Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MLB Unveils Urban Youth Academy

Bud Selig cuts the ribbon on the new
Youth Baseball Academy. (Christie Cowles/MLB.com)

Courtesy of MLB.com

MLB Unveils Urban Youth Academy
02/28/2006 9:51 PM ET
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

COMPTON, Calif. -- After the marching bands and the speeches, the accolades and the lemonades, Commissioner Bud Selig proclaimed that Tuesday was "a big day" for Major League Baseball in this community just south of the City of Angels.

Under a cloudless sky, Selig used oversized wooden scissors to cut a red ribbon that was stretched baseline-to-baseline across the main field of the first U.S.-based Urban Youth Academy, now nestled on 10 acres behind Compton Community College.

"This is the first of what I hope is a series of academies all over America," Selig said. "So this is a very big day for us, a very, very good day. I really do think things like this will change the history of our sport. There's a lot of days when being the Commissioner is not a joyride. But this indeed is a great day to be the Commissioner of baseball."

The list of dignitaries attending the noon PT event was long and distinguished. Aside from Selig, Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt, Angels owner Arte Moreno, Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Joe Morgan, and of course, Jimmie Lee Solomon, the MLB executive who spearheaded the project, were all front and center.

Other former Major Leaguers, many of whom grew up on that strip of land that runs south of downtown Los Angeles, mingled among the crowd of about 500: Reggie Smith and Ken Landreaux. Bill Russell and Sweet Lou Johnson. Enos Cabell and George Hinshaw. Bobby Castillo and Hubie Brooks. Just to name a few.

Astros general manager Tim Purpura, who cut his teeth in the Angels organization, made the excursion from Houston's Spring Training base in Florida. The Astros and Cabell, who grew up near Compton and now works in the Houston organization, donated $70,000 for batting cages that will be named in honor of Cabell's father, Enos Sr. Rockies chairman Charlie Monfort was there, as was John Young, the founder of RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities).

Young's group, which began the redemption of baseball in urban L.A. long before the academy was the gleam in anyone's eye, announced that it would stage its 14th annual RBI World Series this August on the four fields that were created out of hardscrabble at the cost of $3 million.
Moreno, who is entering his fourth season owning L.A.'s American League baseball team, donated $500,000 in the name of the Angels over the next five years toward college scholarships for the thousands of kids who are expected to use the facility -- the main field, the auxiliary field, a girls' softball field and a youth field.

"A big part of what we're looking at that revolves around baseball and softball at the academy is education," Moreno said. "The education component is so important to what happens here. We want to give these young people the opportunity not only to finish high school, but to move on to the next level, to junior college at Compton, or to one of the major universities."

Completion of this academy was a six-year endeavor that began as a nationwide search for a suitable site and later turned into a major land acquisition, permitting and construction project. When the daily routine begins in earnest this coming June, 125 kids a day are going to be given instruction from professional level coaches on how to play the game.

They will have their own clubhouses and training facilities and will have access to the college's classrooms, computer rooms, locker rooms and refreshment stands.

MLB studied other locales as home to its first U.S. academy, but Compton, in the cradle of rich baseball history, seemed to be the applicable place.

"This is a perfect area for it," Selig said. "It's an area that needed something like this. It's an area where we need to have representation. You have to pick the right place to start."

U.S. Representative Juanita Melinda McDonald (D-Calif.), whose district includes Compton, queried Solomon about MLB putting a satellite facility at the college. But Solomon said after visiting the site that he was sold on it by McDonald.

"I came, I saw and I was conquered," Solomon said.

McDonald added on Tuesday that the day's invocation felt like "I have finished giving birth to my baby."

"We turned an ambitious dream into a state of the art reality that we are celebrating here today," said Solomon, who was promoted by MLB to the position of vice president of baseball operations while the project was running its course. "This facility is a prototype of what we envision and strongly believe to be an exciting catalyst for positive change among the youth of urban America."

Next up is Washington, D.C. As part of the stadium package under negotiation with the City Council for the Nationals, MLB has agreed to fund a $3.5 million inner city academy in the nation's capital.

Winfield, who is a Padres vice president and has been in the forefront of minority initiatives for the ballclub in San Diego, said that baseball had shown him the right way to move forward into his adult life and that he hoped the academy would provide the same advantages to others.
Aside from baseball on the field, the academy will offer free seminars in other industry jobs: umpiring, athletic field and turf development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics and sports medical training.

"I did it the right way," said Winfield, who also starred in football and basketball and could have played professionally in the other two sports. "I let them teach me, show me. And I took it in. And now MLB has created this academy to show young people that they have the same opportunities in front of them, whether it's on the field, whether it's in the front office, whether it's in ancillary jobs. There's a lot of competition out there, but we think baseball is still the best way."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com national correspondent Ben Platt contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Courtesy of MLB.com

Monday, February 27, 2006

Seventeen from Negro Leagues, Pre-Negro leagues Eras Elected to the Hall of Fame by Special Committee

12 players, five executives, including first woman, to be honored July 30 in Cooperstown
February 27, 2006

COOPERSTOWN, NY: A committee of 12 Negro and pre-Negro leagues baseball historians elected 17 candidates to the National Baseball Hall of Fame today in Tampa, Fla., featuring 12 players and five executives. The 17 electees will be honored in Cooperstown, New York, during Induction Ceremonies on July 30, joining Bruce Sutter, the lone electee from the Baseball Writers' Association of America election announcement in January.

The electees include seven Negro leagues players: Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Biz Mackey, Mule Suttles, Cristobal Torriente, and Jud Wilson; five pre-Negro leagues players: Frank Grant, Pete Hill, José Méndez, Louis Santop, and Ben Taylor; four Negro leagues executives Effa Manley, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, and J.L. Wilkinson; and one pre-Negro leagues executive Sol White. Manley, an owner in the Negro leagues, becomes the first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Each of the 17 received the necessary 75% of the 12-member voting committee to earn election to the Hall of Fame. The committee reviewed the careers of 39 Negro and pre-Negro leagues candidates over a two-day meeting in Tampa. The list of 39 was pared from a roster of 94 candidates, narrowed by a five-member screening committee in November.

The voting and screening committees were chaired by Fay Vincent, Major League Baseball's eighth commissioner and an Honorary Director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Vincent, the non-voting chairman, led discussions with committee members. The committee also received counsel from Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.

"The Board of Directors is extremely pleased with how this project has evolved over the last five years - culminating in today's vote," said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "Over the last two days, this committee has held discussions in great detail, utilizing the research and statistics now available to determine who deserves baseball's highest honor - a plaque in the Hall of Fame Gallery in Cooperstown."

The electees will join 18 Hall of Famers from the Negro leagues already enshrined in Cooperstown: Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Martin Dihigo, Bill Foster, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Pop Lloyd, Satchel Paige, Joe Rogan, Hilton Smith, Turkey Stearnes, Willie Wells and Smokey Joe Williams.
Major League Baseball provided the Baseball Hall of Fame with a $250,000 grant in July 2000 in order to initiate a comprehensive study on the history of African Americans in Baseball, from 1860-1960. The funds were to allow the Museum to expand the scope and depth of its knowledge and historical collection on Baseball and American culture.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I applaud the National Baseball Hall of Fame for conducting this special election of former Negro League stars, and I heartily congratulate those who were elected," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "I look forward to being in Cooperstown on July 30 to witness their enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. Eighteen Negro League stars had been elected prior to today's vote, but previous committees had overlooked many who were deserving. Major League Baseball is proud to have played a part in a process that has corrected some of those omissions."

In February 2001, the Board selected "The Negro Leagues Researchers/Authors Group" research team, led by Dr. Hogan of Union County College (NJ), Dick Clark, and Larry Lester, to conduct the comprehensive study. The three historians led a diverse group of more than 50 other authors, researcher and historians in this first-of-its-kind academic study.

The research resulted in a raw narrative and bibliography of nearly 800 pages and a statistical database, which includes 3,000 day-by-day records, league leaders and all-time leaders. The research was culled from box scores from 128 newspapers of sanctioned league games played from 1920-54.

With the research now complete, the study includes sanctioned league game box scores from almost 100% of games played in the 1920s, in excess of 90% of the box scores from games played in the 1930s and box scores from 50-70% of games played in the 1940s and 50s, during which time the various leagues began to disband and newspapers ceased to report game information. The end result is the most comprehensive compilation of statistics on the Negro leagues that have ever been accumulated.

A 12-member voting committee, appointed by the Board of Directors, met February 25-27 to review the final ballots of candidates. Robert Peterson, an author whose seminal work Only the Ball Was White, passed away on Feb. 11, casting his ballot two days before his death. With the unanimous support of the other 11 voting committee members, Peterson's ballot was included in the final vote. The 12 voting committee members and their areas of expertise in African-American baseball history included:
Todd Bolton, Latin America Greg Bond, 19th Century Adrian Burgos, Latin America Dick Clark, Negro leagues Ray Doswell, overall knowledge Leslie Heaphy, Women’s HistoryLarry Hogan, overall knowledge, Negro leaguesLarry Lester, Negro leaguesSammy Miller, Eastern and Western teamsJim Overmyer, Eastern teams and 19th century Robert Peterson, overall knowledgeRob Ruck, Eastern teams

National Geographic, in conjunction with the Baseball Hall of Fame, has published a book called Shades of Glory, in February, using material from the research study. The book traces the dramatic history of African-Americans and baseball from the Civil War to the present. This definitive, detailed, richly illustrated book covers the game as it developed on the field, also providing a review of how baseball played an important role within the black community, particularly during the days of segregation. It shows how this segment of American society dealt with a variety of cultural and legal barriers, but that these detours did not stop them from developing an outstanding level of skill, but also a dedicated passion for the our great national pastime.

A five-member screening committee, all from the voting committee – Burgos, Clark, Hogan, Lester, and Overmyer – and appointed by the Board of Directors, reviewed the candidacies of 94 players in November, pairing the list to 39 candidates.

The list of 94 candidates from which this process began, with written recommendations from fans, historians and Hall of Fame members accepted and reviewed by the screening committee. The list was pared down and as a result, the screening committee began with a roster of 94 candidates:
Allen, Newt
Fowler, Bud
Martin, JB
Santop, Louis
Ball, Walter
Gardner, Jelly
Martinez, Horacio
Scales, George
Bankhead, Sam
Grant, Charlie
Mathis, Verdell
Smith, Chino
Baro, Bernardo
Grant, Frank
McClellan. Dan
Smith, Clarence
Beckwith, John
Greenlee, Gus
McNair, Hurley
Stovey, George
Bell, William
Harris, Vic
Mendez, Jose
Suttles, Mule
Bolden, Ed
Hill, Pete
Minoso, Minnie
Taylor, Ben
Brewer, Chet
Holland, Bill
Monroe, Bill
Taylor, C.I.
Brooks, Chester
Hughes, Sammy
Moore, Dobie
Taylor, Jim
Brown, Dave
Jenkins, Fats
Oms, Alejandro
Torriente, Cristobal
Brown, Larry
Jethroe, Sam
O'Neil, Buck
Vargas, Juan
Brown, Ray
Johnson, Grant
Parnell, Red
Walker, Moses
Brown, Willard
Johnson, Oscar
Patterson, John
Warfield, Frank
Byrd, Bill
Kimbro, Henry
Payne, Jap
White, Chaney
Cannady, Rev
Leland, Frank
Petway, Bruce
White, Sol
Cash, Bill
Lundy, Dick
Poles, Spotswood
Wickware, Frank
Cockrell, Phil
Lyons, Jimmy
Pompez, Alex
Wiley, Wabishaw
Coimbre, Pancho
Mackey, Biz
Posey, Cumberland
Wilkinson, J.L.
Cooper, Andy
Malarcher, Dave
Radcliffe, Alex
Williams, Clarence
DeMoss, Bingo
Manley, Abe
Radcliffe, Ted
Williams, George
Dixon, Rap
Manley, Effa
Redding, Dick
Wilson, George
Donaldson, John
Manning, Max
Robinson, Neal
Wilson, Jud
Duncan, Frank
Marcell, Oliver
Rogers, Nat
Winters, Nip
Fernandez, Jose
Wright, Bill

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Musings from an old baseball fan

With the start of spring training, we shift our focus from the hot stove league to the grapefruit and cactus leagues, and ask ourselves a few questions.

How will that new acquisition look in an enemy uniform?
What number will he wear?

We long for the centerfield view from any stadium showing some pitcher’s windup and his offering to anybody batting.
Can we read the fine print?
What ballpark is it?
What teams were involved?
Who was pitching?
Was this from last year or is this new material?

Soon the exhibition games will start while a few players pursue the World Baseball Classic. Will this international effort be known as Selig’s Follies? Only time will tell.

Until next time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Robert W. Peterson, 80; Wrote Seminal Book on the Negro Leagues


Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
By Jon Thurber
Times Staff Writer
February 20, 2006

Robert W. Peterson, a former newspaper editor who shed light on a little-known aspect of baseball history with his seminal book on the sport's Negro Leagues, "Only the Ball Was White," has died. He was 80.

Peterson, who had lung cancer and emphysema, died of a heart attack Feb. 11 at a hospital near Allentown, Pa., according to his wife, Peggy.

Published in 1970, "Only the Ball Was White" was the first detailed accounting of Negro baseball. As both an oral history by the players and an accounting of the glory and despair of their times, the book was like no other.

One day a team might be playing before a huge crowd made up of fans of all colors at Yankee Stadium, the book related. A few days later the same team might be on a bus in the countryside, the players broke and looking for a game to earn gas money.

This was part of American life for decades until 1951, when the Negro Leagues finally went out of business after the integration of baseball's major leagues. Through much of that time an unofficial — but firm — color barrier kept blacks from playing in the majors. Jackie Robinson broke that barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

"It isn't possible to exaggerate how important that book is," said Lawrence Hogan, a professor of history at Union County College in Cranford, N.J., who is also a leading expert on the Negro Leagues. "When you start [investigating] the Negro Leagues, you start with Bob's book.

"Jim Gates, the library director at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., agreed: "His book is among the top 10 ever written [on baseball], the key that unlocked the door to a missing piece in baseball history.

"A native of Warren, Pa., Peterson grew up playing baseball and watching the Negro League teams that barnstormed the region playing local semi-pro squads. He recalled seeing Josh Gibson, the great catcher for the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, hit what is still regarded as the longest home run in the history of Warren County.

A catcher himself, Peterson played against some of the Negro League stars, his wife said. Peterson also played baseball at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., where he earned a bachelor's degree in English.

He served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946 and was stationed in Panama, where he played baseball.

After the war, he worked at small papers in Pennsylvania and New York and was managing editor of the Chronicle-Telegram in Elyria, Ohio. In 1961 he became an assistant news editor at the New York World-Telegram, which folded in 1966.

Peterson had been writing freelance stories for Boys' Life and other publications of the Boy Scouts of America when publisher Prentice-Hall gave him a modest advance for his proposed baseball book.

According to his wife, Peterson started his search for the great players of the Negro Leagues at a liquor store in Brooklyn owned by former Dodger catcher Roy Campanella, who was paralyzed in an automobile accident in 1958.

Campanella, who had once played with the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League, helped him find Judy Johnson, a hard-hitting third baseman for three Negro League teams.

By that time, Johnson — who like Campanella is now enshrined in the Hall of Fame — was living in Philadelphia scouting for the Phillies. Johnson helped him find other players.

"Prior to the publication of that book, most of us didn't know about Negro League baseball," said Hall of Fame historian Gates. "It was a revelation to me. [Peterson] created a field of study that didn't exist.

"Professional baseball had long ignored the contributions of the great Negro League players and had a standing rule that membership in the Hall of Fame was predicated on having played a minimum of 10 years of major league baseball. And the Negro Leagues had never been seen as a major league.

But, according to Gates, that thinking started to shift in 1966 when the great Boston slugger Ted Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Williams, known for his strong opinions, mentioned the Negro League players in his induction speech and helped kindle interest. By 1971, pitcher Satchel Paige, who played in the major leagues as well as the Negro Leagues, was the first player from the Negro Leagues voted into the hall.

"Negro baseball," Peterson wrote in the book, "was both a gladsome thing and a blot on America's conscience."

Peterson wrote two other sports books, "Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball's Early Years" (1990), which details the early years of the game, and "Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football" (1996), which traces the game's evolution from the 1890s to the late 1950s. He also wrote a history of the Boy Scouts of America.

Peterson served on a 12-member panel selected by the Hall of Fame to identify Negro League players who might have been overlooked for admission. The panel is scheduled to meet next weekend to review the final ballots.

When it became apparent that Peterson's health would not allow him to attend, he offered to leave the panel. But the other members insisted he vote in absentia.

On the day Peterson died, the Hall of Fame sent confirmation to his family that his ballot had been received.

In addition to his wife, Peterson is survived by a son, Thomas; a daughter, Margaret; and two grandchildren.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Are They The Tools of Irrelevance?

Courtesy of The New York Times
By Alan Schwarz
February 19, 2006
New York Times

With apologies to Punxsutawney Phil, whose eye is not what it used to be, winter officially returned to its hole last week with baseball fans' favorite words: pitchers and catchers report. Pitchers and catchers are as symbiotic as hot dogs and beer. From now through October, they will form their teams' most vital partnership.

In a rare partnership of their own, common baseball wisdom and common sense suggest that some catchers are better than others at helping their pitchers — whether by calling better pitch sequences, blocking potential wild pitches or practicing arm-guard psychology.

Pitchers contend that they feel more comfortable and perform better with certain catchers, the best example being Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver, who joked that their tombstones would someday lie 60 feet 6 inches apart. Japanese teams so respect the pitcher-catcher alliance that they have been known to change batteries in the middle of an inning.

"You look at production," Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, said. "Some pitchers execute better with one catcher or another. You see it on the field."

Fair enough. But when baseball statistics analysts have measured the tools of ignorance with their own tools, they get an anticlimactic and rather counterintuitive result: Catchers appear to have scant effect on pitchers' performance, or certainly far less than most surmise.

Catchers are primarily judged on the flash of their throwing arm, but no conventional statistic assesses their primary charge: to help their pitchers post low earned run averages. But if earned run averages were kept for catchers, too, wouldn't that help pinpoint some sort of talent? Presumably, a catcher whose team posts lower E.R.A.'s with him behind the plate is, at least comparatively, good at his job. And those with the largest differentials would be the best.

Over the past three seasons, the Astros have had a 3.67 E.R.A. with Brad Ausmus behind the plate and a 4.44 E.R.A. without him; Ausmus's 0.77 reduction leads the major leagues among catchers with at least 2,000 innings. Paul Lo Duca, recently acquired by the Mets, has a reputation for offense, but he was second at 0.73. Mike Lieberthal of the Phillies was last; his pitchers posted an E.R.A. 0.62 higher with him.

Catcher E.R.A. can be misleading, though. Like the catchers themselves, it makes some errant pitches look like strikes.

First, some star pitchers almost always throw to a backup — as Carlton did with McCarver (over Bob Boone), or as Randy Johnson did with John Flaherty (over Jorge Posada) last season — making the starting catcher look undeservedly bad. Second, some managers, like the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, call all pitches from the bench.

Keith Woolner, the director of research for Baseball Prospectus, developed a more sophisticated Catcher E.R.A. several years ago to assuage those and other concerns. But he still found something remarkable: A catcher could indeed appear to have a major effect on his pitchers' E.R.A., but that effect often reversed itself the next year. Catcher E.R.A.'s bounced around as if at random. Although that doesn't prove the absence of true catching talent, it suggests that whatever exists does not manifest itself to a detectable degree.

"Something that's ability is relatively consistent, like home run power," Woolner said. "You can be pretty sure that if Adam Dunn hit more home runs than Juan Pierre last year, he will next year, too. But when you look at catchers who prevent runs well one year, they are not more likely to prevent runs well the next year. They're just as likely to be bad. It's really not what I expected to see.

"We're told that catchers have a real impact on the final score, but it doesn't show up. This is an exaggeration, but compared to the batters and the pitchers, the catcher is just a guy who makes sure the ball doesn't go to the backstop."

Perhaps some teams are sensing this. Bengie Molina, considered a fine defensive catcher for the Angels, received little attention in the free-agent marketplace and signed for only a year with the Blue Jays. And Mike Piazza, who was thought to be retiring a glove many considered as useful as Michael Jackson's, was signed by the Padres — to be their starting catcher.

Piazza has always considered criticism of his defense to be out of proportion with his overall value, at least compared with the praise showered on Gold Glovers like Mike Matheny.

"When I see someone steal a couple bases off Matheny or a guy like that, I go, 'You got to change him to first!' " Piazza said last year. "I think it's funny."

Although catchers take pride in their importance, some of the best try not to get as worked up about it as outsiders do. The nomadic catcher Damian Miller can claim to have called pitches for a gaggle of All-Stars from 2001 to 2004: Johnson and Curt Schilling with the Diamondbacks; Kerry Wood and Mark Prior with the Cubs; then the vaunted Big Three with the Athletics, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Yet Miller laughed his influence aside.

"I like to think it's the catcher," Miller said. "But I think I know better."

Courtesy of The New York Times

The Golden Years of Black Baseball

When Gus Greenlee organized the new Negro National League in 1933 it was his firm intention to field the most powerful baseball team in America. He may well have achieved his goal. In 1935 his Pittsburgh Crawfords lineup showcased the talents of no fewer than five future Hall-Of-Famers - Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson and Oscar Charleston.

While the Crawfords were, undoubtedly, black baseball's premier team during the mid-1930s, by the end of the decade Cumberland Posey's Homestead Grays had wrested the title from the Crawfords, winning 9 consecutive Negro National League titles from the late 1930s through the mid-1940s. Featuring former Crawfords stars Gibson and Bell, the Grays augmented their lineup with Hall-Of-Fame talent such as that of power-hitting first baseman Buck Leonard.

Contributing greatly to the ever-growing national popularity of Negro League baseball during the 1930s and 1940s was the East-West All-Star game played annually at Chicago's Comiskey Park. Originally conceived as a promotional tool by Gus Greenlee in 1933, the game quickly became black baseball's most popular attraction and biggest moneymaker. From the first game forward the East-West classic regularly packed Comiskey Park while showcasing the Negro League's finest talent.

As World War II came to a close and the demands for social justice swelled throughout the country, many felt that it could not be long until baseball's color barrier would come crashing down. Not only had African-Americans proven themselves on the battlefield and seized an indisputable moral claim to an equal share in American life, the stars of the black baseball had proven their skills in venues like the East-West Classic and countless exhibition games against major league stars. The time for integration had come.

Friday, February 17, 2006

This Time, Someone Has Stuck With Little

Chris Livingston for
The New York Times
Courtesy of
the New York Times
By Jack Curry
New York Times
February 16, 2006

VERO BEACH, Fla., Feb. 16 — Grady Little had doubts, nagging doubts, that he would manage a major league team again. Those doubts, he said, drifted in and out of his mind, staying as long as he would let them. Still, it must have felt like trying to control a migraine.

Little was baseball's forgotten manager, tossed into the recycling bin by the Boston Red Sox because he left Pedro Martínez in a game too long. Little was considered the reason Martínez lost a lead to the Yankees and Boston failed to reach the 2003 World Series. Every calamity needs a villain. Little was it.

Now Little is the happy manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the doubts seem to have vanished. He patted Eric Gagne on the back and chatted with Derek Lowe as the Dodgers pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time Thursday. What happened at Yankee Stadium 854 days ago has long been a memory for Little.
Chris Livingston for The New York Times

"I don't think it'll ever be totally forgotten," Little said. "If you spent any time in New England, I think you'd realize that."

On Oct. 16, 2003, Little made a questionable pitching decision, the Red Sox gagged and, 11 days later, Little lost his job. It did not matter that he had won 188 regular-season games in his two years as their manager or that he had relied on someone who, although fatigued, had been Boston's dominant pitcher.

All that mattered was the ugly result. After the Yankees rallied against Martínez, after the Red Sox were part of another horrific ending to extend their drought without a title to 86 years, a legion of fans needed someone to blame. It was not Martínez, who repeated Thursday that he would not have left the game on his own. It was the guy who had too much faith in him.

"Pedro is one of the players in that clubhouse who realized I made about two million decisions in that two-year period I was there," Little said. "That one, like every other decision I made, I've got to wait for the results to see if it was a good or bad decision."

That snippet of sarcasm is as close as Little, 55, gets to sounding bitter about becoming Boston's speed bag. Usually, he is dispensing one-liners. When asked why he chose No. 9, Little said, "It's a number I wanted to wear in Boston, but they wouldn't let me wear it for some reason."

Boston's No. 9 belonged, of course, to Ted Williams, and is retired.

It is spring training, so there is optimism all around the recently dysfunctional Dodgers. Ned Colletti, the new general manager, selected Little to manage a revamped roster that included the free-agent acquisitions Rafael Furcal, Bill Mueller, Nomar Garciaparra and Kenny Lofton. Brett Tomko and Jae Seo are new to the rotation, and Danys Baez was added to the bullpen.

Little, a consultant and assistant for the Chicago Cubs the previous two years, said that he appreciated how the Dodgers were "above judging a person on the results of one decision in one game." Was that a jab at the Red Sox? Maybe. Little does not say he was dismissed for leaving Martínez in. Or does he?

"That wasn't the reason," Little said. "I don't know. You've got to ask somebody else that question. I know in my heart probably what the real reason was. But I can't turn back the clock."
If he could, he would go back to when the Red Sox had a 5-2 lead after seven innings in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. "He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't as far as what he was going to do with Pedro," said Lowe, who was with Boston then. "If you sat here today and said you had a three-run lead going into the eighth with a chance to go to the World Series, would you want Pedro back out there? Of course."

After a one-out hit sliced the lead to 5-3 in the eighth, Little asked Martínez if he had "any bullets" remaining. Martínez said he did. Martínez's effectiveness was known to drop off after 100 pitches, but Little stayed with him. The Yankees rapped four consecutive hits against Martínez to tie the score, and won, 6-5, on Aaron Boone's home run against Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning.

"I love Grady," Martínez, now a Met, said Thursday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "I thought what happened to him was unfair. But that ownership group wanted him out of there."

Lowe said he was surprised by how much abuse Little received and hinted that Little's options in the game were limited.

"Without getting too in depth," Lowe said, "there were guys that probably didn't want to go out there and pitch the eighth."

Martínez said: "I was tired. They knew I was tired. But Grady didn't have the faith in the bullpen that he wanted to have."

The decision will be a significant part of Little's legacy. He is clearly tired of discussing it, but seems to realize it will never fade away, despite the Red Sox winning it all in 2004 with Terry Francona as the manager.

Little remembered how some Bostonians would grouse that Johnny Pesky's delayed throw helped allow the Cardinals' Enos Slaughter to score the decisive run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series. If Pesky would not have hesitated, the fans would say, the Red Sox could have been champions.

"A lot of the people talking about that play weren't even alive in 1946," Little said. "Who am I to think what happened in one game in 2003 is going to be forgotten? I don't think it's going to happen."

Courtesy of the New York Times

Monday, February 13, 2006

Orioles at 50

Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

A tactician who would move pitchers to the outfield for one batter, Paul Richards (left) talks strategy with third base coach Luman Harris.(Sun file photo: 1957) Oct 29, 2003

'Reckless' Richards cracks open O's coffers

History: Manager/GM took over in 1954 and showed penny-pinching organization the cost of winning, and losing.

By John Eisenberg
Sun Staff
Originally Published October 29, 2003

In seven years with the Orioles, Paul Richards made the largest trade in baseball history, signed Brooks Robinson, invented the oversized catcher's mitt and preached a pitching-and-defense philosophy that defined the Orioles for years after he was gone.

But many believe Richards' greatest contribution in turning around a losing team was a wild spending spree he undertook after being handed the keys to the franchise in September 1954.

Richards wasted piles of money on prospects who failed to blossom, but he also "opened the keys to the cash box, which had to happen if we were ever going to compete," said Joe Hamper, an accountant who joined the Orioles' front office in 1954 and stayed for 37 years, retiring as chief financial officer.

The franchise had been a dispirited, penny-pinching loser in St. Louis and was on its way to losing 100 games in its first season in Baltimore when Richards was hired in a dual role, replacing Jimmy Dykes as manager and Arthur Ehlers as general manager.

"We had operated very conservatively that ['54] season," Hamper said. "The mind-set was clubs like the Yankees and Red Sox had the big bucks, and we were not in that category."

The Orioles owners and club president Clarence Miles were neophytes who had pledged to spend "whatever it takes" to win, but they didn't know where or how much to invest.

Richards showed them. As the major leagues' first manager/GM since John McGraw, who ran the New York Giants from 1902 to 1932, he took liberal advantage of his unchecked authority to deal and spend.

"Overnight, we went from a conservative organization to a very aggressive and, in some respects, reckless organization," Hamper said. "It was a complete change in philosophy and a nightmare for those of us on the financial side, but the end result was the mentality that we were competitive and weren't going to back off."

Richards was a tall Texan who had batted .227 over parts of eight seasons as a backup catcher in the majors. He had then won as a minor league manager in Atlanta and Buffalo and turned the losing Chicago White Sox into contenders.

Conservative in speech and manner, he was a managerial progressive, an original thinker. Twice in Chicago, he had shifted a starting pitcher to the outfield and brought in a reliever, then returned the starter to the mound after the reliever faced one batter. In Buffalo, he had once walked a pitcher four times to keep a fleet leadoff hitter from running wild on the bases.

Nicknamed "the Wizard of Waxahachie," a reference to his hometown, Richards could teach the fundamentals of any aspect of the game, especially pitching. He revived the careers of numerous veterans by teaching them a slider he called a "slip pitch."

Soon after getting his first chance to run an organization, Richards demonstrated his progressive flair.

In November 1954, he made a trade with the Yankees involving 17 players, still the largest in baseball history. (An 18th player to be named was not documented.) The next season, Richards went through players like cards in a deck, the turnover so constant that, when asked to assess his pitching staff in July, he replied, "Do you mean the one coming or going?"

In 1956, he proposed swapping entire 25-man rosters with the Kansas City Athletics, backing off only after the A's asked to take Roger Maris and Clete Boyer out of the deal.

But in signing young players, he was really creative.

No limit on bidding

Any team could sign any player with the amateur draft still a decade away, and the bidding often involved signing bonuses. The Orioles had budgeted a paltry $100,000 in 1954 but spent more than twice as much on bonuses in 1955 after Richards arrived.

"He just came in and completely bamboozled the owners," said former Orioles GM Harry Dalton, who joined the front office as assistant scouting director in 1954.

Many of Richards' early signings were failures. Bruce Swango, a high school pitcher from rural Oklahoma, didn't own a pair of baseball spikes when he signed in 1955 and couldn't perform in front of crowds. The Orioles gave him a $36,000 bonus and released him nine weeks later.

Bob Nelson, a slugger nicknamed "the Babe Ruth of Texas," never hit a home run for the Orioles.

Jim Pyburn, a college football star at Auburn, signed a $48,000 contract, but he had a bad back and became a football coach.

Richards was relying on the advice of his private scouts, who accompanied him from job to job, rather than on the Orioles' respected scouting department headed by Jim McLaughlin, who had come with the franchise from St. Louis.

"Paul would get a call from one of his cronies saying, 'This kid, boy, you've got to sign him.' And we would instantly give him $30,000, $50,000, $70,000, whatever it took," Dalton said.

Orioles assistant GM Jack Dunn famously joked that Richards had been given an unlimited budget and exceeded it.

"The owners didn't like it," Dalton said, "but it shocked them into realizing that if you wanted to be competitive, this was what you had to do."

Teams that signed a player for a bonus exceeding $4,000 had to keep the player on their major league roster for two years. The cagey Richards signed college star Tom Borland to a large bonus, then had second thoughts and pitched Borland under a different name in the minors, trying to get around the rule. Baseball commissioner Ford Frick found out and fined Richards $2,000.

"Frick wanted to throw Paul out of baseball, but Clarence Miles stepped in," Hamper said.

When the Cincinnati Reds complained that Brooks Robinson had received more than $4,000 in 1955, Robinson, 18, had to appear in Frick's office and state otherwise. Frick accepted Robinson's denial.

The Tigers also complained about the Orioles' signing of Milt Pappas, a Detroit high school star.

"It seemed like everything Paul did created problems," Hamper said. "He was a very bright guy, but he didn't do things the way they were supposed to be done. He just couldn't do that, even if it was the easy way."

His habit of ignoring McLaughlin's scouts led to a rift, but the tension didn't prevent the Orioles' outlook from brightening when Richards' subsequent signings proved more successful, including future stars such as Pappas and Jerry Walker.

But the owners were still upset about Richards' excessive spending, which involved more than just signing bonuses. According to Hamper, Richards charged the rental of a limousine to the club when he attended the 1955 NFL championship game in Los Angeles.

"That just shocked me; we had never had anyone do anything like that before," Hamper said. "There was a lot going on, players coming and going, funds set aside that were difficult to account for. The owners would talk to each other and say, 'We can't let him do this.' But they never talked to Richards about it. He intimidated them.

"The baseball people worshipped him, and he created an aura that made [the owners] fearful of confronting him."

In 1956, the owners hired an executive vice president with the subtle intent to not only help Richards with the paperwork he disliked but to curb spending.

The executive vice president was gone within two years.

Nicholson last straw

The owners finally ran out of patience when Richards gave $115,000 to a prospect named Dave Nicholson. Lee MacPhail, a genial veteran executive who had worked as the Yankees' minor league director and assistant GM, was hired as the Orioles' GM after the 1958 season. Richards remained manager.

"I think ownership felt Paul was wasting a little money. What they really wanted was someone to say no to him on budget things," MacPhail said in a 1999 interview.

The organization began to operate normally with MacPhail in charge, Hamper said.

Richards continued to have a profound effect. To make sure his "way" of playing was taught throughout the system, he brought the Orioles' many minor league managers, including Earl Weaver, to the major league spring training camp. His way matured into a philosophy Weaver espoused for years as the Oriole Way.

As a manager, Richards led the Orioles to their first .500 season in 1957, manipulating veterans such as catcher Gus Triandos, shortstop Willy Miranda, relief pitcher George Zuverink and third baseman George Kell, a future Hall of Famer who mentored Brooks Robinson.

Taciturn and unpredictable in the dugout, Richards intimidated the players but earned their respect.

"It looked like he had a headache about half the time because he was thinking so much about moves," said Fred Marsh, an infielder in 1955-56. "He was a very good manager, but he was tough on you. I was supposed to be a good bunter, and he sent me up one time to sacrifice and I popped up. When I got back to the bench, all he said was, 'I thought you could bunt.'"

Richards and MacPhail decided to go with younger players in 1959, and the Orioles' "Kiddie Corps" contended for the American League pennant in 1960 on the arms of Pappas and fellow pitchers Chuck Estrada, Jack Fisher and Steve Barber. The Orioles were in first place with 22 games to go before being swept by the Yankees in a New York showdown.

That year, as Triandos struggled to catch Hoyt Wilhelm's knuckleballs, Richards designed a large "pizza plate" of a glove for the catcher. Opponents objected. Richards responded by making it smaller, but the idea of the oversized catcher's mitt had been born.

Off the field, Richards' continuing feud with McLaughlin divided the organization and forced MacPhail to make a choice. McLaughlin was fired in 1960, replaced by Dalton.

Then, near the end of the 1961 season, Richards also departed to run Houston's expansion team.

He left the Orioles with a winning team and a well-stocked minor league system, quite an accomplishment given where he had started in 1954. Before leaving, he told reporters he hoped to be remembered when the Orioles won their first pennant.

They won the World Series five years later.

Richards never won a pennant in Chicago, Baltimore or Houston, but he helped lay a winning foundation in all three places. He died in 1986 at age 77.

"In all my years in baseball, I never knew anyone who knew more about the game," Brooks Robinson said.

But Hamper and Dalton say Richards should be lauded as much for his "reckless" spending as his teaching.

"Before he got here, the organizational mentality was not of championship caliber," Hamper said. "We could have just gone along like that and never done anything and never gotten any better. Richards got us going."
Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun
Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Little Goes a Long Way

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Dodger manager can't escape one decision in 2003, but he won't let it define him either

By Steve Henson
Times Staff Writer
February 12, 2006

PINEHURST, N.C. — Grady Little is nothing if not a man of perspective, able to whittle down the sharp angles of harsh judgment and reconcile baseball's oddities, ironies and outright cruelties with impregnable reason cloaked in authentic Southern drawl.

This, though, was tough to shake. How many mornings before that self-pitying mix of high-pitched whining and low-slung rumbling emanating from Boston would cease, before that disquieting swirl of a distant nor'easter bearing down on Little in his bucolic brick home tucked alongside fairways and bunkers would dissipate?

Those folks honestly believed they were cursed. They believed Little's decision to stay with Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez despite the familiar warning sign of a mounting pitch count in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2003 American League championship series against the rightfully, spitefully superior New York Yankees was merely the latest proof.

Little had to go. The 188 regular-season victories in his two years as manager didn't matter to a fan base afflicted by multigenerational psychological distress, and neither did coming back from a two-game deficit to defeat the Oakland Athletics in the division series that made facing the Yankees possible. Peter Gammons wrote that many New Englanders were feeling "pure, unadulterated hatred for a wonderfully decent man."

So this is how it ends? Little couldn't help but wonder. Sixteen years of managing in the minors, another six as a major league coach, finally getting a shot at age 52 to do what he knew in the root of every silver strand on his head he was born to do, and this is how it ends?

He went home to his sleepy enclave in the sand hills of North Carolina, surrounded by good friends and in-laws, and did not enjoy watching the dogwood trees blossom, not one bit, because they blossom only in springtime and spring is for training in Florida or Arizona, not for staring out the back porch, or playing 18 holes, or watching the grandchildren, pleasant as that might be.

The perceived unfairness of it all gnawed at Debi, his wife of more than 30 years, and at their adult son, Eric, who had spent a delightfully nomadic childhood watching his father take teams to farm league titles in myriad mid-Atlantic outposts — Richmond, Durham, Greenville, Kinston, Pulaski and Hagerstown. Maybe it was the sum of beating all those bushes, but Grady himself was oddly bemused by this so-called unfairness.

Criticism came with the uniform, the tiny office off the clubhouse, the lineup cards and the daily thrust and parry with the media. He understood that. And he wanted nothing more than another chance to make a tough decision with a World Series berth in the balance.

Not to redeem himself. Not to right a wrong. Little is at peace with making that particular decision at that particular time under those particular circumstances. He just loves to manage, and wanted to do it again.

"I realize there are only 30 of these jobs in the world," he told Debi. "So the reality is that everything doesn't happen the way you want it to."

Would somebody give him a second chance?

It's a baseball thing, this clinging to a numbing routine. Maybe it's the only way to get through a 162-game season on an even keel. But away from the game, a routine becomes a rut. Grady Little walked into the Players Cafe a block from the historic Pinehurst golf resort nearly every day at nearly the same time and ordered a Rueben sandwich — every time.

He'd become a friend of the owner, Bob Scalzi, a transplanted Bostonian and former Fenway Park season-ticket holder, of all things. Scalzi made an offhand suggestion one day: Here's a way to clear your head and have some fun besides.

The next day Little bought a Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Classic motorcycle, got the motor running and headed for the highway. In less than two years he has racked up 14,000 miles, mostly taking solitary rides, winding through the horse farms near his home, past the scarlet berries of the mountain ash to the west and to the historic coastal communities along the Cape Fear river to the east.

"He hadn't been on a motorcycle since the '70s," said Eric, father of Grady and Debi's two grandsons. "But it's really been great. It puts him at ease, it's more or less therapy."

It's everybody else who needs therapy, that's what Little wanted to say, but he didn't because, well, he learned a lot about human nature managing for so long. And maybe the motorcycle did have something to do with putting that fateful night in New York in his rearview mirror and zooming as far away from it as possible.

"What bothers me most is that people keep bringing it up and won't let it go," he said. "People try to judge Grady Little by that one game. You know, I was a successful minor league manager for all those years, and I was a successful big league manager.

"When we were playing that game that night, there were 27 other managers sitting at home watching on TV wishing they were there with an ability to [mess] it up like I did. Yet people to this day always bring it up. And one of these days, I'm just going to quit talking about it."

He had daily reminders in 2004 when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, putting to rest the supposed Curse of the Bambino and giving blessed relief to scapegoats living and dead — Denny Galehouse, Johnny Pesky, Joe McCarthy, Calvin Schiraldi and Bill Buckner are among those who preceded Grady Little.

"I watched that Series toward the end, like I always do," he said. "But I didn't watch it religiously. I'd say that I kept up with it."

He deeply appreciated calls that came from Red Sox players during bus rides to airports in August and from champagne-splattered clubhouses in October.

"I pulled for those guys to do good and win," he said. "I felt good when some of the players called and told me I was there in that locker room with them. That gave me a comforting feeling. It's something I knew in my heart."

The 2004 team was bolstered by two key additions — starting pitcher Curt Schilling and closer Keith Foulke.

"They had them that year and won the World Series; we didn't have them in 2003 and we didn't make it," he said. "They didn't have them in 2005 [because of injuries] and they didn't make it.

"I'm not taking anything from the guys who contributed, but it wasn't the same team."

Little lost out to Mike Hargrove to fill the Seattle Mariner managerial opening after the 2004 season. Meanwhile he took a job advising the Chicago Cubs about minor league prospects and potential trades.

At home he seemed to be preparing for life beyond baseball. He bought 11 undeveloped acres, close to where Debi grew up in nearby Southern Pines, cleared out a patch and made plans for a dream house. There would be a tennis court for Debi and a dirt track for the grandkids to ride their four-wheelers.

Construction was to be a family affair. Debi's father would build the house — he already had built numerous homes throughout the Pinehurst area — her brothers would pitch in, and Little and his wife would do the painting.

Little enjoyed the monotony of spending a day with a brush in his hand and walls to cover. In a strange way painting was like riding the Kawasaki, or eating those Rueben sandwiches. In a strange way it was like managing a baseball team.

And that was something he still believed he could do, even if others weren't so sure. Baseball America honored him in 2001 as the best minor league manager of the previous 20 years for his record of 1,053-903, five league championships and four manager-of-the-year awards. Director Ron Shelton had even employed him as a technical advisor for "Bull Durham," the definitive 1988 film about the bush leagues.

All well and good, but wasn't managing nearly 2,000 minor league games a diamond definition of obscurity?

When Jim Tracy parted ways with the Dodgers a day after the 2005 season ended, Little didn't think twice. In all his years in baseball, he'd spent only one away from the Atlantic seaboard, serving as San Diego Padre bullpen coach in 1996.

The Dodgers had five candidates, and Little wasn't one of them. It became clear that General Manager Paul DePodesta planned to hire Dodger farm director Terry Collins, but owner Frank McCourt balked at the choice, sending DePodesta back to the drawing board.

Little still wasn't on the radar, even when DePodesta handed McCourt a list of out-of-work managers and challenged him to identify someone more qualified than Collins, who had led teams to five second-place finishes in six seasons.

McCourt fired DePodesta, hired Ned Colletti in his place, and the names of Lou Piniella and Jim Fregosi came to the fore. Little, in fact, contacted Fregosi and asked him about becoming his bench coach if he landed the job.

Not until Colletti finally called did Little dare believe this might be the opportunity for him. Of course, Colletti asked him during his interview about leaving Martinez in the game."His explanation gave me great confidence in who he is," Colletti said.

Primarily because Little exuded great confidence himself.

"I take a lot of pride in the way I can handle situations," Little said. "I can get the most out of people.

"I do have confidence. I think it's a blessing to have a team that can win. But it's not luck that these players do the best they can playing for Grady Little. I try to keep them in a frame of mind where they can do their best."

The Pinehurst Pilot sought a bold reaction from Little about landing the job, and he didn't disappoint, saying: "The McCourt family knows I'm a winner and that winning follows me around."

It sounded familiar to Eric, who like everyone back home was ecstatic that his father had landed the job.

"He's laid back, but he feels he can do anything," he said. "He feels invincible. You don't notice that right away, but the confidence comes through slowly.

"He called me and said, 'I'm back in the fast lane for a while.' I don't think he's stopped smiling yet."

Yes, the Dodgers can expect a heaping helping of down-home, marinated-in-the-minors perspective from their new manager, who incidentally will become the first man to manage two of baseball's more storied franchises, the Red Sox and the Dodgers.

When a pitcher is overthrowing, Little is apt to tell him, "Stop trying so hard, just like your first coach told you in Little League."

When a player is pressing, seemingly putting the weight of the world on his shoulders, Little will dispatch him to a children's hospital for an afternoon.

"I'll let it be known that when we win a game, the players are responsible," he said. "And when we lose, I'm going to take the blame because I deserve it."

I know the way players play for me. They are going to do exactly what I tell them. So when we lose, it will be my fault."

Few have worn culpability as commendably as Grady Little. It is his fervent wish that when his new team takes the field, everyone gains a smidgen of the perspective he seems to have in abundance.

"Once I manage one game for the L.A. Dodgers, people are going to quit asking me about Pedro," he said, skipping a beat before the punch line. "They are going to start asking about what I screwed up in the game tonight."

He has long known the next day's game is the best salve for sins of all stripes on a ball field. And he has thought it through enough times, from the quiet of his country spread — where the new house is on hold — to the seat of his motorcycle — which is for sale.

During his last visit to L.A. for a staff meeting, Little couldn't sleep. He checked out of his hotel at 2 a.m. and drove empty streets from Silver Lake to Pasadena to Hollywood to El Segundo until reaching the airport for a 6 a.m. flight.

His mind raced from his last game to his next, and made all the stops in between.

"Dang," he thought, allowing himself a smile. "It's been a long time between games I've managed."

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Rumble in St. Louis

Courtesy of BaseballLibrary.com

April 28, 1953 Sportsman's Park

By Sandro Cozzi

Even though he was nicknamed "Scrap Iron," St. Louis catcher Clint Courtney didn't look so threatening -- he was the first catcher to ever wear glasses. But he was a passionate man who liked his baseball as much as his beer. Courtney was a good hitter with an intense desire to win, but sometimes his intensity went too far and that's when his fire would really show.

Even Billy Martin was fined -- without throwing a punch (AP)

A good example of Courtney's surly demeanor came during a game at St. Louis' Sportsman's Park on April 28, 1953 -- a day that should have been remembered for a colossal 530-foot blast by Mickey Mantle. The game between the Yanks and the Browns was a close one, but in the top of the 10th, Gil McDougald broke the 6-6 tie by barreling into Courtney at home plate and jarring the ball loose.

"I'm going to cut the first guy I reach," Courtney promptly announced when he came to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Yankees hurler Allie Reynolds heard the declaration and tried to go up and in on Courtney, but missed. The St. Louis catcher lined the ball into right field and raced around the bases in search of a double, but was far behind the throw to the second base bag.

But Scrap Iron came through on his promise and slid into second with his spikes high. Phil Rizzuto, the Yanks' All-Star shortstop, was covering second on the play and was cut badly when Courtney's spikes landed in his leg.

The Bronx Bombers immediately retaliated. In a split second, Reynolds, McDougald and first baseman Joe Collins were on top of Courtney, the three of them swinging wildly. Both benches cleared as players piled up around second base.

After a lot of flying dust and a lot of flying punches, the melee cleared. Umpire John Stevens emerged from the brawl with a separated shoulder as the instigator, Scrap Iron, crawled out from the pile looking for his glasses. Unfortunately for him, Yankees outfielder Bob Cerv had crushed them into the ground with his cleats.

The fines handed out totaled $850 -- at that time, a major league record for a brawl. Courtney was docked $250. But the most mysterious fine was the $150 levied against Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who never threw a punch. When he arrived in the clubhouse the next day, Martin asked, "What did I do?" Allie Reynolds replied, "Nothing, Billy. But what can you do? You've got a reputation."

When Reynolds left the park later the day he saw Courtney standing at the end of the runway, bat in hand. As the pitcher silently walked past, Courtney called out, "Hey, Allie, you hit me pretty good yesterday."

Courtesy of BaseballLibrary.com

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Dirty Job, But Someone Had to Do It

Excerpts from MORNING BRIEFING are Courtesy of L.A. Times

By Larry Stewart
Times Staff Writer
February 7, 2006

Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey attended Monday's Southern California Sports Broadcasters awards luncheon at Lakeside Golf Course in Toluca Lake.

They were there to accept a special award that went to the Dodger infield that also included second baseman Davey Lopes.

Garvey, the first baseman, said of that infield's shortstop: "I want to thank Bill Russell for helping me win four Gold Gloves with all those throws into the dirt that I had to dig out."

Claim to fame: Longtime San Diego Padre announcer Jerry Coleman was at Monday's sportscasters luncheon to accept the President's Award.

"I've broadcast more losing games than any other broadcaster," Coleman proudly proclaimed.

Just a few problems: The Padres, you might say, lowered their voice to the playing field in 1980 and had Coleman manage the team. They finished 73-89.

"We had three Hall of Famers that year — Dave Winfield, Rollie Fingers and Ozzie Smith," Coleman said. "They weren't the problem, though. It was the 22 other guys."

All in the family: Radio personality Jorge Jarrin was at the luncheon to announce the winner in the foreign-language broadcasting category. The winner — no surprise — was Jarrin's father, Jaime, who has been the Dodgers' lead Spanish-language announcer since 1973.

"May you have a long and prosperous career," Jorge told him.

Said Jaime: "I want to thank my older brother for presenting me with this award."

Improving with age: Sparky Anderson, who turns 72 on Feb. 22, was given a lifetime achievement award at the luncheon."I've been getting a lot of honors lately," he said. "I guess that means I'm getting old."

It's now on the map: Speaking of his birthplace, Anderson said, "Before I came along, nobody had ever heard of Bridgewater — or even South Dakota, for that matter."

A good lesson: Jim Tracy, given the group's High Five Award, said he got an important tip from Anderson: "Manage with your eyes, not your heart."

Larry Stewart can be reached at larry.stewart@latimes.com

Excerpts from MORNING BRIEFING are Courtesy of L.A. Times

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sarah's Take: Campy An Inspiration

Roxie and Roy Campanella worked together to
improve care for paralyzed people. (LA Dodgers)

Hall of Famer continued to work hard after crippling accident
By Sarah D. Morris / Special to MLB.com

Courtesy of Dodgers.com

Since Spring Training is almost upon us, most of us are taking a deep breath before we start the marathon also known as the regular season. Most of the deals have been completed, so there is not much new news to ponder. Writers are guessing which teams will do well and which won't.

I already have expressed my opinion about the 2006 Dodgers. I don't want to bore my readers or look foolish, so I won't write about the Dodgers until they hit the field in Vero Beach. Everyone knows baseball games aren't won or lost on paper. If they were, nobody would play the games.

I am taking the opportunity with almost nothing to write about to express my gratitude to the late Roy and Roxie Campanella for giving me the courage to follow my dreams.

Campanella, or "Campy" as his friends called him, had a part in integrating Major League Baseball. The native of Philadelphia never had it easy in life, but he was always cheerful and easygoing. He had an African-American mother and an Italian-American father.

At 16, Campy started playing professional baseball in the Negro Leagues. While there, he developed a reputation for an outstanding ability to work with pitchers. Campy was a star in the Negro Leagues, playing in many All-Star games.

In 1946, the Dodgers signed Campanella. For two years, he played in the Minor Leagues, helping to integrate them. In April of 1948, he became the sixth African-American player in the Majors in the 20th century. Campanella soon became a star for the Dodgers and a popular figure in Brooklyn. In 1951, 1953, and 1955, Campanella was named the Most Valuable Player of the National League, and he caught in five World Series. In 1953, he set a Major League record for a catcher with 41 home runs. This remarkable record stood alone until 1996, when Todd Hundley of the New York Mets tied it. In 1969, Campanella was the second African-American player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Campanella's playing career ended tragically and prematurely on an icy January night in 1958, just before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Though his playing career was coming to a close because he had painful bone spurs in his heel, he had a few more years left to dazzle the people of Los Angeles, where baseball was still unknown. Coming home from a store, Campanella's car skidded on the ice and ran into a light pole. Somehow, he survived the accident, but he broke his fifth cervical vertebra and severed his spinal cord and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. For the next 35 years, he was wheelchair bound and endured endless hours of physical therapy. He lived longer than anybody thought he would after the accident.

Although Campanella was a great baseball player, he was a better person. He maintained a sunny attitude after a personal tragedy. Most people would not have criticized Campy if he stopped working when he quit playing, but he did not. He did not let his physical difficulties stand in his way. During the 1970s and 1980s, Campanella was the most visible Brooklyn Dodger. By doing this, Campanella gave millions hope and made us re-evaluate our lives.

Campanella had almost the biggest influence on my life outside of my family. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I saw him on television and heard about him from the Dodgers announcers. While growing up, I didn't see many wheelchair-bound adults and certainly not many who could not use their hands. Campanella couldn't do much more than I could, except talk.

While in school, I learned that most of the teachers put their emphasis on the child's physical abilities rather than his ability to learn. I couldn't do much physically, so they didn't want to waste their time teaching me much. This could have discouraged me, but seeing Campanella doing something worthwhile helped me to keep trying.

As a high school senior, I was told that I was unemployable. For a few days I was discouraged, in spite of my mother telling me to not listen to that. Then, I thought of Campanella. He had a job teaching catchers and doing public relations for the Dodgers. I thought if he could do that, I could find a job that I could do.

For many years, Campanella taught the Dodger catchers. Before 1998, the Dodgers had the best catchers in baseball in my opinion. He helped to teach Mike Scioscia to be the best plate blocker in the game. Every Dodger catcher knew how to work with pitchers. To me, Campanella's influence helped the Dodgers to develop a great pitching tradition.

Campanella worked in community affairs for the Dodgers until his death in June 1993. He offered hope to many paralyzed people. With the help of Don Newcombe, a former teammate, and his wife, Roxie, he attended every old timers game and Hall of Fame induction until his death. Anyone who has traveled with a wheelchair can appreciate the effort that Campanellas put forth to go to these functions.

After Campanella died, Roxie kept going to Dodgers games. She worked tirelessly to help improve the care of paralyzed people. Roy and Roxie established the Roy and Roxie Campanella Physical Therapy Scholarship Foundation that helps to fund education for physical therapists in 1991, and after Roy's death, Roxie continued to work for this cause. Most people who didn't know the Campanellas saw Roxie as the lady who pushed Roy's wheelchair, but Roy and his friends knew that he couldn't have accomplished what he did without the dedication of his wife. Roxie passed away in March 2004. The Dodgers, baseball and disabled communities still miss "the spunky lady who pushed Roy."

Campanella broke down many barriers for both African-Americans and the disabled. He should be remembered as a civil rights activist. Unlike many civil rights leaders, he tried kindness to break down barriers. While doing research for this article, I found out the United States Postal Service announced it will honor Campanella on a stamp in 2006. I am glad because Campanella should never be forgotten.

Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Dodger Place. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author. A source for this article was www.roycampanella.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Courtesy of Dodgers.com

Saturday, February 04, 2006

It's Hall time for Negro Leaguers

Courtesy of Delaware Online - The News Journal

O'Neil, Minoso finally getting their chance to gain entrance to Cooperstown

The News Journal

Twenty-four days from now, the call may come.

Buck O'Neil may be sitting in his Missouri home. Or he may be on the road -- as he often is, even at age 94 -- talking baseball. Most likely, he'll be roaming the halls of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, his pride and joy in Kansas City's Jazz district.

Regardless, he will be near a phone.

O'Neil was a standout first baseman and successful manager in the Negro Leagues from 1937-55. Years later, as a Chicago Cubs scout, he signed Ernie Banks and Lou Brock to the first pro contracts of their Hall of Fame careers.

But O'Neil has never received his own plaque in Cooperstown.

That may change Feb. 27. A four-year historical study, funded by a $250,000 grant from Major League Baseball, has resulted in a list of 39 Negro League players and executives who will be considered for induction in a special election.

Twelve historians will meet Feb. 25-27 in Tampa, Fla., to discuss the merit of each candidate, including O'Neil, one of two living players on the ballot with Minnie Minoso. The summit will end with a vote, and anyone who garners nine or more votes will be inducted July 30 into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I can't wait to see what happens," O'Neil said last weekend at a banquet in Kansas City.

"They're going to put some guys in. I don't know who, but everyone on that list is qualified."
That's what will make this so difficult for Larry Hogan.

A history professor at Union County College in New Jersey, Hogan approached the Hall of Fame in 2001 to pitch a project that would result in the most complete Negro Leagues research ever gathered.

The Hall of Fame solicited the grant for MLB, and Hogan enlisted nearly 50 authors, including University of Delaware history professor Neil Lanctot, to produce 800 pages of narrative history.

Additionally, they recovered nearly 100 percent of box scores from the 1920s, 90 percent from the 1930s and 50 to 70 percent from the 1940s.

"We've been at this for a long time, and now that we have a statistical record that we're comfortable with, we can make comparisons of Negro Leaguer to Negro Leaguer," said Hogan, who has published the findings in a just-released book, "Shades of Glory."

"There's always been a gap problem. It's been the most recent Negro Leaguers who've gotten the attention. This is a wonderful opportunity to educate in all sorts of ways about black baseball in the '20s and prior to the '20s."

Lanctot has written two books on the topic, including "Negro League Baseball" in 2004. The focus of his research for Hogan's project was 1928 to 1933.

Many famous Negro Leaguers -- Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson -- played later and landed in the majors. Others, like Josh Gibson and former Wilmington resident Judy Johnson, were inducted to the Hall of Fame in the 1970s after commissioner Bowie Kuhn appointed a Negro Leagues committee.

"Some of the Negro Leaguers have been long forgotten," Lanctot said. "You say the name Smokey Joe Williams, and most people will say, 'Who's he?' I'd like to see more of them get in."
Lanctot isn't among the 12 voters, but he will pay rapt attention to the verdict. Hogan said the panel will base its choices largely on statistical data, and guessed a "goodly number" of candidates will gain entry.

But it's not an undertaking Hogan takes lightly. The vote represents the latest, best and possibly last chance for O'Neil, Minoso and the others to win induction.

Unlike the Veterans Committee, which convenes every three years to vote on players no longer eligible to be on the writers' ballot, the Hall of Fame has no plans to schedule a later vote of the Negro Leagues panel.

"The way our board looks at it, this election is necessary and needed," said Jeff Idelson, vice president of communication and education for the Hall of Fame. "Is it the last time? Based on the study we've commissioned and the research we have, it is, but we would never close the door completely on anyone."

So on Feb. 27, O'Neil will be near a phone.

"He's probably going to hang out here at the museum," said Negro Leagues Baseball Museum spokesman Bob Kendrick. "For him to get into the Hall, it would be one of the biggest things to happen in Kansas City since George Brett went in.

"And what would make this day so special is he could bring a voice for all of those guys. He could speak, literally, on their behalf, and I think having that voice would make that celebration that much more meaningful for him."

Contact Scott Lauber at slauber@delawareonline.com

Courtesy of Delaware Online - The News Journal

Cal Hubbard - Only Member of Football and Baseball Hall of Fame

Courtesy of MLB Hall of Fame
Cal Hubbard
Elected to [MLB] Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee in 1976,

Cal Hubbard was a dedicated and authoritative umpire who was respected for his imposing size, keen ability and unusual 20-10 vision. After eight years in the minors, he reached the American League in 1936. He excelled for 16 seasons in the big leagues, umpiring in four World Series and three All-Star games, before a hunting accident led to his premature retirement.

Hubbard, who played on four NFL Championship teams, was the first person elected to three national sports shrines, having previously been honored by the college and professional football halls of fame.

Did You Know... that Cal Hubbard was a tackle on the three-time National Football League champion Green Bay Packers of 1929-1931, and was an All-League selection six consecutive years (1928-1933)?
Cal Hubbard, at 6-2 and 250 pounds was, by the standards of the 1920s, was huge. Still, he could run the 100-yard dash in close to 11 seconds. It was an awesome combination for a tackle – size and speed.

Hubbard played college football at two relatively small schools, Centenary College and Geneva College. But, when he turned pro, he went to the game’s biggest city, New York.
The Giants, however, were well stocked at the tackle position, so the big man from the small schools was moved to the end position on offense and linebacker on defense. For the next two years, 1927 and 1928, the Giants teamed Cal with another future Hall of Fame lineman, Steve Owen.

The addition of big Cal made a good Giants defense great. New York posted 10 shutouts in 13 games in 1927 and allowed only 20 points for the season while winning their first NFL title. Hubbard earned all-league acclaim both seasons with New York.

In 1929, at his request, Cal was traded to Green Bay where he liked the small town atmosphere. Packers’ coach Earl (Curly) Lambeau was building a championship organization in Green Bay. Lambeau moved the versatile Hubbard back to the tackle spot. The Packers won NFL championships three straight years – 1929, 1930, and 1931. Cal enjoyed his best years with the Packers from 1929-1933 and 1935. During that time he earned first-team all-league honors as a guard in 1929 and at tackle in 1931, 1932, and 1933.

During the summers in Green Bay, Hubbard began umpiring baseball games. In 1936, he began a new career as an American League umpire. He became almost as famous as a baseball umpire as he had been as a football player. In 1958 he was appointed umpire-in-chief of the American League.
Hubbard is the only person to be enshrined in both the Baseball and Pro Football Hall of Fames.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Maury Wills

By Marshall Adesman
Stats from www.baseball-reference.com

Ever hear of a fellow named Max Carey?

You ought to, he's a member of the Hall of Fame. In a twenty-year major league career that began in 1910, he collected over 2600 hits and batted .285, but more importantly this Pittsburgh Pirate led the National League in stolen bases ten times as he ran his way to over 700 steals and an eventual spot in Cooperstown.

Twice Carey stole over 60 bases in a season and four other times he topped 50, the last of those coming in 1923. Three years earlier, a guy named Ruth over in New York had also topped the 50 mark... in home runs, that is, which changed forever the way baseball was played. Sluggers now ruled the baseball world as the "scientific game" ­ what today we call "small ball" ­ was shelved in favor of the three-run homer. Well, chicks dig the long ball, right?

For more than thirty years there were some puny stolen base totals in the majors. With just three exceptions (Washington's George Case and the Yankees' Ben Chapman and George Stirnweiss), league leaders generally stole fewer than forty bags per season; there were even several champions who didn't make it out of the teens! White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio stole 56 in 1959 for the pennant-winning "Go-Go Sox," but the real change in philosophy came the next year when the Dodgers unleashed Maury Wills.

Wills toiled in the minors for nearly a decade and did not really distinguish himself. The Dodgers lent him to the Tigers organization one year and undoubtedly would have been happy to make that arrangement permanent, but eventually the Tigers sent him back. The Topps baseball card people didn't even want him on a card, convinced that he would never surface in the majors. But in June of 1958, the Cleveland Indians set in motion a chain of events that would eventually change the way the game is played. Struggling along under .500, they fired manager Bobby Bragan; the Dodgers, in turn, decided to hire their former catcher and infielder to manage their Triple-A affiliate in Spokane. Bragan inherited the under-achieving Wills, and convinced his shortstop that he could take advantage of his speed by learning to bat lefthanded. Wills worked at it and began to show improvement.

Meanwhile, down in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were in a bind. Having made the historic and much-publicized move from Brooklyn after the 1957 season, the team had treated their new fans to a 7th place club (in an 8-team league), but in their second season out west were part of a four-team parlay that was in the hunt for the pennant. Their shortstop was veteran Don Zimmer but he was struggling to hit his weight, while down on the farm Mr. Wills was batting over .300 and stealing bases. On June 6 the Dodgers brought Wills up to the majors and stuck him at short, where he stabilized the lineup and helped contribute to the team's first West Coast pennant and World Series championship. But it was the following year, 1960, when Wills began to make his real impact. Firmly entrenched at short and in the leadoff spot, he became the first National Leaguer in 37 years, since Max Carey in 1923, to steal 50 bases, while batting a fine .295. It would be the first of six consecutive stolen base titles for Maury Wills.

After their World Series win in 1959, the Dodgers fell to fourth place in 1960, then battled Cincinnati the following year before settling for second place. In 1962, however, fans around the country were riveted by a great three-team pennant race that featured the Dodgers, Giants and Reds, and an individual sub-plot that starred Wills and San Francisco's incomparable Willie Mays. Mays had his best season in five years, bashing 49 homers and driving home 141 runs while fueling the Giants' attack. Wills, on the other hand, set the tone for the Dodgers as he set his sights on the record book. First he shattered the National League mark of 81, set by Cincinnati outfielder Bob Bescher in 1911 and then he set his sights firmly on Ty Cobb's 1915 single-season record of 96. Ironically, he accomplished this in a game in which the Dodgers were routed, but he did in fewer games than Cobb, which meant that, unlike the controversy that dogged Roger Maris the year before, Wills was able to claim the record all for himself. But after 162 games the Dodgers and Giants were tied, and so a three-game playoff became necessary to determine who would meet the Yankees in the World Series. And just like the famous playoff of 1951, the Giants rallied in the ninth inning of the final game to capture the flag. But Wills' efforts were rewarded in the off-season, when he won the NL's Most Valuable Player award. He also won the coveted Hickok Belt as the Professional Athlete of the Year, and was chosen The Sporting News' Player of the Year, the Associated Press' Athlete of the Year, and Sport Magazine's Man of the Year.

The 1962 season was easily Wills' best, but he continued to be one of baseball's major stars for the next several years. He helped lead the Dodgers to another World Series crown in 1963, and in 1965 he epitomized the team's small-ball approach. Los Angeles batted just .245 as a team, seventh best in the league; Wills led the club with his .286 (pitcher Don Drysdale, by the way, batted .300 in 130 at-bats!). Only the expansion franchises in New York and Houston scored fewer than LA's 608 runs, and every team in the majors topped their total of 78 home runs. (Rookie second baseman Jim Lefebvre and journeyman outfielder Lou Johnson tied for the team lead with twelve homers apiece!). Wills' 94 stolen bases led the league, of course, as the Dodgers stole 172 bases as a team. It was said that a typical Dodger inning found Wills getting on, stealing second, moving to third on a grounder and scoring on a fly ball, and then the pitchers made it stand up. Sandy Koufax and his 26 wins led that formidable staff, while Drysdale won 23 and Claude Osteen chipped in with 15. In an exciting seven-game World Series, Wills bedeviled the Minnesota Twins with eleven hits and three stolen bases, and Koufax threw shutouts in both games five and seven as the Dodgers won their third championship since moving to the West Coast.

After leading LA back to the Series in 1966 (they were upset in a sweep by the young Baltimore Orioles), Maury Wills was surprisingly traded to Pittsburgh, where he shifted to third base for two years. Selected by Montreal in the expansion draft, he was traded back to LA in June and reclaimed his old shortstop spot for the next couple of seasons.

When he retired following the 1972 season, Wills had collected more than 2100 hits and stolen nearly 600 bases in his fine 14-year major league career. In 1974, Lou Brock of the Cardinals broke Wills' single-season stolen base record, swiping 118, and in 1982 Rickey Henderson shattered that by getting 130, which still remains as the record.