Saturday, January 23, 2021

Hank Aaron - 'I Had To Teach That Kid Something' | Davey Johnson's Favorite Story

Hank Aaron (l.) and Davey Johnson (r.) with Bowie Kuhn

Davey Johnson spent three glorious seasons alongside Hank Aaron on the Atlanta Braves from 1973-1975. Playing with Aaron as he surpassed Babe Ruth’s home run record, Johnson witnessed many of the hardships Aaron faced as he pursued the historical mark. 

Watching Aaron chase baseball's cherished milestone, Johnson also secured his own place in the record books alongside the future Hall of Famer. In 1973 along with Darrell Evans, they all reached the 40 home run plateau, becoming the first trio of teammates to accomplish the feat in the same season. 

Even though Johnson was a three-time All-Star and World Series champion with the Baltimore Orioles, he soaked up Aaron's lessons in their time together. He credited Aaron, who died this week at 86, for teaching him how to hit one of the nastiest pitches in baseball. 

“Playing with Henry Aaron and [I watched] him really make the game look easy,” Johnson said during a 2010 interview. “Henry hit whenever he wanted to. I saw so many times things he would do that just were impossible to do. He taught me how to hit a left-hander’s slider off the plate [inside] fair. He did it all the time. … Most normal human beings with the ball slider in, you have to hit it over the dugout over there, but he would be able to hit it fair.” 

After Aaron seized his place as MLBs all-time home run leader in 1974, the Braves usually rested him after flying to the West Coast. Johnson recalled how the legend made an exception from his rest day after he read some incendiary remarks by a opposing rookie pitcher. 

 “We were going to San Francisco from Atlanta,” he said. “When [we] traveled all night, Henry wouldn’t play the next day. 

“Well the next day, he read the paper and a guy named [John] 'Count' Montefusco said in the paper, ‘Why I gotta face this Atlanta club? I’d rather face a good hitting club.’ Henry went to [Eddie] Mathews and said, ‘I’m in the lineup, I’ve gotta teach this guy a lesson.’ He had a wicked slider. I remember two guys were on. Henry’s up, first inning, he looked for his best pitch. He threw him a low and away slider and Henry hit it over the left field wall and came in and said, ‘I had to teach that kid something.’” 

[Ed. Note - Aaron hit the home run in the second inning as the lead off batter facing Montefusco in a September 18, 1974, game.]

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Why Tommy Lasorda Once Used A Rifle To Protect His Cuban Teammates

Tommy Lasorda celebrating the 1958-59 Almendares championship

Tommy Lasorda’s mighty curveball took him many places during his 14-year playing career, including Canada, Panama, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The tenacious southpaw’s fiery personality played right into the spirit of the Caribbean Winter League, making him a popular choice among the fans. 

During the 1958-59 Cuban Winter League season, Lasorda’s 8-3 record helped propel Almendares to the championship. They dominated in the Caribbean Series, going 5-1 with their pitching staff completing five of the six games. Lasorda was the lone starter not to go the distance, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings against Panama. 

While Almendares’ near-flawless championship would have been the highlight of any baseball season, another event during the 1958-59 campaign dominated anything that happened on the baseball field. 

On New Year’s Eve in 1958, one American baseball player noticed there was an uncomfortable quiet during the day. As John Goryl rode to the ballpark with Cienfuegos teammate Bob Will, there was an eerie silence on the road. 

“We were driving into Havana,” Goryl said during a 2011 interview. “We lived eight or nine miles outside of the city. We were driving down this main thoroughfare, and it was New Year’s Day. We were driving down the highway and not a soul in site. No traffic. All the windows when we got close to town were boarded up, curtains were down, and shutters were down.” 

When they arrived at the stadium, his Cuban teammates quickly updated Goryl on what was happening. There was a drastic change coming. 

“When we got to the ballpark, all of the Cuban ballplayers were gathered in one corner in the ballpark,” he said. “I took Pedro [Ramos] aside and he told me, ‘They think Batista left the country, and Castro will be coming in.’ I asked, ‘Are we gonna play?’ He said, ‘It doesn’t look like it, but they haven’t made that announcement.’ About 30 minutes later, an announcement was made, and we would be told when we would be able to play again.” 

With the inevitable change of power from Fulgencio Batista to Fidel Castro, chaos ensued. It was a long ride back to their protected beach compound at Club NĂ¡utico where the foreign players stayed. 

“All hell broke loose when we left that ballpark,” he said. “People tore down parking meters to get money, looting, and everything else.” 

Goryl thought his family was safe at the compound; however, one American player thought otherwise. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked out his window and saw Tommy Lasorda out front armed with a rifle. 

“We were living in a compound that was completely surrounded by water with guards,” he said. “I had a wife who had a small baby and was pregnant. I looked out the window one morning down to the street and there was Tommy walking around with a .22 rifle trying to protect everybody. It was the damndest thing I'd ever seen.”

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Baseball Happenings Podcast | DJ Skeme Richards On Adding Breakdancing To The 2024 Olympics


With the announcement that breakdancing will be an official event in the 2024 Olympics, we sat down with world renown Rocksteady Crew DJ, Skeme Richards to discuss how the news will affect the tightly knit community

As one of the foremost experts on the musical backbone of breakdancing culture, Richards is in high demand to spin at breaking events and competition across the globe. He offers his insight on what the greater public can expect during the Olympics, and why he hopes the IOC will consult with those deep rooted in the artform to preserve its culture while on full display for the masses. 

Click here to listen to Richards' interview on the Baseball Happenings Podcast.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Baseball Coach Skills: Characteristic of a Great Baseball Coach

This is a guest post by Bill Brown

A powerful baseball coach should have in-depth information about baseball. A baseball coach must possess specific characteristics that can help make a winning soccer team. The focus of the coach should also be on physical and technical specifications. Coaching at every level includes much more than creating the lineup, hitting fungos, or coaching third base. Let’s look at a few characteristics and skills that a successful coach should possess. 

1- Experienced and Knowledgeable 

A baseball coach acts as an instructor and possesses expert knowledge of the sport. The coach should help players improve their skills to maximize the team's ability to win. Extensive knowledge of the game is imperative for a baseball coach. The coach should be able to explain basic rules to rookies, while also being able to provide information that is more complex to advanced players. The baseball coach should teach players to stay low and make quick transitions from the glove to the throwing hand instead of teaching them to stay in front of ground balls. A successful baseball coach possesses intelligence and an understanding of the adjustments needed to win games, and they watch the action closely and consider all angles. The coach observes the opposing batters hit the ball and makes changes in the defense accordingly. 

2- Leadership

A baseball coach should have leadership qualities. The coach should motivate players to stay positive, fair, patient, sincere, concerned, and honest to succeed. The baseball coach should also communicate effectively and display credibility, competence, respect, and authority. Clear communication is a good leadership quality. It means defining goals, giving direct feedback, reinforcing the key messages, and acknowledging success. Apart from being a good communicator, leadership quality also includes having a compassionate ear, welcoming the athletes’ comments, questions, and input. The effective baseball coach actively seeks out information from players and creates a positive environment by encouraging players to present their ideas and thoughts to the coach. 

3- Organizer and Time Management Expert 

A great baseball coach gives players a pre-game, post-game, and off-season schedule to ensure that players give their best on the field. The effective coach clearly states a code of conduct for players, and if violations occur, discipline should follow. A baseball coach should set a mild, prompt, and consistent discipline to effectively change behavior. A good coach wants to make sure that they stay on top of diverse talent and never let the player get complacent between the lines. The coach has to manage the time of all of its players if a team has the goal to maintain its winning ways. 

4- Strategical and Mechanical Genius 

A great coach identifies a player’s specialty and mechanics as a hitter, infielder, pitcher, catcher, or outfielder. Every position has its unique mechanical criteria. A hitter has a different approach to every pitch in the count. An infielder has a spot to cover and a stance to emulate based on outs, pitch count, and situation. An outfielder should have a perfect catch and throw mechanics to be able to make those plays to a base or the cut-off. Baseball is a game of repetition in which a coach needs to see a flaw in skill sets and mechanics of a player and fix it. For example, a great coach looks for whether or not a pitcher is staying tall, balanced, gliding outward, and directly toward the catcher. It helps advance the player into the type of contributor he or she expects to become. 

5- Staff Motivator 

To become an efficient baseball coach, the mentor should produce activities inside the baseball workout to help motivate players to accomplish better in each game. The coach has to remind players why they wished to learn baseball and develop a winning staff. The coach who displays a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the sport and the players can generate the desire in a player to excel in the team. While motivating a player, a good coach stresses trying to reach performance goals, not outcome goals. 

6- Talent Scout and Evaluation 

Evaluation of players, in the beginning, is crucial to advance through minor leagues to Major League Baseball. Baseball success requires teamwork. Therefore, a baseball coach should evaluate players and build a team by spotting skilled players during high school tryouts, college recruiting visits, and pro scouting trips. While one basketball player might take 30 to 40% of the team's shots, baseball teams count on all nine batters in a lineup. Therefore, a successful coach looks for ways to build a team of players with good hand-eye coordination, strong arms, fast hands and feet, and outstanding core strength. Strong-armed players are usually good pitchers, and tall and strong players serve as the team’s power hitter. Final Thoughts The key to becoming a great baseball coach is to have years of knowledge and experience as a player that results in earning your team's respect. Besides, it is crucial as a baseball coach to build and maintain positive relationships with your players. A successful coach runs the team firmly and exhibits good character and even-handed, even-tempered treatment of each player.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

2020 Onyx Vintage Baseball Extended Edition | Box Break and Review

Onyx Authenticated brings their third series to their 2020 Onyx Vintage Baseball release this year with its 2020 Onyx Vintage Baseball Extended Edition set. Each four card box guarantees two on-card autographs and two base cards. 

This release has an intriguing focus on the unsigned international prospects from the Class of 2020, '21, and '22, providing collectors with their first certified autographs on the market. In addition to the international players, MLB stars Pete Alonso and Luis Robert headline the autograph checklist alongside a who's who of 2020's Top 100 prospects. 

Click here to read the entire review for our Forbes Sports Money column, as well as to watch the box break video posted below. If you haven't already done so, we would appreciate you clicking here to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more box breaks and interviews.