Tough To Say Goodbye to Sports Heroes
ALSO: NEW PAPERBACK FEATURES 2021 WORLD CHAMPION ATLANTA BRAVES
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Did you know…
Rachel Balkovec, the first female manager in professional baseball, is a former softball star and Phoenix waitress with two master’s degrees and dreams of being a GM. She’s learned Spanish during ger 10-year career in organized ball but is making a mistake by promising loud music in her clubhouse. Someone certainly will be offended . . .
Despite two AL pennants, the Texas Rangers never won a World Series. They lost in 2010 to SF and 2011 to St. Louis, even though they were twice one strike away from a world championship. The resilient Cards won Game 6 in 11 innings and won Game 7 the following day . . .
Corey Seager has missed 231 games over the last three full seasons, so why did the Rangers give him a 10-year, $325 million deal? Seager will now be testing his oft-injured back on Astroturf . . .
Trevor Bauer, cleared by legal authorities in LA, is still likely to be suspended by MLB.
Atlanta organization man Brian Snitker, manager of the World Champion Braves: “I’ll take every picture, I’ll sign every autograph. I waited 45 years to do this. I won’t turn anything down.”
Entering the final year of their contracts in 2022 are future Hall of Fame managers Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, and Joe Maddon.
Sports, Heroes, and Saying "Good Bye"
By Paul Semendinger
I really try to always look at the bright side. I really, really, really do.
There is so much good, all around, if we look for it.
But today, I'm feeling a bit melancholy because in my sports world things are changing, and changing so fast that the landscape, in some ways, at least, will never be the same.
It seems now all but certain that Spring Training will be delayed because of the lockout. This makes me angry and frustrated and very disappointed in Major League Baseball. This is just horrible and infuriating news.
But my thoughts and feelings are elsewhere... as the finality of a career hits home because a player, a great player, and a player whose career will never be matched, recently said goodbye to his sport.
A few weeks ago, Tom Brady announced his retirement from football.
My son Ethan's favorite player in football is (was) Tom Brady. Brady's career was so legendary and so great that he played until Ethan was 23-years-old. That's amazing. It's not often in one's life that his sports hero from his youth plays until he is a grown adult.
How old were you when your sports hero retired?
My favorite player, as so many know, was Graig Nettles. I was 20 years old when he retired, but it wasn’t the same. For me, Nettles' career ended in the spring of 1984 when the Yankees traded him to the San Diego Padres. I was fifteen. Once Nettles was traded, all the way to California, I lost the ability to follow his career, except from afar. There were no Padres games on TV. There was no inter-league play. And back then, not even all the Mets games were televised. I enjoyed one last hurrah watching my baseball playing hero when the Padres reached the post season in 1984, but for all intents and purposes, it was all over.
And, after 1984, even if I saw him, Graig Nettles didn't play much. He was relegated to pinch hitting duties. Nettles’ greatness had passed. Seeing one’s favorite player as a shell of the player he used to be is sad. In the end, when Nettles reached the Braves, I did see him occasionally as a bench player/pinch-hitter on SuperStation TBS.
But it wasn’t the same. That Graig Nettles wasn’t diving for line drives and hitting homers to win games for the Yankees - or any other team.
It wasn't like that for Tom Brady and Ethan.
Ethan got to see his favorite player remaining at the top of his game. Right to the end. The very end. Ethan could also watch Tom Brady whenever he wanted. The Buccaneers were often on TV. Highlights were everywhere.
And Tom Brady was always in the post season.
And now it's over.
And it hurts a little.
Even for me.
I’m sad that Tom Brady plays no longer.
When a player retires and goes away, it signifies the end of something special. When it's your hero, or a player you love to watch, something inside goes missing. When that player was the hero of your youth, that missing element can never be replaced.
As we get older, as we mature, we don't root for players or hold them in hero status like we do when we're young. We just don't. We become wiser. The magical, special, and somewhat undefined feelings we have for a player change. We can appreciate great players, but as we mature, the players are less superheroes and more just great athletes. Yeah, I rooted for Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera (three of my favorites) but I never loved them inside the way I loved Graig Nettles. I enjoyed watching Bernie and company. I admired their talents. I thrilled in their play and basked in their victories and championships, but I didn't have the same emotions for them that I did for Nettles (or Guidry or Reggie or Thurman...)
Watching Tom Brady, Ethan had a special chance to root for a player and find a way to continue to keep and maintain that special feeling of childhood alive longer than most - that feeling of "He just has to win, he has to, he's my hero." A true fan of a player will understand.
Somewhere as we grow-up, we realize that these athletes are just people, but still somewhere inside as they still play, as our heroes continue to excel, we retain a small bit of our own childhood, the magic that comes from when we first begin rooting for a sport or a player or a team.
As Tom Brady retires, Ethan now loses that little something.
And that makes me sad.
There is good news because through the magic of fatherhood, a dad can almost recapture those same feelings of awe and majesty and wonder through his children. I got to live those feelings until now, 53-years-old, through Ethan and Tom Brady, the last sports heroes from any of my sons' childhoods to retire.
The way we root for teams and players and sports isn't always logical, but it is special and it's fun... and it's wonderful. I loved rooting for Tom Brady with Ethan. I knew how magical and special it was for him to grow-up watching greatness.
As Brady walks away, I know that there’s an emptiness in Ethan’s sport’s heart that will never be filled. I feel it to, albeit differently.
Nothing lasts forever, but this almost seemed like it might.
I wonder (someday) if grandparents can find that same magic, one last time, rooting along with a grandchild for a favorite player for decades and decades….
I look forward to the days when I can find out.
Dr. Paul Semendinger of Ridgewood, NJ is the principal of the greatest elementary school in the world. He is also the author of The Least Among Them, Scattering the Ashes, and Impossible is an Illusion. Even at 53 years old, Paul is still playing baseball - in two senior leagues — primarily as a pitcher. He is patiently waiting (very patiently waiting) for the Yankees to offer him a professional contract to pitch for the big club. When the call comes, he'll be ready. You can follow Paul's writing at startspreadingthenews.blog and wwwdrpaulsem.com. On Twitter he is @DrPaulRSem.
World Championship Edition of When the Braves Ruled the Diamond To Reach Bookstores Soon
By Dan Schlossberg
The big box of books that arrived on my doorstep the other day was a brief respite from the desolation of baseball’s nuclear winter.
Inside were copies of my paperback book When the Braves Ruled the Diamond: 2021 World Championship edition, which has an official publication date of 2-22-22.
Originally published in 2016 and updated three years later, it is now a 325-page book that traces the 14-year title streak of the Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005 but also brings readers up-to-date with details on the team’s multiple successes since.
Complete with a forward from Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, who wrote it before suffering a debilitating stroke, the volume includes Opening Day lineups, multiple sidebars of significant information, and details of post-season play good and bad.
There are also reprints of Braves baseball cards from the Topps archives, lists of award winners who played for the team, and a special section on the six stalwarts from the streak who reached the Hall of Fame and another half-dozen who should be considered.
Written and revised immediately after Atlanta humbled Houston in a six-game World Series, the book also includes anecdotes and photographs from the 2021 postseason.
It is the only book that provides details of the streak — the team equivalent of Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive games playing streak — on a year-to-year basis.
Each chapter is divided into two sections: the season and the postseason. There are also chapters on key personalities involved in the streak, from Cox and general manager John Schuerholz to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Chipper Jones — all now comfortably in Cooperstown — plus Leo Mazzone, who should be.
Cox, Smoltz, and Mazzone were the only three men who wore Braves jerseys through the entirety of the 14-year run.
Nearly a half-dozen other titles on the surprise world championship of 2021 have also hit the market. They include a $40 lavishly-illustrated oversized hardcover from Skybox Press called Unstoppable; the Official Atlanta Braves World Series Championship Commemorative Book; Against All Odds: the Atlanta Braves’ Improbable Journey to the 2001 World Series, a 128-page joint venture of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Triumph Books; A-Town Crowned, Atlanta Braves World Series Champions — a Story 26 Years in the Making, from KCI Sports Publishing; World Champions, an 80-page magazine from Lindy’s Sports Collectors; and a Sports Illustrated special edition called Grind It Out, also an 80-pager bursting with beautiful color photography.
But the best souvenir of all could be the official World Series video, an hour-and-a-half video from the Shout! studio and MLB Productions available on Amazon for $11.99.
It includes the excitement, drama and memorable moments from the 2021 World Series®. This program has highlights from Atlanta’s postseason run and bonus features, including regular-season memorable moments and “how they got there.”
Each of these souvenirs is distinctly different and a true Braves fan may want them all. I know I did — and don’t regret that decision for one minute during this winter without end.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg writes and talks baseball from his base in Northern New Jersey, 18 miles from New York City. The author of 40 books on the game, he writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and more. His e.mail is email@example.com and website is www.DanSchlossberg.net.
Brian Snitker on Atlanta’s 2022 roster: “Every year is different, every team is different. Alex [Anthopoulos] does a great job when he gets guys, looking at their makeup and how a guy will fit in. We worked really hard the last few years to make that clubhouse what it is. It’s a really good place to fit in. People see that when they look across the diamond, they see the energy and how the guys play the game and they want to be part of it. I look at the 14-year run of division titles and I’m not sure there were less than 10 new guys on every team. The core was always there but there were a lot of new faces.
“I started making notes about the spring a week after the World Series. I think we need four weeks [of spring training] to actually get the players where we want them.”
Spring training generates $644 million for Arizona, according to a new economic study, citing bars and restaurants that make 60 per cent of their annual business during the six-week training period.
Don & Charlie’s, a Scottsdale restaurant that attracted baseball personalities from 1981-2019 and catered the Giants lunch room, had 4,000 pieces of sports memorabilia lining its walls and ceilings. Bud Selig loved the place.
“We’ve had interruptions before,” said former owner Don Carson, “and they are devastating for anybody who lives in the State of Arizona. Everybody looks forward to seeing baseball but more importantly, it’s for the economical survival of many businesses. It would be like taking Xmas and Thanksgiving away from the retail business.”
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.