Showing posts with label Interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interview. Show all posts

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Emily Waldon of the Athletic Discusses Rob Manfred's Proposal To Contract 42 Minor League Baseball Teams

Emily Waldon, Detroit Tigers and National Prospect writer for The Athletic joins the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss Major League Baseball's proposal to contract 42 teams from Minor League Baseball. She shares how the two Detroit Tigers affiliates that Rob Manfred has put on the chopping block have responded to the news.

Baseball Happenings Podcast
"They're very against it, and they're both fighting to make sure that they don't lose their places," Waldon said. "They're working with Congress to try and fight against it. Obviously wanting to defend their place in the organization's farm system, I'm working very hard to make sure that that can stay reality."

In the 11-minute interview, Waldon also shares her thoughts on Lou Whitaker missing out on the Hall of Fame, her grinding journey covering the minor leagues, and the top organizational farm systems to watch in 2020.




Saturday, October 26, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Author Eric Moskowitz On The New World Of Baseball Card Collecting

Eric Moskowitz, author of the recent Atlantic piece, "How Baseball Cards Got Weird," joined the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss his venture into the new waters of collecting baseball cards online.


During the interview, Moskowitz explains how during his research he caught the collecting bug through watching online breaks, and eventually found a community through their chat rooms that has substituted for a lack of local card shops.




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


Monday, August 12, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Celebrating National Baseball Card Day With Susan Lulgjuraj Of Topps

On the latest episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast, we caught up with Topps Marketing and Communications Manager Susan Lulgjuraj in Brooklyn at the Topps Truck to celebrate National Baseball Card Day.


During the interview, we discussed how Topps' baseball card wrapped truck connected with National Baseball Card Day, the return of Bowman Sterling to their release lineup, and how Topps has shared in the positivity of Gary Vaynerchuk's involvement with the collecting hobby.

If you enjoyed the interview, feel free to subscribe to our podcast, or click here to follow us on your favorite social media platform.



Friday, July 26, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Jim Bouton Ball Four Varsity Letters Tribute

Jim Bouton's Ball Four started as a colorful documentary of baseball life, and it turned out to be a legacy journey. With 5 million copies in circulation and multiple editions of the book still in print, Bouton's story will continue to be passed down across generations of baseball fans.


Gelf magazine recently had our lead writer Nick Diunte at their Varsity Letters event in New York City to read his favorite passages from Ball Four. Click here to listen to the hilarious passages of Joe Schultz's malapropisms on the latest episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast.



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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Mike Oz Dishes On How He Got His 2019 Topps Allen And Ginter Baseball Card

Mike Oz has a knack for keeping it fresh. Whether he is running his "Old Baseball Cards" show for Yahoo! Sports, organizing the Taco Truck Throwdown, or hosting his radio show on KFRR 104.1 FM, Oz has put quality content at a premium. He joined the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss how a kid who collected baseball cards starting in the 1980s finally came to have his own in 2019 Topps Allen and Ginter.

Mike Oz 2019 Topps Allen And Ginter / @CardboardIcons

An idea that started from looking at sealed baseball card packs in his garage four years ago, led to the iconic baseball card manufacturer Topps taking major notice. As Oz grew "Old Baseball Cards," to include the likes of Andre Dawson, Randy Johnson, and Manny Machado chopping it up while opening packs, Topps made a move that Oz never envisioned.

“Fast forward four years later,” Oz said during our recent Forbes interview, “I get an e-mail from Topps [asking], ‘Do you want to be in Allen and Ginter?’”

In our 30 minute Baseball Happenings Podcast interview, Oz explains the surprisingly intense process of signing his official cards, what made "Old Baseball Cards" take off, and his love for hip hop music.








Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Baseball Happenings | Explorations In Baseball Card Collecting On The About The Cards Podcast

Baseball Happenings lead writer Nick Diunte recently appeared on the About The Cards Podcast to dicuss baseball cards, autograph collecting, and what we do here at Baseball Happenings. The two-hour show is below. It's a fun watch; if you love collecting, click here to subscribe to them on YouTube.  

The podcast is also available on multiple platforms.
Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Twitter


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Cory Aldridge Explains The Long Road Back To The Major Leagues

Cory Aldridge knows Wilkin Castillo's pain all too well. After Castillo returned to the major leagues with the Miami Marlins in June 2019 after a 10-year absence, Aldridge discussed his realities of waiting nine years to get a new lease on big league life. In my recent piece for Forbes, Aldridge said just how impactful even one major league paycheck is for a long-time minor leaguer.

“Your average minor league ballplayer is making $500 every two weeks,” Aldridge said. “If you were playing [in the majors] you probably went from making well below minimum wage to one check is what you probably made in the last two years. … Your average minor leaguer probably makes five grand a year, and your average first [Major League] paycheck is probably 10-to-15 grand.”

Cory Aldridge / Minda Haas Kuhlmann - Flickr
In our 30-minute interview for the Baseball Happenings Podcast, Aldridge shares his own struggles with injuries and how he contemplated quitting baseball multiple times after his 2001 Major League debut with the Atlanta Braves. His journey that landed him back in the majors with the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 is one of extreme perseverance under conditions that would have caused most professional athletes to hang up their gloves and spikes.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Cholly Naranjo Interview

Starting as a 17-year-old in 1952 with the Washington Senators organization, Gonzalo “Cholly” Naranjo has ties to a unique baseball world from his ten-year career in both the United States and Cuba. The Cuban-born former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher recently appeared on the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss the Trump administration canceling the deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation, his first meeting with Roberto Clemente, and a host of other wonderful tales from his baseball journey between Cuba and the United States.

Cholly Naranjo / 1956 Hollywood Stars

President Trump's decision to end MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation's relationship

In April 2019, President Donald Trump ended a four-month-old agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation that allowed Major League teams to sign Cuban players for a 25% fee over their signing bonus to the Federation, as well as paying their Cuban income taxes. In his 85 years, Naranjo has lived through a variety of regimes in Cuba, as he was one of the few ex-Major League players who stayed in Cuba after the laws changed for professional baseball players in 1961. Naranjo returned to the United States full time in 1995 and feels this decision is a repeat version of an old tale.



“You don’t pick where you’re born,” Naranjo said. “You come out wherever you come out, and you’ve gotta go through the rules in the place where you live. You come to the United States, you’ve gotta go by the rules. We come [here] to play baseball, and we don’t pick where we’re born. What can you do?

“Now all of that is kind of juggling between baseball and the places where you live. All we wanted to do is play baseball and make a living. It happened before with us. We had that in 1961. The guys who couldn’t accomplish making the big leagues came back to their home. It’s a new copy of what baseball in Cuba is going through with the ballplayers. You’ve gotta face it because you cannot do anything with the laws of the country.”

Cholly Naranjo's favorite Almendares teammate

Naranjo built his chops playing for Almendares of the famed Cuban Winter League from 1952-1961, serving as a mainstay of their pitching staff for a decade. When asked to choose his favorite teammate, he went out of his way to recognize Willy Miranda. Regarded by many as the premier defensive shortstop of the 1950s, Naranjo told how even Miranda could poke fun at his own light hitting abilities.

“I was right beside Willy Miranda for 10 years and Willy was an outstanding guy,” Naranjo said. “He knew more about baseball than you could ever believe. … He came up one time to hit against Vinegar Bend Mizell with three men on. Dick Rand was the catcher. He turned to Dick and said, ‘Do you want to see a home run with the bases loaded?’ [Rand] said, ‘Are you going to hit it?’ He said, ‘No, the guy that’s coming after me [will hit it].’ That’s what kind of guy he was.

“He was incredible. Paul Richards said a lot about that. He could get rid of the ball faster than anybody he’d ever seen. He could make that play in the hole out on the left field grass and throw you out.”

Naranjo's toughest foes in the Cuban Winter League

On the mound, Naranjo battled established veterans during his Cuban League tenure, even drawing Branch Rickey’s attention for how he improved his curveball in the winter league. Surprisingly, when Naranjo recalled the batters who gave him fits, he pointed to two rookies whom he just could not get out.

“Jose Tartabull and Sandy Valdespino, they could read me like they owned me,” he said. “Everybody was a tough hitter for me. Those two guys, they were rookies. The rest, were day in, day out.”

Cholly's most cherished Roberto Clemente memory

Naranjo eventually reached the majors in 1956 with the Pittsburgh Pirates after narrowly missing the Washington Senators Opening Day roster in 1954. His time in Pittsburgh opened the door for a relationship with Roberto Clemente, a topic Naranjo frequently encounters. He revealed how they built their kinship before they were teammates during a chance February 1954 meeting in Puerto Rico.

“The story about Roberto [was] in 1954,” he said. “We won the pennant in Havana. The year before, I was in Chattanooga and I went to Havana. Manuel Maldonado (Denis), the Puerto Rican pitcher who beat me in Mexico in the Amateur World Series in 1949, he went to Chattanooga when I went to Havana. He was going out with the same girl I was going out with. I came back home after the season ... we won the pennant and we flew out to Puerto Rico because the Caribbean Series was in San Juan.

“He [Maldonado] came up to the hotel and he was going to the University of San Juan. He came to see me as a friend. He said, ‘Come on, I’m going to take you to the university, and I’m going to introduce you to a guy who is going to be a hell of a ballplayer.’ You know who it was, Roberto Clemente. He was sitting in the track and field stands by himself. Branch Rickey just signed him and gave him a $15,000 bonus. Rickey was the general manager of the Dodgers. He sent him to Montreal. He told the Montreal manager not to play him. When he went to Havana, the fans in Havana knew a lot of baseball. They were calling the manager a “racista” because he didn’t play Roberto. They didn’t know that Rickey told him not to play because he didn’t want the scouts to see Roberto [so] they could get him in the draft. He already knew that he had the job with the Pirates and got Roberto for $5,000 in the winter meetings of the draft.”




During our 40-minute talk, Naranjo shared just a sliver of his baseball treasures that spanned his 85 years of playing and observing the game. He was especially proud that both his mind and body were clear enough to lead an active lifestyle.

“I’ve got my health at my age,” he said. “I got this far, and I’m better than when I was playing ball. Can you believe that? Sometimes I think, well, give me the ball; I’m going to get somebody out.

“It makes me feel well that I can be a normal person and do all the things necessary to live in the United States and travel. … To me, it’s like a prize that I have proven that it can happen to anybody. ... I’ve lived over there and over here, and I’m clean in both of them. I have lived long enough to show everybody what is what. I feel proud of that inside. … I say Cholly, how old are you? Well, I’ve got more miles than Pan American Airlines!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Don Newcombe's memory celebrated by Nashua teammate Billy DeMars

Don Newcombe was instrumental in breaking down barriers when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him in 1946. Instead of sending him to join Jackie Robinson in Montreal, they sent him along with Roy Campanella to play for the Nashua Dodgers where they integrated the Class B New England League. In the wake of Newcombe’s recent passing, I reached out to the 93-year-old Billy DeMars for the latest Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss the experience of playing with his pioneering teammate.




Click here to listen on Spotify.
Click here to listen on iTunes.

“The one thing I remember about Don was he was a helluva great pitcher,” DeMars said from his Florida home. “We were playing in Manchester New Hampshire one night, and Walter Alston was our manager that year. He brought him in the ninth inning. ... He didn’t hold anything back, he struck out all three batters. Just to watch him throw, he let the air out. He was tremendous!”

Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella in Nashua, 1946 
DeMars also noted that in addition to being lights out on the mound, Newcombe was a force at the plate. He led the team in with a .311 batting average, even besting his future Hall of Fame teammate Campanella.

Branch Rickey sent both of Negro League talents north to New Hampshire, as he could not place them in the hostile cities of his other southern minor league affiliates. DeMars said the Nashua team readily accepted both players and treated them like family.

“We had absolutely no problems whatsoever on the team," he said. "They were just other players. We got along absolutely great with Don [Newcombe] and [Roy] Campanella. In fact, Campanella had a little boy who was five or six. We used to put him on an iron crate and let him play on the pinball machine.”

The Brooklyn native wound up on the Nashua team after returning from his World War II service, where he played with Ted Williams and Charlie Gehringer at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The trio of future major leaguers, as well as player-manager Walter Alston, helped guide the team to the championship. Some seven decades later, DeMars chuckled at the reward.

“Another funny thing about that season, we lost the pennant on the last day of the season,” he said. “We went into the playoffs, and we won that to [become] the champions and our winning share was ten bucks apiece!”

Long removed from his playing and coaching days, DeMars marveled at the amount of money, or lack thereof, that he made while in the minor leagues.

“I signed and went up to Olean New York in 1943 just before I went in the Navy,” he said. “I tell everybody I made $3.50 a day. It was $100 a month — $25 a week, which came out to $3.50 a day. It is a little bit different than today.”

He cited a broken current minor league system that continues to underpay both the players and coaches. He explained that with record-setting major league contracts, baseball needs to reach down into the minor leagues and improve salary conditions.

“That’s what’s wrong with the game,” he said. “I just saw [Manny Machado] signed for $300 million and the guys who have to take cuts in salary are the minor league managers and the players. They are not paid as much as they should be [making]. The scouts and minor league managers need to make good money too. They are developing the players, and they have to work hard as hell down there.

"I spent 11 years as a minor league manager, and I was married and I had children at the time. You had to write up the whole league twice a year, the players once a month. At that time, I used to drive the team. We used to have cars; me and two other players would drive the club around. It wasn’t easy but we made it.”

DeMars played parts of three major league seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Browns. After 11 years as a minor league manager, he spent the next 19 as a major league coach with the Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos, and Cincinnati Reds. He has managed to outlive most of his peers, with Newcombe’s death serving as a mortal reminder of his place in history.

“In August, I will be 94,” he said. “Now with Newcombe gone, I moved up to 22 [he is currently the 23rd oldest living former major league baseball player]. It’s a helluva a list isn’t it?”

Still, the nonagenarian is popular with the fans due to his status as one of the few remaining St. Louis Browns alumni.

“I get a hell of a lot of mail,” he said. “I think there are 12 of us left from the St. Louis Browns. St. Louis was great, everything about St. Louis was great.”

Don Newcombe dies at 92 | A baseball and civil rights pioneer

Don Newcombe, the famed Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher died Tuesday February 19, 2019 in Los Angeles after battling a long illness. He was 92. The Dodgers released the following statement regarding his passing.


Don Newcombe 1956 Topps / Topps
Newcombe had his start with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues in 1944 where he played two seasons for Effa Manley's outfit. Branch Rickey signed him to the Dodgers in 1946, sending him along with Roy Campanella to their farm team in Nashua. Together they integrated the New England League.

He continued to break barriers throughout his career, even earning Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s praises for furthering the Civil Rights Movement. He won the Little World Series in 1948 with playing with their Triple-A team in Montreal. When the Dodgers called him up in 1949, he was the third African-American pitcher to appear in a Major League game, following teammate Dan Bankhead and the venerable Satchel Paige. He wasted little time in making an impression, as he raced through the competition with a 17-8 record en route to winning the 1949 National League Rookie of the Year award.

His rapid rise included becoming the first African-American pitcher to win 20 games (later known as one of the Black Aces), a feat he accomplished three times in 1950, 1955, and 1956. In the latter season, Newcombe went an astonishing 27-7 to earn both the Cy Young and the National League MVP awards. He was the first Rookie of the Year to win both of the aforementioned honors in the same season, a record he held for 55 years until Justin Verlander joined him in 2011. In the video below, Newcombe gives Verlander a humorous introduction at the 2012 BBWAA Dinner.




While many thought Newcombe was on the path to a Hall of Fame career, his struggles with alcoholism derailed his path to Cooperstown. After becoming sober in the late 1960s, the Dodgers employed him as a director of community relations in 1970, and he has worked for the club ever since, spending copious amounts of time helping others to learn from his mistakes.

Newcombe was a fixture at Dodgers Stadium, serving as a bridge and ambassador for the team's Brooklyn history. His looming presence was evident from the many online tributes by not only fans but also many of the Dodgers players who cherished his guidance and advice. The video below of a passionate Newcombe saluting the 7th inning stretch, who was a Korean War veteran, perfectly captures the essence of his reverence and respect for the game.



Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How Jack Crimian mystified Mickey Mantle in his major league odyssey

John “Jack” Crimian, a former major league pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Athletics, and Detroit Tigers in the 1950s, died just days short of his 92nd birthday on February 11, 2019, in Middletown, Delaware.

Jack Crimian 1956 Topps / Topps
The righty hurler signed his first professional baseball contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943 out of Olney High School where he was teammates with another future major leaguer, Del Ennis.

“I went to high school with Del Ennis,” he said in a phone interview from his Delaware home in 2009. “We used to hit from the football field. He once hit one out on Duncannon Avenue, past the football fields and the tennis courts. I got signed out on the sandlots on C Street and Roosevelt Boulevard. There is a park down the street and the Phillies scout (Jocko Collins) signed me from out there.”

He played the 1944 season Wilmington and Bradford before being drafted into the Army. He served as a paratrooper until 1946 when he had to return home after his father’s sudden death.

Jack Crimian 1951 Minor League Bio / Author's Collection
After the Cardinals drafted Crimian from the Phillies at the end of the 1946 season, he toiled patiently in their minor league system until his midseason 1951 call-up. The Cardinals wasted no time putting his services to use.

“I got into a ballgame in the major leagues the first day that I got there,” he recalled. “I got off the plane, went to the hotel, and they were leaving for the ballpark. I went right along to the ballpark with them.”

He pitched sparingly for the Cardinals but stayed long enough to earn his first major league win, which came in a relief effort ironically against the Phillies. He ended his first campaign with a 1-0 record with a 9.00 ERA in 11 games.

The Cardinals gave Crimian another look in 1952, but the fierce National League lineups served him a quick return to the minor leagues. He spent the next three seasons in Triple-A honing his craft in preparation for another shot at major league glory.

His bumpy ride included a 1953 offseason trade to the Cincinnati Reds who then sold his contract to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. Now a veteran of almost a decade of professional experience, the team had Crimian help Elston Howard make the transition from outfielder to catcher.

“We taught him to catch in Toronto,” he said. “We got him on loan from the Yankees, and they wanted to make a catcher out of him. We had a veteran staff, and they let us have him so he could catch every day. He caught on real quick.

“I still think he was one of the best hitters ever in the American League, definitely on that Yankees club. He hit all over. You could not pitch him one way; he would hit to right and left-center. He hit behind Mantle and Maris, and you could not walk either one of them to get to Howard because he would hurt you just as much as they would. It is no wonder why they got all of those RBIs. You had to pitch to them. He was hard to strike out.”

The Kansas City Athletics looked to bolster their pitching staff when they traded for Crimian after he posted a 19-6 record and 2.10 ERA with Toronto in 1955. Finally, he had a full season ahead in the major leagues. Pitching mostly in relief, he finished second in the American League in appearances, seeing mound time in 54 contests. While he could not recapture his dominance from Toronto in the American League, he was proud that he held Mickey Mantle to a paltry .182 batting average (2 for 11 with 5 Ks).

“I had no problem with him, I really didn't,” Crimian said. “I was fortunate I guess. He might have got a bunt single, but that was about all. I never threw him a strike.

"He wanted to hit all of the time so he would chase pitches. I would throw sliders way in on him and sinkers away from him all day long. He used to bunt against us. We were the first ones to put the shift on him. A couple times, he bunted and he got a base hit. At least we knew where we were at; that's why we did it.”

Despite his reliability with Kansas City, Crimian was on the move once again, this time the Athletics traded him to the Detroit Tigers in 1957 as part of an eight-player deal. He only lasted four games with the Tigers; however, he was still able to get his name in the record books.

A Cleveland Indians rookie named Roger Maris stepped to the plate in the 11th inning looking to battle the well-traveled veteran. He ran the count full, and Crimian thought he could sneak a high fastball by the youngster. Maris swung mightily and connected for his first major league home run.

“It was a 3-2 count and I pitched him up and away,” Crimian said to Bob Yearick in 2017. The ball went up and away, and it still hasn’t come down. But it was Jim Bunning’s fault. He struck out Maris earlier in the game, so he told me how to pitch to him.”

Detroit sent Crimian to the minor leagues a few weeks later, ending his major league career. He pitched two more seasons in the minors before retiring in 1959. While Crimian was out of professional baseball, he had not completely abandoned the game. He pitched with them from 1963-65, and even though his fastball no longer had the zip it once did, he used his guile and smarts en route to a perfect 26-0 record.

He spent 34 years as an auto body specialist in Wilmington, Delaware before his retirement. He was inducted into the Delaware Professional Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

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, January 6, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict

Tanner Jones joins the Baseball Happenings Podcast to tell the listeners what exactly led him on the path to spend $100,000 to amass one of the finest single-player collections in the world en route to earning the "baseball card addict" title. In his new book “Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict” he narrates his fascinating journey of building a 10-million-card collection before deciding to roll the dice on one player — Jose Canseco.

“I call junk wax a cheap gateway drug in my book because I almost feel like it was engineered by the card companies to be mass produced in the '80s,” Jones said during his appearance on the Baseball Happenings Podcast. “So that way, when we all grow up, we are able to come back to a super easy. It's really easy to slip in a couple wax boxes of Score just for nostalgia sake, and while you're at the card shop you're like, ‘Wait a second here, there are some cards out here that have pieces of jerseys and autographs on them.’ You know, it's a completely different way of collecting than what we were used to as kids.”
Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict / Tanner Jones
Once Jones had the itch, he was off to the races. Armed with extra cash to spare, Jones started to buy back his childhood memories at pennies on the dollar.

“It didn't have anything to do with Canseco when I came back as an adult,” he said. “I was just absolutely enamored by the prices of the complete sets that I loved as a child. So yes, thinking, ‘Wait a second, I can get an '89 Upper Deck factory set for 60 bucks? Holy cow, how do you not buy that?’

“I started assembling a complete run of complete sets from 1980 to 1992, or '93 or so. Along the way is when I started discovering the game used and autographed cards, so I just got into that hardcore as well. After a while, I take step back and go, ‘Holy cow, I've already dropped a couple grand on this stuff — on baseball cards!' To me, that was like insanity back then, like a couple thousand dollars [spent] on baseball cards.”

For most, a few thousand dollars would have sufficiently scratched their nostalgic collecting itches; however, Jones is far from ordinary. His re-entry was just the tip of the iceberg that led him on a multi-million card chase for the next decade. Jones discusses how he moved from flipping cards to settling on one player before deciding to sell it all. In the midst of all of tales of wheeling and dealing, he gave valuable advice on how to keep your marriage intact during the process. Jones drops gems on the collecting conundrums throughout the latest episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast below.





Thursday, January 3, 2019

Mark Brownson | A bitter tale of a MLB career derailed by drugs ends at 41

Their story wasn't supposed to end this way; not at this time and not in this manner. A major league marriage fitted for a storybook tale was one that ended with a family split up in despair, finalized by the abbreviated life of its main character.

Marshall “Mark” Brownson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1993 in the 30th round out of Wellington High School in Wellington, Florida after he helped lead his team as a senior to the Class 4A State Championship game. He signed with the Rockies in 1994 as a draft-and-follow pick after spending one season at Palm Beach Community College.

Mark Brownson 1999 Fleer Tradition RC
Not blessed with the overpowering stuff that propelled many of the Rockies pitching prospects, Brownson slowly ascended the ranks due to his command, ultimately becoming a full-time starter in 1997 at Double-A New Haven. Buoyed by his pinpoint control, as he matured on the mound he learned to use his ability to spot the ball to his advantage.

“It wasn't until '97 that I started learning how to set hitters up better,” Brownson said to the Denver Post.

The door finally opened for Brownson in 1998 and he knocked it down in a major way. When Rockies starter John Thompson got hurt, they called up Brownson for an emergency start. And the mark he left is still talked about to this day by Rockies fans.

Unfazed by the almost 30,000 people in attendance and the lineup of the league-leading Houston Astros—which included future Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell—Brownson dominated. He flirted with a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and finished his first Major League game with a four-hit shutout en route to a 5-0 victory.

“I can't imagine delivering that performance in your first game in the big leagues,” said Rockies manager Don Baylor to the Denver Post after the game.

While his performance might have surprised his manager, Brownson on the other hand had an eerie level of trust in his stuff that evening. Even if the Astros hit the ball, he felt it would find its way into a glove for an out.

“For some reason I had confidence out there,” he remarked to the Post. “I could feel that they were going to hit it at somebody if I just throw strikes and it worked out, you know?”

Well after pitching a shutout in your first Major League game, surely the road is paved directly to super-stardom, right? Think again. Many pro careers have been derailed due to a string of bad luck, declining skill, injury, and the vices of life away from the clubhouse. Brownson's tale is a mixture of all of the above. One that turned a rising star towards a vicious vortex that swallowed his life whole.

The Brownson Family, Christmas 2010. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Brownson
Alongside Brownson to manage the peaks and valleys of his career was his ex-wife Stephanie. They met in 1998 while he was with the Rockies and quickly became an item.

“He was my prince charming,” said the former Mrs. Brownson in an exclusive interview a week after his death. “He came and swept me off my feet. I literally met him at a bar during the day. He told me that he was a plumber. He was sitting there with agent and his financial advisor. We sat there and talked and he told me that was in construction. I said, 'Construction, I thought you said [plumber].' It was cute; they went and got a newspaper and he was on the front of the sports page.”

Brownson was sent back to the minors after making one more appearance with the Rockies in 1998. During his second trip to the mound, he couldn't quite recapture the magic he had in his debut. Which, in turn, may have led some to believe that he caught lightning in a bottle his first time around. As he returned to beating the bushes, Stephanie went along with him.

“He was up for a short time and then he got sent down to Colorado Springs and I went with him,” she said. “We were pretty inseparable from that time on. I was his buddy. We had so much fun. I used to go on the road with him. I was the wife that wasn't supposed to see the things I saw. We had such a good time.”

The Rockies gave Brownson an extended look in 1999, bringing him up for seven starts during the middle of the season. He posted unimpressive numbers, averaging just over four innings per start with a 7.89 ERA. At the end of the season, the Rockies waived him, which gave him the opportunity to sign with the Phillies.

During his time with Philadelphia, it was at Yankee Stadium that Brownson was able to have his last hurrah on hallowed grounds. While he took the baseball world by storm in his debut, his ex-wife said it was his appearance at Yankee Stadium that he savored the most.

“His favorite baseball moment was when he was pitching with the Phillies,” she said. “It was the first time the Phillies had beaten the Yankees in Yankee Stadium in a long time. He was the pitcher and he kept having to put his head down because they were chanting, 'Let's Go Yankees.' He was like ear-to-ear grinning. He kept going to put his head down and he was smiling like they were applauding him.”

Trying to take advantage on the new lease of his baseball life, Brownson pitched the entire 2000 season with an undiagnosed torn labrum in his right shoulder. He struggled through four more minor league seasons, bouncing between affiliated teams and independent ball looking to recapture his form. Sadly, it never returned.

“His baseball career was over before his career was over,” she said. “He pitched with a torn labrum for a year in 2000 and it just never got better. The doctor who fixed it left a drill bit in his shoulder. They couldn't read MRIs after that.”

At 30, with his pitching career behind him, Brownson struggled with the transition from the only occupation he knew. Professional athletes commonly experience difficulty finding their path once the regimens of reporting to the clubhouse and playing in front of the fans are gone. To Stephanie, the difference was immediately noticeable once he could no longer put on the uniform.

“Once baseball was over, he was never the same,” she said. “He was so lost; he had no identity for a long time because all he knew how to do was play baseball. He didn't know how to mow a lawn, change a tire, all he knew was baseball. The first year, year and a half, was really hard for him; he was so depressed. … It was a sad process. We saved up some of the money that was left from baseball, but there wasn't a whole lot left because it was expensive to play, especially when you're up and down.”

Together, the couple opened a pool cleaning business in Florida and then later relocated the business to Arizona. During that time, Mark and Stephanie became parents, giving birth to their first daughter Madisyn, who is now 11.

“He was an incredible dad,” she said. “We didn't have kids until after baseball. He loved that girl [Madisyn] more than anything in the world.”

Even though Brownson was invigorated by his newly found fatherhood, the pain in his arm continued to throb. The complications from his first surgery left doctors unwilling to open him up again just on the suspicion that something might be wrong.

“It was just a struggle,” she said. “His injuries never got better. We think he re-tore his shoulder again, but without the ability to read MRIs, there were not many doctors that were going to go in. The bone grew back around that drill bit. We never knew; his shoulder hurt him all the time. He had tendinitis in his arm. They gave him a lot of pills for it. They gave him a lot of medication.”

Brownson's history with using pain medication dated back to his days in professional baseball. Stephanie noted that while he was active, he was provided with whatever medication was necessary to get him to toe the rubber. It started a vicious cycle of using drugs to dull the pains that come with playing through injuries.

“It all started with injuries and went downhill from there,” she recalled. “I remember him playing with the Phillies and his arm hurt so bad and they would give him cortisone, pills, greenies … and he would take all this stuff to play and that was okay. The minute you weren't with that team—when you come out of that, that's how you're taught how to handle that [the pain].

“I'm angry because if somebody else could be taught something different, then maybe this wouldn't happen. You are an asset and you need that asset to be the highest of its capabilities at any cost. Once you're there you'll do anything to stay there. That's just it; you'll do anything to stay there without thought to anything else.”

As Brownson's drug use increased, his ex-wife did her best to hold the family together. They had a second daughter, Aliah, in 2010, but his addictions were making it increasingly difficult for the union to remain solvent.

“She's six and I think he's seen her under ten times,” she said. “After she was born, I left within a year. He got into heroin and I left pretty quickly.

“It was no secret; Mark's arrest records are online. It's so sad. We tried to move from Florida to Arizona to have it be better, then we moved from Arizona back to Florida and it didn't get better. It's so sad and part of the reason why I wanted to talk to someone.”

After divorcing in 2012, Brownson started to lose control over his addictions. After multiple arrests, he lived a vagabond lifestyle that included alleged bouts of homelessness.

“He hasn't seen his kids in a couple of years, but my husband and I, we didn't ask him to pay child support,” she said. “We just wanted him to call his kids once a week. He was able to talk to his daughter a couple days before he passed. He wasn't well. It was sad because he didn't have any recourse. He was staying with his mom; his dad wouldn't let him in his house. He struggled with that. I wish that more people would know. He went from having a good life to being homeless in Florida.

“Within a week of his death, he slept on a park bench. I know for a fact because he called me the next day. Then his mom let him in. Nobody cared about him like that. He was living with this girl Amanda [Marsh] who was living in Lake Worth. Then he was in a trailer that didn't have windows. We spent a lot of time worrying about him. We've been calling him to see if he was okay. We sent him little bits of money for food and whatever.”

Amanda Marsh passed away from a reported heroin overdose a week prior to Brownson's death, further clouding the final days of his tragic end. During their last conversation, Stephanie's increasing worry was that Mark was going to have the same fate as his brother Travis, who died from an overdose in 2004.

“My last conversation with him, I begged him, 'You cannot die on these kids.'”

While his ex-wife has remarried in attempt to move her life forward, the collateral damage is Brownson's two daughters, both who will live their lives without the presence of their father. His oldest daughter has found the strength to become an anti-drug advocate.

“My 11-year-old has spent more hours worrying about him in the last five years that she hasn't been able to talk to him,” she said. “She is so anti-drugs because of this. We do speaking at a women's shelter for domestic violence. We had some of those problems. We speak how drug use in the home can affect everybody and my 11-year-old will talk about it.”

Reflecting on his life and passing, his ex-wife tried to find how telling the depths of his unfortunate journey could benefit others. His story is a cautionary tale of how athlete's struggles often go unnoticed once they are out of the spotlight.

“Here's another story of an athlete, who when he played, everyone was behind him and everyone would do everything that they could for him,” she said. “When he got hurt, it was, 'We're going to pump you full of drugs and cortisone.' When he was on the 25-man roster, we had a team that gave him steroids, and then he ends up on the McLaren report when he signs with a new team! When it was over, there was nothing; that was the toughest part.

“They go in at 17 and there is little wonder when they get out at 30, that they have no direction. Everyone thinks that with athletes that there is this great life and it's just another story of falling apart. He was culpable in it too. He bought into all of it and it was really hard. It bothers me because he struggled for so long. He was arrested in Arizona and he was arrested in Florida, and nobody cared.”

Mark Brownson died February 1, 2017 in Lake Worth, Florida; he was just 41 years old. He leaves behind two daughters who will have to find their own way to put the context of his death into proper perspective.

“I want his death to mean something to somebody, even if it's not in the greatest light. … My daughters in some way have been set free for they don't have to sit up any longer and worry about where he is.”

Monday, December 31, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Breaking down the pension dilemma of the pre-1980 MLB retirees

For the latest Baseball Happenings Podcast episode, you will find audio from my appearance of the MAD Radio Network podcast with author Doug Gladstone and Marc Weiss. Gladstone is the author of "A Bitter Cup of Coffee", a 2010 book that detailed the need for the MLBPA to make amends for the pre-1980 non-vested MLB retirees. For almost the past decade, Gladstone has been tirelessly advocating for this group to receive benefits.


In the 15-minute interview, I discuss a variety of topics including how to bring attention to the pre-1980 MLB retirees caught in the pension gap, my role as a player representative, and thoughts on Marvin Miller's Hall of Fame candidacy.

Subscribe via iTunes or listen in the player below.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Danny Gallagher Author of 'Blue Monday: The Expos, The Dodgers, and the Home Run That Changed Everything'

On the latest episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast, we speak with Danny Gallagher, author of, "Blue Monday: The Expos, The Dodgers, and the Home Run That Changed Everything".

During the interview, we discussed the Expos' championship run during the 1981 strike-shortened Major League Baseball season. Gallagher explained how "Blue Monday" gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at one of Montreal's most beloved teams through exclusive player interviews from both the Expos and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Blue Monday / Dundurn Press

Baseball enthusiasts will enjoy how Gallagher breaks down the many decisions that led to Steve Rogers' and Rick Monday's epic face-off in the 1981 National League Championship Series, including the controversial firing of Dick Williams late in the season. While Monday's name still evokes painful memories in Montreal, Gallagher graciously devotes an entire chapter to the 19-year veteran's career that shows neither him nor Rogers, should be defined by their playoff clash.

Danny Gallagher - Baseball Happenings Podcast Interview


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Has Harold Baines knocked down the doors to the Hall of Fame? | Voting Results and Commentary

In 2019 Harold Baines will have his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame, right alongside immortals such as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente. For many baseball fans, his induction will be a tough pill to swallow, as he only garnered 6.1% of the vote when he was eligible with the BBWAA writers.

Well, what changed since Baines fell off the writer's ballot after a 4.8% showing in 2011? Nothing much really, as he certainly didn't add to his 2,866 career hits or his 384 home runs; however, what did turn in his favor was the Hall of Fame's recently established Eras Committee.

Harold Baines / Keith Allison - Flickr
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced in 2016 that there would be a greater emphasis on the modern eras for consideration. Last year's Modern Era committee elected Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. In December 2018, the Today's Game Era committee selected both Lee Smith and Baines for enshrinement. While Smith's selection was of little surprise to baseball fans, many were dumbfounded when they chose Baines.

As soon as Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson announced Baines' name on the MLB Network, many fans and writers immediately took to social media not to celebrate his selection, but to denounce it. Some went as far as to allege that his selection was due to cronyism, with four of the voting members having direct ties to Baines when he was an active player.



Right or wrong, Baines will be a Hall of Famer when he steps on stage during the Cooperstown induction ceremonies in 2019. While many can waste their energies hating on his selection, I think the what baseball fans should ask themselves regarding next year's Eras Committee vote is, "Who's next?"

2019 Modern Era Committee Voting Results




Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ron Negray, pitcher in the first ever Los Angeles Dodgers game, dies at 88

Ron Negray, a former pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away November 8, 2018, in Akron, Ohio after a brief illness. He was 88.

Negray signed with the Dodgers in 1949 after briefly attending Kent State University. Although only 19 in his debut season, he looked like an experienced veteran with a 21-6 record for Class D Valdosta. Over the next three years, Negray battled his way up the crowded ranks of Brooklyn’s farm system en route to the major leagues.

Ron Negray / Author's Collection
The Dodgers finally reached for Negray once their roster expanded in September 1952. Fresh off an 11-7 performance with their Triple-A club in St. Paul, Negray entered a Brooklyn clubhouse anonymous to a Hall of Fame roster.

“The first day I came to Brooklyn, I came in during the morning,” Negray recalled during a 2008 phone interview his Ohio home. “We were playing Cincinnati and Charlie Dressen told me to go to the bullpen. Nobody even knew me; I wasn't even introduced to anybody.”

Negray's anonymous September 14, 1952 debut

After the Reds chased starter Johnny Rutherford, Dressen summoned Negray to start the fourth inning. Hidden among the throng of September call-ups, his Brooklyn teammates met Negray with surprise as he approached the mound. (Ed. Note – Some names were corrected from Negray’s recall of the following events.)

“I went in relief in about the 4th inning," he said. "Campanella [Rube Walker] came up and said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'Well, I'm Ron Negray.' Gil Hodges came up and asked if I was in the right ballpark. Campanella [Walker] then asked me if I knew the scoreboard signs. I said, ‘What scoreboard?’ They worked signs off the scoreboard, but I didn't know what he was talking about, because we didn't have that in St. Paul. That broke everybody up.”

After pitching a scoreless frame, he returned for the fifth to stare down the power-hitting Ted Kluszewski. With his bulging biceps exposed by his cut-off sleeves, Big Klu cut an intimidating figure just by standing in the batter’s box.

“He looked like Man Mountain Dean,” he said. “I guess Campanella [Walker] must have told him I threw really hard. The first pitch I threw him a change of pace, a low slow ball, and he popped it up. He cursed Campanella [Walker] because he must have told him I threw really hard.”

Negray left the game unscathed, hurling three clean innings in relief. He made another three appearances for the Dodgers down the stretch, pitching 13 innings without a decision.

Jackie Robinson's special gesture

As the Dodgers rejoiced for yet another opportunity to play in the World Series, the team skipped over Negray when they distributed watches to celebrate their National League victory. One teammate however, went out of his way to ensure that Negray felt like one of the regulars.

“When we won the pennant, they gave out watches,” he said. “Since I came up and I was a low-life rookie, I was the last man and didn't get a watch. Jackie [Robinson] came over and gave me his watch. He said, ‘You could have my watch.’ I gave it to my dad and I don't know what happened to it. … We talked a lot of baseball. He told me what I should and shouldn't do.”

After his sip of big league coffee, Negray stayed in the Dodgers minor league system until he was traded midseason in 1955 to the Philadelphia Phillies. He spent the remainder of 1955 and the entire 1956 campaign with Philadelphia on their big league roster.

The Dodgers reacquired Negray in 1957 as part of the Chico Fernandez trade. While he did not return to the majors for the Dodgers' farewell in Brooklyn, he made history when the team moved to California.

Breaking ground in California

When the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants squared off at Seals Stadium on April 14, 1958, it marked a frontier for baseball’s westward expansion. Both teams left New York to build a new legacy, and Negray made his mark on the inaugural contest. Appearing in relief, he pitched the final two innings in the Dodgers’ 8-0 loss. At the time of his death, he was the last player alive from the Dodgers lineup that groundbreaking day.

The Dodgers sent Negray back to the minors a month later, never again to return to the big leagues. He finished his career in 1963 after 15 seasons in professional baseball.

Negray stayed close to the game by selling uniforms and athletic equipment to local high schools for 34 years until his retirement. His death leaves only 18 living Brooklyn Dodgers alumni.