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Did You Know?
Counting managers and executives, the New York Yankees have more Hall of Famers (30) than any other team, followed by the New York Giants (21) and Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals (19 each) . . .
The Yankees of 1931-33 had a record 10 players reach Cooperstown . . .
On July 9, 1932, Ben Chapman hit three homers – two of them inside-the-park – as the Yankees beat the Tigers 14-9 at Yankee Stadium . . .
The 2002 All-Star Game, at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, ended in a 7-7 tie because both teams ran out of pitchers . . .
The first All-Star shutout occurred in 1940, when the Nationals blanked the Americans, 4-0, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis . . .
The only position players age 40 or more who pitched: Ichiro Suzuki and Erik Kratz . . .
Phillies backup catcher Rafael Marchan never homered in 184 at-bats in the minors but hit one in the majors in its fifth at-bat: a three-run shot that tied a game . . .
Pitcher Jack Quinn was a week away from his 47th birthday when he homered in 1930.
My Father’s Glove
By John Rosengren
[This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Minnesota Magazine.]
Shortly before he died, my dad gave me his baseball glove. It’s one of those big leather blobs with thick fingers, a Wilson model maybe 70 years old. On the band of leather that wrapped around his wrist, my dad had etched his name, BILL ROSENGREN. All caps. The “B” and “R” have the flourish of his creative side (the former Minnesota Daily cartoonist); the other letters display his impeccable penmanship (the dutiful law student). He used a wood-burning tool whose mark would endure longer than a pen’s ink. The glove, worn and aged, has preserved his personality.
I imagine the glove new: dark brown, aromatic leather. My dad, 13, 14 years old, tenderly rubbing oil into the pocket. I picture that boy – the skinny kid with short blond hair I know from black-and-white photographs – scooping ground balls with that lumpy glove, clapping his free hand over the pocket to trap the ball.
He played in a park near Minnehaha Falls. A road has since erased the field, but his stories about the games linger. My favorite is of the kid who slugged a ball that crashed into the popcorn cart past left field, breaking glass and scattering players — except for the batter, who gleefully rounded the bases before fleeing the popcorn vendor.
In another photograph, this one from the early ‘50s, my dad poses with his Navy shipmates in baseball uniforms, the glove resting on his knee. He played second base in a tournament against Alaskan teams during his ship’s tour. I hardly recognize the young man – front row, second from the left – with several days’ growth of beard. As my father, he was always clean-shaven. I marvel that he had lived almost half of his life before I knew him.
Pondering that glove today, I’m curious about the time he bought it, probably with money from his paper route. Was he one of the first among his buddies to have a glove? One of the last? When someone dies, things we never thought to ask assume a sudden importance and stoke in us a desire to know, as though that knowing would bring the lost one closer to us, would ease the separation brought by death, soften its permanence.
This ache to know our parents often visits us too late. Yet had it come earlier for me, I’m not sure it would have been satisfied. My dad was a difficult man to get to know, a Swede who could go long stretches without speaking. Born in 1934, he was native to a generation of men who did not discuss their emotions. He shared some memories but not about his father, who disappeared on drinking binges; not about his mother, bitter about working to pay her husband’s gambling debts. So often, that’s the way it is. We’re left with a view from the outside wishing we could know what it was like inside.
Today, I pick the glove off the shelf and slide my hand into it. Part of the beauty of an old leather glove is the way it shapes to one’s hand, formed by so many days of sunshine and sweat. The glove does not fit me the way it did my dad. It’s stiff in places, short in the fingers, wide in the palm.
I’m surprised to feel deep inside the fingers, the leather has broken open and the ragged edges chafe my skin. The exposed padding is soft, tender. It seems I have stumbled upon a secret, something intimate I had not known. Maybe my dad knew I would, and this was his way of letting me glimpse what it had been like to be him.
Postscript: After this essay appeared in the University of Minnesota alumni magazine, a sports broadcaster for a local television station taped a segment about me and my dad's glove for the evening news. The essay and news segment prompted several people to contact me to tell me the stories of their fathers' old gloves. My favorite was from the guy whose father, a lieutenant on a World War II tank-landing ship, had lent his first baseman's mitt to one of his men for a pickup game when they stopped at Bikini atoll in 1945. Fifty years later, the man returned the glove to the son.
John Rosengren is a Pulitzer nominee and the author of 10 books, including “Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes” and “The Fight of their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball’s Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption." His e.mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday Night Baseball: a Bad Idea That’s Getting Worse
By Dan Schlossberg
Sunday night baseball is a bad idea.
Sunday Night Baseball is worse.
And the latest ESPN attempt at coverage is an absolute abomination.
First of all, baseball was meant to be played on a sunny summer afternoon — and never at night on Sunday.
For one thing, there are almost no games scheduled for after dark on Sunday, forcing ESPN to exercise its version of eminent domain and “claim a game,” per contractural agreement with Major League Baseball.
Whichever game is claimed won’t have coverage in the Monday morning papers in the Eastern and Central Time Zones, where two-thirds of the American people live.
As a result, the standings, league leaders, and other items of import to baseball fans everywhere won’t be up to date.
Secondly, there’s more competition for the entertainment dollar on Sunday night than any other night of the week. Ratings are down, just as attendance is down, and Sunday night baseball is a leading factor.
To make matters worse, ESPN has decided to compete against itself by launching a “special presentation” that will be a direct competitor to eight of its 25 usual Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts.
The new show, called Sunday Night Baseball with Kay-Rod, features Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. They’ll be on site for some of their games and “live from their home studios” for others. That means ESPN will perpetrate the Covid-inspired concept of television remotes that routinely deprive viewers of seeing all the action.
Frankly, I’d rather bring back Les Keiter, who re-created games on WINS after the New York Giants left for San Francisco, or even Ronald Reagan, whose stellar work on Cubs games for Des Moines radio station WHO sparked his movie career.
Not surprisingly, the press release issued by ESPN touted Rodriguez as a three-time MVP and author of 696 home runs but never mentioned the Biogenesis steroids scandal that snared A-Rod or the 162-game suspension certain to keep him out of Cooperstown.
At least ESPN is batting .333 on the main game, where Karl Ravech is a tested talent and a major improvement over Matt Vasgersian. But his supporting cast of ex-players David Cone and Eduardo Perez will make viewers miss Jessica Mendoza and Tim Kurkjian.
Moreover, there’s an oppressively-heavy Yankee flavor to the entire ESPN cast, with Cone and Kay still active broadcasters in the Bronx and Rodriguez best-remembered for his time in pinstripes.
The fact that ESPN’s press release promises to pack its schedule with “highest-profile rivalry games, including Yankees vs. Red Sox” presents a glaring conflict of interest.
At least the network will be doing less weekday telecasts. Its 31st year of Sunday Night Baseball doesn’t hold much promise.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been watching baseball since 1957, when there were three networks and no color television. He now covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, and more. His e.mail is email@example.com.
When the 2020 Yankees hit five home runs in an inning – on 14 pitches – against Toronto reliever Chase Anderson on Sept. 17, 2020, four of them came on first pitches . . .
The 2020 Miami Marlins were the only team to lose two September games by at least 15 runs yet still reach the postseason . . .
Also in the 2020 postseason was a payroll disparity of $131.7M between World Series opponents Dodgers ($210.4) and Rays ($78.7) . . .
Dodgers president Andrew Friedman in 2020: “Payrolls don’t decide the standings. I think we see evidence of that every ear. I think having a deep and talented roster, regardless of what your payroll is, is the key to winning games.”
Brett Phillips, who had a game-winning hit for Tampa Bay vs. Los Angeles in the 2020 World Series, hadn’t had a hit in a month, hadn’t had an at-bat in 2½ weeks, had hit under .200 three straight years, never got a postseason hit, never had a walkoff in theregular season, and was the only man to hit under .200 during regular season and get a hit as the last batter of a World Series walk-off win (Game 4, Oct 24, 2020); he had five runs batted in during the regular season.
Know Your Editors
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.