Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Way We Were (by Sporting News magazine 9/29/08

Elroy Face, a pitcher from 1953-1969, was a union carpenter (one year); self-employed handyman; tire salesman. Pay: $2-4 an hour.

This is the same Elroy Leon Face who in 1959 had an 18-1 won/loss record. Nowadays that year would have netted him an insurmountable contract. Unfortunately for Elroy, things didn't work that way when he was playing. He was a relief specialist, maybe the first successful one in National League history.

Vernon Law. Hauled milk from farmers to the dairy processing plant in Meridian, Idaho; bank teller at Meridian First National Bank. Pay: $200 per month for delivering milk; $350 per month working at the bank. Law was 17W 9L in 1965, 18W 9L in 1959. Won 20 (20-9, ERA: 3.08) in the Pirates' championship season (1960). Had a career of 162W 147L, 119-Complete games and 28-shutouts. A starter with his success, one wonders how much he could have made in today's market. And, he was the Cy Young winner for 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Monte Irvin. Hall of Fame inductee in 1973.
Two years into Irvin's career with the New York Giants, Brooklyn-based Rheingold Brewing Company signed Irvin as a representative. Pay: $5,000-plus expenses-for a gig that lasted from October 1 to February 1 from 1951-1955. Seems someone reached out to a guy who didn't get to play major league ball until he was 30 years old. Monte's best season was 1951 when he belted 24 homers, had 121-RBI and batted .312.

Carl Erskine. Major League pitcher 1948-59. In 1953 he posted a 20W 6L record with a 3.56-ERA. Was 122W 78L in a career spent entirely with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Stints: Carpenter's helper; delivery truck driver.
Pay: $50 per week. Per Erskine, "Enough to buy the groceries during the offseason."
Once Erskine fell but was not injured. It did convince him to do other work and he became a salesman for Sears during the Christmas season.

Miltiades (Milt) Sergios Pappas. Pitcher from 1957 to 1973. He was the first pitcher to win 200 games without a 20-win season. Won 209 games in his career with 164 defeats and a career ERA of 3.40. He belted 20 career homers.
Stint: Bowling instructor at Fair View Lanes in Baltimore,MD.

Al Kaline. Outfielder, 1953-1974. Elected into Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. Career: 3007-hits, 399-HR, 1583-RBI, .297-AVE., 1622-runs. In 1955 he became the youngest player in major league history to lead the league in hitting. He led the AL with a .340 average at age 20.
Stint: Salesman at a sporting goods store.
Pay: $150 per week

Dick Groat. Shortstop 1952-1967(ended his career with San Francisco Giants).
Career: 2138-hits, .286-AVE. Named NL MVP for World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.
Best individual season: 1963 when he had 201 hits for St. Louis Cardinals.
Stint: Salesman at Jessop Steel Co, Washington, PA.
Pay: $12,000 an off-season.
On the job: "I grew to love the steel industry," said Groat. "Growing up in Pittsburgh, you better like steel people. I was with Jessop 17 years, even after I retired from baseball."

Bill Mazeroski. Second baseman, 1956-1972. Elected to Hall of Fame in 2001. Career: 138-HR, 853-RBI, .260-AVE. Game winning HR vs. Yankees in 1960 World Series, a series in which the Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27.
Stint: Roofing/siding salesman.
Pay: $400 per month.

Don Larsen. Pitcher 1953-1967. Career: 81W 91L. (Pitched for SF Giants in 1962, 1963 and 1964, compiling a 12W 12L record.) And this obscure hurler in major league baseball is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in a World Series, doing so against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
Stints: Went back home to San Diego and got right to work every off-season except 1956, the year of the World Series perfect game. Larsen sold insurance, farmed and worked at the post office, among other gigs.
Pay: $35-40 per week.
On the job: "It was all hard labor. And if we were late getting home, some of the positions were unavailable!"

The boys, who play the game nowadays, should learn about how it was back before free agency and maybe then some of them won't be so content to go through the motions once they've signed the big contract. All the work they put into their game and then as if relieved of having to go through the intense training they choose to play it safe, never giving it their all and falling well short of ever becoming the ballplayer they would have had they kept up with the work ethic that got them their big payday, in the first place.

Once again I choose to go to the trump card, which in my mind is BARRY BONDS. This guy returned the favor of the San Francisco Giants for their having signed him. And to those who choose to hate him for the way he behaves, regardless of why he does, you should at least have all of your facts right before you verbally assault the man. Because the man was well worth evey dollar he was paid.

(thanks to the Sporting News and Baseball-Reference)

Kevin Marquez