Thursday, September 27, 2012

Injured Baseball Player Gets a Second Chance

Adam Greenberg points to the spot behind his ear
where he was hit by a pitch in his first major-league at-bat.

In Adam Greenberg’s first major-league at-bat with the Chicago Cubs in 2005, he was drilled in the head by a 92-mile-an-hour fastball on the first pitch and has not been back to the big leagues since.
Seven years and one viral campaign later, Greenberg is getting a second chance.

In an announcement during Greenberg’s interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY Thursday, Miami Marlins president David Samson revealed that the Marlins will sign Greenberg to a one-day contract. The 31-year-old outfielder will face off against the New York Mets on Oct. 2. It was a Marlins pitcher, Valerio De Los Santos, who hit Greenberg with a pitch just below his right ear under his batting helmet when Greenberg was a 24-year-old rookie.

“I can’t address and express how much it means to me and all the people that are around (me),’’  Greenberg told Samson. “This isn’t just about me or an at-bat. You don’t have to do this. The Marlins organization (and) baseball in general doesn’t owe me anything, so from the bottom of my heart, I’ll be ready for it, that I can assure you.’’

“We saw this story, and we remember very well being there in 2005,’’ Samson said. “I went to Jeffrey Loria, the owner of the team and said, ‘This is someone we believe deserves to have one at-bat.’’’

Greenberg’s second at-bat is the culmination of the viral “One At Bat’’ campaign by a Cubs fan named Matt Liston, who joined Greenberg on TODAY Thursday. Liston created a website, a petition and an online trailer to garner support for Greenberg to one day get another major-league at-bat.
“I don’t know whether I’m going to be crying or just jumping up and down,’’ Liston told Lauer. “I cannot wait. I’m getting chills.’’

Liston was watching the fateful game in 2005 and later became inspired during a screening of “Field of Dreams’’ with his wife. She was moved by the story of Moonlight Graham, the character who regretted quitting after only one big-league game.

“She said, ‘Wow I feel bad for this Moonlight Graham guy,’ and I said, ‘Moonlight Graham doesn’t have anything on Adam Greenberg!’’’ Liston told NBC News.

Liston, a documentarian, started a website called the "One At Bat" campaign and a petition that received 20,000 signatures. Greenberg had bounced around three other big-league organizations but was never called up again. Currently, he is trying to make Team Israel for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but he is not currently on a minor-league or independent-league roster.

“A lot of boys grow up dreaming of playing Major League Baseball, but I wasn’t good enough,’’ Liston said. “Here’s Adam, he gets up to the plate, he’s this close to having his dream fulfilled, and it’s taken from him in an instant, and that has always been burned in my brain. When I first started this, I was given probably a one percent chance of making this happen, but that wasn’t going to stop us because once I met this guy…I saw how hard he’s working and the elite shape he’s in.’’

The plate appearance with the Marlins will let Greenberg shed the unfortunate distinction of being the only player in Major League Baseball history to end his career on the first pitch of his first at-bat. He was the first position player since 1955 to get struck by a ball in his first major league plate appearance.

“It was the single most happiest and greatest moment of my life and the absolute worst thing at the exact same time,’’ he told NBC News.

“After (the hit) happened the first time, I had to put it out of my mind as this is a once-in-a-lifetime, obviously, situation,’’ Greenberg said. “ I got back in the box 21 days later and said, ‘You know what, it’s never going to happen again.’’’

Samson had some words of warning for Greenberg's big at-bat next month.

“I can assure you they’re going to try to get him out, maybe on the first pitch even,’’ Samson said. “You’re going to have a chance to swing, and you better swing, Adam.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,’’ Greenberg said.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Umpire Alan Porter apologized to Davey Johnson last night

Alex Brandon / AP

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post
September 20, 2012

One day later, the National still had not forgotten about the blown call at home plate that cost them a run Wednesday night in their 7-6 loss to the Dodgers. Manager Davey Johnson revealed this afternoon that home plate umpire Alan Porter apologized during the game for awarding the Dodgers a run they should not have been given.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry I messed it up,’ after an inning,” Johnson said. “They’re good guys. I don’t have a beef with them. It’s just when you miss one, get help. He got help, still didn’t get it right.”

With two outs in the fourth inning, the Nationals trailed, 5-0, and the Dodgers had men on second on third, Matt Kemp the runner at third. Hanley Ramirez hit a groundball to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who made an acrobatic tag of Adrian Gonzalez at third base.

Because there was no force out on the play, Kemp had to cross the plate before Gonzalez was tagged out. Kemp had not even reached the chalk of the batter’s box. Porter did not react at first, which led Johnson to believe the run did not count. Usually, an umpire gestures to indicate the run scores.

But after Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue his case, the umpires huddled. Catcher Jesus Flores said he overheard one umpire say he thought the bases were loaded. (If the bases were loaded, the force would have been on and Gonzalez would have needed to reach third base, nullifying any call or decision.)

“I mean, everyone else is looking at the plate,” Zimmerman said last night. “He was standing right behind home plate. He was in perfect position. Can’t fault him for that. I just, I don’t know if he was surprised that that play happened and he didn’t know he was going to have to make a decision or what happened, but he’s standing right there behind home plate with everything in front of him. I think at the time I don’t think anyone thought it was a really big deal but it turned out to be a big deal.”

After the umpires gave the Dodgers the sixth run, Johnson came out to argue. He had been watching, and knew Kemp did not score before Zimmerman’s tag. But he had also been ejected this weekend in Atlanta.

“I didn’t want to have them back-to-back,” Johnson said. “I’m not getting paid that much to give the league that much. I thought I would go ahead and stick around. But I said, ‘Would you guys please look at the video so you can see that I’m right and you messed it up?’ And they said they would. So I’m happy.”

Johnson expected General Manager Mike Rizzo to speak with the league office today about the play.

“If I know anything about my general manager, I’m sure there was some follow up,” Johnson said. “To just probably say we would be open for some video in certain plays like that. Umpires are going to miss things. When I feel maybe they weren’t in proper position, then I have a problem.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Former women's pro baseball players together again

This image provided by the National Baseball Hall of Fame shows Rockford Peaches' Dorothy Kamenshek. Kamenshek, who died May 17, 2010, was a star of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League who helped inspire the lead character in the movie "A League of their Own. " The real-life inspirations for the film "A League of Their Own" are taking a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, as part of their reunion being held in central New York. Photo: National Baseball Hall Of Fame, Cooperstown / AP
Read more: HERE

Associated Press
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — When Delores "Dolly" Brumfield started dating her future husband, Joe White, in the 1970s, she never bothered to tell him about her youth — when she played in a league of her own.

"I really didn't tell that many people about it. For one thing, they wouldn't have believed me," Brumfield, now 80, said, recalling her playing days as a teen-ager in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. "That was the biggest thing. If you say, 'Oh, I played professional baseball,' there ain't no such thing, not in the South anyway. They didn't have any idea at all.

"I just didn't talk about it that much."

Brumfield is more than willing to talk about it these days, especially this weekend as 47 former players of the AAGPBL reunite for the 20th anniversary of "A League of Their Own," the movie that popularized what Brumfield and more than 500 other women accomplished from 1943-54. A new Blu-ray release from Sony Pictures that includes deleted scenes from the movie will be released in mid-October to celebrate the anniversary.

FILE - This Sept. 9, 1991 file photo, shows Madonna, right, signing autographs
 for members of the media during filming of "A League of Their Own"
at Bosse Field in Evansville, Ind. Photo: The Evansville Courier & Press / AP
Read more: HERE

"I think we were pioneers," said Brumfield, a native of Prichard, Ala. "We showed that we could participate in sports. We could compete in sports."

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the history of women playing baseball dates back to at least the 1860s, when Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. fielded a team. The AAGPBL is considered the first formal women's professional baseball league and was formed when World War II was in full swing.

The so-called "lipstick league" was the brainchild of Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, who wanted to keep ballparks busy during the war if baseball was adversely affected by players being called to serve their country. The league's first tryouts were held in Chicago in the spring of 1943 and drew almost 300 women from across the United States and Canada.

Four teams from the Midwest — the Rockford Peaches, South Bend Blue Sox, Racine Belles and Kenosha Comets — were formed and played a 54-game season that year. The league also at times included the Fort Wayne Daisies, Minneapolis Millerettes, Kalamazoo Lassies, Muskegon Lassies, Grand Rapids Chicks, Peoria Redwings, Milwaukee Chicks, Chicago Colleens and Springfield Sallies.

Wrigley deemed femininity a high priority and contracted with Helena Rubenstein's Beauty Salon to meet with the players at spring training. Proper etiquette was taught and each player received a beauty kit with instructions.

It seems like only yesterday for 93-year-old Mary Pratt of Quincy, Mass.

"We were going to look like ladies, dress like ladies and act like ladies. I lived the life," said Pratt, a left-handed pitcher who played in the league for five years when she wasn't teaching. "I was there when Helena Rubenstein came in and we put the books on our heads and we learned to walk like ladies. This is the crux of why this was so successful. I just thought this was so wonderful."

So, too, did Brumfield, who grew up on the outskirts of Mobile, Ala. She learned to play baseball on the elementary school and junior high school fields close to her home.

"I was the local tomboy. I wanted to be out there playing. At that time in Alabama, there were no girls sports in the high schools," Brumfield said. "The men from the shipyards and paper mills in Mobile during World War II would come to those playgrounds to play ball. I was out there just wanting to play when they would come. If there was somebody missing, they'd let me fill in."

When the AAGPBL conducted spring training in April 1946 at Pascagoula, Miss., about 60 miles from Brumfield's childhood home, her mom took her out of school and drove her there in a beat-up Chevrolet. She quickly caught the eye of league president Max Carey, a former Pittsburgh Pirates star and future Hall of Famer.

"He had me hit, run, throw," Brumfield said. "Afterwards, he asked me how old I was. I said, 'Well, I'm 13, but I'm soon going to be 14.' So, he went to my mother and said, 'Mrs. Brumfield, we don't take girls this young.' My mom said, 'I don't want you to take her. I only wanted to know what you thought.' "

A lot, apparently. Brumfield was invited to spring training the next year and her mom let her go — by train to Miami and by plane to Havana, Cuba.

"I think my mom was proud. She encouraged me," said Brumfield, whose first contract was for $55 a week. "Just the idea that you're doing something you really love to do and were getting to travel was great. It was our part of history. It's our part of women's history, it's our part of baseball history at that particular time. The war changed a lot of lives in many different ways."

That the experience had a profound effect on the women who played is easy to see. Strike up a conversation with Pratt and she'll more than likely sing the Rockford theme without skipping a beat.

Oh, we hail from Rockford, Illinois, it's just across the line
We're not too young, we're not too old, in fact we're in our prime
Oh, we hit the ball with might and main, in fielding we are fast
We are the Rockford ballclub, we always dress in class
Oh, we never kick the gang around, we're always on our toes,
Not only in the ballpark, but when we're with our beaux
Oh, we're all in bed by 10 o'clock, that is a dirty lie
We are the Rockford ballclub, our motto do or die.

Carol Sheldon was born the year after the women's league folded, and though she went to college in Kalamazoo, she never knew about the girls of summer until she saw the movie.

"It's the only movie I ever went to that had a standing ovation at the end," said Sheldon, who grew up in Detroit and didn't start playing baseball until age 42. "I walked out of that theater going, 'How do I not know about this?' The only women athletes that I could idolize as an athlete were tennis players, golfers, gymnasts, because there was no pro softball. It would have been nice to have a role model."

The last scene of the movie is a reunion of the team as old women at the National Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit on their exploits. That happened when the Hall of Fame exhibit opened in 1988, and it happened again on Friday when the women revisited Cooperstown.

The reunion ends on Saturday with a softball game at Syracuse's Alliance Bank Stadium, and 11-year-old Nadia Diaz will throw out the first pitch. Diaz has dreams of playing baseball, too, for a long time and seems right on track. With her blazing fastball and tantalizing changeup, she struck out 19 batters in a 1-0 win in a six-inning Little League championship game here in June.

"When I see what has evolved out of it, with all of us willing to come back, we're coming at a time where there is that big push to think that girls should get that opportunity that's offered through sports," Pratt said. "I'm so honored that at the age of 93 that I'm able to help the girls that are coming after and tell 'em to persevere."

—Copyright 2012 Associated Press

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Elusive, Endangered 'Knuckleball'

                                                                   [Break Thru Films]
Tim Wakefield, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, was the
oldest active player in the majors before retiring in 2011.
For years he was the only pitcher throwing a knuckleball.
by Scott Tobias
NPR - September 19, 2012

There are essentially two things that can happen with a knuckleball. It can float toward the plate without spin, jerk around like boozy relatives at a wedding hall and make the world's best hitters look like hapless Looney Tunes characters. Or it can float toward the plate with spin, lope with a steady trajectory at 65 mph and give the world's best hitters the juiciest slab of red meat this side of Sizzler. When a knuckleball specialist is on, he's a magician, conjuring the dark and mysterious forces of the universe; when he's off, he's the pot-bellied assistant manager throwing batting practice.

Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's documentary Knuckleball! — the curious exclamation mark suggests the biggest flop in Broadway history — considers one of baseball's greatest quirks with good humor and a glancing touch. Last seen following Joan Rivers around for the affectionate profile Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Stern and Sundberg view the small fraternity of knuckleball pitchers as outsiders in their own right. Just as Rivers was pegged as a groundbreaking female comedian, brash and vulgar in forbidding times, knuckleballers are cast as pariahs and freaks, a carnival act breezing through town. In other words, they're not real baseball players because real baseball players don't get laid up by a chipped fingernail.

Throughout the history of Major League Baseball, only one or two knuckleball pitchers have tended to play at any one time, which keeps the pitch on the endangered species list. Stern and Sundberg have done well to round up all the living knuckleballers for interviews, including old-timers like Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough and Jim Bouton, whose classic book Ball Four details his efforts to develop the knuckler when his other pitches faltered.

Other than Niekro, nobody enters the league as a knuckleballer; the common denominator is desperation, a last-ditch effort to stay in the majors when all else has failed.

Stern and Sundberg focus on Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the only two active knuckleball pitchers during the 2011 season. The two men are on opposing career paths: Wakefield, still well-preserved after 19 years and two championships with the Boston Red Sox, intends to retire at the end of the season, which he hopes will include his 200th victory. Dickey, a journeyman pitcher who was kicked around to dozens of major and minor league squads, had refined the knuckler to devastating effect for the New York Mets and was expected to be the staff ace — if, of course, the pitch didn't betray him.

Wakefield and Dickey are great stories and endearing subjects, and their meetings with Niekro and Hough reveal a secret society of pitchers who openly trade bits of wisdom and commiserate over the times when the breakers didn't break. For managers, having a knuckleball pitcher on staff is an ulcerous condition: Even when the pitch works, the catcher can't always catch it, there are many passed balls and walks, and base-stealers have an extra step toward second. For this exclusive fraternity, winning the faith of managers, teammates and fans was and is a near-constant battle, requiring patience and indulgence in the worst of times.

Knuckleball! looks and feels like a standard ESPN documentary, slickly packaged and a little bloodless, and Stern and Sundberg lean a little heavily on music to goose up the excitement. It's better when they simply follow Wakefield's and Dickey's dramatic and circuitous paths to glory — and best when Niekro and Hough stop by to tell stories and pore over the mechanics of arm motion and grip. Together, they're stewards of a junk pitch, masters of a sandlot special, and they don't want its glorious mysteries to die with them. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

World Baseball Classic: Team Israel roster is an L.A. story

Forrmer Dodgers Brad Ausmus, left, and Shawn Green
will be managing and playing,… (EPA and Los Angeles Times )

By Bill Shaikin
L.A. Times
September 14, 2012

Israel might be the name on the front of the jersey, but the Team Israel entry in next week's World Baseball Classic qualifier might well be called Team L.A.

Of the 28 players on the roster, three are from Israel and 10 from the Los Angeles area. Israeli baseball officials have stocked the roster with Jewish minor leaguers in the hope of advancing into the main WBC field next year, adding a Ryan Braun or Kevin Youkilis to the roster and attracting enough attention in Israel to generate interest in the sport.

For now, the success of Team Israel will depend on Americans. Former Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus is the manager, and the star players are former major leaguers Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler.

Under Israeli law, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for citizenship, and to play for the Israeli team.

Of the 14 position players on the roster, Green (Tustin) and Kapler (Taft) are among eight who played high school ball in the Southland. The others: catcher Jack Marder (Newbury Park) and infielders Cody Decker (Santa Monica), Casey Haerther (Chaminade), Jake Lemmerman (Corona del Mar), Ben Orloff (Simi Valley) and Josh Satin (Harvard-Westlake).

The Southland pitchers: Jeff Kaplan (Dana Point) and Brett Lorin (Dana Hills).

Israel opens WBC play against South Africa on Wednesday. The four-team field also includes France and Spain, with the winner advancing into the main event next spring.

In a July Los Angeles Times report, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said: "I think the Israeli story will be one of the great stories of the WBC."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Unofficial milestone of baseball error No. 500,000 deserves inglorious honor

Even Bill Buckner can poke fun at his most famous
error like he recently did on a cable sitcom. (AP)
Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports
September 13, 2012

Sometime this weekend, an unlucky soul will commit the 500,000th error in baseball history. It has taken the sport 136 years to accumulate enough bobbles, bungles, kicks, trips, flips, flops, flings and altogether awful things to reach half a million. And whether it's a bad hop, a worse throw or any of the hundreds of other ways to work yourself onto the scorecard, someone will earn a historic Scarlet E.
Should he so desire, the culprit can deny No. 500,000. Record-keeping was shoddy until about 40 years ago. Surely an error in 1892 slipped through the cracks when a drunken scorer was nipping at a flask. Some data-entry monkey could have mistaken a K for an E. Even, the website keeping track of the march to 500,000, notes that if you include National Association games played from 1871-75 the number is over 515,000 already. And the current tally, 499,965, doesn't include playoff games.
Forget that. Five hundred thousand is a big, round number, and it needs an owner, someone who can laugh at himself like the perpetrator of the worst error ever does these days.
Bill Buckner lives in Idaho. He blends in fine until he furnishes a credit card, driver's license or any form of identification that triggers an immediate response: "You're that guy who let the ball go … " And they stop. They realize he's heard it a million times, and there's no sense in picking at someone else's scab. It'll always be fresh anyway.
Because even though Buckner's error in the 1986 World Series isn't one of the 500,000, it's more resonant than all the others combined. It is a seminal moment in the game's history, the only one of ignominy alongside the Shot Heard 'Round the World, Babe Ruth's called shot and Willie Mays' catch.
Last year, Buckner received a phone call from Boston Red Sox owner John Henry asking for a favor. Henry is friendly with Larry David, the genius behind "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and David wrote an episode in which during a softball championship game he allowed a ball to roll between his legs at first base. He wanted Buckner to guest star.
"I was a little leery," Buckner told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday. "But I had a hunch that it would work out all right with Larry David."
It did, of course. The episode was hilarious, it was biting, and it even offered Buckner some redemption.
It took the humble error, and the humble man who committed it, and celebrated both. Which is exactly what should happen this weekend.
"I was playing shortstop for the Indians. … I made an error that cost us the game. Before the game was over, some fool had actually made a sign. It said: 'To err is human. To error is Ron Washington.' " – Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.

There is no harsher record kept in team sports than the error. The equivalent in football or basketball or hockey, the turnover, can be forced by an opponent. Penalties and fouls are often drawn. The error is lonely. It is a man and his screw-up, tied together by a capital E and his positional number, burned in permanence on the scoreboard, which considers errors every bit as important as runs and hits.
The funny thing about errors is that so many things that should be aren't. Merkle's Boner? Not an error, as baserunning gaffes don't qualify. A fly ball lost in the sun? Official scorers rarely penalize players if they don't touch the ball. A ball bouncing off Jose Canseco's head and over the fence? A home run, actually, even though it bounced off his head and over the fence.
Even better, the assignment of errors is completely subjective. At every game, an official scorer – often a lapsed sportswriter – plays judge, jury and executioner. What's an error to one is a hit to another. And the clamoring among players is endless. Batters want hits instead of errors to boost their averages. Pitchers want errors instead of hits to lower their ERAs. Players with good gloves want as few errors as possible for Gold Glove-voting time. Complaints go to New York, where Tony La Russa chooses the final verdict. He is the error's Chief Justice.

Atlanta's Juan Francisco slides past Colorado's
Wilin Rosario to score on an error. (AP)

On most, he need not render judgment. The majority of errors are clear-cut enough that the soundtrack of groaning crescendos in their immediate aftermath. There are few things more frustrating than a shortstop booting a ground ball or an outfielder airmailing a throw. Errors are versatile little worms. They amuse (see your weekly lowlights), they infuriate (ever been to a game lost on an error?), they fascinate (no two are the same).
Most of all, they remind us just how difficult this game is. Defensive brilliance so pervades baseball that the error is the finger-snap that awakens you from the hypnosis of excellence. They can come from sloth and distraction and incompetence, sure, but the error is a delicious reminder that the pursuit of perfection is fraught with little pebbles glad to deflect a ball a quarter-inch and ruin a night.
"I remember Damon Hollins one time threw the ball in the crowd that wasn't the third out. [Baltimore's David Newhan] advanced from second to third when he caught it, and when the ball went into the stands, he got to go home. He was the game-winning run. We lost by one. That was the most Rays loss ever." – Oakland A's outfielder Jonny Gomes
More than half the errors in baseball history came before 1929. The game was different then, particularly before the turn of the century, when they played a particularly awful brand of baseball. This is a fact, as provided by In 1876, the National League's first season, the eight teams averaged more than six errors per team per game. Over 260 games, they committed 3,123 errors. It didn't get any better by 1884, during which fielders made 14,555 errors in 1,544 games.
Hundred-error seasons were commonplace. Philadelphia A's shortstop Billy Shindle, somehow considered a good fielder, co-owns the single-season record with 122. Another shortstop, Herman Long, joined Shindle with 122 as a rookie and finished his career 15 years later with a record 1,096 errors. Four other players cracked quadruple digits.
It's not like errors were reserved for the mediocre, either. Hall of Famer Cap Anson retired with 976. King Kelly and Honus Wagner each topped 800. Dan Brouthers, the great slugger of the 1800s, finished with 531 errors. He was a first baseman.
Fielding truly has trod an evolutionary path, moving slowly toward something better. One hundred years ago, teams committed 1.81 errors per game. Seventy-five years ago, it improved to 1.13. At 50 years, it was .92. And at a quarter-century, .78. Today, teams commit .61 errors per game.
"It's a product of the fields themselves being in better shape," Washington said. "They're impeccable stadiums today. The ground don't break up. You don't play on sandy fields. You get out there long enough, and it'd get chopped up. You couldn't fix it."

Today's infielders have it good, says Rangers
manager Ron Washington. (Getty Images)

He's right. Major league baseball fields look like lessons in botany. The grass is painstakingly manicured, mowed in pattern and frighteningly green. The meticulousness of groundskeeping crews almost ensures the infield dirt is flat and the hops true as artificial turf. Between that and the superior gloves, it's no wonder players are willing to dive and sprawl and do whatever necessary to reach a ball. They figure it's going to be there.
The fielding today is exquisite. Unless a ball gets hit to a pitcher or Mark Reynolds, chances are the player stuck with No. 500,000 will have made a highlight's reel worth of spectacular plays this season. Starlin Castro's 24 errors, a major league-leading mixture of laziness and bad luck, are the yang to his yin of a National League-leading 74 successful plays outside of a shortstop's designated zone.
It's not like Castro is Jose Offerman, whose 42-error 1992 season leaves him the last major leaguer with 40-plus in a year. Should he steady himself over the season's final three weeks, Castro would make 2012 the fifth time in 10 seasons the king of botch finished with fewer than 30.
It's different today. The active all-time error leader: Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal, with 250 errors. That ties him for 368th all time and places him one error behind 19th-century infielder Joe Werrick, who made 251 errors in 392 games.
The occasional modern anomaly exists. Pitcher Tommy John committed three errors on one play in 1988. Catcher Bob Brenly, forced into emergency third-base duty, butchered four balls in one game in 1986. And just a week ago, in a game with great implications on their postseason aspirations, the Pittsburgh Pirates committed seven errors, seven ugly, awful embarrassing moments.
"Throw home with the bases loaded. I thought I had my foot on the plate. The guy was out by probably 10 feet. I caught the ball and I backed up because I had no [other] play. The umpire was John Kibler, God rest his soul. The guy slid in. I'm waiting for an out call. He goes, "Safe!" I look, and I'm literally 4 feet from the plate. Just standing there like some jackass. … John looks at me and goes, 'What are you doing?' I go, 'I have no idea, John.' " – Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia
John Kibler spent 25 years umpiring in the major leagues. He happened to be umpiring first base during Game 6 of the World Series in 1986. His right arm is the one you see in still photographs and video pointing Mookie Wilson's dribbler fair. Only the man who committed it had a better view than Kibler of the most famous error in history.
"They don't call it an error anywhere else," Billy Buckner said with a chuckle. "It should be called a miscalculation."
He can talk about his error these days without getting mad or sad or frustrated or any of the other emotions that plagued him for decades. For so long, it ate at Buckner that nobody remembered his 22 major league seasons and 2,715 hits and 1,000-plus runs and RBIs and everything he did well.
A trip back to Boston in 2008 to throw out the first pitch the day the Red Sox unveiled their championship banner started the healing process. "Curb" helped. Now Buckner is hitting coach for Class A Boise, the Cubs' Northwest League affiliate, and he's happy to point out he helmed the best offense in the league.
Granted, none of this will make him whole again. To survive all those years, Buckner needed to rationalize, to make up a truth about what his error really was.
"I'm not just saying this," he said. "In reality, it was really blown out of proportion. Hey, errors are errors. Some of 'em are more important. I mean, the reality of it is, people in baseball know that error did not specifically cost us the Series. It wasn't the seventh game."
None of what he says is wrong. Errors are malleable like that, stretched by circumstance. He didn't do his job. Others could've done theirs better, too, to ensure his was forgotten.
The magnitude of the error this weekend, on the other hand, will pale. Chances are it'll be some disappointing, lackluster throw from shortstop that bounces and doesn't get scooped by the first baseman or a groundball that eats up an infielder. Those are the yeoman's errors.
When it happens – and chances are it'll happen Saturday, seeing as a full slate of games averages about 18.3 errors, both Friday and Saturday are jammed schedules and we're 35 away – the announcers probably won't say anything because they neither know about nor have checked Baseball-Reference's countdown.
And that's fine. To those in the know – to those who appreciate something good – the error is a secret gem. We know that a few feet away from Castro most games stands Darwin Barney, whose errorless streak at second base has run 127 games. We know that Pedro Alvarez is a great candidate for No. 500,000 and that Aramis Ramirez has only six errors because he's too decrepit to get to tough balls and that maybe a pitcher is the best bet for half a million, considering just 25 of the 94 qualified starters are errorless.
Most of all, we know the guy at the stadium in Cleveland back in 1988 was mistaken. Yes, Ron Washington did commit 16 errors in 54 games at shortstop that season, but he didn't deserve that sign. The fan had the last line all wrong.
To err is human.
To error is baseball.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Cool-A-Coo is Back

Thursday September 13, 2012

LOS ANGELES ( — The Cool-A-Coo is back at Dodger Stadium!  It may not be as memorable as Fernando Valenzuela's screwball or as impressive as Steve Garvey's forearms, but the Cool-A-Coo definitely had its place in the hearts of diehard Dodgers fans.

The ice cream treat might never have helped the Boys in Blue win on the field, but off the field, fans got mighty blue when the frosty treat went away 14 years ago.  A Facebook page lobbied for the return, support groups (no, really — support groups) had fans holding their collective breath all wanting the same thing. A Cool-A-Coo. Or two!

Two oatmeal cookies, a wedge of ice cream stuffed between them — then the whole thing dunked in chocolate — the Cool-A-Coo was a fan fave for 25 years. Did we mention the entire thing is dunked in chocolate?

As it turns out, the Cool-A-Coo was something new team owner Stan Kasten was interested in.  When he took the team over in May, one of his first priorities (in addition to snagging a slugging first baseman) was asking fans and employees what they missed at Dodgers Stadium.   He put out a suggestion box, and he said "enough people suggested bring it back."

The hot bat of Adrian Gonzalez? Check!  And starting this evening, fans were able to order Cool-A-Coos again. Double check.  Turns out the company that originally made them was sold.  Sweet Novelty, the company that acquired the Cool-A-Coo trademark never made them. The Dodgers had to reportedly do a little negotiating, working out deals with some of their other ice cream vendors in the process.

The first batch seemed to be missing something. The secret ingredient turned out to be a hint of cinnamon in the cookie, according to the LA Times.

Cookie perfected, contracts signed, taste tests passed. From May to now, the return is complete. Did we mention the entire thing is dunked in chocolate?

Cool-A-Coos cost $5.75 at concession stands and $6 if you buy them from roving vendors. 

For more about the Cool-A-Coo, click here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Major League Baseball helps local high school

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ Major League Baseball has stepped up to the plate to help replace baseball equipment stolen from a Southern California high school storage locker.

Baseball Hall of Fame player Frank Robinson, who now works for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, read news reports about the Labor Day weekend theft at Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley and arranged a donation.

The Orange County says Robinson's wife Barbara and their daughter Nichelle presented a $4,000 check to the school on Monday.

The donation, which covers the value of the stolen equipment, is the latest in a series of fundraising efforts.

The Angels, the Angels Foundation and Diamond Sports donated $3,000 in replacement equipment. A Los Angeles attorney asking for anonymity made a substantial donation.

Several restaurants are staging dine-out fundraisers.

From David Perez
KFI News 

Read more:

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Bottom Part Of The Lineup

The following comes from the August 25, 1969 edition of Sports Illustrated

August 25, 1969
The compleat utility man, Chico Ruiz of the Reds has special cushions, an electric fan, alligator shoes and other dugout comforts that help to make sitting a more bearable way to earn a pension

Chico Ruiz has not started a game for the Cincinnati Reds in six weeks now, and he has come to the dugout prepared. In one hand is a cushion, for the bench and what it will meet; in the other a glove, for infield practice. Under an arm are a pair of special spiked shoes, soft alligator spikes that make Chico's feet feel so comfortable as he sits on the bench. It is already very warm in Crosley Field, and if it gets much worse Chico will go back into the clubhouse and get the battery-driven fan the people in St. Louis gave him. Those people were very thoughtful; St. Louis can be murder in August, sitting in the dugout.

Dumping his equipment on the bench, Chico ambles down to the watercooler. On the way back he glances at the lineup card taped to the dugout wall, and suddenly Chico cannot believe his big brown eyes. There it is, so simply, yet so unexpectedly, in small block letters printed by Manager Dave Bristol: before ARRIGO, 1, and after HELMS, 4, the card says, RUIZ, 6.

He swallows hard. It has been a long time and maybe he has forgotten how it feels to face the same pitcher more than once. In the sixth, though, with the Reds down 1-0, it is Ruiz who gets a hit against the San Francisco Giants—a two-strike, bad-ball, wrong-field double off the mighty Juan Marichal. And then he scores the first run in a game the Reds are to win 4-3. But such moments are rare, for Ruiz is a hardcore substitute. He is, in fact, the prototype substitute. Chico has played first base, second, third and shortstop, left field, center and right. He is, in the lexicon of the game, a utility man, and, indeed, he perfectly suits the dictionary definition of utility: "the quality or state of being useful; usefulness." Or, to take the definition a step further, Ruiz possesses, like the phone company (sometimes), "power to satisfy human wants."

Certainly, these are the best of times for the Ruiz types. The logistics of modern baseball—schedule, travel, expansion—have made the versatile subs more in demand than ever. They are especially valuable in the midsummer months, when so many young stars are required to attend two weeks of reserve military training. With one thing or another, the Reds have had to start Chico this year more than ever before.

Still, whether it is soldiering, sickness or slumps that gets Ruiz into the lineup, he has never been able sufficiently to satisfy the human wants of any of his Cincinnati managers—Dick Sisler, Don Heffner or Dave Bristol—to stay in the lineup. Chico has been sitting on the bench now for five years.

He is, of course, not alone in this occupation. Except for a couple of seasons when he did play regularly, Ducky Schofield of Boston has been a part-timer in the majors for 15 years. Others in the elite of the utility include players like Dick Tracewski of Detroit, Chico Salmon of Baltimore, Jose Pagan of Pittsburgh, Jerry Adair of Kansas City, Tom Satriano of Boston and Frank Quilici of Minnesota. Go to the park early and you will not need a program to identify players like these. Utility men are easily distinguishable because they always take batting practice first and then scatter to various parts of the field to run down balls hit by the regulars.

After a game, if they are on the road, the utility men often go out together. They have learned to enjoy each other's company, for they know each other very well—all the strong points and weak ones, the prides, prejudices and hangups. Sit on the bench with a guy for seven months and you get to know him better than if you are playing next to him.

Utility players also often learn more about the game than do the regulars who have to concentrate on playing their own position. Considering, as well, that the subs naturally tend to be tolerant of others with limited talent, it is perhaps not surprising that a good number of them finally beat out the regulars at something—making manager. Gene Mauch, Ralph Houk, Dick Williams and Joe Schultz are present managers among the many who graduated from the bench. If you do not get to see your favorite journeyman emerge from the shadows of the dugout this season, come back in a decade or so and you may find him in the spotlight, carrying lineup cards to the plate and escorting pitchers from the mound.

Virtually all substitutes will admit that warming a bench in a professional manner was hardly what they had in mind when they set out in baseball to make fortune and fame. Some are, in fact, bitter about their experience. A few somehow remain indifferent to it all, but most of them soon become realistic about their status and even learn to accept it with humor. When Al Spangler of the Cubs cost his team a game a couple of years ago by dropping a relatively easy pop fly, he apologized afterward to Manager Leo Durocher. "I'm sorry, Leo," he said, "but it's this glove. I've been trying to break it in for 10 years."

"I got used to not playing pretty early," Spangler says easily. "You have to or you won't be around very long. You've got to keep yourself in a good frame of mind. If you're lucky, the manager or some of the coaches will help you out because somebody has to make you feel as important as the starters; you can't do it all yourself."

"The first day I feel unwanted, I quit," says Jimmy Stewart of Cincinnati. "If I ever get the idea they just want me to stay down there at the end of the bench, out of everybody's way, I'll be looking for a new job the next day. But Bristol's done a good job on this club. He talks to us a lot; he seems to sense how lonely you can feel sometimes."

"It comes on as you get older," says Jim Hickman of the Chicago Cubs. "Every day you have to prepare yourself to play even though you know you probably won't. You've got to run and stay in shape, but at the same time you've got to pick your spots. If you work too hard one day you might come to the park all stiff and sore the next day—and that's the day they'll want you to play."

"What hurts more than anything," says Stewart, "is to get a chance and blow it. I worry about that all the time. Whenever they do send you up there to hit it's man, we really gotta have a hit. So maybe you pop up. Well, you just want to lay down and die because you know you might not get another chance for four or five days."

"The hardest thing," says Tracewski, "is playing defense and knowing you just can't make an error. A few years ago I was with the Dodgers and we were always in the pennant race. I'd go in about the eighth or ninth and it seemed like we were always one run ahead or one run behind. Then they'd get a couple runners on and you'd know you just had to have the double play and you're scared you'd blow it. After not playing in two or three games you were almost afraid to go in."

"I have a tendency to get down on myself," says Hickman. "I wish I played more; I even wish now I'd taught myself how to switch-hit, like our shortstop, Don Kessinger. Switch-hitting saved Don's career. But it's too late for that; I've talked to Don and he says it takes about three years to perfect it. I'm 32 now, and if I play three or four more years I'll be lucky. I'll just have to do the best with what I've got." Hickman chuckled. "I guess that's why I get down on myself; I look and see what I've got and I ain't got too much."

With his own limited abilities, Hiraldo Sablon Ruiz is now working on his sixth year in the major league's munificent pension plan. At least you gain equal credit for that, playing or sitting. A round-faced sprite with shiny white teeth and a very large smile, Chico is a switch-hitting (.238 lifetime) Cuban who put in time in places like Geneva and Visalia and San Diego, where he now lives. He is a comic, liable to enter an airplane playing his guitar—favoring Day O—and he enjoys practical jokes. One time he sliced Pitcher George Culver's sports jacket into shreds and then sewed it back together loosely so that it fell apart as soon as Culver put it on.

Several years ago he spent the season pasting large stars to the dugout roof—one for every game he failed to start. Considering how many there were, the place must have looked like the Hayden Planetarium. Last season he spent his time on the bench fashioning a huge ball out of gum wrappers that he found on the floor.

A few years ago a jeweler Ruiz knew fell into debt and Chico loaned him $500. When it came time for Ruiz to leave for spring training, the jeweler did not have enough ready cash, so he gave Chico some watches, rings and necklaces instead. Ruiz at first planned to sell them, but before long the financial advantages of holding a few raffles changed his mind. Now, whenever the Reds open a new series and Ruiz appears in the dugout, somebody from the other side inevitably will yell, "Hey, Chico, what are you raffling off today?"

Not too long ago the Reds were on a big winning streak. They had been winning, in fact, ever since Bristol—who refuses to walk under ladders—had chosen to dress out in the clubhouse, leaving his personal manager's office vacant. By the time the Reds reached Los Angeles, Ruiz had moved into the office lock, stock and beer cooler. Naturally, he played the role to the ultimate, calling in a player here, another there, for private, closed-door discussions. When the writers came into the clubhouse after a game, Ruiz invited them into his office where he offered them sandwiches and beer. "Well," he'd sigh, slumped in a chair behind the desk, "that was sure a tough one tonight. Why I am in this business, I will never know." And, of course, he expounded philosophically on the advantages of playing them one at a time.

Ruiz grew up in Santo Domingo, Cuba, where his father operated a cigar factory. The elder Ruiz had hopes his son would work in the factory, learn it from the floor up and someday take over. Chico, however, was not anxious to work in a factory of any kind—even if his father ran it—and after high school he entered college to study architecture. He completed three years at a Cuban college, concentrating on residential housing, and he would like to go on for his degree at some U.S. university.

Baseball, of course, has a monopoly on his time right now—and he particularly enjoys playing for Bristol, a former utility man, who uses him more than Heffner or Sisler did. " Bristol is my overtaker," Chico likes to say. "He took me out of the grave and started to play me."

Ruiz believes, however, that by learning so many positions he actually created a permanent place on the bench for himself. "Because I am so versatile," he says, "a manager would just as soon leave me there, too—until he sees how the game goes and can fit me into the situation. If I were a manager, I would probably play me the same way."

Ruiz points out that while the ability to play various positions enhances one's chances of getting in a game, it also increases the margin of error. "An outfielder, all he has to do before a game is go out and shag a few fly balls," says Ruiz. "He checks the wind, the background and warms up his arm. But me, I have got to go out to third and short and pick up some grounders. Then I have to move over to second, 'cause the ball comes at you different over there. If I get a chance, I grab a first baseman's glove and take a few throws—and I really will not feel ready unless I catch a few flies in the outfield, too."

But when the game begins, Ruiz is on his cushion on the bench. Early this year Chico's wife Isabel brought their two little girls out to Crosley Field. After all, even though they might not see their father play, they could at least see him in his uniform and snappy red socks. It was game time when Mrs. Ruiz walked into the park and sat down behind home plate. She immediately peered into the Cincinnati dugout looking for Chico, but he was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes passed and Mrs. Ruiz began to wonder if something had happened to him on his way to the park. Maybe he was in the clubhouse, ill, or in a hospital. Then, at last, a helpful visitor pointed out where Chico was. "Somebody had to show her I was out at shortstop," Ruiz says. "She never thought to look for me out on the field."

Another time last year Ruiz had been playing much more than usual. Two, three, four games went by, and he started every one of them. So between innings during the next game he trotted off the field, slammed his glove to the floor in disgust and marched up to Bristol. "Look," he snapped, "I have had this playing regular up to here. I am sick and tired of it. Either bench me or trade me!"

"The kid is great to have on this club," Bristol says. "I'm not afraid to put him in anywhere, and he keeps everybody loose. And, do you know, every time I do put him in it seems like the first ball is hit to him—no matter where he's playing. It's almost as if they're testing him."

Chico says he is always among the last Reds to sign his contract each year because the front office does not appreciate him to the extent it should. But, even though he has to battle for every penny, Ruiz works hard at keeping a good attitude. "That is why I do the crazy little things I do." he says. "I do not pull for guys to do bad so that I get a chance to play. I have been lucky, for I have always been with a contender. If the regulars do good, then we win. If we win the pennant, then I get an equal share, just like everybody else. I hope everybody hits .400 with 100 home runs.

"I keep telling myself that everything works out for the best. Sure I sit on the bench a lot—but I can name a few guys like me who sat around for a long time, and when they got a chance to play regular they played themselves right out of the big leagues. Ernie Bowman of the Giants was one of those guys."

Chico Ruiz will be 31 in December, and one night in Houston not long ago he sat in Bristol's office. The door was closed. Chico had a roast beef on rye in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other, and his elbows were resting on his knees. He was not kidding around, for he was talking about how time was running out on him. "No matter what they tell you, every ballplayer wants to play regular. They want to be out on the field, not on the bench. The one thing I hope for is that someday I can prove to myself that I was good enough to play regular in the big leagues. If the chance comes and I blow it—well, I can always say I was a pretty good utility player. But if that chance never comes, it will hurt. It will hurt very much."