Thursday, August 30, 2012

Before the Bigs, There's Little League 8/30/12

Hey baseball fans!

Have any of you been watching the Little League World Series? For those of you who have been keeping up with it, good for you. In this blog, I will be blogging about some prominent ballplayers in the history of the game who played in the Little League World Series. Here it is:

In the 1979 LLWS in Tampa, Florida, famous Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden played in the LLWS. Two years prior, it was the person who caught the last out of the 1996 World Series for the New York Yankees, Charlie Hayes, who played in the 1977 LLWS. Jason Marquis, the right-hander who currently plays for the San Diego Padres, took part in the Little League World Series of 1991. Jason Bay, the 3-time All-Star outfielder for the Mets, played in the 1990 LLWS. The recently retired outfielder Gary Sheffield played in a Little League World Series. Sheffield, the owner of 509 career homers, played in the 1980 LLWS.  Last, but not least, we have Jason Varitek (see pictures below), one of only two ballplayers in baseball history to compete in the LLWS (1984 Altamonte Springs, Florida), the College World Series (1994 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets), and the World Series (2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox). The other player was Ed Vosberg, by the way. So far, no player who has played in the LLWS and in the majors has made the Hall of Fame, but maybe Sheffield will end the streak!

Note that there have been hundreds of major leaguers who have played in little league, but not the Little League World Series, including Derek Jeter and Nolan Ryan. Also, little league is becoming popular all over the world with teams now in places as far away as Uganda and Serbia. Lots of the leagues in these other countries need money and equipment to properly put out teams, so if you ever want to help, you should speak to your local little league office.

Let's also not forget that the great Cal Ripken, Jr. runs his own very well respected little league with his brother Billy Ripken.

Well, that was my tribute to the Little League World Series folks. Leave a comment or a suggestion for a future blog topic. I hope you all enjoyed the post!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Interview with Fred Lynn 8/29/12

Hey baseball fans!

Recently, I put up a blog about Fred Lynn and his All Star Game grand slam.  Here's a video of the grand slam for those of you who were too young to watch it live on TV.  Fred was a great ballplayer on the field and is also very generous off the field, helping in the community, Little League Baseball and children's causes. Because of all that he has done, I think he deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And if you want to learn more about what Fred is up to, check out his web site. Anyway, he read my blog and he agreed to do an interview with me. Here's what he had to say:

Matt: How did it feel to be the first player to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year (ROY) awards in the same year (see picture)?
Fred: I really didn't think too much about it as there really wasn't much press coverage in those days. I was more impressed with the feat after my playing days were over. I am proud to be the first person to have accomplished this feat.

Matt: Now that Ichiro Suzuki is also a member of the MVP/ROY in the same year club, are you guys buddies? If Mike Trout joins the club, is there a special handshake you guys will do?
Fred: I have never met Ichiro so we are not buddies. I have not met Trout either, but I love the secret handshake thing.

Matt: When you were drafted by the Yankees, how come you didn't sign with them?
Fred: I was going to USC to play football and baseball for them and it was going to take a lot of money to make me change my mind. No one in my family had gone to college so that was important to my father and me. The Yankees didn't offer what I wanted so I went to college and had a great time while I was there.

Matt: Why didn't you try to go to the NFL after USC?
Fred: I played football my first year at USC and then committed full time to baseball. It was obvious to many that my future was going to be in baseball and not the NFL.

Matt: Are you in touch with any of your former teammates like Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk or Rod Carew?
Fred: I see Jim Rice all of the time when I go back to Boston. The rest of the guys I see on occasion, but it's usually at a golf tournament or a function of MLB.

Matt: I read that you are the main chef in your house. What's your signature dish?
Fred: I am a cook, but not a chef. Like most guys, I'm pretty good on the grill, but my wife, Natalie, likes a pasta dish that I make with garlic shrimp and broccoli florets. It's pretty tasty.

Matt: On June 18, 1975, you had one of the greatest single game performances ever. Can you please tell me a little about it?
Fred: I had a 20-game hitting streak stopped the night before and went to the park early the next day for some extra batting practice. Its seemed to work pretty good as I hit two homers and a triple in my first three at bats. I lined out to second the next time and got an infield single the next trip and then homered again in my last at bat. We squeaked out a victory by 15-1. I drove in 10 runs and that was the most ever by a rookie at that time.

Matt: Since this is a baseball history blog, if you could have used a time machine when you played, which pitcher in history would you have liked to have faced? And which team would you have liked to have been on?
Fred: I would have been a Giant and would have wanted to face Sandy Koufax. He was the best lefty I ever saw and I would have loved to have battled him with the pennant on the line.

Matt: You are very involved with kids, charity and little league. How should MLB address the issue of teaching kids today about baseball history? Also, what would you advise kids today interested in becoming pro baseball players?
Fred: Kids have to want to learn about baseball history. You can only teach them if they want to learn and today's kids learn either by watching on TV or DVD. ESPN has a Classic Channel that plays games of yesteryear. This is a very easy way to see how it was done in the "old" days. There are a lot of DVD's out there as well that tell the stories of how it used to be. I would advise kids to play the game for fun when you are young. It's fun to aspire to be a big leaguer but the odds are against it. So have fun in school, get your education and, if your talent dictates, you can pursue your dream.

Matt: I read that when you won the MVP and they misspelled your first name, you didn't send it back to be fixed. How come?
Fred: I have an unusual name spelling. It is Fredric with no extra "e" or "k". It felt more unique this way and I was afraid that they might lose the darn thing.

Matt: Who was the scariest pitcher you ever faced?
Fred: I was never afraid of anyone, but had serious respect for Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson. It was pretty tough to hang in there against their breaking pitches when their fastballs are whizzing by you at nearly 100mph.

Matt: Because you played for the Red Sox and Angels, who did you root for in the 2009 ALDS between the two of them?
Fred:   :) I root for the team that wins!

Thanks again to Fred for being such a great sport and for agreeing to answer all of my questions!! And if Fred needs some secret handshake suggestions, I am happy to help him.

And if there are any current or retired professional baseball players out there who want me to interview them, please shoot me an email at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hoboken, NJ - Where Baseball and Cake Boss Began 8/28/12

Hey baseball fans!

Here's a blog about where organized baseball all started:

Back in 1845, the Knickerbockerclub of New York City began to use Elysian Fields in Hoboken to play baseball, because the land in New York City wasn't suitable for a ballpark. On June 19 (which is the birthday of the Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig), 1846, the Knickerbockers (led by Alexander Cartwright) played the New York Nine on Elysian Field in the first organized baseball game between two clubs. The Nine defeated the Knickerbockers 23-1, which is a pretty lopsided score for a baseball game. By the 1850s, several New York City-based teams began to use this field as their home field. On August 3, 1865, a crowd of 20,000 fans gathered to see the rain-shortened five inning championship game between the Mutual Club of New York and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn. The Atlantics won 13-12 and the game was painted in a famous Currier and Ives print in 1866 called "The American National Game of Base Ball" (see below). (Wow!! Why were so many baseball games at Elysian Fields so high scoring?)

With the construction of two ballparks in Brooklyn, the popularity of Elysian Fields began to fade away. In 1868, the Mutual Club hosted its home games at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn. In 1880, the founders of the New York Metropolitans and New York Giants moved to a ballpark in Manhattan that became known as the Polo Grounds. (The Polo Grounds were home to the New York Giants fans until 1957, when they moved to San Francisco. From 1962-1963, it was home to the New York Mets.) The last recorded professional baseball game at Elysian Fields occurred in 1873. The large parkland area was eventually used for housing. Either way, the land that Elysian Fields used to sit on will be a landmark for all baseball fans as the first ever organized baseball game.

For those of you interested, Carlo's Bakery was founded only in 1910 in Hoboken, NJ by Carlo Guastaferro. In 1964, it was bought by Buddy Valastro Sr., but the shop is currently owned by his son, Buddy Valastro Jr. Since the first episode of Cake Boss in April 2009, a show that documents the bakery, Carlo's Bakery has become one of the most popular bakeries in the United States.

Hope you enjoyed today's blog.  I have some big stuff coming, so keep on reading!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School for Kids, Back to Work for Adults 8/23/12

Hey baseball fans!

Now that the summer is almost over and baseball season is getting close to ending, some of us have to go back to school and some of us have to go back to our regular work schedules. But what did baseball players do back in the old days during the off-season or after they retired to bring in the moolah (before a lot of them made millions of dollars)? Well, read on, because this is Baseball with Matt's back to school and back to work blog!

Here are the jobs of some prominent baseball Hall of Famers during their baseball breaks: Grover Cleveland Alexander (aka Pete Alexander) worked in a flea circus after his career ended in 1930. After Cap Anson retired in 1897, he became the owner of a golf club (that failed miserably) and then won the office of Chicago City Clerk. In the 1968 off-season, Nolan Ryan was an air-conditioner installer. Yankees legends Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto, who won back-to-back MVP awards in 1950-1951, were employed in the winter by a NYC department store, where they sold men's suits (see picture below of Rizzuto). Whitey Ford and Don Newcombe, who were arch-pitching-nemeses in the World Series, did the same.

Now, although some baseball players may have grown up on a farm and didn't know how to read and write well, some baseball players did very well at school. In fact, some prominent Hall of Famers actually went to Ivy League colleges before becoming superstars. Here are a couple:  Lou Gehrig, the Yankee and baseball legend went to Columbia University as a pitcher. The day Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, he struck out a Columbia record 17 batters at South Field in the Ivy League college. Good thing the Yankee scout watching the game converted him into a hitter, or else the Yanks may not have won as many championships! Eddie Collins also went to Columbia --- AS A QUARTERBACK! He ended up becoming one of the best shortstops of all time for the Athletics and White Sox.

Here are some other players in baseball history who also went to some great schools:  Bill Almon became the first Ivy-leaguer to be drafted first overall in the MLB Draft in 1974 by the Padres (he went to Brown). Red Rolfe became a Yankee after graduating from Dartmouth and joined an already well-educated Yankee infield in 1931. Doug Glanville finished up at the University of Pennsylvania with a .414 average and 15 stolen bases and was drafted by the Cubs 12th overall in 1991. Ron Darling who pitched for the Mets and is a broadcaster for them now went to Yale. And Moe Berg went to Princeton, spoke ten languages, was a catcher and then became a spy!!!

So what's the bottom line here?? Work hard and study hard, because you never know what's going to happen in life. Not everyone can be a superstar baseball player.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Lynn-tastic Grand Slam 8/21/12

Hey baseball fans!

I just went to last week's Yankee game against the Rangers which they won 8-2. In that game, Nick Swisher hit his 200th career homer, a grand slam. So in honor of that occasion, I will be writing about the person who hit the only grand slam in All-Star Game history, Fred Lynn.

Fred Lynn played for most famously the two teams that met up in the 1986 ALCS, the Red Sox and the Angels (the Sox won the series, but lost to the Mets in the World Series in seven games) from 1975-1990. Known as an all-around player, he hit 306 career homers, 1,111 RBIs, and had a career batting average of .283. He won Rookie of the Year and MVP for the Red Sox in '75, and made it to nine All-Star Games. In the All-Star Game of 1983, the 50th anniversary of the All-Star Game and at Comiskey Park, he smacked the first pitch thrown to him from Atlee Hammaker in the bottom of the third into the right-field seats for the only grand slam ever hit in an All-Star Game. His teammate Rod Carew was on second. The grand slam capped a seven run third inning for the AL, as they went on to win 13-3. Lynn was awarded MVP. Fred Lynn was an excellent player, but he isn't in Cooperstown. I think it's probably because he wasn't quite as good after he went to the Angels in 1981. He never hit over .300 or 30 homers again after the move. Still, I think he really deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Send me your comments and tell me what you think. I might include some of your thoughts in an upcoming blog. That'll be a first. But for my next blog, I'm going to write about another first in baseball history, one that started it all. Thanks for reading!

P.S. - I forgot to mention to all of you that I just added a new feature to my blog. It's a Baseball History News Feed and it appears in the right column above the Blog Archive.  The News Feed will show different articles about baseball history written by others from all over the web every single day!! So even on days when I don't put up a new blog post, you should try to visit my site at least once a day. Thanks!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Land of the Free, Home of the Atlanta Braves 8/15/12

Hey Guys!

Remember how I promised you guys a blog about the team located in the city that hosted the 1996 Olympics? Well here it is:

The Braves were created in 1871 and were originally from Boston. They were called the Boston Red Stockings. They were not officially called the Braves until 1912. In 1914, the Braves made it to the World Series against the Philadelphia A's and swept them. They are called the "Miracle Braves" because they were in last place on July 4, but came all the way back and took the 1914 NL pennant. Other than that year, the Braves did not play good baseball up until the late 1940s. However, Babe Ruth came to Boston in 1935 and hit homer numbers 712, 713 and 714 in the same game against the Pirates. They didn't get to another series until 1948, where they lost to the Indians. After much bad baseball in Boston, the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953. In 1957, with the help of future Hall of Famers Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron, they made it to the Fall Classic against the Yankees. Thanks to a masterful 7th game pitched by Lou Burdette, they won the Series four games to three. They could not repeat their success of the prior year though, as they lost the '58 World Series to the Yankees. Not much success came from the Braves, except for Hank Aaron, who was the best all-around hitter in the bigs up until his retirement in 1976. In 1991, they faced the Twins in the World Series, but lost because of an unbelievable pitching performance by Jack Morris, a ten-inning shutout against a young John Smoltz. They tried to avenge their Series loss the next year, but lost to the Blue Jays in six games. Finally, after 38 years, they won their third Fall Classic against the Indians in 1995. They tried to duplicated their success the year after, but lost to the Yanks. They had the same ending to their season in 1999.

The Braves have had many Hall of Famers play for their team; Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Rogers Hornsby, Kid Nichols, Phil Niekro, George Sisler, Enos Slaughter, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Ed Walsh, Casey Stengel, Babe Ruth, and Cy Young, just to name the prominent ones. Although the Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves might not have the best post-season history, they are still considered one of the best teams in baseball history.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vamos: Let's Play Beisbol 8/12/12

Hey Guys!

I know I promised to blog about the team whose city hosted the '96 Olympics but, since this is a baseball history blog, I decided to put that blog on hold in tribute of when baseball used to be played in the Olympics. Baseball is currently not an Olympic sport (it was last played in 2008), but I wanted to tell you guys about a pitcher from Cuba who dominated the Olympics every time he was out on the mound for the Caribbean country.

Baseball was most recently played in the Olympics as an official (non-exhibition) event from 1992 - 2008. Cuba took the gold in three of the five events, in '92, '96, and '04. This probably would have never happened without Pedro Luis Lazo, a 6 foot 3 inch 250 pound 97 mph fastball-throwing Cuban pitcher nicknamed "King Kong".  Unlike Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras who decided to come to the USA and play MLB, Lazo stayed in Cuba for his whole career and helped the Cuban national team win two Olympic gold and two Olympic silver medals from 1996-2008. Lazo has the most medals won by any baseball player ever in Olympic baseball history. Lazo also was stunning in the Cuban baseball league. He had a record of 257-136. He is second in career strikeouts with 2,426. Also, in the 2005 Baseball Word Cup in the Netherlands, he went 2-0 with two saves and a minuscule 0.54 ERA to help Cuba win gold. He helped his team win the Baseball World Cup four times, one time in Havana, Cuba (they came in second twice). In March 2006, he pitched for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, and pitched an impressive four-and-a-half inning save against the Dominican Republic in the semis. In all of his gold medal chances in his active career, he has won 14 out of 19. He is one of the most respected Cuban pitchers worldwide.  Muy bueno!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fenway: Where the Red Sox Play 8/6/12

Hey Guys!

Yesterday, I came back from Boston, Massachusetts with my grandparents and cousin. As a baseball fanatic, you could all probably imagine the first landmark I went to see: Fenway Park! At Fenway, I had to wear a Wally the Green Monster (mascot for the Red Sox) hat, and a red t-shirt and shorts. Now, as a die-hard Yankee fan (sorry Bostonians), it all felt weird putting this stuff on, but it was a great experience. The fans are pretty nice, actually. I was sitting near a bunch of Twins fans, the team they were playing that night, and no fights occurred. I guess everything I've heard about Boston fans is wrong, or at least for teams other than New York. Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about Fenway's history:

The Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park on April 20, 1912 against the Highlanders (now the Yankees) and won. The reason it is called "Fenway Park" is because the prefix "fen" means marsh and the park was built over a marsh. Its left field wall, known as the Green Monster, is the tallest wall in baseball at 37 feet high, but it's only 310 feet from home plate. The left field foul pole is famous for Carlton Fisk waving his ball fair to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series against the Reds in the 12th inning. The ball hit the pole and is one of the most famous homers every hit in Series play. The right field foul pole is called Pesky Pole. It is famous because whenever Johnny Pesky, a former Red Sox infielder, hit a homer to right, it would curve around the pole. The pole is only 305 feet from home plate, and being a non-power hitter in the 40s and 50s, it really helped Pesky get that slugging percentage up.

Well, that's a little info on Fenway for you all. Keep on checking my blog for posts, because I'll soon be blogging about the team that was in Boston at the beginning of the 20th century, but moved to the city famous for breweries and then to the city that hosted the 1996 Olympics. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

An Interview with the Official Scorer for the Yanks & Mets 8/1/12

Hey Guys!

This past Monday, I did my first ever blog interview, and it was with Jordan Sprechman. He is an official scorer for Major League Baseball working Yankees and Mets home games. Anyway, here's the interview:

Matt: Your primary job is in banking, so how did you become an official MLB scorer?
Jordan: When I was in high school, I covered all the sports for my school newspaper. I did the same thing when I went to Columbia University for college. At college, I got to know some of the people from the Associated Press who also helped me out.  Eventually, after many years' experience at live games, I became an official scorer for the MLB in 2000. I work Mets' and Yankees' home games and learned a lot from my friend, the late Bill Shannon.

Matt: Did you need special training to become an official MLB scorer?
Jordan: Besides all the years spent at live games, I also needed to know all the rules really well and had to pass a test with very unusual live game facts.

Matt: What exactly does an official scorer do?
Jordan: An official scorer for Major League Baseball does three things. One, he completes a very detailed form after each game with all the hitting and pitching stats. That takes about 20 minutes. Two, he announces the pitching lines during the game. And three, he determines if a play is a hit or an error or if a pitch that goes behind the backstop is a passed ball or a wild pitch (lots of these calls rely on the experience you can only get from years of live game observation).

Matt: How does it feel to be a successor to someone as legendary as the official scorer, Bill Shannon (who passed away in October 2010 and was the scorer for 36 years up to that point)?
Jordan: It's a real great honor.  Being an official scorer gives someone a lot of power, but it must always be exercised responsibly. If I hate the Red Sox, I can't make every ball they misplay an error. I have to act maturely when I'm an official scorer and cannot play favorites.

Matt: Can you use TV or instant replay to determine a call?
Jordan: Yes, but I try not to. When you're watching TV at home, you can only see what the camera shows, but sitting in the press box allows me to see the entire field. I use instant replay most often for wild pitches and passed balls.

Matt: What's the most exciting games that you've had to score?
Jordan: Well, I was in the press box for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, and when Johan Santana pitched his no-hitter against the Cards this season.

Matt: Do you keep score for the playoffs as well as Yankees and Mets regular season games?
Jordan: Yes. I am the official scorer for the Yankees and the Mets in the playoffs at home. I wasn't the official scorer when the Yankees made it to the 2009 World Series, but the next one that either the Yankees or Mets get into, I will be the official scorer.

Matt: Who's your favorite retired players of all time?
Jordan: Thurman Munson and Paul O'Neill because I like how hard they always played the game.

Matt: What was your favorite sport to play as a kid?
Jordan: I liked to play baseball and hockey.

Thanks again to Jordan for doing this interview!! And if any of my readers know other baseball people who might be interested in being interviewed, please let me know.