Went up to the Yards last night where the Birds are trying to resuscitate their season against the Texas Rangers. Initially it didn’t go so well as Wade Miley did what is becoming his usual routine. Going deep in the count, walking too many hitters, allowing runners into scoring position, followed by the “big hit” (in this case a three run homerun by Mike Napoli.
But this time the Birds struck back. Homerun by Schoop. Then by Jones. Then Trumbo. A series of base hits producing still more runs. A series of scoreless innings produced by the bullpen and the Birds came away with a 9-7 win (and a sweep of the four game series).
For me however, the highlight of the evening came about an hour before the first pitch. Thursday is old-timer autograph night at the Yards. One of the persons signing was Dick Hall. Oriole fans will remember Hall as one of the anchors of the O’s bullpen during the sixties. My memory stretches back a bit further. Back some sixty-three years and a grade school field trip to Ebbets Field. Our class was in the centerfield grandstand where we watched the game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. The players we could see the best were of course the centerfielders, Duke Snider for the Dodgers, and a young centerfielder for the Pirates by the name of Dick Hall.
I mentioned this to him last night and his eyes lit up. He started talking about the time he threw out Jackie Robinson.
Sixty three years. In some ways it seems like yesterday.
So You Want to Run a Ball Club. It has a 1951 publication date but I would have purchased some time in the mid to late ’50s. It’s a 64 page gem with all kinds of tips on running a baseball franchise in the minor leagues. Items discussed include whether it’s better to sell boiled or grilled hot dog. Also a fair amount of attention is focused on the need to educate the fans that baseballs hit into the stands still belong to the ball club. A fascinating little book on the baseball business practices of mid-century America.
This delightful picture book was published in 1952 and was probably a birthday present. It’s one of those books that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. I’m amazed that I still have it.
What can you say? I went up to the Yards this afternoon to see the Birds take on the World Champion Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are in a fight for the NL Central lead and they are playing with purpose. The Orioles on the other hand are…
…just showing up. Ubaldo Jimenez started on the mound and by the end of the third inning Chicago had a 6-0 lead. Newly acquired Jose Quintana was on top of his game for Chicago mixing a respectable fastball with a nasty curve which had the Birds’ hitters swinging at air all afternoon. The number pretty much tell the tale. Cubs had ten runs on fifteen hits. The Orioles had zero on fourteen strikeouts.
I’m trying to discern a silver lining. I’m not succeeding.
A couple of years ago I did a Facebook feature on old baseball yearbooks. I’d like to try something now along the same lines. Old baseball stuff, that for whatever reasons never got thrown out. And we will start with the best first.
The Original Encyclopedia of Baseball. Published in 1951 by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson. My father gave it to me, probably for Christmas. On the first page you can still see, written in pencil in my father’s hand, “This book belongs to Billy Lewers.”
By today’s standards, the Turkin-Thompson work is primitive. But at the time, it was special. The first book of its kind ever. An entry for every player who ever played in the major leagues with his position, number of games played, and either batting average (for non-pitchers) or won-lost record (for pitchers).
In the section on minor leagues, it lists all the minor leagues currently (1950) in existence along with their cities. There were 58 of them. There are also “Playing Hints.” For example “How to Play Shortstop” by Honus Wagner. Also was included was the “Org Chart” for the 1950 New York Yankees.
As the years went by, other more sophisticated baseball encyclopedias were produced. There was the Ronald Encyclopedia of Baseball, The McMillan Baseball Encyclopedia, The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, and Total Baseball. They were all great and I purchased them all. Of course, everything they had and so much more is available today on the internet. But The Turkin-Thompson was the first and as a child I spent many, many happy hours pouring over its pages.
That’s what the Fordham Flash, Frankie Frisch used to bemoan when he managed Pittsburgh during the ‘40s when his pitchers would surrender walks to the opposition; walks that inevitably led to run producing events for the opposition.
It was Frankie Frisch that came to my mind today as I sat at Nats Park watching a parade of Atlanta pitchers enter the game. They all threw 95+ mph heat but they had a rather tenuous relationship with the strike zone. Four on the innings that the Nats scored came as the result of walks (sometimes multiple walks) to lead things off. The Old Flash had it right.
Other than that, it was great day for Anthony Rendon. Two key hits, two walks, a key stolen base, solid in the field.
Too many pitching changes! When I become Commissioner of Baseball, my first rule change will be to have all teams carry a maximum of eleven pitchers. (My second change will be to get rid of instant replay.)
Oh yeah, Nats won 10-5.
The baseball (and basketball) worlds were saddened by the recent passing of Gene Conley. He’s been described as the only person to have a “substantial” career in both major league baseball and professional basketball. He was Bill Russell’s back-up center on some of the great Boston Celtics teams of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. I saw him a number of times in that role at Madison Square Garden.
Conley was a pitcher who originally came up with the Boston Braves. In fact he is the answer to the trivia question,
“Who was the last Boston Braves player who subsequently played for the Boston Red Sox?
This is not to be confused with its companion question of
“Who was the last Boston Red Sox player who previously had played for the Boston Braves?” (Different answer)
Conley was a fixture in the Braves starting rotation of the mid and late 1950s, generally regarded as their number four starter behind Spahn, Burdette, and Buhl. After an off year he was traded to the Phillies. Two years later the Phillies traded him to the Red Sox for 6 ft. 7 in. tall Frank Sullivan. Since Conley was 6 ft. 8 in. tall, the papers reported that the Sox got the better of the trade “by one inch.”
I saw Gene Conley pitch just once for the Sox. Shortly after my high school graduation, I celebrated by seeing an entire four game Red Sox-Yankee series at Yankee Stadium. Gene Conley was the Sox starting pitcher Friday night. He completely lost it in the second inning and by the time a relief pitcher could be summoned the Yanks had a 6-0 lead.
Conley appears to have been a fun guy to have around. In his autobiography, Carl Yastrzemski noted that he never saw a funnier guy than Gene Conley. In 1962, Gene and Pumpsie Green made their famous escapade as they left the Red Sox team bus and spent two days bar hopping in New York City. Conley eventually made it to one of the airports and tried to buy a ticket to Israel but was unable to do so because he didn’t have his passport. Needless to say, the Red Sox were not pleased. Arm trouble in 1963 ended his career.
Gene Conley was a unique individual who added richness and texture to the sports scene of his period. His passing is indeed a sad moment.