Wednesday, July 30, 2008

IBAF Revises Extra Innings Rule


The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) announced today that it is introducing an extra-inning tie-breaker format

July 25, 2008- The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) announced today that it is introducing an extra-inning tie-breaker format that will be tested at a youth event this week and implemented officially in the baseball competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

The format is a first in international baseball competition and differs significantly from the currently used extra-inning model. The new rule calls for traditional baseball extra-inning rules to be used in the 10th frame, but all contests that are tied after 10 innings will compete under a new format. Beginning with the 11th inning and each inning needed thereafter, base runners will be placed on first and second base with no outs. All other rules of baseball will remain in effect.

The new rules will be taken into effect for all tournaments under the IBAF competition umbrella moving forward, which includes the IBAF Men’s and Women’s Baseball World Cup which are scheduled for September 9-27, 2009 in Europe and August 24-29, 2008 in Matsuyama, Japan, respectively.

“The upcoming Beijing Olympic competition may be our last unless we are successful in adding the sport back to the Olympic program for the 2016 Games,” said IBAF President Dr. Harvey W. Schiller. “We must demonstrate to the International Olympic Committee not only does our game belong alongside the other great sports of the world, but our sport is manageable from a television and operational standpoint.”

Dr. Schiller continued, saying the change is both a positive and necessary step for the sport of baseball.

“One of the unique aspects of our game is that it has no time limit. Extra-inning contests can bring about the most exciting results for players and fans, but such circumstances also make it difficult in the context of the Olympic program. Delays cause scheduling and logistical nightmares. Planned security, transportation, drug testing, broadcasts, and entertainment are just a few of the activities that may be seriously affected,” Dr. Schiller continued.

Many former and current professional players and administrators from baseball federations around the world provided guidance on the rule change. The new tie-breaker will be tested beginning today at the IBAF “AAA” World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Canada, which is the premiere international tournament for players 18-and-under.

The new extra-inning format will allow for each manager to select two consecutive batters from anywhere in their respective lineup to start the 11th on first and second base. The next batter in the lineup would then be the batter that starts the inning at the plate. Once those players/runners are determined for the 11th inning, the order of any subsequent innings will be determined by how the previous inning ended. That is, if the 11th inning ends with the #6 hitter having the last official at bat, then the 12th inning begins the #7 hitter at bat, and the #5 hitter at 2B and the #6 hitter at first base.

“Given these extraordinary times for baseball, I believe this will be an exciting shift for the sport,” Dr. Schiller said.

Extra-Inning Rule (to be added to the IBAF Competition Norms):

If the game remains tied after the completion of ten (10) innings, the following procedures will be implemented during extra innings:

• Each team will begin the 11th inning (and any subsequent necessary extra innings) with a player on first and second, no outs.

• To begin the 11th inning, representatives from each team will meet at home plate and will indicate (at the same time) to the home plate umpire where the team wishes to begin the batting order. That is, the teams have the option of beginning the 11th inning anywhere in the existing batting order that was in effect when the 10th inning ended. Note that this is not a new lineup (just potentially a different order), and it may very well be the same lineup that ended the 10th inning. The rationale for doing so is to ensure that both teams have an equal chance at having what theyconsider to be their best hitters and base runners in a position to score in the 11th inning.

• For example, if the team decides to have the #1 hitter in the lineup hit first, then the #8 hitter will be placed at 2B and the #9 hitter will be placed at 1B. Furthermore, if the team decides to have the #3 hitter in the lineup hit first, then the #1 hitter would be at 2B and the #2 hitter would be at1B.

• Once those players/runners are determined for the 11th inning, the order of any subsequent innings will be determined by how the previous inning ended. That is, if the 11th inning ends withthe #6 hitter having the last plate appearance (PA), then the 12th inning begins the #7 hitter at bat, and the #5 hitter at 2B and the #6 hitter at first base.

• With the exception of beginning the inning with runners on 1B and 2B with no one out, all other “Official Rules of Baseball” and “IBAF Competition Norms” will remain in effect during extra innings required to determine a winner.

• No player re-entry is permitted during extra innings.

• The traditional system of the visiting team hitting in the top of the inning and the home team hitting in the bottom of the inning will remain in effect until a winner is determined.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fan has visited graves of 205 Baseball Hall of Famers

By Joe Capozzi

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thousands of fans will flock to Cooperstown, N.Y., today to honor the Baseball Hall of Fame's two newest members - Goose Gossage and Dick Williams.

Stewart Thornley won't be there, but he's already planning to pay his respects to Gossage and Williams some day - at their grave sites.

There are fans and then there's Thornley, a fan of the dead who takes his passion to another level - 6-feet under. Baseball's Sultan of Cemeteries has visited the graves of 205 Hall of Famers, from 19th-century pioneer Alexander Cartwright's tombstone at Oahu Cemetery in Hawaii to Cy Young's marker at the United Methodist Church in Peoli, Ohio.

"Some people collect baseball cards. This is my form of collecting," said Thornley, 53, a drinking water educator for the Minnesota Department of Health.

"The process is a lot of fun, the hunting and the research. I like to travel and this gets me to many places I normally wouldn't go."

Thornley's ghostly tour has even brought him to Palm Beach County, where in 1999 he visited the grave of Billy Herman, a 10-time All-Star second baseman for the Chicago Cubs who's buried in Memorial Park in Tequesta.

"I knocked off a couple on that trip," Thornley said. "Max Carey in Miami. I crossed the state to Tampa and saw Al Lopez ... Ray Dandridge in Palm Bay, Ed Walsh in Pompano."

Thornley said he has spent thousands of dollars on 45 different trips to see the final resting places of baseball's greatest players, including shortstop Joseph "Arky" Vaughan's grave "out in the middle of nowhere" in Eagleville, Calif., and Babe Ruth's elaborate shrine at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, N.Y.

"Some people eye it up as being strange. They'll make snide comments like, 'Get a life,' '' Thornley said, "but, hey, it's my hobby. How is that any stranger than stamp collecting?"

Hall of Fame officials aren't insulted by Thornley's preference to honor the dead greats instead of the living ones.

"When I first heard about it, I thought it was kind of odd," said Tim Wiles, the hall's director of research. "But then I found out there are lots of people who do that. It's kind of like baseball archeology.

"Me, I like to visit another kind of baseball grave site - places where ballparks used to be."

Thornley's hobby started by accident in 1967 on a family vacation. Traveling through Michigan's Upper Peninsula, he saw a sign for the grave of George Gipp, whose Notre Dame football legend grew through Knute Rockne's "Win one for the Gipper" speech. Against the protests of his mother and brother, Thornley persuaded his father to make the stop.

"I was hooked," he said, though it would be another 30 years before he started his excursions to see fallen baseball stars and the deceased of various notoriety.

Thornley's cemetery visits include the graves of 40 U.S. presidents, Civil War generals, and several victims of Charles Manson's murderous night in Los Angeles. While visiting the grave of manager Leo Durocher in a few years ago, Thornley was able to walk 19 spaces more to see the resting place of teen heartthrob Ricky Nelson.

All told, he has visited more than 1,000 graves, "even all the vice presidents," said Thornley, author of Six Feet Under: A Graveyard Guide to Minnesota.

Thornley calls Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, burial grounds of rocker Jim Morrison, composer Frédéric Chopin and writer Oscar Wilde, "the Yankee Stadium of cemeteries."

But baseball graves are his passion, and he completed his first lengthy lists of visits in January 2002 by paying respects to Eddie Mathews in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Since then, he said, "as new Hall of Fame graves are added through Hall of Famers dying or those already dead being elected, I've been able to keep up with them."

One of Thornley's favorite visits was to the crypt holding Bill Terry, the last National Leaguer to hit .400, at Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville. "I pulled up and saw this old guy who worked there," he said. "As he's walking me to the grave, he says, 'By the way, I put him in there.' He buried Bill Terry and he was proud of that. I thought that was neat.''

Lou Boudreau's was the "freshest grave'' Thornley has visited. He was on a grave-hunting trip to Pittsburgh in 2001 when Boudreau died. Thornley altered his plans to attend the funeral near Joliet, Ill.

There are 10 Hall of Famers without final resting spots, including Bill Veeck, whose ashes were scattered over Lake Michigan, and Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash. (Thornley visited the airport in Puerto Rico where Clemente's plane took off, but he said that doesn't count.)

As an official scorer for the Minnesota Twins, Thornley lives with his wife and their two cats, "Jeter" and "A-Rod." He reads up on baseball, keeping an eye out for obits or stories about ailing stars. "I've never had the guts to go up to Bob Feller and say, 'Where are you going to be buried, in Van Meter (Iowa) or Cleveland?' I don't think he'd appreciate that," Thornley said.

Thornley has been to Cooperstown for one induction weekend, in 1996, but he was turned off by the swarm of fans.

"My feeling about Cooperstown is, I kind of enjoy it when it's a little more ... dead,'' he said.

Thornley used to collect autographs, but that hobby took a turn for the worse when he was a sophomore at the University of Minnesota in 1978. He approached New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson after a game and asked him to sign a paddle from Delta Upsilon, a fraternity to which Munson belonged while a student at Kent State.

Munson apparently wasn't in the mood to sign, the two exchanged words and, Thornley said, "He had me by the neck in a chokehold. (Yankees teammate) Fran Healy had to break it up.''

"Neither one of us was on our best behavior," Thornley said. "Something I'd rather forget."

Thornley doesn't hold a grudge. Munson, who isn't in the Hall of Fame, died in a plane crash in 1979.

"I've been to his grave several times," he said. "It's very nice."

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Ever Happened to Brett’s Pine-Tar Bat?

July 24, 2008
By Tyler Kepner

Thursday marks the 25th anniversary of the “Pine Tar Game” at Yankee Stadium, an episode that George Brett still can’t believe is his most famous moment in baseball.
“I never thought it would be that big of a deal,” Brett said on a conference call from Kansas City on Wednesday. “If it happened in Cleveland, it’s not that big of a deal.”

But it happened in the Bronx, of course, with a cast of characters including at least three Hall of Famers: Brett, Goose Gossage and, of all people, Gaylord Perry.
In 1983, Perry was 44 years old, making the final stop on an eight-team odyssey as baseball’s ultimate trickster (or cheater, depending on your perspective). He was playing for the Royals when Brett smashed his disputed home run off Gossage, and swiped the bat from umpire Tim McClelland during the melee after Brett was called out.

“Gaylord Perry, being the man of foreign substance that he is, got the bat and twisted it out of my hands,” McClelland said Wednesday at the Stadium.
The bat passed through several other hands before ballpark security personnel confiscated it, preventing the Royals from stashing it in their clubhouse. Eventually, the bat found its way back in Brett’s hands on a road trip in Detroit, and he planned to use it. Brett drew a red line 18 inches from the knob of the bat — the legal limit, he had learned, for pine tar.

But Perry, ever the wily one, interceded.

“Gaylord Perry said, ‘What are you doing using that bat? That’s a historic bat. You break that, it’s not worth anything,’” Brett recalled. “I said, ‘You know, you’re probably right.’ So I put it in the bat bag, and now it’s in the Hall of Fame.”
It did not get to Cooperstown directly. Brett first sold the bat to collector Barry Halper for $25,000. Realizing it should go to the Hall instead, Brett got it back from Halper six months later for the same $25,000 price. In thanks, he gave Halper the bat he used to hit three homers in a 1978 playoff game.

This weekend, when Brett visits Cooperstown for Gossage’s induction ceremony, he said he might doctor his famous bat. When he got it back, Brett had wiped off the pine tar so it conformed to the 18-inch rule. That just won’t do, he said Wednesday. So don’t be surprised if Brett brings a tube of pine tar with him this weekend.
“The one thing I should do is return the bat to its original state,” Brett said. “Go up there and put the pine tar back up.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

George Brett and umpire recall Yankee Stadium Pine Tar Game

George Brett must be held back from mauling
Tim McClelland after ump calls him out
for excessive pine tar on bat
25 years ago Thursday.


Wednesday, July 23rd 2008

Even with Hall of Famer, World Series champion and 13-time All-Star forever attached to his name, George Brett will never be able to live down one memorable blowup he had at Yankee Stadium 25 years ago Thursday.

It's hard to forget the July 24, 1983 image of an infuriated Brett charging out of the visitors' dugout with arms flailing wildly, sprinting and screaming at home plate umpire Tim McClelland, who had called Brett out after he had a homer for having pine tar too far up the handle of his bat.

Wednesday, Brett said that despite all of his accomplishments, he can't get away from that one incident, even in his own household.

"I probably watch it at least once a year with my boys," Brett said on a conference call set up by the Kansas City Royals Wednesday. "They just want to watch the aftermath of when the umpire threw me out."

It all happened 25 years ago in the top of the ninth inning at the Stadium, when Brett came to bat against Goose Gossage with two out and hit a two-run homer to give Kansas City a 5-4 lead. But after Brett rounded the bases, Yankees manager Billy Martin approached McClelland and alerted him about the amount of pine tar on Brett's bat. Upon inspection and measuring the bat against home plate, McClelland noted that Brett's pine tar exceeded the 18-inch limit from the tip of the handle and called the Royals star out the game. A red-faced Brett darted toward the then first-year ump, having to be held back by other umps and teammates.

"I knew he wasn't going to hit me or run over me and if he did, I'd probably own the Kansas City Royals right now," said McClelland, before manning third base in Wednesday's matinee between the Yanks and Twins. "We had done what we had to do - administer the rules."

The Royals protested, and their appeal was upheld by AL president Lee MacPhail. What was left of the game was played out on Aug. 18, with the Royals hanging on, 5-4.

Brett didn't realize how enraged he looked until viewing the tape. "I remember saying, 'If they call me out for having too much pine tar, I'll run out there and kill one of those sons of bitches," Brett said. "Actually, when I ran out of the dugout I had no idea I looked like that. When I saw my reaction I said, 'You've got to be (kidding) me.'

"That's the one at-bat you're remembered for and it was an at-bat in July. I never thought it would be that big a deal. Only in New York."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jerome Holtzman dies

Jerome Holtzman 1926-2008
Hall of Fame former Tribune reporter was game's official historian and a true original

By Paul Sullivan Tribune staff reporter
10:21 PM CDT, July 21, 2008

Jerome Holtzman, who went from copy boy to Hall of Famer in a distinguished career as a Chicago sportswriter, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 81 and was affectionately known to colleagues as "the Dean," a term reflecting his stature as a baseball-writing "lifer" and his numerous accomplishments over four decades.

"It's a sad day for everybody in baseball," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Jerome was a Hall of Famer in everything he did, in every sense of the word."

Holtzman was a baseball beat writer and columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times for three decades, starting in 1957, the year before the Dodgers' and Giants' migration from New York to California turned baseball into a truly national sport. He moved to the Tribune as baseball columnist in 1981 and was inducted into the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989, perhaps the most notable of the countless honors he achieved over his remarkable career.

It was Cubs great and fellow Hall of Famer Billy Williams who dubbed him "the Dean."

"He wrote about sports, but he cared about people—that was the thing that stood out," Williams said. "When you developed a friendship with Jerome, it lasted a liftetime."

Holtzman was author of six books, including the classic "No Cheering in the Press Box," an oral history of baseball as recounted by 24 sportswriting legends such as Paul Gallico, Shirley Povich and Red Smith. The book was reissued in 1995 with six new chapters and remains a popular text in college journalism classes.

"He was the consummate writer," said George Vass, a former colleague and friend who collaborated with Holtzman on two books. "No one was ever more dedicated and clear-minded about the sport, those who played it and wrote about it. He was a great writer, but more important, a great friend."

Holtzman chronicled the seasons of the White Sox and Cubs for more than 40 years at Chicago newspapers, beginning in 1957 at the Sun-Times. He was responsible for the institution of the "save" rule in 1966, a move to acknowledge effective relief pitching that was the first major addition to baseball statistics since runs batted in were recognized in 1920.

"The reality is, he revolutionized baseball," former Sun-Times columnist Bill Gleason said. "He glamorized the relief pitcher, who was just another guy before [the save rule]. Jerome said not long ago that he was sorry he'd come up with the concept, that it wasn't necessary. But there was no need to apologize. If there were more people who thought like Jerome Holtzman, the newspaper business would be in better shape."

After Holtzman retired as the Tribune's baseball columnist in 1998, Selig hired him as baseball's official historian.

"What I will miss most is not only the friendship, but the knowledge," Selig said. "He was a historian's historian. He was an unmatched resource for baseball. I will miss his counsel."

Loyal friend
Raised in an orphanage, Holtzman grew up to become a prolific writer whose name was synonymous with baseball. He began his newspaper career as a copy boy in the Chicago Times sports department at the age of 17 in 1943. He served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and returned to cover high school sports at the Times and Sun-Times before moving onto the baseball beat in '57.

It was at the Sun-Times that Holtzman met the love of his life, the former Marilyn Ryan, whom he married in 1949. They raised five children in their Evanston home.

"Romance prevailed, and romance succeeded," Gleason said. "They had a beautiful relationship."

Holtzman traveled with the Cubs and White Sox for the next 28 years, usually changing beats at midseason. He was an influential leader in the Baseball Writers Association of America and a longtime member of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, which voted on candidates who had been overlooked in voting by the baseball writers.

Holtzman famously looked out for his friends, even the ones who were trying to beat him on stories, such as the late Wendell Smith, a pioneer among African-American sportswriters. The two became fast friends and fellow Hall of Famers.

"Wendell and Jerry covered baseball together for years," said Wyonella Smith, Wendell's widow. "They went to spring training together and remained very close friends. Jerry was very instrumental in getting Wendell elected into Cooperstown [in 1993]."

Mary Frances Veeck, widow of former White Sox owner and baseball maverick Bill Veeck, said "trust" was the operative word in Holtzman's dealings with people. He never broke that trust with a friend or a source.

"You develop friendships in the game, and I think the thing between Bill and Jerome was they could always count on what the other one was saying," Mrs. Veeck said. "There was mutual respect, and when something came up and they wanted answers, they could count on each other being truthful."

Determined reporter
Holtzman was always primed for a big scoop, including the news during the 1974 World Series the Oakland pitching star Jim "Catfish" Hunter would be granted free agency after A's owner Charlie Finley failed to honor certain provisions in his contract.

"He beat everybody on the beat," Gleason said. "It was during a World Series, and he was so far ahead of everybody it was amusing."

Holtzman was also a hard-bitten reporter who didn't back down from those he covered, most notably former Cubs manager Leo Durocher. Holtzman once bragged he'd spent an entire season not talking to Durocher because the volatile manager had slighted him.

"Leo thought the writers were trying to get him kicked out of Chicago, and he thought Jerome was the ringleader," Williams said.

Holtzman and Durocher eventually made their peace, but only after Durocher initiated it.

Colleagues recall Holtzman never backing down to anyone, including editors, and his stubbornness became one of his most memorable traits.

"Jerome was a little testy at times," former Associated Press sports editor Joe Mooshil said. "He could never admit that Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. He once said Jordan was not a team player, they could never win with him. After the [six] Bulls championships, he'd never say, 'Hey, I was wrong,' as anyone would, because that was Jerome. He was testy and tough."

Former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond believes every relief pitcher in baseball is beholden to Holtzman because the "save" rule has dramatically increased their value.

"Pitchers owe him," Hemond said, and he recalled introducing Holtzman to one reliever who was "pleased to meet the man who made me a lot of money."

"Jerome should have gotten a percentage from all the closers for creating the save," Hemond said. "He helped a lot of relief pitchers become wealthy."

Courted by Tribune
After 38 years at the Sun-Times, Holtzman ran into a sports editor named Lewis Grizzard who believed his style was too old-fashioned for modern-day readers. Grizzard wanted a fresher, hipper approach to sportswriting.

Just when Holtzman feared his career might be over, Tribune sports editor George Langford conspired with editor Jim Squires to bring Holtzman across the street and make him the featured baseball writer at the Tribune in 1981. He immediately rewarded their faith by breaking the story of the settlement of the 1981 baseball strike.

"The Sun-Times was treating him badly," Gleason said. "All the young editors there said they didn't understand what he was doing, which revealed to me they didn't understand what they were doing."

A Sun-Times editor made a last-ditch effort to persuade Holtzman to stay, showing up on his doorstep to plead his case.

"There's something odd about this," Holtzman said. "In all the years I've lived here, you've never come to my door." With that he closed the door, literally and figuratively beginning a new chapter in his life.

"Langford rescued him, brought him to the Tribune, and from there he blossomed as a national writer," Mooshil said.

Holtzman's M.O. was to arrive at the ballpark early, stay late and outwork the competition. Williams said he stood out from most of the other writers because he was tough but always fair, even when criticizing a player.

"I started calling him 'the Dean' because he was the senior writer," Williams said. "We talked baseball all the time. Players didn't hesitate to give Jerome a story, because they knew he was always fair."

Baseball writing has changed, and old-school types like Holtzman are few and far between. He had no interest in promoting himself on TV or radio, preferring to let his words speak for him.

"He was a true original," former Sun-Times colleague Ron Rapoport said. "I never knew a writer who loved baseball more. They'll never call anybody else 'the Dean' again, that's for sure."

Holtzman is survived by his wife, Marilyn; two daughters, Alice Barnett of California, and Janet Holtzman of Wilmette; a son, Jack Merrill of Los Angeles; and five grandchildren. A private funeral will be held on Tuesday at Rosehill Cemetery at 5800 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago. A memorial service is to be announced at a later date.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Buck O'Neil, Emmett Ashford, Bill Buckner Honored


The Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary, Inc., a Southern California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history, is pleased to announce the 2008 class of electees to the Shrine of the Eternals. The Shrine of the Eternals is the national organization’s equivalent to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Buck O’Neil, Emmett Ashford, and Bill Buckner were elected upon receiving the highest number of votes in balloting conducted in the month of April by the membership of the Baseball Reliquary. The three electees will be formally inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals in a public ceremony on Sunday, July 20, 2008 at the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California.

Of the fifty eligible candidates on the 2008 ballot, Buck O’Neil received the highest voting percentage, being named on 53% of the ballots returned. The 53% ties O’Neil for the highest voting percentage since the annual Shrine of the Eternals elections were inaugurated in 1999. (Bill “Spaceman” Lee received 53% of the vote in 2000.) Following O’Neil were Emmett Ashford with 31% and Bill Buckner with 29%. Runners-up in this year’s election included Casey Stengel (28%), Dizzy Dean (25%), Don Zimmer (25%), Effa Manley (24%), Steve Dalkowski (23%), Jim Eisenreich (22%), Eddie Feigner (22%), Pete Gray (22%), and Roger Maris (21%).

The playing career of BUCK O’NEIL (1911-2006) was in decline by the time Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers in 1947, and while he never had the chance to play in the Major Leagues, he was recognized as the slickest first baseman in the Negro Leagues. Born John Jordan O’Neil, Buck picked up his nickname during a short stint with the Zulu Cannibal Giants, a novelty barnstorming act. He found a home eventually in Kansas City in 1938 where he starred with the fabled Kansas City Monarchs, a team he later managed as well. He played in the Negro League All-Star Game three times, won the Negro American League batting title in 1946, and led the Monarchs to numerous pennants. After the Negro Leagues dissolved following integration, Buck was named as a coach for the Chicago Cubs in 1962, the first black coach in Major League Baseball. With the Cubs he mentored players such as Ernie Banks, sweet-swinging Billy Williams, and young Oscar Gamble. He wrote and spoke incessantly about the Negro Leagues and its players, doing more to keep their memories alive than anyone. When the idea came about for establishing a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Buck was the consensus choice as spokesman/organizer. He cemented his position as the premier oral historian of the Negro Leagues with a captivating series of interviews in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, Baseball, entrancing generations of fans with his folksy narrative style and effervescent smile. He kept a grueling schedule of personal appearances and speaking engagements at ballparks and in small communities throughout the country well into his nineties, before his passing at the age of 94 in 2006.

EMMETT ASHFORD (1914-1980) holds the distinction of being the first African-American umpire to officiate in both Minor and Major League Baseball. Born in Los Angeles, Ashford took a job with the Post Office prior to World War II, where he became involved in umpiring Post Office games in an independent league. After service in the Navy during the war, Ashford returned to a world suddenly fraught with new possibilities for a black man interested in umpiring: Jackie Robinson had integrated the Major Leagues in 1947. Roles for black umpires couldn’t be far behind. Ashford began umpiring in the Minors in 1951, eventually working his way up to the Pacific Coast League, where he was named Umpire in Chief. Recognizing the social changes happening around the country, the American League bought Ashford’s PCL contract, and beginning in 1966, he became the most visible and easily the best dressed umpire in the Major Leagues. Ashford’s relatively small size (he was roughly 5’7” and 180 pounds) and personality caused him to develop an animated style, where he was often described as dancing with great agility around the plate. He indulged in extra physicality and animation, and often made his voice boom to gain attention. Ashford was a tremendous showman, a styler. He was also a very sharp dresser, a reputation that would follow him throughout his career. Ashford worked the 1967 All-Star Game and the 1970 World Series. After his mandatory retirement in 1970, Ashford kept his hand in baseball as a special assistant to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and also found work as a performer in the entertainment industry, including a role as the plate umpire in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, the 1976 comedic film about a team of enterprising Negro League ballplayers in the era of racial segregation. This baseball pioneer died from a heart attack in 1980.

Born in 1949, BILL BUCKNER is living proof that history is not always kind or just. He resides in that infamous fraternity of former players, including the likes of Fred Merkle, Fred Snodgrass, and Mickey Owen, who have been stigmatized by one momentous misplay. In the case of Buckner, the harsh shadow cast by his notorious miscue has prevented a fair and reasoned assessment of his career. Despite chronic and crippling injuries, Buckner produced impressive numbers in twenty-two Major League seasons (1969-1990), mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Red Sox. He finished with 2,715 hits, won a batting title in 1980, and is among a select few to have recorded 200-hit seasons in both the American and National Leagues. Yet on October 25, 1986, the first baseman’s legacy would be tarnished, particularly in the minds of many Boston fans, by booting Mookie Wilson’s grounder and enabling the New York Mets to climax an incredible come-from-behind victory against the Red Sox in the tenth inning of the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Although Buckner has endured the brunt of the responsibility for the Red Sox’ failure, there were others who could easily share some of the blame, including pitchers Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley, who failed to hold the lead in the bottom of the tenth inning. While Buckner’s unfortunate error continues to fascinate the baseball public over two decades later (the ball that rolled between his legs was purchased by actor Charlie Sheen for $93,500 in a 1992 auction), he has now largely forgiven the media for the anguish that they put he and his family through. A successful businessman in Idaho, Buckner returned to Boston this year to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox home opener, where he received a lengthy standing ovation from the Fenway faithful.

Buck O’Neil, Emmett Ashford, and Bill Buckner will join twenty-seven other baseball luminaries who have been inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals since elections began in 1999, including, in alphabetical order, Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Roberto Clemente, Rod Dedeaux, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.

For additional information on the Shrine of the Eternals, visit the Baseball Reliquary Web site at, or contact Terry Cannon, Executive Director, by phone at (626) 791-7647 or by e-mail at

Friday, July 11, 2008

Baseball In World War II

FDR let baseball continue, so we had a pastime played by
graybeards, no-beards and other marvels

by William Jeanes
August 26, 1991
Sports Illustrated


The Persian Gulf War was mercifully short, but during its six-week duration sports administrators drew up contingency plans for shorter seasons, reduced rosters and other expedients that would allow them to carry on in a time of conflict. There had been a precedent for their thinking. In the four years following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. sports community was forced to adjust to wartime conditions.

The 1942 Rose Bowl, held just 25 days after the "day that will live in infamy," was played in Durham, N.C. , a town thought to be safer from Japanese bombing raids than Pasadena . Because of the shortage of players in 1943, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles merged to form the Steagles, a team that went 5-4-1 over one season of existence.

On July 8, 1942, automobile and motorcycle racing were suspended entirely for the duration of the war. Thoroughbred racing was banned on Jan. 2, 1945, but reinstated only four months later, after V - E Day. As a result, Hoop Jr. won the Kentucky Derby on June 9 of that year. Only one other time has the race been run on a date other than one in May. His Eminence won it on April 29, 1901.

For a time, it looked as if there would be no baseball at all for the duration, but according to lore, Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to encourage its continuance. In a Jan. 14, 1942, letter, baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis requested formal guidance from the commander-in-chief. "Baseball is about to adopt schedules, sign players, make vast commitments, go to training camps," wrote Landis. "What do you want it to do?" Landis listed several options, ranging from shutting down entirely to conducting business as usual.

"I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going," Roosevelt replied on Jan. 16 in what came to be known as the Green Light letter. In the President's opinion, the 5,000 to 6,000 athletes who played in organized baseball would provide a welcome diversion for the 20 million hard-pressed citizens directly involved with the war effort. The President ended the letter with this thought: "...and that, in my judgment, is thoroughly worthwhile." Thus was baseball preserved, though not exactly intact.

During most of the war effort, the Selective Service could call to arms any able-bodied man between the ages of 18 and 38. Ballplayers were given their draft numbers like everyone else and waited their turn to be called. And like everyone else, ballplayers were entitled to deferments. Ted Williams , who supported his mother, and Joe DiMaggio , who had a wife and young son, were classified in less draft-prone categories for the 1942 season—and both were criticized for it. Stan Musial, who supported his parents and had a wife and child, waited undeferred for his draft notice, which did not arrive until 1944. Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller joined the Navy in December 1941 of his own accord. Detroit's Hank Greenberg, who had fulfilled his military obligation, reenlisted in 1941, immediately after Pearl Harbor.

On some draft boards there was a backlash against professional athletes, and anyone with PA (professional athlete) stamped on his induction papers was put in uniform whether he was physically qualified or not As a result, Red Ruffing , the 38-year-old pitcher for the Yankees , who was missing four toes on his left foot, was accepted into the service. This might have been even more unfair had Ruffing not spent his 2-year hitch playing service ball. Truth be told, the duty to hit-and-run for your country became the assignment for most major leaguers who were called up.

The outcry against supposedly fit players hitting baseballs instead of the trenches goaded Senator William Langer of North Dakota to call for legislation in the spring of 1945 that would have required each major league club to have 10% of its roster made up of athletes who were missing a hand, an arm or a leg. The end of the war also ended such talk.

Still, baseball contributed its fair share of manpower to the war effort. According to The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, the 16 major league teams sent 428 men to the armed forces. The first to go, on March 8, 1941, was pitcher Hugh Mulcahy of the Phillies, who joined the Army. The inevitable dilution of talent eventually required team owners to make do with the oddest, and perhaps the most inept, contingent of players ever seen on major league playing fields.

On the field, matters often went from predictably bad to worse to ludicrous. In 1944, Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher , 38, furious at the incompetence of his infield, reactivated himself as a second baseman for a preseason exhibition game and promptly broke his thumb in two places, the result of a bad throw from shortstop Gene Mauch . Jimmie Foxx, the Athletics and Red Sox slugger who had retired after the 1942 season, was coaxed back onto the field by the Cubs in 1944, and again by the Phillies in the following season. Foxx , 36, appeared in 89 games for Philadelphia and hit .268. But he also pitched on nine occasions, starting two games, and ended the season with a record of 1-0 and an eye-opening ERA of 1.57.

Other graybeards back in uniform included Babe Herman, who had ended his pro career in 1937. Herman, 42, played for Brooklyn in 1945 and, recalling his earlier days with the Dodgers' Daffiness Boys of the '30s, singled in his first at bat and fell down rounding first. Ben Chapman, who was an outfielder with the Yankees in the '30s, was reincarnated as a pitcher for Brooklyn in 1944 and went 5-3. The following season, he had a 3-3 record, pitching for both the Dodgers and the Phillies.

At the other end of the age scale, Nelson Fox was still in the Boy Scouts when, at 16, he went to spring training with the 1944 Philadelphia Athletics . And 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall took the mound for Cincinnati on June 10, 1944, giving up five runs on two hits and five walks in just two thirds of an inning.

The names, numbers and misadventures of the 1942-45 seasons read like a Who's Not Who of baseball: Nick Etten of the Yankees won the 1944 home run title with 22 dingers, the fewest since Babe Ruth tied Tilly Walker for the 1918 title, with 11.

The 1944 World Series was played between the Browns and their Sportsman's Park cotenants, the St. Louis Cardinals. A play that might have typified the times came on Cardinal pitcher Max Lanier's sacrifice bunt in the third inning of the second game. Only two errors were officially charged, but the way Browns manager Luke Sewell saw it, "We made six misplays on the ball. That's pretty difficult." The Browns lost that game 3-2 in the 11th inning, and they eventually lost the Series in six games. Even that was something of an upset according to Chicago American sportswriter Warren Brown, who before the Series began had written that "neither team was capable of winning."

Any discussion of errors would be in complete without mentioning Cubs shortstop Len Merullo, who made four in one inning on Sept. 13, 1942. His son, Leonard Jr., was born on that day, and both father and son were henceforth nicknamed Boots.

It wasn't just baseball's personnel that was affected by the war. Even the way the game was played had bizarre moments. One of the strangest occurred at an exhibition contest to sell war bonds that took place at New York's Polo Grounds on June 26, 1944. On that day, the home-standing Giants not only played the hometown-rival Dodgers, but they also played the hometown Yankees. The Dodgers played the Yankees, too. In the same game.

Using a format concocted by Paul A. Smith, a Columbia University mathematics professor, the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees played a three-cornered, nine-inning game won by the Dodgers by a score of 5-1 (Yankees ) to 0 (Giants). The Yankees batted in the top of the first, sixth and seventh innings, and in the bottom of the third, fourth and ninth. The other two teams also batted and fielded six times, three times each against their two rivals. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia threw out three first balls in front of 50,000 fans, all of whom had gained admission by buying one or more war bonds. The bond drive was estimated to have raised $6 million.

It has become fashionable to believe that wartime baseball was not truly awful. It was. And yet, let's not be too disparaging. After all, the Browns ' 1944 pennant-winning percentage of .578 would have won two of the four major league division titles in 1990 and three of four in 1989.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tapping into the healing powers of Little League

From the Los Angeles Times

A team takes a leap of faith in letting a boy ill with Crohn's disease join without a tryout, and his mom becomes a fan of the game, and its lessons.

By Randye Hoder, Special to The Times
July 8, 2008

Little League Baseball has come to an end, and I'm not sure who's sadder about that, my baseball-crazed 10-year-old son, Nathaniel, or me, who just a few months ago thought "around the horn" referred to a trip along the northeast edge of Africa.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it's me.

Nathaniel had himself a good cry after his team, the Red Sox, was bumped off in June by the Indians, 17-10, in what had been a close game until the last inning. The loss knocked us out of the championship in the Wilshire Sports Assn. Minor A division for fourth- and fifth-graders. By the next day, he seemed to have moved on. Summer had just arrived, and there was suddenly so much fun to be had: skateboarding, bike riding, swimming, hanging out with friends, staying up late and, of course, playing catch.

I, on the other hand, still feel kind of empty inside. And that's just nuts. I'm the mom who supposedly doesn't give a hoot about sports. I've never played anything, and have only rarely watched a professional team either on TV or live. And that's been under protest.

At Nathaniel's games -- soccer, basketball and his favorite, baseball -- I've perfected the art of appearing to pay attention from the sidelines while in fact doing all sorts of other things: chatting, reading the newspaper or sneaking in a work call.

"Did you see that, Mom?" Nathaniel has been known to call out from the field or court.

"Absolutely, honey," I've invariably replied. "Great play."

Never mind that I'd missed the entire thing and, even if I hadn't, wouldn't have known the difference between a great play and a lousy one.

But something changed this baseball season. I found myself paying attention and learning the rules of the game. Even some of its nuances. And unexpectedly, I started to care.

Last winter, Nathaniel fell ill with Crohn's disease -- a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract -- and he was too sick in February to attend tryouts. His dad and I wanted him to have something to look forward to, to get better for, so the league's commissioner took a leap of faith and put him on his team. Then we all hoped for the best.

When the season began, we weren't sure Nathaniel would get off the bench. But week by week, he got stronger, and he became the team's starting catcher.

Before long, I was schlepping Nathaniel to the local batting cages for extra practice. At first, I'd take a novel with me. But soon, I put it aside and began eavesdropping when his batting coach, Alex, passed on some choice tip or another. Often, it was to improve Nathaniel's batting stance or his skills behind the plate. But other times, Alex would make an analogy about how something Nathaniel was doing, or not doing, in baseball applied to his everyday life.

Lots of other lessons -- about baseball, about life -- came courtesy of the Red Sox's coach, Jeff. As the days grew longer, Wednesday practices stretched until the last ray of light was gone from the sky. On Friday evenings, Jeff would stuff a bunch of boys into his Suburban and run them up to the cages -- smack in the middle of rush hour -- for a little more batting practice. Then he'd stop on the way home at the park for a casual game of catch. On any number of other days, he could be found in his backyard with aspiring pitchers, working on their fastballs and teaching them to appreciate diligence, perseverance and teamwork.

As far as I was concerned, dinner, homework and an early bedtime suddenly seemed overrated.

On game days, I learned to pay close attention to every pitch. "Good eye, Nathaniel," I'd yell, when he'd take one high and outside. The first time I did that, it felt like an out-of-body experience.

I knew I'd really crossed the line when, after dinner one night, I drove to the ball field with Nathaniel to find out who won the playoff game between the Angels and Indians; we were equally desperate to learn which team we'd be playing next.

I suspect that some of my newfound affection for baseball is related to Jeff's infectious love of the game. But mostly, it was born of watching Nathaniel flourish, after being so sick just a few months earlier. Baseball became a way not only for him to recover. It was a way for me to recover too, with every crack of his bat and every toss of the ball.

Randye Hoder is a writer living in Los Angeles.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Independent team deals pitcher for 10 maple bats

Did you see this one? In case you haven't.....

Associated Press
May 26, 2008

McALLEN, Texas -- During three years in the low minors, John Odom never really made a name for himself.

That sure changed this week -- he's the guy who was traded for a bunch of bats.

"I don't really care," he said Friday. "It'll make a better story if I make it to the big leagues."

For now, Odom is headed to the Laredo Broncos of the United League. They got him Tuesday from the Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League for a most unlikely price: 10 Prairie Sticks Maple Bats, double-dipped black, 34-inch, C243 style.

"They just wanted some bats, good bats -- maple bats," Broncos general manager Jose Melendez said.

According to the Prairie Sticks Web site, their maple bats retail for $69 each, discounted to $65.50 for purchases of six to 11 bats.

"It will be interesting to see what 10 bats gets us," Melendez said.

The Canadian team signed Odom about a month ago, but couldn't get the 26-year-old righty into the country. It seems Odom had a minor but unspecified criminal record that wasn't revealed to immigration officials before they scanned his passport, Vipers president Peter Young said.

Odom said the charge stemmed from a fight he was in at age 17. Although he thought it had been expunged from his record, it popped up during immigration.

Odom spent hundreds of dollars driving to the Canadian border and staying at a Montana hotel while the matter was sorted out. He then drove to Laredo after the trade.

Originally from Atlanta, Odom was drafted late by the San Francisco Giants in 2003. He pitched 38 games, all in Class A, from 2004-06, and was released by the organization this spring.

Laredo intends to activate Odom on Monday and have him make his first start Wednesday.

Odom said he was supposed to be traded for Laredo's best hitter. But when that player balked at moving to Calgary, the bats entered the deal.

Laredo offered cash for Odom, but Young said that was "an insult."

The bat trade wasn't the first time Calgary came up with some creative dealmaking. The Vipers once tried to acquire a pitcher for 1,500 blue seats when they were renovating their stadium, Young said.