Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Favorite Team

It is All Star game time and fans voted for the favorite players in the game.  Just like every other fan, I have my favorites too.  I will give you mine here but with a twist.  I will exclude all players and former players from my favorite team - Detroit Tigers.   Here goes.

Catcher -  Salvador Perez , Kansas City Royals.  I like him because he is a gamer.  He plays just about every game each and every year.  He is one of the best defensive players and is good offensively too.   I respect guys who show up for work everyday and give it their all.

First Base - Wil Myers, San Diego Padres.  I like him because he is not your prototypical first sacker. He doesn't hit 30-40 homers and strikeout a ton each year.  No dead pull hitter that the extreme shifts are deployed against.  Plus he is old school and doesn't wear batting gloves

2nd Base -  Jose Altuve, Houston Astros.  How is someone so small be so good at the game.  Is fun to watch and an inspiration for the short people,

3rd Base - Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies.  He can hit at home at Coors Field and away from too.  Plus defensively, he is the best. A Gold Glover winner each year in the majors.  He plays jaw dropping plays routine.

Shortstop - Andrelton Simmons , Los Angeles Dodgers.  There is so many young good shortstops in the league right now.  Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell to name a few.  It hard pick one of them, so I am going away from the group to one of the best gloves in the field.  I enjoy good glovemen.  Pure artistry on the field.

Outfielders - Ichiro Suzuki, Miami Marlins.  A legend in two professional leagues yet he still stays humble. At one time, he could do it all on the field.

Andrew McCutchen . Pittsburgh Pirates,  A former MVP and one of the good guys in the game.

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles,  I have always liked how he carried himself on the field. He speaks his mind with class too.  I also highly considered Mike Trout because he is the best and most talented player in the game.

Starting Pitcher-  Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants.  He is an old school ace.  Give him the ball and he wants to go a full nine innings and wants to pitch in the big games also.  Plus he can hit too.
 Also high on my list is Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto.

Relief Pitchers - Pat Neshek, Philadelphia Phillies.  I have overall disliking for relief pitchers that I don't really want to get into here.  So, I will go with a fellow avid baseball card collector  Neshek is working on a complete 1970 Topps set- autographed.

There you have my favorite team excluding Tigers.  Remember, these guys are my favorites not necessarily who I think are the best.  Picking the best at each position is just plain lazy in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My 2017 Hall of Fame Vote

Wednesday is the announcement for the 2017 Hall of Fame class. I would like give my ballot (if had one ) before the inductees are announced.
As a reminder, each voter is allowed to vote from zero to ten players.  A player must receive a minimum of 75%  in order to be inducted.  If a player gets less than 5%, he is off the ballot permanently. 
So here is my ballot:
Jeff Bagwell
Tim Raines
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Fred McGriff
Vladimir Guerrero

I am on the fence with Ivan Rodriguez, Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez.  How much of link is there with Rodriguez and PEDs?  and With Walker and Martinez, both are very very good players but not sure quite Hall worthy.  I am a hardline no with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds right now.

Who do I think will get in? Bagwell and Raines. Guerrero has real good shot, he may sneak in on the first ballot but my guess he will have to wait a year.  Rodriguez and Trevor Hoffman will come close also.  Clemens and Bonds will get more votes than ever but still fall short.

I am also hoping that Jorge Posada receives at least 5% of votes.  I don't think he will get in soon but I believe he should be on the ballot in the future and not be just a one and done.

Friday, January 6, 2017

In Memoriam: "Superman" Pennington

Baseball lost a former star on Wednesday, but most fans may have never heard of him. His name is Art Pennington.  He played in the old Negro Leagues in the 1940s primarily with the Chicago American Giants.
2009 Topps Allen & Ginter

Pennington was a versatile player on the diamond. He had power and speed while playing several positions too.  He finished near or at the top in stolen bases and batting average consistently with the like of Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe.  Pennington appeared in two All Star games-1942 and 1950.

There is an old story that when a Pennington was a teenager, he faced the great Satchel Paige.  Paige said to the youngster "Come on up, little boy" with Pennington telling him to just "throw it and duck".  Well, Paige got the best of Pennington that day but he hit well enough overall as a pro to have it become his signature phrase.

Like many other negro leaguers, Pennington also played winter ball in Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.  Most black players loved playing in these countries as there were no prejudices and they lived as free men.  Pennington held his old own during the winter leagues playing with and against the likes of Ray Dandridge, Willie Wells , Josh Gibson and several big league stars too.

After his stints in the Negro Leagues and winter ball, Pennington played several seasons in the minor leagues.  Even though he had success in the minors (hitting over .300 for multiple seasons), he never got the call to the big leagues.  The majors were still being integrated and the teams that signed the black players only signed a token few even though more were qualified.

Pennigton's other big highlight was hitting home runs off of big leaguers Sal Maglie and Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean in an exhibition game.  Pennington was 93 years old.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Three Movie Characters That Are More Real Than You Think.

With the Oscars being aired last Sunday night, I think it gives me a good opportunity to talk about baseball and the movies.  There is a been a good number of baseball movies over the years and many of them such as Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Natural, A League of the Their Own and Major League have been very popular among the audience.
There are three characters in these movies that most movie goers think are totally fictitious. But, in fact, there is more reality to them than you realize.  They are:

Max Patkin - Bull Durham (1988).  Patkin was the rubber faced man who was a sideshow during the games.  Patkin is 100% real.  After failing as a ball player, he found his niche as an entertainer at the ball games,  He performed over 4,000 games for 51 years and was called the Clown Prince of Baseball.
Writer Ron Shelton who played minor league baseball himself casted Patkin in the movie to help authenticate life in the minors.

Archibald "Moonlight" Graham- Field of Dreams (1989).  If you recall from the movie. Graham played in one game and never made a plate appearance for the New York Giants in the early 20th century and later became a doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota.  All of these are facts.
Writer W.P, Kinsella noticed Graham's unusual entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia.  Kinsella did some research on Graham and made him a character in his book "Shoeless Joe" which the movie Field of Dreams was based on.

Roy Hobbs - The Natural (1984).  Hobbs was a star baseball player whose career was interrupted when he was shot by a deranged woman in Chicago.  Yes, there was a former MLB player that this happened to.  His name is Eddie Waitkus.
1952 Topps

Waitkus was a young player for the Chicago Cubs who was called a "natural" player by writers in the late 1940s.  He made two All Star games in 1948 and '49.   A woman(Ruth Ann Steinhagen) became infatuated with Waitkus and met up with him one weekend in Chicago.  She shot him with a .22 caliber rifle in a hotel room.  Waitkus was never the same ball player afterwards when he later played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles.
Author Bernard Malamud used Waitkus's story for his book, The Natural in 1952.  Malamud only used Waitkus as a basis for his book as the rest of the story is quite fictitious.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day in Baseball History

It is Leap Day.  Since today only happens once every four years, one is curious if there has been any significant moments in baseball history.  The biggest news item happened back in 1972 when Hank Aaron signed then the richest deal in baseball with the Braves.  The contract was for 3 years/$600,000 and thus keeping him in the Braves uniform for his record breaking 715th home run in 1974.

There has a been a few deaths and about a dozen births of former Major League players.  I will elaborate on a couple Leap Day births.
1933 Goudey

"Pepper" Martin was a star outfielder and third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals (1928-1944).  His hustling style of play drew him comparisons to Ty Cobb and gave him the nickname Wild Horse of the Osage.  Due to his aggressive play and subsequent injuries, Martin never really fulfilled his potential.
Martin was a key member of the Cardinals' Gashouse Gang that won two World Series titles (1931 and 1934).  Martin has a MLB best career World Series batting average of .414.   Martin's other accomplishments include leading the league in stolen bases three times and playing in four All Star games.
1951 Bowman

Al Rosen was one of the top third basemen in the American League during his career (1947-56).  After serving in the Navy during World War II, Rosen began his MLB career with the Cleveland Indians.  The Cleveland Slugger led the league in home runs and runs batted in twice each.  Rosen played in four All Star games and won the AL MVP in 1953.  He also was a part of the last Indians World Series title in 1948.
After his playing day, Rosen worked in the front office.  His work as a General Manager for the San Francisco Giants led him to being named Executive of the Year in 1987.  To this day, Rosen is still the only person ever to win the MVP and Executive of the Year honors.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top 10 Negro League Nicknames

I was thinking awhile back, where has all the great nicknames in baseball have gone? Of course, we do have "El Oso Blanco" (Evan Gattis), but most are just shortened versions of their full names like MadBum, ARod, and Miggy.  Rather boring.
In the past, we had the Iron Horse, Dizzy, Fordham Flash, Splendid Splinter and Oil Can.  The Negro Leagues had the best nicknames though.  I will give you my top 10 from the old Negro Leagues.

10)  Norman "Turkey" Stearnes.  Much like former Dodger Ron Cey (Penguin) or the Cardinals' Joe "Ducky" Medwick, Stearnes got his nickname because he moved around like the bird.
1952 Topps

9) Sam "The Jet' Jethroe.  He got his moniker because of his speed. He led the Negro Leagues in stolen bases three times and the National League twice.

8)Herbert "Rap" Dixon  Even though you might think he got the nickname from his hitting prowess, he actually acquired it because Dixon is from the area near Rappahannock River in Virginia.  Still cool enough to my make my list

7) "Bullet" Joe Rogan  His blazing fastball and solid bat helped him become a great pitcher and outfielder and later a Hall of Famer.

6) James "Cool Papa" Bell.  The Hall of Fame outfielder started out as a pitcher where he struck out the great Oscar Charleston as a 19 year old under pressure.
1960 Leaf
5)Bob "Rope" Boyd.  He played only a few years in the Negro Leagues before a decade long career in the bigs. Boyd acquired his moniker because of the line drive hitting

4) John "Mule" Miles  His manager said he hit like a mule kicks

3) Dick "Cannonball" Redding.  One of the top pitchers in the 1910s much to thanks from his great fastball

2) Jud Wilson.  Got the nickname "Boojum" from his teammates after the sound of the ball when it hit the outfield walls.
2001 Fleer Tradition Stitches In Time
1) Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe  . Got the nickname because he would pitch one end of the double header and catch the other.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

5 Negro League Greats You Should Know But Don't

February is Black History Month and to coincide with it, I am going to write a few Negro League based editions.
Every baseball fan knows of the old negro leagues and some of its' great players.  We all know who Satchel Paige, James "Cool Papa" Bell, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard are.  Many know of Ray Dandridge, Oscar Charleston and Rube Foster.  But there is several players who were great that many baseball fans have never heard of. 
I will tell you briefly about five of these players.

1) Willie Wells (1924-48).  Wells is considered to be the top shortstop in the negro leagues in the 1930s and early 40s.  Known for his good range, sure hands and accurate arm.  He was a solid hitter also, hitting over .300 consistently.  As many Negro League stars did, he played during the winter months in Latin America.  In Cuba he won multiple MVPs and league titles and later in Mexico he won another pennant and became known as "El Diablo" or "The Devil". 
Here in the USA, he played primarily with St. Louis Stars and Newark Eagles.  With the Eagles, he was the part of the Million Dollar Infield.  Wells played in eight Negro League All Star games.  Near the end of his career, he taught a young Jackie Robinson how to turn the double play.  Wells was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
2001 Topps Chrome What Could Have Been
2)George "Mule" Suttles"  (1918-44).  Despite using a 50 ounce bat, Suttles was known for his prodigious home runs and all the while maintaining a high batting average.  Suttles was also a member of the Million Dollar Infield and played in five all star games where he hit .412 for his career.  For exhibition games against white ball clubs, Suttles hit .374 and hit five career home runs.  His teammates would yell "Kick Mule" while he was the plate in hoping for a big hit.  Suttles was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006

3)Raleigh "Biz" Mackey (1920-47) Widely considered the greatest defensive catcher in Negro League history.  He studied the hitters' tendencies, worked well with the pitchers and was able to frame pitches in order to get calls in his favor.  Mackey had the ability to throw a strike to gun out would be base stealers at second base from the crouch just as well as many standing up. 
At the plate, he was able to hit for power and average from both sides of the plate.  Mackey was selected to play in four all star games and was even picked to start over a young slugging Josh Gibson.  Mackey later taught the finer points of catching to Roy Campanella.  He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2006.

4)Norman "Turkey" Stearnes (1920-40) The outfielder played mostly for the Detroit Stars,  Stearnes had both great power and speed.   Stearnes is considered one of the greatest home run hitters in the negro leagues.  He also led the league in triples and stolen bases each at one point in his career.  Stearnes was also a very good fielder.  He was the top vote getter in the inaugural Negro League East-West All Star game and later played in three other games.  He is credited with a career. 351 average against white ball clubs in exhibition play.  He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2000.
1994 Ted Willams Co.
5) Willard Brown (1935-50). A could do it all outfielder that was best known for his power and ability to step up his play in big games.  While playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, he won three batting and home run titles and garnered the nickname "Esse Hombre".
In the USA, Brown played on the great Kansas City Monarch teams that five pennants in a six year span.  "Home Run" Brown played on several all star games before called to duty for World War II.  After his return, he helped lead the Monarchs to another pennant.  Months after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barriers in 1947, Brown and Hank Thompson was signed to play for the lowly St. Louis Browns of the American League.  Without any minor league adjustment, both Brown and Thompson struggled in the major leagues.  Brown returned to the Monarchs soon after, but managed to hit the first ever home run in AL history by a black player.  Brown was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2006.