Showing posts with label Cleveland Indians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleveland Indians. Show all posts

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Hal Naragon, one of the Cleveland Indians last 1954 World Series links dies at 90

Hal Naragon, a catcher on the Cleveland Indians 1954 World Series team, died Saturday, August 31, 2019 in a statement the Indians released. He was 90.


We had Naragon as a guest earlier this year on the Baseball Happenings Podcast, where he spent over 40 minutes discussing his lengthy major league career. Naragon signed with the Indians in 1947 and debuted in 1951.

“I know it was a chilly day and they called me in from the bullpen,” he said. “Naturally I was a little nervous, but usually by the time you get to the plate you get yourself together and do what you can do.”

He spent the next two years in serving in the Marines during the Korean War and returned for good in 1954. He came back right in time to help the Indians to the 1954 World Series. Serving as a reliable backup catcher, Naragon looked back 65 years later at his lone series appearance as a major thrill.

“You know, I was hoping that I would get in one,” he said. “When I was called up out of the bullpen to come in, I, of course, felt a little on edge at first but then I kinda settled down. I liked to be able to play in a World Series.”



He played in the majors until 1962, spending time with the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins, before moving into coaching. He was a member of the Twins' coaching staff during their 1965 World Series appearance, and he finally won his ring as a coach with the 1968 Detroit Tigers.

“That was a good team,” he said. “They would hit in the clutch … they got hits when it really counts, they were good defensive players, and they always had a lot of fun.”

Naragon left coaching after the 1969 season to take over a local sporting goods store in his hometown of Barberton, Ohio. He ran the store from 1974 until his 1990 retirement. The town paid a massive tribute to their native son when they named Barberton High School’s baseball field Naragon Field in his honor in 2006.

You can listen to Hal Naragon's Baseball Happenings Podcast interview below, as well as subscribe to future episodes.


Click here to listen on Stitcher


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Author Gaylon White Pays Tribute To Tom Jordan, Oldest Living MLB Alum

On the latest episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast, author Gaylon White discusses the life and career of former major league catcher Tom Jordan, who died August 26th, 2019 in Roswell, New Mexico. Jordan was just ten days shy of his 100th birthday, and at the time was the oldest living former Major League Baseball player. Jordan played parts of three seasons from 1944-1948 with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and St. Louis Browns.

Tom Jordan as a member of the Cleveland Indians

White spent an extensive amount of time with Jordan in preparation for his book, "Left On Base In The Bush Leagues." The two formed a close relationship which White proudly explains on the Baseball Happenings Podcast. Click here to listen and subscribe on your favorite platform.









Saturday, July 20, 2019

Don Mossi | 1954 Cleveland Indians Relief Star Dies At 90

Don Mossi, one of the last living members of the Cleveland Indians 1954 American League Championship team, died July 19, 2019 in Nampa, Idaho as per his daughter Linda Mossi Tubbs. He was 90.

Mossi signed with the Indians in 1949 from Jefferson High School in Daly City, California. They immediately placed him with their Class C team in Bakersfield, keeping the California native within the confines of his home state to develop his talent. The move paid off, as Mossi worked his way to the big league club five years later, right in time for a pennant run.

Don Mossi / Topps
The left-hander joined the Indians in 1954, integrating himself into a dominant pitching staff that included Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Hal Newhouser. Mossi partnered with Ray Narleski to form a relief combo that sealed many of the Indians 104 victories.

“You'll never have a staff like that ever put together again,” Narleski said in a phone interview from his New Jersey home in 2008. “You had four 20-game-winners. Then you had Art Houtteman and Hal Newhouser; that's six of 'em. Then you had Mossi, myself, Hoskins, and Hooper.”

While most players would relish getting the Feller and Lemon off the mound, the site of Mossi and company coming in from the bullpen provided little relief for their opponents.

“Going into Cleveland—that was a tough weekend. You had a four-game series in Cleveland; you had Lemon, Wynn, Garcia, and Feller. Then they had Narleski and Mossi as their wrap-up guys. … It was a comfortable oh-for-twelve on that weekend,” Billy Hunter said to Gene Fehler in “When Baseball Was Still King.

Mossi pitched four scoreless in three appearances for the Indians during the 1954 World Series. While the New York Giants prevailed, Mossi made a powerful statement to the rest of the league with a 1.94 ERA during his rookie season.

The lefty earned an All-Star selection in 1957 after he converted to a starting pitcher with the Indians. He pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in the Midsummer Classic. He was traded after the 1958 season with Narleski to the Detroit Tigers for Billy Martin and Al Cicotte.

Mossi immediately made an impact in Detroit, spinning a career-best 17-9 record on the mound in 1959. He played five seasons there before finishing his last two seasons with the Chicago White Sox in 1964 and the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. He posted a career record of 101-80 with a 3.43 ERA in 460 appearances.

His passing leaves only two living members from the Cleveland Indians 1954 World Series team, outfielder Wally Westlake, and catcher Hal Naragon, who appeared on the Baseball Happenings Podcast earlier this year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Hal Naragon Interview

Hal Naragon is a baseball treasure. At age 90, the former major league catcher spun baseball yarns of catching Bob Feller, playing in the 1954 World Series, and later coaching the Detroit Tigers to 1968 World Series victory on the Baseball Happenings Podcast.


Click here to listen on Spotify

Signing with the legendary Bill Veeck

Naragon signed with the Cleveland Indians after attending an open tryout during the summer of 1946; however, there was just one problem — he was still in high school. This led to his first meeting with the legendary Bill Veeck.

“I found that when I filled out the application it said you had to be out of high school,” Naragon said during his 2019 interview. “They wanted to sign me and I got nervous then because I knew that I shouldn't have been there, but my dad said that we would go back up and talk to Mr. Veeck.

“Mr. Veeck said to my dad, ‘We'd like to sign your son.’ My dad said, ‘I have to tell you he has not graduated from high school yet ... and he thought that this would be a good time to see if he had an ability to play professional baseball.’”

Hal Naragon 1956 Topps / Topps
Veeck’s keen eye would not allow Naragon to walk away that quickly. He extended an olive branch to the elder Naragon, and the two came to a gentleman’s agreement for the Indians to have the first crack at his son when he graduated.

“Well after you graduate will you give us a chance to talk to him?" Veeck asked. "My dad said, ‘Will a handshake do?’ They shook hands and they got me out of the ballpark.”

Naragon's major league debut

Naragon kept his word and signed with the Indians in 1947. He moved quickly through their minor league system, and by the time he was 22 he was in the major leagues. He eagerly recalled the September day in 1951 when he singled off Virgil Trucks in his first major league at-bat.

“I know it was a chilly day and they called me in from the bullpen,” he said. “Naturally I was a little nervous, but usually by the time you get to the plate you get yourself together and do what you can do.”

He played a few more games during his September call-up, and then the Marines quickly grabbed him to serve in the Korean War. While many players suffered from losing their peak years to military service, Naragon returned right in time to take part in Cleveland’s record-breaking 1954 World Series run.

Catching Bob Feller

Now that he had an entire big league season in front of him, Naragon was able to learn from the best in the game. His pitching staff included Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Hal Newhouser. With that staff, it was easy to understand why the Indians won a then-record 111 games in 1954. For a rookie, catching Feller was one of the highlights of his career.

“When I saw Feller he wasn't really in his prime, but still he had he had a good movement on his ball, a good curveball, and his fastball still was moving,” he said.

Playing in the 1954 World Series

Naragon hit .238 as Jim Hegan’s backup en route to the Indians facing the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series. He did not figure he would get much action, but with the Indians behind in Game Three, manager Al Lopez summoned Naragon as a late inning defensive replacement.

“You know, I was hoping that I would get in one,” he said. “When I was called up out of the bullpen to come in, I, of course, felt a little on edge at first but then I kinda settled down. I liked to be able to play in a World Series.”


Witnessing Willie Mays' Catch

While the Giants swept the Indians courtesy of Dusty Rhodes peppering the short right field porch in the Polo Grounds, I couldn’t bring up the 1954 World Series without asking Naragon about perhaps the most famous catch of all-time. We revisited Willie Mays’ devastating over the shoulder grab of Vic Wertz smash during Game One.

“You didn't think that much about it at first of the catch,” he said. “He did turn around and throw a nice ball into the infield. I don't know whether we even talked about it, but you knew Vic Wertz hit the ball and you thought, ‘Oh my goodness this is going to go out the ballpark.’ Well, then Mays catches it and you just say, 'Well, he's a good outfielder.'"

While Naragon said that he felt Larry Doby made tougher catches than Mays' World Series spectacle, years later he was able to recognize its historical greatness.

“I guess when looking back on it eventually you decide, ‘Hey that was one heck of a good catch.’”

Throughout his time with the Indians, Naragon built deep connections with many of his teammates, bonded by their train rides traversing the American League. He shared a lesser-known World Series story that involved one of his early Indians mentors, Dale Mitchell.

A career .312 hitter, Mitchell unfortunately, is best recognized for making the last out of Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game. Well after the game, the first person Mitchell reached out to was his friend, Hal Naragon.

“He called me that evening,” he said. “I asked him about it and I told him I thought the ball looked a little outside. He said he thought so too.”

Larry Doby's lighter side 

The nonagenarian reached deep into his bag of stories to share a lighthearted tale of an unintentional slip of the tongue he had with Larry Doby. Fortunately, his pioneering teammate found humor during the awkward moment.

“I remember that we were playing one game, the sky was kind of high, and the ball was kind of tough to pick up right away,” he said. “He sat down beside of me and said to me, 'Gee it is really tough to pick up that ball.’ … I said, ‘Larry, why don't you go ahead and put on some of that black stuff underneath your eye?’ Once I realized what I said, I looked at Larry and he is busting out laughing you know, because he was a dark man, but he knew what I getting to.”

Herb Score's Injury

Playing with the Indians in the second half of the 1950s decade as they started to rebuild after their Hall of Fame stars retired, Naragon was able to witness their young stars blossom. Cleveland’s prized pitching prospect was Herb Score, a flame-throwing lefty that many expected to carry on Bob Feller’s legacy. In his first two seasons, Score led the American League in strikeouts with a 36-19 won-loss record.

As 1957 started, Score looked like he was en route to another spectacular season; however, that all changed when New York Yankees infielder Gil McDougald stepped to the plate during a May 7th game. McDougald sent a line drive back through the box that smashed Score directly in the face. He watched with his teammates in horror as a bloody Score tried to hold his face together. The gruesome injury kept Score out for the rest of the season and derailed a once promising career. Naragon insisted that it was arm troubles and not the line drive that kept him from regaining his mound dominance.

“You know what, that didn't hurt his career,” he said. “Basically, he threw just as hard after it as he did before he got hit. He would tell you that [too]. I think what happened, he hurt his arm a little bit and that hurt him. As far as when he got back, he had the same velocity and a good breaking curveball. He didn't blame anyone that he couldn't pitch later just as well afterward.”

Score was not the only talent that Naragon watched bloom during his Cleveland tenure. Both Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito were rookies that Dale Mitchell told him to keep his eyes on, both impressing with their power hitting and defense.

Ted Williams' thoughtful gesture

While he had a multitude of fond memories of the superstars he played with in Cleveland, he was also excited to share a favorite Ted Williams story. It was one that had nothing to do with his on-field exploits.

“I asked Ted Williams that I would like to have a picture of him and he said to me, ‘When you get to Boston, you ask Vince the clubhouse guy and I will remember, and he will remember to get you a picture.’

“When I got to Boston, I kind of forgot that I asked Ted Williams [for the picture]. I was there leaning against the wall watching him hit and when he got through hitting, he came over and said, ‘I sent that picture over to you.’ Sure enough, when I went into the clubhouse, that picture was there. I thought, 'My goodness a big-time star like that remembers something like that!'”

In 1959, the Indians traded Naragon to the Washington Senators where he stayed with the franchise as they moved to Minnesota in 1961. After finishing his playing career in 1962, he stayed with the Twins as a coach, helping to guide them to the 1965 World Series where they lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1968 Detroit Tigers World Series Victory

After his success with the Twins, he followed his good friend and pitching coach Johnny Sain to the Detroit Tigers. After two unsuccessful trips as a player and a coach, he was finally able to get a World Series ring when the Tigers won the 1968 World Series.

“That was a good team,” he said. “They would hit in the clutch … they got hits when it really counts, they were good defensive players, and they always had a lot of fun.”

Hal Naragon Tigers card courtesy of Mr. Naragon 
In 2018, as the oldest living alumni of the 1968 championship team, the Tigers invited Naragon and his wife to Detroit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their World Series victory. He basked in the opportunity to rejoice once more with his former players.

“We had a great time,” he said. “They invited us over to that and they really did a nice job for us.”

Naragon left coaching after the 1969 season to take over a local sporting goods store in his hometown of Barberton, Ohio. He ran the store from 1974 until his 1990 retirement. The town paid a massive tribute to their native son when they named Barberton High School’s baseball field Naragon Field in his honor in 2006.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 Topps Archives Signature Series Review - Bringing fans closer to current superstars

For autograph collectors, scoring a signature of an active player has becoming increasingly difficult with limited access at Major League Baseball stadiums due to seating restrictions, shortened batting practice, and protective netting. Long gone are the days of buying a cheap bleacher seat, arriving to the park early, and going anywhere in the field level seating with the prospect of being able to walk away with a variety of autographs from the superstars to the players on the end of the bench.

2017 Topps Archives Signature Series / Topps

Topps has attempted to stymie this frustration for hobby enthusiasts with the release of 2017 Topps Archives Signature Series. Each single card box carries an encapsulated autograph of one active major league player at the price of what it would cost to attend a game. With a checklist that includes Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, Ichiro, Kris Bryant, and Mike Trout, many fans would be elated to walk away with their signatures after a purchase of this product.

The box provided for this review yielded an autograph of former Cleveland Indians first round pick, Tyler Naquin, which is numbered to a limited edition of 99 cards.

2017 Topps Archives Signature Series Tyler Naquin / Topps

Certainly not every player included in this set is of the caliber of the aforementioned group; however, the guarantee that one will walk away a guaranteed signature of an active MLB player is an attractive feature for this product. While some might wait until the masses put their hits on the secondary market, most fans would enjoy receiving a box of 2017 Topps Archives Signature Series gift wrapped for the holiday season.


2017 Topps Archives Signature Series Autograph List


Aaron JudgeDan VogelbachJoe PanikNomar Mazara
Adam JonesDavid PriceJose AltuveOdubel Herrera
Adrian GonzalezDellin BetancesJulio UriasOrlando Arcia
Albert PujolsDerek NorrisJustin TurnerRobinson Cano
Alex BregmanDexter FowlerKelvin HerreraRyan Braun
Alex ReyesDidi GregoriusKenta MaedaRyon Healy
Andrew BenintendiDustin PedroiaKevin KiermaierSonny Gray
Ben ZobristFrancisco LindorKris BryantStarling Marte
Brandon PhillipsFreddie FreemanKyle SchwarberStephen Piscotty
Bryce HarperGeorge SpringerLucas GiolitoSteven Matz
Buster PoseyHenry OwensLuis SeverinoSteven Wright
Carlos CorreaIan HappManny MachadoTrea Turner
Charlie BlackmonIchiro SuzukiManny MargotTrevor Story
Chris SaleJ.D. MartinezMashiro TanakaTyler Austin
Corey KluberJacob deGromMatt CarpenterTyler Naquin
Corey SeagerJameson TallionMax KeplerWade Davis
Danny DuffyJason HeywardMichael FulmerWillson Contreras
Danny ValenciaJavier BaezMiguel SanoYoan Moncada
Dansby SwansonJeurys FamiliaMike Trout
Noah Syndergaard




Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 Topps Series 2 gives a nod to unforgettable moments for baseball fans

With their flagship base series product, Topps gives a nod to unforgettable baseball moments in their 2017 Topps Series 2 release. Focusing on their "Memorable Moments" subset, one groundbreaking debut jumped out of the box of cards provided for this review.

Winding up with a laser-eyed focus, Satchel Paige knew the cameras were on him as he stepped to the mound to deliver the goods for the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1948. Topps captured the intensity of this moment in a colorized version of a classic photo of Paige rearing back to pitch for the Indians.

While Topps fills in many missing pieces to their 2017 Series One product, the real catch of this set are the inserts, specifically the aforementioned subset. In honor of Paige's debut, below is a piece that I originally wrote in 2012 about Paige's debut that includes interviews with players who appeared in that game.


Just two days after the record books said he turned 42, Satchel Paige made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1948 in front of a crowd of 34,780 at Cleveland Stadium. The sheer magnitude of the situation shouldn’t have fazed the legendary hurler, who once pitched in the championship game of dictator Rafael Trujillo’s league in the Dominican Republic under the threat of a machine gun toting militia. Yet, for Paige, toeing the rubber on major league soil brought a sense of high drama, shaking one of baseball’s most experienced moundsmen.

“I felt those nerves … they were jumping every which way,” Paige recalled.

Standing at the plate for the St. Louis Browns was 29-year-old first baseman Chuck Stevens, who entered the game sporting a .252 batting average with one home run, certainly not the type of numbers that would rattle fear into opposing hurlers. While Paige admitted his nerves, Stevens on the other hand saw a familiar target. Back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Paige came out to Stevens’ California hometown of Long Beach to play winter ball. The two squared off many times before that fateful day.

“I played against him about ten times before that night. I played against him when he could really smoke it,” said the 94-year-old Stevens from his home in California. “When Satch relieved against us [in Cleveland], he was just spotting the ball around. [It seemed like] he had lost 60 mph off of his fastball. He threw his breaking stuff and he had great control so you knew he was going to be around the plate all the time. He wasn’t going to overpower you like I had seen him in his earlier days.”

Stevens wasted no time getting acquainted with his old friend. He promptly laced Paige’s offering into left field.

“The ballgame in Cleveland was not a big deal for me because I was just hitting off of Satch," he said. "I singled into left field, between [Ken] Keltner and [Lou] Boudreau. … I always had pretty good luck off of him.”

Stevens dates his success against Paige back to a meeting they had a few years prior, just as he returned from his service in World War II.

“One of the longest home runs I had ever hit in my life was off of Paige," he said. "I had just gotten out of close to four years in the service, and we played an exhibition game in Long Beach and Satch pitched against our ball club. The ball I hit, I guess it must have been well over 400 feet. I wondered where all that power came from when I was rounding the bases.”

Stevens’ teammate Ned Garver was a 22-year-old rookie relief pitcher. Only in the major leagues for two months, he found himself right in the middle of this historical event.

“There was never a time when there wasn’t a bunch of hoopla around Satchel because he was such a colorful guy,” said the 85-year-old Garver from his home in Ohio.

Garver pitched two and one-thirds innings of scoreless relief for the save that day, but his clearest memories from that game started before a pitch was even thrown.

“We had a man on our team who hit cleanup and played left field [Whitey Platt]. He was from Florida. He told the manager he wasn’t going to play,” Garver recalled. “Zack Taylor was our manager, and you know back in those days, you didn’t tell somebody you weren’t going to play. You didn’t get away with that kind of crap. [Taylor] said, ‘No, you’re gonnna play.’ So he put him in the lineup.” Platt wasn’t a happy camper to say the least, and when he batted against Paige, he let him know it. “The first pitch Paige threw to him, he threw his bat at Satchel, and it whistled out there about belt high. He just wanted to show that he did not like that situation.”

Paige fooled Platt so badly for strike three with his famed hesitation pitch, that his bat once again took flight, this time flying up the third base line. Looking to extract some sort of revenge for Platt’s first toss of the bat, Garver said Satchel pulled one from his bag of tricks to finish the deal.

“If he threw a bat at Satchel like he did, Satchel was not going to look on that with favor, so he was probably going to give some of his better stuff along the way. To strike him out gave him some satisfaction.”

Paige pitched two scoreless innings that day, quickly shaking whatever nerves he had when Stevens stepped to the plate. He finished the season with a 6-1 record and helped the Indians get to the World Series, where he made one appearance in relief. Even though his best days were behind him, he still had enough left to outsmart major league hitters and give fans a taste of what the major leagues missed in his prime.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How Billy Pierce squared off against Satchel Paige in an epic 11 inning showdown

Billy Pierce, the Chicago White Sox pitching legend, passed away Friday July 31, 2015 in Palos Heights, Illinois due to complications from gallbladder cancer. He was 88.

Acquired during a trade in the 1948 off-season from the Detroit Tigers for catcher Aaron Robinson, Pierce started a 13-year run in Chicago where he emerged as one of the most successful pitchers in franchise history. Early in his tenure with the White Sox, Pierce quickly wrote himself into the record books in an epic 11-inning contest against Satchel Paige’s Cleveland Indians.

Billy Pierce / White Sox
On May 29, 1949, the 23-year-old lefty squared off the legendary Paige, who was almost twice Pierce’s age. They met during the second game of a doubleheader at Cleveland Stadium in front of a sizable crowd of 47,769 fans. They eagerly awaited this matchup of the budding star facing one of the game’s most storied pitchers.

In 2010, I spoke with Pierce about this game at the Baseball Assistance Team Dinner in New York City. He excitedly recalled how his wife came with his parents from their home in Detroit to see the game.

“My wife [Gloria] came over with my mother and dad from Detroit to Cleveland to watch the game,” he said in 2010. “We go on, one inning, two innings, three innings — it gets to be about the sixth inning and we’re tied 1-1.”

Gloria, who was shaken by the suspense of the game, was approached by a Cleveland fan. He assured her that the elder Paige would not be able to keep up with her husband.

“A Cleveland fan came up to her and said, ‘Honey, don’t worry, Satchel will collapse and he will quit.’ It ends up in the 11th inning, he beat me 2-1. He didn’t collapse,” Pierce said.

Pierce started the bottom of the 11th against the Indians, but after he loaded the bases to three straight batters, White Sox manager Jack Onslow replaced him with Ed Klieman. After retiring the next batter, Paige was due to bat, but Indians manager Lou Boudreau had one more trick up his sleeve. The player-manager inserted himself as a pinch-hitter for Paige and promptly singled home the winning run. After eleven innings, Paige emerged with a complete game victory.

While Pierce admitted that he was fortunate to even have the opportunity to go up against Paige, he wished he could have been with the White Sox the year prior when the crowds rushed to see the American League’s first African-American pitcher.

“When he first pitched in Chicago, I wasn’t there, that was the year before. They tore the gates down; it was just jammed to see Satchel Paige.”

* - This was originally published for Examiner.com on August 1, 2015. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Classic Minnie Minoso one hour interview from 1993

In this 1993 interview with Minnie Minoso, Tom Weinberg talks with the Cuban great for an hour at the site of the Old Comiskey Park about his lengthy career in baseball. A relaxed Minoso speaks with his trademark candor that made him a fan favorite during his then six-decade involvement in the game.

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 Topps Update captures the magic of a landmark baseball season

Cracking open the packs of 2016 Topps Update as the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs battle for the World Series title, one gets the perfect opportunity to relive many of the fabulous moments of 2016. From the rookie debuts, to the career milestone achievements, and the late season switches, Topps captures all of the magic of a landmark baseball season.

2016 Topps Update / Topps
Clocking in at 300 cards, the set is a sleeker version than last year’s 400-card issue. Rookie card collectors will be pleased to find additions to their favorite player’s stash with a Rookie Debut subset that commemorates the first time they set foot on major league soil. The All-Star Game is also a major focus, with an additional subset highlighting the All-Star rosters and Home Run Derby participants.

Topps puts a finishing touch on Ichiro’s quest for 3,000 hits, by adding an insert set to chronicle the remainder of the hits he rapped out to reach the vaunted milestone. Carrying on with the tradition of Series 1 and Series 2, Topps puts the spotlight on an additional 10 ceremonial first pitches.

Ichiro Update Autographed Card / Topps

Each box guarantees an autograph or relic card. The box provided for this review yielded a cool 3,000 hits relic card of Roberto Clemente. Additional inserts included Topps Fire, and the Team Franklin set, which not-so-cleverly disguised as advertising for Franklin’s baseball gear.

Topps Fire Insert / Topps
The design follows Topps’ base card pattern for the year, with clear photography and a clean design that adds to the appeal of the set. Set collectors will appreciate the ability to build an entire base set from a hobby box, with the 36 packs making a complete set with a few doubles to trade.

Julio Urias Rookie Debut / Topps
With the ability to pull multiple rookie cards from the likes of Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Julio Urias, build an entire set from one box, and uncover autographs from some of the top stars in the game, Topps Update only adds to the exciting ending of a legendary season for the baseball annals.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Clint Conatser recalls how he almost changed the course of the 1948 World Series

Clint Conatser was just 17 years old when he started in the depths of the Cleveland Indians organization in 1939. Some 77 years later, he is only one of two living participants from the last Cleveland World Series championship in 1948. Unfortunately, Conatser didn’t enjoy the fruits of the Indians victory, but the labors of defeat as a member of the National League Champion Boston Braves.

Conatser almost never got to the big stage, as he asked to be put on the voluntarily retired list in 1941 so that he could enlist in World War II. They obliged.

“I wrote Cleveland and I asked them to go to the voluntary retired list,” Conatser said during a 2008 interview from his home in California. “If you went in the service, they had to pay $150 to pick you up. They didn’t pick me up and I’m in the South Pacific getting letters from little towns in Georgia and South Carolina that wanted to give me a contract.”

Clint Conatser as a Boston Brave / Author's Collection
Upon his return home, he started to work out at Manchester Playground in Los Angeles, where he attracted the attention of area scouts. He credited his resurgence to physically maturing during his service time.

“I was better than when I left because I was bigger, stronger, and I had matured,” he said. “I had started when I was 17. I just matured and had control of everything.”

He signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1946 and spent two seasons in their minor league system before the Braves purchased his contract prior to the start of the 1948 campaign. He earned the favor of manager Billy Southworth during spring training and seven years after he voluntarily retired from baseball, he was a big leaguer.

Conatser hit .277 in his 90-game rookie campaign while patrolling the outfield for the National League champs. He made two appearances in the 1948 World Series, starting in Boston’s Game 3 loss, and then pinch hitting in the deciding Game 6. During our 2008 conversation, Conatser’s clearest memory of the World Series was how his bases loaded sacrifice fly was inches from helping to force a potential Game 7.

“In the sixth game of the World Series when I pinch-hit with the bases loaded, I hit a shot and a guy made a great play on it,” he said. “They read the box scores and it said I hit a long fly ball to center field; I didn’t, I hit a shot. If the ball goes in, we win, and come back with [Johnny] Sain the next day. [Lou] Boudreau had taken [Larry] Doby out of center field because he played short like Tris Speaker used to and he put in a guy Thurman Tucker who was a world class sprinter; he could really run. He made a great play and Boudreau said that was the defining play because he put him in for Doby. If the ball goes in, it’s a different story. Every series is like that.”




Saturday, September 17, 2016

Trying to hit Bob Feller - 'All you saw was a leg, a face, and an arm!'

For any major league hitter, facing Bob Feller was never an easy task. Armed with a fastball that hovered around 100 miles per hour, Feller made even the most dangerous hitters just another notch in his rising strikeout totals.

Philadelphia Athletics shortstop Al Brancato was barely 19 years old when he first squared off against Feller during 1939 spring training. During a visit to the late Brancato's Upper Darby, Pennsylvania home in 2007, he shared just how difficult it was to hit Feller, who was then a grizzled veteran of three major league seasons at the ripe age of 20.

Bob Feller at the 2009 MLBPAA Dinner / N. Diunte

"With Feller you never knew where the ball was going to be," Brancato recalled. "He hid the ball behind his body and all you saw was a leg and an arm coming. His ball moved a lot and he threw very hard; he had everything. ... The first time I faced him, I was on the bench and Mr. Mack called me to pinch hit. I went up, he threw three balls past me and I’m standing like a statue. You saw a leg, a face, and an arm. ... You didn’t see it until the last minute. He hid the ball and you never saw it until the last moment, and then boom!" 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cool Papa Bell shares the details of Satchel Paige's tryout with the Cleveland Indians in 1948

Cool Papa Bell, Negro League Hall of Fame speedster, shares in the video below the details of Satchel Paige's tryout with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. The audio of Bell's interview is part of a larger project by the Baseball Hall of Fame to digitize their vast audio library. Paige was signed by Bill Veeck and made an immediate splash with the Indians, debuting to a sellout crowd on his 42nd birthday.

Cool Papa Bell (bottom center) with Satchel Paige (middle row, far right) on the 1937 Ciudad Trujillo team

Paige finished with a 6-1 record, helping to lead the Indians to the 1948 World Series. Due to the dominant pitching performances of the Indians starting rotation, Paige was only called upon to pitch one inning during the series. Despite his limited role in the World Series, Veeck's investment paid dividends through Paige's stellar work in the regular season.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lou Boudreau Documentary: Covering All The Bases

Lou Boudreau was a rarity in Major League Baseball. A talented shortstop with Hall of Fame credentials, he was the last player-manager to win a World Series, earning MVP honors in 1948 as his Cleveland Indians bested the Boston Braves in that year's Fall Classic. During his 15-year playing career, Boudreau led the American League eight times in fielding at shortstop, while posting a career .295 average with a walk-to-strikeout ratio of greater than two-to-one.

Lou Boudreau (r,) with Satchel Paige (l.) / Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

His granddaughter Jessica Boudreau created a wonderful tribute to her grandfather entitled, "Covering All the Bases: Lou Boudreau Documentary." The video features an in-depth interview with Ernie Banks, personal family photos, and explains how his grandchildren have kept the legacy of his number five alive after his 2001 passing.




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

Johnny Gray, 87, fond teammate of Roger Maris

Johnny Gray, a veteran of four major league seasons with the Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians, and Philadelphia Phillies in the 1950s, passed away May 21, 2014 in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 87.
 
Gray starred in three sports at West Palm Beach High School before he entered the United Stated Army during World War II. Upon his discharge, he enrolled at Rollins College, where his play for their baseball team eventually earned him entry into their Hall of Fame in 1979.

Johnny Gray / Baseball-Almanac.com
The New York Yankees signed Gray in 1950 and it immediately paid dividends, as he posted a 10-4 record for their Class C team in Amsterdam, N.Y. Gray reached as high as Triple-A with the Yankees in 1953, before he was included in a massive 11-player deal at the end of the 1953 season with the Athletics. The major chip in that exchange was Gray’s Kansas City Blues teammate, first baseman Vic Power.

“Vic was always a happy-go-lucky guy,” Gray said in a 2010 interview. “He was easy to get along with. He was a great club man; there were no two ways about that.”

Leaving the crowded Yankees system opened the door for Gray to the major leagues. He made his major debut on July 18, 1954, pitching 4.1 innings in a loss to the Chicago White Sox. He struggled with his control during the season, finishing with a 3-12 record in 18 games.

Gray stayed with the Athletics in 1955, making the move with the club from Philadelphia to Kansas City, returning him to familiar grounds from his minor league days.

“I didn’t mind it much because I had been with the [Kansas City] Blues before,” he said.

The Athletics sold Gray to the Cleveland Indians in 1956, where they sent him to their Triple-A team in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis club breezed through the entire American Association with a 92-62 record, assisted by Gray’s 10 wins as both a starter and reliever. Continuing their dominance, they swept the Rochester Red Wings in the 1956 Junior World Series, 4-0.

As much as winning the championship was an exhilarating experience for Gray, his most cherished memory of that 1956 minor league season was the relationship he developed with a rookie outfielder named Roger Maris.

“One of the best ballplayers I ever played with in my life,” he said. “I can tell you this in all honesty, if you owned a business and you have to go out of town … and you couldn’t get back for three or four months, the guy that you would want is Roger Maris.

“If you left that business with him and came back, it would be twice the size. That was his attitude. I roomed with him in Indianapolis. He came to the ballpark to play. If you had nine guys that took the same attitude, you would have a club that would have never lost.”

The well-traveled Gray played winter ball in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Not only did the wide exposure allow him to fine tune his pitching, it allowed him to develop an appreciation for the passion the fans had for the game.

“They take baseball much more serious in Latin America than they do here,” he said. “They love it. I can remember when I was in Cuba they would sing and have a band for one team. I loved it because they had the name for baseball fans in South America and it sure fit, ‘fan├íticos.’”

Gray made it back to the major leagues in 1957 with the Indians, and played a handful of games with the Phillies in 1958. He continued to play at the Triple-A level until hanging it up for good in 1960. He finished his major league career with a 4-18 record with a 6.18 ERA in 48 games.

In his post-baseball playing days, Gray became an avid golfer and managed an apartment complex in Florida.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Rare footage of Ralph Kiner interviewing Roger Craig during Mets 1962 spring training

A predecesor to Kiner's Korner, this is rare footage of the late Ralph Kiner interviewing newly minted New York Mets pitcher Roger Craig in 1962 during the team's first spring training. Craig entered the majors in 1955 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Kiner's last year in the majors. They never faced off in a major league game, as Kiner was in the American League with the Cleveland Indians.


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, Florida.

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.

Charlie Harris
His path to the majors was accelerated after being acquired by the Athletics in 1947. After one season in their minor league system, Harris made the major league club in 1948. He posted a 5-2 record and led the team in appearances with 45.

In May, 2011, I was contacted a relative of Harris’ regarding his inclusion in the deal by the MLBPAA to grant non-vested players from 1947-1979 with annuity payments. His relative put me in touch with “Bubba” and his wife Doris, to help them receive the benefits they were due. During that process, I spent a few minutes talking with Harris about his time playing under the guidance of the legendary Connie Mack.

“He was the grand old man of baseball. He deserved everything that he had. … I enjoyed playing with him,” he said.

Mack, impressed by Harris’ performance, brought him back in 1949. Harris, once again was the featured man out of the bullpen, leading the team in relief appearances with 37.

He then spent the 1950 season at AAA, and returned to the majors in 1951 briefly with the Athletics before being traded to the Indians a month in to the season. Even though Harris only lasted 10 days in Cleveland before being sent to the minors (due to the May 16th deadline of teams only being able to carry a 25-man roster), his memories of that legendary pitching staff remained fresh in his mind 60 years later.

“We had a great pitching staff over there," he said. "Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn … it was a pleasure to play with them.” 

Harris continued to pitch in the minors through 1956, mostly at the AAA level with the Havana Sugar Kings. After baseball, he worked as the commissioner of the Florida Unemployment Appeals Commission.

Playing in what many call the golden era of baseball, Harris was grateful to have the opportunity to share the field with so many stars.

“I enjoyed all of it," he said. "I was in that era where I had an opportunity to play with all those big name players, and play against them. I was blessed to have that privilege.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yankee hurler Fritz Peterson explains 'The Art of De-Conditioning'

Former New York Yankees hurler Frtiz Peterson has a simple, yet effective message with his new book, acceptance. Weary of the rat race to stay in playing shape during his professional baseball career, Peterson found peace within himself once he was able to accept his own eating habits and no longer worry about his weight affecting him on the field.

The Art of De-Conditioning - Lightside Books
Peterson’s quick and witty, “The Art of De-Conditioning: Eating Your Way to Heaven,” is an adventure into his journey of extreme de-conditioning. After finishing his 11-year major league career in 1977 that included time with the Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and the Texas Rangers, Peterson vowed he not only wanted to weigh 300 lbs., but that he would never again run another wind sprint, lift another weight, or go on a diet.

Many professional athletes, after devoting incredible amounts of time to preserving their physical condition and restricting their diets in the name of increasing their performance look forward to the day they can hang up their spikes, sit down on the couch, eat, drink and be merry! This prescription of eating, rest, and happiness are cornerstones of Peterson’s call to action, all of course under the direct supervision of a physician.

Peterson, through a series of entertaining vignettes, encourages his readers to embrace their love affair with food. As a cancer survivor, he brings a sense of urgency to enjoy the time we have on this earth and not sweat the numbers on the scale, as there are other more important things to do, like finding a great slice of pizza!

For those expecting a baseball themed book by Peterson, one may be better off with his 2009 work, “Mickey Mantle is Going to Heaven.” This current effort by the crafty lefty is meant to be an easily digested snack for those looking for a refreshing take on life.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rare color footage of Satchel Paige pitching emerges

Rare footage of the legendary Satchel Paige pitching in 1948 has emerged due to a discovery in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archives. The video below is of Paige pitching on November 7, 1948 at a winter league game in California. Paige pitched in the game for Chet Brewer's Kansas City Royals against fellow Indians teammate Gene Bearden's Major League All-Stars. Bearden can be seen around the :23 mark in the video. Also playing in the game was future Hall of Famer James "Cool Papa" Bell, as well as Sam Hairston, grandfather of New York Mets outfielder Scott Hairston, and Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.




Saturday, October 20, 2012

Steve Springer preaches quality at-bats in his new journey

For Steve Springer, baseball has always been an issue of quality over quantity. Springer tried to make the most of his 17 major league at-bats with the Cleveland Indians and the New York Mets, and is now working with young players helping them to do the same.

“If you know my story, I didn’t start in high school, I got three at-bats as a freshman in high school, and three my freshman year in college. I go around the country inspiring kids not to quit,” Springer said via telephone from his home in California.

Steve Springer - Checkoutmycards.com

Springer has carried the message through his CD / DVD combo entitled, “Quality At-Bats,” where he breaks down the mental side of hitting into something easily digestible, all to develop confidence in players at all levels. The New York Times featured Springer earlier this year when New York Yankees top prospect Dante Bichette Jr., said that he listens to Springer’s CD every day on his way to practice and games. Major league superstars Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo are among the many who also praise Springer’s message.

“I made this CD about 12 years ago, and I almost feel God put me in AAA for 11 years to do what I’m doing now to try to help kids. Right now, I’m the mental coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, but I have big leaguers on other teams call me because they had the CD in high school or college.”

How exactly is Springer going about changing the game with his program? It’s a paradigm shift aimed at removing the emphasis from one’s batting average, something he claims has destroyed more players’ dreams than the first time they saw a good curveball.

“The batting average is the most evil thing in baseball; it destroys more young players than anything in the game. I did everything right but went 0-4. Why is that number so powerful?” Springer asked.

“I’m trying to change what these kids think success is so they can walk up to the plate with confidence. We all have two different players in us, confident guy and we have the non-confident guy. The confident guy is a good player, and the non-confident guy isn’t. How do we get the confident guy to come out? That’s how I’m having success with some of these guys, by setting daily attainable goals: I hit the ball hard, I win; team first, etc.”

Getting players to stay in the game mentally is tough, but it is something that he preaches to his students if they want to be able to put their best foot forward every time they step on the field.

“I know batting average will not go away. I’m trying to get them to be the best competitor by walking on the field with confidence,” he said. “They have the tools, and I ask them if they want to be the best player on the field today. I say to them, ‘Be the best competitor, and you’ll have a chance.’”

So how did Springer, who toiled in the minor leagues for 14 seasons, save for two cups of coffee in 1990 and 1992, keep his edge?

“I always felt that I was good enough if given the opportunity,” he said. “I knew the alternative of getting a real job and I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “I got good when I got too old. I was the MVP of my AAA team the last 4-to-6 years [of my career], but I couldn’t get a call-up.”

Springer spent most of his career in the Mets organization, starting in 1982, the same year as Dwight Gooden.

“I signed with Dwight Gooden, he was a first rounder, and I was a 20th,” he said. “He was a great teammate and a great guy; I loved him, he was awesome. I was in Little Falls and he came up the last three weeks of the season, and I was in awe watching him pitch. He could have pitched in the big leagues right out of high school; he was that good. He was athletic; he had a big arm, good curveball, and command. I didn’t doubt in my mind that there were 300 pitchers in the big leagues better than him.”

The second baseman began to hit his stride right in between the Mets two playoff runs in 1986 and 1988. Looming behind mainstays Wally Backman and Tim Teufel, there was little room for Springer to break through.

“I thought I had more of a chance in 1987, I was in the top 10 in the league in hitting, but when Howard Johnson went down, they called up Keith Miller,” he said.

Springer plugged away despite being overlooked, to the tune of almost 1,600 minor league hits.

“The whole Met era in the 1980’s was awesome. If I was with another organization, I probably would’ve got up quicker. You couldn’t tell me I couldn’t spend five years in the big leagues.”

The Mets traded Springer away from the organization in 1988 but returned in 1992 after a brief call-up with the Indians in 1990. This time the Mets rewarded Springer for his perseverance.

“[It seemed like] twenty guys got hurt. Willie Randolph got hurt, and I get called up for 10 days, I go 2-for-3 with a double in ‘Frisco, and I’m thinking, ‘Sweet!’ I got sent down before I put my hat in my locker. They tell me they’re going to call me up in five days,” he recalled.

Somehow, fate was not too kind to Springer, who waited 11 seasons to get his shot in a Mets uniform. After a strong finish in AAA Tidewater, Springer hung around for the call. It never came.

“I hit .290, got the Doubleday award [for] MVP of the AAA team, and then two days later, they trade David Cone to Toronto for Ryan Thompson, and some stiff named Jeff Kent. So I’m out, [because] they needed my roster spot,” explained Springer.

He spent another three seasons in the minor leagues, retiring after the 1995 season. At least his brief journey with the team that drafted him ended on a high note.

“I feel blessed I got called to the big leagues. The last time I stepped in a major league batter’s box, I got a hit!”

Springer’s career turned to scouting at the urging a close friend who was working with the Diamondbacks when he was contemplating if he should play one more year.

“Luis Medina called me and said, ‘Your playing career is killing your scouting career. Then 30 minutes later, the Tigers called me up and offered me $5,000 per month and no big league camp. The previous year I was making $7,000, so I called Luis back up and he put my name in with the Diamondbacks and I went right in with them,” he said.

He scouted for five years before becoming an agent for the next seven. He returned to the Diamondbacks in 2008 as a scout before the Blue Jays called.

“The Blue Jays came and got me because of my CD really, and wanted me working with all of their kids.”

When he is not working for the Blue Jays, he travels the country giving what he calls, “The Mental Hitting Lesson.” The positive effects that he has seen from his CDs, talks, and seminars continue to drive him.

“This needs to be a confident, fun atmosphere at a young age, and I don’t think it is,” he said. “I get chilling e-mails from kids and parents thanking me for making this CD, telling me how it changed their life. It’s mind-blowing.”

For more information on Springer’s “Quality At-Bats,” CD’s and DVD’s, visit – www.qualityatbats.com