Friday, June 22, 2007

The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957

The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957
Postcard of Ebbets Field, c. 1955
Courtesy of Jerry Stern

The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957
Jun 27 through Dec 31
Musuem of the City 0f New York

The decade between 1947 and 1957 was the golden age of baseball in New York City. With three major league teams—the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the New York Giants—at least one of whom played in the World Series every year except 1948; two National League teams in an intense rivalry each season; and seven landmark subway series, New York was the undisputed baseball capital of the nation. But more than that, New Yorkers lived and experienced baseball in their town in a way never to be repeated again.

The Glory Days: New York Baseball, 1947-1957 explores how and why New York City came to dominate the sport, how this changed by 1957, and how the events of these eleven seasons shaped today’s game. In addition, the exhibition uses baseball as a lens through which city life in the post-war years is examined, and contextualizes baseball’s dominance in the history of the city. Great moments and great players, the passion of New York’s fans, and famous, vanished ballparks are all explored through the greatest assemblage of baseball memorabilia ever exhibited—including photographs, film footage, ephemera, uniforms, sports equipment, trophies, and a broad array of treasured baseball collectibles.
Click here for the Musuem of New York website

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Vince Coleman

Courtesy of

Coleman was the prototypical Cardinal of the mid-1980s, a young star who could hit balls in the gap, swipe bases, and score plenty of times. After shattering the rookie record for stolen bases in a season in 1985, the outfielder went on to lead the league in thefts six straight seasons. However, while his blazing speed stayed with him throughout most of his career, his hot-headedness and bad judgment off the field led him through a series of blemishes on his promising career.

Coleman turned heads in 1983 in the South Atlantic League, when he won the stolen base title by swiping 145 bags despite missing a month with a broken hand. His 145 bases, which barely beat out Donnell Nixon's 144 that same season, would set the mark for professional baseball. Two years later, the St. Louis Cardinals jettisoned Lonnie Smith to make way for the young speedster rising through their system. Coleman held the job with ease and poise, notching 110 stolen bases, shattering the rookie record held by Juan Samuel just a year before. A unanimous choice for the 1985 National League Rookie of the Year Award, Coleman finished the season with 107 runs scored and 170 hits.

However, as his Cardinals advanced through postseason, tragedy struck when Coleman began stretching during pregame warm-ups in Busch Stadium. The automated tarpaulin began rolling out on the field and trapped Vince's leg for about thirty seconds before he was wrenched free. He was taken out on a stretcher and missed the rest of the NLCS and the World Series.

Coleman went on to become the first player in history to steal 100 bases in each of his first three major league seasons. In 1989 he set a record by stealing 50 consecutive bases without being caught, besting Davey Lopes' 14-year-old mark by 12. The outfielder boasted that he considered third base easier to steal than second, and in 1987 stole second and third in the same inning 13 times. Though he was a demon when on base, Coleman often had trouble reaching first; he averaged 105 strikeouts per season with St. Louis, and recorded an on-base percentage over .320 just twice in his six seasons with them.

After his contract with St. Louis expired following the 1990 season, Coleman signed with the New York Mets that December, looking to ply his wares in the Big Apple. However, altercations with management and injuries to his ribs and hamstrings kept him off the field for much of his tenure in New York. Along with hitting the disabled list five times in 1991 and '92, Coleman also locked horns with coach Mike Cubbage and manager Jeff Torborg. The latter argument, which happened on the field, got the outfielder suspended for two games.

Coleman reached a personal low in 1993. Three months after injuring Dwight Gooden's arm by recklessly swinging a golf club in the clubhouse, he was charged with endangerment when he tossed a firecracker at -- and harmed -- two young boys and a woman in the stadium's parking lot. The outfielder was "given" the rest of the year off by the team to deal with legal issues, but it was clear that his stint in New York was over.

Indeed, Coleman was traded to the Kansas City Royals in January 1994 for Kevin McReynolds. But though he played in the most games (104) and stole the most bases (50) since his days with the Cardinals, his career was on the downslide. After the strike, Coleman re-signed with the Royals, but was traded to the Seattle Mariners halfway through the season. After hopping between the Reds', Angels', and Tigers' organizations, Coleman called it quits in 1997. (AG/FO)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Field Is Paved, Gloves Are Borrowed, Spirit Is Real

Here is a tattered patch of asphalt in the heart of a West Harlem housing project. It is caged in and a world apart, in the shadows of the burnt-orange high-rises. The bases are whatever the players can find: worn-out gloves, T-shirts, their imaginations. The outfield is a basketball court; baseballs take funny bounces on this hard surface.

But each day after school, a social studies teacher leads a crew of middle school boys to this hardened field of play with baseballs, bats and borrowed gloves. They are a brand new team in a new middle school baseball league that is as much a social experiment as it is boys at play.

For many of the players on this team from Intermediate School 286, the Renaissance Military and Leadership Academy, baseball is a respite from the pressures, social and emotional, that they battle daily. The school does not have a band or a debate team or much beyond its studies. But here, they can be all-stars, they can be somebodies.

And this fenced-in patch of asphalt in the Manhattanville housing projects, caged in and a world apart, becomes a baseball diamond. It is transformed just as countless other cracked lots and hot forlorn expanses of concrete around New York City are transformed each summer — into fields for competition, for sports, for sweating and playing and sometimes even winning on the longest days of the year.

Off the field, some of the players from I.S. 286 struggle with behavioral issues, school attendance and unstable home lives. They do what they can to avoid the gangs, and shrug off being robbed and jumped. They want to be ballplayers.

“I always wanted to play, but my father said I wasn’t any good,” said Jefry Puntiel, 14, who is shorter than most of the other players, more bookish than brawny. “So this is my first year. And it’s been a lot of fun.”

The team does not cut players based on talent, only on the basis of behavior and grades. The team does not have heavy financing, and for some, cash at home is scarce, so not every player can afford the $30 uniform. Instead, slacks and T-shirts or sweat pants replace the white-bodied, blue-sleeved shirts and gray baseball pants worn by the rest of the team.

They also have other obstacles to overcome.

Click here to read the entire article from the NY Times.