Monday, December 24, 2012

ML"what would"B: What if Ryan & Seaver Had Never Left the Mets 12/24/12

Hey baseball fans!

I put up another ML"what would"B post on More Than A Fan. In every ML"what would"B alternative history post, I discuss what would have happened if a famous event in baseball history had gone differently than it did in reality. For my latest post, I wondered what would have happened if Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver had stayed with the New York Mets for their whole careers. If you want to know the answer, just click here.

Hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it!  Happy holidays and new year to everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

He's Not Malicious, He's Hal-icious 12/22/12

Hey baseball fans!

Today's blog will be about one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, which would explain why he is currently in the Hall of Fame. This pitcher pitched a majority of his career with the Detroit Tigers. His name is Hal Newhouser.

Hal pitched for the Tigers and Indians from 1939-1955. A seven-time All Star and a World Series champion in 1945, Newhouser's career record was 207-150 with a career ERA of 3.06. He also struck out 1,796 batters. I know those stats don't sound Hall of Fame-worthy, but just listen to what he did from 1944-1949: a record of 136-57, an ERA of 2.52, and 1,137 strikeouts! If he played like that his entire career, he might have been known as the best pitcher in baseball history! Anyway, going back to his career, he won two AL MVP Awards back to back in '44 and '45 and placed second in the MVP voting behind Ted Williams in 1946. In case you're wondering, he didn't win the Cy Young Award in those years because that award didn't start until 1956.

After retirement, Newhouser was a scout for the Astros, Orioles, Indians, and Tigers. In 1991, while with the Astros, Hal was credited with the discovery of  Derek Jeter, whom the Astros passed over for Phil Nevin in the 1991 draft. After Jeter went to the Yanks (thank you!), Newhouser quit his job with the Astros, because they ignored his advice about Jeter. A year later, 37 years after his retirement, Hal got into the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee. It was long overdue, but Detroit fans were happy nonetheless.

So, what have we learned from Prince Hal? We have learned that just because you didn't have the best pitching record, doesn't mean that you won't get into the Hall. So kids, don't strive to win 300 games in the bigs. Just strive to do well and have fun.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roy to the World of Pittsburgh 12/19/12

Hey baseball fans!

Today's blog is about the pitcher who holds the record for the best single-season winning percentage in baseball history. He is known to some as Elroy.

It was October of 1959. Pirates fans everywhere were disappointed at their team for not winning the pennant and only going 78-76. There was, however, one bright spot during that year for Bucs fans: Roy Face! Who is Roy Face, you ask? Only the pitcher with the highest single-season winning percentage ever! That year, he went 18-1 with a 2.70 ERA. His winning percentage that year was .947, the best of all time (like I said before).  Sadly for Roy, his great year didn't earn him an MVP (he finished 8th) or Cy Young Award (he got zero votes).

Face didn't have the greatest of careers though, only going 104-95 in 16 years with a 3.48 ERA and a .523 winning percentage. However, he went 18-1 in 1959 AS A RELIEVER!!! That's how bad of a pitching rotation the Pirates had in 1959. He was the first modern closer in MLB history, and became the first pitcher to save more than 20 games in multiple seasons. He ended his career with 193 saves. It just goes to show that you can be a reliever and still make an impact on your team's wins and losses.

Shout-out to my friend Coach Moore for giving me the idea to write about Face. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An Interview with the Hall of Fame President 12/16/12

Hey baseball fans!

I have another interview for you! This time, I interviewed National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum President Jeff Idelson! I talked to him a couple of days ago and he was a very nice and friendly guy. Click here to see the Hall of Fame's website. Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about Jeff:

Idelson began his involvement in baseball in junior high and high school as a vendor at Fenway Park, the home of the Red Sox. He went on to become an intern in the public relations department of the Sox from 1986 through 1988. Also, during that time, Jeff produced games for the Red Sox Radio Network. After that, he became the New York Yankees' director of media relations and publicity from 1989-1993.

In 1994, he served on the 1994 (Soccer) World Cup committee. Also in that year, Jeff joined the Hall of Fame Museum on September 26th and was appointed director of public relations and promotions. In 1999, he was named the Hall of Fame's Vice President of Communications and Education. On April 16, 2008, Jeff Idelson was named the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. All in all, Jeff knows a lot about baseball history. Well, that's some background on the HoF Museum Prez, so without further ado, here's the interview:

Matt: As the President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, what is the favorite part about your job?
Jeff: Everything about my job is equally fun. Working with the staff and meeting Hall of Famers is a good time for me.

Matt: What major sports did you follow and play as a kid?
Jeff: I played baseball and basketball and I followed mainly baseball, basketball, and hockey. I followed football a little.

Matt: I know that you were on the 1994 World Cup organizing committee. Who was your favorite soccer player in that World Cup? Who is your favorite soccer player today?
Jeff: During the World Cup that year, I fell in love with the Brazilian team. They won the Cup that year. There was this one forward on the team named Bebeto who I really like. Now, I don’t really follow soccer because I'm so involved in baseball. I guess Ronaldo would be my favorite player today.

Matt: I saw that you produced games for the Red Sox Radio Network in 1987 and 1988. If you were to broadcast any game in the Red Sox history, which one would it be?
Jeff: I think it would have to be the last game of the 1903 World Series, where the Sox became the first team to win the modern World Series. It would also be fun to broadcast the last game of the ’04 World Series because of the Red Sox reversing the Curse of the Bambino.

Matt: Who is your favorite ballplayer of all time?
Jeff: I would say Jackie Robinson because he was the most influential. He opened up the sporting world to a whole new level.  He also made the United States a better country. He helped lay the foundation for Martin Luther King Jr. (Click here if you want to find out more about Jackie Robinson and click here to see an interview I did with his chief historian.)

Matt: Which are your favorite ballparks of all time?
Jeff: They would have to be Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Ebbets Field (see picture below). They’re all such memorable parks with such rich history.

Matt: What is your favorite World Series of all time?
Jeff: I think the 2001 World Series is my favorite because of how much drama there was. If two World Series games in a row go into extra innings, that specific Fall Classic is going to be memorable. The Hall actually has the bat that Luis Gonzalez used to hit the ball off Mariano Rivera to win that World Series (see below picture of Jeff with the bat). It's pretty cool.

Matt: When you joined the Hall of Fame Museum in 1994, there was a baseball strike. Did it affect the Museum in any way?
Jeff: Definitely. Attendance went way down for the next couple of years because there were no games to watch, meaning no history. Baseball was in a stage where it wasn't really America's national pastime. In those years, it was probably football. Baseball did resume its popularity soon after the strike, however.

Matt: What is your favorite artifact in the Hall? What artifact do you wish the Hall of Fame had?
Jeff: I really like the Jackie Robinson jersey that we have and the bat that the Babe used to hit his called shot. Another cool artifact in the Hall is Tim Robbins’ jersey from the movie “Bull Durham”. He was a pitcher in that movie and the movie is very famous. Some artifacts I wish we had in the Hall are the ball Bobby Thomson hit to win the ’51 pennant for the Giants and another one is the ball Carlton Fisk hit to win Game 6 of the ’75 World Series. That hit is pretty memorable. A cool artifact I wish we had was Ed Delahanty’s (see below) train ticket that he used to get on the train that he got kicked off of because of misbehavior. The train was going to the U. S. from Canada. After being kicked off, Ed tried to cross the train tracks separating the U. S. from Canada and he fell into Niagara Falls. Ed's plaque is currently in the Hall of Fame, but the ticket is in the bottom of Niagara Falls. That event happened in 1903.

Matt: Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know?
Jeff: I was a DJ for three years and I used to play rock music. I loved the British Invasion music, like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Who. (Check out more bands from the British Invasion and more by clicking here.)

Matt: Part of the Hall of Fame’s mission is education and connecting generations. Do you have any suggestions on how to educate the younger generation of baseball fans about baseball history?
Jeff: We do it all the time. The Hall goes to schools in all 50 states each year and educates the kids about baseball history and other subjects. We also have a scavenger hunt for kids at the Museum where they can collect baseball cards. It’s pretty cool.

Well, that's the interview. Shout-out to Jeff (see picture of him below) for taking the time to let me interview him. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I had doing it. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Interview with the Official Historian for MLB 12/14/12

Hey baseball fans!

I just received the answers to the interview questions that I sent to.... John Thorn, the Official Historian for Major League Baseball! Thorn was appointed Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball by the Commissioner on March 1, 2011. He has written books like "Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame" and "The Hidden Game of Baseball". In June, 2006, he was awarded SABR's (Society of American Baseball Research) top award: the Bob Davids Award. In 2004, Thorn discovered documents that traced baseball back to 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts! That's about 70 years before people say that baseball actually was invented! I think I've said too much about John already, so here's the interview:

Matt: What is your favorite World Series ever?
John: Of the ones I have witnessed in real life, 1960, because of the great upset that a Pirates victory represented and how thoroughly they were knocked around in the three games they lost. I have to mention 1986, too, because of my rooting interest in the Mets and the implausibility of their comeback from the brink of defeat in Game 6, particularly. Game Six of the 2011 Series was an alltime classic, too, as was Game Six in 1975. Of the World Series I have seen in my mind only, I'll go with 1912, the only Series ever to conclude with a final-inning comeback in a final game. There, you asked for one and I gave you five; sue me.

Matt: Who do you think are the three best hitters and three best pitchers in baseball history?
John: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds; Walter Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux--and not necessarily in that order for either category.

Matt:What do you think are the top three moments in baseball history?
John: Defining moments as singular events, I must eliminate Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as well as any season-long performances, or granting of MVP or Cy Young Awards.. 1947: Jackie Robinson integrates the game. 1951: A pennant turns on a single swing of Bobby Thomson's bat. 1975: Carlton Fisk's home run that reminded a nation, at a time when the game seemed to be slipping, of baseball's unique combination of excitement and suspense.

Matt: What is your favorite artifact in the Hall of Fame and what artifact do you wish they had?
John: Favorite artifact: the Gotham Base Ball Club pin of the 1850s. Artifact I wish they had: the Gotham Base Ball Club pin of the 1850s. This pin was lost in the 1990s during one of the Hall's periodic exhibit reconstructions. Here's what I wrote recently about the pin: To give an idea of how large a story a small artifact may tell, and how rich in association it may prove, allow me to tell you of a baseball pin no larger than a dime, along with a common nursery tale. “Three wise men of Gotham went to sea in a bowl,” went the Mother Goose rhyme; “and if the bowl had been stronger, then my rhyme had been longer.” Mother Goose's Histories or Tales of Passed Times was first published in London about 1775, based upon English and French sources, including Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma mère l’Oye (1695). There is more to this tale, but I will stop here for now, fearing that I may try your patience.

Matt: What's your favorite ballpark in baseball history?
John: The Ebbets Field is the lost home of memory for me, as I grew up as a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. But the bathtub-shaped Polo Grounds was the greater park. Buck Ewing and Christy Mathewson played there, and that's where Babe Ruth began his glory years with the Yankees. And I saw my first major-league game there, on May 12, 1957.

Matt: How do you suggest MLB get kids more interested in baseball history?
John: Keep the stories alive--the legends spring to life for young people with imagination, like yourself. The game is about so much more than who won and who lost.

Matt: What is your fondest personal baseball memory?
John: Umpiring, in turn, my three sons' first Little League games.

Matt: As the official historian for MLB, can you describe what you do on a typical day?
John: There's something to do every day with the Origins Committee and Memory Lab. And I receive many letters, and participate in many research bulletin boards, to "keep up" with newfound events of long ago. The job of MLB's official historian is not merely to know--or know how to find--who did what and when, but to supply the perspective of the past to enhance fans' pleasure in the present.

I hope you enjoyed reading the interview. I sure enjoyed doing it.  Thanks again to John Thorn for doing such a great interview!!! He's a really good guy.

P.S. - I recently passed 20,000 page views on my blog and I couldn't have done it without everyone who reads my blog.  So thanks to all of you who read my blog. Lots more good stuff is in the works.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wampum Walloper 12/10/12

Hey baseball fans!

Today, I will be blogging about a certain ballplayer who was very good at the major league level. He made seven All-Star Games in his 15-year career from 1963-1977. Ladies and gentleman, Dick Allen.

Dick "Richie" Allen started his career with the Phillies. In 1964, technically his second year in the bigs, he won the Rookie of the Year Award for the NL. He continued to post excellent stats in his years in Philly. After a couple seasons after him winning RoY, he started to be known as the "Wampum Walloper". He got this nickname because he was born in Wampum, Pennsylvania, and because of his power hitting that won over most of Phillies fans' hearts. Most of them.

After a fight with teammate Frank Thomas that resulted in Thomas being released the day after the fight, many Phillies fans were very mad at Dick. During Phillies home games, he was greeted by showers of food, garbage and debris. He eventually started to wear his batting helmet in the field because of this and earned the nickname "Crash Helmet", which was shortened to "Crash".

After 1969, he was traded to the Cardinals. He made the All Star team that year and established himself as one of the great power hitters of his day. After going to the Dodgers in 1971, Allen went to the White Sox before the 1972 season. He proceeded to win the MVP Award in the AL, hitting 37 homers,  113 RBIs, and batted .308. He continued to post solid stats until he retired in 1977. His final career stats were as follows: 351 homers, 1,119 RBIs, a .292 batting average, 1,848 hits, and 894 walks.

Sadly, Allen is not in the Hall of Fame. However, had he played longer, his stats might have been Hall of Fame-worthy. Shout-out to one of my biggest fans, Bart Fraenkel, the former mayor of my town, for giving me the idea to blog about Dick. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Ultimate Baseball One-Hit Wonder 12/8/12

Hey baseball fans!

Today, you will read about the best example of a one-hit wonder in baseball history. Enjoy.

Jim Konstanty had a very good 1950 season. The reliever for the NL pennant-winning Phillies went 16-7, had an ERA of 2.66, and collected 22 saves, earning him NL MVP honors. Some of the other players in the top ten that year were Stan Musial (2nd), Ralph Kiner (5th) and Gil Hodges (8th). Jim also made the All-Star team that year.

The only thing was that 1950 was Konstanty's only good year! He never went to another All-Star Game in his 11-year career from 1944-1956 (he missed '45 and '47 because of stints in the minor leagues) and he never had more than 12 saves in a season except for 1950! His overall career record was 66-48 and his career ERA was 3.46.

And to top off Jim's career, the year he won the NL MVP, the "Whiz Kid" Phils lost the World Series to the Yanks. Actually, they got swept. Ladies and gentleman, Jim Konstanty is the ultimate baseball one-hit wonder.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mustaches, Beards and Sideburns. Oh My! 12/5/12

Hey baseball fans!

I mustache you a question: Who do you think has the best facial hair and is in the Hall of Fame? Your answer will probably be in my list of top five mustaches, beards and sideburns of more recent ballplayers in the Hall of Fame.

Number Five: Rich Gossage
Why? "Goose" Gossage, with his classic horseshoe mustache, was always a danger to batters when he stepped to the mound as a reliever. He was known for his mustache, but couldn't grow it out a lot until he left the Yankees because of George Steinbrenner's "no facial hair" rule.

Number Four: Bruce Sutter
Why? The reliever elected into the Hall in 2006 had an awesome beard/sideburns combo. He is probably the Hall of Famer with the most facial hair on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Number Three: Mike Schmidt
Why? The slick-fielding and power-hitting Phillies third baseman had one of the best mustaches in baseball history. Philly fans loved it. For some of 1980, the year the Phillies won their first World Series, Schmidt was rockin' a mustache/beard combo. Later in his career, he shaved his famous mustache and grew out his sideburns. Don't worry, the Philly Facial Hair was back when he made his Hall of Fame induction speech in '95.

Number Two: Dennis Eckersley
Why? His mustache was very famous and was well-known around the MLB in the 1980s. What was even more famous was his long, flowing hair. Michael Kay, the announcer for the Yankees, said that he liked Eck's hair more than his mustache. Either way, the famous A's closer had some of the best facial hair in baseball history.

Number One: Rollie Fingers
Why? The Hall of Fame closer for the A's and Brew Crew is in the top spot on this list because his mustache is not only great, but famous. I have to give his barber shop-looking mustache some props for inspiring many baseball fans all over the country to grow this distinct mustache.

Well, that's my list of top five facial hair on a Hall of Famer. What's your top five? And what's your top five facial hair in baseball history of all players? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 30, 2012

If I Had A Hall of Fame Ballot... 11/30/12

Hey baseball fans!

The Hall of Fame ballots are out and, this year, there are many definite steroid users on the list. I don't think that they should be in Cooperstown, but I will tell you who I do think should be in the Hall. Here is my list of people who are on the ballot for the first time and should be in the Hall of Fame and why.

Why? He is the leader in all-time hits as an Astro with 3,060 hits in his 20-year career from 1988-2007. Just the part about him getting 3,000+ hits says that he should be in the Hall.

Why? He holds the record with the most homers in a career as a catcher with 427. He is the best all-around hitting catcher in history, and I'm a Yogi Berra fan!

Why? He won two monumental World Series with Arizona and Boston, is 15th on the all-time list for strikeouts, and was just amazing (especially in the playoffs). He "only" won 216 games, but I think he definitely belongs in Cooperstown.

Well, those are the people who are on the HoF ballot for the first time and who I think should be in the Hall of Fame.

I know there are a lot of other people on the ballot this year, but the other people who I want in Cooperstown were on the ballot in past years. Nonetheless, if you want to know who else I want in the Hall of Fame who's on the ballot this year and why, click here for Alan Trammell, here for Fred McGriff, Larry Walker and Don Mattingly, and click here for Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez and Bernie Williams.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Official! Baseball with Matt is MLB's Youngest Pro Blogger 11/29/12

Hey baseball fans!

I just wanted to let you all know that has just set up a Pro Blog for me.  According to MLB, I am the youngest Pro Blogger on the site.  Here's the screenshot showing the announcement:

For those of you who read my existing blog, keep on reading it. I will cover the same stuff on both blogs. Hopefully, the MLB blog might get me some cool stories and interviews.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baseball with Matt Interviews the First Female President of the BBWAA, Susan Slusser 11/25/12

Hey baseball fans!

I interviewed someone very important today: the first female President of the BBWAA (Baseball Writers' Association of America), Susan Slusser! The BBWAA does a lot of different things, including being in charge of voting people into the Hall of Fame (until 25 years after retirement), and voting for the MVP Award, the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year Award, and Manager of the Year Award in the NL and AL.

Ms. Slusser covered the Texas Rangers from 1995-1996 and has been covering the Oakland Athletics since 1999 for the San Francisco Chronicle. She also covered the NBA's Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic. She was elected Vice President of the BBWAA in October of 2011 and this year, like I said before, she became the first female President of the BBWAA. The best part of all of this is that she agreed to let me interview her! Anyway, here's the interview:

Matt: How did you first get into baseball reporting?
Susan: I always wanted to be a baseball broadcaster or baseball writer from the age of six and did both in high school and in college, then internships at San Francisco radio and TV stations and at the Sacramento Bee. The Bee hired me full time while I was an intern.

Matt: Do you think there will be a female GM or manager in the near future?
Susan: I don't think there ever will be a woman manager. I believe Kim Ng will be a general manager within the next two or three years and probably should be already.

Matt: As the first female President of the BBWAA, are there any specific items you'd like to accomplish to help advance women?
Susan: My job is not in any way gender specific. The organization's goal is to ensure good working conditions for all baseball reporters.

Matt: In all the years you've been a BBWAA voting member, which vote gave you the most joy and why?
Susan: I try to leave personal feelings out of voting because it is supposed to be objective. I believe all voters feel the same.

Matt: Since you cover Oakland, what is your all time favorite Oakland A's moment?
Susan: Dallas Braden's perfect game in 2010, without a doubt, because his grandmother, who raised him, was there and it was Mothers Day.

Thanks again to Susan Slusser for being such a great sport and for answering all of my questions. I wish her the best of luck in her new job as BBWAA President.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Necessity for Every Bostonian: Rice 11/23/12

Hey baseball fans!

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all had a great day! In honor of this historic holiday, let me tell you about one of the best players who played during his career near Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

Jim Rice played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox from 1974-1989. He was known as a power hitter, hitting 382 homers and 1,451 RBIs. His batting average was never bad though, hitting .298 lifetime. He was an eight-time All-Star and won the MVP Award in 1978.

Even though he had great stats, he never won a World Series, because he was playing in the middle of the Red Sox's Curse of the Bambino. He did get to a couple of Fall Classics though, helping his team win the American League pennant in '75 and '86. However, like I said before, the Red Sox lost both those Series to the Reds and Mets, respectively.

Despite his lack of World Series rings, he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2009 by the BBWAA (the Baseball Writers Association of America). He is clearly one of the greatest Red Sox of all time.

Hope you all liked this post. Shout out to one of my teachers, Mr. Monson, and my friend, Jamie. They are both huge Red Sox fans. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Soarin' Jays 11/21/12

Hey baseball fans!

Right now, I'm hanging out with my Canadian friends, Zach and Sam. They're jammin' it up with Zach on guitar and Sam on drums, so I decided to write a post on the only current team that is located in the country above the United States. That team is the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays were created in 1976 and are based in Toronto, Canada. They have won two World Series in their history, but like a lot of the teams I've blogged about (except for the Dodgers of the '50s) they don't have the best history. Nonetheless, they have had some good players, like Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson. They didn't have those players in the beginning of the franchise, so they didn't do too well until 1983, when they started an 11-year streak in which they won more games than they lost. They won numerous Eastern Division titles, but were never able to get to the World Series. That all changed in 1992. The team got to the team's first World Series appearance and faced the pitching juggernaut Atlanta Braves. It was a very exciting World Series, even down to the last inning. Let me explain what happened in the last inning of the 1992 World Series.

The Blue Jays entered Game Six in Atlanta, leading the series three games to two. After nine innings of baseball, the score was tied 4-4. In the top of the eleventh, old-timer Dave Winfield slapped a double down the left field line, scoring the eventual World Series-winning run, as the Braves went quietly in the bottom of the eleventh. The Blue Jays and the future Hall of Famer Winfield both won their first World Series.

Winfield went to Minnesota after the 1992 Series, but he was replaced by another future Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson. He and fellow teammate, Paul Molitor, another future Hall of Famer, helped the Jays get to their second straight Fall Classic, where they faced the Philadelphia Phillies. (Click here for a cool blog about the Phils.) Like the year before, the Jays entered Game Six, leading three games to two. Entering the bottom of the ninth at the Skydome, home of the Jays, the Phillies were leading 6-5 and were on the verge of tying the series and forcing a seventh game. Sadly (for Phils fans), Toronto put two on base with one out. Joe Carter was the batter. He faced Mitch Williams, the Phillies closer nicknamed "Wild Thing". On a 2-2 count, Carter hit a shot that sailed into the left field seats for a walk-off, game-winning, World Series-winning homer!!! It was the second time ever that a World Series ended in a homer, but unlike Bill Mazeroski in 1960 for the Pirates (against the Yankees), Carter's homer came with his team trailing (and thankfully it wasn't against my Yankees this time).

Not much has happened the last 20 years in Blue Jays history, but Toronto will always be remembered as the best Canadian baseball team ever. (Sorry Montreal, but the Expos just weren't good.) Shutout to Zach and Sam for inspiring me to write this post. Thanks for reading!

MLwwB: What if Dave Winfield had never gone to the Yankees? 11/21/12

Hey baseball fans!

I put up another ML"what would"B post on More Than A Fan. In every ML"what would"B post, I discuss what would have happened if a famous event in baseball history had gone differently than it did in reality. For my latest post, I wondered what would have happened if Dave Winfield had stayed on the Padres and had never gone to the Yankees. If you want to know the answer, just click here.

Hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fergie as a Cub, Was not a Slug 11/16/12

Hey baseball fans!

I'm back with another post! I didn't really know who to blog about, so I looked at the list of Hall of Famers and came across a ballplayer named Fergie Jenkins. Here's a little bit about this Hall of Fame pitcher.

Fly's 19-year career from 1965-1983 with the Cubs, Phillies, Rangers, and Red Sox was very similar to Nolan Ryan's. He had a lot of wins, but he also had a lot of losses. Nonetheless, his career record was 284-226. In his career, he went to three All-Star Games, won the 1971 NL Cy Young Award with Chicago, and had a career ERA of 3.34. Also like the Ryan Express, Fergie had a lot of strikeouts. A LOT! 3,192 K's to be exact, which happens to twelfth on the all-time list. Sadly, despite these stats, he never won a World Series, because he was on such bad teams at the time. The Cubs haven't won one since 1908, Texas has never won the big one, Philly didn't win a Fall Classic until after he left, and the Red Sox were in the midst of the Curse of the Bambino. Of course, like I said before, he is in the Hall as a Cub. He became the eleventh Cubs Hall of Famer in 1991. So, remember, you don't have to win a championship to get into the Hall. In fact, some HoFers never even got a taste of postseason play!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Working Out Like a Hall of Famer 11/13/12

Hey baseball fans!

Certain baseball Hall of Famers happen to be very well known for certain physical skills.  Nolan Ryan had a cannon arm, Rickey Henderson had super-strong legs, and Hank Aaron had powerful wrists. I decided to try to find out if there were certain exercises that baseball players could do to work on improving these parts of their bodies, so I approached noted personal trainer and sports conditioning expert, Galen Pass (twitter @G_Code388) of JD Fitness in Livingston, NJ for his Hall of Fame workout tips and here's what he had to say:

Nolan Ryan pitched in the league for 27 years.  For young pitchers looking forward to long careers, rotator cuff health is essential.  We hear the term “rotator cuff” used frequently when describing shoulder injuries incurred by athletes, but most do not know what it actually is.  The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that attach from areas on the shoulder blade into different parts of the shoulder joint.  These muscles control the joint’s ability to rotate through the motion of a pitch and help to stabilize the shoulder.    Some basic rotator cuff exercises with a resistance band can help a young athlete strengthen, stabilize, and improve mobility of the shoulder joint.  Make sure you choose the appropriate resistance band for you.

Perform the following exercises 2-3 times a week for 15 repetitions each in order of succession

Internal Rotation
External Rotation
Internal Rotation (shoulder abducted 90 degrees)
External Rotation (shoulder abducted 90 degrees)  

*note: you may need a lighter band for external rotation

Rickey Henderson, known as “The Man of Steal”, created a reputation for himself with his speed, quickness, and reaction time when it came to stealing bases.  When a new sports car is being advertised, a standard measure of performance is how fast it can go from 0 to 60.  With only 90 feet to between bases, there is not much space for a runner to gain speed.  Similar to how we judge a car’s performance, speed of acceleration is the determinate factor between being one base closer to scoring or one out closer to the end of the inning.  First, an athlete needs a foundation in general speed/sprint training.  Once this is established, acceleration can be further improved upon by performing uphill sprints and other forms of resisted sprinting. i.e. – parachute sprints (wind resistance), band resisted sprints that produce explosive hip drive.

Find a hill (approximately 150-200 feet long) with a 10-20 degree incline in a nearby park or on a quiet street. Warm up with a 5 minute jog and some dynamic stretching.  Then perform 10 hill sprints, using the walk/jog back from each sprint as a recovery period.  Make sure you stretch your legs after the sprints (quads, hamstrings, hip flexors).  Increase sprint repetitions by 2 each week.

Perform 2-3 times a week for 5 weeks – After all 5 weeks are completed, look for a steeper hill!

Week 1 – 10 sprints
Week 2 – 12 sprints
Week 3 – 14 sprints
Week 4 – 16 sprints
Week 5 – 18 sprints                                 

*To track results, time yourself through each workout and compare the first 10 sprints each week

Hank Aaron was an incredible power hitter during his 21 year career.  This invaluable ability to crank out home runs is a product of many different physiological factors; strong legs, explosive hips & abs, grip strength, great reaction time, and the list goes on.  For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on developing an explosive core and improving grip strength. 

First, the core (abs, hips, low back, glutes) needs to be strong and stable.  Planks, back bridges, and supermans will create a basic foundation, while resistance band swings will improve rotational force.

Perform the following exercise routine 2-3 times per week

2 sets
Back Bridge:  15 x 3 seconds each
Plank:           1 minute (increase by 15 seconds each week)
Supermans:  15 x 3 seconds each

3 sets
Band Swings: 15 each side  (increase band resistance as needed)
                                1 minute rest between sets

Next, all of the force generated by the body is manifested through the hands and into the bat.  Having strong hands, wrists, and forearms will ensure that it will be a solid hit every time you connect with the ball.  You will need a wrist roller (which can be purchased online), weight plates for the roller (2 ½ lbs each, 10 - 15 lbs total), a bucket, and a good amount of rice.

Perform the follow exercises 2-3 times per week  

Wrist Rolls (start with 2 ½ lbs and move up in weight if necessary)
    Flexion (rolling forward) – up and down twice
45 seconds rest
   Extension (rolling backward) – up and down twice
Perform 2 sets of each

Rice Bucket Exercise
     Finger Flicks – 30 seconds
     Digs - 30 seconds
Perform 3 sets of each with 1 minute of rest after each round 

This blog post gives a few exercises that can help young athletes improve upon specific attributes that these iconic former players are known for.  All exercises listed above should be incorporated into a well designed strength & conditioning program.  Nutrition, proper rest, and recovery are also paramount to maximizing any training regimen.   Here's a picture of Galen - he's a big dude, so you better listen to what he has to say.

Hope you all liked what Galen Pass had to say. He definitely knows his stuff!!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Interview with Jackie Robinson's Chief Historian 11/12/12

Hey baseball fans!

I know I promised this a long time ago, but finally, I have the answers to an email interview with Jackie Robinson! Well, kind of. Like the Babe Ruth Interview, I wasn't able to speak to Jackie directly, since he passed away many years ago, but I was able to interview the chief historian of his Foundation and Museum, Yohuru Williams. So, without further ado, here's the interview:

Matt: Jackie was truly a pioneer in baseball and beyond. What further progress do you think still needs to happen?
Yohuru: Jackie would be thrilled with the tremendous progress not only in major league baseball, but also in the other professional sports. As the first four-letter athlete at the University of Los Angeles, Jackie came to appreciate the power athletics has to bring people together. The University as well as the community at large often turned out to watch him compete and his stature as a star athlete allowed him to take a stand on important issues. Today, Jackie would very much celebrate not only the diversity of the game, but its global impact. He would also likely highlight the role of other pioneers such as Roberto Clemente in helping to break barriers and increase baseball’s appeal while remaining committed to a humanitarian mission of interracial cooperation and peace.

Matt: How was Jackie able to stay so focused and ignore all the mean comments that many fans directed at him during and after games?
Yohuru: Although Jackie has been lauded for his resolve in not fighting back against those who said and did mean things to him, it was a struggle. As someone who had experienced the bitter sting of racism, Jackie understood that he bore a tremendous burden. In his autobiography, I Never Had it Made (1972), he recalled the internal turmoil he felt on being asked not to retaliate against those who might treat him badly. “Could I turn the other cheek? I didn’t know how I could do it. Yet I knew I must.” His motivation was clear, “I had to do it for many reasons. For black youths, for my mother, for Rae (his wife Rachel), for myself. I had already begun to feel that I had to do it for Branch Rickey.” Of course, not only was Jackie able to steel his emotions, he remains a powerful example of the importance of civility, and the power of self-restraint.

Matt: Were there any people (living or dead) outside of baseball who Jackie looked to for inspiration?
Yohuru:  Jackie’s first hero was his mother, Mallie Robinson whom he credited with instilling in him a sense of confidence and self-esteem. Jackie Robinson was also a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and greatly admired many of its leaders, most notably the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and NAACP head Roy Wilkins. Jackie was also an admirer of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  A lifelong Republican, Jackie appreciated many of Governor Rockefeller’s moderate policies at a time when the Republican Party was beginning to shed its mantle as the party of Lincoln. Jackie felt that Rockefeller remained steadfast to the Party’s founding ideals and worked with him on various projects. As Jackie recalled of their relationship, “A man like Rockefeller is surrounded by people trying to please and soothe him and I think he appreciated my outspokenness. On several occasions, not always happily, the governor conceded that I was one of the few people close to him who usually spoke up when I thought I had to.” Jackie was also a great admirer of his wife Rachel, whom he remained deeply committed too. In addition to working with Jackie on a variety of humanitarian initiatives, Rachel was an Assistant Professor on the faculty at the Yale University School of Nursing. She also later served as the Director of Nursing at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. Jackie admired her selfless dedication to others and her commitment to education.

Matt: In 1951, when Bobby Thomson hit the "shot heard round the world" against Ralph Branca, what was the reaction in the clubhouse?
Yohuru: “The Giants win the Pennant, the Giants win the Pennant,” the words still carry the bitter pill of disappointment for Dodgers fans.  As you may know, it was the first sports event ever broadcast nationwide. The sense of tension was great as Ralph Branca took the mound to pitch to Bobby Thompson who had homered off him just two days before. The reaction in the clubhouse is very much what one would expect -- sheer and utter disbelief combined with disappointment. Nevertheless, Jackie and his teammates were professional. Jackie and Ralph Branca had a great relationship. On opening day of his Dodger rookie season after Jackie had received death threats, Ralph made it a point to sit by Jackie. He also was the first player to take the field and stand with Jackie after other members of the team refused to play. Jackie respected Ralph as a competitor and as a friend. He and the other Dodgers used their disappointment as motivation. In the years following, the fateful pitch rumors circulated that the Giants had actually stolen the sign, by using a telescope. A recent book by Josh Prager, Echoing Green (2006), documents the scandal. Jackie, Ralph and the other Dodgers played the game with a deep sense of integrity, an integrity that they did not lose in defeat.

Matt: Can you please tell us something about Jackie that few people know?
Yohuru: In addition to his career in baseball, Jackie was a prolific letter writer. In addition to writing regular opinion pieces for various newspapers, including the New York Post and the New York Amsterdam News, Jackie corresponded with a number of politicians and civil rights leaders on a variety of issues. Jackie explained in a memorandum to Robert Douglas, the manager of Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign in May of 1968, “As an ex-athlete I am always aware that a good offense is the best defense and when you are behind you pull out all the stops and go with your strength.” I imagine few would suspect that Jackie was as artful and prolific with a pen as he was with a bat.  Michael Long has edited a fantastic book of Jackie’s correspondence entitled First Class Citizenship: The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson, which is a must-read for anyone interested in this aspect of Jackie’s post-baseball life.

I hoped you liked the interview. Special thanks to Yohuru Williams for doing such a great job!! If you want, you can check out another post by me about Jackie breaking one of the most important barriers in all of sports. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Super Sub 11/11/12

Hey baseball fans!

I'm back with another post! Today's post is about one of the most underrated World Series stars of all time. He was named World Series MVP of 1972, just because a star on his team was injured. If you don't know who it is by now, his name is Gene Tenace.

Gene Tenace was not a star, but he seemed to hit in the clutch every time his team needed him, especially during the 1972 playoffs, of which he played for the Oakland A's. Going back to his entire career, he batted .241, with 201 homers and 674 RBIs as a catcher with the A's, Padres, Cardinals, and Pirates. He only made it to one All-Star Game, 1975, in his career from 1969-1983. He was a four-time World Series Champion, from 1972-1974 with Oakland, and in 1982 with St. Louis. That's basically all you need to know about Tenace's overall career, but let me tell you what he did during the 1972 playoffs.

In Game Five of the 1972 ALCS against Detroit, Reggie Jackson stole home (believe it or not) in the top of the second to tie the game at one, but tore his hamstring in the process, preventing him from playing in the World Series. In the top of the fourth, Jackson's lineup (but not fielding) replacement, Tenace, hit the go-ahead single that eventually clinched the pennant for Oakland.

In the Game One of the World Series that year against the Reds, Gene hit two homers in his first two World Series at-bats, becoming the first person to do so. He collected all three Oakland RBIs in a 3-2 win. In Game Four, Gene hit another homer in another 3-2 Oakland win, giving the A's a commanding three games to one lead over the Reds. However, Cincinnati won the next two games, with Tenace hitting his fourth homer of the series in Game Five, setting up a seventh game. The A's won that game with the help of Tenace, who scored the go-ahead run on a double by Sal Bando. Like I said before, Tenace won the MVP of the Series, going 8 for 23, with four homers and nine RBIs. Funny, it took him 82 games to hit five homers during the regular season!