Sox Banner on Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley. Courtesy: Antonio Rossman.
(This very site seemed to have vanished on Nov. 6; at moments like that, one realizes how fragile all this geekiness is in the hands of innocents. Maybe it will re-appear on its own.)
Baseball has vanished to the other side of the moon, not to reappear til March. My greatest memory from the 2013 World Series goes beyond the joy of watching Ortiz and Lester and Pedroia and Uehara -- exuberant phenomena that even a non-Red Sox fan could love.
The best baseball note of October came from David Waldstein of The New York Times as he tried to outrun the ubiquitous KMOX on Tuesday night. He got south of Memphis, into Mississippi, and that landmark AM station was still going strong, outlasting the game itself. Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/30/sports/baseball/trying-to-outrun-the-long-reach-of-cardinals-baseball.html?_r=0
The part I loved about Waldstein's article was that it celebrated the holy union between baseball and radio, as good as ever, late in its first century. What fan has not learned to love the sport from an hour or two in the car, listening to great chunks of a ball game, epic or mundane?
It’s one of the great relationships in American life – the ball fan with the gabby play-by-play broadcaster and color commentator. I have great patience with John Sterling of the Yankees because he fills that job description – a character, living memory, part of the act.
I can recall some epic games in the car:
- In 1946 my dad took a temporary job as a special-delivery mailman, driving around quiet corners of Queens. I’d feign illness in school, to go around with him, listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers, heading to the playoff loss to the Cardinals.
- Driving alone from New York to Chicago, circa 1965, listening to KMOX clear as a bell, as Lou Brock manufactured a run for a 1-0 victory over the Phillies.
- In 1991, my wife and I were driving to Florida during the seventh game of the World Series. As we hurtled south, we heard Jack Morris of the Twins pitching against John Smoltz. When the game went into the 10th inning, I would have been happy if it had gone 20 – we were pulling an all-nighter. When Gene Larkin won the game, 1-0, with a bases-loaded single, I felt desolate, just as I felt Wednesday night. The season was over.The link to that game:
The car radio delivers amazing events. I remember driving before dawn from Nashville to eastern Kentucky, in 1971, listening to a New Orleans clear-channel station, I believe WWL, 870 on the dial, describing the final hours of Mardi Gras. I remember driving from the Detroit airport to Pontiac for a World Cup soccer match in 1994, listening to WFAN, 660 AM, for the madness in Madison Square Garden as fans watched the eerie O.J. Simpson drive along the freeway as it unfolded on TV. On drives on Long Island on Saturday night, I used to catch the Grand Ole Opry on WSM at 650 AM.
But nothing suits radio better than baseball. It is now officially Off Season. If you pick up any ball games from now until spring training, courtesy of sun spots or time warps or dark holes, please let me know.
Any great baseball car drives you can recall?
Hornsby and the ball were waiting for the Babe
This was always going to be a terrific World Series, what with the two ancient franchises, the Cardinals and the Red Sox, and their history of three previous Series.
The Series kept getting more interesting, necessarily in technical brilliance but in the misplays that have determined the last three games – a wild throw, an obstruction, a pickoff.
Before we go any further, let’s put Kolten Wong’s pickoff in perspective. The pinch-runner for the Cardinals was caught off first base to end the fourth game very late Sunday evening.
An entire World Series once ended with a runner caught trying to steal second base. That was George Herman Ruth, who took it upon himself to try to steal with two outs and nobody on in the seventh game, with the Yankees trailing the Cardinals, 3-2.
The batter was merely Bob Meusel, who was hitting only .238 for the Series but was the cleanup hitter. Lou Gehrig was on deck. The Babe was easily thrown out, tagged by the Cards’ player-manager Rogers Hornsby. The pitcher was Grover Cleveland Alexander, working in relief.
Over the years, the legend has persisted that Alexander was hung over after pitching the day before, but he later denied it.
If the Babe can end a Series with a gaffe, Kelton Wong can surely end a game by straying too far off first with the superb Koji Uehara pitching.
I was looking forward to this Series if only because of the epic Series of 1946, the first I remember, with its returning service veterans, plus the matchup between Stan Musial and Ted Williams, and Enos’ Slaughter romp home in the seventh game.
What makes that memory so strong is that the World Series stood by itself in those days, with no post-season tournament beforehand. (The Cardinals had survived a league playoff after tying Brooklyn, but that’s a different category.)
These moments – the Babe’s blunder, Slaughter’s romp, Bob Gibson’s pitching in 1967, Manny Ramirez’ hitting in 2004 – stand out because they happened in the World Series, not in that growing amorphous blob that MLB and the networks call the post season. Kolten Wong’s pickoff and Will Middlebrooks’ inadvertent obstruction in the third game will stand up precisely because they happened in the World Series.
Ruth’s final out: http://baberuthmuseum.org/press/didyouknow/?article_id=122
Box scores from 1926: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA192610100.shtml
Alexander’s side of it, recently posted by the historian John Thorn: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/12/18/grover-cleveland-alexander-remembers-1926-world-series-game-7/
A few years ago I found myself writing that Stan Musial embodied the six-degrees-of-separation history of baseball – signed by the Cardinals of Branch Rickey, a man of the Nineteenth Century, and a teammate of Bob Gibson and Curt Flood and Bill White, stars of the Sixties.
Musial, who died on Jan. 20
of this year, is still current in many ways.
On Wednesday, a painting of Stan the Man was to be unveiled at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis, a few hours before his Cardinals were to open the World Series in Boston.
Boston is part of the karma. Musial played his last World Series against the Red Sox in 1946 – what I consider one of the great Series in history for the postwar presence of so many veterans, including Musial and Ted Williams – and in Musial’s only year as general manager, the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series over the Red Sox.
The Man runs right through the center of baseball. And get this, Tim McCarver, the eager puppy of a catcher who was housebroken by Musial and Gibson and others in the early 60s, is calling his last games
for Fox this month.
McCarver adores Stan the Man. In the biography I wrote
in 2011, Stan Musial: an American Life, McCarver told of the so-called lucky streak of Musial’s life – the embarrassed giggle, the winning hands at poker, the .331 batting average. Never underestimate Stan the Man, McCarver said.
This painting that will be displayed permanently at the M.A.C. is the first sports portrait among other distinguished Missourians. But Musial is wearing a suit, not the gaudy Cardinal uniform. His wife Lilllian commissioned the great portrait artist Robert Templeton
to come to their home in 1960 and paint her husband, still playing ball, but already preparing for his continuing career in the restaurant business. Lil, who died in May of 2012
, wanted to depict her husband as a man of dignity. The portrait hung in their home until they both passed, and now it will be seen downtown.
Another Musial sighting: his baseball collection -- the uniforms and scorecards and other mementos – are up for sale via the Heritage Auction site
Nov. 9-11. Needless to say, the surge to the World Series by the Cardinals – with the No. 6 memorial patches
on their uniforms -- cannot help but bring Musial closer to the public eye this month.
* * *
One more thing about this World Series: these two teams are not there by accident. Both of them have enlightened ownerships that have dominated this past decade. The Red Sox of John Henry and associates retooled and returned to the Series this year. The Cardinals, operated conservatively by the DeWitt family, keep winning with sound new waves of players. The smartest thing the Cardinals did was not to match the Angels’ offer for Albert Pujols. As Branch Rickey used to say: Better a year too soon than a year too late. In these high-stakes times, that theory is more important than ever. These two teams deserve to be where they are. Red Sox-Cardinals. The last World Series for The Kid and the Man, but in that grand baseball way, seeming like just yesterday.
Talk about cruel.
Some of us of a certain age remember where we were.
Pittsburgh Has the Clemente Bridge
The wild card is a gimmick. Now baseball is making the franchise of Edd Roush and Vada Pinson and Dave Concepcíon play the team of Honus Wagner and Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente in one game for the championship of the Ohio River.
As an old Brooklyn Dodger fan, I cannot choose between cities. They exude history, from the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela to the miniature Roebling suspension bridge over the Beautiful Ohio.
When I lived in Louisville as a news reporter, Cincinnati was a major-league city, with young Al Michaels on the radio, calling the Big Red Machine. And I used to write about Pittsburgh, too – mine subsidence under schools, Heinz Hall, now the sweet ball park with the sensational view of downtown Pittsburgh. So don’t ask me to pick between cities.
All I know is this: back in 1992, a manager asked for respect for his team.
Jim Leyland had the credentials, even back then. He managed the game right. Now he was addressing reporters just outside the visiting clubhouse in Atlanta, where his Pirate players were dealing with the sudden 3-2 loss to the Braves on a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.
Francisco Cabrera had just driven home Sid Bream with the winning run (in what seemed like slow-motion) and the Braves were going to the World Series (and a generation of success) and the Pirates were heading to oblivion.
Leyland said this team had tried hard, and fallen short, and he challenged reporters to be fair. Bobby Bonilla and John Smiley were already gone because ownership could not afford the free-agent salaries, and everybody knew Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek were leaving. Leyland’s talk was sentimental, what a reporter might encounter after a high-school championship game, but he was talking about professionals, and he made his point in a touching way.
Now Leyland manages in Detroit with great, expensive players, and it has taken 21 years for the Pirates to play another post-season game. This is a big event, for anybody who loves baseball, the American sport with the most history, the sport with regional ties.
These two grand old teams go back to the Nineteenth Century; now they must play one game just to keep going. Cruel.
All I know is that the Reds have been in the post-season in 2010 and 2012, but the Pirates have not played a single post-season game since Andy Van Slyke fell to the ground in center field watching Bream lumber home, and Leyland challenged us to be decent to a team that was coming apart. Twenty-one years. Go, Bucs.
Then Again, Cincinnati Has the Roebling Bridge
Unidentified Hooky Player; Sculpture of Casey/ Photo by Lenny Fan
I’ve just done a column for the NYT on the double opening day in New York.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/sports/baseball/two-baseball-openers-make-winter-go-away.html
But wait, there’s more. I just heard from Bill Wakefield, who pitched quite well
for the Mets in 1964, and he recalled the first game ever at Shea. He was a Stanford guy who during spring training had become friendly with Hot Rod Kanehl
, who was not a Stanford guy.
Bill’s e-mail reminded me why I love baseball so much:
“We were staying at the Travelers Inn as a team,” Bill wrote. “Rod Kanehl took me out the night before and we went to Toots Shor’s, and Howard Cosell came up and said, ‘Runner Rod, how are you?’ and I thought, ‘Wow, this is the Big Leagues – better than Tulsa.
“We then took separate cabs back to the Travelers. I was late going to breakfast and I remember Rod telling me, ‘I thought somebody had taken you to Brooklyn and I’d never see the rookie again. I’m glad you’re here for breakfast.’
“I had a one-day pay check from the Mets. 1st and the 15th. I think it was around $160. I cashed it – in NYC – cash in my pocket. This is the life.”
“Game against the Pirates. Saw buddies from college along the stands in right field. Hickman looking at the stands and asking me, ‘Are we good enough to play here?’
“As Chris Cannizzaro
used to do before opening day – he went around the entire clubhouse, shook hands with all 25 players and said, ‘Have a good year.’ You, too.”
You know you are going good when an old friend writes such a literate e-mail. Then I dug dug out my battered copy of The Southpaw by Mark Harris, which I regard as the best baseball novel, ever.
A 17-year-old lefty from upstate New York attends opening day in the city, a few years before he will be the surprise starter there.
'There was an announcement by the loudspeaker, 'Ladies and gentlemen, our national anthem,' and the band struck the tune and some lady that I could not see begun to sing, and a mighty powerful pair of lungs she had. It is really beautiful, for as the last words die away, a roar goes up from the people, and for a minute there is no sound but the echo of the singing, and no movement or motion except maybe a bird or the flags waving or the drummer on his drums, and then the music dies and the people spring to life and the chief umpire calls loud and long, 'Puh-lay ball! And the game is on.''
You should read the book.
As Chris Cannizzaro said, “Have a good year.”
I went to high school with that guy. Photo by Lenny Fan
Hardier Than Santana or Teixeira
Never mind the groundhog or the Easter Bunny.
I heard this chirping outside the house.
You know what he was saying?
Let's play two.
Yanks and Mets, separately, on Monday.
Everything's going to be all right from now on.
Photo by the Groundhog
A few days early, the groundhog emerges,
Temperatures heading toward the 50’s.
The local ball field looks inviting
Maybe it is time for opening day.
How is A-Rod recuperating?
The Yankees, he is told, are looking into new allegations,
Trying to bust his contract, be done with him.
Is that nice R.A. Dickey ready to win another 20?
The Mets let him go, and dissed him on his way out the door.
Never mind, the groundhog says. I’m going back down.
Let me know when it's safe to come up.
Photo by Doug Mills
THURSDAY Here are two stories about Musial, over the transom, from readers in Connecticut and Missouri. Your own comments are welcome, below:
A little story about “Stan the Man”
This is probably one of a thousand stories about the special person that Stan Musial was.
Stan Musial’s daughter and her family lived on a beautiful street in Kirkwood next door to a friend and classmate of my daughter, Annie. I had recently spoken to her friend’s mother who told me that Stan was always over at his daughter’s house doing chores and odds and ends and how he was just the nicest person to everyone in the neighborhood.
One evening, my brother Bill, who lived in Dallas, called to tell me that he was coming to St. Louis to attend the 40th birthday party of his very good friend and roommate at Mizzou. His friend’s first name was Stan and was actually named after “Stan the Man.”
My brother commented that it would really be special if he could get something written from “Stan the Man” to Stan (his friend) as a birthday present. I remembered what the neighbor said and called the neighbor to see if it were possible to do this the next time Stan was at his daughter’s house.
I had an 8 x 10 glossy of Stan Musial at home and I brought it over to the neighbor. She said she would ask him the next time she sees him and that, as a matter of fact, Stan has been sealing his daughter’s driveway the past few days.
The neighbor called me the following Saturday to tell me that she saw Stan sealing the driveway and went out to ask him the favor of signing the picture.
She went on to tell me that upon this request, Stan said “Wait right here. I’ll be back in half an hour.” A little later, Stan came back and brought with him a number of articles all signed by Stan and with well wishes for the other Stan on his birthday. He obviously had dropped everything, drove home, and returned with the items which made one man’s birthday very very special.
And guess what? Stan didn’t ask for one dime. He was just honored to be asked. He did not personally know any of us but it didn’t matter.
When I think of Stan Musial, certainly I think of all the hits I witnessed as a kid and young adult, I am almost 70 now, but most of all I remember this story because this little act of kindness defines who he was. “The Man.”
The passing of Stan Musial is a sad event for all who knew of him! Litchfield, Connecticut, my life long home, may be far away from St. Louis and populated by Red Sox, Mets and Yankees fans, but any baseball fanatic who followed Mr. Musial's career, even to a minute degree, had to love his kind and wondrous personality.
Indeed, I will never, ever forget the glorious human being who was Stan The Man Musial. And, thank The Lord I bumped into him in person twice by amazing chance.
One of those days, my son, Tommie, a Red Sox fan, and I, a Giants fan, were standing outside the door of the room where the Hall of Famers go for their party in Cooperstown, New York. Of course, we were gazing closely to catch glimpses of our Red Sox and Giants all time heroes. As we were doing so, a fan, standing right behind us, who did not need a microphone, began announcing the names and nicknames of each player moving toward us.
"Pee Wee Reese!" he exclaimed as Pee Wee moved right up to us and gave all of us a high wave. "Willie Stretch McCovey!" the microphone blurted out. Willie simply moved by with speed, as if he were rushing out of the dugout to his first base post at a Polo Grounds home game. I saw quite a few of those games with my dad, Thomas D. Williams, a Giants fan as well, particularly after Willie Mays became my favorite rookie center fielder ever.
Our announcer continued his stupendous identifications of a couple of other famers before his apparent favorite arrived.
"Stan Musial!" he exclaimed with extraordinary enthusiasm. Stan, donning a huge smile, began walking toward us from the car that took him there. As Stan, got closer, our announcer yelled out: "Give us the stance, Stan!" So Stan stopped in mid-walk, and indeed gave us that notorious batting stance: his two arms high above and well in back of his head and his legs slightly crouched and apart. Without further prompting, Stan swung his arms forward as if his bat was about to strike a fast ball. He finished the swing, moved forward toward Tommie and I, resumed his stance and swung again. By the time Stan repeated this for his third swing, he was just feet away from us. He resumed his stance and exclaimed: "Once again?!" But, he stopped there for seconds, dropped the imaginary bat, broke out with an amazing smile and continued walking into the Hall of Fame party.
Upon another occasion, years apart, I was anticipating more lively action from Hall of Famers close to the same hallers' arty location. First I remember Yogi Berra and several other famers trudge by without episode or comment except for yells from the crowd: "Hey Yogi, Yogi,Yogi!" No answer and on into the Hall he walked. I was a bit disappointed until I saw this guy I could not yet recognize get out of a car and began his energetic walk. As he did so, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a harmonica. He soon put it to his lips as he continued his path and began playing "Take Me Out ToThe Ball Game!" As he was finishing, the crowd yelled: "Give it to us again Stan!" It was Stan The Man and once again, he belted another one out of the park: this one, however, was the greatest of baseball songs!
Dennie Williams, a Lifetime Giants Fan
Litchfield, Ct. WEDNESDAY
Fans have sent in their memories of Musial to John Hall, collector of midwest baseball history. Many are touching, and give a great sense of the hold Musial has on the region. http://komleaguebaseball.blogspot.com/
For fans further east, I hear there will be a service in his home town of Donora, Pa., in mid-February. I will keep you posted. GV MONDAY
Willie Mays on Stan Musial:
Mays was at the Baseball Writers’ dinner in New York Saturday night when word got around that Stan Musial had passed.
Willie Weinbaum of ESPN sent this report to Buster Olney
: "It is a very sad day for me," Willie Mays said in a brief interview after being informed of his perennial National League All-Star Game teammate's passing. Mays, on hand to celebrate the 2012 Giants' world championship honorees and the chapter's "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" award to his 1973 Mets, called Musial "a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could."I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever."
This dovetails with Bernie Miklasz’ anecdote about Musial. Some people from a younger generation see Musial as less than a hero because he didn’t go on freedom rides.
How you live your daily life is important, too.
Here's a link to a terrific column by Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch. My thanks to Lynn McGuire, widow of the great John McGuire, for sending me this link. http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/a-perfect-union-stan-the-man-and-st-louis/article_1f42f8b6-a9da-530f-9492-2a767479bd19.html#.UPyI1uRTG2M.email
A FEW PEOPLE HAVE INCLUDED PERSONAL MEMORIES OF MUSIAL. I'D LOVE TO SEE YOURS BELOW. GV. SATURDAY NIGHT
We now prepare for the tributes, in the town that loved him.
Church and state in St. Louis will honor Stan Musial in the days and weeks to come, and the baseball-playing part of the world can update its memory of Stan the Man -- .331 batting average,
475 home runs, speed and consistency, voted the best baseball player of the post-war decade by Life Magazine.
He was more than that – he was the approachable face of baseball, a humble man who came to St. Louis and stayed, until he passed Saturday at the age of 92. The family has lost Lil and Stan in a short time.
I was lucky enough to get a feel for Musial in St. Louis while writing his unauthorized biography, Stan Musial: An American Life
, which was a best-seller in 2011.
He was past speaking for himself but I was honored that some of his best friends, teammates, opponents and family spoke about him, portrayed him as very human.
I was privileged to be at the White House in 2011 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He seemed subdued most of the time but lit up when President Obama put the medal around his neck.
His friends said he wore the medal when he made the rounds of his lunch places back home in the days afterward. .
I’ll be writing about him for the Times in the Monday edition.
For the moment, my condolences go to his family and that huge swath of the country that loved him, as its own.
Poster Courtesy of John Hall
I love the National Baseball Hall of Fame
. I love the concept, the site in beautiful Cooperstown, N.Y. and the people who run it. I am sorry they will have no new living members
to induct this year, but that will take care of itself soon enough.
There is another baseball shrine -- and Buck O’Neill, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Marvin Miller are already members.
It is the Baseball Reliquary, based in Southern California, and also a state of mind that honors great characters of baseball. I don’t see the Reliquary as a threat or protest toward the Hall of Fame, but any shrine that includes female umpires and flash-in-the-pan players and pioneer mascots deserves its own separate place in this huge complicated world.
Here is a column I wrote in 2009 when Steve Dalkowski – whom I once saw strike out Roger Maris in a spring training game – was to be inducted into the Reliquary:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/sports/baseball/19vecsey.html?_r=0
Maris is also in the Reliquary for hitting 61 homers in 1961, long before the steroid generation.
Curt Flood, Pam Postema, Roger Angell and Ted Giannoulas, the great Chicken, are among 42 members of the Reliquary.
Voting is open again, not confined to baseball writers
but open to anybody who pays $25 dues.
I cannot vouch for the Reliquary or tell you if $25 is a good investment. However, for that membership, you can vote for candidates who, in their own individualistic ways, contributed to the sport, including Conrado Marrero, Lisa Fernandez, Ernie Harwell and Pete Reiser and 46 other candidates.
Their very names make me feel warm all over, like dreaming of pitchers and catchers and the first day of spring training.
Here is the Reliquary web site and the current candidates: http://www.baseballreliquary.org/candidates2013.htm
Nothing against the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just different.
Your comments are always welcome.