Ron Necciai’s Day in the Baseball Sun

April 5, 2014
Ron Necciai Bristol Twins 27 Ka in one No-Hitter May 13, 1952

Ron Necciai
Bristol Twins
27 K’s in one No-Hitter
May 13, 1952

In five total seasons of organized baseball (1950-53. 1955), right-handed pitcher Ron Necciai struck out 427 batters in 338 innings pitched. In 1954, he was out of action with the arm injury that would far too soon end his career. During that time, Necciai posted a 18-24, 3.62 ERA for his lower minor league career record and 1-6. 7.04 ERA for his partial service in 1952 with Pittsburgh of the National League.

On May 13, 1952, Ron Necciai grabbed a great big glob of baseball history pitching for the Bristol Twins against the Welch Miners of the Class D Appalachian League by pitching a no-hit game in which he also struck out 27 batters – or, all the outs he needed – to almost totally dominate the game. 17 of the 27 Welch batter strikeouts also went down swinging.

It wasn’t a perfect game. Necciai walked one; he hit one batter; another reached first one an error; and a fourth got on base when the catch could not corral a pitch that would have been a swinging strike three. It wasn’t a perfect game, bt seems the more difficult accomplishment to you? Retiring all 27 men you face, and probably most on batted balls? Or getting all the outs on 27 strikeouts – with only four men reaching base without the help of a credited hit?

Until Ron Necciai, no pitcher in organized baseball history had struck out 27 men in a nine-inning game – no hits or not!

Throw in the fact that Necciai almost didn’t pitch that day because of a painful flare-up of his ulcerated stomach. In spite of his tender age – he was still 19 and about a month shy of age 20 on May 13, 1952 – Necciai suffered terribly from anxiety, worry, and an acidic-spewing stomach that was eating up his body and his piece of mind. He was also an extremely heavy smoker as a young man, reportedly smoking as much as three packs of cigarettes in the clubhouse prior to a pitching start. We’re not sure what his pre-game nicotine input was on May 13, 1952, but we are very certain that the kid wasn’t paying 2014 cigarette prices for his mid-20th century addiction.

Ron Necciai

Ron Necciai

Ron Necciai had a mean fastball, but when his earlier Salisbury manager, George Detore, then taught him how to throw a curve that dropped at the plate due to its unusual release point,  Ron was ready for his big moment in Bristol, his next stop up the line.

The career promotion line moved fast after Necciai fanned 27 in his no-hitter.  With the showman’s support of GM Branch Rickey, Ron Necciai was up pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates before the season ended. It was too much. The fans expected too much. And the driven young pitcher probably tried too hard. He also hurt his arm, Back in the minors in 1953, Necciai wasn’t even able to play in 1954 and, after 1955, he was done.

Ron Necciai rediscovered himself in the sporting goods retail business and, rightfully so, settled for maturity and proving to himself that we was capable of success beyond baseball as more important than anything else. A long successful major league career was not in the cards for Ron Necciai, but neither was his life hinging upon “succeed as a pitcher or its back to the coal mines for you.” Ron Necciai had achieved success in life and peace of mind. And, as he did, guess what? The cigarettes and the ulcers went away.

Ron Necciai turns 82 on June 18, 2014. This early Happy Birthday wish goes out to you today, Ron! We hope all is well. You were very important to a lot of us slightly younger pitchers of that 1952 era who got little more than “get the ball over the plate – and throw it as hard as you can for as long as you can” as coaching. With that much to go on, a lot of us discovered that it was possible to get through one inning with a little heat, but then, as you began to tire and slow down, your accuracy in finding the plate began to meet with bats that came around to tee off on your predictability. Some of were done by age 14.

If you are still up to it, Ron, please leave a public comment below on anything you would like to say. Your fans from over a half century ago would love to hear from you.

 

Babies vs ’07 Red Sox in Sim Series

April 3, 2014
George Ranch Field Unofficial Home of The Houston Babies

George Ranch Field
Unofficial Home of
The Houston Babies

Without the time open to do this series on a daily full-report basis, a simulated APBA Baseball World Series between our Houston Babies has now been played and is reported here in summary form. If you were a player, I hoe you did well. If you are a vintage ball fan, we hope you enjoy, regardless of the outcome and your preference for one team over the other. Because of the home town bias going around here, the results of the Houston Babies players are reported post-series in greater specificity.

The series is a First Four Wins in Seven scheduled games contest. Red Sox games are played in Boston under American League rules. Babies home game are played in a pasture at the George Ranch near Houston. Terry Francona is the manager of the 2007 Red Sox. Bob Dorrill is the playing manager of the 2014 Houston Babies. Time Travel technology is provided by Wormholes, Inc.  Tickets for the games are available to the general public, but no persons without a visionary and respectful imagination need waste their time in the press box ticket lines. You cannot get to these games without a winged spirit and a sublime level of wishful thinking going to town hard inside of you.

 

The Houston Babies versus the 2007 Boston Red Sox Series by Game Report

GAME ONE: BABIES @ RED SOX, Tuesday, October 23, 2007

TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - R H E
BABIES 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 - 3 7 0
RED SOX 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 - - 4 6 1

 Mike Vance (L, 0-1) of the Babies and Josh Beckett (W, 1-0) of the Red Sox each went the distance. The difference in Game One was provided by Manny Rameriz’s 2-run double in the bottom of a 3-run Red Sox third. Vance struck out 11 and walked 2 on the night. Beckett fanned 7 and walked 3. Jimmy Disch (2/3) paced Babies hitters with a double, a run scored, and one RBI.

Red Sox Lead the Best of Seven Series, 1 Game to 0.

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GAME TWO: BABIES @ RED SOX, , Wednesday, October 24, 2007

TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - R H E
BABIES 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 2 0 - 6 11 1
RED SOX 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 - 3 8 0

Larry Hajduk (W, 1-0) of the Babies went 7.1 innings, striking out 11 to match Mike Vance’s effort in Game One. He gave up 7 scattered hits , walking only one. Mark Rejmaniak (1.0 ip) and Mike McCroskey (0.2 ip) closed Boston down from there. Curt Schilling went 7.0 innings for Boston and took the loss. Okajima Hideki shut the Babies down after taking over for Schilling in the 8th with runs in and no one out.

Larry Joe Miggins and Zach Hajduk each went 3 for 4 to pace the Babies on the day, and Phil Holland went 2 for 5.

The Babies and Red Sox are now tied at one win each in the Best of Seven Series as the contest now moves to Houston, following a travel day.

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 GAME THREE: RED SOX @ BABIES, Friday, October 26, 2007

TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - R H E
RED SOX 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 - 3 7 0
BABIES 1 2 1 0 3 0 0 0 - - 7 16 2

With the series shifting to Houston’s nearby George Ranch pasture, old Babies pro Bob Blair (W, 1-0) finally got a start as he recovered from the serious head cold he caught in a Boston pub . Blair was able to hang in there for the 5.0 minimum innings he needed to take due credit for the 7-3 win that the Babies piled up over the first 4 frames. Knuckler Tim Wakefield (L, 0-1) pitched the first 4.1 innings to take the loss for the Red Sox. Julian Tavarez shut out the Babies over the last 3.2 innings, Patrick Lopez, Tony Cavender, Mark Rejmaniak, and Ira Liebman each pitched an inning from the 6th through the 9th to nail things down. Against the four Babies relievers, Boston managed only one-run in the 8th off Rejmaniak.

Trailing 7-2 at the start of the top of the 8th, Manny Ramirez of the Sox scored the last run of the game by blasting a long home run over the highway for the only Boston long ball of the series.

Marc Hudec (3/4) and Deacon Jones (3/5) paced the 16-hit Babies Game 3 attack with Alex Schmelter (2/3), Robby Martin (2/4), (Robert Pena (2/5), and Ken Burns (2/5) checking in as the other four of six batters who celebrated a multiple hits day. Zach Hajduk got in the game long enough to get a pitch hit single, driving his series BA to a stratospheric .833.

The Babies take the series lead over the 2007 Red Sox, 2 games to 1.

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GAME FOUR: RED SOX @ BABIES, Saturday, October 27, 2007

TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - R H E
RED SOX 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 - 2 8 0
BABIES 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 - - 4 10 0

The Houston Babies broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 8th by plating both the Hajduk boys. Then they made it stand through the top of the 9th behind reliever Ira Liebman (W, 1-0). The Babies now sit only a win-away from the series title. Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (L, 0-1) went the distance to take the loss in Game Four.

Red Mahoney started for the Babies, going 5.0 innings and giving up both Boston runs. Tony Cavender followed, giving up no runs and 1-hit in the 6th and 7th. Ira Liebman then duplicated those stats for the 8th and 9th to claim the victory.

Robbie Martin (3/5), Phil Holland (2/4), and Jimmy Disch (2/4) paced all hitters among the Babies.

The Houston Babies now lead the Boston Red Sox in the Series, 3 games to 1.

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GAME FIVE: RED SOX @ BABIES, Sunday, October 28, 2007

TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - R H E
RED SOX 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 - 2 6 1
BABIES 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 - - 3 7 0

The Houston Babies defeated the 2007 Boston Red Sox in five games today, saving their best, most dramatic playing for the 9th inning of the final game. Mike Vance (W, 1-1) took the win that disposed of the Red Sox, pitching all but the last important pitch of the game. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett (L, 1-1) went all the way for the loss. And Patrick Lopez earned one of the most importantly economical saves (Sv, 1) in the history of this thing we call ball.

The Babies took an early 2-0 lead with single tallies on bunched hits in the bottom of the 2nd and 4th. Boston came back to tie the game at 2-2 in the top of the 5th, setting up two moments of drama that would finish both the game and the series in a Texas cow pasture near Houston.

Alex Hajduk led off the bottom of the 6th by blasting the second pitch he saw on a high, deep, and gone forever rainbow arching track over the fence and over the highway. The ball literally disappeared in the glaring sky like a constantly shrinking grain of Imperial sugar. Alex Hajduk’s second homer of the series would hold, but not before the Babies fought a dramatic threat in the 9th.

Nursing that 3-2 lead, Mike Vance got Coco Crisp on a slow bounding grounder to start the top of the 9th, but Julio Lugo of the Sox quickly countered with a double over Robby Martin’s head in right center.

The tying run now lived within serious reach of a dramatic 9th inning tie. Manager Bob Dorrill came out from his catching position to confer with Vance as he also motioned for Patrick Lopez to start throwing in the pen. A butt-pat later, Dorrill left Vance in the game to face Josh Beckett – or whomever Sox manager Terry Francona picked to hit for him.

Big mystery, my eye. David Ortiz would be the pinch hitter., a luxury choice produced by the fact that the series was playing by NL rules in Houston and only using the DH for the AL rules games in Boston.

Glub! Glub! Who pitches to Big Pappy in this situation? You got it. Nobody in their right mind.

Mike Vance then issued a pitch-around-him four-pitch walk as manager Dorrill issued a hand-waving motion to the pen on his return trot to the mound. Vance was through for the day on two-runs (so far), 6 hits, 5 walks, and 4 strikeouts.

Patrick Lopez walked in from the bullpen with all the style of a shorter Clint Eastwood. He would be facing Dustin Pedroia. With the tying and leading runs on base., there was little margin for error.

Before he threw a single pitch, Lopez pulled out a small piece of paper from his pocket and stared at in until the umpire cautioned him to get on with the business at hand.. He folded the paper again and returned t to his back pocket. Then he looked in at playing manager-catcher Bob Dorrill for a sign as Pedroia stepped in.

Before anything further could happen, Boston manager Francona pulled Big Pappy for Jacoby Ellsbury as the runner at first.

Lopez shook off the fact that he was now pitching with dangerous speed at 1st and 2nd. He stared in for sign from Dorrill, almost taking as much time as he had used on his scrap meditation a few minutes earlier.

The pitch was a sweeping curve that was breaking down and away from the right-handed Pedroia. He caught it near the end of his bat and slashed a fast-moving, ground-hugging ball to Deacon Jones at first. Jones picked it up quickly and winged it to Jimmy Disch at second in time to get Ellsbury. Disch then hustled it back to Jones at first for the bam-bam out on Pedroia coming down the line.

 Game over. Series over. Babies beat the 2007 Red Sox, 4 games to 1.

Pandemonium broke out, George Ranch style. The Babies and Red Sox went off to the big ranch house to eat some good old Texas barbeque and talk some baseball history.

When asked about the piece of paper that drew so much of his attention before his one-pitch miracle save, Lopez smiled. “It’s a sketch of a painting I’m going to do someday. It will be called “Buffalo Watching,” but that’s at story for another day. I will settle for our little miracle win over the Red Sox this afternoon as the fan that fires our Houston hearts.

The Houston Babies have defeated the 2007 Boston Red Sox in their series by a final tally of four games to one.

 _______________________________

POST SERIES HITTING CHART FOR HOUSTON BABIES,

PLUS TEAM TOTAL COMPARISON, BABIES & 2007 RED SOX

BABIES BA G AB R H RBI 2BH 3BH HR SO BB SB
Z Hajduk .667 4 9 2 6 2 0 0 0 2 1 0
J Disch .500 5 12 2 6 2 3 0 0 1 1 0
R Martin .500 4 10 0 5 3 1 0 0 1 1 0
B Blair .500 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
R Mahoney .500 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
P Holland .400 5 15 0 6 2 1 0 0 2 0 0
A Schmelter .400 3 10 3 4 2 2 0 0 1 1 0
D Jones .400 4 10 2 4 0 2 1 0 2 0 0
LJ Miggins .364 3 11 2 4 2 3 0 0 3 0 0
M Hudec .357 4 14 1 5 2 2 0 0 6 0 0
A Hajduk .231 5 13 4 3 2 1 0 2 4 1 1
K Burns .200 3 10 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0
B Stevens .200 3 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
R Pena .182 3 11 1 2 2 1 9 0 2 0 0
T Murrah .143 4 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
B Hale .000 3 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
B Dorrill .000 3 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J Hale .000 2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
M McCroskey .000 2 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
M Vance .000 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
T Cavender ~ 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
I Liebman ~ 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
P Lopez ~ 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
M Rejmaniak ~ 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
BABIES TTL .302 70 169 23 51 21 17 1 2 29 9 1
RED SOX TTL .217 5 161 14 35 12 15 1 1 41 17 2

Julio Lugo led the Red Sox with a .412 BA (7/17) that included 3 doubles and J.D. Drew batted .278 (5/18), also with 3 doubles. Mannie Ramirez hit only .158 (3/19), but he did hit the only Red Sox Series homer. David “Big Papai” Ortiz went 1/10 for a .100 BA that included only 1 double, but 5 strikeouts.

______________________________

 PITCHING

Josh Beckett led all Red Sox pitchers with a 1-1 record and a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings of work.

The four Babies starters were outstanding: Mike Vance went 1-1, with a 3.31 ERA for 16.1 innings, with a series leading strikeout total of 15. Bob Blair was 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA over 5 innings, with 7 “K”s. Larry Hajduk was 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA for 7.1 innings and 11 strikeouts; and Marie “Red: Mahoney had no record, but a 3.00 ERA for 5 injury-shortened injuries in her only start. She did have 3 strikeouts.

Closer Ira Liebman (1-0, 0.00 in 2.0 innings of work), who also serves as the radio broadcast voice of the Houston Babies, set a baseball record because of his double-duty obligations when became the only reliever in history to shut another team down while describing his own actions over the air.

_________________________________

STAY TUNED …

The Houston Babies will be taking on other great historical clubs in future simulated series action. One of these days, our club will catch up with the 1927 New York Yankees. Then we’ll get to see who the real “Murderers’ Row” really is.

 

 

 

Bob Dorrill: On Opening Day 2014

April 2, 2014
OPENING DAY 2014 Minute Maid Park by Bob Dorrill

OPENING DAY 2014
Minute Maid Park
by Bob Dorrill

Houston Astros 6 – New York Yankees 2

By Bob Dorrill

Bob Dorrill Manager Houston Babies

Bob Dorrill
Manager
Houston Babies

 Bob Dorrill is Chair of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR, an Astros season ticket holder, a writer-researcher of baseball history, manager of the vintage baseball club we call the Houston Babies, a Grade A+  baseball man in his own right, a terrific family man, and one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. As our guest columnist today, Bob  brings us all the sights and sounds of yesterday’s Opening Day at Minute Maid Park. Come back again soon, Bob Dorrill. Your words and pictures are great. And besides, we all like hanging out with you because, in your presence, it’s always baseball season. – The Pecan Park Eagle.

 

Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch to Craig Biggio. All they needed was mike man Bob Uecker to call the location of the throw. - by Bob Dorrill

Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch to Craig Biggio. All they needed was mike man Bob Uecker to call the location of the actual  throw.
- by Bob Dorrill

Last night was every Astros fan’s dream of how Opening Day should be. First there was the celebration outside Minute Maid Park where an abundance of orange was observed. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was decked out in their best Astros garb with only a few Yankee fans thrown in.

When entering the ballpark the first thing you noticed was the signs, yes those high flying signs hanging over left field have been moved and placed along the left field wall so that the view of the Houston skyline has been restored. Thank you Reid Ryan and Jim Crane for listening.

The park itself was filled early and the area down the left field foul line was jammed 15 deep with Yankees fans trying to catch sight of and maybe securing an autograph from one of their own. When Derek Jeter stepped out of the dugout to take batting practice the ballpark went wild. Jeter has that magnetism and is an imposing sight.

The Crawford Boxes Openig Day 2014 by Bob Dorrill

The Crawford Boxes
Openig Day 2014
by Bob Dorrill

When Astros season ticket holders brought a huge American Flag on the field it was all they could do to hang on to the flag. At least one person was lifted off the ground by the swirling winds with appropriate crowd reaction. Because of the high winds the promised skydiving was cancelled.

Next came the beautiful Clydesdale horses pulling the Budweiser wagon, another imposing sight as they circled the field. What beautiful animals.

No, that's not Phil Nevin warming up in the Home of the Astros. It's future Hall of Famer NY Yankee Derek Jester. - by Bob Dorrill

No, that’s not Phil Nevin warming up in the Home of the Astros. It’s future Hall of Famer NY Yankee shortstop Derek Jester.
- by Bob Dorrill

Player introductions were made by our own Bill Brown after a few remarks from Hall of Fame Broadcaster Milo Hamilton. How Milo loves to perform in front of an audience. It should be noted that when Carlos Beltran was introduced he must have felt right at home as he received a very loud “Bronx Cheer”. We never forget.

The first pitch was executed by none other than Nolan Ryan pitching to Craig Biggio. Let’s just say that Mr. Ryan’s pitch was slightly “high and outside”. It was also wonderful to see President G.H.W.Bush and Mrs. Bush in their front row seats near the Astros dugout..

Then came the game. After a scare, when Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch his first at bat, Scott Feldman went to work and so did the locals. The Astros played like the Yankees used to play and the Yankees played like the old Astros. In the bottom of the first inning Dexter Fowler blasted a pitch to Tal’s Hill for a double, advanced to third on a fly ball by Robbie Grossman, and scored on a Jose Altuve single. Altuve then stole second and advanced to third on sloppy Yankee play and scored on a fielder’s choice by Jason Castro. Jesus Guzman then ripped a two run homer and the score was 4-0. For all practical purposes the game was over but we didn’tknow that then.

The Clydesdales Opening Day 2104 by Bob Dorrill

The Clydesdales
Opening Day 2104
by Bob Dorrill

The second inning was equally exciting with L J Hoes hitting a long home run, Fowler went 2 for 2 with another double and Altuve brought him home building the score to 6-0. It was amazing how quiet the New York fans were, especially with their ace, CC Sabathia on the mound. CC never threw a pitch over 88 mph.

Scott Feldman was masterfully before tiring a bit in the 7th inning, giving up only 2 hits in 103 pitches. As he left the field Scott received a well deserved standing ovation that included Mrs. Bush. Both Jose Altuve (that guy again) and Jonathon Villar made sparkling fielding plays.

Kevin Chapman, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers finished out the game with only Chad having to work out of a small Yankee uprising in the 8th inning.

April 1, 2014: Astros 6 - Yankees 2 on Opening Day. No April Fool's Day joke, but now we only have to win 62 more games to avoid a 4th straight 100-loss season. -Photo by Bob Dorrill; Attempt at Humor by The Pecan Park Eagle and the Howling Wolves of Reality.

April 1, 2014: Astros 6 – Yankees 2 on Opening Day.
No April Fool’s Day joke, but now we only have to win 62 more games to avoid a 4th straight 100-loss season.
-Photo by Bob Dorrill; Attempt at Humor by The Pecan Park Eagle and the Howling Wolves of Reality.

The evening ended with lots of fireworks lighting up Minute Maid Park. When leaving the park I overheard one fan say “You can’t win them all unless you win the first game” How long has it been since we’ve heard those words spoken with any kind of confidence?

 

Bill Gilbert: About the 2014 Astros

April 1, 2014
Bill Gilbert is a long-time member of SABR and a regular writing contributor to The Pecan Park Eagle.

Bill Gilbert is a long-time member of SABR, a veteran data analyst, and a regular writing contributor to The Pecan Park Eagle.

 

Astros Should Show Some Improvement in 2014

By Bill Gilbert

E-Mail Bill Gilbert @ billcgilbert@sbcglobal

 

At the end of the 2012 season, I put together a rather bold projection for the next three years as the Astros struggled for respectability.  I projected an improvement in 2013 to 60 wins, which didn’t happen followed by 70 wins in 2014.  With only 51 wins in 2013, winning 70 in 2014 appears to be a real stretch.  However, some improvements have been made which should get the win total into the 60s.

The Astros were deficient in virtually every category in 2013.  The biggest deficiency was in relief pitching which was responsible for numerous losses last year.  This should be the biggest area of improvement with the addition of Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Anthony Bass and some expected improvement from Josh Fields and Kevin Chapman.  The starting pitching is a concern with two members of the rotation, Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer, having less than a year of major league experience and another, Lucas Harrell, coming off a very poor season.

The first item of business will be to put an end to the 15 game losing streak that the Astros carry into the 2014 season.  This won’t be easy since the Astros begin the season with a 3-game series against the Yankees.  Another important item of business is to resolve the television controversy with Comcast which currently prohibits a large segment of the Astros dwindling fan base from watching the games.  However, a resolution of this problem does not appear to be forthcoming.

The Astros have had five successive losing seasons, the longest in the Major Leagues, a distinction they share with their 1962 expansion partners, the New York Mets.  It appears that the two franchises are back where they started over 50 years ago although the Mets are closer to returning to respectability than are the Astros.

In each of the last two years, the Astros have used 50 players over the course of the season.  There should more stability this year but hopefully, if George Springer starts strong at Oklahoma City, he should be in Houston before mid-season.  However, most of the top prospects won’t start arriving until 2015 or 2016.

I will go out on the limb to predict that the changes made since last year should result in 66 wins.  This won’t be enough to get them out of last place in the strong American League West Division but it could allow them to finish with more wins than the Minnesota Twins and the Miami Marlins.

Ruth Caps Big Day at 1st Yankee Stadium Opener

March 31, 2014
Yankee Stadium on a more somber day beyond its 1923 consecration as the great cathedral of baseball and the house built by a certain well-known Yankee player.

Yankee Stadium on a more somber day beyond its 1923 consecration as the great cathedral of baseball and the house built by a certain well-known Yankee player.

Moving into the biggest part of Opening Day 2014, It’s a good time to recall how Opening Day 1923 worked out as the first official game to be played at the new and original Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York on April 18, 1923. Here is one Associated Press article on how a mind-blowing record crowd of  74,200 described it the April 19, 1923 edition of the Olean (NY) Evening Herald:

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RUTH KNOCKS OUT FIRST HOMER OF 1923 SEASON BEFORE 75,000 FANS IN NEW YORK YANKEE STADIUM

Mighty Babe drives ball far into right field bleachers ~ Yankees trim Red Sox 4 to 1 ~ Bob Shawkey allows but three safe hits

____________________

By the Associated Press

NEW YORK, April 19 - Babe Ruth came back into his own yesterday. When the mighty Yankee slugger cracked his first home run of the season far into the right field bleachers of the massive new Yankee Stadium, 74,200 howling fans, the largest throng that ever attended a baseball game, rose to accord their idol a thunderous ovation.

Ruth’s circuit clout, clinching victory for the American League champs in the opening game with the Boston Red Sox, added the one touch needed to complete the most picturesque drama in baseball annals. The Babe, those thousands agreed, had come back. A super-World Series atmosphere pervaded in the formal dedication in the huge home of the Yankees. The record crowd, which jammed every nook and corner of the huge triple deck grand stand and packed all but a few corners of the bleacher sections, far exceeded expectations. Every seat in the  mammoth structure could have been filled, but thousands chose to stand in the aisles rather than perch in the few vacant areas of the bleachers.

The attendance battered by more than 30,000 the previous high mark of 32,620, set at Braves Field, Boston, in a World’s Series game between the Red Sox and Brooklyn.

The reserve bleacher sections, accommodating 20,000, were sold out 24 hours before opening time, but ins of the faithful formed early in the day to await the opening at noon of more than 50,000 unreserved seats. By one o’clock, more than two hours before the game was scheduled to start, it was estimated that about 40,000 had passed through the turnstiles.

Formal ceremonies for the occasion included the raising of the 1922 Yankee pennant by managers Miller Huggins and Frank Chance, and a parade about the field, headed by Commissioner K.M. Landis, Governor Alfred E. Smith, who also tossed out the first ball, and other notables, but the real thrill – the kind that comes only to the heart of the dyed-in-the-wool fan on opening day – was provided by Babe Ruth.

The Home Run King demonstrated in practice before the game that he had the range. Taking his first (practice) time at bat, he picked (teammate) Sam Jones first offering for a terrific drive into the right field section. He followed with an even loftier drive shortly afterward that struck with such force as to splinter the planking in one of the top bleacher benches, scattering a group of youthful enthusiasts who immediately returned to scramble for the ball.

(Now don’t you just know that the kid who got that first Ruth souvenir BP ball in the first game ever at Yankee Stadium just took it home and played street ball with it until the cover came off? What are the odds he did?)

HOW IT HAPPENED

To the surprise of no one, Babe Ruth hit te first home run at Yankee Stadium on its original opening day, April 18, 1923.

To the surprise of no one, Babe Ruth hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium on its original opening day, April 18, 1923.

Before a record throng, officially announced as 74,200, the New York Yankees American League champions opened their new stadium and the 1923 season yesterday with a 4 to 1 triumph over the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees did all of their scoring in the third inning. Babe Ruth getting off to a lusty start in his 1923 home run campaign by driving (one) into the right field bleachers for the circuit, scoring Witt and Dugan ahead of him. Bob Shawkey, veteran Yankee hurling star, pitched brilliantly, holding the Red Sox to three hits, one of which, a triple by McMillan, scored the only Boston tally in he seventh. Ehmke was effective, except in the third inning.

~ Associated Press, Olean (NY) Evening Herald, Thursday, April 19, 1923, Page 13.

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THE BOX SCORE, COURTESY OF BASEBALL ALMANAC.COM …

Baseball Almanac Box ScoresBoston Red Sox 1, New York Yankees 4
Boston Red Sox ab   r   h rbi
Fewster ss 3 0 0 0
Collins rf 4 0 0 0
Skinner cf 4 0 0 0
Harris lf 4 0 0 0
Burns 1b 3 1 1 0
McMillan 2b 2 0 1 1
Shanks 3b 3 0 0 0
DeVormer c 3 0 0 0
Ehmke p 2 0 1 0
  Menosky ph 1 0 0 0
  Fullerton p 0 0 0 0
Totals 29 1 3 1
New York Yankees ab   r   h rbi
Witt cf 3 1 1 0
Dugan 3b 4 1 1 1
Ruth rf 2 1 1 3
Pipp 1b 3 0 0 0
Meusel lf 4 0 1 0
Schang c 4 0 0 0
Ward 2b 3 0 1 0
Scott ss 2 0 1 0
Shawkey p 3 1 1 0
Totals 28 4 7 4
Boston 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 3 1
New York 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 x 4 7 1
  Boston Red Sox IP H R ER BB SO
Ehmke  L(0-1) 7.0 7 4 4 3 4
  Fullerton 1.0 0 0 0 1 1
Totals
8.0
7
4
4
4
5
  New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO
Shawkey  W(1-0) 9.0 3 1 1 2 5
Totals
9.0
3
1
1
2
5

E–Burns (1), Ruth (1).  DP–New York 1. Scott-Ward-Pipp.  2B–New York Meusel (1); Scott (1).  3B–Boston McMillan (1).  HR–New York Ruth (1,3rd inning off Ehmke 2 on 2 out).  HBP–Fewster (1).  Team LOB–4.  SH–Scott (1).  Team–5.  CS–Burns (1); Pipp (1).  U–Tommy Connolly, Billy Evans, Ducky Holmes.  T–2:05.  A–74,200.

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Vivian Maier, Genius at Rest

March 30, 2014

FindingVivianMaier_US_Theaters

Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was an American street photographer. In her quiet, humble life, she supported herself by working forty years as a nanny, once even caring for the children of former TV talk show host Phil Donahue in Chicago, where she lived most of her life. Born in New York City to Austrian-French immigrant parents, she grew up with a record of back and forth moves across the pond between NYC and France, Originally settling for work in a New York sweatshop as a young adult. In 1956, she moved alone to Chicago for her long career as a nanny, but still managed some world travel, it is thought, from the sale of family land holdings. By the time she reached her elder years, Vivian had been reduced to living on the streets for want of money. Several of her now adult former client children found out about her bad straits and bought her an apartment in Chicago. They also paid her utility and basic expenses until her death.

As for her point of view in life, Vivian Maier has been described as a Socialist, Feminist, movie critic, and tell-it-like-it-is person. She loved the theater, a place in which she learned English after growing up us a child speaking French.

Here’s the amazing part – the genius jumping-all-out-at-you part. For all those years she lived her simple, solitary life, Vivian pursued her surface-quiet passion as a street photographer, mostly  using a Rollieflex camera to capture over 100,000 images of everyday people and city street still life, most of which were not even developed until after her death, And here’s the summary kicker: During her lifetime, Vivian never showed or discussed her work. Nor did she ever derive a penny’s income from all she did. Her prints and organized tins of undeveloped, but exposed film were all discovered in 200 storage boxes as the central objects of what Vivian Maier had left behind.

In discovery, these images turned out to be some of the most incredibly wholistic content pictures that anyone had ever seen. As described by one source, paraphrasing here, “It wasn’t as though we found one good picture on each roll of film.  They were all great for the integrity of their content. Just different from each other, but invariably, up close and personal.”

26-year old real estate agent and Chicago neighborhood historian John Maloof deserves credit as the one who first discovered Maier’s unsigned gift to the world. He became the man who set in motion their exposure to the world through his blog, and then to the sales of all by lots to collectors, and, becoming a principal collector himself. Maloof also directed a 2013 film to show the world what they’ve been missing. He’s also written two of the three books on Maier’s life and work – and her vibrant vision of the world.

Today the building collection(s) of Vivian Maier photography has been on display at exhibitions and galleries around the world.

Check out this fairly representative site for a nice taste of Vivian’s work. There are many, many others available for the price of her name at Google:

http://www.motherjones.com/media/2011/04/vivian-maier-john-maloof

Have a nice Sunday, everybody. See and listen for the beauty in life. And celebrate the sights and sounds that roll your way.

And, come on up to the front door, Opening Day. You’re due in Houston in a little more than two  days, anyway. And we’ll be happy to sit on the front porch with you til then.

Cabrera’s Deal and the Future of the Game

March 29, 2014

By signing an eight-year, $248,000,00 contract with the Detroit Tigers, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who turns 31 on April 18, now jumps from a four-way tie for 9th and 10th on the annual highest salary list at $21 M to first place ahead of Alex Rodriquez at $31 M per season.

We can't blame Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers made him an offer that none of us could have refused.

We can’t blame Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers made him an offer that none of us could have refused.

They’ve got to  be kidding, right? – Yeah, for sure, there’s no way you pay a guy Cabrera’s age – and I don’t care if many see him as the arguably best hitter in baseball today – that much money over time through age 38. At 31, he could bust into that over-ripe phase at any time. But if he does, the only thing rounder than his bowlegged swinging and fielding and throwing and running efforts will be those six zeros that follow the dollar sign and the number “31″ on his annual paycheck.

The really crooked thing it adds to the great Rangers and Rodriguez cash bath of recent times is the additional damage it does to the “average” salary of the not-so extraordinary roster fillers of every major league team. The Astros broke open the vault to give $12,000,000 to 31-year old Scott Feldman as a pitcher for 2014. And what’s wrong with that? – After all, the guy has a 51-56  record and a 4.62 ERA for 9 seasons in the big leagues. Shouldn’t all “near .500″ career starters get millionaire bucks to pitch each season? It’s no longer a matter of “do they deserve it?” Thanks to the largesse vision of the Detroit Tigers and the plug they just gave to Cabrera, guys like Feldman should be getting even more per season from here on forward.

Who would you rather have on your roster? Scott Feldman at $12 M per? Or Walter Johnson at $9,000 per?

Yeah, I understand. Baseball has its own trinity. (1) The beautiful game it is. (2) The legendary bond that millions of us have with the game and its great teams and players., and (3) The business side.

Today, the bonds that our children form with the game, ii any, have to survive the exposure and the cynicism of the new and ever-expanding social media culture. The days of the simpler, far more naive sandlot era bond with baseball are dead and gone forever. Kids today see the game as one of the many organized seasonal activities in their lives – not as the cathedral of their dawn to dusk summer dreams on the same level that we once did. Kids today also are aware of the money and ethical issues that continuously shroud the business side of things.

So, what did the Detroit  Tigers just do to make things better for the future of the game of baseball by their business deal with Miguel Cabrera?

My hope for the future of the game we love is starting to run on fumes. Had it not been the Tigers, it would have been someone else dealing with some other superstar. If baseball survives as a business, with none of the heart that made it great, I will be grateful that I wasn’t around to see it totally happen. A worse thought – maybe it’s already happened and some of us simply don’t want to face it.

Come on, Opening Day! Hurry up and get here! At least we can put aside the weight of these heavier thoughts for the day and simply feed upon  those simpler sounds, sights, tastes, and smells of the ballpark for a little while. Hope in the name of love never dies.

 

 

When Casey Slugged the Ball

March 28, 2014
Casey at the Bat: Brighter times awaited him as the eventual Joy of a town they once called Mudville.

Casey at the Bat: Brighter times awaited him as the eventual Joy of a town they once called Mudville.

People have been searching for the famous “other side of the story” forever. This morning, on a research swipe at “Mudville” in the digital newspaper archives, I ran across this delightful article in the Leavenworth Crawford County Democrat, May 23, 1895, Page 1. Another late 19th century writer had decided to answer the other pole question posed by author Ernest Thayer in his 1885 poem, “Casey at  the Bat.” This time, a fellow named Nat Wright wrote another poem about what happened “when Casey slugged the ball.”

——————–

“When Casey Slugged the Ball”

Of course everybody has heard of Casey: of the way he swatted ozone and the paralysis of grief that fell upon Mudville of course, everybody has heard of De Wolf Hopper. But the other side of Casey’s life has been written by Nat Wright,  of Cincinnati, as follows:

WHEN CASEY SLUGGED THE BALL

Oh, you all have heard of Mudville,

Heard of the mighty Casey, too;

Of the groans amid the bleachers

As the ball thrice past him flew;

 

But you haven’t heard the story,

The best story of them all,

Of the day in happy Mudville,

When great Casey slugged the ball.

 

Twas the day they played the Giants,

And the score stood 10 to 8;

Two men were on the bases,

And great Casey at the plate.

 

Swipe her, Casey,” yelled the rooters,

And the hero doffed his cap;

Three to win and two to tie

And Casey at the bat.

 

‘Mid a hush of expectation,

Now the ball flies past his head;

Great Casey grins a sickly grin;

“Strike one,” the umpire said.

 

Again the pitcher raised his arm,

Again the horse-hide flew;

Great Casey spat upon the ground,

And the umpire said, “strike two.”

 

“It’s a roast,” came from the grandstand,

“He is bought without a doubt.”

“He is rotten,” roared the bleachers.

“Throw the daylight robber out!”

 

“I’ll break your face,” says Casey,

“That wan wint below me knee;”

“If I miss the nixt, ye blackguard,”

“Ye won’t live long to see.”

 

The next one came like lightning.

And the umpire held his breath,

For well he knew, if Casey missed,

“T’would surely mean his death.”

 

But Casey swung to meet it,

Backed by all his nerve and gall -

Oh if you had but heard the yell

As Casey smashed the ball!

 

He caught the pigskin on the nose,

It cleared the big town lot,

It sailed above the high church tower,

In vain the fielders sought.

 

And Casey didn’t even run,

He stopped a while to talk,

And then amid the deafening cheers,

He came around in a walk.

 

And now he keeps a beer saloon;

He is mayor of the town;

And people flock to see him

From all the country round.

 

And you need not look for Mudville

On the map upon the wall,

Because the town’s called Caseyville,

Since Casey smashed the ball.

 

~Leavenworth Crawford County Democrat, May 23, 1895, Page 1.

——————–

 

Right arm uniform jersey patch of the Mudville/Caseyville Nine.

Right arm uniform jersey patch of the Mudville/Caseyville Nine.

The Astros could wear this patch, but they have yet to qualify as a team that knows both the yin and the yang of agony and joy. In Houston, unfortunately, our major league experience has been all yin and yearn for 54, or all, of our big league seasons. But this is spring. And Opening Day is next week. And hope still springs eternal. Even in all the Mudvilles of this land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Day at Buff Stadium, 1947-61

March 26, 2014
Opening Day 2012: Do you feel more hopeful about the Astros now than you did two years ago? If so, uo oribably will enjoy Opening Day 2014 more any  season since 2005m

Opening Day 2012: Do you feel more hopeful about the Astros now than you did two years ago? If so, you probably will enjoy Opening Day 2014 more than any season since 2005.

These are little, but very personal memories, parts of the whole that on other levels, are way whole in themselves. They move across the visceral connections of my brain that takes in the sights, sounds, smells, feels, and tastes of being at my ballpark during my  growing-up years on that grandest day of all baseball days – Opening Day of a new hopeful regular baseball season for the mighty Houston Buffs.

(1) The beaded sight of the eighty orange, beige, and brown buffalo medallions that rimmed the outside stadium walls as we walked from our cars to the entry gates of Buff Stadium.

(2) The wafting sounds of Miss Lou Mahan on the ballpark organ as she orchestrated fans into the stands on the auditory wings of the best popular music of our times. After the last out in the ninth, we knew we could count on “Goodnight, Irene” no matter who won the game.

(3)  The unmistakable aroma of fresh pop corn, tasty ballpark hot dogs, and other more confectious treats that battled in the air for the invisible space we used to breathe ourselves into a voracious craving for all the baseball good stuff that caused our hunger nostrils to run full blast. For some, the only discernible smell was beer. Most of us also smelled the freshly cut  grass of the most brilliantly green field in the world.

(4)  We felt the firm support of wooden bench stadium seating and also the more comfortable armchair seating in the reserved and box ticket sections. We also could not miss the gentle to gusty Gulf of Mexico winds that blew in over the right  field wall toward left.

(5) And we tasted the morsels of our various cravings at the concessions stands that lay in wait for all of us in the belly of the whale that was Buff Stadium in Houston on Opening Day.

(6) It was fun in all its glory. The players lived very well on their side of the rail with all those little signs that said “no pepper games.” As for us fans. we didn’t have any comparable sign on our grandstand side of the rail, but we could have lived fine with a sign that had read “no moderation games.” . Going all out to win and having fun was all we cared about back in the day. Those were some very good years – good enough to have planted some very real memories – the kind that have lasted for 66 years and counting through today.

Memories of Mudville in Danger

March 25, 2014

HB 062511 05a

Mudville is a Baseball State of Mind that seems to be losing it's broad contact with the younger generations.

Mudville is a Baseball State of Mind that seems to be losing it’s broad contact with the younger generations.

A Brief Saturday Dialogue Between Two People at George Ranch for the Babies-Combine Game with a Two Plus Generation Age Gap:

Younger Man in Early Twenties:  “Your shirt says ‘Mudville.’ -  Is that where you’re from?”

Septuagenarian  in Mudville Jersey: “No sir. – I’m from Houston.”

Young Man: “Then why are you wearing a shirt that says ‘Mudvllle’?”

Septuagenarian: “Because it says ‘Mudville’. And it’s not a shirt. It’s a jersey.”

Young Man: “OK. Whatever. – But where is this ‘Mudville’, anyway? It’s not around here, is it?”

Septuagenarian: “It’s pretty nearby, my friend, but only if you have your mind open to see it.”

Young Man: “What?”

Septuagenarian: “Have you ever read a poem called ‘Casey at the Bat’?”

Young Man: “No.”

Septuagenarian: “Ever read any poems when you were in school?”

Young Man: “Probably. I’m not real sure.”

Septuagenarian: “Ever play baseball as a kid?”

Young Man: “Some.”

Septuagenarian: “Sometimes, ‘some’ is not enough.” Please check out ‘Casey at the Bat’ on Google when you get home.”

Young Man: “OK. Man, I will. – Meanwhile, stay cool. And good luck to Mudville today!”

Septuagenarian: “Thanks!”

 

 

 

 

 


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