Sunday, April 30, 2006

Steve Howe Killed in Accident

Steve Howe was in his second season
when he helped the Dodgers win the
World Series in 1981. (AP)

April 28, 2006
CBS wire reports

NEW YORK -- Steve Howe, the relief pitcher whose promising career was derailed by cocaine and alcohol abuse, died Friday when his pickup truck rolled over in Coachella, Calif. He was 48.
Howe was killed at 5:55 a.m. PT about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, said Dalyn Backes of the Riverside County coroner's office. He had been in Arizona on business and was driving back home to Valencia, Calif., business partner Judy Welp said.

Toxicology tests had not yet been performed.

The hard-throwing lefty was the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year with Los Angeles, closed out the Dodgers' 1981 World Series championship and was an All-Star the next year.

But for all of his success on the field, Howe was constantly troubled by addictions -- he was suspended seven times and became a symbol of the rampant cocaine problem that plagued baseball in the 1980s.

During the 1992 season, he became the first baseball player to be banned for life because of drugs. An arbitrator reinstated him after the season.

In recent years, he owned an energy drink company in Arizona.

"I just saw Steve last winter when his son was pitching against my son," former teammate and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Friday night. "Everything was looking up for him and he looked great. It makes you numb when you hear about a situation like this. He had a roller-coaster ride."

Howe was 47-41 with 91 saves and a 3.03 ERA with the Dodgers, Twins, Rangers and Yankees. His final season in the majors was 1996, and the Yankees released him in June.

A moment of silence was observed at Yankee Stadium before New York played Toronto on Friday night. Howe played for the Yankees from 1991-96.

"I wish more people knew Steve Howe the way I knew him," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "His struggles in life were well documented, but he always tried to fight through them and I will always respect that."

Two days after the Yankees let him go in 1996, Howe was arrested at a Delta Airlines terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when a loaded .357 Magnum was detected inside his suitcase. He later pleaded guilty to gun possession and was placed on three years' probation and given 150 hours of community service.

Chicago White Sox coach Tim Raines played with Howe in that final year.

"You always get second chances -- third and fourth sometimes. And people really believed in him and that he'd eventually kick the problem. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for him," he said.

Howe tried a comeback in 1997 with Sioux Falls of the independent Northern League and retired after injuring his forearm. That August, he was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in Montana and charged with drunken driving; those charges were later dropped when prosecutors decided his blood test was improperly obtained.

"He was extremely talented, very confident on the mound and had an incredible arm," Scioscia said. "Obviously, he didn't reach his potential because of other things that crept into his life."
Said former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda: "Steve played for me for five years and I thought the world of him."

Howe was suspended for the 1984 season by commissioner Bowie Kuhn for cocaine use. Howe was out of the majors in 1986 after a relapse the previous August with Minnesota.

Texas released him before the 1988 season because of an alcohol problem, and he did not pitch again in the big leagues until 1991.

"Howsie had some issues everybody knew about," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said in San Francisco. "Everybody who hasn't played with him didn't know what kind of teammate he was. What you hear about Steve is the drug stuff. ... He was kind of the captain of the bullpen out there."

Welp knew Howe for two years, and said he was doing well.

"His goal was to bring an all-natural energy drink to the United States," she said. "He was so giving, always trying to help people. He used to always say, 'I'm all about the underdog.'"
Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow played against Howe in the NL West.

"When I heard it today, I thought 'What a life this guy had,'" Krukow said, his eyes red. "So many tragic things happened to him in a young 48 years. Maybe he's at peace. He was the nicest guy in the world but he had some demons, unfortunately."

When baseball began checking for steroids in 2005, Howe said he supported a testing program.
"I was one of the first to be fried and tried," he said then.

Yet Howe said he did not think the steroid problem was as big as some believed.

"For whatever reasons, holes have been dug by everybody, so you do what it takes to clear it," he said at the time. "A guy asked me one time, 'Well, how bad is the drug problem in major league baseball?' And I go, 'Go take a survey of your housewives, your doctors, your lawyers, your people down the street, and there you got your problem."'

Howe was 7-9 with 17 saves in 1980, pitching in 59 games as a major part of the Dodgers' bullpen. He played for Los Angeles through the 1983 season.

"He had a lot of talent and his heart was in the right place," former teammate Steve Sax said. "He meant well. He had a lot of opportunities. He just had a lot of problems that he couldn't solve."
Howe's struggles were splashed across the sports pages by the mid-1980s, when cocaine use was baseball's most well-publicized predicament. On Thursday, commissioner Bud Selig said that unlike with steroids, baseball was well aware of its troubles then.

"In the '80s, this sport had a very serious cocaine problem -- and that was a pretty consistent pattern," Selig said.

Howe is survived by his wife, Cindy, daughter Chelsi and son Brian.

The Associated Press News Service

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rick Monday Saved the Flag 30 Years Ago

Courtesy of the

For The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Rick Monday never tires of answering questions about that memorable day 30 years ago, when he performed his own Patriot Act and unwittingly became an icon to millions of American war heroes and their loved ones.

Monday was playing center field for the Chicago Cubs on April 25, 1976, at Dodger Stadium when he noticed two protesters kneeling on the grass in left-center, intending to burn the American flag. He immediately bolted toward them and snatched it away.

"I was angry when I saw them start to do something to the flag, and I'm glad that I happened to be geographically close enough to do something about it," said Monday, now in his 13th season as a Dodgers broadcaster.

"What those people were doing, and their concept of what they were trying to do was wrong. That feeling was very strongly reinforced by six years in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. I still think it's wrong to do that."

The Dodgers will acknowledge the event before the finale of a nine-game homestand on Sunday, two days before the actual anniversary of it. A video tribute will be shown before the game and Monday will throw out a ceremonial first pitch. On Tuesday, the Houston Astros will honor him as well when the Dodgers play the middle game of a three-game series.

Back in '76, Monday was presented with the flag in a ceremony at Wrigley Field by Dodgers executive Al Campanis. It hung in his home in Vero Beach, Fla., until a couple of years ago, when the house sustained severe damage from a hurricane. Now it's in a safety deposit box.

Monday wouldn't say how much the flag is insured for, but "you'd have to add a lot of zeros. People have offered an outrageous amount of money for it — not that it's for sale."

The Baseball Hall of Fame recently named Monday's quick-thinking act as one of the 100 Classic Moments in the history of the game.

"Whatever their protest was about, what they were attempting to do to the flag — which represents a lot of rights and freedoms that we all have — was wrong for a lot of reasons," Monday said. "Not only does it desecrate the flag, but it also desecrates the effort and the lives that have been laid down to protect those rights and freedoms for all of us."

In Peter Golenbock's 1996 book, "Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs," former Cubs reliever Darold Knowles recalled what happened in the aftermath of Monday's flag-saving effort.

"That put Rick on the map," said Knowles, a teammate of Monday's for two seasons in Chicago and one in Oakland. "Rick got more recognition out of the flag incident than he got as a player. He was getting letters from all over the country, all the time — from VFWs (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and American Legions organizations. Every place we'd go, somebody would honor him with a plaque. He let us read some of the letters (from) people thanking him."

Along with the flag, Monday has a copy of the 16-mm footage taken by a fan who was at the game, as well as Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully's play-by-play of the incident. Also among his souvenirs is a copy of the now-famous photo by James Roarke of Monday just as he grabbed the flag.

Monday hit a career-high 32 home runs that season before the Dodgers acquired him from the Cubs with reliever Mike Garman, in exchange for outfielder Bill Buckner and backup shortstop Ivan DeJesus. Monday spent the final eight seasons of his career with Los Angeles, helping the Dodgers win three pennants in a five-year span.

He was the first player chosen in the very first draft back in 1965 after leading Arizona State to a College World Series title. The two-time All-Star put up some impressive numbers during his 19 major league seasons. His ninth-inning home run in the fifth and deciding game of the 1981 NL Championship Series at Montreal catapulted the Dodgers into the World Series, where they beat the Yankees in six games.

But all of that pales in comparison to Monday's most famous achievement in a baseball uniform.
"I know the people were very pleased to see Monday take the flag away from those guys," recalled Manny Mota, Monday's teammate that season and now a Dodgers coach. "I know Rick has done a lot of good things as a player and as a person. But what he did for his country, he will be remembered for the rest of his life as an American hero."

Courtesy of the

Friday, April 21, 2006

From Russia With Glove

Courtesy of the L.A. Times

by Bill Plaschke
April 21, 2006

For the first 10 years of her life, she didn't know she had a first name.

Now, baseball has given her several."Let's go, Tash!" … "Get 'em Nat!" … "All yours, Pony Tail!""They call me lots of things," Natasha Smith said. "I never get tired of hearing any of them."

For the first 10 years of her life, she didn't experience a loving touch.

Now, baseball surrounds her with dozens. Her teammates smack her glove. She punches their arms. They grab her shoulders. She slaps high fives."I used to feel unwanted," she said. "But people like me now."

For the first 10 years of her life, living in a children's home in the Russian woods, she was an orphan. Today, on the Calvary Baptist high school boys baseball team, Natasha Smith is a shortstop. Her adoptive parents hold the camera in the stands. Her date for the La Verne school's graduation banquet sits next to her on the bench. MaggieMoo's will be open for a strawberry-banana shake after a victory. Simple things, but wondrous things, for a girl who grew up without celebrating her birthday because she didn't understand the concept of birthdays."I thought kids never grew up," she said. She didn't even understand the idea of parents until she had them."I thought all the kids lived together forever," she said.

When missionaries Carol and Harry Smith brought her to La Verne a decade ago, just before she turned 10, she didn't speak a word of English. And when she did, she had difficulty understanding because of long-untreated dyslexia."I was always the dumbest," she said. "In Russia, in America, everywhere, I was the dumbest."But then she discovered the daily miracle that American adolescents have understood forever.

It is the one place in their life that does not judge. It is high school sports. The playing field does not care where you are from, as long as you keep showing up. It does not care who you are, as long as you bring it all with you. Running around her giant orphanage made her physically strong. Hiding from daily beatings made her mentally tough. Her mother took her to a church league soccer practice shortly after her arrival here, and suddenly she found a language she understood.

Said Smith: "In sports, I was even with everyone. In sports, they did not laugh."Kids never grow up? Oh, but they do, and this spring, at age 19, Natasha Smith's days are filled with balloons and frosting and light.She is not only one of the only serious female baseball players in Southern California, she is possibly the best pure player at her 35-person high school, which is not large enough to field a girls softball team.

Folks stare at the pig tails sticking out from under her blue cap, but nobody notices anything else. The playing field only cares, can you hit? Smith does, driving in 10 runs in her first 18 at-bats. Can you catch? Smith does, having committed errors in only three of nine games.Can you run? Smith had 15 stolen bases in her first 15 tries. Can you … go out on a date with the opposing pitcher? OK, in Smith's case, the playing field occasionally cares about something else."Our guys are really impressed with her as an athlete, but I hear them talking, they also think she's really cute," said David Bowman, father of an opposing Highland Hall player, Matt. "You can see them hanging out longer after the game because they want to meet her."

In one recent victory, against the California School for the Deaf, Smith stole home with the eventual game-winning run, then recorded the final out as the winning pitcher. Afterward, surrounded by congratulating teammates, heading for the ice cream parlor with her parents, Smith had one of those thoughts that often fills her eyes with tears. No crying in baseball? Not here."Sometimes during the day I just stop and cry, thinking about how lucky I am to have been chosen by these wonderful people," she said in her perfect Russian-accented English. "Chosen for this wonderful life."

Fourth inning, runner on first, one out, Highland Hall pitcher struggling, up stepped Natasha Smith.And here came the familiar cheer."You're not gonna let her get a hit off you, are you?" shouted a dad to the pitcher. At some point in every game, she hears it. And at some point in every game, after she makes a good play, it stops.This time, it stopped with a thwack. A fastball sailed into her left forearm.S he turned, winced, then dropped the bat and trotted down to first base with one noticeably absent motion. She never touched the arm." It hurt a little, but I don't show it, I never show it," she said. "You have to get used to the hurt."

She learned this after she was abandoned by her parents as an infant in St. Petersburg, Russia. She spent the next decade in orphanages where she was called only by her last name — Salieleva — and called only to work or eat."If you complained, you were hit, so I eventually learned to stop complaining," she said.

She rarely experienced a warm hug, never felt a good-night kiss, never heard a lullaby.What she did hear were the commands to wash the floors or haul the trash, followed by slaps if the jobs were not done properly."They did not care about you there," she said. "I never knew love."

When Harry and Carol Smith decided to add two children to their childless marriage, they worked through a local agency, picking Natasha out of a video."She didn't have the proper paperwork, so the agency tried to talk us into somebody else, somebody easier, but she had this certain presence, I can't explain it, we just had to have her," Carol said.

It took a year longer, and when they finally arrived to pick her up, her hair had been shoddily cut because of lice, and her body was still aching from a beating."I remember my mother put me on her lap, I had never before sat in anybody's lap, it was the happiest day of my life," Smith recalled.

She had never driven in a car, so she vomited throughout their drive to nearby St. Petersburg. She had never seen a clock, so she had no understanding of something as simple as bedtime. She had been scared during long nights in orphanage, so she refused to sleep in the dark. And when it came time to give her new parents a kiss?"She didn't even know how to kiss," Carol said. "It was more like a bite."

On her adoption application, Natasha had written that her favorite things in the world were kukla, the Russian word for dolls. So her parents showered her with dolls, leading to one of the first revelations about their daughter."I told them, I only put kukla on the application because I was told that would make it easier for me to get adopted," Smith said. "I told them, 'I hate kukla.' "

No, she loved sports, even those she didn't understand, like baseball, which she only began playing on a dare."My freshman year, my friends asked me to play, but I was afraid of the ball," she said. "When I finally decided to try it, I run to the wrong base."But try it she did, because the field, any field, was the one place she felt comfortable."

Sports was the one place in life where she felt on equal footing with everyone else," said Harry, who is now a mechanical engineer. "It was the one place she felt she could compete." In this, her senior year, she was a basketball all-star, but it is in baseball where she makes her biggest impact."When I first saw her, I had no idea she would become such a good player," said her coach, Lincoln Dial, who is also the Calvary Baptist pastor. "We play sports for the right reasons here, but we also want to win. We play her because she can help us win."

And she never ceases to amaze, such as the time she singled and stole second and briefly took off her helmet and the opposing shortstop shouted, "Hey, look! It's a chick!"

Or the time a hard-throwing pitcher threw her only lobs, which she angrily swatted away. Then there are the opposing players who compliment her during the postgame handshake, then quietly ask her teammates for her phone number" We tell them to back off," said Robert Little, a junior third baseman. "She's one of us."She's one of us. And here, Natasha Smith once thought she would never be part of anybody.

After a recent Calvary Baptist practice in which she laughed and slugged and sprinted and answered to eight different nicknames, all of them meaning "teammate," Smith told a story. "I remember once, when I was little, they took us to the beach, and I looked up and saw an airplane, and I wished I could fly in an airplane," she said. "I didn't know there were other countries, I didn't know where I would fly, I just wanted to fly."She smiled."I think, now, I fly."

Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous Plaschke columns, go to

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Hate Barry Bonds, But...

I hate Barry Bonds.

I hate him because he is a San Francisco Giant.
I hate him because he has always played well against the Dodgers.
I hate him because of his pirouette home run trot.
I hate him because of his monstrous home runs and all the attention.
I hate him because he treats everyone else like garbage.

But.... (boy do I hate to say this) he will be remembered as one of the most feared hitters in the history of the game and he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and on the first ballot.

Oh, sure, he hasn't done much yet this year, but wait. He will deliver. He will overcome the book scandal, the mistress allegations, the tax evasion , the perjury charges, and he will break the Hank Aaron home run record.

I gagged when I wrote this, and I thought it was acid reflux. My fingers would not allow my thoughts to reach the keyboard, betraying my baseball faith. But, how does that go, the truth will set you free?

Let's just all face it. Barry will survive and become the home run king.

And we will all just have to live with it. You know the feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you realize the home team will lose the game, but tomorrow the sun will be up at dawn, just like every other day.

But I still hate Barry Bonds.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Braves mark 40 years in Atlanta

Arrival in 1966 to be commemorated tonight

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


ATLANTA -- Felipe Alou was the first batter for the Braves in their new home of Atlanta. His brother Matty had been the first batter for Pittsburgh in that 1966 National League opener at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

"The biggest thing to me was the reception that the fans gave the team," the 70-year-old San Francisco manager said when asked his memories of the arrival of major league professional sports in the Southeast.

"Coming from Milwaukee, the black and Latin players didn't know exactly what to expect. We were told to be alert, that there could be some issues. But the fans that night were great.
"They accepted the whole team. It was awesome. Atlanta was our new home, and they were our fans."

The Braves mark the 40th anniversary of their first regular-season game in Atlanta tonight by reuniting the 1966 team before the game against Philadelphia at Turner Field.

Alou, of course, is busy elsewhere, and Hank Aaron will also not be able to attend because of a prior out-of-town commitment. But more than a dozen 1966 Braves -- including Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, Opening Night starter Tony Cloninger and slugger Rico Carty -- are scheduled to take part.

Cloninger pitched all 13 innings on April 12, 1966, but lost 3-2, to the disappointment of the 50,671 fans. Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell gave the Pirates the victory with an extra-inning homer. The Braves' runs came on homers by current New York Yankees manager Joe Torre.

The current Braves will wear replica 1966 uniforms tonight, and chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomay, who was instrumental in bringing the Braves south from Milwaukee, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

To mark the anniversary, the Braves also are offering throwback ticket prices. Upper-reserved and upper-pavilion seats will be $2.

The former players, as well as original manager Bobby Bragan, are scheduled to take part in an autograph and question-and-answer session.

During pregame ceremonies, there will be a moment of silence for Billy Hitchcock, who replaced Bragan and led the Braves to a 33-18 finish in 1966. Hitchcock died Sunday at age 89.

Alou looks back on his first season in Atlanta fondly. Playing center field, he had the best average (.327) and home run total (31) of his career while making the All-Star Game. His final season with the Braves was in 1969, when they won the NL West title.

"I really liked playing in Atlanta," Alou said. "It was great for me."

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Monday, April 10, 2006

Baseball Urban Legends - True or False?

Check out these baseball urban legends at
  1. Brooklyn Dodgers manager Chuck Dressen played a mean-spirited trick on second-string outfielder Cal Abrams.
  2. The Baby Ruth candy bar was named after President Grover Cleveland's daughter, not Babe Ruth.
  3. The 1989 film Back to the Future II correctly predicted that the Florida Marlins would win the 1997 World Series.
  4. Future Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was once given a tryout by the Washington Senators baseball team.
  5. Actor Kevin Costner was caught in bed with the wife of Orioles infielder Cal Ripken, Jr., forcing the Orioles to cancel a game so that the distraught Ripken's consecutive-game streak would not be in jeopardy.
  6. Cleveland Indians second baseman Joe Gordon deliberately struck out to prevent rookie Larry Doby from looking bad during his first at-bat.
  7. The Los Angeles Dodgers of the Koufax/Drysdale era often won 1-0 games in which Maury Wills scoring the winning run.
  8. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD.
  9. New York Mets outfielder Kevin Mitchell killed his girlfriend's cat by cutting off its head with a knife.
  10. Yankee second baseman Tony Lazzeri once pulled an on-field practical joke using a doctored baseball.
  11. Baseball player protests a fine by paying in pennies.
  12. Pitcher Gaylord Perry's manager once said, "They'll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run," and years later Perry hit his first home run minutes after Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface.
  13. The New York Yankees invented pinstriped uniforms in an effort to disguise Babe Ruth's girth.
  14. Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak began when the Yankees' regular first baseman, Wally Pipp, sat out a game with a headache.
  15. Bill Ripken's 1989 Fleer baseball card includes a hidden obscenity.
  16. Comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  17. Baseball's championship is known as the "World Series" because it was originally sponsored by the New York World newspaper.

Courtesy of

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Gary Carter

Gary Carter Autograph on a 1983 Fleer (#278)
Courtesy of
Quotations From & About Gary Carter
Quotations From Gary Carter
"He really just wanted to go about his business. I would put Eddie Murray in the same category as Andre Dawson. He would like to kid around with the press and (be surly), but he was a total professional. I see why he is a Hall of Famer. I am just glad I had the pleasure of playing for Eddie (Murray) for one year."

"I got overly excited and screamed (after hearing of his election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on January 7, 2003). Now we can do a little celebrating."

"It is a grueling position (catching). My knees will tell you that. I've had nine knee surgeries. I've had a couple of broken thumbs, one on each hand. I can look back at it and say it's worth it to be enshrined in Cooperstown. I don't have any pain in my knees right now."

"Johnny Bench befriended me my first year in the big leagues. He took me under his wing during my first All-Star Game and we've been friends ever since. He's one guy I've tried to emulate and I'll always compare myself to Johnny (Bench)."

"My first year in the big leagues I divided time between catching with Barry Foote and playing the outfield. It wasn't until my breakthrough year in 1977, when I had the opportunity to catch every day under Dick Williams, that I hit thirty-one home runs. It was then that I said maybe if I keep putting some of these years together, maybe I can dream of the Hall of Fame."

"Nothing will ever replace the feeling I got when Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett to end the game (Game 7 of the 1986 World Series) and I got the opportunity to run out into his arms. To me, that was the greatest accomplishment. Without a doubt, that was my biggest thrill."

"The dream became a reality today, and I must say this is a very proud day today. I don't think there was ever a point where I didn't think I was going to make it (into the National Baseball Hall of Fame)."

Quotations About Gary Carter
"He was a human backstop back there. Early, before his knees went bad, you couldn't steal on him in Montreal. When he wasn't able to throw because of his knees, that never affected his performance. He was running on and off the field after three outs. This guy played in some pain and it was hustle, hustle, hustle." - Teammate Keith Hernandez

"I'm happy for Gary (Carter). It was a matter of time for him getting in (the National Baseball Hall of Fame). I think I'll probably follow suit. It may take me a little longer, I don't know." - Andre Dawson (January 7, 2003)

"They (the Baseball Writers Association of America) made two fine choices, Eddie Murray and Gary Carter, both well-deserving. I played against both of them and both definitely deserve to be there." - Ryne Sandberg (January 7, 2003)

Courtesy of

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Glory of Their Times

REMEMBERING THE TRADITION: The library at Cal State Los Angeles
is presenting an exhibit of team photos, news clippings, baseball gear
and other memorabilia from the history of Mexican American baseball
in Los Angeles. The exhibit runs until June 9.(Carlos Chavez / LAT)

The Chorizeros were the Yankees of East L.A. in the years after World War II. In the barrio, baseball wasn't just a game, it was an event.

By David Wharton,
Times Staff Writer
April 6, 2006

On a Sunday morning washed bright and blue near the start of baseball season, only ghosts ramble around an empty diamond at Fourth and Evergreen streets. There is a puddle out by second base and kids playing soccer down the foul line. Hard to imagine how it used to be. You have to squint your eyes against the sunlight, look back a ways.Back to the late 1940s, when baseball at Evergreen Park was a genuine social event in Boyle Heights. After church, whole neighborhoods congregated there, wives and friends, gossip and laughter, children hanging on the fence to watch.

The memories run hazy with smoke from carne asada on the grill, an old man selling nuts from a cart. The adults brought beer to drink as they sat on crude wooden bleachers and listened to mariachis. On special occasions, a local priest blessed the field.They came by the hundreds — sometimes thousands — for the Carmelita Chorizeros, the New York Yankees of barrio baseball.

Read the rest of the article at

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Friday Night At the Fights

Courtesy of
Shea Stadium / October 8, 1973
By Nathan Hale

Pete Rose could see his team's pennant chances slipping away. Despite squeaking by Mets ace Tom Seaver in Game 1, the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds had scored just two runs in each of the first two games of the 1973 National League Championship Series. In the fifth inning of Game 3, they trailed the underdog New York Mets 9-2 in the unfriendly confines of Shea Stadium.

It was the perfect time for Charlie Hustle to intervene. In a desperate move designed to kick-start his team, Rose throttled lightweight Buddy Harrelson after the Mets shortstop landed hard on him while trying to turn a double play.

Harrelson had drawn the Reds' wrath by opining that the Big Red Machine reminded him of himself -- a light hitter, to say the least -- while being shut out by Mets hurler Jon Matlack in Game 2. Even though Harrelson insisted he in no way intended his comments to be read as an insult, the Reds certainly thought he did. Reds second baseman Joe Morgan grabbed Harrelson during batting practice and issued the warning, "If you ever say that about me again, I'll punch you."

Halfway through Game 3, the Reds were being manhandled by Jerry Koosman and found themselves behind by seven runs. From the dugout, Tom Seaver was keeping a close watch on Rose. "You knew somehow, somewhere Pete was going to do something." Seaver recalled. "Now Koosman hits Pete with a pitch and I thought to myself he's going to go to the mound after Jerry. He started on the grass, then he came back to the baseline and went directly to first base, so I said, 'I got that one wrong, too.'"

Seaver decided to get a cup of coffee; by the time he had reached the clubhouse, a brawl was underway. After the Mets turned a beautiful 3-6-3 double play, Rose and Harrelson exchanged words, and the next moment a fight had started. "I gave him my little pop-up slide," Rose explained later. "Buddy says to me, 'You blankety-blank,' and I told him, 'Hey, you don't know me well enough to say that.' I grabbed him and [Mets infielder] Wayne Garrett came tumbling into me from third and all hell broke loose."

The bout erupted as Rose (5'11", 195 pounds) jumped on top of the slight-built Harrelson (5'11", 160). Baseball writer Roger Angell described the ensuing scene: "First the benches emptied and then the bullpens, with the galloping Met battalion led by -- ta ra! -- Teddy R. McGraw."

The excitement almost ended there as both teams just milled around second base. Then, Reds reliever Pedro Borbon landed a sucker punch to the right temple of Buzz Capra, a Mets reliever who hadn't seen any action in several weeks. Capra, joined by backup catcher Duffy Dyer, got in some retaliatory punches of his own before being pulled out of the melee by Willie Mays.

When Rose returned to his position in left field, the fans let him know how they felt. A variety of objects showered down from the upper deck, and when a whiskey bottle landed just feet away from the Cincinnati star, Reds Manager Sparky Anderson pulled his team from the field.

At risk of losing the game to forfeit, the Mets sent a delegation of Seaver, Mays, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones and Manager Yogi Berra out to left field to appeal to the rowdy fans to stop. The New York faithful complied and returned the next day with banners reading "Rose is a Weed "and "This Rose Smells." This only added incentive for Rose to have a big day, and he did. His 12th-inning homer evened the series at 2-2.

In the finale, the Harrelson and Rose's tussle was overshadowed as the arms of Seaver and McGraw and clutch pinch-hits by Mays and original Met Ed Kranepool carried the Mets to the World Series.

As the fans at Shea Stadium edged closer and closer to the field in the ninth inning, players from both sides -- including Rose, who was at first base -- and the Reds' wives in their special box seats, planned the quickest route to safety. Indeed, when Morgan made the final out a swarm of fans stormed the field; Rose and his teammates made a hasty escape. "Right there at the end of the game, that's the most scared I've ever been in my life," Rose said.

Courtesy of

Monday, April 03, 2006

Barry Bonds - Will 2006 Be Year of Vindication?

We've all heard the stories, read the articles, and perused the books about Barry Bonds and his steriod use. Did he use the stuff? Before 2003 it wasn't illegal, baseball-wise, but it was illegal otherwise, unless a doctor prescribed it.

Baseball is trying to prove it one way or another, with this new investigation. Barry may break Babe Ruth's homerun record very soon and next year, Henry Aaron's.

But what Barry needs to do to prove he's clean is march forward and break the two hallowed records, and the sooner the better. Because if he's hitting homeruns this year like he did before the 2005 season, when he didn't play much due to injury, it would prove that he doesn't need the juice to hit the crap out of the ball.

That is what Barry Bonds needs to do. Keep on truckin, Barry. Just do your stuff and if you can do it under today's testing rules, then you deserve to be called the greatest.

Marc Seror

Jim Kaat; nickname Kitty

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The square-shouldered, 6'4" Kaat is one of a handful of major leaguers to play in four decades. His 25 years of pitching was a major league record. The last active original Washington Senator, Kaat moved like a cat around the mound, winning 16 consecutive Gold Gloves. He won 18 games for the AL champion Twins in 1965, then had his best season in 1966, going 25-13 and leading the league with 41 starts, 19 complete games, and 304 innings. That year only one Cy Young trophy was awarded for both leagues, to the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax, but TSN selected Kaat as AL Pitcher of the Year.

Following five more seasons with victories in double figures, Kaat was 10-2 in 1972 when he sprained his left wrist and missed the remainder of the season. He was 11-12 in August 1973 (including a one-hitter at California on July 1) when, thinking Kaat's best days were behind him, the Twins sold him to the White Sox. In Chicago, Kaat was reunited with his former Minnesota pitching coach and mentor, Johnny Sain. In his two full seasons in the Chicago stable, Kaat won 41 games, often using a quick-pitch delivery.

Despite his 20-14 record with over 300 innings pitched in 1975, Kaat, age thirty-seven, was sent to the Phillies in a trade for Alan Bannister, Dick Ruthven, and Roy Thomas, the oldest of whom was twenty-four. In his first tour of duty in the NL, Kaat was 26-30 in three seasons. In May 1979, he was sold to the Yankees and, for the first time, relieved in more games than he started. He spent most of his final':(((four ML years working out of the bullpen, and pitched in relief in four games of the 1982 World Series for St. Louis against Milwaukee.

A good all-around athlete, Kaat also hit 16 homers in his career, with a .185 lifetime batting average. He stands as the Twins' all-time winningest pitcher, with 189 victories. After retiring as a player, he was the Reds' pitching coach in 1986. He has also worked as a TV announcer for the Yankees. (RM)

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