Saturday, February 17, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast - Chris Carr and the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest

Chris Carr, runner-up to Kobe Bryant in the 1997 Slam Dunk Championship, recently discussed in our latest podcast going one-on-one against the future Hall of Famer in the dunk contest. In the 20-minute interview, Carr, who is now the assistant woman's basketball coach at Kansas State University, explains why he thought he had a better performance than Bryant, as well as gives an inside look of why guarding a young Bryant was an easier task than squaring up Michael Jordan.


Chris Carr 1997 Slam Dunk Contest Interview


Carr finished the first round with the highest score, giving him the opportunity to be the last dunker in the finals. Bryant scored a 49 with his first dunk, but left the door open by missing his second attempt. Carr saw his chance for victory.

"I knew I was going to have to come with something really good ... because he [Bryant] had a big game in the rookie game and wasn't the MVP ... so he was out to win something this weekend," Carr said.

Carr finished with a 45 on his final dunk, a potent attempt, but not enough to surpass the 49 that Bryant put up with the East Bay Funk. Looking back over 20 years later, Carr still feels like he got the best of Bryant in the contest.

"I still don't think that he beat me," he said. "I'm going to every year put out a tweet and copy him on it just to try to rile him up a bit."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wally Moon, 1954 National League Rookie of the Year, dies at 87

Wally Moon's soaring drives over the Los Angeles Coliseum's left field fence were affectionately nicknamed "Moon Shots" for the way he lofted balls into flight over the screen. Sadly, his final "Moon Shot" touched down Friday February 9th, 2018 when he passed away in Bryan, Texas. He was 87.

Wally Moon 1961 Sport Magazine / Author's Collection
Revered not only for his famous moniker, but his trademark unibrow, Moon immediately made a splash during his Major League debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 when he homered during his first at-bat. He continued to sizzle during his rookie campaign, batting .304 with 12 home runs and 76 RBIs, besting Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

During Moon’s 12-year MLB career, he spent the first five with the St. Louis Cardinals and after an injury played down year in 1958, the Cardinals traded Moon to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Presented with a fresh start and a new environment, a healthy Moon changed his hitting approach to aim for the short Los Angeles Coliseum wall, earning him blasts their aforementioned nickname.



The change of scenery paid off immediately for both Moon and the Dodgers, as he was selected for the 1959 All-Star team and finished fourth in the MVP, both honors coming while helping to lead the Dodgers to World Series victory. He spent the next six seasons with the Dodgers, long enough to claim another World Series ring during the 1965 season, his final major league campaign.

The three-time All-Star finished his career with a lifetime .289 batting average with 142 home runs and 661 RBIs. Once away from the major league spotlight, Moon couldn’t stay away from baseball. He spent ten years as the head coach at John Brown University in Arkansas, save for a one year break as the hitting coach with the San Diego Padres in 1969.

Moon finally returned to the professional ranks in 1987 when he was given a minor league managing job in the New York Yankees organization. One of the upstarts on his 1988 Prince William club was a fresh-faced 19-year-old Puerto Rican center fielder, Bernie Williams. After the Yankees let Moon go, he settled in with the Baltimore Orioles as a minor league manager and hitting instructor from 1990-1995.

In retirement, Moon wrote his autobiography, “Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life,” in 2010 with Tim Gregg.

2018 Topps Baseball Seres 1 Review - How Topps breathes life into the baseball season

Topps has proved annually that the true signal of the start of the baseball season is now when pitchers and catchers sport, but when their flagship baseball card set is released. With 2018 Topps Baseball Series One's January 31st arrival, Topps has rescued fans and collectors from staring out their windows to wait for the game to start.

2018 Topps / Topps
The fresh borderless designs coupled with the sparkling player names and team logos, push the action images to the forefront to breathe much needed life to the start of the 2018 season. To kick off the excitement of their inaugural 2018 release, Topps allowed fans to vote for the hallowed first card in the set. Their choice was none other than the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year, New York Yankees power-hitting phenom Aaron Judge.

2018 Topps Base Set Cards / Topps
As collectors rip away at packs of 2018 Topps Baseball, they will find an assortment of rookie cards of impact upstarts from last season including Rhys Hoskins, Rafael Devers, Amed Rosario, and Clint Frazier, all of whom have now received the official stamp of approval on their traditional debut issue. Other highlights of the base set include World Series Highlights and team Combo Cards. Parallel issues include the popular Rainbow Foil, Gold (#/2018) versions, and short printed image variations.

Digging into the inserts, collectors will have their hands full working on a master set, as many of the sets contain at least 50 cards. Topps honors the 35th anniversary of the 1983 Topps set with a 100-card subset, book ended by 1983’s top rookies, Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs. Topps runs down season highlights with its 100-card Topps Salute set, celebrating the milestones of the 2017, while also promoting the rookies they expect to impact 2018.


Each box also yields an interesting Home Run Challenge card where collectors can reveal a code on the back of the card that allows them to choose a date when they think the player on the front will hit a home run. If they guess correctly, they will win a parallel card of that player, as well as be automatically entered into a drawing for a trip for two to the 2019 Home Run Derby.

2018 Topps Home Run Challenge Card / Topps
While most that are cracking open a box of Topps’ premier product are doing so to explore the new release and go through the tradition of building a complete set, an added bonus is the guaranteed hit of a relic, patch, or autographed card. This box served up a Major League Material Black Relic of Albert Pujols numbered to 99.

Albert Pujols Relic / Topps
One strong memory as a kid was rushing to the store to get some of the new Topps release when it dropped, burrowing through packs to see who made the cut and admire the design. It became an annual event that helped the sorrows of winter pass more smoothly. Fast forward the time machine to 2018, Topps hasn’t changed the script, but has added a variety of inserts to keep collectors excited and created a layout to capture their attention.






Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Terry Leach delivers for austim awareness at Darryl Strawberry's Douglaston Community Day

Terry Leach’s unmistakable sidearm delivery proved to be an effective weapon for Davey Johnson’s bullpen in the 1980s. Whether it was getting the Mets out of tough jams or filling in for an injured starter, Leach often delivered in tight situations. He returned to Queens this weekend bringing the same kind of aid he did to the Mets pitching staff to the Douglaston Community Day at Strawberry’s Sports Grill.

Terry Leach (r.) with teammate Barry Lyons at Douglaston Community Day in 2011 / N. Diunte

Leach, displaying his southern charm, was prideful when discussing his involvement the day’s efforts to fundraise for autism awareness.

“It’s a great thing coming to help any charity," Leach said. "Autism is a big deal and something that needs to be worked on a lot more. It’s fun coming back to New York. When I was here I was a much younger man. [Now] I can come and sit back and appreciate it a little bit more.”

Even though Leach spent the majority of the 1986 season in the minor leagues, looking back he saw the development of that championship team building from prior years.

“I was younger then,"he said. "Actually I was the oldest one on the team, but I was younger in my eyes. That team was good because they built up from within basically. They added a few key parts and it came together just right. One of the best teams ever.”

Leach developed a special chemistry with catcher Gary Carter, who is currently battling brain cancer. He described how Carter made it easy for him to just go out there and pitch.

“Gary was very good," he said. "He and I thought a lot alike. I very seldom had to shake him off. He knew what the hitters were or were not hitting. I just kind of followed his lead and he lead me some good places every once in awhile.”

Now 57 years old, the Stuart, Florida resident has transitioned from baseball to a new career, interior design.

“I work in West Palm Beach with my company," he said. "We work with interior designers, building houses in Palm Beach. We do their installations. We hang the art, the mirrors; we make the places look really good.”


Terry Leach at Douglaston Community Day from Dee on Vimeo.

* Note - This article was originally published for Examiner.com on August 24, 2011.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Oscar Gamble, Yankees legend known for his powerful bat and Afro, dies at 68

Oscar Gamble, the former New York Yankees outfielder who was best known for his legendary Afro, passed away Wednesday January 31, 2018 in Birmingham, Alabama according to his agent Andrew Levy. He was 68.



Gamble's spectacular hair, which could barely fit underneath his baseball cap, was immortalized on his 1976 Topps Update baseball card. His 'fro is on glorious display in an otherwise horribly airbrushed Yankees uniform.
Oscar Gamble 1976 Topps / Topps

Getting past his hair and digging into the stats on the back of his baseball card, one will find that Gamble amassed 200 home runs over 17 seasons, while appearing in two World Series for the Yankees (1976, 1981).

In retirement, Gamble was a fixture at Old-Timers' Games and other alumni baseball reunions, including the Joe DiMaggio Legends Game in Fort Lauderdale, where Gamble was a fixture for many years. I covered the DiMaggio Legends Game in 2012, where I was able to get these photos of Gamble prior to the game.



Oscar Gamble (r.) with charity game participant / N. Diunte

Oscar Gamble taking batting practice at the 2012 Joe DiMaggio Legends Game / N. Diunte

Oscar Gamble (r.) waiting for Paul Blair (l.) and Ed Kranepool to exchange lineup cards / N. Diunte