Friday, March 28, 2008

And Now Your 2008 San Francisco Giants....

I tuned into the Brian Sabean show last night with KNBR host Ralph "the Razor" Barbieri and it was ho-hum fu. I realize that Sabean can only do so much with someone else in control of the purse-strings, but his answers are so rehearsed that the show has very little to offer.

And because I am a San Francisco Giants' fan I will endure the bushwah for as long as it takes the Gigantes to win the whole enchilada. And it might just be like what had to happen to some Boston Red Sox old-timer fans who passed away moments after the ball off Mookie Wilson's bat found its way through Bill Buckner's legs. My memory of the Giants coming close will be that of Reggie Sanders letting the attack of the foam fingers get the best of him on a ball hit by Scott Spiezio that I will forever think the athletic Sanders should have caught!

So rather than rambling on mindlessly I will refer to the Stevie Wonder composition off of his Fulfillingness' First Finale album of 1974. On this disc was a song entitled You Haven't Done Nothing which best describes the San Francisco Giants' front office, once Jeff Kent split the scene for smoggy Chavez Ravine.

We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
with decisions that are made by you.

But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are going to change right from wrong
'cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing!"

It's not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else.

And we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are going to change right from wrong
'cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing!"

We would not care to wake up to the nightmare
that's becoming real life
but when misled who knows a person's mind
can turn as cold as ice?

Why do you keep on making us hear your song
telling us how you are changing right from wrong
'cause if you really want to hear our views

Thanks to the great Stevie Wonder. Keep the faith Giants' fans. Continue attending ballgames, at beautiful PacBell/AT&T Park, because there is always the possibility you will see a record established. Even if it is at the Giants' expense.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too Many Statistics Create Myths

In 1962, Bill Fischer had eleven (11) consecutive starts without issuing a single base on balls. On the surface this looks like quite a feat but after further review you discover that these numbers add up to nothing. Unfortunately, for the lifetime W-45 L-58 hurler, Fischer played for the lowly Kansas City Athletics (whose record that season was 72W 90-L) and his record during this amazing run was 2-Wins and 8-Losses. In 71-Innings pitched, he allowed 86 hits, walked none and struck out 18. He had to be a batter's dream, seeing as how he was around the plate and wasn't really fooling anybody.

Seems with statistics there's always something you can uncover if you dig long enough. And with trivial things like myths the more you delve into them the more you see how far-fetched or absurd the originator of said myth was in how he/she tried to get their point across.

With most statistical lists, there will be a name or two whose careers have dispersed into the stratus of dubiety.

Take the worst trade in major league baseball history. There are many who say the worst trade was on December 9, 1965 when the Baltimore Orioles sent well-traveled Jack Baldschun, throw-in du jour Dick Simpson and Miltiades Stergios Pappastediodis (americanized to Milt Pappas) to Cincinnati for Frank Robinson. (I remember Simpson as a throw-in along with an outfielder named Steve Whitaker who came from the Milwaukee Brewers to the San Francisco Giants for starter, Bobby Bolin. Bolin's claim to fame was in the year (1968) Bob Gibson had the 1.12 ERA, his ERA was 1.99.)

But I beg to differ.

I say the worst trade in MLB history was when the Chicago Cubs parted ways with African-American hopeful, Louis Clark Brock by dealing him to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio on June 15, 1964. Actually there were other players involved in this trade who are so anonymous and were the epitome of what a throw-in, player-to-be-named later stereotype was that you would win any trivia contest if you could name the others involved. (Jack Spring, Paul Toth and Lou Brock to StL for Doug Clemons, Bobby Shantz and Ernie Broglio. Shantz was a 24-game winner for the Philadelphia A's in 1952. So the grizzly veteran was the token "throw-in" du jour.)

Milt Pappas wasn't a Cy Young award winner but he was serviceable. His first major league game was on August 10, 1957, at the age of 18. On a blustery afternoon, September 24, 1971 to be exact, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Pappas threw 9 pitches in the 4th inning, all of them for strikes. In the history of major league baseball not many pitchers (37 pitchers did it and 3 pitchers did it twice. Robert "Lefty" Grove did it on 8/23/1928 and again on 9/27/1928. Sandy Koufax did it in 1962 and 1964. Nolan Ryan did it 1968 for the Mets and 1972 for the Angels) accomplished this feat. But, as with most statistics, there will be a name or two on the list whose careers have dispersed into dubiety.

It shall be duly noted that when it came time for the Reds to trade "Gimpy" to the Atlanta Braves on June 11, 1968, the Reds acquired: Woody Woodward, Clay Carroll and Tony Cloniger. All 3 of these players were contributors to the Big Red machine years. Unlike those nobody throw-ins sent and received in both deals.
Pappas and Robinson and Brock all did their parts. But for the number of players involved I say the Lou Brock trade was the worst because the Cubs didn't get a thing. Every other team involved got value. Baltimore got MVP, Triple Crown winning, hall-of-famer Frank Robinson, Cincinnati got the aforementioned 3 players when Pappas was shipped to Atlanta and the Cardinals got hall of famer, Lou Brock.

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

50 Biggest Baseball Myths

I came across 50 Biggest Baseball Myths by Brandon Toropov and in it were some curious selections.

48- Candy Cummings invented the curveball. Cummings played in 1876 and 1877 only. While tearing up the league in 1876 he fell on hard times in his last season, 1877. (In 1876 he won 16 and lost 8, while posting a 1.67 ERA. But in 1877 he won 5 and lost 14, with an ERA of 4.34. So his lifetime record was W-21 L-22) Maybe him getting credit for discovering the curveball despite having a losing record is similar to that of managers having poor playing career numbers but respectable won/loss records as a skipper.

In Wikipedia it says he left after only 19 games with the Cincinnati Redlegs to become the president of the new International Association for Professional Base Ball Players and that the Old-Timers elected him into the Hall of Fame, saying that Cummings had the strongest claim to having invented the curveball.

43- Babe Herman tripled into a triple play. Babe Herman played for the Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers. This team was dubbed as the Daffiness Boys. Sportswriter Frank Graham noted, "They were not normally of a clownish nature, and some of them were very good ballplayers, indeed, but they were overcome by the atmosphere in which they found themselves as soon as they had put on Brooklyn uniforms."

Herman was known for base-running gaffes and as a poor fielder and this lead his 1931 teammate, Fresco Thompson to observe: "He wore a glove for one reason: because it was a league custom." When informed by a local bank that someone had been impersonating him and cashing bad checks, he said, "Hit him a few fly balls. If he catches any, it ain't me."

The game in question happened on August 15, 1926 at Ebbets Field. Herman tried to stretch a double into a triple, with one out and the bases loaded. Chick Fewster, who had been on first, advanced to third base-which was already occupied by Dazzy Vance, who had started from second base but was now caught in a rundown and was lumbering back to third base. All 3 of them ended up at third base, with Herman not having watched the play in front of him, and third baseman, Eddie Taylor, tagged all 3 just to be sure of getting as many outs as possible. The slow-footed Vance had been a major contributor to this situation, but according to the rules the lead runner was entitled to the base, so umpire Beans Reardon called Fewster and Herman out. Thus, Babe Herman was said to have "doubled into a double play."

(Note: On 2 occasions in 1930-May 30 and September 15- Herman stopped to watch a home run in between running the bases and was passed by the hitter, making the home run a single.)

29- Duane Kuiper, current San Francisco Giants' broadcaster and former Cleveland Indian and SF Giant player, was the worst non-pitching home run hitter of all-time. The guy was solid on defense and a lifetime .271 hitter but only hit the one homer, off of fellow broadcaster and former Giant pitcher as well as the 1980 Cy Young Award winner with the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Stone.

I guess as a home run hitter he would have to be the worst. But as for worst hitters period, my vote goes to Ray Oyler, a member of the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers (he batted .135 that year, 30 points under his playing weight. Oyler's lifetime batting average was .175, in which he somehow managed to belt 15 home runs.

26- The system of hand signals to signify balls and strikes was acredited to Cy Rigler, who wanted to help out deaf outfielder, William Hoy. Albeit touching that someone would care for their fellow man the only truth is that ole Cy was known as the initiator of practicing hand signals to note balls and strikes, so that the outfielders would be able to follow the game more clearly. But as noted in Wikipedia, by the time he arrived in the majors, he discovered that the practice had become so widespread that it had preceded him. (To show you how much anyone cared about William Hoy being deaf, his nickname was Dummy.)

It appears every name on this list of 50 can be questioned as to the authenticity of the claims, further proving that the writers had a hand in most things dealing with baseball. How accurate doesn't seem to be as important as putting something in print that so intrigues its readers they spread the word-like wildfire- to others. And we all know what happens when you tell a story, the details change over the course of time(s) the story was told).

Thanks to Wikipedia and Baseball Almanac.

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bye Bye Baby to Dodgertown

Yesterday the Los Angeles Dodgers said good-bye to their spring training grounds, known as Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Florida. And in the words of William "Smokey" Robinson, what's so good about goodbye?

The Dodgers called Vero Beach, FL their spring training home from 1948 up to this 2008 spring season. 1948 when Gene Hermanski led the team in homers with 15 and Pee Wee Reese stole 25 bases. Their top winning pitcher that year was a fellow by the name of Rex Barney, he had 15 W's. And through the years it was always the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.

These two teams have the greatest rivalry in professional sports. When you factor in that both clubs decided to move west in the same season, thus being the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants in 1958, you can see that no matter what their team strengths may or may not have been the rivalry has always been there. What could be better than that?

And as a Giants fan I may speak for many other orange and black lovers when I say the Dodgers really have been like an impacted tooth over the years. Look at the years the Dodgers took first place compared to how many times the Giants finished in first place since 1948 (the year after Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line).

Dodgers: 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1994, 1995, 2004.

Giants: 1962, 1971, 1987, 1989, 1997, 2000, 2003. (In the years 1965 thru and including 1969 the Giants finished in 2nd place.)

Another thing about the rivalry is when a team is going through a transitional phase they always have the opportunity to play spoiler against their rival foe. It makes for good competition and perhaps it is from these inspirational head-to-head battles (between the Giants and Dodgers) that a superstar may ascend from what seems like a season-filled full of games where the orange and black have fallen.

Kevin Marquez

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wild Speculation...

During today's Giants TV broadcast, Jon Miller just mentioned that the Giants stole 24 bases over the first 18 games of Spring Training. Extrapolated out to a whole season, that'd be 216 steals. The Mets stole the most in the majors last year (200). The Giants stole 119.

Out of Left Field Question: lots of folks have suggested that maybe the Giants ought to get 1B Richie Sexon from the Mariners to improve our well-documented projected lack of hitting. Tempering that line of thought, however is the reality that 1) Sexon is on the decline and 2) we'd probably have to pay way too steep a price to get him.

Well, what about instead trading for the Nationals' 1B Nick Johnson? I think there's no way Johnson replaces Dmitri Young after the season Young had for the Nationals last year. And Johnson has way more upside than Sexon, and he's four years younger, to boot (29 vs. 33). And the Nationals need pitching in the worst way... and we've got pitching to deal... so.... ?

Here's a good breakdown of what Johnson brings to the party....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jose Canseco's a Canary but it's true, es verdad

Every time I see or hear Roger Clemens I think Jose Canseco isn't that bad of a guy. Hey, I never thought Barry Bonds was as bad as the media made him out to be and after reading Juiced, I feel the same about Canseco, even if he is a bit of a canary.

I will be using excerpts from Jose's first book (Juiced) as a reference since he is largely recognized as the Godfather of Steroids, used properly, I might add.

When one thinks of William Roger Clemens "Rocket," they may reflect on the 7 Cy Young Awards or the 7 times he lead the league in ERA (six in AL, one in NL) but I remember a guy who was frightened of Oakland A's right-hander, and leader of the pitching staff, Dave Stewart. How during that time it appeared that Clemens' reign on the mound was about to descend. No longer would "Rocket" dominate the way he once had.

As referred to often in Juiced, the mind is a very powerful thing; if you convince yourself that you're a great player, and you have basic ability, you're going to be a great player. Nobody has this power of positive down pat any better than Rocket.

There are some players who are protected by the system, and other players who the system abuses and takes advantage of, hanging them out to dry and turning them into scapegoats. It's disgusting the way baseball really works sometimes. Well, Roger Clemens, who made it a point to let umpires know where the good golf clubs were and and saw to it that the umpires had only the finest conditions taken care of that you might say he was one of the good ole boys in baseball for whom the powers that be protected.

From Jose's perspective, it wasn't all bad when the subject was about Rocket. Jose did say that Roger was one of the few players who never cheated on his wife. Maybe if it wasn't so easy for ballplayers, a large percentage, say 60%, of the ballplayers wouldn't cheat at all. It's just made so easy. Men= egos and libidos and those are a couple of forces hard to combat. So for Clemens to be faithful was all the more impressive.

Even though we think we've been provided with all of the information needed on the subject we must be flexible enough in our understanding of how things seem to be to accept that some reporters make stuff up. It's sort of the Enquirer mindset, where the story lines are a mixture of familiar names tied in with several confabulations that make it all sound right.

Jose claims he was created by the media. Most of them were happy to present Jose as a caricature and a clown, partly because it was what their editors wanted. And it sold papers.

A column written by Thomas Boswell, of the Washington Post, in 1988, never explained why he was singling out Jose and saying nothing about Mark McGwire, even though Mac was bigger... It was twelve (12) years after Boswell called Jose Canseco a steroid user before anyone made any serious claims in print about McGwire and steroids.

Boswell cost Canseco a million dollar endorsement with Pepsi. Others went with it.

Jose learned too late in his career about the importance of the media, not only when it came to endorsements but also when it came to negotiating a long-term contract. When you're working on building a serious long-term commitment with a team, you've got to be extremely careful about how you treat the media.

Per Jose: More reporters need to stop for a minute and keep in mind that baseball players, are just human beings. Different individuals are always going to have different opinions from day to day, or even hour to hour. At some point, you're going to say something you shouldn't have said, and then you get jumped on. I don't think you can really judge an individual on one instance. You have to know them over the course of a few years and watch how they act under different circumstances.

Reporters are always talking about objectivity and fairness, who are they kidding? The media can portray an event however they want to, positively or negatively. They have that power, that degree of control. They can make your career, if they like you, or they can destroy you.

Truth is, too many reporters and analysts don't do the homework to know what they are talking about.
(Seeing as how Jose was a player, you could say someone on the inside looking out, how can I not believe him? It's something we all have had to come to grips with because fact is there are people who play favorites and there is no getting around that fact.)

Per Jose continued... The public may assume everything they read but half the time the reporters or journalists don't do their homework. Way too often, they're basically misquoting an athlete or relying too much on opinion and emotion.

This leads me to ask a couple of questions. (1) When was it established that those elected into the Hall of Fame would be elected by writers? and (2) Why was it decided that writers would be the ones to vote?

I looked up on Wikipedia and it really doesn't say why writers were given the privilege of voting players, umpires and broadcasters into the Hall of Fame. Only that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), or the Veterans Committee could vote someone in. And you had to be a writer who was a member of the BBWAA for at least ten (10) years. I'll do some more digging.

Upon looking at what happened in 1936 only tells me that the BBWAA was given the authority to select 15 individuals from the 20th century and 5 from the 19th century. Voters were given free rein to decide for themselves in which group a candidate belonged, with neither group knowing the outcome of the other election.

So my two questions shall remain a mystery which is the preference of Major League Baseball.

Jose's 17 year major league career had led him to the conclusion that when a reporter/journalist uses his/her own opinion, s/he is slipping into a danger zone. (To Jose) the mark of a good reporter is not confusing one's own emotional feelings toward an athlete-or towards a race, color or creed-with the facts.

If a reporter is a racist and s/he gets free rein, they can destroy an athlete. Why doesn't someone question the ethics of writers based on their consistently prejudiced writing? Some writers don't think enough to protect themselves because that part of them that doesn't care (due to their being racist) that it leaves them exposed to blatant one-sided criticisms.

The media is notorious for misquoting individuals, especially if there's no way they think they need to get interviews because they are of the belief that their imaginations are better than the real thing. (Suppose because they are of questionable ethics they CANNOT get interviews, so they have to have an active imagination?)

Finally, per Jose...the public has to realize that the good guys in baseball aren't as perfect as the media makes them out to be - and that the bad guys aren't as bad, either.

Truth is always somewhere in between. With some writers, what they choose to write about is left to the public to make a choice about what they (the public) believe. Because the writer isn't reporting the facts accurately it's all speculation.

Some of Jose's comparisons are a bit far-fetched but you can see why he makes them.
If you're an editor at a newspaper, and you can get a souped-up computer that's faster, more reliable, and can do things the old one couldn't, of course, you're going to want that upgrade. It's the same thing for an athlete: Upgrading your physical capability is central to success in your chosen field.
The performance enhancement that can come with responsible steroid use is nothing to be dismissed. It's an opportunity, not a danger. And those who are trying to make an issue of it are speaking from ignorance.

A couple more things from the book Juiced I wanted to mention. For any other things you may have wanted to know, you can check out the book at your local library.

In the late 1980s Jose remembers a game when Drew Coble was umpiring behind the plate. On the mound for the visiting Detroit Tiger was veteran lefty, Frank Tanana. While Canseco was batting Tanana let loose with one of those big sweeping breaking balls, and it went completely around the plate. Never touched it. But Coble called it a strike. Canseco couldn't believe it.
"Drew, wasn't that pitch outside?" he asked the ump.
He paused a minute and then looked at Canseco like he should have known better than to ask.
"Son," he said. "That's a Hall of Fame pitch. A Hall of Fame pitch." In other words, he was telling Canseco that Frank Tanana was going to the Hall of Fame, and he was going to get calls like that every time, no matter how obvious it was that Canseco's questioning had validity.

So to review, in a nutshell, per Jose: Every player has been on the wrong end of an umpire's revenge. They're a tight-knit group; They demand respect, and they can make or break you on the field, the same way the media can with the public.

Finally, when I read this I put a notation on the side of my notes simply as C'mon Jose.
Jose believes the Sammy Sosa corked-bat controversy was just another instance of playing favorites. If it had been a different player, he guarantees that the umpire would have covered it up. Because umps cover that sort of thing up all the time, IF they like the player.

If Jose leaves his feelings on Sammy Sosa out of the book his book is 100% accurate and believable. But because he thinks the Sammy "I use my practice bat to hit homers for the fans in batting practice and must've forgot" incident was made into an international story because Sammy wasn't an untouchable, of Cal Ripken proportions, it makes me wonder if Jose Canseco isn't just Jose Canary and the book comes out just like the National Enquirer, with all of its confabulations.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baseball Cards

About the age of 5, which is kindergarten in school years, I took on the hobby of collecting baseball cards. It was intriguing how the flow of cards worked. By that I mean, where I lived seemed to spend time on the sets with the lower numbers -with numerous doubles- while the neighborhood where my grandparents lived (and we visited frequently) was about 200 numbers higher and had very few "doubles" for whatever reason. (Doubles were duplicates of cards you already had.)

I thought it would be interesting to go into the history of baseball cards because they were what got me so enamored with the statistical world of baseball.

From the late 1880s to the early 1910s, baseball cards were inserted into tobacco products to stimulate sales. By 1890, the American Tobacco Company dominated the cigarette market, so there was no reason to issue baseball cards, and the company phased them out.

In the years from 1909-1912, dozens of different sets were produced. T206 were extremely popular- 1 1/2" by 2 5/8" color lithographed and the 5" by 8" Turkey Red brand also known as the T-3 set.

Baseball cards have been issued in conjuncton with such diverse products as caramel, chocolate, cookies, Cracker Jacks, magazines, ice cream, milk, soft drinks, tea, meat products, dog food, potato chips, cereal, Jell-O, beef jerky, snack cakes and macaroni.

Bowman Gum Company, formerly known as Gum Inc., produced baseball card sets from 1948-1955. In 1951, Topps began producing cards. Over the next 5 years the two companies competed until 1956. In 1956, only Topps remained.

In 1989, Topps released a set of cards using the Bowman name.

A baseball card's value is dependent on market demand. card's condition, scarcity, age = important factors
Rookie cards, or the first cards issued for a player that depict him as a major leaguer, is the hottest segment in hobby today. (In 1990, a Nolan Ryan rookie card was valued at $1,100; Rod Carew rookie card at $350; Roberto Clemente rookie card at $1000 and Robin Yount rookie card @ $150.)

Money magazine rated baseball cards among the best investments of the 1980s.

Baseball card glossary:

Airbrushing: an artist's technique in which logos on uniforms or hats are altered or eliminated. Baseball card companies use airbrushing to depict a player with his current team if they do not have a photo showing him with that team.

Blanket: An early 20th century collectible consisting of a square piece of felt depicting a baseball player. Most popular are 5" by 5" B-18 "blankets" from 1914.

Blister pack: A blister pack is a method of card packaging in which cards are packaged in hard plastic on a cardboard backing, with 3 or 4 pockets of cards. Issued by Donruss (1987-present).

Boxed sets: These are sets produced by one of the major card companies usually in conjunction with business, such as K-Mart or Walgreens. Boxed sets usually contain fewer than 60 cards, most of which are star players. They retailed from $2 - 4 dollars.

Brick: A "brick" of cards is any grouping of cards with similar characteristics, such as a 100-card brick of 1975 Topps cards. Bricks usually contain common cards.

Cello Pack: A package of about 30 cards wrapped in a printed cellophane wrapper that allows you to see the top and bottom cards. There are usually 24 cello packs to a cello box. 16 cello boxes to a cello case. Cello packs retailed between .70 and .80 cents. Issued by Topps, Fleer and Donruss.

Coin-Topps 1988 coin set.

Common card: A card which carries no premium value in a set. "Common" is a blunt way of saying the player depicted is not a star.

Drakes: Ohio-based bakery which made baseball cards in the 1950s. And again from 1981-1988.

Error: If the error is corrected, it is called a variation card.

Fleer: Baseball card manufacturer (1959-1963, 1981 to present)

Food Issue: A set of cards or related memorabilia which was issued in conjunction with a food product, such as Post cereal or Hostess snack cakes.

Goudey: Manufactured cards from 1933-1936, 1938 and 1941.

Jell-O: Cards sold as premiums with Jell-O packages (1962-1963).

Key cards: The most important (valuable) cards in a set, such as the Mickey Mantle card, a "key" card in the 1952 Topps set.

Last card: The final regular card issued for a player, such as Hank Aaron's last card in the 1976 Topps set.

Rare: Difficult to obtain and limited in number. See SCARCE.

Reverse: Back of a card.

ROY: Rookie of the year

Skip Numbered: A set of cards not numbered in exact sequence. Some manufacturers have issued "skip-numbered" sets to trick collectors into buying more cards, looking for card numbers that didn't exist.
Other sets became skip-numbered when one or more players were dropped from the set at the last minute and were not replaced with another card.

Traded Set: An auxiliary set of cards issued toward the end of the season to reflect trades made after the printing of the regular set. Also called "update" sets, they may also include rookies not included in the regular set.

Wax Pack: A wax pack contains 15-17 cards. Usually 36 wax packs per wax box. 20 wax boxes per wax case.

Wrong backs: A card with the wrong back (player on the front of the card does not match the biography and stats on the back of the card).

Mint: A perfect card. Well-centered, with equal borders. Four sharp, square corners. No creases, edge dents, surface scratches, paper flaws, loss of luster, yellowing or fading, regardless of age.

Near Mint: A minor flaw will be discovered. A slightly off-center card would also fit this grade.

Excellent: Cards from 1981-present in excellent condition are valued from 20-40% of cards in mint condition. There is NO market for cards issued from 1981-present in less than excellent condition.

Very Good: Cards from 1948-1980 in very good condition are valued at 30% of cards near mint condition.

Good: Cards from 1948-1980 in good condition are valued at 15% of cards in near mint condition.

Fair: Shows excessive wear, along with damage or abuse, like thumbtack holes in or near margins, evidence of having been taped or pasted. Backs show minor added writing or missing small bits of paper, where the bicycle spoke was clipping it. Still, basically complete card.

Crease: A wrinkle caused by manufacturing process or by careless handling (bicycle spokes, perhaps?).
A crease greatly reduces the value of the card.

Gum Stain: The stain on a card caused by the gum inside the pack. A product known as "Ex-Wax" can remove gum stains and wax stains with little risk of damaging the card. Or gently rub a nylon stocking over the stain. A stained card is worth less than an unstained card.

Notching: Indentations along the edge of a card, sometimes caused by a rubber band. Also known as "edge dent."

Restored Card: A card which has its imperfections fixed long after the card was issued. A card restorer can fix corners, crease and restore gloss to the card's stock. Restored cards should be labeled clearly by the seller, and should be priced much less than unrestored cards in the same condition.

Zeenut Cards: Were produced by a San Francisco area candy company. They feature only players of the Pacific Coast League, from 1911-1938.

Milwaukee's Johnson Cookie Company (you could see the factory from the old County Stadium, in Milwaukee) Inserted Milwaukee Braves players' baseball cards into cookie boxes from 1953-1955.

An oddity in the baseball card world. There was a 1964 Washington Senators Rookie card that had Lou Piniella. In 1968, the Cleveland Indians had a rookie card with sweet Lou Piniella and Richie Scheinblum. In 1969, Piniella was on a rookie card for the one-year in existence Seattle Pilots. But some time during the 1969 season he was traded because he won the Rookie of the Year as a Kansas City Royal.

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Truth Without the Bullstink

(Pretty Woman
walkin' down the street
Pretty Woman
the kind I'd like to meet
Pretty Woman
I don't believe you
you're not the truth,
no one could look as good as you...mercy. Words by Roy Orbison.)

It seems to me the majority of the people need their daily dosage of bullstink. Whether it's how they think they have to behave with their co-workers or just a way of life, in general, bullstink prevails in our lives a whole lot more than the truth. Maybe it is like the Jack Nicholson character said, in A Few Good Men, 'You (most people) cannot handle the truth.'

So here's some BS...
Did you hear or read that 60-year old Billy Crystal signed a one-day contract with the New York Yankees and will don the pinstripes in Thursday's exhibition game (3/13/08)? What kind of B.S. is that?

Now the truth, in detailed figuring and factoring...
Nowadays fans take on the fantasy leagues as a way of enjoying the upcoming season. This may be because their favorite major league team hasn't won anything since these fans participated in Little League or something they became interested in that helps with their fanatical cravings of America's pastime. Whatever, fantasy leagues are as much a part of our pastime as hot dogs, peanuts and beer.

I ran across a site on the internet, Baseball HQ. And in it was Baseball Acronyms of Ron Shandler that piqued my curiosity. (When you're as fanatical as I am about baseball you check most things out. I almost always click on things that are free that could be sent to my email mailbox.)

What it is is an analyses at Baseball HQ. A series of statistical leading indicators that tell us more about a player's performance than traditional statistics. Earned run average (ERA) is used as a measure of pitching skill, but in reality, it's a stat clouded by external noise- variables like bullpen and defense. (Sure, if your pitcher plays on a bad team his true stats won't be realized but that's what makes it fantasy. Steve Carlton's improbable 1972 season is unique. Most times when you have a pitcher who is on a below .500 team his numbers will not be that good. Especially since "wins" are how pitchers really score the points.) So Baseball HQ relies more on gauges that measure fundamental raw skills. These support gauges, what they call base performance indicators (bpi) are more accurate evaluators and predictors of future performance.

For example, the fundamental pitching BPI's are: Control (CTL), Dominance (DOM) and Command (CMD).

CTL (walks per 9-IP) 3.0 or fewer BB/9
DOM (strikeouts per 9-IP) 6.0 or more K/9
CMD (K/BB) Over 2.0 K/BB.

For Hitters, they talk about the Batting Eye, the ratio of walks to strikeouts.
Referring to Bill James' comment that the single most important offensive skill is the ability to get on base, they came up with an on base average which measures the percentage of plate appearances that result in a batter reaching base. Saying that rates of .350 or better are acceptable levels. That batters with OBA's of .300 or under are hurting their team. Ouch!

It's very extensive and not a stone is left unturned. Something that really gets you, the fan, to appreciate a player's skills between the lines of play. And in the end you just may love the game of baseball that much more.

Kevin Marquez

Monday, March 10, 2008


For our final game yesterday we returned to Scottsdale Stadium to watch the Giants take on the defending National League Champion Colorado Rockies. Last season, of course, the Rox put together an incredible late-season run (going 14-1 after September 16th) before getting swept in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox. The Rockies have what the Giants don't: young stud hitters or solid veteran power at almost every position around the diamond. Still, Sports Weekly doubts that Colorado can duplicate last year's surprising success. In their pre-Spring Training preview issue, analyst Paul White predicts that "Nothing can be as good as last September and October, and it won't be. The Rockies contend all year, but the pitching isn't good enough to get them into the playoffs."

Regardless, I don't know a single Giants fan that wouldn't trade the Rockies lineup for our own.

Sunday's game drove home the point that the Giants will have to get good pitching for a full 9 innings to have any chance to win games this year. The Orange and Black simply does not have the ability to score runs in bunches. On Sunday, they got good pitching for about 5.5 innings, and that allowed the Rockies to cruise to a 10-2 drubbing of the Giants.

Starter Pat Misch did his part, facing just the minimum number of hitters through three strong innings of work. He faltered a bit after getting the leadoff batter in the 4th. Misch walked Scott Podsednik who stole 2nd, and then scored on 3rd baseman Jeff Baker's single. Misch's line was 3 1/3 innings, two walks, one hit.

The not-so-good pitching began when Keiichi Yabu relieved Misch. Yabu immediately allowed two back-to-back singles, which hung another earned run on Misch. Yabu lucked out when he walked the next batter on a wild pitch, which then bounced off the backstop right to Yabu covering the plate. Yabu grabbed the ball, reached down and tagged out Yorvit Torrealba sliding into home for the second out of the inning. Torrealba lay on the ground for a moment after getting tagged out grinning in disbelief -- a feeling shared by all of us who watched the play unfold. Yabu got out of the inning when he got Clint Barmes to pop out to shortstop.

Yabu went back in to pitch the 5th and promptly plunked the first batter, Jayson Nix. Pitcher Franklin Morales moved Nix to second on perfect bunt and Willy Tavares drove him in with a single. Catcher Eliezer Alfonzo gunned down Tavares trying to steal second, and then Yabu closed out his day by getting Scott Podsednik to fly out to center. 3-1 Rockies.

The Giants pitching went from bad to much worse when AA pitcher Victor Santos came in and gave up 4 runs on 3 hits (1 double), two walks and a wild pitch. Ecccch. Osiris Matos came in to clean up Santos' mess, balked in another run but then struck out Scott Podsednik to stop the madness.

The Good Pitching returned with closer Brian Wilson going 1-2-3 in the 7th. Steve Kline followed him and wasn't too sharp, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits. His cause wasn't helped by an error from shortstop Emmanuel Burriss. Flamethrowing Lefty Erick Threets was much better in the 9th, striking out the side in order.

Kline is being well paid as a Giants Lefty reliever, but Misch and Threets (and possibly Jonathan Sanchez) all look like they could -- and perhaps ought to -- take Kline's roster spot away.

As for the Giants offense -- there just wasn't much "there" there. Though they scored the first run of the game on Kevin Frandsen's triple + Aaron Rowand's base hit in the first inning to take the lead 1-0, the Giants would get just two more hits for the rest of the game -- one a solo home run by Clay Timpner in the 9th. That ain't gonna get it done.

The Giants are going to have to hit more than that... and pitch much better if they're going to win ballgames this year.

Speaking of wins, our poll question this year was: how many wins will the 2008 Giants get? The general consensus among Giants fans is that the 2008 model Giants won't win too many. Here's what our Spring Training crew predicts:

Giants Wins in 2008:

David: 60
Craig: 70
Denny: 72
Bill: 75
Rich: 81
Kevin: 81

In other words, David thinks the Giants will lose over 100 games. Craig, Denny and Bill say they'll be well under .500. Kevin and I are the cockeyed optimists of the bunch, saying that if things break right for the Giants, the Giants will break even.

Regardless of the team's prospects, we had another great Spring Training trip. The weather and the ballparks were gorgeous (temperatures averaged in the mid to high 70s). We played some ball and generally had a great long weekend.

At our final game we even had a scout up in our row behind home plate:

This guy (with a Coach bag!) tracked every pitch thrown by Giants starter Pat Misch. This led to speculation among our crew that perhaps he was a White Sox scout looking at Misch as part of a possible deal for White Sox 3rd baseman Joe Crede. There's no question that Crede would probably add some much needed pop to the light hitting Giants lineup. However, most in the Giants Blogosphere feel that getting Crede is really just, er, spitting into the wind and that it doesn't make sense to give up anything of value to get him, as getting him won't significantly change the Giants fortunes this year.

Another truth about Spring Training is that Arizona -- even in early March -- is just really super warm and dry for a bunch of Bay Area visitors to take for extended periods. After the game on Sunday, we were all really hot and parched. Even hydrating like crazy only helps a little bit. I mean, it's great to visit (especially in March for baseball), but I don't know how people live down there year round, especially in summer. On our way back to the hotel to head for the airport, we found this weird little piece of public art: a "misting fountain" that casts cooling spray up from a horseshoe-shaped stone pit. It was a nice find, and we hung out there and cooled down after a long hot Spring Training day. Pictured below are Denny, Craig and Bill cooling off:

Our crew's final Spring record was an even 1-1-1 (.500). Which is much better than the Giants current Spring record of 3-9 (.250 - worst in the NL). Bottom line, the Giants have not played well so far this spring. However, if the Giants record were the reverse at 9-3 I can just hear the remarks of "well, it's only Spring Training" and whatnot. What does it all mean? Exactly nothing, at this point. I could make a big deal of pointing out that last year the Arizona Diamondbacks made the playoffs with just the 14th best offense in the majors and by winning 32 one-run games. But then, I am a bona fide cockeyed optimist.

What is certain is this -- we will be back next year. And the Dodgers still suck.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Giants 6 Angels 6

Our second game was against the Angels over at Tempe Diablo Stadium -- a nice lil' ballpark a couple of miles south of our hotel. The weather was again bright and sunny, probably a couple of degrees warmer than yesterday (my unofficial guess is about 76 degrees at game time.) The weird score is due to the fact that they rarely play extra innings in Spring Training.

Plenty of action at the game today -- both on the field and off. The Giants played their new brand of baseball almost to perfection: scoring in the first on a single by leadoff hitter Rajai Davis. An error on Angels 3rd baseman Chone Figgins (who threw the ball past 1st baseman Casey Kotchman) allowed Davis to scoot over to 3rd. He came home on a sac fly by the next batter Euginio Velez. Velez hit the ball to medium deep right field and as Vlad Guerrero gloved the ball I said "this ought to be interesting" as Davis tagged up at 3rd and got ready to challenge Guerrero's legendary cannon arm. True to form, Guerrero threw an absolute bullet on target to home, but the speedy Davis beat the throw by plenty and scored standing up. Wow.

With the Angels batting in the bottom of the first, Gary Matthews Jr. launched a fly ball foul down the left field line towards our section of lawn seats. A guy got up from the lawn and camped under the fly ball, with his arms extended directly over his head. Bad move. The ball plummeted to earth, glanced through his outstretched hands and thwacked right off his face. Ouch. The medical staff came rushing down to him and he held a towel over his bloody nose a minute or two later and left the lawn up towards the concession area. He seemed ok and waved to our section who gave him polite standing applause as he walked out. Quite a sound that ball made as it went k-thwackk off of his cabeza. The crowd let out a collective "Ooohhhh" as he went down to the ground. Fortunately, as I said, he seemed to be OK, and that's one dude that's unlikely to line up his FACE right underneath the path of a fly ball ever again.

As for the rest of the game, it again featured very good pitching by the Giants. Starter Brad Hennessey worked 3 good innings giving up two runs and getting lots of ground ball outs to the infield. Rule 5 pitcher Jose Capellan gave up one run in the 4th and Osiris Matos, Jack Taschner and Vinnie Chulk all worked scoreless innings after that. Overall, the Giants pitchers gave up 3 runs on 5 hits with 4 strikeouts and no walks through 7 innings -- all against the powerful Angels starting lineup composed of all of their front-line players.

Things went wrong in a hurry in the 7th when Giants youngster Kelvin Pichardo came in to pitch and promptly walked the leadoff hitter, then gave up a single and a double which plated 2 runs to make the score 6-5 Giants. He then made things even worse by hitting the next batter and walking the batter after that to load the bases with nobody out. Bruce Bochy finally yanked Pichardo and replaced him with his countryman Bartolome Fortunado. Fortunado got a 4-6-3 Double Play which plated the tying run. He then got a groundout to second to end the madness but the lead was blown. Billy Sadler pitched a 1-2-3 9th inninng to preserve the tie. But the Giants deserved better.

The "meek" (scrappy) Giants offense looked lively, getting 3 runs in the 5th by translating a hit and two walks into a bases loaded chance for Ray Durham who smacked a 3-run double into the Right Center gap that plated Giants speedsters Davis, Velez and Fred Lewis who scored all the way from first. Chalk up another one for team speed. The Giants added another run in the 6th by translating a hit batsman, an error and a single into another run. That should have been enough. That it wasn't underscores the fact that the Giants will need shutdown pitching from their bullpen to make whatever runs the offense manages to scratch out hold up. The consolation may be that Pichardo will likely start the year in AA or AAA, where it is hoped he can learn how to translate his awesome AA numbers (4.17 K/BB ratio at AA last year) into success at the major league level.

Today's Picture is of Eliezer Alfonzo batting in the 6th inning against the Angel's Steve Marek. Marek would hit Alfonzo with a pitch and Alfonzo would eventually come around to score the Giants' sixth and final run of the afternoon.

Giants 3 A's 2

Whatever success the Giants will have in 2008 will probably come in games like today's. The Giants got good pitching for 9 innings and scored just enough runs to eke out the win. Kevin Correia looked solid through 4 innings of work (3K, 3BBm HR, 1 earned run allowed.) Dan Johnson's solo homer wth one out in the 2nd inning seemed to rattle young Kevin (he walked the next two batters), but then Correia righted himself and struck out the next two Elephant batters to end the inning. After that, Correia faced just one batter over the minimum (a 3rd inning walk to Jack Cust.) He left the game with the score tied thanks to Dan Ortmeier's solo blast in the bottom of the 2nd.

Billy Sadler set down the side in order (2 Ks) in the 5th, and in the 6th Bartolome Fortunato got three quick outs after giving up a leadoff double to Emil Brown. Merkin Valdez was greeted by a leadoff home run off the bat of erstwhile Giants farmhand Justin Knoedler in the 7th, but then Merkin dispatched the Oaklands with a fly ball out, a strikeout and a groundout to Brian Bocock at short. (And yes, Bocock certainly is smooooth in the field. The guy just glides to the ball and gets it over to first in a hurry.)

Tyler Walker got two quick outs in the 8th, then gave up a single to Todd Linden (another former Giant in camp with the A's) but then Tyler got the Giants back in the dugout by inducing a lazy fly to center. Closer Brian Wilson looked real sharp in the 9th, getting two strikeouts and a groundout to close things down and give the G-men the W.

The Giants margin of victory was provided in the 7th by Eugenio Velez who led off with a single, stole second (and he would have stolen third if Nate Schierholtz had not fouled off the pitch on which Velez was running.) Schierholtz then blasted a 2 run homer into the "Salty Pavillion" in right. The Giants first run in the 2nd inning came on a Dan Ortmeier single, followed by a stolen base and an RBI double to right by Rajai Davis. Yep, it's the runnin' Giants now -- get used to it.

The victory was possible because the Giants' pitchers sins were few and venial and the Giants were able to cash in a few of their baserunners today (and they did so without the help of the heart of their order -- Aaron Rowand and Benji Molina.)

UPDATE: Pictures from Friday's Game:

One of the many great things about Spring Training is getting to interact with the game all up close and personal. Before Friday's game, Former Giants and A's great Vida Blue was milling around in the stands. Here are some adoring fans getting up close and personal with Vida (who looks to be in better shape than he was during his final seasons in uniform.)

This is the view from our awesome seats behind home plate. This is Aaron Rowand batting in the 3rd inning with Randy Winn on 2nd and Benjie Molina on 1st. Unfortunately, Rowand would strike out. Rowand came to the plate with 5 runners on base during three at bats in the game and failed to advance a single one of them. Rowand hit into a rally-killing double play in the first inning with the bases loaded, struck out here and then flew out in the 6th with a runner at first. Overall, a forgettable day at the plate for the newest Giant. The guys you see in the lower right of the picture (with the hat and the fellow in orange) are scouts who raised radar guns as every pitch came to the plate. From our seats we could look over their shoulders to see the readouts from the gun, which told us, among other things, that Giants pitcher Merkin Valdez was humming the ball in at between 94-96 MPH consistenly during his excellent inning of work.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Well, the crew pulled into Scottsdale this evening and got situated in our new digs, which this season are walking distance from Scottsdale Stadium. Immediately upon arriving we learned that Kevin Fransden has been removed as the Opening Day replacement at shortstop for the rehabbing Omar Vizquel. Seems young Kevin has been having a rougher time than expected making the transition from 2B (three errors so far.) We'll see if Brian Bocock is as good with the glove as reported. Fransden goes back to the competition with Ray Durham at 2nd (and possibly will audition for the 3B job.) Question mark about Bocock right now is his hitting.

Other news: Noah Lowry will have surgery on his left arm. It's expected he'll be sidelined just 2-3 weeks but they won't really know until after the procedure is completed.

Kevin Correia will start for the Giants tomorrow. The news about Lowry means that Correia probably has a rotation slot locked up to start the season.

The Last of the Former Umpires

Just wrapping up the history of umpires. I'll continue to have a say about the current umpires and will put noteworthy stuff on the men in blue who umpire the 2008 major league season. I just wanted to give a wink to a couple more umpires who I thought represented themselves and the big leagues rather well.

First mention goes to Shag Crawford. Henry Charles Shag Crawford. (Born: 8/30/1916.
Died: 7/11/2007)

Worked in the National League from 1956 to 1975.
Was notable for getting a low crouch and resting his hands on the back of the catcher in front of him.

Born in Philadelphia, PA, he played football and baseball and was into boxing. In fact, he was a catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system.

He served in the US Navy during WWII, and was on the destroyer Walke when its bridge was struck by a Japanese kamikaze on January 6, 1945, during the invasion of Luzon, the largest and most economically and politically important island on the Philippines. Commanding Officer George Fleming Davis suffered fatal injuries and was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the US government, similar to the British Victoria Cross or the French Legion of Honor. (Established by Napoleon Bonaparte, the renowned Order is the highest decoration in France and is divided into 5 various degrees. (1) Chevalier (knight), (2) Officier (Officer), (3) Commandeur (Commander), (4)Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and (5) Grand -Croix (Grand Cross). The order's motto is Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland).)

During Shag's major league umpire career there isn't a whole lot of information and that may be because of the way Shag ended his stay with the big leagues. In 1975, Crawford was relieved of his duties for refusing to work the World Series that year, due to a new rotational system implemented for selection of World Series umpires vs. the traditional assignment by merit.

His sons Jerry (major league ump since 1976) and Joey (NBA ref since 1977) are sports officials like their dad.

Marty Springstead. Born in Nyack, New York on 7/9/1937.

This former major league umpire worked in the American League with the huge outside chest protector used by home plate umpires. His tenure was from 1966 thru 1985 inclusive.

Not much was said about Marty but I remember the guy having quite the personality and being a very good balls and strikes umpire. He made a homer like Monte Moore comment on many occasions how the strike zone was the same for both teams. And with Moore that must have been a stretch.

There was one noteworthy thing mentioned about Marty Springstead. It was that he was the youngest umpire ever to serve as crew chief in the World Series, heading the staff for the 1973 Series at the age of 36 years and 3 months.

Like Emmett Ashford, Chris Pelekoudas, Shag Crawford, Nestor Chylak, Tom Gorman and Al Barlick, I remember Marty being an umpire who had fun at the ballpark. Not a guy who wanted to see himself on SportsCenter, even though there wasn't a SportsCenter back then. I think the quality of person these guys were that none of them would have altered their styles just to see themselves on the big screen the way today's men in blue give every indiciation of hamming it up or refusing to change a blown call all in the name of looking good.

When I spent some time in an umpire clinic, in Cocoa Cocoa Beach, FLA, it was stressed that getting the call right was not as important as how you looked, where you were positioned, making the call. When I asked a couple of minor league umpires- who would be big league umps that year- they wouldn't commit as to how they interpreted what was being taught. I had always felt okay with whatever approach was taken TO GET THE CALL RIGHT. It just wasn't happening at this umpire school so I left early because I didn't feel there was any reason to stay and if I waited any longer I wouldn't have been reimbursed the money I spent to be there.

Umpiring is a very important part of baseball. The men selected to represent what is considered the "big leagues," even though there are things that happen that aren't exactly big league, are there to do a job. Or to reiterate one of Nestor Chylak's quotes how he felt honestly that he never called one wrong, in his heart. That the way he saw it, an umpire must be perfect on the first day of the season and then get better every day. That's the way to umpire. No more or no less. A fun-loving, upbeat personality is always welcome, just leave the "attitude" in the clubhouse.

(thanks to Wikipedia encyclopedia's on-line)

Kevin Marquez

My Recollection of these Various Umpires

Growing up in the mid-1960s I can recall easily the names of the umpires as described by San Francisco Giants' announcers: Lon Simmons, Russ Hodges and Bill Thompson. When the A's arrived in Oakland for the 1967 season I'd listen to Monte Moore (disliked and mistrusted by some of the players and accused of being owner Charlie Finley's mole ) and Al Helfer (known as NBC's "Mr. Radio Baseball") when the Giants were either not playing or their game was over or had yet to start.

Al Barlick. Born 4/2/1915 and Died 12/27/1995. Worked in the National League for 28 seasons (1940-43, 1946-1955, 1958-1971).

Born in Springfield, IL, Barlick served in the US Coast Guard during World War II. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Emmett Ashford. (Born 11/23/1914..Died 3/1/1980) Nicknamed "Ash," Emmett was the first African-American umpire in major league baseball. He umped in the Southwestern Int'l League and then the Pacific Coast League for many years before being hired by the American League in 1961. He remained an umpire until mandatory retirement upon turning 56 years of age in 1970.

He brought a new style to being an umpire. He dressed impeccably, wore jewelry, including flashy cuff links and exaggerated his calls with gestures. (Remember the Leslie Neilson character in Naked Gun? I believe the idea was borrowed from Ashford's style.) Per Wikipedia: While some observers believed that his race prevented him from working in the majors earlier than he did, others maintained that his flashy style actually delayed his major league debut due to general disdain for umpires to draw attention to themselves.

Thomas David Gorman. Born 3/16/1919. Died 8/11/1986. Father of Brian Gorman.

Grew up in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York city. Served in the Army as a member of the 16th infantry during World War II.

An injury in 1946 ended his playing career (he was a lefty who pitched 5-innings in 4-games with the 1939 New York Giants) he was faced with the choice of returning to New York city to become a plumber or take advantage of some news of an umpiring position in the New England League. His wife persuaded him to take the umpire position for the 1947 season at $180 per month.

He was an umpire from 1951-1976, and then as league supervisor.

His most famous World Series, in which he umpired, was when he called balls and strikes as Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer) struck out a World Series-record 17 Detroit Tigers.

During a game in the 1962 season, Gorman discovered that the Giants were having their groundskeepers water down the Candlestick Park infield to slow down Los Angeles Dodger star Maury Wills; Gorman stopped the game for an hour and a half to allow the field to dry out.

Gorman umpired 9 no-hitters. He was the left field umpire for Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

He was the home plate umpire on June 15, 1952, when the St.Louis Cardinals set a National League record by overcoming an 11-0 deficit to beat the Giants 14-12. Two weeks later on June 29, 1952, he was there when the Cubs scored 7 runs with 2 out in the 9th inning to beat the Cincinnati Redlegs, 9-8.

Two years later on August 8, 1954, he was again the home plate umpire when the Reds gave up a record 12 runs (all of them unearned) after there were 2 out and no one on base in the 8th inning of a 20-7 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers; the inning ended only when Gil Hodges' bid for a grand slam was caught high off the centerfield wall. (Name of person catching the ball was not mentioned. They remembered to mention the victim (Hodges) getting robbed but forgot to put the name of the culprit. I am indebted to Wikipedia for being a place to remind me of things and keeping my account accurate but occasionally they fumble.)

On May 2, 1956, he was behind the plate as the Giants and Cubs used 48 players in a 6-5, 17 inning, Giants victory. In that game, Cubs outfielder Don Hoak struck out a record 6 times against 6 different pitchers.
Chris Pelekoudas. Born 1/23/1918..Died 11/30/1984.
Born in Chicago, IL into a family of 14 children. He had an unsuccessful tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals, known as the Gas House Gang, in 1934.

Worked in the National League from 1960-1975.

He may be best remembered for ordering an apparent Hammerin' Hank Aaron home run to be nullified on August 18, 1965, because the Hammer stepped out of the batter's box when he made contact; Pelekoudas had warned Aaron on the previous 2 pitches.

Pelekoudas was also the first umpire to ever eject Gaylord Perry from a game for using an illegal greasy substance on the ball.

He was the home plate umpire on the day (4/30/1961) when Willie Howard Mays, Jr. hit 4 home runs in Milwaukee's County Stadium.

He umpired 6 no-hitters but was not behind the plate for one of them.

Pelekoudas spent most of his career residing in Sunnyvale, California.
Nestor George Chylak, Jr. Born: 5/11/1922 Died: 2/17/1982
Born in Olyphant, PA of Ukranian descent. Attended the university of Scranton.
During WWII, he served in the Army in Europe; in the Battle of the Bulge he was wounded by shrapnel from an exploding shell, an injury which nearly cost him his sight. For that he earned the Silver Star and (4th highest military decoration. It's also the 3rd highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy. For gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States of America.) a Purple Heart.

Among his noteworthy games were: Sandy Koufax's final game in the 1966 World Series vs. Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately for Koufax, in one of his games pitched in that forgettable series- if you bleed Dodger blue, that is- Willie Davis made 3 errors while roaming the grounds of centerfield.

Chylak was to umpire "Ten Cent Beer Night" in Cleveland but it became necessary to declare a forfeit due to constant fighting which spread onto the field and which saw Chylak get hit over the head with a chair (what was in the beer that enabled someone to rip out a chair from the grandstands?); and the first major league game played in Toronto, Canada.
In 1977, during a snowstorm at Exhibition Stadium, Chylak was the home plate ump for that monumental game.

Three Nestor Chylak quotes:
"I umpired for 25 years and can honestly say I never called one wrong in my heart. The way I see it, an umpire must be perfect on the first day of the season and then get better every day."

"Ballplayers will cheat under any circumstances if they think they can get away with it. Our job is to prevent it."

"This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who's doing it."

(thanks again, Wikipedia, for all the information I am able to remind myself of so as to be as accurate as possible.

Kevin Marquez

Jocko Conlan: A Player then an Umpire

Jocko Conlan (born December 6, 1899.... Died on April 16, 1989.)

Before working as an umpire he played for the Chicago White Sox in 1934 and 1935. His lifetime statistics were: AB: 365 H: 96 R: 55 HR: 0... He attempted 5 stolen bases and was t'rown out 5 times...

His umpiring career was in the National League. He worked from 1941-1965.

Conlan was the plate umpire when Gil Hodges hit four home runs on August 31, 1950. He was also an umpire when Willie Mays hit four home runs in Milwaukee, on April 30, 1961.

Jocko Conlan was known for several trademarks:

(1) Instead of a regular dress tie, like most umpires of his day wore, he wore a natty bow tie throughout his career.

(2) He made "out" calls with his left hand versus the traditional right hand used by every other umpire.

(3) He was the last National League umpire allowed to wear the outside protector. (Makes me wonder why it was okay for Jocko and not Beans Reardon. The double-standard that plays favorites with some while others are left holding the trash bag. Perhaps it was the name Jocko, a clowny, funtime moniker loved by all?)

Jocko's name, was mentioned several times in a fictitious baseball game celebrated in the 1962 song, "The Los Angeles Dodgers," recorded by Danny Kaye. (It's possible the song derived from the fact that Jocko and Leo "the Lip" Durocher were considered colorful characters and sometimes the two would clash.)

From all accounts it sounds like Jocko was fun. Those who played when he umped did too!
Atta boy Jocko, this brew's for you!

Kevin Marquez

Thomas Henry Connolly

Born 12/31/1870. Died on April 28, 1961.

Connolly officiated in the National League during 1898 thru and including 1900. This was followed by 31 years of service in the American League from 1901-1931. He established the high standards for which the circuit's arbiters became known and solidified the reputation for integrity of umpires in the major leagues.

Although he had begun his career by showing that he was willing to remove players from the field- he ejected 10 in his first season- he came to earn great respect from the players and once went 10 full seasons without needing to throw a player out of a game. He also showed an ability to stand firm against the toughest players in defense of the rules; On September 11, 1912, he called Ty Cobb out for stepping across home plate while batting, after Cobb had hit an RBI triple on the third pitch of what was to be an intentional walk. During the ensuing argument, Connolly was struck in the mouth by a bottle thrown by a Tiger fan.

That Connolly wasn't so prone to toss players tells me he had a sense of humor. He was able to make adjustments to the games at-hand and tried working with the players. Where a guy like Klemm was chosen to be the exemplary umpire by the powers that be, he really wasn't in the eyes of the players. They tried joshing around with him and all it got them was thrown out of the game. But with Tommy Connolly, they could kid around and it must have made it fun to play ball. So if the two umpires were teamed together, it may have been thought that Klemm was the glue that held the game together when in fact it was Connolly.

Hats off to Tommy Connolly. This brew's for you!

Kevin Marquez

Kiljoy Klem

Born William Joseph Klimm on 2/22/1874. Died on 9/16/1951.

Known as "Father of Baseball umpires," as he was a major league umpire in the National League from 1905-1941. He had the longest career of any major league umpire at 37 years until Bruce Froemming, lead Attitude-in-need-of-adjustment of the current major leauge umpries, tied him. Klemm was also the oldest man to umpire until Froemming surpassed that as well. Froemming must have modeled his career after the zero tolerance, no-nonsense, sense of humor lacking Klem, as the similarities from this fan's perspective are frightening.

But Klem didn't rub many people-aside from the players- wrong, as he was widely respected for bringing dignity and professionalism to umpiring, as well as his high skill and good judgment. Klem was also an innovative umpire as he used arm signals while working behind the plate and was one of the first umpires to wear a modern, somewhat pliable chest protector inside his shirt- a move which he successfully campaigned to have adopted throughout the National League. (Jack Sheridan was the crossword answer, in the USA Today/Sports Weekly, for inventor of inside protector and yet he got no credit from Wikipedia and yet Klem gets some acclaim. What gives?)

Klem was the last umpire to routinely work the plate in all games. (Traditionally the crew chief always worked the plate; today, umpire crews rotate from home-to third, to second then first.) Klem called balls and strikes in 5 no-hitters, a National League record that was later tied by Harry Wendelstedt (Hunter's dad). (Of course, Giants' fans remember Wendelstedt as the umpire who declared that Dick Dietz had not made an attempt to get out of the way of a Don Drysdale pitch, thus extending Drysdale's consecutive scoreless innings streak. Nowadays, many batters look to make no effort to get out of the way and yet are awarded first base. Which makes the Wendelstedt call the worst in baseball history.)

Klem was the home plate umpire on September 16, 1924, when Jim Bottomley, of the St. Louis Cardinals, had a record 12 runs batted in.

He had a number of nicknames (some probably not fit for print) but his favorite was "the Old Arbitrator."
His jowly appearance also led some players to call him "Catfish." Klem despised the latter name and was notorious for ejecting players whom he caught using it. One particular incident involved a player who Klem ejected after he caught the player drawing a picture of a catfish with his foot in the infield dirt. (Now, to me, that sounds hillarious but the uptight Klem saw this as a reason to dismiss the character whose foot etched what he thought was a likeness of Klem.)

Bill Klemm also dismissed catcher Al Lopez from a game after Lopez pasted a photo he clipped from a newspaper onto home plate, which showed Klem clearly blowing a call involving Lopez. The catcher had covered the plate with dirt and waited for Klem to dust off the dish before he got the heave ho. (Again, funny stuff, but not to kiljoy Klemm.)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Green Cathedrals by Philip L. Lowry ...lots of pictures and facts

From the book by Philip L. Lowry, Green Cathedrals

During the first era, that of the classic ballpark, the construction of Forbes Field (1909), Shibe Park (1909), League Park (1910), Griffith Stadium (1911), Polo Grounds (1911), Crosley Field (1912), Fenway Park (1912), Tiger Stadium (1912), Ebbetts Field (1913) and Wrigley Field (1914), were initiated by enterprising ballclub owners who saw the financial advantage of achieving larger attendance.

The classic ballpark was integrated into the neighborhood. Ballparks took on an asymmetrical form as dictated by the property lines of the site. Fenway's Green Monster, bordering Landsdowne Street, literally added a new dimension to baseball, as did League Park's 40-foot high right field wall, located only 290 feet from home plate.

Prior to this era ballparks were typified by small wooden bleachers surrounded by a fence. Even though the ballparks were intimate, this type of construction suffered from its combustibility and was limited in size by its structural properties.

According to the author, 'the single greatest achievement of this era was that of the upper deck. This contrivance allowed more people to sit closer to the action of the diamond than was ever dreamed possible in the wooden-seat era.' (The use of structural steel made the seats relatively fireproof.)

The plans on how to build the parks...

If each spectator looks directly over the heads of those in front of him/her, the seat deck would become unnecessarily steep. The compromise seat deck takes on a concave parabolic shape that becomes increasingly steep as the seat deck is moved closer and or higher with respect to the game or event.

Trade-offs for the upper deck...

Supports for the upper deck must extend to the lower level if one level is over the other level, so some seats are lost altogether in the lower level and some are unfortunately situated behind columns.

If the upper deck is cantilevered columns are eliminated but other problems arise. Pedestrian movement also becomes a costly item. Ramps, escalators and raised concourses with toilet and concession stands become very expensive.

Super stadium / Modern stadium...
Candlestick Park (1960), Dodger Stadium (1962), RFK Stadium-Washington,DC (1962), Astrodome (1965), Busch Stadium (1966), Three Rivers Stadium (1970), and its nearly identical cousin, Riverfront Stadium (1970).

Concrete came into its own. Such innovations as: admixtures, high-strength lightweight concrete, sophisticated reinforcing design, air entrainment and the use of computer design have allowed concrete to compete favorably with structural steel.

It is no longer necessary to construct massive footings to support a typical heavy concrete structure. New developments in reniforcing steel design-in conjuction with the use of computers- enabled concrete to span greater distances and work as a more-effective cantilever.

Massive relocation of typical American city's population to the suburbs, a greater dependence on the automobile and its attendant parking requirements also fostered the "stand alone" stadium concept.

Since form followed function and function was symmetry, it simply followed that the playing field configuration also became symmetrical. Modern contrivances accomplished two significant things: (1) it helped foster a caste system with respect to spectators. The caste system was created in essence when loges became a necessary evil for funding purposes.
(2) wreaked havoc with upper deck seating geometries.

RFK Stadium first incorporated "column free" viewing in 1962.

In order for columns to be eliminated, two conditions occur. (1) Upper deck must be cantilevered from the back of the lower seat deck and (2) the roof over the upper deck must be limited to the amount of roof element that can be cantilevered from the back of the seat deck.

When loges are installed under the upper deck, those people sitting in the back of the lower deck suffer from "tunnel vision."

A third era of stadiums has emerged. Regenerated classic ballparks, replete with natural grass fields, asymmetrical playing fields and old-fashioned facades. The "loge" is still with us, and it seems to be multiplying at an ever-increasing rate. Private financing at least of the magnitude of 50%, will ensure that the loge will be with us for years to come.

In review:
Ballparks: to fulfill their purpose in our National pastime they must be allowed to have their own personalities and characteristics or be unique and asymmetrical.

Stereotyped symmetrical ballparks are wretchedly poor ballparks. Architects around 1910 were constrained by urban streets that were already in place. They made asymmetrical yet unique ballparks that are better for baseball than the symmetrical concrete slabs of sterile, ugly ashtrays that were built in the 1970s, 1980s and beginning of the 1990s.

Lowry goes on to say...The subtleties of the game of baseball are incredibly beautiful and balanced. However, if Royals Stadium is cloned every time a new ballpark is built in the coming decades- if every fence is 12' tall, if every outfield is shaped like a round half circle, if every foul line is 330 feet, if every power alley is 385 feet, if every centerfield fence is 410 feet from home plate and if every playing surface is an astroturf carpet- the precious subleties that make baseball the wonderful game it is will gradually be eroded and eventually destroyed and the beauty of the game horribly scarred.

Green Cathedrals by Philip L. Lowry is good reading and the pictures are full of stories all by themselves. ( Yes, I borrowed that from the title of a Rod Stewart album...Every Picture Tells a Story.)

Kevin Marquez

Jack Sheridan: First to Crouch vs. Stand behind Catcher

For Jack Sheridan, his file on Wikipedia only lists the year in which he was born as 1862. It lists the day he died as November 2, 1914.

Born in Decatur, IL but during his childhood he and his family moved to San Jose, CA.

He began his career by umpiring in the Southern League in 1885, then officiated in the California League from 1886-1889, after which he gained his first major league experience in the sole season of the Player's League in 1890.

Nearly all games in that era used a single umpire and the most outstanding officials generally moved from league to league, going wherever the league presidents were perceived as being most supportive, both in salary and in affirming the umpires' field authority. After returning to the California League for the 1891 season, Sheridan umpired in the National League in 1892, then again in the Southern League in 1893.

In 1894-95 he umpired in the Western League, where he first became associated with that league's president, Ban Johnson. Johnson was fiercely supportive of his umpiring staff, and apart from a brief return to the NL in 1896-97, Sheridan preferred to umpire in Johnson's league (the AL) for the remainder of his career.

In 1901, the Western League added several eastern cities and renamed itself the American League, and through a series of signings of National League players successfully established itself as a rival major league. In contrast to the rowdier NL, where umps were routinely subjected to great abuse with little backing from the league office, Johnson staunchly defended his field officials and insisted that players and local authorities maintain respect for them.

Over his 14 seasons as the dean of American League umpires, Sheridan became the prototype of the 20th century ump. Whereas umpires in the 19th century had worked behind the plate in a standing position , believing that it helped them to better observe the flight of the ball, Sheridan established the practice of crouching while calling balls and strikes, a move which was quickly adopted universally due to its effectiveness. He was also remarkable in that he refused to use any sort of protection other than a mask, and was agile enough to reportedly never be hit by a foul tip. He became the standard after which other umpires patterned themselves; after arriving in the AL at age 22, in 1906, Billy Evans regularly worked in a team with Sheridan for several years in order to study under the senior umpire, with Sheridan usually working behind the plate and Evans on the bases. Both Evans and fellow Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem regarded Sheridan as the game's greatest umpire.

Along with Bob Emslie (a name who has popped up with the mention of other umpires. Emslie was affectionately referred to as Blind Bob. Emslie had played in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia A's) and Tim Hurst, Jack Sheridan is one of only three (3) umps who umpired both before 1893, when the pitching distance was only 50 feet, and also after the National League and American League recognized one another as major leagues in 1903.

Sheridan suffered sunstroke while umpiring a game at Chicago in August 1914, and never fully recovered from the affliction.

Jack Sheridan is acredited with inventing the inside chest protector. Interestingly, Wikipedia doesn't make mention of this achievement.

Kevin Marquez