Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dontrelle Willis Placed On the Disabled List For Mental Illness

Yes, you read that correctly on the ticker at the bottom of your screen! The Detroit Tigers placed pitcher Dontrelle Willis on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. Willis' recent struggles with his control have been well documented, with many reporters speculating his inability to find the strike zone is "in his head." While not being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel had similar difficulties finding the strike zone. Ankiel's story somewhat parallels Willis' in that they both ascended the ranks quickly, had early success at the Major League level, and were good hitting left-handed pitchers. This is where their paths divide as Willis has expressed no desire to reincarnate himself as a position player.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Willis insists he is not depressed. “I’m never depressed at all -- I’ve always been an amped-up guy,” he said. “This is not something where I’m uncontrollable. … Everybody will tell you in the locker room that I’ve always been upbeat, regardless of what’s going on. “This is not something where I’m too amped up, I don’t know where I’m at, and I’m running sprints up and down the parking lot. This is not something like that. (The doctors) see something in my blood that they don’t like. I’m not crazy. My teammates might think I’m crazy. But this is not something like that.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Johnny Blanchard, 76, New York Yankee Catcher / Outfielder 1933-2009

It must be something about the seasons changing, as I sadly report the fourth death this week of a Major Leaguer from the 1950's. Former New York Yankee catcher / outfielder Johnny Blanchard has died at the age of 76 in Robbinsdale, MN. Blanchard was signed by the Yankees in 1951, and made his debut in 1955 after serving the prior two seasons in the Korean War.

He spent most of his eight MLB seasons with the Yankees, playing in five World Series from 1960-1964. He had a sparkling performance in the 1961 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, where he hit two home runs to lead the Yankees to victory in five games.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

George Kell, 86, Hall of Fame 3rd Baseman 1922-2009

Hall of Fame 3rd Baseman and legendary Detroit Tigers announcer George Kell has passed away at the age of 86. Kell was a humble presence as the voice of the Tigers alongside Ernie Harwell. A class act, Kell was generous with his fans, answering large quantities of his fan mail with personal notes in response to their queries. He donated a lot of the money he would receive from fans seeking his signature to local churches in his home of Swifton, Arkansas.
The ten time All-Star made his debut with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1943. He was traded to Detroit in 1946, where he had the opportunity to blossom, making his first All-Star team in 1947. In 1949, he won the American League batting title by less than two-ten-thousandths of a point over Ted Williams. He also played for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles before retiring after the 1957 season. He finished with a career average of .306. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1983.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Whitey Lockman, 82, Former New York Giant 1926-2009

It is with sad news that for two days in a row, I announce the death of a player from Major League Baseball's "Golden Era". Carroll "Whitey" Lockman, succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis Tuesday at the age of 82. Lockman is pictured above on the left next to Leo Durocher and Willie Mays.
Lockman played 15 seasons in the Majors from 1945-1960 primarily for the New York Giants as an outfielder and first baseman. He was an all-star in 1952, starting at first base for the National League. He won a World Series ring in 1954 as a member of the Giants. He later managed the Chicago Cubs from 1972-1974.

Baseball fans will be familiar with Lockman for his involvement in Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round The World", as he hit the double that knocked Don Newcombe out of the game, allowing Ralph Branca to come in and surrender the infamous homerun to Bobby Thomson during the next at-bat.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bennett Flowers, 81, Former MLB Pitcher 1927-2009

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of former MLB pitcher Bennett Flowers. He spent 15 seasons in professional baseball from 1945-1960, with parts of 4 of those seasons in the Major Leagues. Flowers pitched in the Major Leagues for the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. He held the American League record for pitching in 9 consecutive games in 1953 until it was broken by Dale Mohorcic in 1986. I had the opportunity to interview Bennett Flowers in October of 2008 regarding his experiences playing professional baseball, serving in WWII and his successes selling electric motors and parts after baseball.
He signed after trying out in front of 16 different scouts in 1945 with the Boston Red Sox organization to play in Roanoke for an $8,500 bonus. At that tryout, the Red Sox didn't even have an official team representative there, it was a college coach from the University of North Carolina who was also a scout that signed Flowers to the Red Sox. The following year, he enlisted in WWII at Fort Bragg, and wound up in Fort Benning as a paratrooper. Upon returning from his military service, he quickly ascended up the ranks of the Red Sox organization. He posted a 17-8 record in 1951 at Scranton, which was enough for the Red Sox to call him up at the end of the season. Here is the contract from the Boston Red Sox that purchased him from the Scranton team that season.
Reflecting on his career, he had great memories of playing with Hall of Fame teammates such as Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Robin Roberts, Al Kaline and Jim Bunning.
Below is a short video clip of Flowers throwing out the first pitch at a minor league game on his 80th birthday. My condolences go out to the family of Mr. Flowers. A true gentleman from baseball's "golden era". May he rest in peace.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ivan Rodriguez to sign with the Astros reports that catcher Ivan Rodriguez will sign with the Astros pending a physical exam after the World Baseball Classic. "Pudge" is currently batting .600 for the Puerto Rican team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The Astros have been auditioning many of their prospects in hopes of solidifying the catching position after the departure of Brad Ausmus to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Houston was one of the few teams able to offer Rodriguez their number one catching position. Hopefully durability is not an issue, as Rodriguez will be entering his 19th Major League season. His recent performance at the WBC hopefully indicates that Pudge is poised to have a strong 2009 season after batting .219 during the last two of months of 2008 with the Yankees.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Suitors For Pedro Martinez?

While Pedro Martinez's audition at the World Baseball Classic was unexpectedly cut short by the Dominican Republic's elimination at the hands of the Netherlands, hopefully his six scoreless innings of relief piqued the interest of a GM willing to take a flyer on the three-time Cy Young Award winner. His former Mets manager Jerry Manuel has already went on record saying that he is not interested in bringing Martinez back to the New York, however, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti expressed some interest in a recent LA Times interview. Colletti said, "He's someone we're curious about." If and when that curiosity turns into courtship, only time will tell.
Martinez still has the guile and tenacity to make himself effective against Major League hitters, but he has to prove that he is fully recovered from his arm injury and can withstand the rigors of an entire Major League season. Martinez has said that he is looking for much more than what Tom Glavine accepted, which was $1 million for the upcoming season. With rosters and payrolls close to being set, Martinez will likely have to come down on his asking price for teams to take a chance on him for 2009.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Marmol Implodes as Netherlands Wins In Extra Innings

Carlos Marmol, you might have to relocate after surrendering two runs during the 11th innings to a Netherlands team that fielded just three players with Major League experience. Grossly overmatched at the plate, the Netherlands squad struck out 14 times going into the 11th inning. After the Dominican Republic scored a run in the top of the 11th inning, Marmol was summoned to close the game. Game, set, match, right? Not for the Dominicans in the 2009 World Baseball Classic!

Immediately after taking the mound, Marmol gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Sidney de Jong, who hit the first extra base hit for the Netherlands in this year's Classic. After getting Curt Smith to ground out, Marmol then allowed a bloop single to former Oriole Eugene Kingsale which scored de Jong. With the speedy Kingsale on first base, Marmol wildly threw the ball away from first baseman Willie Aybar to advance Kingsale all the way to third base. Looking visibly shaken by the error, he regained his composure long enough to strike out Sharlon Schoop. After intentionally walking Randall Simon, Marmol ran Yurendell de Caster to a 2-2 count, when de Caster hit a one hopper to Aybar that went off of his glove, allowing Kingsale to score.

In a match of David and Goliath proportions, the Netherlands proved they weren't a fluke, winning not once, but twice over the star studded Dominican Republic. The dejected look in the dugout of the Dominican team said it all, as the Netherlands team ran wildly over the field celebrating their unlikely victory. The Netherlands will play Puerto Rico on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the next round of the World Baseball Classic.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Corporate Sponsors on Uniforms at the World Baseball Classic

"Now batting, #7 sponsored by Best Buy, Ivan Rodriguez." It's not exactly how it went down during the opening day of the World Baseball Classic, but Best Buy patches were rather conspicuous on the uniforms sleeves of the Puerto Rican team in their game against Panama. While uniform sponsorship is prevalent during winter ball, one has not seen sponsors on uniforms during spring play. If this trend passes with little fanfare during this year's World Baseball Classic, how soon will we begin to see uniform sponsorship in Minor or Major League Baseball?
While the foreign countries may be used to having sponsors on their uniforms during league play, I am curious as to how the Americans will react to seeing their favorite players play under the logo of a major corporation. Is the Puerto Rican team ahead of the curve regarding opportunities to generate advertising revenue, or are they tainting the game by having sponsors on their uniforms?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sparky Anderson - No More Mail (TTM) Autograph Requests

Hall of Famer Manager Sparky Anderson asks his fans to stop sending him autograph requests in the mail. Recently he has sent out cards with the following message: "Because of the overwhelming amount of requests, I can no longer sign items sent through the mail. I appreciate all of your kind thoughts and trust you understand the situation. Please accept the enclosed signed card and I thank you for your courtesy." - Sparky

I can imagine with the proliferation of websites that discuss autograph collecting, that the word of Sparky's generosity with his autograph in the mail has spread with collectors recently at a rate greater than when he was an active manager. I hope that the readers of this blog and fellow collectors are appreciative of his past generosity and respect Sparky's wishes at this time in his life. He was one of the few members of the baseball Hall of Fame who signed in the mail without charging for requests.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ex-Yankee Pitcher Tom Sturdivant Dies at 78

Ten year Major League veteran pitcher Tom Sturdivant died in Oklahoma City at 78 on February 28th. Sturdivant initally was signed as an infielder by the Yankees in 1948. After returning from Military service in 1952, he converted to a pitcher while playing for Beaumont in the Texas League. Sturdivant pitched in three World Series for the Yankees (1956-58), and is also a member of the select club of players who appeared in games with both the Yankees and the Mets. Nicknamed "Snake" for his devastating curveball, Sturdivant posted a record of 59-51 with an ERA of 3.74.
For an excellent interview with Sturdivant from 2006, check out Todd's Baseball Dugout.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Washington Nationals GM Bowden Resigns

After firing special assistant Jose Rijo three days ago in his connection with the Esmailyn Gonzalez scandal, reports that Jim Bowden has resigned as General Manager of the Washington Nationals. While claiming his innocence regarding the dealings with foreign prospects, Bowden felt that he has become a "distraction", and his "ability to properly represent the Washington Nationals has been compromised because of false allegations contained in the press."