stories to tell, and fortunately at 87, and he is still around to share them. Oldis has teamed up with Stephen Bratkovich, a Minnesota-based author and SABR member to pen his autobiography, “Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball.”

Click here for a complete review of the book via my National Baseball History column on
Below is an interview with Bratkovich on how he came to work with Oldis for his autobiography.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Baseball Happenings Podcast: Stephen Bratkovich - Author of 'Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball'

This episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast features an interview with author Stephen Bratkovich, who penned the biography of Bob Oldis, a former major league catcher and 1960 World Series Champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The book is entitled, "Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball," chronicling Oldis' eight-decade career in baseball, who at 87, is still employed as a scout with the Miami Marlins. Bratkovich discusses how a letter asking to meet one of his heroes growing up turned into a two-year journey that ended up in the form of a book.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

James Frascatore, the NYPD officer who arrested James Blake, aspired to follow brother's MLB career

James Frascatore, the NYPD cop who had his gun and badge removed after taking down retired tennis star James Blake earlier this week in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, was a local budding baseball star before starting what has been a tumultuous career as a police officer. The younger brother of former major league pitcher John Frascatore, had a strong amateur career that he hoped take him on a similar path.

The 38-year-old Oceanside, New York native was a standout pitcher at Oceanside High School, where he earned honorable mention for New York State Player of the Year in 1995 by USA Today. A right-handed pitcher, Frascatore was attempting to follow in the footsteps of his older brother John, who excelled at Long Island University-CW Post before spending seven years in the major leagues as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Frascatore played his collegiate ball at New York Tech and Queens College, but ultimately could not duplicate the success of his older brother. He ran the Big League Baseball Academy in Oceanside from 2002-2007 before working towards his current position with the NYPD. In 2013, three separate excessive force complaints were filed against him with the Civilian Compliant Review Board.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pete Rose’s longtime third base coach sees nothing wrong with an old-school slide into — or near — second base

Sometimes in baseball, it’s the third base coach that has one of the best perspectives of watching a play develop on the field. For over 25 years, Alex Grammas manned that position, primarily for Sparky Anderson’s Big Red Machine in the 1970s and later again with Anderson for 12 years in Detroit. A ten-year career as a shortstop in the major leagues put him up close and person with many collisions at second base, but none as famous when he watched from the coaches box as Pete Rose upended New York Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson during the 1973 NLCS.

“I can remember him sliding in there and the fight that developed after that,” said the 89-year old Grammas, speaking recently from his home in Alabama.

Grammas wearing number 2, pictured as the Cincinnati Reds third base coach along with Pete Rose and George Foster / Topps

While the details of the fight and its aftermath from 42 years ago is a little blurry for Grammas, who rushed in from third base to defray the fracas that ensued, he was clear on why Rose went in with such aggression.

“He [Rose] played as hard as a guy could play, no question about it,” he said. “He wanted for the team to win and that was his aim. In that All-Star game when he ran over that guy at home plate [Ray Fosse], I saw it on film and you just figure out a guy is doing things to win ballgames and some are a little tougher at it than others. Pete was as tough on that as you would run into.”

Looking at Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chase Utley’s slide on Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets during Game 2 of the NLDS, Grammas tried to put it in a perspective from when he was a player sixty years ago. He thought that every player approaching second base was going to try to make it hard for him to finish the job.

“I had to assume that whoever was coming into second base to break up a double play, I don’t care who they were they were going to try to get you out of it,” he said. “They weren’t trying to break your leg or anything; they were just trying to get your momentum slowed down and get it to a point where you didn’t have the accuracy if you weren’t touched.

“When you’re on that field and you’re thinking we’ve gotta win this game to help us get to the World Series, a lot of things go through your mind. You don’t try to hurt anybody but you go in pretty hard and just hope that they can’t turn it into a double play, which is what you’re sliding for. The slide that fellow [Utley] made the other night wasn’t that far off the bag really. Now if you would have gone out there to the right 8–10 feet, now it would be different. This thing here, he could touch the bag even though he’s knocking this guy out of it. I guess it depends on which team you want to win is how you feel about it.”

Even though Tejada had no away to avoid Utley’s slide, Grammas felt that these types of collisions are just part of the intense competition of playoff baseball. That’s not to say that he didn’t drop some old school methods of exacting revenge on the field.

“Tejada didn’t [have a chance], he was there to be nailed,” he said. “I’ve gone through situations like that and there is really not a heck of a lot you can do about it because you know what they’re attitude is and you know what yours is. They’re trying to win a ballgame and so are you. The next time he slides in there and he’s a little open and he tries to nail me, there’s no telling where I’m liable to come down on him. You just don’t forget things like that. If you really give it a deep thought, these guys are trying to make it to the World Series and you can understand why they do things like that.”

As MLB mulls over possible rule changes regarding take-out slides at second base, Grammas, who spent 48 years in the major leagues as a player, coach, and manager, feels that any adjustment will have too large of an impact on the outcome of a game.

“I don’t think there needs to be a change in the rules,” Grammas said. “If you’re going to do that, you’re just giving people a chance to turn a double play that maybe they would have stayed out of. Maybe that [slide] would help your team win the ballgame, that what that’s for. If they felt like they could help stop him from making a double play, then that’s our chance to win the ballgame. That’s how you think as a ballplayer.”

2015 Topps Heritage High Number Baseball is a treat for the World Series

Topps’ 2015 Heritage High Number baseball card set is right on time for the World Series. As the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals square off to determine this year’s World Champion, collectors can add to their excitement with this year’s update to the classic Topps series that salutes the old and the new.
Styled in the design of the 1966 Topps set, the 2015 High Number set includes rookie cards for some of the top emerging talent in this year’s postseason.

2015 Topps Heritage High Number Baseball / Topps

Collectors will appreciate the RC designation for the likes of Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Steven Matz, and Noah Snydergaard in this year’s High Number edition. In addition to the aforementioned rookies, Topps covered many of the late season moves by major league clubs, giving fans the opportunity to get cards of the newest members of their favorite franchise in uniform.

Click here to read the full review of the 2015 Topps Heritage High Number Baseball Card series.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mike Sandlock, oldest living MLB player celebrates his 100th birthday

Mike Sandlock, the oldest living Major League Baseball player, celebrated his 100th birthday on October 17, 2015. Sandlock played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1942-1953.

Mike Sandlock / N. Diunte

In 2011, I caught up with Sandlock at his home in Connecticut and he shared his vivid memories of the Brooklyn Dodgers fans at Ebbets Field in the video below.

Friday, October 16, 2015

How Matt Reynolds might join Chet Trail for a dubious major league distinction

As Matt Reynolds sat on the New York Mets bench Thursday evening for Game 5 of the National League Championship series waiting to make his major league debut, one man that can relate to his angst is Chet Trail. Placed on the New York Yankees World Series roster in 1964, Trail is the only player ever on a postseason roster never to appear in a major league game.

Chet Trail /
Trail was signed by the Yankees in 1962 out of Libbey High School in Toledo, Ohio, where he was a standout multi-sport start. The Yankees gave Trail a $43,000 bonus, and in 1963 they assigned him to their Fort Lauderdale team in the Florida State League. A year later, in only his second professional season, the Yankees placed him on their World Series roster after Tony Kubek was injured; however, the acclaim wasn’t as glamorous as it seemed.

Click here to read the 71-year-old Trail's memories of his association with the 1964 Yankees team and how fifty years later he still has many unanswered questions about his playoff experience.