Saturday, October 26, 2013

Flashback - Jim 'Mudcat' Grant homers during Game Six of the 1965 World Series

Jim 'Mudcat' Grant homers during Game Six of the 1965 World Series
Much talk has been made during the 2013 World Series about the Boston Red Sox losing the advantage of their designated hitters as the series moved to St. Louis. First baseman Mike Napoli was relegated to the bench in favor of David Ortiz, and the Red Sox could be forced to send their pitcher to the plate in a potentially game deciding spot.

During Game Six of the 1965 World Series, before the advent of the designated hitter, the Minnesota Twins sent Jim "Mudcat" Grant to the plate in the sixth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Claude Osteen. With his team facing elimination and clinging to a 2-0 lead, Grant was determined to make Osteen pay for intentionally walking second baseman Frank Quilici.

SABR member Joseph Wancho described the heroics that followed in Grant's SABR bio.

"With the Twins leading 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, second baseman Frank Quilici was intentionally walked to bring Mudcat to the plate. Grant then drilled a home run to right-center to give the Twins a 5-0 lead. He became the second American League pitcher to hit a home run in World Series history. Mudcat forced a game seven by beating the Dodgers with his pitching and hitting. He went the distance, giving up one run on six hits, striking out five batters and walking none. “I really didn’t know how long I would go,” said Grant. “I just figured I’d go as long as I could for as hard as I could.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Video - Bucky Dent sharing magical tales from his Yankees career

Bucky Dent with Bruce Apar of the Harrison Apar Foundation
Bucky Dent regaled the crowd for almost 20 minutes at the 2013 Harrison Apar Foundation Columbus Day Golf Classic with stories from his Yankees career, sharing insight about his famous home run, his run-ins with George Steinbrenner, and playing in shorts as one of Bill Veeck's wild promotions.

Click here to read about the highlights of Dent's appearance at the wonderful fundraiser.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book review: Dallas Green - 'The Mouth That Roared: My Six Outspoken Decades in Baseball'

Dallas Green has seen it all in his sixty year involvement with Major League Baseball, and with the release of his autobiography, “The Mouth That Roared: My Six Outspoken Decades in Baseball,” Green holds back very little when detailing his time in between the lines.

The Mouth That Roared / Triumph Books
While he is most famous for piloting the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980 to a World Series victory over the Kansas City Royals, Green built his foundation as a flame-throwing pitcher with the Phillies organization starting in 1955. He spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues with the Washington Senators and New York Mets in addition to his parent club of Philadelphia. Hindered by a lack of control, Green posted a journeyman-like record of 20-22. His fiery persona, akin to his fastball, was something that followed him as he transitioned from a player to a front office man.

No more was this evident than when Green took over the reins of the Phillies after Danny Ozark was ousted in 1979. At the time, Green was working as their minor league director when he was dragged into a late night session with general manager Paul “Pope” Owens on August 29, 1979. By 5:00 am the next morning, he agreed to take the job. The Dallas Green era in Philadelphia had official begun.

He wasted no time in making his vision clear. Play hard or look for a new job.

Right away he went after their veteran leaders, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, and Mike Schmidt, all who were feverish supporters of Ozark.

“I’m sure a few holdouts felt the team was winning not because of Dallas Green, but despite Dallas Green,” he said. “It would later be said that they may have been winning to spite Dallas Green.”

His charging ways helped the Phillies develop a resiliency that allowed them to come back from a 5-2 deficit during the deciding game of the 1980 National League Championship Series. The team rode that momentum into the World Series against the Royals, and won the series 4-2 in convincing fashion. The late Tug McGraw, the team’s ace closer, gave Green much of the credit for their championship run.

“He told us we had to be a team with character, that we had to look in the mirror,” McGraw said. "He was just an average player at best, and where he got his ‘Phillie baseball’ is beyond me. But he had confidence in his ideas, and he backed his people. It took us a few months to catch on, but then we did.”

A World Series ring for a manager brings attention and greater scrutiny, and Green was not immune. The 1981 season was plagued by the baseball strike, and the Chicago Cubs were looking to turn around their organization. After refusing their first two offers, Green left the only organization he knew to become the general manager of the Chicago Cubs.

Green wasted little time in making Chicago “Philadelphia West.” His first order of business was to hire his friend and third-base coach Lee Elia for their managerial position. He brought along John Vukovich, as well as a half-dozen scouts from their organization. He was ready to go to work.

Looking to add someone who would bring the emotional response he expected from his players, he traded with the Phillies to acquire Larry Bowa. He held up the deal until they threw in a young infielder named Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg went on to a Hall of Fame career and that trade was one of his defining moments of his time in Chicago.

Green’s wheeling and dealing did help the team get to the NLCS in 1984, but he might be better remembered for what Cubs fans called, “Bloody Monday.” At the end of the 1982 season, he cleaned house, firing most of the team’s support staff and related personnel. Even Hall of Famer Ernie Banks was not safe from Green’s wrath.

Green lasted until the end of the 1987 season with the Chicago Cubs, signing free agent Andre Dawson after Dawson presented them with a blank contract. After the 1986 fiasco where the owners colluded against signing free agents, Green offered Dawson a $500,000 contract with incentives, and to Green’s surprise, Dawson accepted. Dawson won the 1987 MVP, probably the only highlight for the last place club, and Green’s last hurrah.

That is until George called.

The Yankees were in search of a new manager after George Steinbrenner dumped Lou Piniella at the close of the 1988 season. Steinbrenner called upon Green, whose relationship dated back to 1960 when Green played in Buffalo and “The Boss,” used to pass through a Royal Arms tavern, a frequent hang out of the two at the time.

“It’s difficult to function in any job where your boss is seeking to control you. I guess we were doomed from the beginning by my big mouth and George’s lack of patience.”

Green lasted until August, doomed by a team full of aging veterans and non-descript arms. Leaving the Yankees by mutual disagreement, he took over the 1993 Mets and immediately was immersed in controversy. Doc Gooden continued to battle his drug problems, Bret Saberhagen injured himself in a jet-ski accident, Bobby Bonilla threatened to knock out the teeth of writer Bob Klapisch, Anthony Young mired his way to a record-setting 27 consecutive losses, and to top it all off, Vince Coleman set off a large firecracker at Dodger Stadium that left three people injured.

Green had a tough time steering the ship on the way to a 103-loss season. He hoped for better results in 1994, but that was dashed quickly when the players decided to go on strike. During the strike, Green earned a reputation of being one of the hardest driving managers of the replacement players.

Green stuck around long enough to usher in the “Generation K” era, but with the trio of pitchers being rushed to the majors, their unfolding led to Green’s firing in 1996. He was replaced by Bobby Valentine, whom he later held in disdain for remarks that he made after Green was rehired by the Phillies as a special assistant to the general manager in 1998.

“Bobby will always be the guy who dressed up in a Groucho Marx disguise and snuck back into the dugout after being ejected from a game in 1999,” he said. “This guy has always been a phony.”

One gets a sense that there is very little that could silence Dallas Green. And yet he chose to end his book with the heart-wrenching loss of his granddaughter.

On January 8, 2011, a deranged gunman opened fire at a public meet-and-greet with Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Christina-Taylor Green had been invited to the event by a neighbor, hoping to offer her a chance to experience how our government worked up close. She never got the chance, falling victim to the recklessness of the individual who orchestrated this horrific act. The news was painful for Green to swallow.

“And there are still no words to adequately describe my feelings about what happened. After losing my granddaughter, my heart will never full heal, but I’ll go on.”

Through the book Green rambles, rants and raves through his rollercoaster managerial career. The strengths of the book are his readily offered, candid opinions, which give you a vivid picture of his strong personality and old-school, tough love style. On the other hand, it’s hard to overlook the fact that his presentation of events is decidedly one-sided. Green is clearly not someone who plays well with others, and it begs the question of whether his abrasive style created more problems than it cured.

In the end, though, it’s hard not to like such an abashedly colorful character in an era when athletes and front office staff speak in media coached, prepared sound bytes. For that reason, as well as the unvarnished look into the dynamics between front office and players, this is a book worth diving into for an entertaining weekend read.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Andy Pafko, Brooklyn Dodger left fielder in Shot Heard 'Round the World dies at 92

Andy Pafko showered with confetti after Bobby Thomson's home run
"Handy" Andy Pafko, who was immortalized as he looked up helplessly at Bobby Thomson's home run off of Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds on October 3, 1951, passed away on October 8, 2013 in Stevensville, Mich. He was 92.

His 1952 Topps baseball card remains one of the most collected baseball cards in history, as it was the first card in Topps' inaugural set, and was often damaged by rubber bands that held children's card collections together.

He was also prominently featured in Roger Kahn's classic, "The Boys of Summer," yet the four-time All-Star was hesitant to put himself in the same echelon as his fellow outfielders Carl Furillo and Duke Snider.

"I wasn't in Brooklyn long enough," he said. "I don't rate being with Snider and Furillo. I wasn't in that class."

Pafko more than held his own, playing 17 seasons from 1943-1959, blasting 213 home runs and compiling a lifetime .285 batting average for the Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Milwaukee Braves.

In his later years, he gained notoriety as one of the last two living players as a member of the 1945 Chicago Cubs, the last team in franchise history to make the World Series.