Sunday, January 27, 2013

End of an era: Joe DiMaggio Legends Game ends after 25 years

All good things must come to an end. Sadly, the Joe DiMaggio Legends Game held in Fort Lauderdale to benefit the Children’s Hospital that bears his name, had its 25th and final contest Saturday afternoon. The announcement was made Friday evening by Frank Sacco, CEO of the Memorial Healthcare System, during the player reception and charity auction at the Signature Grand in Davie to a packed crowd of over 500 supporters. The news came as a surprise to not only the crowd, who let out an audible sigh when they were informed, but also many of the players who looked visibly shocked hearing it for the first time while they were on stage.

Orlando Cepeda, Rico Carty, Paul Casanova and Jose Cardenal / N. Diunte 
Click here to read full details on the final game, including interviews with the players and photos from the day's events. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Charlie 'Bubba" Harris, 86, pitched for Philadelphia Athletics and Cleveland Indians

Charlie “Bubba” Harris Jr., 86, former pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics and Cleveland Indians, passed away January 12, 2013 in Nobleton, Fla.

Harris was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Jones Valley High School in Birmingham, Ala., prior to the 1943 season. He spent two seasons in their minor league organization before his entry in to the United States Navy in 1945 during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater for a year before returning to baseball in 1946.

His path to the majors was accelerated after being acquired by the Athletics in 1947. Click here to read more about Harris' career, including excerpts from a 2011 interview where he discusses the legendary Connie Mack.

Charlie Harris

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Earl Weaver intense nature stemmed from his playing days with the Cardinals

Earl Weaver as a player and a manager
Earl Weaver’s notoriety for his fiery temper long preceded his career as a Hall of Fame manager for the Baltimore Orioles. The 82-year-old Weaver, who passed away passed away early Saturday morning from an apparent heart attack while on a baseball themed cruise, was a fiercely competitive second baseman in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Weaver was signed by his hometown Cardinals out of Beaumont High School in 1948. His first destination was their Class D affiliate in West Frankfort, Ill.

Click here to read more about Weaver's travels with the St. Louis Cardinals organization, as well as interview with his former teammates who illustrate that Weaver's intense style dated back to his playing days.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Potter's next set of private signings include over 70 former major leaguers

Chris Potter with Dr. Mike Marshall
Chris Potter is set to embark on his next round of house calls beginning January 25th. While Potter is not a physician, his visits will include a doctor, five Cy Young Award winners, two World Series MVP’s, and enough All-Stars to populate a virtual mid-summer classic. Potter has been working tirelessly to connect baseball stars of yesteryear with adorning fans looking to add prized signatures to their collections.

By traveling to their homes across the country, Potter has brought the convenience of signing right to the players front doors, while at the same time taking expert care of the rare and one-of-a-kind items that collectors send in. "“Everybody I’ve worked with really enjoys this. If you look at it, they don’t have to go anywhere and guys their age, they don’t like to travel. Not only are we providing a service to the collectors, we are providing a service to the players as well. That’s what is appealing to a lot of these guys. They want to accommodate the fans and they want to go to these shows, but some are physically unable to do so. With the service we provide, they’re able to accommodate the fans and they’re happy to do so with what we provide,” said Potter in an interview earlier this year.

Fans may recognize some of the bigger names of this trip including the elusive Dr. Mike Marshall, Cecil Fielder, Camilo Pascual, Bobby Richardson, and Ron LeFlore (whose amazing path to the major leagues was chronicled in the 1978 movie, “One in a Million”); however, Potter also specializes in obscure and hard to find ballplayers who may have fallen out of contemporary baseball discussions, but are still alive and well in the hearts of diehard fans and collectors. Lesser known veterans such as Vic Albury, Ed Bauta, Carl Boles, Joe Cannon, and Larry Whisenton will also be receiving visits from Mr. Potter.

With over 70 different players during this series of signings, there is certainly something for everyone aficionado. To view the complete list of Potter’s signings, and information on how to participate, visit his website www.chrispottersports.com. All items are due by January 25th, 2013.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Remembering Negro League pitching ace Ross 'Satchel' Davis, 94

I had the opportunity to speak with Ross "Satchel" Davis in 2008 for an hour about baseball. I wish that I had recorded the interview, as it was extremely spirited and informative. Around the same time I spoke with him, another writer went and visited him at his home in Garwood, Texas, and posted a wonderful article about their meeting.

This tribute below captures the essence of what I remember about Ross "Satchel" Davis from the encounter I had with him on the phone.

Ross “Satchel” Davis, former pitcher for the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues, passed away at the age of 94 from complications due to pneumonia early in the morning on January 1st, 2013 at the DeBakey VA hospital in Houston, Texas according to his close friend Sarah Perry. Perry is the daughter of Melinda Ramsey, the family whom Davis lived with during the past few years in the Houston suburb of Garwood.

Ross 'Satchel' Davis signed photo
Davis was born on July 28, 1918 in Greenville, Mississippi. He pitched in the Negro Leagues from 1940-47 with the Baltimore Elite Giants, Cleveland Buckeyes, New York Black Yankees, and Boston Blues. His career highlights include pitching a no-hitter with Roy Campanella as his catcher as a member of the Baltimore Elite Giants against a potent Newark Eagles lineup that included Hall of Famers Biz Mackey, Monte Irvin, and Willie Wells in 1940, and pitching in the 1947 Negro World Series as a member of the Negro American League champion Cleveland Buckeyes.

His career was interrupted due to his military service in World War II from November 1943 through the end of the 1945 season. During his Army service, he was awarded a Bronze Star. Despite receiving a discharge that forbade him from playing baseball due to a bout with hepatitis in the service, Davis signed with Boston Blues of Branch Rickey’s United States League in 1946. Eventually he made his way back to the Buckeyes the following year, posting a 5-1 record during their run to the Negro World Series. At the end of the season due to persistent health problems, he called it quits at the age of 29.Despite his early exit from the game, in a 2006 interview with the Long Beach Telegram, he looked back with fond admiration at his playing days.

"No doubt those seasons were some of the best times of my life," he says. "Of course, like I said, those also were hard years, and when it became a job rather than a game I quit. I can thank the good Lord that all that segregation we faced is past now. Still, I think I'd rather have played then because even with all we had to deal with, the game was only about the game. We didn't do all the posturing you see now. If we hit a home run, we'd run around the bases like we were trying to turn a single into a double, not stand there and look at the ball like some guys do now. We'd call that showboating, and that just wasn't done in our day.”

Davis’ signature pitch was his fastball, which earned him the respect of the mighty Josh Gibson, and praise from the man whom he shared the same nickname, Satchel Paige. In an interview with author Brent P. Kelley in the 2003 book, “I Will Never Forget,” he explained how he earned his moniker.
“Satchel gave me that name when he came through St. Louis,” he said. “I was warming up getting’ ready to go in the fourth, and he came down and wanted to know who was this young fella throwin’ these salt tablets. They said, ‘That’s Ross Davis.’ He [Satchel] said, ‘Well, he throws the ball harder’n me.’ Of course, the guys didn’t have any idea they were gonna hit Satchel, so they knew that we were comin’ behind Satchel. They started grittin’ their teeth, taking their vicious practice swings, and Satchel with his big mouth said, ‘No need for you so-and-so’s diggin’ in. That’s my son out there. He throws the ball harder’n I do.’ The news papers took it up, started to call me ‘Satchel Paige’ Davis, and then they reduced it to ‘Satchel’ Davis.”
Davis was living in Long Beach, Calif., when he met Melinda Ramsey and her husband through the Internet. They formed a special bond, and invited him to live in an apartment in their home. Davis accepted, and Perry said his presence was more than they ever imagined.

“He took us in,” Perry said. “He was the best friend you could ever have. He had lots of stories, lots of advice ... just a perfect friend.”