Friday, April 24, 2015

Fortunately the Umpire Has Been Around

The play in Wednesday night's 3-2 Giant victory in which Brandon Belt singled Gregor Blanco over to third base from second base that Don Mattingly felt was Interference by a Coach was correctly not ruled as interference by Fieldin Culbreth. It was fortunate for the Giants that Culbreth has been around because had he been the ump who called balls and strikes on Wednesday (Manny Gonzalez) it may have been a different story.

I was at the game and when Belt rapped a line drive to a pulled-in Andre Ethier, I immediately looked to Blanco (number 7) and watched what he was doing. He didn't hesitate. He stopped at third base. Roberto Kelly, a newcomer at the third base coaching gig, just got caught up in the moment and stood too close to the bag. Now, I understand it could still have been perceived as interference but there was absolutely no intent. And Culbreth got the call right. I couldn't believe Mattingly moaned and groaned on that call. He was the one who orchestrated bringing Yasiel Puig in from right field to third base when Joe Panik was up to bat. There were only 2 outfielders and the one with the best arm was the guy he moved to third base. Just so happens Panik hits a high fly ball to right-centerfield, not deep but deep enough for Blanco to score on Joc Pederson's arm. But had it been Puig the game may very well have gone extra-innings. That was what cost Mattingly the game. His bonehead re-alignment of his players.

Rule 7.09(h) states "It is interference by a batter or a runner when (in the judgment of an umpire) the basecoach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base."

Seems the new, unknown umpires have a need to "be known" when calls like this occur on their watch. Who can forget the time when Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Giant's batter Dick Dietz had failed to make an attempt to get out of the way of a Don Drysdale pitch that would have forced a run home and ended Drysdale's consecutive scoreless innings streak? It was such a ludicrous call that to this day I still think it is in the Top 3 of all-time worst calls by an umpire.

(Note: The coup de grace was reading how Wendelstedt used to hound Tommy Lasorda for tickets to events that Lasorda had access to. It just proved that Wendelstedt enjoyed the limelight and was the perfect candidate for pulling off a shenanigan like the one he did in a 1968 game at Dodger Stadium. He was on a stage and took full advantage of that moment, the BUM!)

Sure, it's a wild hair in my nose. I remember first learning about the game of baseball when the umpires were: Al Barlick, Foghorn Bradley, Ollie Chill, Nestor Chylak, Jocko Conlan, Shag Crawford, Satch Davidson, Augie Donatelli, Billy Evans, Lee Fyfe, Tom Gorman, Doug Harvey, Jim Honochick, Alamazoo Jennings, Bill Klem, Bill Kunkel, Stan Landes, Bill McGowan, John P. McSherry, E. Durwood Merrill, Edward M. Montague, Larry Napp, Jerry Neudecker, Hank O'Day, Orval Overall, Chris Pelekoudas, Frank Pulli, Dutch Rennert, Edward P. Runge, Paul Runge, Al Salerno, Marty Springstead, Dick Stello, Ed Sudol, Terry Tata, Ed Vargo, Lee Weyer, and Emmett Ashford.

These were the backbone of the umpiring fraternity. Guys who made the call and there were no if's, ands, or buts. Not like today with all this apparent need to be captured on film and shown over and over on ESPN until you want to puke.

If you don't see someone on this list, like Bruce Froemming, it's because I didn't like his style. This is my list of names I saw mentioned in a book on baseball or how I remember their flash, style, and grace between the foul lines. This is my list and it's personal. I respect the game and those players who gave their all only to have some skibozo squelch their moment of glory by blowing an otherwise obvious call.

(thanks to Wikipedia for the ability to look up and find the former umpires who made this game as great as it is despite the camera hogs.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, April 17, 2015

It's Only April

This is not your 2014 San Francisco Giants. The roster has had some changes. We don't have a Panda playing third base and we don't have a suspect left fielder who when he came to bat it was Morse, Morse, Morse. But as with every season, you have changes. And it takes time to find the right mixture of players to make it through the long, six month season, that you push to make into the seventh month.

It doesn't appear the Giants will have a repeat of the Barry Bonds 2001 season or Willie Mays in 1965 in which they both belted 17 homers in one month. (Bonds hit his in May, Mays hit his in August)
But something else will happen that will surely put them among the National League's elite.

After what I've seen in 2010, 2012, and 2014, I will not count a Bochy-led bunch out of any race, unless they are mathematically eliminated. (Note: Of the 8 home runs allowed by Giants' pitching, 4 have been 3-run homers and one was a grand slam. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Monday, April 6, 2015

People Who Listen to Baseball Games on the Radio Will Miss You, Lon Simmons

1958-1962 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill King
1963-1964 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons
1965-1968 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson
1969 KSFO (560 AM) Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson, Bill Rigney*
1970-1971 KSFO (560 AM) Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson, Russ Hodges**
1972-1973 KSFO (560 AM) Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson
1974-1975 KSFO (560 AM) Al Michaels, Art Eckman
1976 KSFO (560 AM) Al Michaels, Lon Simmons
1977-1978 KSFO (560 AM) Lon Simmons, Joe Angel

Lon did San Francisco 49er games from 1957-1980 and 1987 to 1988. He left the Giants to broadcast Oakland A's games from 1981-1995. I always felt like the Giants got what they deserved when the A's swept the Giants and Lon got to call a World Series champion when KSFO cut him lose without 'splainin' themselves.

His call of Jim Marshall 'running the wrong way' at Kezar Stadium in a 49ers vs. Vikings game was vintage Lon. Or his description of Steve Young 'getting away again' through the ravaged Viking defense to score a 49-yard touchdown in 1988 in what was an amazing run. I should know, I (along with schoolmate Alan Kern) was there!

I used to enjoy the way he would teach me about a player's strengths and how the real good players would turn a weakness into a strength because they were students of the game. They were always looking for ways to be one step ahead of their opponent. Like if they knew the pitcher was throwing to the outside corner, to shade that batter in that direction anticipating the whereabouts of the ball once the batter swung.

Of course, there were always the exceptions to the rule when a batter hit the ball off the end of his bat and the ball squibbed in an unlikely direction. But that was baseball. You learned to accept the unexpected especially when your home field was Candlestick Park.

As one who tunes into the radio to follow a baseball game I miss those announcers who paint the word picture. To me, it IS better than being at the game. I can keep score and tell you exactly what happened because as a listener, a fan of his spoken word, I remembered it as if it were something I myself had written down. And the more I listened to what he had to say I too could anticipate a word or two and just be in sync with whatever story he was telling his audience.

Thanks for the memories Lon. You did the game right.

Kevin J. Marquez