Thursday, April 28, 2005

Don't Worry, the Fans Don't Start Booing Until July

Earl Weaver

Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles for 17 seasons, has said some amazing things over the years, and here are a few of them.

  1. A manager's job is simple. For one hundred sixty-two games you try not to screw up all that smart stuff your organization did last December.
  2. A manager should stay as far away as possible from his players. I don't know if I said ten words to Frank Robinson while he played for me.
  3. Bad ballplayers make good managers, not the other way around. All I can do is help them be as good as they are.
  4. Coaches are an integral part of any manager's team, especially if they are good pinochle players.
  5. Don't worry, the fans don't start booing until July.
  6. Economics played a role. Raleighs have gone from six fifty to nine dollars a carton, but there's a three-quarter cent coupon on the back. You can get all kinds of things with them, blenders, everything. I saved up enough one time and got Al Bumbry.
  7. Every time I fail to smoke a cigarette between innings, the opposition will score.
  8. I don't think, in all the years I managed them, I ever spoke more than thirty words to Frank (Robinson) and Brooks Robinson.
  9. If you know how to cheat, start now.
  10. I never got many questions about my managing. I tried to get twenty-five guys who didn't ask questions.
  11. I think the National League has better biorhythms in July.
  12. I think there should be bad blood between all clubs.
  13. It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.
  14. Nobody likes to hear it, because it's dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same - pitching.
  15. No one's gonna give a damn in July if you lost a game in March.
  16. On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.
  17. The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game.
  18. The key step for an infielder is the first one, to the left or right, but before the ball is hit.
  19. The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.
  20. The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.
  21. This ain't a football game, we do this every day.
  22. We're so bad right now that for us back-to-back home runs means one today and another one tomorrow.
  23. You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the damn plate and five the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all.
  24. You got a hundred more young kids than you have a place for on your club. Every one of them has had a going away party. They have been given the shaving kit and the fifty dollars. They kissed everybody and said, 'See you in the majors in two years.' You see these poor kids who shouldn't be there in the first place. You write on the report card '4-4-4 and out.' That's the lowest rating in everything. Then you call 'em in and say, 'It's the consensus amoung us that we're going to let you go back home.' Some of them cry, some get mad, but none of them will leave until you answer them one question, 'Skipper, what do you think?' And you gotta look every one of those kids in the eye and kick their dreams in the ass and say no. If you say it mean enough, maybe they do themselves a favor and don't waste years learning what you can see in a day. They don't have what it takes to make the majors, just like I never had it.
  25. You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.

Earl is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and his plaque reads:

"Earl Weaver managed the Orioles with intensity, flair, and acerbic wit for 17 seasons. He fashioned an impressive .583 winning percentage bolstered by five 100-win seasons (1969-1971 and 1979-1980). Known for his innovative managerial style and his colorful confrontations with the men in blue, the "Earl of Baltimore" won 1,480 games, six American League East titles, four pennants and the 1970 World Series."

Courtesy of, and

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Campy Plays 'Em All

Bert Campaneris Posted by Hello

Campy Plays 'Em All
September 8, 1965 / Municipal Stadium

By Sandro Cozzi and James G. Robinson
Courtesy of

Players in the major leagues often have to play more than one position, but only three men have ever played all nine positions in one game. On September 8, 1965, Bert Campaneris of the Kansas City Athletics became the first man ever to do so.

Campaneris, who would finish the season leading the team in batting average and stolen bases, was one of the few bright spots on the struggling A's. The club was on its way to a 103-loss season, and in order to draw crowds, A's owner Charlie O. Finley turned to a parade of wacky theme nights that honored everything from farmers to the automotive industry.

When Finley had run out of new ideas, he came up with "Campy Campaneris Night," in which his young shortstop would appear at a different position each inning. Over 20,000 fans piled in to Municipal Stadium to see how Campaneris would handle the unique rigors of each assignment. He did pretty well.

Campaneris didn't get a chance to field at his natural shortstop position in the first, but did assist on a pickoff as a second baseman in the second inning. After an uneventful stay at the hot corner in the third, he moved to left field for the fourth, and caught a fly ball. Campy snared another in center the following inning, muffed a Jim Fregosi fly ball in right in the sixth, but as a first baseman managed to snag a pop-up in the seventh.

Campaneris' most challenging assignments came in the final two innings. When he took the mound in the eighth he pitched as well as could be expected. After inducing a fly out from leadoff man Jose Cardenal, Campy allowed two walks, one hit and one run. But he got a break when Angels second baseman Bobby Knoop struck out and catcher Billy Bryan caught Fregosi trying to steal third to end the inning.

Campaneris moved behind the plate in the ninth, and the Angels' Ed Kirkpatrick took advantage by stealing second base after a leadoff single. Three batters later, with Kirkpatrick on third and Tom Egan on first, California again tested Campy's arm with a double steal. Second baseman Dick Green took the throw at second and quickly whipped it back to Campaneris in time to nail Kirkpatrick coming home. Kirkpatrick's only shot at scoring was to crash into Campaneris and try to jar the ball loose.

Even though Campaneris held on to preserve the 3-3 tie, the collision forced him to leave the field. After he headed off for X-rays, the two teams dueled long into the night. The game didn't end until the thirteenth inning, when the Angels scored twice to win, 5-3.

Except for a handful of games at second, third, and in the outfield, Campaneris stayed at short for the rest of his career. Three other men would repeat his feat -- Cesar Tovar on September 22, 1968, and Scott Sheldon and Shane Halter at the end of the 2000 season.

Another interesting Campaneris accomplishment:
Playing for Daytona Beach in the Florida State League during his minor leagues stint, Bert Campaneris pitched ambidextrously in a relief appearance. It was Monday, August 13, 1962 and facing Ft. Lauderdale, Campy threw lefty to lefthanders, and switched when righthanders came up.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

George "Shotgun" Shuba

George "Shotgun" Shuba Posted by Hello

George Shuba, pinch hitting for Don Zimmer, grounded out to first to end the sixth inning and left three men on base. That was his last at bat in the majors. It also helped set up the Dodger victory in the 1955 World Series.

There are many plays in a game that affect later events, of course, but why did Walt Alston put in Sandy Amoros in left field? For defensive purposes, but it was also because Zimmer, playing second, was now out of the game and Jim Gilliam was moved to second from left field.

Minutes later in the Yankees 6th, Billy Martin walked, Gil McDougald singled sending Martin into second. Yogi Berra steps into the batters box and hits the fly ball to left that was slicing away from Amoros. But because Amoros was left handed, his glove in his right, he was able to stretch out and catch Berra's fly ball and double up McDougald. Hank Bauer then grounded out to the shortstop ending the Yankee threat.

Would Jim Gilliam have been able to catch that fly ball? Many say it was doubtful, but then what if Shuba was able to get a hit with the bases loaded in the sixth? Baseball is filled with What Ifs. That's why it makes good fodder for discussion.

George Shuba played for seven seasons, all with Brooklyn and was also known for trying to negotiate his contract with Branch Rickey and was outfoxed by the slick Rickey, whose nickname was "El Cheapo." Shuba wanted an increase to $23,000. During the meeting, Rickey was summoned to another office for a phone call. As he waited, Shuba noticed a contract with Jackie Robinson's name on it for $21,000 on the desk. When Rickey returned, Shuba agreed to take $20,000. Later, he found out that the Robinson contract was a phony and that Rickey's phone call was a setup.

George Shuba was also the first to congratulate Jackie Robinson in a major league game. In the famous photo "Handshake For the Century" Jackie Robinson scores after homering in his debut with the Montreal Royals at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, on April 18, 1946. Congratulating him is teammate George "Shotgun" Shuba.

Handshake For the Century Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Roger Maris and Me" at Cooperstown

Roger Maris Posted by Hello

At the Baseball Hall of Fame Bullpen Theater on Friday, April 22 2005 and again on Sunday April 24, Andy Strasberg will present his story "Roger Maris and Me," a program on his friendship with Roger Maris and the Maris family.
Here is that story, courtesy of
Roger Maris and Me
by Andy Strasberg
I grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium and just fell in love with baseball. When Roger Maris came to the New York Yankees from the Kansas City Athletics in 1960, I was eleven. I had been burned in a fire in August, so I was laid up for a while and followed baseball even more closely. I remember a headline that said Roger Maris "rejuvenates" the Yankees. I had never heard the word before, but it made me think this Roger Maris was someone special. For me, there was something about the way he swung the bat, the way he played right field and the way he looked. I had an idol.

In 1961 the entire country was wrapped up in the home-run race between Maris and Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth's ghost. I cut out every single article on Roger and told myself that when I got older and could afford it, I would have my scrapbooks professionally bound. (Eight years ago I had all of them bound into eleven volumes.) I usually sat in Section 31, Row 162-A, Seat 1 in Yankee Stadium. Right field. I would buy a general admission ticket, but I knew the policeman, so I would switch over to the reserved seats, and that one was frequently empty. I'd get to the stadium about two hours before it opened. I would see Roger park his car, and I would say hello and tell him what a big fan I was.

After a while, he started to notice me. One day he threw me a baseball during batting practice, and I was so stunned I couldn't lift my arms. Somebody else got the ball. So Roger spoke to Phil Linz, a utility infielder, and Linz came over, took a ball out of his pocket and said, "Put out your hand. This is from Roger Maris." After that, my friends kept pushing me: "Why don't you ask him for one of his home-run bats?" Finally, when Roger was standing by the fence, I made the request. He said, "Sure. Next time I break one." This was in 1965.
The Yankees had a West Coast trip, and I was listening to their game against the Los Angeles Angels on the radio late one night, in bed, with the lights out. And Roger cracked a bat. Next morning my high school friend called me, "Did you hear Roger cracked his bat? That's your bat." I said, "We'll see." When the club came back to town, my friend and I went to the stadium, and during batting practice Rog walked straight over to me and said, "I've got that bat for you." I said, "Oh, my God, I can't thank you enough."
Before the game, I went to the dugout. I stepped up to the great big policeman stationed there and poured my heart out: "You have to understand, please understand, Roger Maris told me to come here, I was supposed to pick up a bat, it's the most important thing, I wouldn't fool you, I'm not trying to pull the wool over your eyes, you gotta let me...." " No problem. Stand over here." He knew I was telling the truth.
I waited in the box-seat area to the left of the dugout, pacing and fidgeting. Then, just before game time, I couldn't stand it anymore. I hung over the rail and looked down the dimly lit ramp to the locker room, waiting for Rog to appear. When I saw him walking up the runway with a bat in his hand, I was so excited I almost fell. I don't know what he thought, seeing a kid hanging upside down, but when he handed me the bat, it was one of the most incredible moments in my young life. I brought the bat home, and my friends said, "Now why don't you ask him for one of his home-run baseballs?" So I asked Roger, and he said, "You're gonna have to catch one, 'cause I don't have any."

Maris was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on December 8, 1966-a dark day for me. That year, I went off to college at the University of Akron, in Ohio. My roommate had a picture of Raquel Welch on his wall, and I had a picture of Roger Maris. Everyone knew I was a big Maris fan. My friends said, "You say you know Roger Maris. Let's just go see." So six of us drove two and one-half hours to Pittsburgh to see the Cardinals play the Pirates. It was May 9, 1967. We got to Forbes Field two hours before the game, and there was No. 9. It was the first time I had ever seen Roger Maris outside of Yankee Stadium, and I figured he wouldn't know me in this setting. I was very nervous. Extremely nervous, because I had five guys with me. I went down to the fence, and my voice quavered: "Ah,... Roger."
He turned and said, "Andy Strasberg, what the hell are you doing in Pittsburgh?" That was the first time I knew he knew my name. "Well, Rog, these guys from my college wanted to meet you, and I just wanted to say hello." The five of them paraded by and shook hands, and they couldn't believe it. I wished Rog good luck and he said, "Wait a minute. I want to give you an autograph on a National League ball." And he went into the dugout and got a ball and signed it. I put it in my pocket and felt like a million dollars.

In 1968, I flew to St. Louis to see Roger's last regular-season game. I got very emotional watching the proceedings at the end of the game. I was sitting behind the dugout, and Rog must have seen me because he later popped his head out and winked. It touched my heart. I was interviewed by the Sporting News, who found out I had made that trip from New York City expressly to see Roger retire. The reporter later asked Maris about me, and Roger said, "Andy Strasberg was probably my most faithful fan."
We started exchanging Christmas cards, and the relationship grew. I graduated from college and traveled the country looking for a job in baseball. When the San Diego Padres hired me, Roger wrote me a nice note of congratulations. I got married in 1976 at home plate at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Rog and his wife, Pat, sent us a wedding gift, and we talked on the phone once or twice a year. In 1980, Roger and Pat were in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game, and that night we went out for dinner-my wife Patti, me, my dad, Roger and Pat.

When Roger died of lymphatic cancer in December 1985, I attended the funeral in Fargo, North Dakota. After the ceremony, I went to Pat and told her how sorry I felt. She hugged me, and then turned to her six children. "I want to introduce someone really special. Kids, this is Andy Strasberg." And Roger Maris Jr. said, "You're Dad's number-one fan." There is a special relationship between fans-especially kids-and their heroes that can be almost mystical.
Like that time my five college buddies and I traveled to Pittsburgh to see Roger. It's so real to me even today, yet back then it seemed like a dream. I'm superstitious when it comes to baseball. That day I sat in Row 9, Seat 9, out in right field. In the sixth inning Roger came up to the plate and, moments later, connected solidly. We all-my friends and I-reacted instantly to the crack of the bat. You could tell it was a homer from the solid, clean sound, and then we saw the ball flying in a rising arc like a shot fired from a cannon. Suddenly everyone realized it was heading in our direction. We all leaped to our feet, screaming, jostling for position. But I saw everything as if in slow motion; the ball came towards me like a bird about to light on a branch.

I reached for it and it landed right in my hands. It's the most amazing thing that will ever happen in my life. This was Roger's first National League home run, and I caught the ball. Tears rolled down my face. Roger came running out at the end of the inning and said, "I can't believe it." I said, "You can't? I can't!" The chances of No. 9 hitting a home-run ball to Row 9, Seat 9 in right field on May 9, the only day I ever visited the ballpark, are almost infinitely remote. I can only explain it by saying it's magic-something that happens every so often between a fan and his hero. Something wonderful.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: On August 3, 1990, I received a phone call from Roger's son Randy and his wife Fran. They were calling from a hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Fran had just given birth to their first son. Fran and Randy wanted me to know that they named their son Andrew and asked i f I would be his godfather. To this day I still can't believe that the grandson o f my childhood hero Roger Maris is my namesake and my godson.]
Andy Strasberg

For those who want to learn more about Roger Maris, please visit the official Roger Maris website.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bob Gibson - What A Competitor

Bob Gibson Posted by Hello


Courtesy of

The greatest big-game pitcher of his era, and perhaps of all-time, Gibson almost single-handedly won two World Series for the Cardinals in the 1960s, and nearly won another.

He was the ultimate warrior on the mound - mean and focused on one thing - winning. In 1968, he enjoyed one of the most dominating seasons in baseball history, posting a 1.12 ERA and winning 22 games. Twice he was named Most Valuable Player of the World Series, and he is the only pitcher to win Game Seven and hit a home run in the same game.

Gibson had as much of an impact on his team in ultimate games as any pitcher in baseball history. He started three Game Sevens, winning two.

As a child Gibson survived multiple illnesses and once nearly died. He grew up in poverty but by the time he was a teenager he was growing into a smart, tough young man. He was a star basketball and baseball player who briefly played with the Harlem Globetrotters. In 1957 he was signed by St. Louis, and two years later he made his major league debut. Like many pitchers, he took some time to mature, not winning twenty games until he was 29 years old.

He first made the All-Star team in 1962, the same year he paced the NL in shutouts. In 1964 the Cards won the pennant and faced the Yankees in the World Series. After losing Game Two, Gibson won the fifth and seventh games within four days of each other, setting a Series record with 31 strikeouts in the process. The Cardinals had their first title in 18 years. In 1967 Gibson again sparkled in the World Series, this time against the Red Sox. He won Games One, Four, and Seven, pitching complete games each time. In his 27 innings he allowed a scant 14 hits, struck out 26, walked just five, and posted a 1.00 ERA. It was one of the greatest Series performances in history and he earned the MVP award for the effort.

The following year the Cardinals returned to the Fall Classic and took a 3-1 lead over the Detroit Tigers. Gibson defeated the Tiger’s 30-game winner Denny McLain in Games One and Four, allowing 10 hits in his 18 innings, while striking out 27. In Game One he was simply masterful – fanning 17 Tigers – a Series record that still stands. The Tigers rebounded and forced a Game Seven, pitting Gibson against Mickey Lolich, who had won two games already. The two battled in a scoreless game for six innings until Detroit finally got to Gibson and won the title. Gibson had done his part, winning two games, finishing with a 1.67 ERA, and breaking his own Series record with 35 K’s.

In his World Series career Gibson had started nine games, winning seven and losing two (he won seven in a row). Every one of his victories was a complete game and he pitched eight in all. In 81 innings he allowed 55 hits, had a 1.89 ERA, struck out 92, and walked 17. His 92 strikeouts are even more amazing when compared to the Series lifetime record-holder, Whitey Ford, who whiffed 94 batters. Ford accumulated his 94 K’s in 12 more games and 63 more innings than Gibson.

Almost as incredible as his post-season performances is Gibson’s 1968 season. He won 22 games and completed 28 of his 34 starts. He led the NL with 268 strikeouts and 13 shutouts. Five of his shutouts came consecutively, and at one point he pitched 47 1/3 straight scoreless innings. Amazingly, the right-hander allowed just 38 earned runs all season, in more than 300 innings. He lost nine games, but in three of those he allowed just a single run.

He won both the Cy Young and the MVP award. Gibson won the Cy Young again in 1970 after posting a career-high 23 victories. He was more than just a pitcher, hitting 24 career homers, including twice hitting five in a single season. From 1965 to 1973 he won a Gold glove each season for his defense on the mound. He was extremely tough, rebounding from a broken leg in ’67 to turn in his clutch World Series mound work. He retired the winningest pitcher in Cardinal history, with an excellent .591 (251-174) winning percentage.
  • At the time of his retirement, his 3,117 strikeouts ranked second behind Walter Johnson.
  • On May 12, 1969, Gibson struck out the side against the Dodgers on nine pitches. It's just the seventh time that has happened in NL history...
  • On August 14, 1971, Gibson no-hit the Pirates, 11-0, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Gibson collected three RBI in the game, and struck out 11 batters...
  • From 1965-1975, Gibson started 310 games without appearing in relief, an NL record at the time.
Signed as an amateur free agent by St. Louis Cardinals (1957)

Friday, April 15, 2005

New York Giants - A Baseball Album

by Richard Bak
Arcadia Publishing, 1999

Courtesy of


The New York Giants have sent more men to the Baseball Hall of Fame than any other team, a distinction that only begins to hint at the place this storied franchise holds in the long history of America's national pastime.

Between 1883 and 1957, a span of 75 summers, the Giants were one of professional sports' great dynasties. Aside from the 17 National League pennants and eight world championships (in 1888, 1889, 1894, 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, and 1954) the team won during this period, there were the unique personalities and imperishable moments that remain so much a part of the lore of the game: John McGraw's pugnacity, Christy Mathewson's fadeaway, Fred Snodgrass's muff, Mel Ott's leg kick, Carl Hubbell's scroogie, Bobby Thomson's home run, Willie Mays' catch.

Even the Giants' ballpark, the Polo Grounds, had a personality of its own, with a center field that seemed as expansive as Utah and abbreviated foul lines that turned many an ordinary fly ball into a mighty home run.

This illustrated chronicle uses nearly 190 vintage photographs, period advertisements, and historic scorecards to recapture 75 years of memories provided by the New York Giants, a team that -- with apologies to Tony Bennett -- may have moved to San Francisco but left its heart in Manhattan.

Richard Bak


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Gyo Obata

Gyo Obata
Washington University in St. Louis Architecture Student
Son of Fuji Athletic Club Founder
Co-Founder of HOK

Excerpt from The Golden Game - The Story of California Baseball
by Kevin Nelson; California Historical Society Press, 2004
Pages 207-09, 214

The Los Angeles Nippons were one of the best Japanese American teams of their era. The Nips, as they called themselves - some players had the name sewn on their uniforms - competed against the San Fernando Aces, the San Pedro Skippers, and other Nisei [second generation] teams. The Nippons, who sometimes featured whites on their roster, also played against white semipro teams in southern California. On the afternoon of December 7 or December 8 - the exact day is not clear - the Nippons were playing in Los Angeles against a studio team from the Paramount movie lot. During the game FBI agents arrived at the field and watched from the sidelines. They did not interfere with the game, waiting until it was over before taking the Nisei players away for questioning. They were later released.

What happened that day to the Los Angeles Nippons happened to Nisei and Issei all around California, which had (and still has) the largest population of Japanese Americans of any state in the country. Authorized to do so by the president, law enforcement authorities rounded up all persons suspected of possible sabotage against the United States. This sweep focused on those of Japanese descent, and over the next weeks they faced a series of restrictive and punitive measures that culminated, on February 19, 1942, with the harsh dictates of Executive Order 9066, which called for the detention of all persons who posed a potential threat to the American war effort.

Executive Order 9066 broadly applied to Americans of German, Italian, and Japanese descent as well as to foreign nationals from those countries. But it was left to the Western Defense Command to determine specifically how the order was to be enforced. In February congressional hearings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and two Northwest cities considered a proposal by General DeWitt to evacuate all three of these groups from the West Coast and detain them in isolated inland camps during the war. But German Americans, who had suffered prejudice during the first world war, successfully sought to be excluded from the order. Italian Americans also argued for an exemption, citing, among other reasons, the case of Giuseppe and Rosalie DiMaggio. Neither was an American citizen, but, their attorney argued, forcing the parents of Joe DiMaggio to leave their home would hurt the country’s morale. In the end it was decided that Executive Order 9066 should not apply to the Italians either, and the hammer fell on the Japanese (although other groups were still the targets of intimidation and restrictions).

Japanese in California had to leave their homes, sometimes with only a day’s notice or less, and report to assembly centers where they were held until more permanent relocation. Kenso Nushida, the former Sacramento Solon pitcher and “Boy Wonder” of Nisei baseball, fled the state rather than be interned. He returned to his native Hawaii, which did not have such camps.

Chiura Obata, founder of the Fuji Athletic Club, the first mainland Japanese baseball club, was living in Berkeley with his wife, Haruko, and their three children when the order was signed. By the spring of 1942 he had long since moved on from his youthful passion of baseball to become an artist and professor at the University of California. He felt he had no choice but to submit to the camps, but his youngest son, Gyo, an architecture student at Cal, did not see it that way.

It is wrong, he told his father. It is against the Constitution, and I will not go. Chiura agreed to help his son. If they could find a college for him outside California, he could escape the camps and continue with his studies. But most universities refused to accept Nisei students because of the war. Finally, Washington University in St. Louis said it would accept Gyo as a transfer student. All he had to do was get there.

Because of travel restrictions on the Japanese, Gyo needed special permission to go to San Francisco to plead his case at Army headquarters. He received an okay to go to the city but not the answer he wanted to hear there: he could not leave the state for any reason. Chiura then got involved, calling on a friend and former student, attorney Geraldine Scott, who worked for General DeWitt in his office. With Scott on his side, Gyo got a second hearing and won permission to leave, but only if he was on a train by midnight that night because the evacuation was scheduled to begin the next morning. If he remained in California, he would have to report for incarceration with the rest of the family.

All the banks were closed that day. Gyo had to leave, but he had no money. His father and Scott emptied their pockets and borrowed some more money so he could buy a ticket to St. Louis. He made it onto the train in time.

Chiura Obata, his wife and two of his children stayed at the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno before moving to Topaz, Utah, camp. In both Topaz and San Bruno, Chiura taught and practiced art. In the fall of 1945 he resumed his position as a professor of art at the University of California at Berkeley.

Gyo Obata never went into the camps, continuing his studies in architecture in St. Louis during the war. He later co-founded the firm Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum (HOK), which as since grown into one of the largest architectural and engineering companies in the world. With Gyo as its principal designer and chairman, HOK has designed some of the most beautiful ballparks in America, including Camden Yards in Baltimore. Another widely praised HOK creation, Pacific Bell (now SBC) Park in San Francisco, opened in 2000.

Gyo Obata

Monday, April 11, 2005

Nisei Baseball Research Project

The story of Japanese American players, coaches, teams, and leagues has very nearly been a lost chapter in American and baseball history. Only today is it being rediscovered, to the benefit of America, baseball, and Japanese Americans alike.

A principal reason for this rediscovery is the traveling exhibition Diamonds in the Rough, which tells the story of Japanese Americans in baseball through words, images, and memorabilia. The exhibition, opened in Fresno, California, in 1996 and has since been viewed in cities and towns across the nation as well as at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.

Also in the 1990s, a number of major-league teams, as well as the Hall of Fame, have given belated recognition to surviving Japanese American players of pre-World War II days. Now in their eighties and nineties, these venerable heroes once again stand in the limelight and hear the cheers of baseball fans.

Their story, and the story of their ancestors and descendants, is a tale of a great journey, full of hard-won victories, devastating setbacks, and new triumphs. The travelers on this journey are known by names designating the generations of Japanese immigrants and their descendants:

Issei - first-generation Japanese immigrants
Nisei - second-generation Japanese Americans
Sansei - third-generation Japanese Americans
Yonsei - fourth-generation Japanese Americans
Nikkei - Japanese Americans of all generations

So much of their story is wrapped up in baseball. If we were to dissect a Nikkei baseball, we would find that the center epitomizes the core members of the Issei and Nisei generations, the pioneers who created a culture.

The fiber and strings would represent the communities, weaving their identities, loyalties, and cultural affinities around their teams and players. The leather skin would symbolize the physical and mental toughness developed by the Issei and Nisei who endured the travails of settlement in a new land and the eviction and internment of World War II. The stitching bonds the Issei, Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei together and seals these family spirits for future generations.

Today this symbolic baseball is being passed on to new generations. It carries with it history, wisdom, and pride of their ancestors. May they cherish this unique memento and embellish it with their own skills, discipline, courage, determination, and sportsmanship, on and off the baseball diamond. May they carry on the one-hundred-year legacy of Japanese Americans-working hard, keeping faith-and playing ball.

Through a Diamond: 100 Years of Japanese American Baseball
by Kerry Yo Nakagawa

Rudi Publishing, Inc.
$35.00 To Order Hardcover/Fully illustrated

"Kerry Yo Nakagawa has magically preserved the bittersweet memories of community, conflict, culture, baseball and America in Through a Diamond... an essential for any sports fan -- a bible for the baseball faithful." Ursula Liang, Writer/Reporter, ESPN the Magazine

"This book is a discovery and rediscovery of America - a fabulously improbable combination both of baseball back when it was truly the American Pastime, and of the Japanese-Americans who transcended prejudice by playing it." Henry Allen Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, 2000

"The history of Japanese American players in baseball is one of the last, great untold stories in our national pastime. Kerry Nakagawa captures thta story beautifully with words and images that shed light on a glorious story that should never be forgotten: Marcos Breton, Author of Away Games: The Life and Times of a Latin Ballplayer"

Through a Diamond is far more than a history of Japanese American baseball. It is a compassionate description of the immigrant experience of the Japanese people as seen through the prism of America's grand game of baseball." Noriyuki "Pat" Morita

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sport's Reach Helped Unite a Community

Cal State L.A. officials unveil plans for an exhibit on baseball's significance in the lives of generations of Mexican Americans.

By Hector Becerra, Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2005
Courtesy of the L.A. Times

For Bobby Castillo, playing baseball in the streets of Lincoln Heights, with balding tennis balls and hubcaps for bases, helped blaze a path to dreams and away from trouble.

As a relief pitcher, he played on the World Series-winning Dodgers team of 1981. He also taught the screwball to a pudgy Mexican left-hander known for staring at the heavens when he delivered his loopy pitch.

"I was a little hoodlum growing up, you know, but my passion for baseball was too great," said Castillo, 49, who taught Fernando Valenzuela his signature pitch. "Baseball makes you a better person overall. You learn how to deal with other people, you learn how to deal with other races. You become companions. You learn to rely on other people, because you're a team."

Castillo was the keynote speaker Saturday at Cal State Los Angeles, where officials announced a plan to create an exhibit on baseball's significance in building community among the city's Latinos.

"Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues" is expected to debut in time for the 2006 baseball season with oral histories, artworks, photos and other artifacts. The exhibit is a joint project of Cal State L.A.'s John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, where it will be housed, and the Baseball Reliquary, a Pasadena-based nonprofit organization that studies baseball's relationship to American culture.

Exhibits will explore a love affair between Mexican Americans and a sport that moved seamlessly across borders. It is a love that has persisted despite bitter watershed events such as the evicting of Latino families from Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodger Stadium.

"There was the drama of Chavez Ravine, but we've been the loyal fan base, and the fanáticos of Fernando," said Tomas Benitez, 52, executive director of Self-Help Graphics in East L.A., who attended Saturday's gathering and plans to be involved in the project. "Baseball, in our generation, made us American. With béisbol, you can be both Mexican and American. It's a sport that transcends the border.

"Terry Cannon, the executive director of the Baseball Reliquary, said he began to think about the subject after reading an article by Stanislaus State professor Samuel Regalado. Regalado described Sundays playing baseball on the Eastside during the 1950s as "more than a sporting event, it was a gathering." In parks where mattresses served as backstops and gopher holes dotted fields, tacos and tamales preempted hot dogs and bags of peanuts. Local parish priests would occasionally bless fields and the players, and women would crochet in the audience.In a city increasingly built up by new immigrants, "baseball in Los Angeles provided a sense of stability and permanence," Cannon said.

Mel Almada, who debuted with the Boston Red Sox, became the first Mexican-born player in the major leagues in 1933. Quite a few Chicanos and Mexicans have come after him, such as Nomar Garciaparra and Vinny Castilla, said Gabriel "Tito" Avila, founder and president of the Hispanic Heritage Museum in San Francisco. But the first person to be inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Museum was Ted Williams, the Red Sox superstar in the 1940s and '50s. The "Splendid Splinter" was part Mexican, on his mother's side, Avila said."He didn't talk about it because of the racism of his time," Avila said.

Francisco E. Balderrama, a Cal State L.A. professor of Chicano studies and history, said some American companies in Mexico promoted baseball to cultivate a spirit of cooperation. "They thought if they could play baseball together, maybe they could work more effectively together on the line, or in the orchard," Balderrama said.

Castillo said playing baseball since he was a child taught him to make the right choices. While some of the neighborhood teenagers partied late, he would go to bed early to rest for a game the next day, he said. After being let go by the Kansas City Royals, Castillo decided to play ball in Mexico.

Then the Dodgers signed him in 1977. "It was a huge deal. Everybody in the neighborhood bought T-shirts with Castillo in the back," Castillo said. "My mom and dad became celebrities." He related a story about how going from playing béisbol to playing baseball caused him grief when he came back to Los Angeles and the big leagues. Many people thought he grew up in Mexico and he didn't know any English. "Everybody was talking to me in Spanish, so I needed an interpreter," he said, drawing laughs from the audience.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Johnny Podres: Brooklyn's Only Yankee Killer

Johnny Podres Posted by Hello

Courtesy of

Johnny Podres gave Brooklyn its one and only World Series victory. He killed the Yankees.
A borough-wide celebration more boisterous than those of VE-Day and VJ-Day combined erupted in Brooklyn, which hailed him as their savior.

It was the most celebrated victory in the history of the World Series. It has yet to be matched. No other pitcher had won a World Series final game for Brooklyn. No other pitcher would ever do it again. No other ballplayer had ever replaced such low civic self-esteem with such unparalleled joy. Two years before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Johnny Podres dispatched the Bums from Brooklyn.

Podres, the Most Valuable Player of that Series, and the 1955 Sportsman of the Year, became a pivotal pitching figure for the Dodgers on the West Coast, showing young stars such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton that it was actually possible to envision World Series victory. Because Johnny Podres broke the ice and melted a major league inferiority complex, the Dodgers would win again and again. Podres won the Los Angeles Dodgers' first game (against the hated San Francisco Giants), pitched the first game at Dodger Stadium, and knew every Dodger hurler from Dazzy Vance to Pedro Martinez.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The House of David Baseball Team

by Joel Hawkins and Terry Bertolino
Arcadia Publishing, 2000

Courtesy of

The House of David is a religious colony founded in 1903 by Benjamin and Mary Purnell and located in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Though small in number, their accomplishments were many. They were strong contributors to the agricultural community around them. It is thought that they developed one of the first cold storage facilities in the country and were the first to preserve jellies in jars. As early as 1908, they established a pre-Disney type amusement park, complete with miniature trains. A zoo and aviary were soon added to the park. They were also credited with inventing the automatic pinsetter used in their bowling alley.

One of the tenets of their faith was vegetarianism, and the colony restaurant, serving original-recipe vegetarian meals, was credited with producing the first "sugar cone." They built a three-story hotel in downtown Benton Harbor and an elaborate motor lodge, "The Grand Vista," south of town. They built tourist cabins, bottled water from their own natural springs, erected a synagogue for their Jewish friends, and for a brief period of time even had an "on-site" hospital. They constructed a large amphitheater to accommodate their accomplished orchestra and world- renowned jazz band. They had a complete logging operation on High Island in northern Michigan. Another tenet of their faith was that they must neither shave nor cut their hair.
When a few of the colony members were refused employment with a local streetcar company because of their appearance, the House of David bought controlling interest in the firm and soon all conductors were seen with long hair and beards!

The feature for which the House of David is perhaps best remembered, however, is the talented teams of bearded barnstorming baseball players that traveled to nearly every state in the Union, Mexico, and most of the Canadian Provinces. Early in the team's history, when their travels took them primarily to the east, their competition would often consist of the formidable Negro League teams: the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Bacharach Giants, the Newark Eagles, and the Homestead Grays. Later in the 1930s, both the House of David and the City of David would barnstorm across the country with the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1939, the City of David hooked up with Satchel Paige's All Stars for over two months, playing 60 games between them. Grover Cleveland Alexander would serve as manager/pitcher for one of the House of David teams from 1931 through 1935. Chief Bender was also a member of the 1933 eastern traveling team, along with Jackie Mitchell, the first woman to ever sign a professional baseball contract.

In 1934, Babe Didrikson Zaharais joined the Eastern traveling team. That same year also saw one of the first integrated teams take the field when Satchel Paige and Cy Perkins, his catcher, signed on to play with the Davids in the Denver Post tournament. As late as the mid-1950s, the City of David was still barnstorming with Paige, now with the Harlem Globetrotters.

The House of David is credited with inventing the "Pepper Game." Doc Tally, John Tucker, and Dutch Faust are thought to have originated it, with George Anderson replacing Faust when he left and helping to raise its level to the point where it was often billed as an attraction that was as entertaining as the game itself. The House of David ballpark was built around 1910 to accommodate the Fitzsimmons Speed Boys, a local semi-pro team. When they were out of town, the Colony used the diamond to play neighboring school teams. In 1914, Doc Tally, with the help of his two brothers and Francis Thorpe, formed what is thought to be the first officially uniformed team. In 1916, they won the Berrien County championship, and news of their prowess began to spread.

An article by the Associated News Service appeared in 1919 about the team, and in 1920 they were featured in a New York Times mid-week pictorial. All was well, with only one House of David traveling team on the road, until an internal struggle tore the Colony in two. In 1930, the Mary's City of David formed, and with its formation came the "second" House of David traveling baseball team. Both the City of David and the House of David claimed to be the "original" ball club. By 1934, there were as many as four Benton Harbor teams on the road. The City of David, which had no home park, was destined to be forever the "visitors," while the House of David sent out an Eastern, Western, and Central States traveling team and also utilized the "home" diamond. To add to the confusion, Louis Murphy, a former House of David promoter, formed his own House of David team, complete with whiskers, and played primarily in the Southeast.

The last year the House of David sent out a true "traveling" team was in 1936; the City of David continued on the road until 1956. The House of David joined the three-I league, c. 1940, and continued to play locally. Both teams suspended baseball operation during the War, 1941-1945, with the City reforming their traveling team in 1946 and the House continuing to play on weekends for a brief period of time.

We hope that this pictorial history will enable you to get a small glimpse into the life of one of the most entertaining and remarkable barnstorming baseball teams to ever criss-cross this great continent of ours. Enjoy the journey.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Senators' Era to Have President as a Closer

Opener: Reliever Joe Grzenda and President Bush will link the old and new Washington teams on April 14.

By Jeff Barker
Baltimore Sun Staff
Originally published April 1, 2005

WASHINGTON - Relief pitcher Joe Grzenda never got to record the final out against the New York Yankees with two outs in the ninth inning of the final Washington Senators game in 1971. That's because fans stormed the RFK Stadium field in a mad dash for souvenirs with the Senators leading 7-5, and Washington had to forfeit the game.

But Grzenda has kept the baseball for all of these 34 years. And when the Washington Nationals play their first regular-season home game on April 14, Grzenda will be there with his ball. The Nationals invited Grzenda, 67, because they want to give him the opportunity to symbolically throw his final pitch. The idea is to stage an event that will allow the city to officially close the era of Senators baseball and open a new one with a new team. The tentative plan is for Grzenda to give the ball to President Bush, who is expected to deliver the first pitch and complete the inning Grzenda never got to finish - much as he wanted to.

Hoping to preserve some suspense, Nationals officials would not provide further details yesterday.

But Grzenda's expected appearance has not been a secret. There has been talk about it on Internet sites for months, as fans have speculated how Grzenda's appearance might unfold. "Joe Grzenda has my vote to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2005 season for the new Washington team!" one fan wrote recently on the Baseball Fever Web site. Grzenda was a journeyman pitcher who played for six clubs and started just three games during a career that lasted from 1961 through 1972. His career mark was 14-13, and 1971 was his best season as he recorded five wins and a 1.92 ERA. Grzenda, who lives in northeastern Pennsylvania, could not be reached for comment.

The notion that he should return to RFK Stadium came from his son, Joe Jr., and appeared in a Washington Post profile of the pitcher last October. "He'd throw a strike about 80 miles an hour," Joe Jr. told the newspaper.

The Nationals decided the pitch was a good idea.

The club also plans to invite back a number of other former Senators - including outfielders Frank Howard and Fred Valentine, shortstop Ed Brinkman and pitcher Jim Hannan - and introduce them to a sellout crowd at the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. "It's like I've been resurrected or something," said Hannan, 65.

The Senators played at RFK Stadium before becoming the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. The Nationals are using the same newly renovated stadium for three years while a new stadium is built.

Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun