Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: 'Bob Oldis - A Life in Baseball' by Stephen Bratkovich

Spending eight decades involved in Major League Baseball, Bob Oldis has a lifetime of stories to tell, and fortunately at 87, and he is still around to share them. Oldis has teamed up with Stephen Bratkovich, a Minnesota-based author and SABR member to pen his autobiography, “Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball.”

Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball / Stephen Bratkovich
Standing on the cover in his Pittsburgh Pirates uniform with a proud glare into spring training sun, the smile on his face is a true metaphor for all of the pleasures baseball has brought him amidst the many adversities he’s survived.

Playing primarily as a reserve catcher over his seven seasons in the major leagues, the Iowa City native appeared in 135 games, amassing a .237 average in 236 career at-bats with the Washington Senators, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Philadelphia Phillies from 1953-1963. While his career line might be pedestrian at best, he often had the best seat in the house to watch the top players of his era perform up close and personal.

Bratkovich reveals the side of Oldis’ career that can’t be explained through statistical measures. He shows how Oldis endured the loss of his father during his first professional season and how it fueled him to make the major leagues less than four years later. His ability to battle in the face of tough times is a consistent theme in Oldis’ journey that Bratkovich so expertly illustrates.

At every stage of his career, Oldis seemingly met a roadblock either off or on the field that he had to navigate in order to advance. From the tenuous position of a backup catcher only one roster move away from starting or going back on the bus to the minors, to being away from his wife who was caring for two boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, or working his way back to the majors at 32 after suffering a broken jaw right before the start of the 1960 season, Oldis beared more than most would have tolerated to keep on playing.

Throughout all of the challenges that he faced, he never put his head down, instead approaching them head on. His perseverance paid off as he finally made the Pittsburgh Pirates club for the 1960 campaign. He appeared in 22 regular season games, including two in the 1960 World Series en route to a Pirates victory. After Bill Mazeroski hit his now infamous walk-off home run in Game 7 off of Ralph Terry, Oldis’ crowning as a World Series Champion was vindication for all of the hardships he endured through that point in his career.

He remained active in the majors through 1963 with the Phillies, and was a member of their coaching staff in 1964 when they had their infamous late-season collapse. He later coached in the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins and the Montreal Expos during their inaugural season. Since the early 1970s, Oldis has worked for over 40 years as a scout for the Expos and the Marlins In 2016, at the age of 87, he signed a contract with the Marlins to continue in his role with the club for the upcoming year.

“A Life in Baseball,” is much more than Oldis’ tales of the time he spent in between the lines. His story is one of how the game has kept him going through all of the curveballs life has thrown him.
 
Below is an interview with Bratkovich on how he came to work with Oldis for his autobiography.



Friday, November 13, 2015

Baseball Happenings Podcast: Stephen Bratkovich - Author of 'Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball'

This episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast features an interview with author Stephen Bratkovich, who penned the biography of Bob Oldis, a former major league catcher and 1960 World Series Champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The book is entitled, "Bob Oldis: A Life in Baseball," chronicling Oldis' eight-decade career in baseball, who at 87, is still employed as a scout with the Miami Marlins. Bratkovich discusses how a letter asking to meet one of his heroes growing up turned into a two-year journey that ended up in the form of a book.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

James Frascatore, the NYPD officer who arrested James Blake, aspired to follow brother's MLB career

James Frascatore, the NYPD cop who had his gun and badge removed after taking down retired tennis star James Blake earlier this week in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, was a local budding baseball star before starting what has been a tumultuous career as a police officer. The younger brother of former major league pitcher John Frascatore, had a strong amateur career that he hoped take him on a similar path.

The 38-year-old Oceanside, New York native was a standout pitcher at Oceanside High School, where he earned honorable mention for New York State Player of the Year in 1995 by USA Today. A right-handed pitcher, Frascatore was attempting to follow in the footsteps of his older brother John, who excelled at Long Island University-CW Post before spending seven years in the major leagues as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Frascatore played his collegiate ball at New York Tech and Queens College, but ultimately could not duplicate the success of his older brother. He ran the Big League Baseball Academy in Oceanside from 2002-2007 before working towards his current position with the NYPD. In 2013, three separate excessive force complaints were filed against him with the Civilian Compliant Review Board.