Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Something to Get Hung About

"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. 
It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me.
Let me take you down 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields,
Where nothing is real and nothing to get hung about."      the Beatles

With the deadline to offer contracts ending on December 12, 2011, the San Francisco Giants chose who they felt would better serve them. Keeping Mike Fontenot for his ability to play a respectable shortstop over a clutch-hitting somewhat suspect fielder in Jeff Keppinger.

Remember always that the Giants are a team built around pitching. Catching the ball and making accurate throws is essential to maintaining a pitcher's confidence. Therefore, allowing them the choice to make any pitch necessary to get the batter out.

Around the league, there were a few names of players, not offered contracts, that raised my eyebrows solely because of what they did versus the Giants or the occasional ESPN cred afforded them. But only one name made me gasp for air because the thought of adding him to the Giants' pitching staff  would be like getting a Christmas gift I never could have imagined getting from someone not on my shopping list!!

The player is former Los Angeles Dodger, Hong-Chih Kuo.

Add this guy to a staff that already includes southpaws:  Madison Bumgarner, Dan Runzler, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Barry William Zito and you have an assortment of arms all coming from the port side that have the capability of creating the illusion that the Giants' offense are one of the more productive in the league.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, November 11, 2011

Melky Cabrera

Trading Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City for Melky "Leche" Cabrera probably for one season was not a bad move.

If you look at Melky's career with the Yankees, then Braves and Royals you almost have to ignore the numbers.  In New York everything is exaggerated into full-blown overrated.  But, his 2009 season, during the ALCS, he batted .391.  That's something all Giant fans need to file away as the 2012 season approaches.

Then you look at last year.  A year in which he had to rebound from his difficulties in Atlanta.  He hit 4-HR, 42-RBI and batted .255.  But I notice he had AB-454 and only 64 strikeouts along with 42 bases-on-balls.  It sort of reminds me of the year Pablo had when the Giants went all the way.  Everybody expects more out of certain players but they are only human.

Last year, 2011, Melky had 200 more at-bats than in 2010.  He hit 18-HR  had 87-RBI and 20-SB, with 201 hits while batting .305.  I think I'd rather have him battling for a spot in the outfield and or playing the outfield than wondering which Jonathan Sanchez shows up when it's his turn to pitch.

The Giants could still use some more help on defense and offense.  I hope this isn't all the moves they make.  For one thing, aside from assigning Barry Zito as the fifth man in the rotation, who will they pick up as insurance in case ole Barry struggles?

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Need My Giant Fix

When you are alone most of the time there has to be a way to utilize your time that activates your peace of mind.  Music is essential but to a penniless person it takes batteries to make your radio work. Using your mind to replay songs is a neat feature to have but it doesn't funcion well when you are seemingly surrounded by downtrodden, faceless people in the crowd.  It's as if something is touching a nerve and this causes the needle to lift off of the hot wax (33 1/3 or 45rpm record).

The AM or FM dial doesn't drain as much battery jice but the incessant overflow of commercials gets a little tired. So I keep the radio off and every now and then turn it on to gauge how long it'll be until Giants' baseball.

The Kruk and Kuip show, then the Bruce Bochy show are very informative and they get you in the mood for baseball. Updated information (Bochy) and ideas about where the team is at mentally (Kruk & Kuip).

Because the San Francisco Giants have such an accomplished group of announcers it's a pleasure to gleen as much knowledge as is possible for a game that has so many parts and places in which to put them. Do this you may get that, do that you may get this. Just don't try too hard!

Carlos Beltran. He first arrives to the Giants and knows all-too-well that if he can do what he did with the Houston Astros (2004). In his career, Beltran has hit 11 homers in 22 games. That's pretty clutch. Worth re-signing? I think so.

Upon arrival he hits the ball but seems a little out of whack. Something about his swing just wasn't getting the results he hoped to get when he chose to swing at the pitch.  Perhaps he was pressing a bit and in doing so he injured his wrist. Zim bam boom, he too hits the disabled list. 

He goes on the disabled list and begins to figure out what adjustments need to be made to correct his swing in a manner that eases the pain. 

Off the disabled list he joins the Giants in time to prepare for the upcoming 3-game series with the NLWest leader, Arizona Diamondbacks. In 11-at-bats he had 8 hits. The first two games he was not put out. (A stark contrast to Pablo Sandoval who had not reached first base all series.)

This was a good indicator that Beltran has something left in the tank. When it's crunch time this guy is glutch. Clutch Carlos (not to be confused with the cartoon that used the real lips, Clutch Cargo).

Listening to Carlos during an interview you can hear a well-spoken man who has a good idea of how to succeed.  He's a student of the game who has an approach to the game that is innovative and  thoughtfully planned. I just got the good feeling that this guy has learned well from his failures and knows ways to avoid going through the same slump over and over again.  If he thinks he can play 3 years, which is about the maximum years I'd consider, I'd re-sign him.

Kevin J. Marquez  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Game #2 in Atlanta on August 16, 2011

Going into the game, unbeknowst to many people in the know, Jeff Keppinger, Nate Schierholtz, and Aaron Rowand all had to get x-rays for various "ow-wees" they received in Monday's game.

This limited manager Bruce Bochy's ability to use baseball strategy.  He would only have Mark DeRosa (who up until then was 0-26) and Eli Whiteside. (Word from the pressbox was that Aaron Rowand informed Bochy he'd be able to play later in the game.) This was taking place and I forget to mention that Sergio Romo and Carlos Beltran were put on the 15-day disabled list. Dan Runzler (left-handed pitcher) and Miguel Tejada would be the replacements. 

Entering the ballgame this is a lot of roster movement but you can't forget that yesterday Pablo Sandoval also fouled one off his foot and Andres Torres went on the 15-day DL about a week ago.  There was a game to be played.  Wouldn't you know it, in an attempt to field a bunt, Jonathan Sanchez did the splits. He was able to throw the bunter out at first but after throwing one pitch to the next batter he was unable to pitch any longer. A twisted ankle would put Sanchy on the disabled list. 

The inning Sanchez was injured was when the Braves scored a run to take a 1-0 lead.  The batter-runner who bunted safely due to Pablo over-committing a grounder between the first-baseman and pitcher and there was nobody to cover first base is named Costanzo. The Braves call him Georgie and the Giants are muttering "Can't Stand ya!"

Entering the 7th inning the Braves pitcher, a rookie named Delgado, was throwing a no-hitter. That is until Cody Ross led off with a booming home run.  Giants-1  Braves-1

But the Braves bullpen is healthy and they are every bit as good as the Giants' bullpen which is not healthy. In the 11th inning a hitter for the Braves by the name of Brooks Conrad doubled with one out. On third base with 2 outs, Conrad would score the winning run when Martin Prado singled. Game over, Braves-2 Giants-1.

Two gut wrenching losses and there's another game today, Matt Cain vs. Jair Jurgens. This is must see baseball. Because the Giants are putting forth the kind of effort that any baseball fan can truly appreciate. They may have never been able to put Humpty Dumpty together again but I'll bet he was one helluva tasty omelet.

Good things will become of this because, as we Giant fans witnessed last season, our San Francisco Giants are a team. They know how to pull it all together. After what I saw and heard (on my radio) last season I have no reason to think they cannot put the pieces together again.

Go Giants!

Kevin J. Marquez

August 15, 2011 in Atlanta, GA

"Sometimes I think it's a sin when I feel like I'm winning when I'm losing again."  Gordon Lightfoot

On August 15, 2011, the San Francisco Giants were in Atlanta, Georgia, to play the Braves. Game time was the time I started getting ready for school (6pm-9:50pm).  My dial was tuned in to KNBR680AM.

This is how the game went for me on Monday:

The Braves had Tim Hudson on the hill.  Cody Ross led off for the Giants and hit a roller to an infielder who made the throw to first-base in time for out number 1. Jeff Keppinger beat out an infield hit to the third baseman.  Pablo Sandoval came up and promptly fouled a pitch straight down off of his foot. He managed to tough it out and was able to hit a grounder the fielder caught but made a poor throw to get the force at second base. One out, two men on.  Huff got out. I don't recall how but he was out number 2.  Nate Schierholtz walked to load the bases. Up came Brandon Belt, fresh off his two-homer game in Florida. He promptly popped out to shallow center field. Giants-0  Braves-coming to bat.

Braves would be facing Madison Bumgarner.
Brian McCann, the third place hitter hit one out of the yard. At the end of one inning, Braves-1  Giants-0.

It was time to shower. When I got back it was Jon Miller saying, "At the end of two innings it's the Braves-2  Giants-0."

While I'm getting dressed all I remember hearing was Jon Miller and Dave Fleming bantering about Joe West's strike zone, or lack thereof.  (Joe West is the same skeebozo who umpired behind the plate at AT&T on July 22 with the Brewers in town. On that night West struggled with the strike zone much the same way a one-legged person would be at a disadvantage in an ass-kicking contest.)

The game became secondary when I began to get dressed for school.  I know I have approximately 30-45 to get to school at 875 Howard Street in San Francisco. I supposed the fifteen minute difference in guesstimation has to do with what is being wired into my ears through the walkman radio I hold in my hands.

As I'm walking down Valencia toward 16th, 15th, 14th streets the loose connection in the wire of my headphones didn't allow me to keep a pitch-by-pitch account of the game. All I knew is when I stopped to fuss with the wire and had to hold the radio a particular way so the wire worked, it was still Braves-2  Giants-0.

Meanwhile, I'm crossing over to South Van Ness under the overpass to where Howard runs into Van Ness and I am told by Dave Fleming that the Giants have a couple of baserunners.  Moments later Brandon Belt was hit by a pitch.  Bases loaded. I didn't know how many outs there were until after Orlando Cabrera flew out to deep left field and Fleming said it was good that Schierholtz moved from second to third on the play because the Giants could get another run by doing the same thing.  And sure enough, Eli Whiteside flied out deep enough to allow Nate to skate home for their second run. I'm not sure of the inning but when the Giants made out number three it was Braves-2,  Giants-2.

I arrive at school to talk to a couple of people to get my plans updated.  When I was done updating my information it wasn't quite 6pm, so I turned the game back on.  At the end of blah-blah inning it's Giants-3, Braves -2.  Didn't know the inning, but it had to be past the 6th, and the Giants were ahead.

Our first break in class is usually after the first hour. So I brought up and saw that the Giants had a 4-2 lead over the Braves and it was the 8th inning. My first thought was, 'We need 6 outs."

After the next break I see, FINAL SCORE  Braves-5  Giants-4.  Look up the line score and see that the Bearded One , as Jon Miller is wont to call him, got lit up in the 9th.  Brian "Help Me Rhonda" Wilson gave up 3 runs. That's going to happen.

I was thinking what Mike Fontenot would do now that Pablo was removed because of the foul off the foot.  But then I thought of how many times an opponent of the Giants would be removed from the game and his replacement came in and tore it up. So I thought Fontenot was capable of contributing.  Sure enough, it was Fontenot's homer that made it 4-2.

This team has a lot of heart.  They are under-manned due to the injuries but they put up the good fight.

Go Giants!

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Saw an article in ESPN magazine, don't recall which issue, that is month. It is a 2011 edition. (Actually, I was hoping the page I tore it out had the date on the bottom, like some do. This page had nothing.) The article, by Hallie Grossman, listed 5 records it considered Unbreakable.

Bill Mosienko's Hat Trick

On March 23, 1952, Mosienko, a right wing for the Black Hawks, scored goals at 6:09, 6:20 and 6:30 of the 3rd period against the New York Rangers, sparking a 7-6 comeback victory.

Johnny Unitas TD streak
Johnny Unitas passed for a touchdown in 47 consecutive weeks.

Wilt Chamberlain Averaged 48.5 minutes a game
Considering an entire game is 48 minutes long, you can see the guy never took time off. Not to mention he never fouled out, ever.  The 1961-62 season was the year he averaged 48.5.  Now think a minute. Is this where the legend came from?  You know, the legend of how many women he slept with! Some scribe and Wilt must have had an on-going joke and they decided to throw it against the wall to see if it would stick.
Looks like it stuck.  That is, until ESPN talk show hosts decided to do some investigative journalism. Once that happened the possibility of "the Stilt," or "the Big Dipper," virility lacked mathematical supporting evidence.

Ernie Nevers
On November 28, 1929, the Chicago Cardinals fullback scored 6 touchdowns and 4 extra-point conversions.  Accounting for all 40 of his team's points in a win over the rival Chicago Bears.
Nevers did something equally as impressive in 1926. In 1926, Nevers was and still is the only athlete to play pro baseball, basketball and football in the same year.

Stan Musial
In Stanley Frank Musial's Hall of Fame career he finished with 3,630 base hits.  Exactly 1815 on the road and 1815 at home. Now that, my friends, is Unbreakable.

(thanks to the article by Hallie Grossman of ESPN mag)

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Zoos are Naming Animals After Athletes

In the June 27, 2011, ESPN magazine was an article by Laura Downhour that told a wonderful tale about zoos in the United States.

Downhour opens up the article with a ditty about how San Francisco Zoo renamed a hippo Brian Wilson to celebrate the World Series win.  More importantly she discovered this wasn't the only zoo to do such a thing.

Here are some excerpts:

Brian Wilson/The Hippopotamus/San Francisco Zoo
"Hippos are extremely dangerous, responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other animal. If someone comes into their territory, they're going to get them out of there." - Jim Nappi, curator of the hoofstock.

Tressel the Humboldt Penguin/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
"Tressel is sometimes a bit jumpy and is often suspicious of strangers.  She's also a picky eater who always stays 'til the end of the feeding session to get all the smallest fish in the bucket." Carrie Pratt, assistant curator

Favre the Sinaloan Milk Snake/Houston Zoo
"We had a keeper from Wisconsin who was a big Green Bay fan.  When the milk snake arrived in 1999 he made quite a thing about naming it Favre.  Wisconsin being the dairy state, it kind made sense."  -Brian Hill, director of public affairs

Sidney the Sea Lion/North Carolina Zoo
"As a pup we had her at the Pittsburgh Zoo and she was a star.  Sometimes, she used her flipper to hit a ball, almost like a slap shot.  It was a behavior she picked up on her own." -Henry Kocprzyk, Pittsburgh zookeeper

Larry Bird the African Gray Parrot/ Houston Zoo
"Their favorite defense mechanism is biting and they fluff up their feathers to look larger. I doubt the real Larry Bird ever bit a ref, but I bet there were times he got really puffed up about a bad call." - Brian Hill, director of public affairs

Lincecum the Howler Monkey/ San Francisco Zoo
"She has the best personality of all the monkeys and enjoys being the center of attention.  Kind of like how pitchers are the center of attention in a game." - Corrine MacDonald, curator of primates and carnivores

(thank you Laura Downhour for that delightful article. Sometimes we need to step away from the long 162-game season.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Joe West was the Difference

When you have a team built around pitching and you encounter a home plate umpire who is inconsistent your chances of winning are not good.

The friday, July 22, 2011 game at AT&T between the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Francisco Giants was determined not by those who played the game but rather by an umpire whose strike zone benefitted one pitcher and hampered the other.

Joe West is an attitude in need of adjustment. He's out of the school of Bruce Froemming. A surly mass of humanity who gives the appearance of someone looking for trouble. As if everything a player does is to show him up. And yet when he calls the third strike he is reminiscent of the Leslie Nielsen character in Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin.

On that note alone you might think, "Isn't that hypocritical?" And you would be right.

West gave Milwaukee pitcher, Shaun Marcum, a low strike zone. Judging by how Marcum was tossing 'em last night, I'd say that strike zone fit him to a "T." But Matt Cain didn't get the same strike zone.  Cain got a zone that forced him to have to throw the ball pretty much over the middle of the plate. He got no corners and wasn't getting the low strike like the Milwaukee pitcher. Trouble is, when you are facing a good hitting ball club like the Milwaukee Brewers you are playing with fire and that's exactly what happened.

The Giants bats have been struggling and last night they had this low zone that caused them to let too many pitches go that were rulebook balls called strikes by the calorically challenged West.

In every game the players are all trying to find what the home plate umpire's strike zone is, it's the way the game is played. And sometimes when you have an inconsistent umpire you spend the entire game trying to figure out something that should have been established by the 4th inning, at worst.

Not last night. Giant hitters were laying off the pitches down the middle they thought were low. And then when there were two strikes they'd inevitably swing at one in the dirt. West's strike zone was a godsend for Milwaukee's Marcum.

I really wish the major leagues would have a grading system for umpires who battle the strike zone. I mean c'mon. Why can't they see what I'm seeing? For heaven's sake, a bad home plate umpire can ruin a game. Those games aren't won by the best team but rather the more fortunate team, according to how the pitcher throws and what the bleeping slob is calling balls and strikes.

Chalk the loss of 7/22/11 game at AT&T up to an inconsistent, incompetent, and irascible bum who has no business qualifying to umpire home plate during the post-season. Sure, the Giants get the "L" hung on their record. But the true loser is Joe West.

That's how I saw it, anyone else have any other takes?

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, June 27, 2011

This Day in Baseball

June 27 has some San Francisco Giant history.

On this day, 1977, Willie McCovey hit 2 home runs in the same inning for the second time in his career.  He was the first major league ballplayer to perform the feat.

And on this day in 1986, Bo Diaz, former Philadelphia Phillies catcher, threw out Robby Thompson, of the Giants, four times. It is the first recorded instance of a player being thrown out as many as four times.

In 1911, when pitcher Ed Karger is attempting to throw a warm-up pitch, while his teammates are taking the field, Stuffy McInnis belts the pitch for a home run. The homer stood up under protest but the rule will be removed.

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Fresno Bus Ticket Time

It's Fresno Bus ticket time for former Milwaukee Brewer and Boston Red Sox hack, Bill Hall.
I'm sure Brian Sabean was  hoping Hall could hit a few homers but he overlooked Hall's penchant for swinging and missing as well as not being able to catch a hit or thrown ball.

The Giants need to catch the ball and execute moving runners along the bases better than they have exhibited up until now.  Because their pitching remains superlative the Giants have been able to get by with winning more than they lose.  But the law of averages will catch up to them if they don't fix these noticeable problems.

They have capable players in their minor league system that can do better than Bill Hall.  They've gotten good defense out of rookie Brandon Crawford and it appeared that Connor Gillespie lost the "dear in the headlights" look out of his facial countenance. Let's give the kid a shot at seeing what he can do.  I'd rather see him play ball than Bill Hall.

Hopefully Hall is on the 12-day contract plan. When it's time is up (sooner than later is preferred) he either gets a bus ticket to Fresno or a polite wave goodbye.

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Freddy Chant

Giants’ fans saw what he did last year during the playoffs. He proved general manager, Brian Sabean, right for signing him to a multi-million dollar contract. He is Freddy Sanchez.

In an interview early in the season I recall Freddy being asked by Giants’ announcer, Dave Fleming, what it was like being up in a crucial situation, with the game on the line and the fans chanting your name. And Freddy thoughtfully relayed his enthusiasm by saying , “I love hearing the chant. When I hear that I cannot let them down.”

Broadcaster Mike Krukow has been adamant about the importance of the influence the Giant’s fans have on the players. How often the positive energy is something the players feed off of and many of the players on the team are continually showing their appreciation for the fans. Krukow claims the team gained a boost heading into the playoffs from the positive energy that the fans had given the ballclub. That the dog days of August really had no effect whereas in previous years it may have signaled the beginning of the end. Last year, it was a rejuvenated ballclub that headed into the playoffs.

According to my unofficial count, in games when Freddy comes up to bat in crucial situations and the fans begin the “FRED-DY, FRED-DY, FRED-DY” chant he is 5-for-5. (Five hits in five at-bats.)

During the playoffs I didn’t pay so much attention to Freddy’s at-bats because he was helping the team win games by flashing the leather. But after that interview I have been paying attention to his at-bats and to the Giants’ fans. The fans don’t chant every time Freddy steps up to the plate, only when it’s a crucial situation. I give credit to the fans for not overdoing it. The fans have a similar chant for Cody Ross when he comes to bat in key situations that goes “CO-DY, CO-DY, CO-DY.” Although Cody has had some success it is not nearly as frequent as the second-baseman who wears the number 21.

On the June 5th, Postgame Wrap, Hall of Fame announcer, Jon Miller, repeated what he had mentioned during the game. And that was the Freddy chant seems to motivate this player because he has been quite successful. I’m thinking some statistician handed Miller a note as he was broadcasting the game.

This is the first time someone has brought this up as a topic of conversation and I think it’s good to know if you are a Giant’s fan. Naturally, you can’t expect him to keep up this impressive pace but if it’s something the player likes maybe he can do wonderful things when the chant of “FRED-DY,” is heard throughout AT&T Park.

Right now the “chant” is only local knowledge. But with a little persistence maybe Giant followers can take this show to visiting ballparks when the team is on the road. Make the “Freddy” chant nationally known.

For the Giants to continue this successful run from the 2010 season to the current 2011 season it may take something like a chant to keep the ballplayers tuned-in to their beloved fans.

Kevin Marquez

Friday, June 3, 2011


Much is being discussed about the play at home plate where Nate Schierholtz threw a ball to Buster Posey hoping to peg the runner from third base.  Buster's lack of concentration caused him to not come up with the ball cleanly and in the course of his not being able to find the handle the runner saw his only chance of reaching home safely was by crashing into Posey.

Unfortunately, for Posey, he was in a vulnerable position and the runner's forward progress made Posey susceptible to injury.

People are outraged by the behavior of the runner.  But you have to remember this play didn't happen slide by slide the way some newcasts have shown the play to develop.  The play happened much faster and therefore the runner had little time to ponder what might have been. He pretty much made up his mind the minute he stepped off third base.

Some are talking about changing the rule.

How about someone in charge of the umpires calling a meeting to discuss why the rules ARE in the rulebook.  Discuss why the rules we have for such a play exist and see if the rules are antiquated in any way. Because you can't expect an umpire to determine intent when no two umpires have the same interpretation of the strike zone.   

Personally, I say a runner has as much of a right to the base as a fielder has a right to prevent him from getting there.  But the defensive player must have the ball to be able to block the runner's path.  Buster never had the ball.

Secondly, the way I interpret the rule is that a player can dislodge the ball from the fielder's hands by the manner in which he slides into the defender.  The runner's slide may distract the fielder enough that he takes his eye off the ball, resulting in not catching the ball.  Or the runner's foot may just happen to arrive at the play just before the ball. So whatever happens after that point has to be allowed. It's bang-bang. Ballet at the ballpark, if you will. (How some shortstops or second-basemen are able to jump or contort their bodies to avoid contact is a thing of beauty.)

What cannot be allowed is when someone goes out of their way to cause physical harm on another player. The Pete Rose/Ray Fosse collision in the All-Star game was unnecessary and Rose should have been reprimanded for his uber-wrestling maneuver that had him crashing into Ray Fosse, sans the ropes.  

I played Little League ball as a catcher. And I never liked getting into collisions at the plate. But I learned from each and every one of them. For instance, those plays where I got flattened and the ball trickled out of my glove I just told myself I had to concentrate more and get a better grip on the ball.  Those plays where I got decked without the ball I learned how to get out of the way.

Of course, I hated it when an opposing player was going all-out to bowl me over. So I would learn the best position to be in as the ball was arriving home.  If I could see the runner (out of the corner of my eye) was more than half way and the ball hadn't reached the infield yet I would drop to a knee. Some might call that "going to church" if a grounder was hit to an infielder he was taught to drop to a knee behind the glove to assure the ball didn't go through his legs. Well, this was the same thing except it had nothing to do with preventing the ball from going through my legs.  It had everything to do with the runner flying over me instead of into me.  I figured if the runner didn't care about my well-being that it was only right not to consider his well-being.

The  runners who were crafty enough to slide around the tag were the players I respected.  They were the ones who taught me the most. Because I had to adjust to what the runner was doing they made me a better player. I had to anticipate what might happen if... I gave these players the benefit of the doubt because they earned it. Those who chose the WWF method, of crashing into another player, were primitive both athletically and mentally.

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Strike Zone

The Strike Zone

It is essential that we understand the rule as it is written in the rulebook before we heckle the home plate umpire for missing a pitch or two. With some home plate umpires you would think it was the plate that was moving and not the ball.

Rule7, Section 4a of the (Softball/Fastpitch/Slowpitch w/stealing) rulebook states: a strike is called by the umpire for each legally pitched ball entering the strike zone. Slow Pitch each legally pitched ball passing through the strike zone before touching the ground and the batter does not swing.

Rule 1, Definitions for the Strike Zone. That space over any part of home plate, when a batter assumes a natural stance adjacent to home plate, between the batter’s (Fast Pitch) Arm pits and top of the knees. (Slow Pitch) Back shoulder and the front knee.

Why is it so difficult calling balls and strikes for Major League umpires? The rules clearly state what is and is not a strike. Is too much being left for the individual umpire’s interpretation? There is even a diagram that has planes rising up from the 17” front-of-home-plate (part that faces the pitcher’s plate) as well as from the points (of the plate) facing the catcher. Both sides being 12” in length. The rulebook “strike zone” is multi-dimensional. Now, taking what the rulebook is telling you and what you know from when you played baseball, there is no excuse for interpreting the strike zone as some arbitrary place where balls pass through.

My suggestion to those umpires who constantly battle what they rule to be a strike is to get access to a pitching machine. Get a cardboard cut-out, or ask one of your umpire buddies to stand in the batter’s box. Go to the pitching machine with plenty of baseballs and begin loading them into the machine so you can see from the pitcher’s perspective what a strike looks like. After so many pitches, say 1,000, go back behind the plate and have someone load the machine with baseballs and watch another thousand pitches go over the different portions of the plate where the ball enters the strike zone so YOU can get a full understanding of what a strike is so the next time it’s your job to call balls and strikes, the strike zone doesn’t fluctuate from batter-to-batter or inning-to –inning. Remember, all anybody wants from you is consistency.

Why is it so difficult to calls balls and strikes for nine (9) innings? For some umpires the strike zone becomes intermittent, disappearing and reappearing as the umpire struggles to decide if he wants to call the high strike or the low strike. The inside corner or outside corner of the plate. With some umpires you get the feeling they don’t know what to do with all the possibilities of what a strike is and in their mind they just cannot decipher what is and isn’t a strike for whatever reason. Say the batter is over six feet tall and has an unusual stance. You can’t let that aspect of calling strikes interfere with how you perceive where the ball crossed before entering the catcher’s glove. Because it isn’t where the catcher’s glove is when he catches the ball, it is where the ball crossed the plate. It’s bad for the game. Usually, the pattern is, when you cannot determine what a strike is the zone will change throughout the game. This is referred to as a “floating” strike zone.

Furthermore, it is just as important to know who the umpiring crew will be when you are facing a particular team. Just as it is important to know which pitcher’s will be going up against your squad. The same way you will have match-up issues with the batter versus the pitcher, certain pitchers may have histories with the home plate umpire. A manager has to know these things so he can adjust the lineup accordingly. (The umpires rotate, from first base to home to third to second base.)

An umpire will issue a warning against a pitcher for throwing at a batter but what happens when an umpire displays poor sportsmanship towards a pitcher? Nothing. Perhaps it is just an idle threat. Mentioning the umpires and how proficient they may be at calling tag plays and how quickly they respond to an unusual play that requires a fast determination based on what the rulebook says should be done. But I believe this is something that is done to appease the players, coaches, and or managers. They think that something actually might happen to reprimand the umpire. Personally, I think a player, coach, or manager needs to call the League’s bluff once in a while to see what happens next.

Major League baseball is like any other big business in that it has its idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies. When it comes to how they handle the arbiters of baseball the powers that be may be considered eccentric. When a player, coach, or manager complains about the poor umpiring that was displayed during a recent game the league can’t fine the person fast enough. Even if there is proof supporting the accusatory claimant. Umpires can be consistently inconsistent, have an attitude in need of adjustment and just think they have to play the part of a buffoon. The stereotype of how most people think of umpires. You would think the umpires would want to change that stereotype once and for all. But, unfortunately, because there is no accountability for umpires they generally do whatever they feel is appropriate.

We should all be so fortunate as to have a vocation of autonomy. A rulebook to an umpire is like the Bible to a clergyman. Their livelihoods depend largely on how they interpret the meanings in each of these books. And yet with the umpire there are rules spelled out that seem to go unnoticed by their fellow umpires and their immediate supervisors. Example: No umpire shall wear sunglasses because at some angle or point of view the sunglass may distort the ability to see the ball which would mean the umpire would be unable to make a call. This goes especially for fair or foul balls down the line that have a tendency to get lost in the tint of the glass.

Baseball is America’s pastime. Everything about this wonderful game oozes in the daily lives of many people. The clich├ęs and catchall phrases that both relate to baseball and everyday life are innumerable.

When you have a game like baseball you cannot be so conditioned to want to add or delete rules unless the times have changed to a point that the rules have become antiquated. Occasionally something happens, out of the blue, that you just have to file under, “out of the blue.” While other times something continually occurs to the point that it is not out of reason to consider rule changes. Especially if modern technology can lend a helping hand to the situation. Because in the world of officiating, it is all about keeping the game fair and getting the calls right. Not how long it took to come to a conclusion but that the conclusion that was arrived at was accurate. We don’t want to see robots who were made for the sole purpose of calling balls and strikes because that would lose the human element of the game. And we don’t want other professions to take note and invest in their own mechanically- built suitable substitutes to replace human beings. We just want umpires to do the job they were hired to do. To be in position to make the call. Not be so upset when someone has a suggestion with how they can correct the situation (using decorum, of course). AND TO HAVE A SIMILAR STRIKE ZONE TO EVERY OTHER UMPIRE. The strike zone interpretation should not be worlds apart the way they are in major league baseball. What you see in the rulebook definitions is what their guidelines should be and nothing else. This is a rule, not left for interpretation. The only amendment that should be applied to the rule is how each individual umpire adjusts his body to better see the ball cross the plate.

I want to live to see the day that it doesn’t matter who yells, “Play ball!” Because the strike zone will be as it is in the rulebook. Of course, some people put much more attention to detail into the things they do in life. That cannot nor should it be changed. Ultimately, the goal for the powers that be who run the beautiful game of baseball, is to hire the type of person who follows the rulebook by the letter. The type of person who interprets the rules as they are written and not the type of individual who interprets things in a manner that best suits their needs. Baseball needs people who are willing to sacrifice their personal needs for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the game.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bobby Richardson Looks Back to '62

In the Sporting News issue dated 4/11/11, there was an I Remember piece with Bobby Richardson being the focal point.

Giant fans since the opening of Candlestick Park know Richardson as the second baseman who was in the right spot at the worst time for a Willie McCovey line drive. With runners on second and third base and 2 outs, the McCovey liner was how Game 7 of the 1962 World Series ended. Yankees win!

Richardson and Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek (who worked for NBC on the Game of the Week) had been roommates for Richardson's entire career. According to Richardson, Kubek was trying to lighten him up a little bit as he said, "I sure hope McCovey doesn't hit the ball to you." Puzzled, Richardson asked, "Why?"  Kubek's response was, "You've already made one error this series- I'd hate to see you blow it now."

Richardson admits that's what he was thinking about when he went back to his position between the first-baseman and shortstop.  McCovey proceeded to hit a ball foul, out of the park. Upon seeing that prodigious shot, Richardson noticed that McCovey was out in front.  So the wise second-baseman moved over toward first base. Reflecting back to that moment Richardson said, 'McCovey has always said he thought I was playing out of position.'  But those of us who saw the play, either live or out of the archives can see that Bobby Richardson was in the right position to field that scorching line drive.

Over the years Bobby Richardson had not seen Willie McCovey. Some forty-five years had passed until Richardson was invited out to San Francisco, by the Giants, to see the Yankees play the Giants in an interleague game.  When Richardson saw McCovey, McCovey's first comment to Bobby Richardson was, "I bet your hand is still hurting."

(thanks to the Sporting News for that good sportsmanship memory)

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wine Sippers vs. Beer Guzzlers

In an article on May 6, 2011, by Pamela S. Busch, of the San Francisco Examiner, she enlightened me some about AT&T's concessions stands and the types of wines that are sold. And although she mentions the prices are reasonable I suggest you would have a much better time at the Giants' games if you had the type of bank account Gilligan's Island occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III, possessed.

Chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon are fan favorites.  For the same amount of money you can drink Brassfield pino grigio- a crisp white vino from the vineyards of Lake County, are ideal for day games.

Madigan cabernet sauvignon and White Rock's second label red pour for a reasonable $40.

The California Wine Bar (at the View Level) carries a slightly different range of local wines.  Rosenblum zinfandel XXXII and Acacia chardonnay at $9.75 for a 7 oz. plastic glass.

The Crazy Crab and its next-door neighbor, the Chowder House offer the Saint Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux from the Languedoc region of France.  Touted as France's oldest sparkling wine.  One of a few imports served at AT&T Park.  Price is $16.  People buy this because it is a treat for the lips, palate and tongue.  Not quite moonlight and canoes but you're heading in the right direction!

Near Section 230, you can buy Vinum Cellars chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon that are within reason price wise.

Ms. Busch made the wines seem mouthwatering and worth checking out. Personally, I don't embibe in the grape as much as I heartily swig a frosty brew. I thank her for the education and impromptu wine list she provided for Giant fans who like sipping wine over guzzling beer.

(Thanks to Pamela S. Busch for the insights on where to buy wine at the Giants game.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, May 2, 2011

Darren Ford Fast

In the May 1, 2011 game at Washington, DC, Darren Ford came in to run for the recently walked Buster Posey.

Immediately all eyes focused on this extraordinary runner as he danced off first base. Time and time again the pitcher threw over to first base, once almost tossing the ball over the first baseman's head. Then with batter Pat Burrell struggling to make contact (as if he couldn't see the ball) Ford decided to take off for second base.

The perennial gold-glover, catcher Ivan Rodriguez, received the pitcher's toss and immediately got up and threw to second base.  And as well as "Pudge" receives the ball he gets rid of it even faster.  His ball was right on the bag and therefore the runner (Darren Ford) was called out.

But was he out?  Just because the ball arrived where it did doesn't mean the runner was out.  The fielder must tag the runner.  Upon further review, the runner was tagged above the belt. And the tag itself wasn't made by the fielder.  He merely dropped the glove into an area he figured the runner would slide into. Only Ford didn't exactly slide in that direction.

Now, the second base umpire, looked long and waited before calling the runner OUT but he wasn't paying attention to the runner as much as where the ball was in proximity of the runner and base.  In other words, the umpire actually took his eyes off the runner and fielder and figured because the ball was caught where it was that the runner had to meet it before touching the bag.

Darren Ford was not tagged out until after he reached second base and yet the umpire assumed because the ball arrived where it arrived and that the ball got there at just about the same time as the runner that it stood to reason that the runner would be out.  Only sometimes things don 't happen as expected, now do they, Mr. Ump?

Bad call ump.  But worse than that is how umpires are approaching runners of extraordinary ability.  The umps are not watching the fielder catch the ball and then apply the tag to the runner.  They are giving the benefit of the doubt to the catcher if the ball arrives in a particular location in a relatively timely manner at a good place.
Tagging the runner has now become optional.  Now aint that a kick in the head?

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Ongoing Saga of MadBum

The ongoing saga of MadBum (according to me, a Giant's fan who has umpired since the age of 9. I am pretty comfortable in distinguishing a ball from a strike)could be called, As the Umps Mess With the Kid.

Are the umpires messing with the kid?  Think about it, he joins the team midway in the season and nobody messes with him.  Then he does better than anticipated in the postseason. 

Giants win the World Series! Next to the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl, who saw this coming?

So the umpires do a little research. Upon further review, it is discovered that Madison Bumgarner (a.k.a. MadBum) had a moment that some might see as psycho and yet others might craft down to mere competitive edge. (My recollection is that MadBum, in his Fresno days, threw a ball into the centerfield bleachers from around the pitcher's mound. Because of little defensive support and shady umpiring.)

Do the umpires interpret this as disobedience?  As a fan I say, "Why do the umps think they are so special?"  Umpires seem to have this leeway where they can fuss with new entries into the major leagues. (How this came about would be good knowledge for the revision of this "umpire hazing." In other words, who initiated the need to do this, from the umpire's perspective?)

Baseball needs to eighty-six the umpire initiation faze of the game. Because it generates more reason to distrust the arbiters of the game. It does nothing to make the players better but it does disgrace the boys in blue. (In much the same way a borderline great ballplayer is judged by his demeanor, why doesn't this belief work for the umpires? And if they are totally separate in how things are run in baseball, could we please stop seeing the umpires who show up the players even though this is something the umpires abhor when it happens to them. The double-standard must stop, agreed?)

I mean, c'mon, how many ball/strike calls, or calls in general, do the umpires miss, in a game?  Bob Fitzgerald of KNBR680 has it right. It's these guys jobs to get the call right. Not sit on the laurels of their brethren and boast about how they are the best at officiating. Nowadays with baseball umpires it's more like the Get Smart phrase of, "Missed it by that much!"

It's bad enough that you cannot question a ball/strike call but to allow them to haze rookies in the MLB is a bit too much.


Why? Because I'm not questioning a ball/strike if it's done once in a while. I'm questioning the inconsistency of why one inning it's a ball and another inning it's a strike. I am not asking because I'm questioning the umpire's authority, I am asking him because I need to have a better idea when it's my turn to bat of how I can make the pitcher's pitch work for me. 

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fear the (Thought Behind the) Beard

I can recall back in the days when the San Francisco Giants called Candlestick Park home.

Back when Rod "Shooter" Beck toed the slab as the Giants' closer.

He had a look not many tailors could work with.  In fact, if memory serves me, when Dusty Baker was mulling over why so many players today are pulling muscles Beck's response was, "You can't pull fat."

He had a look that caused my imagination to wander back to the Wizard of Oz.  The scene where the Cowardly Lion was getting the treatment.  His hair was styled into lucious curls.  I always thought, since Beck had the fu manchu thing happening what it would have been like had he included the curls falling out from his ballcap.

I would have been so damned funny how in the world could the batter keep his concentration. Doesn't your vision get distorted when tears begin to form?)

Wouldn't a batter just bust-a-gut laughing at Shooter in dangling curls with the fu manchu?  And if so, would Uncle Bud promptly test him for some sort of illegal drug? Certainly not a performance enhancer. (Meanwhile, Shooter would only be weighed as he continued to look like the before model in a new fad diet advertisement.)

The idea of getting a batter to lose his focus simply by the look showed to him by the guy throwing the ball has to be as old as the game. But, to a fan of the game, I think originality always registers on the "taking one for the team" scale.  Any time a player takes one for the team it's a good thing. Being a team player is what made the 2010 San Francisco Giants World Series champions.

It's why Brian "Don't Worry, Baby" Wilson gets all the kudos afforded to him.  It's, well,  good vibrations.

Kevin J. Marquez

Barry Finito, uh, Zito

Okay, he's the best fifth starter the San Francisco Giants have in their organization. Or is it that he costs so damned much that the team doesn't want to part ways with him just yet. Well, with the help of Lowell Cohn (of the Press Democrat) I would like to interject some thoughts as to why Giant fans cannot stand to see Seventy Five toe the slab.

The Giants do what they do because of pitching. When it's Zito's turn, you get to see how inept he is at getting ahead of hitters and finishing the hitter off. Countless times he'll be up 2-strikes and 0-balls and somehow either groove one or lose him to four out of the zone. Now, I know, the strike zones nowadays tend to fluctuate, from inning to inning but according to the over-dramatic Dave Fleming or psycho-babbling Jon Miller, these pitches "aren't close!" And, Zito is really friendly to his opposing pitcher. In the words of Casey Stengel, you can look it up! The collective batting average of pitchers lucky enough to face Barry Zito. 

Now I turn the topic of Finito, uh, Zito over to Lowell Cohn. In Monday's, (April 11) Santa Rosa Press Democrat, this is what Cohn had to say... On Bochy's flawed logic. You never save the bullpen with Zito. You save Zito with the bullpen. ... Call it the immutable law of physics: The speed at which Zito loses his stuff is always faster than his fastball.

Priceless stuff, eh?
(thanks to Lowell Cohn's brilliance for inspiring me to add my own two cents.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

From the February 21, 2011 ESPN Magazine

The writer was Peter Keating. He speaks of Pittsburgh Pirates' catcher, Chris Snyder. Says Keating, Snyder has stolen zero bases, hit one triple and grounded into 43 double plays in just over 2,000 plate appearances. Now, if you consider that at its most stationary positions (1B, C, DH), baseball requires far less speed than any positions in any other Big Four sports (Football, Basketball and Hockey, aside from Baseball). Snyder may be the slowest pro athlete ever. He's slower than Bengie Molina giving Pablo Sandoval a piggyback ride. He's so slow, he takes 2 hours to watch 60 Minutes. (Keating reaching for the laughs, ya think?) If Chris Snyder were in the Olympics his sport would be plate tectonics. (Insert rim shot here.) Offensively his numbers have been solid and he's really known for his game-calling. "Speed always impresses but few can outrun mediocrity," says Keating. He goes on to state that the top career speed score ever was 8.8, belonging to Vince Coleman. From 1985-87, he swiped more than 100 bases each season. "Vincent Van Go" was a below-average hitter with a career OPS that was 83% of league average, and he made bushels of errors in left field. Secondly, speed is a measurable raw talent, and it's impressive to be the fastest at anything. But combining modest speed with discipline is almost always more valuable than flat out jets. Speed is cool. But sports don't just reward inherent abilities, they reward the intelligent application of those abilities on fields of play. (Keating closed on some good notes, I thought. Hope you did too.) Kevin J. Marquez

Cast of Characters Really Wants to Please Fans

I found it quite humorous reading about Pat Burrell's antics regarding his old college teammate, Aubrey Huff. Before Sunday's game, (the one in which Huff misjudged a couple of fly balls leading to a couple of runs for the Dodgers who would eventually win the game 7-5) Burrell had Brandon Belt lay down so he could do an outline like the police do for murder victims, only he used medical tape and put the number 17 inside the outline (Huff's jersey number). This cast of characters truly wants to win for their fans. But a couple players, namely Buster Posey, seem to be pressing. Anybody who has ever played the game has experienced the act of trying too hard. There's a fine line between giving your best effort and putting too much into what you are doing. When these matters get the proper attention and the necessary adjustments are made, due to a sort of natural selection, everything will be fine. Because what cannot be forgotten throughout this process is that you can never lose sight of the fact that you are playing a game and in being a participant you must first and foremost have fun. Enjoy yourself. Anything that gives the appearance of you pressing is just that. You must ask yourself, 'Am I having fun?' and if the answer is obvious that you are not, you sir, are trying way too hard. Relax, don't forget it's a game. Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Team to Be Proud Of

I'm reading the sporting News issue dated 2/14/2011 about the National Hockey League's greatest teams and Hall of Famer,Bryan Trottier, said something that made me immediatelhy refer to the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

Said Trottier about his successful New York Islander teams,"It was just a group of guys who always found a way to win... Everyone chipped in on defense, made themselves responsible. It was a good time to be part of a great team."

Look up and down the Giants' roster and you will see familiar names but more than that you see a team that enjoys playing baseball together. This team knows how to win and will do whatever it can to put themselves in the best position to defeat their opponents.

They may not get the notoriety other players or ball clubs get but they know all too well that they are good enough and this may bear repeating. (Wouldn't that be something? Wink wink.)

When the 49ers won their first Super Bowl did they take their Lombardi trophy home, thank the fans, and bask in their glory? No way. They got down to business and when it was all said and done there were four (4) more Lombardi's to hoist above their collective heads.

My,your, San Francisco Giants aren't happy with ONE ring. They've got the ingredients for a flavorful existence no matter how torturous it may appear to some. They have a chance to surpass those Atlanta Braves' teams whose pitching staff got the best damn strike zone ever in major league baseball. (Although, much like the killer B's of Houston, once the post-season began neither the Astros or Braves got their favorable zones.)

Those of you fortunate to make it down to Scottsdale, Arizona enjoy your time in the valley of the sun. Take in all the positive energy because it's not something that will enrich or nourish you forever. It's your time to bask in the glory of fandom and your 2010 San Francisco Giants thank you, very much.

Mike Krukow says it was the fans who gave the team a second wind as they blew past their opponents for an 11-4 postseason won/loss record. You contributed, now enjoy the fruits of your labor.

And,oh yeah, GO GIANTS!!!!!!!

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ken Burns, 7th and 8th innings...1960s...

When I was in the army I was lonesome, I missed baseball. There was a World Series. I went to the PX to listen to the World Series game on the radio. And I was sitting there feeling a long, long way from home. Hot climate, no sense of autumn, the Fall Classic. And an old sergeant came in. He's sitting down in front of me and he took out a cigar and lit it and that cigar smoke drifted back into my face. And I could smell the Polo Grounds. I felt at home. It smelled. It smelled of urine, it smelled of cigar smoke, it smelled of stale popcorn but it was my place.
- Robert Creamer

Ted Williams was called Toothpick Ted along with the more popular Splendid Splinter. I thought this was an awesome nickname and now after seeing the Toothpick Ted, I'm thinking it was more of a ribbing on his build.

Anywho, in 1941, his .406 season, he finished the season in Philadelphia against the A's. Going into his last game(s) (a doubleheader) his average was .39955. Which would have rounded off to .400. But people would always point to that if he decided against playing the season-ending doubleheader.

The A's catcher told Williams that Mr. Mack (Connie) said we're going to pitch to you today.

"Just before the pitcher was ready to pitch, Bill McGowan, did like all home plate umpires do, turned his rear-end toward centerfield and brushed off home plate and he said, 'in order to hit .400 you got to be loose.' I'll never forget that."

(Williams got 6 hits in 8 at-bats that day.) -Ted Williams

Larry McPhail, was the Cincinnati Reds general manager the night of May 24, 1935. He arranged with Franklin D. Roosevelt to turn on lights for the first night game in major league baseball (between the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds).

McPhail was a champion of radio. He was sure broadcasting would increase ticket sales while other owners thought otherwise. In 1938, when McPhail left Cincinnati for Brooklyn he took Red Barber with him.

A sportswriter recalled: With no drinks he was brilliant. With one he was a genius. With two he was insane. And rarely did he stop at one.

The Dodgers at Ebbets Field had a band known as the Dodger's Sym-phony. It was coined by announcer Red Barber. He says, "with an emphasis on PHONY because they didn't play music. They just made noise."

In December 1944, a Japanese ship was torpedoed off the island of Formosa. Among those on-board was 26-year old, E.G. Salamura, who once struck out Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in an exhibition game.
Female League.
Sophie Curry, nicknamed Tina Cobb, averaged 100 stolen bases a season. One year she stole 201 in 203 attempts.
Annabelle Lee, whose nephew Bill "Spaceman" Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos, once threw a perfect game for the Minneapolis Millerettes.
There is no rule, formal or informal or any understanding, unwritten, suberranean or sub-anything against the hiring of Negro players by the teams of organized ball. - Kenneshaw M. Landis

He had helped restore the game's integrity after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He had also done all he could to keep it white.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates had sought permission to hire Josh Gibson, in 1943, Landis bluntly refused. 'The colored ballplayers have their own league. Let them stay in their own league."

When Bill Veeck, Jr. attempted to buy the eighth place Philadelphia Phillies and re-staff them with stars from the Negro Leagues, Landis made sure the team was sold to someone else.

And when Leo Durocher told a newspaper man that he'd seen plenty of blacks good enough for the big leagues, Landis forced "the Lip" to claim he had been misquoted.

On July 6, 1944, a young Army Lt., Jack Roosevelt Robinson got on a bus. The driver ordered him to go to the back of the bus, 'where he belonged.' Robinson refused and was court martialed. But the Army judges found Robinson fully within his rights and acquitted him.

A few days later, Kenneshaw Mountain Landis died at the age of 77.

February 1, 1947... I know the real reason Josh Gibson died. I don't need a doctor's report for confirmation either. He was murdered by big league baseball. - Pittsburgh Courier

Gibson was 35-years old when he died of a stroke. There was no money to pay for a gravestone.
"I think losing is what baseball is about, in the end. We think it's about winning but as we go on as fans and even as players I think we discover that's really what it's about. There's much more losing in it. Afterall, the batter only succeeds one-third of the time, at best. And this runs very deeply in baseball.

A season goes along and the fans realize that their hopes are not going to be fulfilled. Once again, they're going to be heartbroken at the end." - Roger Angell

"Branch Rickey is a con man. Brilliant, fascinating, aerodyte but still a con man. I've been listening to him for 25 years. I've always been impressed, seldom been enlightened. The trick of the con man is to weave a spell. In this, Branch Rickey stands alone. Not since the days of William Jennnigs Bryant and Billy Sunday has any man fallen so deeply in love with the melodic quality of his own voice." - Joe Williams, New York World Telegram

"They picked him because of who he was and what he was. Sure the baseball skill was important but there were other skilled players. Monte Irvin was who everyone expected to be the first. But Robinson had a determination, an ability to, on the one hand turn the other cheek, but on the other hand, as he turned the cheek he let the person (who was his antagonist) know that he would come around again. - Daniel Okrent
********************** ********************* ***********
Said Curt Flood: I was told by a general manager that a white player had received a higher raise than me because white people required more money to live than black people. That is why I wasn't going to get a raise.
********************** ********************* ***********
Willie Mays...born in Westfield, Alabama. Only 19 when he signed with the New York Giants in 1951. In the outfield, he recorded the stunning number of 7, 095 putouts, most in major league history.
Joe DiMaggio once said Mays had the best arm he'd ever seen.

"Willie Mays was not the first black ballplayer but he had his own barrier to break. A kind of gentle good-natured racism but racism nonetheless. You remember when he came up people would say, 'What an instinctive ballplayer he is. What a natural ballplayer he is. What childlike enthusiasm... Well, thirty years on we can hear, with our better trained ears, the racism in that. He was wonderfully gifted. Yes. Great natural gifts, yes. But no one ever got to the majors on natural gifts. Without an awful lot of refining work. Sure, he was a great instinctive ballplayer. But he was also a tremendously smart ballplayer. As a rookie, he'd get to second base, watch two batters come to the plate and he would go back to the dugout having stolen the signs and decoded the sequence he'd known the indicator signs from the other signs. Willie Mays, natural ballplayer? Sure. Hardest working ballplayer you ever saw." George Will

Casey Stengel, the "Ole Perfessor," according to Robert Creamer.
I think Stengel is the most interesting man, except for Ruth, who ever appeared in baseball. Unfortunately, his methods became that of a clown, a man who talked stengelese, double-talk. He knew more about the game than anyone I ever talked to. He was the smartest man, I think he had a tremendous basic intelligence. Not much education, barely got through high school. And went to dental school for a couple of years studying the mechanical skills of a dentist, and he would have been a dentist if he hadn't played baseball. But he had this intuitive intelligence. He would look at things, he would see things, he would sense things. Anyway, he would talk if he didn't want you to understand him, he would say, 'Well, this thing and that thing or the other. He'd talk this way and that way. He also sometimes panicked. He couldn't stand dead air. And if somebody asked him something he just wouldn't stand there and say, "Um," he would start to talk. And say, 'Well, this talk about that fella there he's pretty good..And you take the other guy out in left field and I could bring him in and use that fella back there...And he just jumbled it that way. But he knew what he was saying. And sometimes the things came out. He's a man who said,"there's a time in every man's life and I've had plenty of them." And that's a marvelous expression.
Stan "the Man" Musial finished his Hall of Fame career with 3,630 base hits. 1815 on the road, and 1815 at home. How about that?
(on the Ken Burns Baseball documentary. George Will made mention of it. Segment, was 7th & 8th innings...1960s.)

Sandy Koufax, when asked, "What is your thought about the loss of income?"
"Let's put it this way... if there are men who did not have use of one of his arms and you told him it'd cost a lot of money and he could buy back that use he'd give them every dime he had, I believe. That's my feeling. And, in a sense, maybe this is what I'm doing. I don't know. I've got a lot of years to live after baseball. I would like to live them with complete use of my body. I don't regret one minute of the last 12 years but I think I would regret one year that was too many."
"My father and I had nothing in common, sad to say. Nothing 'cept baseball. My father took me to Yankee Stadium in 1959. I was 7-years old. Yankees lost to the Orioles, 7-2. Mantle didn't play, he was hurt. And at that time after the game was over you could leave by way of the field. They would open up the bullpen gates and you could walk around the warning track. Take in the entire, majestic, enormous ball park. And then walk out the back of the bullpen into the street. The game was over and my father took me by the hand and walked me past the dugouts, looked into those dugouts and thought to myself, at age 7, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, sat in there. And I was careful. Careful not to disturb anything. Looked down at the red clay of the warning track. But it wasn't my place to kick it, to move it around! I was a visitor, I was being allowed to see this. And we got out to dead centerfield to the monuments...Where Ruth and Huggins and Gehrig were... And I stood there at 7-years old and started to cry. And part of that was just the surroundings. So impressive. The facade, the enormity of the place. A 7-year old kid literally could not see over the mound from that distance. Home plate looked like it was a mile away. Place was so imposing. But also, I really thought that these guys were buried there. I thought that this was a sacret Yankee burial ground. And surely when DiMaggio passed away, when Mantle passed away, they'd be buried there too. And my father tried to explain to me, 'Yes, these men are dead, but they're buried someplace else.' I would have none of it. I was convinced that that was their tombstone.

If you asked me, what is the happiest memory of your father? To me, that was it."
-Bob Costas

(There still is a little more tape left for the 7th & 8th innings. We shall see if there's more to add to this blog. Thanks to the job well done by Ken Burns. And his orator, John Chancellor.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, January 28, 2011

(Ken Burns' Baseball Documentary) We're in the 5th and 6th Innings

In 1938, the players were polled if they would have any objection to play with Negro players and 4/5ths had no objections.

It was the owners and commissioner Keneshaw Mountain Landis who were not interested.
(Keneshaw got his name from a misspelling of Kenneshaw Mountain, Georgia, where his father, a physician, fought on the union side and lost a leg during the American Civil War at the Battle of Kenneshaw Mountain.)

That winter, Chester Washington of the Pittsburgh Courier sent a telegram to the manger of the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates. To: Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates, Congress Hotel. Know your club needs players. Have an answer to your prayers right here in Pittsburgh. Josh Gibson, catcher. Buck Leonard, first base. S. Page, pitcher and Cool Papa Bell all available at reasonable figures. Would make Pirates formidable pennant contender. What is your attitude? Wire answer, Chester Washington.

There was no answer.
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According to Leroy Satchel Page

You wanna live a long time don't fool with nothing old but money.
Nothing big but a bankroll.
Nothing black but a cadillac.
Nothing over 22, nothing that weighs over 130.
If you do you're in trouble!
Because when you're getting old your cells are getting low
and you need a Delco battery to boost you.
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Dazzy Vance-a hefty righthander with and 83" reach. He had been a dominant pitcher of the 1920's. You want to know why? He literally had a trick up his sleeve.

"You couldn't hit him on a Monday. He cut the sleeve of his undershirt to the elbow. And on that part of it he used lye to make it white and the rest he didn't care how dirty it was. Then he'd pitch overhand out of the apartment houses in the background at Ebbets Field. Between the bleached sleeve of his undershirt waving and a Monday wash hanging out to dry; the diapers and uneven sheets flapping on the clothesline you lost the ball entirely. He threw balls by me I never even saw." - Rube Bressler
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On the Gashouse Gang, 1934 St. Louis Cardinals...

They don't look like a major league ballclub or as major league ballclubs are supposed to look in this era of the well-dressed athlete. Their uniforms are stained and dirty and patched and ill-fitting. They don't shave before a game. Most of them chew tobacco. They spit out of the sides of their mouths and then wipe the backs of their hands across their shirt fronts. They're not afraid of anybody. - Frank Graham, New York Sun.

(I'm just looking for interesting tidbits. This part had a bio on Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig but of the information mentioned most of it is popular knowledge. So I don't see any use in repeating it. I'll keep playing, rewinding and putting the tape on pause if I hear something about someone that isn't common knowledge.)

Kevin Marquez

Friday, January 21, 2011

Giants History and More Ken Burns, Innings 5 & 6

Legend has it that owner/manager Jim Mutrie got so pumped up after a win over the Philadelphia Phillies, he yelled out, in addressing his team, "My big fellows! My Giants!"

The Gothams, as his team had been called, soon became the Giants.

Their home field was a series of Polo Grounds. The first one was located just north of Central Park next to 5th and 6th avenues and 110 and 112th streets. Later versions of the Polo Grounds were established in Harlem and Washington Heights.

In the 1933 World Series between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators, the Giants won the series 4-1. Game 5 was won on an extra inning home run by Hall of Famer Mel Ott off reliever, Jack Russell.

Of course, this past twenty ten (2010) season was won by the San Francisco (formerly New York) Giants over the Texas Rangers (formerly Washington Senators) 4 games to 1. Seventy-seven years later, history repeated itself. In the words of former This Week in Baseball voice, Mel Allen, "How about that!'
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Ken Burns' Baseball documentary......5th and 6th innings....

We'd play a whole game with one ball if it stayed in the park. Lopsided and black and full of tobacco juice and licorice stains. Pitchers used to have it all their way back then. Spitballs and emery balls and what not. Until 1921 they had a dead ball. The only way you'd get a home run was if the outfielder tripped and fell down. The ball wasn't wrapped tight and lots of times it'd get mashed on one side and came bouncing out of there like a Mexican jumping bean. They wouldn't throw it out of the game, though. We only used 3 or 4 balls in a whole game. Now they use 60 or 70. (name of narrator not given)

During the first twenty years of the 20th century great pitches ruled the game. They had an advantage unavailable to their successors. The moment a new ball was thrown onto the field part of every pitcher's job was to dirty it up. By turns they smeared it with mud, licorice, tobacco juice. It was deliberately scuffed, sandpapered, cut, even spiked. The result was a misshapened earth-colored ball that traveled through the air erratically. It tended to soften in the later innings. As it came over the plate it was very hard to see.

On August 16, 1920, Ray Chapman was hit by a Carl Mays pitch. The ball crushed the temple of Chapman as he was pronounced dead the next day.

The umpires had an order to replace a dirty ball with a clean one. AND that clean ball had been made livelier by winding more tightly the yarn within it.

Thus began the era of the home run.

(I feel like my date of birth, August 17, links me to the history of baseball. A game I love more than any other. It's placement, in the history of the game, is befitting.)
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"And maybe this story, which is probably apocryphal, gets to the heart of it. An Englishman and an American have an argument about something that has nothing to do with baseball. It gets to the point where it is irreconcilable, to the point of exasperation. And the American says to the Englishman, "Ahhh, screw the king!" And the Englishman is taken aback. Thinks for a minute and says, "Well, screw Babe Ruth!"

Now think about that.

The American thinks he can insult the Englishman by casting aspersions upon a person who has his position by virtue of nothing except for birth. Nothing to do with any personal qualities good, bad or otherwise. But who does the Englishman think embodies America? Some scruffy kid who came from the humblest of beginnings. Hung out as a 6-year old behind his father's bar. A big, badly flawed, swashbuckling palooka who strides with great spirit. Not just talent but with a spirit of possibility and an enjoyment of life across the American stage. That's an American to the Englishman. You give me Babe Ruth over any king who's ever sat on the throne and I'll be happy with that trade."
- Bob Costas

(I will try to add more excerpts from this documentary. I just began school, taking 5 courses. So the meantime, in-between time, the time between additions may be longer than what it has been up until now.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, January 14, 2011

Notes and Quotes... Mostly About Baseball

(From This Copyrighted Broadcast by Hank Greenwald)

Bill King came from Bloomington, Indiana. In his later years, Bill would be walking down the street and old ladies would mistake him for the devil.

(But boy could he paint the visual picture of an Oakland Raider or San Francisco/Golden State Warrior game.)

According to Hank: He had the ability to make you "see" through the radio what was coming next. He saw that two defenders were switching, and also that the switch had created a size mismatch for the offense.

He would alert his listeners to where the ball was likely to go. You were always a step ahead of the game when you listened to Bill. He never wasted words and always had the perfect ones to fit the occasion. He never attended college, but his vocabulary on and off the air was the envy of us all. He took basketball broadcasting to a higher level. He was the best.
The moments of excitement in a baseball game are very few. These must stand out in a broadcast. Your job is not to create excitement, your job is to capture it. Or you can do what I (Hank) did when the Giants were getting killed- start rooting for technical difficulties.
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In 1908, Moses Walker wrote a pamphlet, "Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America," that set forth in 48 well-written paages the case for African Americans giving up on the long-denied vision of equality in America.

The opportunity for advancement did not exist for Negroes, he wrote: "We see no possible hope that the Negro will ever secure the enjoyment of this social freedom or equality. Without it he can never expect full and complete development."

"The whole trouble is that the Creator had endowed His people with every power and means to attend to their own physical needs, and if they fail in the use of these faculties they may sit until the end of time waiting for outside help." from the book, Shades of Glory.
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Rayford Logan's "The Betrayal of the Negro," explains further...
By 1901, the nadir years as he terms it, blacks had clearly been assigned to their "ugly" place in American society.
"A terminal that seemed indestructable. On the pediment of the separate wing reserved for Negroes were carved Exploitation, Segregation, Disfranchisement, Lynching, Contempt."
Grant Johnson, a stellar shortstop at the turn of the century, in 1910, playing for the Havana Reds when they toured Cuba, batted .412. That was better than Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, two stars who played for the Detroit Tigers who were on the same tour. Also, catcher Bruce Petway threw Ty Cobb out three times in three attempts.

According to Grant Johnson there were two requisites to being a first-class hitter: confidence and fearlessness. From Johnson's perspective, any pitcher worth his salt would rather, when the game is on the line, "Face the mighty swinger vs. the cool steady batter who tries to meet the ball and place it to the best advantage."
Did you hear of Smoky Joe Wood or "Smokey Joe" Williams?

Smoky Joe, in 1912, with the Boston Red Sox had a won/loss record of 34-5, 1.91 ERA, 35-complete games, 10-shutouts and the World Series title. His lifetime record was 117-W, 57-L,
Career ERA: 2.03. He started 225 career games, completing 121. In 1952 career at-bats he batted .283. In 1918, as a member of the Cleveland Indians he hit: AB-422, R-41,5-HR, 66-RBI. And in 1922 he hit: AB-505, R-74, H-150, HR-8, RBI-92, AVG.-.297.

I'm learning as I type this, he became a full-time player and no longer pitched. Altogether, very reminiscent of Babe Ruth. Although nowhere near Ruthian in numbers. Very respectable numbers nonetheless.

Now for "Smokey Joe" Williams...The Daddy of them all. From the Lone Star state.
Historian Jim Riley points to three performance against major league clubs as showcasing Joe Willamses exceptional talent.

In 1912, Williams shut out the World Champion New York Giants, 6-0.

In 1915, he struck out 10 batters while throwing a 3-hit shutout against Grover Cleveland Alexander and the Philadelphia Phillies, winning 1-0.

In 1917, he recorded 20 strikeouts in a no-hitter against the New York Giants (he lost 1-0 on an error).

In 1926, pitching for the Homestead Grays in what should've been the waning years of a great career the 50-year old wonder, daddy of them all, pitched successive shutout victories over a team of major league all-stars in a post-season exhibition series. That team included such future Hall of Famers as Heinie Manush, Harry Heilmann (from San Francisco) and Jimmie Foxx.

Jim Keenan, owner of the Lincoln Giants, said the greatest pitching duel he ever witnessed was when Walter "Big Train" Johnson bested "Smokey Joe" Williams by a score of 1-0.

Williams was to the first half of black baseball what Satchel Paige was to the second, the dominant pitcher of his age. (Page was the first Negro League inductee into Cooperstown, NY, in 1973. Smokey Joe had to wait until 1999 to posthumously receive his due.) from Shades of Glory by Lawrence D. Hogan.

(from the documentary on Baseball by Ken Burns)

Why it's baseball, you ask? Because it is like charity. It is never failing. It is always there except on Mondays or wet grounds. And to the man who is too old to keep up with the attempt to civilize football and too young to need so soothing a sedative as golf, who works hard when he works, wants to rest hard when he rests. Who wants drama that is as full of surprises for the actors as it is for the audience. Who wants a race that cannot be fixed like a horse race. Why, is so genuine and American that he wants something to kick about without meaning it. And something to yell about everyone around him will think more of him for yelling about. To that man, baseball is the one great life saver in the good old summertime.
- Los Angeles Times

"Baseball suits the character of this democratic nation. Democracy is government by persuasion. That means it requires patience. That means it involves a lot of compromise. Democracy is the slow politics of the half level. Baseball is the game of the long season. Where small incremental differences decide who wins and who loses particular games, series, seasons. In baseball, you know going to the ballpark that the chances are you may win but you also may lose.
There's no certainty, no given. You know when a season starts that the best team is going to get beaten one-third of the time, the worst team is going to win one-third of the time, the argument over 162 games, is the middle third. So it's a game that you can't like if winning is everything. And democracy is that way too." George Will, columnist.

"George Stallings was the manager of the Miracle Braves of 1914, who went from last place on July 4th to win the pennant and eventually the World Series, against the highly-favored Athletics. When he was dying, and the story goes, one of the would-be, soon-to-be mourners, said, "George, what's killing you?" Stallings replied, "Bases on balls." - Studs Terkel

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Innings 3 and 4...Ken Burns film on Baseball

"August 2, 1907 was the first time I watched him take that easy windup and then something just went past that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him. Everyone of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose on a ballpark." Ty Cobb commenting on Walter "Big Train" Johnson.

"It was useless to try for more than one single. You had to poke and try and meet the ball. If you swung you were dead. After he told me he was afraid he might kill a hitter I used to cheat. I'd crowd the plate until I was actually sticking my toes on it. Knowing he would be timid that he'd pitch me wide, then with two balls and no strikes he'd ease one up to get one over. That's the Johnson pitch I would hit." - Ty Cobb

About Ty Cobb, one sportswriter once wrote, "He would climb a mountain to punch an echo."

"The cruelty of Cobb's style fascinated the multitudes. But it also alienated them. He played in a climate of hostility. Friendless by choice in a violent world he populated with enemies. He was the strangest of all our sports idols. But not even his disagreeable character could destroy the image of his greatness as a ballplayer. Ty Cobb was the best. That seemed to be all he wanted." - Jimmy Cannon

For years the so-called "Gentleman's agreement" among the owners had excluded 1/10 of the nations citizens from the playing field. (Not allowing blacks until 1947.)

The popularity of baseball was picking up amongst the masses. "Success" was now a home run! Crazy ideas-came out of left field. Inappropriate behavior was now- off base.

If you were a fielder you wanted to eat the ball up whenever it came your way. You didn't want the bad hop to eat you up.

"That's the way it is in baseball. A tough racket. There's always someone on the bench itching to get in there in your place. Thinks he can do better. Wants your job in the worst way. 'Back to the coal mines for you, pal.' The pressure never lets up. It doesn't matter what you did yesterday, that's history. It's tomorrow that counts. So you worry all the time. It never ends. Lord, baseball's a worrying thing. " - Stanley Coveleski (born Stanislaus Kowalewski).

Note: Stanley Coveleski was a Hall of Fame pitcher. Pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 1916-1924. Won 20-games four seasons in-a-row (1918-21). Then at the age of 35, found the fountain of youth as a member of the Washington Senators, he posted a 20-5 record in 1925.

(I will look at more film and make more contributions to this blog regarding Ken Burns' documentary on Baseball.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, January 7, 2011

Innings 1 and 2 Completed...(from Ken Burns' special)

"No one ever saw anything graceful or picturesque about Wagner on the diamond. His movements have been likened to the caracoling gambols of an elephant. He's so ungamely and so bow-legged that when he runs his limbs seem to be moving in a circle after the fashions of a propellar. But he could run like the wind." New York-American

Note: Honus Wagner had 723 career stolen bases. In a day when the strikeout was looked down upon, during his career "The Flying Dutchman" in 10,439 at-bats he walked 963 times and struck out 327.

Byron Bancroft "Ban" Johnson was the President of the newly formed American League. One writer described him as 'looking like he was weened on an icicle.'

The owner of the Third Base Saloon was Michael McGreevey. He was known as 'Nuf Ced' because he was the final arbiter of all barroom disputes. Customers, Irish immigrants mostly, called themselves the Royal Rooters and considered themselves the most loyal of all Boston fans though their loyalty had been comparatively new. They had been National League fans until the NL raised their ticket prices two years earlier.

In 1903, the Boston Pilgrims played against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the championship between the two leagues. The first between the AL and NL.

The Pirates took an early lead in the series (3-1) thanks to Deacon Phillippe, who won every game, beating Cy Young twice.

Then McGreevey and his Royal Rooters took over.
In those days, the fans were on the field. Kept off the field by a rope (similar to that at the movie theatres). So they were literally 'a part of the action.' (Certainly moreso than in today's game of baseball. Nowadays a heckler gets the attention of a player best when there is nobody at the park. Like a night game in Oakland when the Yankees or Red Sox aren't in town.)

'They started singing that Betsy song. Instead of singing "Betsy I love you madly," they'd sing special lyrics like when Honus Wagner came to bat they'd sing "Honus, why do you hit so badly?" It was loud and got on your nerves. Before we knew what had happened we lost the series." Tommy Leach (NL leader in triples with 22 in 1902)

Down 3-1, Boston won the next three games.

The games proved so popular that the owners insisted on calling it the World Series.
"Philadelphia is the home of the Declaration of Independence, the number 8 pretzel, and the translucent ham sandwich, all of which are served at the Ball Orchard. A slice of boiled ham through which an eclipse of the sun could be observed with comfort, is stretched to cover the area of a baker's bun. A sustenance derived from the ham is equal to that of a similar portion of a red toy balloon inflated." - the Sporting News

Bad food and overpriced drinks have been served at the ballpark since the 1850s. British-born Harry M. Stevens began his career hawking scorecards in the 1880s. Then on one cold afternoon when ice cream sales slowed at the Polo Grounds, Stevens sent out for German sausages which he put in long buns so fans could hold and eat them. He had made his greatest contribution to the game introducing hot dogs at the ball game.

George Edward "Rube" Waddell
He possessed a fastball fearsome enough and a curveball wicked enough to lead the American League in strikeouts for 6 straight years.

In one game, he outpitched Cy Young for 20 innings!

His 349 strikeouts in 1904 is a record for left-handers in the American League. Closest challenger to the record is Sam McDowell and his 325 in 1965.

Waddell was considered one of the strangest players in baseball history. He would:
- do cartwheels on the mound when he won a game
- drink so much that the Sporting News called him a "Souced paw."
- poured ice water on his throwing arm before he pitched otherwise 'he'd burn up the catcher's glove.'
- couldn't quite remember how many wives he had
- loved fires. Whenever he heard the fire bell he had to be restrained from leaving the game. To follow the truck ringing the bell.
- fans loved him. (Can you blame them?)

(thanks to Ken Burns' documentary on Baseball, I got these notes.)

Kevin J. Marquez