Showing posts with label Chicago Cubs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago Cubs. Show all posts

Thursday, November 22, 2012

1962 Chicago Cub Tony Balsamo shares the gentlemanly spirit of Buck O'Neil 50 years later

In 1962, Tony Balsamo was a 25-year-old rookie pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. One of his mentors that season was Buck O'Neil, a long time player and coach in the Negro Leagues who was a rookie of his own sorts, breaking the color barrier as a coach in the Major Leagues.

Buck O'Neil - Wikimedia Commons
Last week, Balsamo, speaking at a charity dinner in Long Island, N.Y., reflected upon his experiences with O'Neil, whom he described as, "a true gentleman."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Les Mueller, 93, played with Detroit Tigers in 1945 World Series

Les Mueller, one of the last remaining players from the Detroit Tigers 1945 World Series championship team, died Thursday in Belleville, Ill. He was 93.

Mueller signed with the Tigers in 1937, and made his major league debut in 1941, pitching in four games before enlisting in the Army midway through the 1942 season. He went to the Jefferson Barracks Reception Center in St. Louis where his baseball skills kept him stateside.

Les Mueller
“I was 23 years old when I went into the service" Mueller said in a 2008 interview via telephone from his home. "I was in St. Louis and I stayed there. I was very fortunate. The first year I played quite a bit. We had several major leaguers and played about 70 games that summer."

Muller continued to keep his skills sharp during his service, playing semi-pro ball during his breaks. Just as he was preparing to go overseas in 1944, doctors found a hernia during a physical and gave him a medical discharge.

He joined the Tigers in 1945 eager to prove himself to the Detroit brass. He took whatever role the club needed, winning six games as both a starter and reliever, with two shutouts and a save. During that season, he set a major league record by pitching 19 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Athletics on July 21st. Amazingly, he received a no-decision when the game ended in a tie after being called after 24 innings due to darkness.

"I always kept hoping we'd get a run, and I'd get a win, but it didn't work out that way," he said to SABR member Jim Sargent.

The Tigers won the American League pennant in 1945 to advance to the World Series. They faced the Chicago Cubs in an epic seven-game battle of the Great Lakes. Mueller was provided an immediate opportunity to contribute when was summoned in the eighth inning of the first game of the series by manager Steve O'Neill to stop the onslaught of the Chicago lineup.

"It was the first game of the series that Hal Newhouser started," Mueller recalled. "He really got clobbered that day by the Cubs. I remember one or two other pitchers got in that game. I was the only pitcher that day that shut them out. I pitched the 8th and 9th innings. I walked a man and had a strikeout, but I didn't give up any hits; I felt pretty good about that."

Mueller's clean slate in Game 1 was his only appearance during the series. The experience of being on the mound in that atmosphere is something he held close over 60 years later.

"It was an experience I will never forget," he said. "It was a boyhood dream come true, getting to pitch in the World Series and getting a ring."

Riding high off of his performance in the World Series, Mueller was confident that he would return with the Tigers in 1946. Right before the season opener, he pitched four innings of shutout ball in an exhibition game against the Boston Braves. Feeling good about his showing, he went north with the team to Detroit, eager to suit up for the season opener; however, in a cruel twist of fate, Mueller was called into the manager's office prior to the start of the National Anthem. He was completely unaware about the devastating news he was about to receive.

"I go up there and George Trautman, who was the general manager at the time, said, 'We're going to send you to Buffalo.' … It was a shocker," he recalled.

After a few days of contemplating his decision, he went to Buffalo where he developed a sore arm. Despite receiving expert medical care for his arm, his career was finished by 1948. He returned to Belleville and took over the family business Mueller Furniture from his dad, managing it until his retirement in 1984.

Despite his relatively quick exit from baseball after his World War II service, Mueller never lost his love for the game.

"I've been a continued fan," he said. "I've had season tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals since 1968."

As someone who started his professional career over 70 years earlier, Mueller had his musings on the major changes he's seen in the sport. 

"The hitters dig in a lot more, and if they almost get hit, everybody blows up and the umpire runs outs and warns the clubs," Mueller lamented. "That's been kind of exaggerated and takes something away from the pitchers. The biggest thing that has made the home run so prevalent is the thin handle bat. Hank Greenberg's and Rudy York's bats were like wagon tongues. Now they get more bat speed with these bats. I picked up some of the bats the guys they used in our days, [and they] were heavy and big. I don't think a lot of guys who hit home runs now could swing those bats."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dave Cole and Roy Smalley Jr.'s deaths link a history started 57 years prior

Dave Cole and Roy Smalley Jr., remained linked long after the 1954 trade that saw them switch places on the Milwaukee Braves and the Chicago Cubs. After the late season emergence of Ernie Banks in 1953, the Cubs found Smalley Jr. expendable and sent him to the Braves for Cole during spring training. Both of their careers fizzled after the trade, neither showing the promise that either team expected after the swap.


Last week, they died four days apart. Smalley Jr. passed away at the age of 85 last Saturday in Arizona. Cole died in his hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland at 81 on Wednesday.

Their deaths, while coincidental, reminds us of the depth of baseball's connections. The news drums up nostalgia of the hope that each player brought to their new teams some 57 years ago.

Smalley began his career in 1944 with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. Serving in the US Navy during World War II, Smalley returned to baseball in 1946. After some seasoning at the lower levels of minor league baseball, he became the starting shortstop for the Chicago Cubs in 1948, a position he would hold until the arrival of Ernie Banks in September 1953. Once spring training rolled around in 1954, Smalley saw the handwriting on the wall.

“Ernie had shown his talent for hitting at the end of the ’53 season. There was no hint from the club, but once into spring training in ’54, the trade didn’t come as a surprise,” Smalley in a letter he wrote to the author in 2009.


Smalley was traded to the Braves for Dave Cole in 1954 and was used sparingly as a reserve infielder. He was purchased by the Phillies the following spring, and spent parts of the next four seasons as their backup shortstop. He played in the minors through the 1960 season and then finished his career in baseball managing the Class C Reno Silver Sox from 1961-62.

His best season was 1950 when he had career highs in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage. Unfortunately, he also led the league in errors, committing 51 at the shortstop position. The year 1950 had added significance for Smalley, as he married his wife Jolene.

Smalley's new bride was the sister of major league shortstop and future manger Gene Mauch, whom he would ironically later play for in 1958 as a member of the Minneapolis Millers. Keeping the family baseball tradition alive, his son, Roy Smalley III, followed in his footsteps at shortstop, playing 13 major league seasons with the Twins, Yankees, Rangers, and White Sox.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Hiram Bithorn created a path for Puerto Ricans to enter major league baseball

As thousands of Puerto Ricans rejoiced in New York City this weekend for the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, many flocked to stadiums across the country to watch professional baseball games. The Commonwealth that has produced such greats as Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, and Roberto Alomar, should offer a tip of the cap to a pioneer that opened the door for these talented names to follow.

Five years before Jackie Robinson, Hiram Bithorn blazed new pathways in major league baseball. Suiting up with the Chicago Cubs on April 15, 1942, he became the first Puerto Rican in MLB history.

Born March 18, 1916 in Santurce, Bithorn excelled in athletics from a young age despite missing his right big toe. In addition to starring in baseball, he represented Puerto Rico in basketball and volleyball at the Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe (Central American and Caribbean Games) in 1935.

Bithorn made his 1936 debut in organized baseball with the Class-B Norfolk Tars of the New York Yankees organization. He moved up the ranks playing for Norfolk and Binghamton before moving to the Yankees AA Newark club in 1938. This season proved to be an important one for Bithorn in more ways than one.

Already a star in the Puerto Rican winter leagues with the San Juan Senadores, Bithorn created history of his own there, making his mark as the youngest manager in league history at the age of 22 that winter. Returning with the confidence of managing his own club, Bithorn moved to the veteran laced Pacific Coast League in 1939, playing with the Oakland Oaks. He had a 13-14 record and spent the following two seasons playing with Hollywood, posting 27 wins during that span and drawing the attention of the Chicago Cubs scouts.

He was purchased from Hollywood at the end of the 1941 season and was quickly inserted into the Cubs pitching rotation at the start of 1942. He went 9-14 pitching in 38 games, starting 16 of them. Lennie Merullo, the shortstop on the 1942 team, had clear memories of Bithorn’s acquisition.

“I can remember that Hiram was brought along in the Yankee organization and the Cubs got him in some sort of a deal," Merullo said in a 2009 interview from his Massachusetts home. "Boy he was a big help in our organization!”

Bithorn’s value would manifest the following season when he was 18-12 with a league leading seven shutouts in 249 innings. Merullo explained how Bithorn's control was the key to his success that season.

“He was a hard thrower and had a great curveball," he said. "He had a natural sinker that he would throw from a low three-quarter position. When he pitched, we knew as infielders we were going to get a lot of work. He was always good, but you knew you were going to be busy.”

As a Latin player on the Cubs, "Hi" as he was nicknamed by reporters, wasn’t alone in his journey. The Cubs brought in Cuban catcher Chico Hernandez to work with Bithorn. Hernandez played both the 1942 and 1943 seasons alongside the trailblazing Puerto Rican. They were only the second Latino battery in major league history. The duo was well-liked in the clubhouse.

“They were both very popular with the rest of the ballplayers," Merullo said. "We got along great with them. We kidded them quite a bit, because they were both big handsome guys and spoke with mostly broken English. They took it gracefully.”

Bithorn’s playful nature allowed him to roll with the ribbing he received from his teammates.

“He was kind of a happy guy," he said. "He took a lot of kidding from the rest of his teammates over and over again, him and Chico,” acknowledged Merullo, adding that Bithorn and Hernandez had their own way of turning the tides on their teammates. “They would gang up on us. They were always happy to do it.”

Just as Bithorn’s career was beginning to take off, he was summoned by Uncle Sam to serve in the United States Navy. He served at the San Juan Naval Air Station beginning in 1943, where he was player-manager of the base team. Discharged just short of two full years of service, Bithorn eagerly anticipated his return to the Cubs.

Just before returning to the United States, Bithorn injured his hand during a winter league game. This delayed his return to the Cubs, and when he got back, he couldn’t recapture the enchantment that made him so special before entering the service.

He went 6-5 in 1946, primarily in relief, suffering from what was believed to be arm problems, weight gain and a possible nervous breakdown. He would pitch two more innings in the major leagues in 1947 with the Chicago White Sox and then never return to the big leagues. He unsuccessfully tried a comeback at the AA level in 1949, and retired as a player following the completion of that season.

Bithorn’s history is sealed in as much as his debut, as his tragic death. On December 30, 1951, Bithorn was shot by a police officer in Mexico after a dispute over selling his car. The officer, Ambrosio Castillo shot Bithorn and then drove him 84 miles away to the Ciudad Victoria hospital. Bithorn died shortly thereafter. Doctors claimed that if Bithorn had been treated earlier that he might have lived.

Castillo was convicted on homicide charges after his version of the dispute didn’t hold up in court. At age 35, one of Puerto Rico’s heroes was laid to rest in his hometown only after his body was exhumed from an improper burial in Mexico.

Ten years later after his burial in Puerto Rico, their largest baseball stadium was renamed Estadio Hiram Bithorn in his honor. The stadium, which is home to the Senadores, was also the home of the Montreal Expos for the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Former New York Mets coach and 1945 NL MVP Phil Cavarretta dies at 94

Only a few months ago, I had reported that former New York Mets coach and 1945 National League MVP Phil Cavarretta was going strong at 94. Cavarretta took a quick turn for the worse after suffering a stroke a week ago and died December 18,2010, at a hospice care center in Lilburn, Georgia Saturday evening. He was 94.


Cavarretta had his peak year in 1945, batting .355 en route to earning National League MVP honors, leading the Chicago Cubs to the World Series, where he went 11-26 with one home run, taking the Detroit Tigers to the seventh game before losing. He amassed almost 2,000 hits during his 22-year career which spanned from 1934-1955.

He was signed right out of Chicago's Lane Tech high school and made his major league debut at the tender age of 18. He would not return to the minor leagues until 1956. He served three seasons as a player-manager for the Cubs from 1951-53, later spending an additional ten seasons as a minor league manager.

In New York, he worked for the Mets organization from 1973-78 as their full-time hitting instructor, roving the minor leagues after finishing spring training with the major league club.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ron Santo, 70, Chicago Cubs legendary third baseman 1940-2010

Legendary Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo died Thursday night in Arizona due to complications from bladder cancer. He was 70.

The third baseman played 14 of his 15 major league seasons for the Cubs is regarded as one of the best third basemen in major league history. Santo win five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1964-1968 and was selected to the All-Star team nine times.

Santo was the first player to openly admit to playing with diabetes. Santo later in life had both of his legs amputated due to complications from the disease. He became a champion for juvenile diabetes donating countless time and money to spreading the word to youngsters afflicted by the disease.

A beloved figure in Cubs history, Santo became a radio broadcaster for the Cubs in 1990, opening up a new generation of fans to Cubs baseball and its history.

A public visitation will be held at 4 p.m. on Dec. 9 at Holy Name Cathedral with the funeral Friday at 10 am.



More Info -
Cubs legend Ron Santo dead at 70 - Chicago Breaking Sports 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gene Hermanski, 90, Brooklyn Dodger outfielder 1920-2010

Gene Hermanski, the former Brooklyn Dodger outfielder who suggested that they all wear number 42 to confuse the alleged snipers threatening Jackie Robinson, died Monday afternoon in Florida. He was 90.

Gene Hermanski pictured on his 1951 Bowman Baseball Card
His death was confirmed by his wife Carol, after a brief phone interview from their home in Homosassa.

Hermanski was born May 11, 1920 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, but spent his formative years in Newark, New Jersey where he would become a standout at East Side High School. After graduating, he signed in 1939 with the Philadelphia Athletics and later moved on to the Brooklyn Dodger organization in 1941 after his Pocomoke City team disbanded.

He served in the Navy and the Coast Guard during World War II, spending most of his time stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. During his military service, he was granted a two-month leave in 1943 which allowed him to make his major league debut with the Dodgers. He hit .300 in 60 at-bats before returning to the Navy.

While stationed at Floyd Bennett Field, Hermanski would play with the legendary semi-pro Brooklyn Bushwicks. Hermanski explained in a 2009 interview why he had to play under the name "Gene Walsh."

 "I had to change it [my name]," he said. "It was the smartest thing I ever did in my life. If my commanding officer ever found out that I was playing ball in some ball park, he'd ship me overseas."

Upon his return to the Dodgers in 1946, Hermanski made the club as a reserve outfielder. It was there with the Dodgers that he witnessed baseball's integration happen before his eyes. Hermanski was the starting left fielder on April 15, 1947, the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. Ralph Branca, along with Hermanski, went over that day to greet Robinson with a handshake while Robinson was largely ignored by the rest of his teammates.

He played in two of the Dodgers' World Series appearances (1947 and 1949), batting .308 in their loss to the Yankees in the 1949 classic. He played with Brooklyn until 1951 when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Andy Pafko. He would spend two more seasons with the Cubs before becoming part of the exchange between the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates that sent Ralph Kiner to Chicago. Hermanski would play one more season in 1954 with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, reuniting with former Dodger manager Charlie Dressen before retiring from baseball. He finished with a lifetime batting average of .272 over nine major league seasons.

After his playing career was over, he worked as a sales representative for Tose Incorporated. At the time of his passing, he was the last living player from the Brooklyn starting lineup for Robinson's debut. Marv Rackley and Ed Stevens are currently the last surviving Dodger players that participated in that game.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Edwin Jackson's no hitter evokes memories of Toothpick Sam Jones

Edwin Jackson of the Arizona Diamondbacks threw the 11th no-hitter by an African American pitcher in the major leagues last night, blanking the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0. Click here to read about the similarities between Jackson's and Jones' no hitters 55 years apart.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ferguson Jenkins and Montclair youth baseball pay homage to the Negro Leagues

Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was in Montclair this past Saturday to support their youth baseball league's tribute to the Negro Leagues. Yogi Berra Stadium was filled with players aged 12 and 13 fitted in uniforms that not only sported the names of championship teams such as the Chicago American Giants, Homestead Grays Kansas City Monarchs and Newark Eagles, but also displayed the names of legends such as Cool Papa Bell, Larry Doby, Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge and Satchel Paige. This event was the brainchild of Richard Berg and league president Garland Thornton. Berg hopes that the uniforms provide a sense of pride for the youngsters.

Ferguson Jenkins (standing) among all of the Montclair players honoring the Negro Leagues / N. Diunte

"Each time these kids go to bat or make a play in the field, they will be representing one of the greats of the Negro Leagues," Berg said.

Berg should know a thing or two about the history of the Negro Leagues, as he was the former president of the Negro League Baseball Players Association. During the opening day festivities Berg presented Jenkins with a proclamation from Montclair's Mayor Jerry Friend, who deemed April 10th Ferguson Jenkins Day for his support of Montclair baseball and his philanthropic efforts nationwide. Jenkins took the time to explain the current efforts of his foundation.

"I work with the Fergie Jenkins Foundation in St. Catharines, Ontario," Jenkins said. "We were just in spring training in Mesa. We worked with the Cubs, Texas, Oakland and the Giants. We brought players in, they gave their time, signing autographs and letting people know that the foundation was raising money for all different types of charities.

"Bob Feller, Vida Blue, Gaylord Perry, and Rollie Fingers have all signed on with us. We raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers / Big Sisters, Make a Wish Foundation, American Red Cross, Institute for the Blind, and cancer research. We try to let people know that we're raising money on a daily basis to help these organizations. It gives people the opportunity to come and get an autograph, and when you bring in other Hall of Famers, I think that brings the public in and raises the awareness for the causes we support."
 
Jenkins who was also in town for a pitching clinic later that day, participated in the opening day photo shoot with the league's players and coaches. Even though Jenkins did not play in the Negro Leagues, he recognized the importance of promoting the league's history.

"The Fergie Jenkins Foundation has been in touch with the Kansas City Museum with Buck O'Neil before he passed away," he said. "The museum in Kansas City is struggling right now. Unfortunately, without donations, it might go under. I'm not sure if its going to go under. Right now, they're looking for pledges and donations across the country. Everyone is hoping that they can get enough money to keep it open. It used to be open all day, now it is open only on the weekends."

Knowing that the museum is experiencing difficulties, Jenkins has hit the pavement to spread the word directly to a growing diversity of fans. He aimed to increase awareness about how the game has grown due to integration and globalization.

"We try to enhance the knowledge of youngsters and adults that the Negro Leagues were in existence like the Major Leagues, and that a lot of players didn't get the opportunity to play because of their skin color," he said. "Jackie [Robinson] was the first, [Larry] Doby was second, and then it was a kind of a snowball effect that brought players in. It enhanced the game even more; it made teams better. Now what you see in baseball is an international game. Kids from all different places like Canada, Australia, Germany, Phillippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba are playing."

Jenkins first learned about the history of Negro League baseball from his father Ferguson Holmes Jenkins, who played in the Negro Leagues in Canada. It is a legacy that he continues to pass on wherever he travels.

"My father played in the Negro Leagues in Ontario," he said. "His nickname was Hershey; he played on two championship teams in 1938 and 1939. The Chatham team was called the Chatham Black All-Stars, the next year they were the Black Panthers. They toured through Detroit, also in Buffalo, all across Ontario. They barnstormed a lot. My dad didn't tell me they had a lot of problems. People went out to the park to see baseball. That was fundamentally what they were trying to do, play the game of baseball."

He viewed Saturday's clinic as an avenue to share his advanced knowledge about the game to children who are at a younger age then when he was able to receive it.  He hopes that they will take that information and use it on the field.

"I hope that the kids grasp a little bit from what I'm trying to get across to them," he said. "When I was younger, I didn't learn how to pitch until I was 16 years old. These youngsters are 12 and 13. I played a lot of hockey growing up and on the advice from one of my coaches, I stopped playing hockey at 17. I was able to get my interests more in the game of baseball and pitching, and I was able to sign after my senior year in high school. I just hope that the kids understand that what I am trying to get across is something that was taught to me at an older age. They're getting taught at an younger age, and if they can grasp it they can use it when they play in their leagues."

While not every player at the clinic is going to play baseball in high school and beyond, Jenkins wanted to deliver the message that baseball is to be enjoyed. It is a message that he feels is often lost in today's current hyper-competitive climate of youth sports.

"I tell kids to have fun," he said. "Learn to play as a team with your teammates and understand that all of your coaches try to give the best advice they can, because none of them are ex-MLB players, so they're just trying to pass on the same knowledge that I am getting across to them. The game is fun, have fun! What you try to learn now at a young age, you try to build on so that by the time you get into high school, the coaching aspect will be a lot more and you will be much better ballplayers."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tuffy Rhodes announces his retirement from Japanese baseball

According to Tuffy Rhodes, he has stopped waiting for the phone call. Speaking with Baseball Happenings via telephone from his home in Houston Wednesday, Rhodes had no leads for the 2010 season

"None whatsoever," Rhodes said.
Tuffy Rhodes
At age 41, he was released in November after finishing his third season with the Orix Buffaloes, batting .308 with 22 home runs, 62 RBIs, in 295 at-bats in just 84 games. Rhodes felt that he could have been effective long enough to challenge for 500 career homeruns and 2,000 career hits.

"I could have played two more years," he said. "I was still at the top of my game. Of course I was older and wasn't as fast, but I was still hitting 40 home runs, with 100 RBIs, and [batting] over .280. You can match those numbers up anywhere in the world of baseball and see that those are pretty good numbers."

He played 13 seasons in Japanese baseball, amassing 464 home runs, 1,269 RBIs and 1,792 hits, all of which are the highest totals ever produced by a foreigner in Japan. He became fluent in Japanese, which added to his popularity during his career. He became such a fan favorite that he could not travel publicly without being besieged with autograph requests. When the veteran of six major league seasons first arrived in 1996, he thought he wouldn't be there long enough to see the new millennium.

"When I first got out to Japan, I told myself I was going to play there as long as possible," he said. "I wasn't thinking 13 years; I was thinking maybe two to three years at the most. Next thing you know, three years came rolling around, then it was four, then the next thing you know it was eight years for one team (Kintetsu Buffaloes). After that I was like heck, if another team wants me, I might as well see how long it could possibly go and it went 13 years."

Playing baseball in Japan was an adjustment that many American players had trouble handling. Rhodes learned early on to embrace it.

"My first year was rough," he said. "Then, I got accustomed to the way Japanese culture was and I never looked back."

The business-like tone of the game differs greatly from that of the United States. He described some of the differences he observed from playing professionally in both countries.

"Japanese people take baseball very seriously," he said. "It's like a job opposed to a game. We had meetings, batting practice and infield every day. It was more business orientated. Don't get me wrong, baseball in America is great and I love baseball in America first and foremost. Japanese baseball was more like a college atmosphere. We practiced every day. We were working together as a unit. At spring training, there was no family allowed. We had two-a-days the first month. It was rough, but it got you in shape. They worked all the time on baseball. Everything was baseball non-stop, 24/7,  as opposed to America, we would take breaks and work our way into the season."

Now with time to reflect on his glorious career in Japan, the subject of the Japanese Hall of Fame looms ahead. Rhodes is confident that his playing record will do most of the talking.

"I really didn't pay attention to it [while I was playing]," he said. "If it is going to happen, it's going to happen. I'm going to let my numbers speak for itself. If they feel my numbers are good enough to be in the Japanese Hall of Fame that's great. If they don't, that's great too. I know what I did over there was an accomplishment in itself."

While his numbers are serving as the ambassador for his playing days, his energies are now focused on a different target, his son T.J. He is a high school point guard, playing for the Houston Hoops AAU club, where the elder Rhodes is one of the coaches.

"I'm focused on my son and his basketball career," he said. "I'm helping my son with his basketball team. They just finished the high school season and they're now in AAU."

His son had little ambition to follow in his father's baseball footsteps. He got a quick taste of the game and decided it wasn't for him.

"One time he played baseball for a month and he didn't want no part of it," he remarked.

With Rhodes turning the page away from baseball, he has left fans with a wondrous body of work that expands across the world, merging a career that started as a skinny 17 year-old in the Gulf Coast League with a Hall of Fame career in Japan.
 
More on Tuffy Rhodes -
West High grad Tuffy Rhodes is a star in the firmament of Japanese baseball - Cincinnati Magazine

Tuffy Rhodes' Career Retrospective in Baseball Cards

Made with Slideshow Embed Tool




1994 US News and World Report Article On Rhodes' 3 Homerun Opening Day Performance
 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sammy Drake member of the original 1962 Mets dies at age 75

Former member of the 1962 "original" Mets, infielder Sammy Drake, passed away on January 27, 2010 in California. Drake played three seasons in the majors from 1960-62 with the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets. Drake along with his brother Solly were the first African-American brothers to play in the major leagues. To read a more complete write-up on Drake's career including an interesting story about how he integrated the Macon team of the Sally league, click here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cubs Suspend Milton Bradley, Is It The End of the Line?

ESPN.com 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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cubs Minor Leaguer Julio Castillo Convicted For Throwing At A Fan

ESPN.com reports that Chicago Cubs minor league pitcher, Julio Castillo has been convicted of felonious assault causing serious physical injury for throwing a baseball that hit a fan in Dayton last year. During a bench clearing brawl against the Dayton Dragons, Castillo threw a ball in the direction of the Dragons dugout to keep their players off of the field. The ball missed its target and struck fan Chris McCarthy in the head, causing some scarring and recurring headaches. Castillo faces anywhere from probation to a 2 to 8 years when sentencing occurs on Thursday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Herman Franks, 95, MLB Catcher and Manager (1914-2009)

Herman Franks, pictured left with Willie Mays in Santurce, Puerto Rico, died March 30, 2009 at the age of 95 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Franks played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Athletics and New York Giants over parts of 6 seasons from 1939-1949, compiling a .199 batting average in 403 career at-bats. He lost three-and-a-half years of his career due to his Naval service in World War 2. His playing career was overshadowed by his success as a coach and a manager at the major league level.

In Joshua Prager's book, "The Echoing Green", Franks was reportedly involved in relaying stolen signals from a hole in the New York Giants scoreboard to the hitters during the 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round The World" playoff between the Giants and the Dodgers. Franks managed what is arguably known as the best Winter League team ever, the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers. The team featured an all-star Major League and ex-Negro League lineup including: Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Bob Thurman, Bus Clarkson, Don Zimmer, Ron Samford, George Crowe, Valmy Thomas, Ruben Gomez and "Toothpick" Sam Jones. Franks went on to manage the Giants to four straight second place finishes (1965-68) and the Chicago Cubs to a .497 record (1977-79).