Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roberto Clemente's New Year's Eve humanitarian efforts continue to endure

As we begin to celebrate the start of a new decade, let's celebrate the memory of Roberto Clemente. We take a look at how Clemente's efforts have endured in the thirty-seven years since his passing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ernie Harwell keeps on after cancer diagnosis

Kansas City Royals vs Detroit Tigers.'s Elizabeth Merrill wrote an excellent article on Ernie Harwell's busy life and the special people around him that keep him going after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer at the age of 91. Harwell is a standout in the baseball community; one who has given so much of his life to the sport and helping others. I selfishly hope that he continues to elude the grasp of cancer so he can reach many more while he is still with us.

A tribute to all of the New York baseball players who died in 2009

With the 2009 year coming to an end, we salute all of the baseball players who died this year that represented the major league teams of New York (Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, New York Mets and New York Yankees). Among those that passed away were: 1954 World Series hero Dusty Rhodes, "Old Reliable" Tommy Henrich, and Bill Werber who reached the age of 100 before his January death. May all of their memories live on in the hearts of New York baseball fans and fans worldwide. For the complete list of New York baseball players who died in 2009, check the following article on

Monday, December 28, 2009

Joan Joyce, The Missing Legend Ted Williams Could Not Touch

Rarely did a pitcher get the best of Ted Williams. During his Major League career, Williams fanned only 709 times in 9,791 plate appearances. In 1961, a year after retiring from the Red Sox, Williams was asked to participate in an exhibition against Joan Joyce to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. Click here to read about when "the best hitter that ever lived" faced the best softball pitcher in the land.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stan Bejamin, 95, 1914-2009 - Former Philadelphia Phillie and Cleveland Indian

Long time Houston Astros scout and former MLB player with the Phillies and Indians, Stan Benjamin passed away on Christmas Eve, 2009 at the age of 95 in Cape Cod, MA.

Benjamin was a star with Framingham High School in Massachusettes and went on to play from 1939-1942 with the Phillies and finished up his Major League career with the Indians in 1945. In 1965, Benjamin joined the Houston Astros as a scout. He remained with the Astros for nearly 40 years. He scouted American League East clubs for several seasons before becoming the team's scouting supervisor for the Northeast. Benjamin was a frequent visitor to Fenway Park during the baseball season.

Astros president Tal Smith, who was born in Framingham, called Benjamin a "vital cog" in the organization and a "keen judge of talent."

Area professional baseball players return to give back at clinic

Current area professional baseball players returned to their roots this Saturday to give back to the next generation of New York City baseball talent at the 3rd annual Lou DeMartino GNYSAA Baseball Clinic. On hand to assist at the clinic were four local professionals, John Halama (Milwaukee Brewers - 9 season in MLB), Pedro Beato (Baltimore Orioles - 1st Round Pick), James Jones (Seattle Marines - 4th Round Pick) and Matt Rizzotti (Philadelphia Phillies - 6th Round Pick). To read more about how our local professionals got involved, read the entire article at

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rogers Hornsby - My War With Baseball

Right before he started the 1962 season as a batting coach with the inaugural New York Mets team, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby collaborated with Bill Surface to put his 48 years in baseball down on paper. Hornsby goes full steam ahead on baseball, witholding nothing back in this 250 page classic. Read the review of "My War With Baseball," to find out why this book is widely sought after by fans and historians.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yankees Acquire Javier Vasquez, Trade Melky Cabrera

ESPN.comreports right-handed pitcher Javier Vazquez will be making a return to the Yankees, being traded from the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Melky Cabrera as part of a five-player trade. Vasquez pitched for the Bombers in 2004.

Relief pitcher Boone Logan also joined the Yankees, while reliever Mike Dunn and minor-league pitcher Arodys Vizcaino moved to Atlanta, the Yankees said in a news release. New York also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to the Braves. Ironically, this is the second time that Logan has been traded with Vasquez to another club, as he was involved in the 2008 trade that brought Vasquez to the Braves.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oscar Gamble turns 60: A look back at a Yankee favorite

To celebrate the 60th birthday of a popular Yankee hero, we take a look back at the career of Oscar Gamble, and investigate the many travels of the man who will forever be immortalized by his famous Afro. Here is the article at

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From the Big Apple to the Big Leagues: Bob Giallombardo recalls his time with the Dodgers

Lafayette High School's most famous alum might be Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, but look on the roster of the 1958 Los Angeles Dodgers and you will find another lefty pitcher from Brooklyn, Bob Giallombardo. He attended the famed Lafayette High School in Brooklyn alongside Koufax, but never played with him. In a 2009 interview, he explained why these future Dodger teammates didn't match up in high school.

"I tried out for them [Lafayette], in fact, I didn't make it," Giallombardo said. "I thought I did well. I pitched an exhibition game against Brooklyn Academy, where I struck out 14 or 15 guys. I thought I had the job. The coach said, 'You're not quite ready.' I was laughing at him. They classified Koufax as too wild and that he'd never make it as a pitcher. Meanwhile, he set all kinds of records."

Bob Giallombardo / Topps

Giallombardo enjoyed a strong connection with the Dodgers from young age. At the age of 72, he points to an appearance on Happy Felton's Knothole Gang that put him on the same field with his future teammates.

"I was 13 years old and I was on Happy Felton's Knothole Gang," he said. "I went on as an outfielder and I won. I was basically a pitcher and first baseman. They asked me who I wanted to talk to. I asked to speak to Gil Hodges. After I was interviewed, he said, 'Maybe we'll see you in the Dodger clubhouse.' You know, the usual statements. I was there five years later."

The Dodgers scouts kept an eye on Giallombardo throughout his teenage years in Brooklyn. Despite a move to Long Island to finish his high school career, that didn't stop the Dodgers from signing him after he graduated.

"I was being weaned on this since I was like 14, 15 years old," he said. "They followed me since I was a young kid. I lived in Brooklyn and then Long Island. When my class graduated in 1955, I signed with them for the 1956 season. When I signed, they asked me to come down to throw batting practice in spring training with the major league team. That's how it started, it was a good experience."

After posting a 21-7 record with Class C Reno in 1957, he was moved one step away from the majors to AAA Montreal in 1958. He recalled how quickly his career took off after his promotion.

"In the first month at Montreal, I had seven wins with five shutouts," he said. "The chief Dodger scout Andy High was there, and he had me replace a left-handed pitcher by the name of Danny McDevitt. They sent him down and brought me up. It was exciting for me."

While the rush of playing in the major league was an exhilarating experience for the 21-year-old, an even great high was his first major league victory. In his fourth start, Giallombardo ran through the Cincinnati Reds lineup, limiting them to two runs in eight-and-a-third innings. Looking back fifty years later, the close to his first major league victory was a bittersweet event.

"I went eight-and-a-third innings and then Clem Labine came in," he recalled. "They hit into a double play and that ended it. As far as I was concerned, they should have never sent me down."

Giallombardo was just starting to come into his own, reducing his ERA from 7.15 to 3.76 over his last 15 innings for the Dodgers. Being that he was 21 in only his third year in professional baseball, one would assume that he would have multiple opportunities to return to the Dodgers. The events that transpired that winter derailed a promising big-league career.

"They sent me back to Montreal in 1958 and then to Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic," he said. "That is where I hurt my arm. They operated on me right away at the end of the season in 1958. It wasn't the same after that. I had a fastball that used to jump. Once they cut me [open], it wasn't the same. It didn't hurt anymore, but I didn't have it. I was still young, and I didn't have enough experience to learn how to pitch with what I had. I used to get by overpowering guys, but when you are in your senior years in baseball, you learn how to pitch differently, but I didn't have that experience."

After his surgery, he played three seasons with Spokane of the Pacific Coast League; however, he could never regain the form that propelled his meteoric rise to the major leagues. When the Mets started their franchise in 1962, they wanted to sign the lefty local, but he passed when the offer was well below what he made out West.

"In 1962, they tried to send me to Tidewater and give me a big cut in salary," he said. "I had a wife and two children, so that's when I packed it in. I went back home to Brooklyn and knowing Hodges, he opened up a bowling alley and I became his night manager there for four to five years. Then I went into insurance and construction. I joined the New York City Housing Authority. I retired as a supervisor of roofing."

Upon his retirement, he moved to Waxhaw, North Carolina to escape the rigors of city life. While it is an unusual place for a Brooklynite, the change of pace has eased the transition for the New York native.

"My daughter, her husband, and my grandchildren were down there," he said. "New York wasn't 'New York' anymore so I made a decision to come down here. I've been down here since 1999. It's a big difference from Brooklyn. I was just telling my wife how serene it is here and how easy things are. The hustle and bustle got to be too much anymore. You couldn't go anywhere without having big lines; it was terrible."

A Fan Weaves a Tale of Fighting and Forgiveness

Bruce Weber wrote a poignant review in the New York Times of Roger Guenveur Smith's one-man show, “Juan and John,” that is being presenting at the Public Theater in Manhattan through December 20th. Weber details an emotional reunion of Juan Marichal and Morgan Fouch Roseboro, the daughter of John Roseboro. Continue reading the story here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

From Rapper to Baseball Collector, the Wild Tale of Peter Nash (aka Pete Nice of 3rd Bass)

Benjamin Wallace of Sports Illustrated wrote an excellent piece on the fluctuations of 1/2 of the 1990's hip hop duo 3rd Bass, "From Rapper To Baseball Collector, The Wild Tale of Peter Nash."

As a tremendous hip hop aficionado, the article on Peter Nash (aka Pete Nice) sparked my interest. I knew he he had a memorabilia museum and shop in Cooperstown, but I did not anticipate the twist in his story.

Hey Pete, you might be the one getting the Gas Face after this all clears.

3rd Annual GNSYAA Lou DeMartino Memorial Christmas Baseball Clinic Dec 26, 2009 at John Jay College

Even though there is snow outside, Spring Training is only two months away. New York City upstarts have a chance to sharpen their skills at the 3rd Annual Greater New York Sandlot Athletic Alliance's Lou Demartino Memorial Christmas Baseball Clinic at John Jay College on December 26th, 2009 from 9am-1pm.
Instructors will include New York City homegrown talent including former Major League pitcher John Halama and prospects Pedro Beato, Matt Rizzotti and James Jones.
The clinic will serve area youngsters ages 11-18. Admission is free, but registration is limited. To register for the clinic, contact

Monday, December 7, 2009

Whitey Herzog and Doug Harvey Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Former St. Louis Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog and Umpire Doug Harvey were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee on Monday.

Herzog won the 1982 World Series and three NL pennants with the St. Louis Cardinals and three division titles with Kansas City.

Harvey umpired in the National League for 31 seasons before retiring in 1992. He worked five World Series and six All-Star games, and handled more than 4,600 games overall.

The 79-year-old Harvey was picked on 15 of 16 ballots this time, becoming the ninth umpire in the Hall.

The two will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame on July 25.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Brooklyn Dodger That Didn't Make It - Hampton Coleman Explains His Journey With the Dodgers of the 1950's

The future Brooklyn Dodgers of 1952? Look hard in the bottom left hand corner and you'll see Solomon "Hampton" Coleman. The righty "curveball artist" is the only player pictured that didn't make the Major Leagues.

The story of this "Dodger That Never Made It" is an interesting one that involves a meteoric rise from the low minors to AAA early in his career while crossing paths with some of the finest players in baseball's history.

Coleman, speaking via telephone from his Florida residence in July of 2008 discussed how he came so close to becoming a Brooklyn Dodgers.

He was first signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1947 and was sent to Roanoke of the Class B Piedmont League. After posting a record of 13-5 with a 3.17 ERA, he was given an invite to major leagur spring training. What a jump for the young rookie from Red Springs, N.C., to go from the bushes to the big leagues in two years!

The 1948 spring training season allowed Coleman rub elbows with baseball's elite.

"I was in spring training with the Red Sox when I was 20 with Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio. I threw batting practice to Williams," Coleman said.

One of his highlights was facing Joe DiMaggio.

"I pitched against Joe DiMaggio," he said. "There were a few men on base and he hit a home run off of me to win it. The Red Sox had a pitcher Boo Ferriss, and he said, 'Don't worry about it, he's hit home runs off of better pitchers than you!' That picked me up a little bit."

DiMaggio's home run off of Coleman was chronicled in March 15, 1948 edition of the Prescott Evening Courier.

In only his second season, Coleman wasn't flustered by his encounter with DiMaggio. He was sent to Triple-A to play with Louisville of the American Association. After playing the 1948-1950 seasons with Louisville (with a short loan to Seattle of the PCL in 1949), Coleman's next break would come courtesy of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Coleman explained how he moved from the Red Sox organization to that of the Dodgers.

"I was playing in Louisville, and St. Paul was the Dodger team in the American Association," he said. "When Boston was on the verge of winning the pennant that year (1950), they were looking for a pitcher by the name of Harry Taylor to buy. They purchased him from the Dodgers, and the Red Sox gave them any choice of a Triple-A pitcher in their system, so they selected me. That's how I got to the Dodgers. I played with Montreal for a couple of years. Walter Alston was the manager, and when he went to Brooklyn, he took four of us to the Dodgers."

Alston was hired as the Dodgers manager in 1954 and it was the break that Coleman needed. Prior to the start of the season, Coleman chose to go to Cuba to sharpen his skills in preparation for his big break.
He pitched the 1951-52 winter season with Almendares and 1952-53 winter season with Marianao in Cuba. He received help from many veterans including tips from a future Hall of Famer.

"Do you remember Hoyt Wilhelm?" he asked. "He was down there. I was trying to get another pitch, and he was helping me with a knuckleball to use as an out pitch. He helped me a lot."

Discussing Cuba evoked the memories of some of his legendary teammates. One Hall of Fame teammate he recalled was Ray Dandridge,

"I played with him in the Cuban winter leagues. The first time I saw him was with Louisville against Minneapolis in the American Association. He was a great third baseman; he was like a vacuum cleaner, anything that came his way, he scooped up. He was a terrific fielder and good hitter. I absolutely thought he should have been a Major League player. He was a tough man to get out."

Another Hall of Famer there was a familiar lefty from the Dodgers organization, Tom Lasorda.

"The years I was in Cuba, I played with him, as well as two-and-a-half years in Montreal. Lasorda was managing the whole time he was playing. He was a motivator from day one. He didn't like to see anybody loafing. He'd get on your case if you were losing. Nobody loses more than a player that is loafing. I spent a lot of time with Tommy."

Despite the legendary connections he made, a car accident towards the end of the 1953-54 winter season in Cuba derailed his chances of making the Dodgers club.

"I had my wreck at the end of the season on my way to Cuba for the third year down there," he said. "I had a car accident and almost got killed. I fell out of the car on my shoulder. I was a right hand pitcher and I could never gain any momentum again. The doctors said I would never pitch again. Later on when technology improved, they said they could have fixed my shoulder in two hours!"
The doctors were wrong about Coleman pitching again. He returned in time for spring training, and Alston held to his word, giving Coleman a shot in February, 1954. Unfortunately, Coleman knew he was at the end of the line.

"It was pretty much the end of my career. I had nothing left on the ball."

He was there long enough to be included in the Dodgers 1954 Spring Training team photo, but lasted only 10 games at Montreal after he was cut from the major league squad. He spent his last season in baseball in 1955 with Double-A Fort Worth and Mobile, posting a combined record of 4-11 in 20 appearances.

Coleman, 81 is currently retired in Lady Lake, FL.

Autographed 1953 Canadian Exhibit Hampton Coleman

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tommy Henrich, 96, "Old Reliable" Last Memeber of the 1938 Yankees 1913-2009

According to a report published by the Associated Press former New York Yankee outfielder Tommy Henrich died on Tuesday December 1, 2009 at the age of 96. He was nicknamed "Old Reliable" after a train which ran from Ohio to Alabama by Yankees broadcaster Mel Allen for his knack of getting a hit just when it was needed. Henrich was the last link to the 1938 World Series Team, as well as the last living teammate of Lou Gehrig. Henrich reportedly admitted taking three years off of his age to compensate for having played softball instead of baseball growing up. If this is the case, Henrich was between the ages of 96-99 at the time of his passing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Negro Leaguer James "Red" Moore Honored with Hartland Statue

Former Negro League first baseman with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Newark Eagles and Atlanta Black Crackers, James "Red" Moore has been honored with a famed Hartland statue. The statue which is pictured above, comes autographed and is limited to 100 copies. Moore is 93 years old and one of the Negro Leagues living treasures, frequently making appearances in the Atlanta area to spread the history of Negro League Baseball. To get more information on the Hartland Statue, click here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Book Review: Playing Ball with Legends: The Story and Stories of Don Lund

Playing Ball With LegendsPlaying Ball with Legends: The Story and the Stories of Don Lund
James Robert Irwin
Saint James Books, 2009
456 pages

When one thinks of Don Lund, what image comes to mind? Is it the first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears? Perhaps one envisions the strapping outfielder for the Dodgers, Browns and Tigers. How about the head coach of the NCAA World Series Champion Michigan Wolverines? Baseball insiders might suggest it is the farm director of the Detroit Tigers.

James Robert Irwin would argue that it may be none of these, but the outstanding character of Lund, which is a constant theme throughout the book. Lund receives glowing praise from former teammates, players, coaches and executives.

While Irwin's work gives fine detail about Lund's playing career, it is the stories in between the lines about the lives he touched along the way and the journey he took to get there that makes the book worth reading.

It is evident that while writing this book that Irwin became great friends with Lund, at times the book reads as if it were not written by a biographer but a true friend with the utmost respect and admiration for the person whose life they're chronicling.

At over 450 pages, "Playing Ball with Legends" will keep you occupied for quite awhile as you read about Lund's 60-year involvement with athletics from the sandlots of Detroit, through the legendary grounds of Ebbets Field, to his retirement from his position as Associate Athletic Director at the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Audio Interview with Hall of Famer Wahoo Sam Crawford

From the audio archives of Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times, I found an interview with Hall of Famer Wahoo Sam Crawford about how he made his way on to the Cincinnati Reds in 1899. The interview was done in 1964. There is also audio of Ritter's interviews with Hans Lobert and Jimmy Austin. Take a moment to listen to the actual stories told by the players that played during the turn of the 20th century. If you haven't read Ritter's book, I suggest that you do; it's a highly regarded classic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kropf gave up center field for Willie Mays

I recently wrote an article on Ridgewood, Queens native Johnny Kropf, who was an outfielder at the AAA level for 11 seasons with the Giants and White Sox organizations. He gave up centerfield in 1951 while playing with the Minneapolis Millers to a young star in the making, Willie Mays. While he was there, he was teammates with two other Hall of Famers, Ray Dandridge and Hoyt Wilhelm. Kropf speaks on his experiences playing with the aforementioned legends and his travels from Class D ball to AAA. Click here to read the Times-Ledger article on Kropf.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bob Dillinger, 91, Former St. Louis Brown 1918-2009

Former St. Louis Browns infielder and World War II veteran Bob Dillinger passed away November 7, 2009 at the age of 91. Dillinger led the American League in hits in 1948 with 207, was an A.L. All-Star in 1949, and was the A.L. stolen base champion for three consecutive seasons (1947-1949). Dillinger played 6 seasons total in the Majors Leagues for the Browns, Athletics, Pirates and White Sox.

In a 2003 interview with Bob Kuenster in Baseball Digest Dillinger, reflected on his All-Star and wartime playing experiences. "We played hard and played to win. You wanted to do good," he said. "Even though it was my first and only All-Star game, I played in those types of games before. During the war, I played on the special service team with guys like Joe DiMaggio, Ferris Fain, Jerry Priddy and other big leaguers. I played center field for DiMaggio's club in Guam in front of 40,000 troops."

In 2006, Ronnie Joyner and Bill Bozman wrote Dillinger's autobiography, entitled "He Hits! He Steals! He's Bob Dillinger!" Autographed copies of the book are available from the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society.

Winning Beyond Winning's 2009 Gil Hodges Legacy Dinner Recap

Winning Beyond Winning held their annual Gil Hodges Legacy Dinner this past week at the Chateau Briand in Long Island. Winning Beyond Winning is an charity organization headed by former New York Yankee Rusty Torres and Tom Sabellico that prepares athletes for their careers after their sports participation and provides outreach to school-aged children on the benefits of healthy living that can be achieved through participation in sports. Over 200 supporters turned out for the evening's festivities.

1969 Mets Reunion Photo / N. Diunte

This year's Gil Hodges Dinner was a tribute to the 1969 New York Mets, and featured appearances by Bud Harrelson, Ed Charles, Cleon Jones, Joe Pignatano, Ron Swoboda, Mrs. Maxcine Agee, Gil Hodges Jr. and Joan Hodges. Mrs. Hodges received a standing round of applause for her riveting speech in delivering the Gil Hodges Lifetime Achievement Award.

Roland Hemond was given the Great American's Awards for his nearly 50 years as an executive in Major League Baseball. Hemond has served as the General Manager for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. Current New York Mets coach Howard Johnson was honored with the 2009 Winner's Circle Award. Johnson stated,"I feel proud to carry on the traditions of the Mets that came before him, and to pass what I have learned on to the new generation of Mets players."

The 2009 Gil Hodges Legacy Dinner proved to be a successful event to further Winning Beyond Winning's outreach in the community to encourage clean youth participation in athletics and assist athletes transitioning from the field into the next phase of their careers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wallace 'Bucky' Williams, 102, Former Negro League Pittsburgh Crawfords

The second oldest living Negro League player, Bucky Williams passed away on November 16, 2009 at the age of 102. Williams played infield for the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1927-1932, and then with the Homestead Grays in the late 1930's, playing with and against many baseball luminaries including: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell, Martin Dihigo and Smokey Joe Williams. He retired in 1971 from Edgar Thomson Steel Works and moved to Penn Hills after his wife passed away in 1977. He was a fixture at the Josh Gibson Foundation dinners in recent years. He is only surpassed by 103 year old Puerto Rican Milito Navarro who played for the Cuban Stars in 1928-1929. Click here to view his entire obituary from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feller, Perry and Perez Headline the 2009 MLBPAA Legends for Youth Dinner

Orestes Destrade and Tony PerezGaylord Perry and Bob FellerBob FellerThe longest standing member of the Hall of Fame Bob Feller stood on the podium 91 years young, a veteran of World War II, addressing a crowd of 250 former players and aficionados Friday at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. Feller, looking ever spry, expressed his affection for the supporters of the MLBPAA, and vowed to be a fixture at the annual reunion dinner for years to come. He introduced the 2009 Alumni Achievement Award honoree, Gaylord Perry, who was being honored for his service to the association. Perry is extremely active with the Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics, where he and other retired MLB players give clinics around the country for young aspiring ballplayers. Fellow Hall of Famer Tony Perez was on hand to announce the 2009 Heart and Hustle Award recipient, which was Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Following the awards, the fans were treated to a round-table where Perry, Feller, Dennis Leonard, Jim "Mudcat" Grant, Tommy John, Rick Cerone, Jeff Cirillo, Mike Torrez, Billy Sample, John Franco, Orestes Destrade and Jimmy Wynn spoke on their favorite MLB experiences. All of the alumni spoke candidly about their travels in the Majors, and showed a genuine appreciation for being able to share them with the fans. "Mudcat" Grant captivated the crowd with an entertaining story of how early in his career he got revenge on an umpire who he believed was "squeezing" him. Grant dipped the unsuspecting umpire's mask in manure, and in the 100 degree heat, the oblivious umpire swore the catcher had soiled himself during the game. The umpire was none the wiser to Grant's prank. Grant also went out of his way to recognize the efforts of Feller for helping to ease baseball's integration by touring with Jackie Robinson's All-Stars in 1946, playing with Larry Doby in 1947 and honorably serving in WWII. Feller graciously accepted Grant's acknowledgment to a standing ovation from the crowd.

To keep up with MLBPAA sponsored events and clinics, check out their website at

To view additional photos from the event, watch the slideshow below.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hideki Matsui's World Series Performance Evokes Memories of Dusty Rhodes 55 Years Earlier

Hideki Matsui earning the 2009 World Series MVP as a designated and pinch hitter drums up memories of another New York World Series hero. A year before the World Series MVP award was created, and over 20 years before the emergence of the designated hitter, James "Dusty" Rhodes terrorized the pitching of the American League champions, the Cleveland Indians. Rhodes hit a pinch-hit homer off of Bob Lemon in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series with two runners on in the 10th inning to win the game 5-2. In game 2, he had a pinch hit single off of Early Wynn in the 5th inning, and then followed it up with another homerun off of Wynn in the 7th. In game 3, he had a pinch-hit single that drove in two runs in a 6-2 Giants victory. In the 3 games he played, he was 4-6 with 2 homeruns and 7 RBI. The Giants swept the series in 4 games over the Cleveland Indians.

Matsui had a homerun, a single and 2 RBI as a pinch-hitter, and was 8-13 overall as a DH / PH en route to his award winning performance. While many remember the 1954 World Series for Willie Mays' catch of Vic Wertz's smash; if a World Series MVP had existed in 1954, it would have gone to Rhodes for his timely hitting off of the bench for the Giants. The parallel to Matsui, plays out similar in their roles of "professional hitter" for their respective teams in World Series victory.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

MLBPAA Legends for Youth Dinner Friday November 6, 2009 List of Expected Guests and Schedule

2009 Legends for Youth Dinner
Friday, November 6, 2009
New York Hilton
Avenue of the Americas

6:00 p.m. Cocktail Reception (Rendezvous/Petit Trianon)
6:45 p.m. Call to Dinner Program
7:00 p.m. Awards Dinner (Trianon Room)
9:45 p.m. Dinner Program Ends

**Dress is Business Attire/Semi-Formal/Coat & Tie

Please be aware of the MLBPAA autograph policy for the event. Limit the items you bring to the event to items that fit in your pocket. Bags, bats, or other large items are not permitted.

List of Confirmed Guests as of October 28, 2009

Gaylord Perry – Honoree
Bob Feller
Tony Perez

Craig Anderson
Tony Balsamo
Fred Cambria
Rick Cerone
Ed Charles
Jeff Cirillo
Don DeMola
Orestes Destrade
John Doherty
John Franco
Oscar Gamble
Jim “Mudcat” Grant
Jim Hannan
Paul Hartzell
Tommy John
Brian Johnson
Joe Lahoud
Tim Leary
Al Leiter
Dennis Leonard
Phil Linz
Skip Lockwood
Bob Miller
Jerry Moses
Jim Poole
Dennis Rasmussen
Ron Robinson
Steve Rogers
Will Royster
Billy Sample
Steve Shillet
Charles Smith (NBA)
Craig Skok
Gary Thorne – Master of Ceremonies
Frank Tepedino
Rusty Torres
Mike Torrez
Jose Valdivielso
Jimmy Wynn

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Howie Schultz, former Brooklyn Dodger and Minneapolis Laker dies at 87

Howie Schultz, pictured second from left with Jackie Robinson two spots to his right, passed away on October 30, 2009 at the age of 87. Schultz was the Dodgers first baseman for four seasons until Robinson arrived in 1947. Schultz played in one game at first base after being displaced by Robinson. He was sold to the Phillies a month later.

"I'm a footnote in history -- the guy who was benched to allow baseball to be integrated," he said in a 2004 interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Schultz compiled a lifetime batting average of .241 in siz seasons in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers, Phillies and Reds.

Schultz also played professionally in basketball, playing three seasons in the NBA after an All-American career at Hamline University. Schultz was a member of the 1951-52 and 1952-53 NBA Champion Minneapolis Lakers which included four Hall of Famers: George Mikan, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen, and Jim Pollard.

After finishing his basketball career, he taught physical education and coached high school basketball in the St. Paul area as well as at Hamline University. To read a more detailed description of Schultz's career, check out Stew Thornley's SABR Bio of Howie Schultz.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Darren Oliver: Emerging From Baseball's Graveyard With The Angels in the ALCS

Darren OliverIn 2005, Darren Oliver couldn't find a Major League team. Fast forward 4 seasons later; Oliver played a prominent role for the Angels in the 2009 ALCS, appearing in 5 of the 6 games. Oliver pitched 2 2/3rd's innings of scoreless relief in Game 6, showing tremendous resilience after giving up 3 runs in Game 5 without retiring any batters. In 2009, Oliver lead the Angels staff in ERA (2.71) and was third in appearances with 63 games pitched. Oliver even started a game for the Halos.
After being released by the Cubs in 2005, Oliver found salvation with the Mets, signing with them for the 2006 season. Oliver became a mainstay in their bullpen, providing effective long and short relief. During the 2006 NLCS, he turned in arguably the most memorable performance by a Mets pitcher, when he relieved Steve Traschel in Game 3 to shut down the Cardinals for 6 innings. That would be Oliver's last appearance in a Mets uniform. The Mets did not resign Oliver, and he was swooped up by the Angels that off-season. He has since made three consecutive playoff appearances (2007-2009) and posted a combined record of 15-3. While fans may remember Oliver's bases clearing double he surrendered to Mark Teixeira in Game 5, don't let that overshadow Oliver's otherwise consistent production for the Angels. Not bad for a guy teams left for dead a short while ago.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review: Early Wynn, the Go-Go White Sox and the 1959 World Series

Early Wynn CoverEarly Wynn, the Go-Go White Sox and the 1959 World Series"
Lew Freedman
McFarland Publishing, 2009
223 pages

A man so tenacious on the field that he threw at his own son after he hit one back up the middle, and claimed that he would knock down his own grandmother if she dug in against him, Early Wynn was the catalyst for the Chicago White Sox 1959 World Series appearance. A rare four decade player, an aging Wynn was brought to the White Sox at the end of the 1957 season in exchange for Minnie Minoso. Bill Veeck apparently thought that Wynn had one more great season left in his arm, and Veeck was correctly, as Wynn would be victorious 22 times en route to a Cy Young award and World Series appearance in 1959.

Freedman weaves in anecdotes from the few living players from that 1959 team to chronicle the season's happenings. Sadly, almost three-quarters of the team are deceased. An especially poignant moment is when the living players gather in Chicago in 2008 and they collectively acknowledge that their reunion reminds them of the many members of the team that have passed. We hear from the likes of Billy Pierce, Jim Rivera, Bob Shaw, Jim Landis and Turk Lown as they chime in on Wynn and their own ups and downs during their pennant winning journey.

Freedman does his best to merge the three topics of his book, Wynn, the "Go-Go White Sox" and the 1959 World Series by examining the roles of Manager Al Lopez, General Manager Frank "Trader" Lane and owners Veeck and Charles Comiskey Jr.. What you are left with is a solid assembly of the 1959 White Sox and how Wynn led the charges all the way to the World Series.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2009 MLBPAA Legends for Youth Dinner November 6, 2009 - Hilton New York City

Established in 1999, the MLBPAA created the Legends for Youth Dinner recognizing former Major League players for their on-field accomplishments coupled with their off-field contributions to communities across the world. In addition, the MLBPAA recognizes current players by presenting the National and American League Pitcher and Player of the Year Awards, which is voted on by the former Major League players, and the Dick Schaap Memorial Player of the Year Award, voted on by baseball’s television and radio broadcasters and presented to Major League Baseball’s most valuable player irrespective of position or league. Finally, the Alumni Association created the Heart & Hustle Award, presented annually to a current player and voted on by former players. The winner is the player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game of baseball. Whether or not these players are named a Most Valuable Player, are a World Series Champion or simply play the game hard each time they take the field, these players win our admiration and respect.

The Legends for Youth Dinner, which will be held on November 6, 2009 at the Hilton in New York City, honors baseball’s legends with MLBPAA Lifetime Achievement Awards. This year's honoree is Hall of Fame pitcher, Gaylord Perry. In addition to the honorees, many of baseball’s greats attend the awards show to support their peers. “The MLBPAA is proud to recognize current and former Major League players for their accomplishments on this national stage,” said Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame Third Baseman and MLBPAA President.

This event also serves as the primary fund-raiser for the Alumni Association’s youth programs. The MLBPAA allocates Legends for Youth Dinner proceeds to Alumni youth programming, which includes Legends for Youth Baseball Clinic Series. The Legends for Youth program is a series of FREE baseball clinics designed to talk to youth about life skills promote baseball and teach young players baseball fundamentals. “The life skills station carries the most weight for the long-term,” said Denny Doyle, chairman of the youth clinic series. “It carries a little more strength and power coming from a Hall of Famer. We realize that puts a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders.”

Confirmed guests at this year's dinner include Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Tony Perez, Brooks Robinson, as well as perennial all-stars John Franco, Steve Garvey and Al Leiter. To find out more information about the 2009 Legends for Youth Dinner at the Hilton in New York City, click here. To register directly for the dinner, click here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Larry Jansen, 89, 1920-2009 Two Time 20 Game Winner For the New York Giants

Two-time 20 game winner Larry Jansen passed away October 10, 2009 at his home in Oregon at the age of 89. reported an article announcing Jansen's passing which featured remembrances from Cy Young Award winners Gaylord Perry and Mike McCormick, who received tutelage from Jansen while he coached the Giants from 1961-1971. Jansen pitched 8 seasons with the Giants from 1947-1954, recording the win in the infamous 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round The World" game between the Dodgers and Giants where Bobby Thomson homered off of Ralph Branca to put the Giants into the 1951 World Series. Jansen resurfaced briefly with the Reds in 1956 and continued to pitch until 1960 with Portland of the Pacific Coast League.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Humberto Robinson, 79, 1930-2009, paved the way for Mariano Rivera

While Mariano Rivera is closing the door on games for the Yankees during the 2009 postseason, a tribute must be paid to the man who opened the door for Panamanians to play in Major League Baseball. Humberto Robinson was the first Panama native to play in the major leagues, making his debut with the Milwaukee Braves in 1955, posting a 3-1 record in 13 games that season. Robinson went on to pitch in the majors again in 1956 and then from 1958-1960 with the Braves, Indians, and Phillies. He also made multiple appearances in the Caribbean Series representing Panama, including the final one in 1960. Sadly, Robinson passed away in a Brooklyn, New York nursing home on September 29th, 2009 after a long battle with Alzheimer's.

Robinson's death was almost exactly 50 years after his brush with a gambler's attempt to fix a late season game in 1959 while pitching for the Phillies. Robinson was approached by Harold Friedman, a former operator of a Philadelphia night spot. Friedman reportedly offered Humberto $1,500 to throw the September 22, 1959 game against the Cincinnati Redlegs. Robinson would not accept the offer which was made at a hotel the day before the game.

"I didn't want to talk about it," Robinson said.

He confided his secret with teammate Ruben Gomez, who advised him to report the situation to manager Eddie Sawyer. Robinson remained quiet, but Gomez went to Sawyer during the fifth inning of the game. Robinson performed beautifully, pitching seven innings, striking out five while only giving up three hits. He also hit a double and scored the first run of the game. He would later be congratulated by Commissioner Ford Frick for quickly reporting the attempted bribe. Friedman was sentenced two-to-five years in prison for his attempt to fix the game.

So while you are watching Rivera pitch his way into the record books this October, envision a similarly lanky Panamanian of 50 years prior who displayed integrity in the face of corruption and endured hoards of racial taunts during baseball's era of desegregation to pave the way for other Panamanians to flourish in the major leagues.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Don Thompson, 85, former Brooklyn Dodger, 1923-2009

Don ThompsonThe Asheville Citizen-Times reports that former Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves outfielder Don Thompson passed away September 28, 2009 in Asheville, North Carolina after an extended illness. Thompson was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher in 1943, and pitched exclusively for 4 seasons until injuring his arm. During an April 2009 interview with Thompson, he recounted his transformation from a pitcher to an outfielder.

"I started out as a pitcher, but I hurt my arm," Thompson said. "I was in the Red Sox organization at that time with Louisville, and they sent me down to Roanoke. My arm got better but I stayed in the outfield. That’s when St. Louis drafted me (1948). I went to Columbus. I stayed as an outfielder. I didn’t have any desire to pitch."

Even though Thompson was a full-time outfielder, Brooklyn Dodger manager Charlie Dressen would often call on call on him when they were facing a tough lefty.

"Dressen, whenever we had a left handed pitcher pitching against us, he’d want me to throw batting practice to help the guys get ready. I still didn't want to pitch."

Once in the Cardinals organization, Thompson was immediately promoted to the AAA level, and sharpened his skills by playing two years of winter ball in Cuba under the watchful eye of Mike Gonzalez.

"The first year my manager was Mike Gonzalez. I played for Havana. Mike was an old catcher for St. Louis. I was playing in the International League with Rochester. After the 1949 season, he called me to come to Havana for the Winter. I went to Cuba, played for Havana the first year and then Almendares the second year. It helped me a great deal. I was already in shape going into Spring Training. It was sort of a circus down there. They really played hard and expected a lot out of the players."

Thompson's big break with the Dodgers came during the winter of 1949 when he was traded from the Boston Braves to the Dodgers for the legendary Sam Jethroe.

"I played against him in the International League. He was as fast as everyone said he was."

He entered a crowded Dodgers outfield, but managed to stick with the team for three seasons.

"We had seven left fielders in Brooklyn in Spring Training. I opened the season both years (1951 and 1953) in the starting lineup. I was a left-handed hitter, and Dressen, he was playing right-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers and switching things around. He had a platoon going. I wasn’t much of a hitter, but I was a very good fielder and I had good speed."

His defense played a memorable role in the 1953 World Series when he threw out Billy Martin at the plate in Game 4 after replacing Jackie Robinson in left field. During the aforementioned interview, Thompson clearly recounted how the inning unfolded.
"Clem Labine was pitching, he came in for relief. Martin was on second base with two outs. Mantle hit a line drive over Pee Wee’s head. He was hitting left-handed, so I was playing him a little around towards right. He hit the line drive and of course Martin took off, there being two outs. Anyway, I saw Martin running, [3rd base coach] Frankie Crosetti was waving him home. I looked up and I turned it loose. Billy Cox let it go or it would have hit him right in the head. It was about that high. Campy had him by several feet. Martin bent over and tried to knock Campy down. Campy sidestepped him with the ball in his mitt, hit him under the neck and turned him a flip. That was the last out of the game. I replaced Jackie Robinson both games. He could handle the outfield pretty well, but he wasn’t used to it."

Thompson retired after the 1954 season, but it wasn't before he had another brush with greatness. During most of the 1954 campaign, he played with Montreal. Under his wing was a 19 year-old outfielder from Puerto Rico by the name of Roberto Clemente. Thompson knew that the Dodgers had a gem on their hands as soon as Clemente hit the field.

"He worked out with me in center field to start. He had a great arm and he could hit; he hit a lot of bad pitches, like Berra, over his head. He was a wild swinger, but I could tell he was going to be a good ballplayer. I think he got a bonus of $25,000 from the Dodgers. They were trying to hide him. He was eligible for the big league draft. They knew that if they didn’t take him on Brooklyn that he would possibly be drafted. I knew he was going to be great. Roberto had a temper at times, but got along with us well."

After the 1954 season, Thompson returned to Asheville and effectively retired from baseball.

"I had an older brother in Asheville who had a Dodge / Plymouth franchise and I went into the automobile business. I stopped playing baseball completely after that."

He later became a real estate agent and one of the founders of Preferred Properties in Asheville. He was inducted into the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame in 1997.
Don Thompson
Don Thompson avoiding the tag of Ted Kluszewski

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Billy 'Benny' Felder, 84, Negro League Shortstop, 1925-2009

Former Newark Eagles and Indianapolis Clowns shortstop Billy "Benny" Felder died at his Tampa home Friday October 2, 2009. He was 84.

Felder became the shortstop for the Eagles at the start of the 1946 season after the departure of future Hall of Famer Willie Wells to Baltimore, putting him behind Leon Day during his opening day no-hitter in 1946 against the Philadelphia Stars.

Billy Felder 1946 Newark Eagles
Day's no-hitter foreshadowed what was to come, as the Eagles won the Negro World Series that year, defeating the Kansas City Monarchs in seven games. Felder told me that being on the field for that no-hitter and winning the World Series were his two proudest moments in baseball.

Felder played in the Negro Leagues from 1946-1948, spending the 1946 and 1947 campaigns with the Eagles and 1948 with the Indianapolis Clowns. As the doors to the major leagues started to slowly open to African-American baseball players in the early 1950s, Felder found his opportunity playing with Key West in the Florida International League in 1952 and Pampa of the West Texas-New Mexico League from 1953-1954. He finished out the 1954 season with Artesia in the Longhorn League. During the 1953 and 1954 seasons, Felder posted averages above .300.

Felder was part of a 2007 tribute to the Newark Eagles at Newark Bears and Eagles Stadium. The tribute was done by the Newark Historical Society, where during that day, streets in Newark were named after prominent members of the Newark Eagles. The Newark Bears inducted Hall of Famers from the Eagles into their Ring of Honor and the four members of the Newark Eagles threw out the first pitch at Bears and Eagles Stadium. Felder was honored along with Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, James "Red" Moore, and Willie "Curly" Williams.

Below are photos of Felder throwing out the first pitch, as well as another of him seated alongside the aforementioned members of the Eagles. The last photo is of Felder and myself at his Tampa home in August of 2008. We spent about 30 minutes talking baseball before my return flight home. He was extremely gracious and humble. May he rest peacefully.

Felder (far right) throwing out the first pitch at Newark Bears Stadium in  2007 / N. Diunte

Felder (far right) with Williams, Moore and Irvin in 2007 / N. Diunte

Benny Felder receiving honors at Newark Bears stadium in 2007 / N. Diunte

Felder (right) with author in 2008 / N. Diunte

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review of the 3rd Annual Sports Angels Inspiration Awards Dinner Honoring Rod Gilbert

Sports Angels Award ProgramRod Gilbert Addresses The CrowdFood Pantry Receives $25,000 From Sports AngelsJessica Abo of NY1This Wednesday evening brought a packed house to Cipriani's on Wall Street to support the Sports Angels Foundation. Over 30 tables were filled with supporters of the charity to raise money for local youth sports programs in need. Former New York Ranger and Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert was honored with the Inspiration Award for his work with the Garden of Dreams Foundation. Receiving the Community Award was Bobby Hoffman for his efforts with Manhattan Youth Baseball.

The emcee for the event was NY1 anchor Jessica Abo. Abo managed to keep the crowd entertained in between guests and crowned Gilbert with the new position of goalie. A true gentleman, Gilbert took it in stride, and Abo showed a sense of humor by being able to laugh it off after some gentle ribbing by former New York Giant Howard Cross (who was playing the role of auctioneer). Cross did an excellent job of getting the patrons to open their wallets in support of the night's cause. His constant reminders of, "look at me, not her!" had a lot of the men upping the ante on their bids despite the urgings of their wives. Former Brooklyn Dodger and Sports Angels Board Member Ralph Branca briefly addressed the crowd and led the singing of God Bless America.

A touching moment during the evening was when the crowd was addressed by members of the Inner City Scholarship Foundation. The three basketball players were in a middle school league that was a recipient of a Sports Angels grant. They expressed their gratitude for the opportunity the grant had provided them to compete and learn about the aspects of teamwork and sportsmanship.

The event proved successful for the Sports Angels Foundation, showing that even in a tough economy, there are still many out there interested in supporting initiatives to keep children involved in sports. For further information on how you can support Sports Angels, please go to their website

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cubs Suspend Milton Bradley, Is It The End of the Line? reports that the Chicago Cubs have suspended outfielder Milton Bradley for the remainder of the 2009 season after negative comments he made to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald. He referred to the environment on the Cubs as,"just negativity."

Bradley has worn out his welcome almost every place he has played, yet teams continued to take flyers on him due to his excellent hitting ability and the thought that the change in environment would help him. Bradley injured himself in 2007 after being restrained by Bud Black from going after an umpire late in the season while playing with the Padres. The Padres let him go and he was signed by Texas the following season. After an All-Star performance in 2008 with the Rangers, they did not resign him as a free agent and he landed with the Cubs for the 2009 season.

Bradley is on his 7th team in 10 Major League seasons. It's no longer a condition of environment. Bradley has brought this upon himself. How many more chances will he be given? He will be 32 in 2010, and is at the age where teams will no longer be interested in him for his potential upside. His track record has shown that he is a malcontent. How many Managers and General Managers want to have a problem player on their hands during the downside of his career? Bradley needs to take a deep look in the mirror and see that the problem lies no farther than his reflection. If he doesn't commit himself towards making positive changes, it is likely that teams will stop making a commitment to him for his services. That time may arrive alot sooner than Bradley will like.

3rd Annual Sports Angels Inspiration Awards Dinner Sept. 23, 2009 at Cipriani's Wall Street Honoring Rod Gilbert

Sports Angels, a New York-based charity dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives through sports, is proud to announce its 3rd Annual Inspiration Awards Dinner.

A galaxy of New York sports heroes will be mingling with some of the city's biggest and most charitable sports fans, September 23rd, 2009 at Cipriani Wall Street. Cocktails will be served at 6pm; the dinner starts at 7.

For the third consecutive year, the Sports Angels Board of Directors and 2009 Dinner Committee invite you to enjoy cocktails, auction, and an exquisite dinner as we celebrate legendary New York Ranger Rod Gilbert for his work on and off the ice. Past years' attendees include Ralph Branca, David Cone, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Rick Cerone, Greg Buttle, Howard Cross, George Martin, and many more.

This year's benefit includes a silent and live auction featuring items such as a “Meet and Greet" with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Luxury Box Seats to a Bruce Springsteen Concert and hand-signed electric guitar by the legend himself, Body Holiday St Lucia Experience Package, as well as many more fabulous items.

Tickets for the event are $350/$1,000 individual, and table prices begin at $3,500 - $10,000. If you would like to attend or need further information, please call 212-243-3265 or visit Sports Angels' website at Tickets can be purchased via the website or by emailing Alyson Winston at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lonny Frey, 99, Former Brooklyn Dodger 1910-2009

It is with a sad tone that I bring you the news of another Brooklyn Dodger passing. Former infielder Lonny Frey died Sunday at the age of 99 according to the Seattle Times. There are conflicts about his age, as the obituary lists 98, but lists his birth year as being 1910, which would make him 99. I had received written correspondence from Frey approximately a month ago and he seemed in good spirits. It is never a good feeling to hear the news of someone passing after receiving such recent communication.

Frey played 14 seasons in the Majors from 1933-1948 with Brooklyn, Cincinnati, The New York Giants and Yankees. He lost two seasons due to his service in World War II between 1943 and 1945. He was a three-time All-Star and played in three world series, two with the Reds and one with the Yankees. Frey gained recognition later in his life as he began to outlive the majority of his contemporaries. The New York times published an interesting 2008 article with Bob Feller and Frey, as they were the last two players alive from the 1939 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium.

Some of Frey's baseball memorabilia was profiled on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, where his son had his World Series and All-Star mementos appraised.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jackie Collum, 82, 1927-2009 Former Brooklyn Dodger Pitcher

The little lefty from Iowa Jackie Collum died at the age of 82 on August 29, 2009 in Grinnell. Collum, although only 5'7, used a devastating screwball to pitch in parts of 9 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1952-1962 with the Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Dodgers, Twins and Indians. Prior to playing professionally, he served in the US Army during World War II in the Philippines. Upon his return from military service, he was signed into the St. Louis Cardinals organization, where he posted 24 wins in Class C St. Joseph in 1948. He cited being selected to the 1954 National League All-Star as a batting practice pitcher, as being one of his favorite accomplishments of his Major League career. After baseball, Collum ran Pioneer Oil Company in Grinnell, IA.

Here is a January 2009 article written about Collum by William L. Sherman of the Iowa chapter of SABR, entitled "Jackie Collum, A Living Legend".

Friday, September 4, 2009

Former New York Mets Pitcher Jerry Koosman Gets 6 Months For Tax Evasion

The Associated Press reports that former New York Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman has been sentenced to 6 months in prison for tax evasion after not federal income taxes between 2002 and 2004. Koosman pitched 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, including winning two games for the Mets during the 1969 World Series. Koosman has filed returns for the missing years, but according to prosecutors, he owes approximately $65,000. He will begin serving his sentence on November 3rd.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Branch Rickey On Signing Bonuses

With the news of Stephen Strasburg's recent record setting 15.1 million dollar guaranteed contract, I want to refer to a passage from "Branch Rickey's Little Blue Book" on signing bonuses from over 50 years prior. Similar sentiments are felt today by the fans and many players who had to work their way up through the minor leagues to secure a Major League contract. In this passage, Branch Rickey was discussing the merits of eliminating the, "High School Rule," which prohibited teams from even discussing a professional career with a player who had high school eligibility remaining.

"Now there is another good reason to be rid of the High School Rule as written or proposed: It promotes the "bonus," and that is the greatest menace to the continued solvency of a great many major-league teams. Some teams are spending as much as a half-million dollars yearly in signing new, young, untried players about whose ability nothing positive is known. The bonus inherently affects the player in a number of negative ways. The player's morale is upset. He is often ruined by the sudden possession of large amounts of money. His ambition is stultified. And his self-sufficiency is pronounced (even his habits in the direction of the "good life" are affected).
The club is likewise affected, because it is just too bad to have 25-year-old, tried and true players view with amazement the presence of one or even a half-dozen bonus players who get more money to sign a contract as an 18-year-old than most of them can ever hope to save in a lifetime of playing.
The financial structure of the game is jeopardized. Most clubs cannot possibly pay between $300,000 and $700,000 a year for new, unknown material of tender age and be assured of staying solvent." Branch Rickey's Little Blue Book, p.55

While the figures have grown significantly, Rickey poses multiple observations of the effects of a large signing bonus: complacency, loss of focus, animosity between veterans and rookies, and giant financial risks for the Major League teams. Let's hope that Strasburg becomes a front-line starter for many years to come, or else the Washington Nationals checks might be sporting a new logo, Spalding.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Davey Williams, 81, 1927-2009 New York Giants Second Baseman

Former New York Giants second baseman Davey Williams passed away on August 17, 2009 at the age of 81 at his home in Dallas, Texas. Williams made his debut with the Giants in 1949 and stayed for good after the 1951 season, making the All-Star team in 1953 and appearing in two World Series (1951 and 1954). He had his career ended in 1955 after he suffered a back injury from being run over by Jackie Robinson while covering a bunt.

I had the opportunity to interview Davey in December 2008 and he recounted the events of the collision with Robinson. "Jackie was a great competitor. He had the right to get even with alot of guys. Jackie told Howard Cosell that I was the only guy he ever hurt intentionally. I got there late, it was my fault. [Sal] Maglie threw at him. The next pitch, Robinson turned to bunt, and instead of covering first and allowing him to go in and cover the ball on that side of the infield, I'm standing out there waiting for the fight to start. Robinson bunts the ball, and Maglie doesn't go over to field the ball, Whitey [Lockman] goes over to field the ball, and now I wake up and have to cover first base. I got there the minute he got there, and I didn't have any momentum going for me at all, and he ran right up the middle. Somehow, I held onto the ball, he didn't knock it out of my hand. I was out too, I didn't play again for 11 days."

He had fond memories of playing with Hall of Famer Ray Dandridge in Minneapolis. "He had great hands and for the life of me, I don't know why he didn't get a chance to play in the big leagues. He was impressive." During the same time he was there with Dandridge, Willie Mays was making his debut in Minneapolis. After briefly playing with Mays, he knew that Mays, "would be a franchise player somewhere." Definitively, Williams described Mays as, "the best player I ever saw."

With the National League up 2-0 in the 7th inning, manager Charlie Dressen inserted Williams into the 1953 All-Star game, replacing Red Schoendienst. Williams told the story of his brief appearance in the contest. "I caught the last out in the All-Star game off of a pop-up from Yogi Berra. I always told people if I dropped the ball, we could've padded the score; heck we might still be playing! I got to bat off of Mike Garcia. I went up to hit against him in the 8th inning, and he threw the first pitch, and I thought, 'Whoa! My gosh!' He surprised the heck out of me, he threw a fastball. I hit against him a hundred times before and he really startled me when he threw that first pitch in the All-Star game. It was kinda like he threw it 110 MPH. It wasn't that way in the World Series a year later. I wasn't that surprised [regarding their meeting in the 1954 World Series]. I hit the ball out of the ballpark against him and it was foul by about a foot. I was around by second base and I come back across the mound, and Mike said, 'I must have made that a bit too good.' I said, 'You must have if I hit it that well.'"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Braves Recall Reid Gorecki, Will Make His Debut Against His Hometown New York Mets

The Atlanta Braves recalled outfielder Reid Gorecki to replace Nate McLouth who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. While Gorecki made his official debut on August 17th as a defensive replacement, he should get his first Major League at-bat against his hometown New York Mets. Gorecki, a native of Queens, played his high school baseball at Kellenberg Memorial in Long Island before going on to a letter-winning career at the University of Delaware. Gorecki spent 8 seasons in the minor leagues before the Braves called him up this week. This blogger has a special place for Gorecki, as I competed against him in high school and college, and I am glad to see him make the big leagues after "beating the bushes" since 2002. His father Ron is the head baseball coach at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens.