Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Interview with the First DH Ever 2/28/13

Hey baseball fans!

I was recently invited to cover the AJHS Baseball Night charity event by Marty Appel, writer of Pinstripe Empire, one of my all time favorite Yankees biographies and baseball books! He also used to be the PR Director for the Yanks, which is really cool. I will be interviewing Marty soon in another post, so stay tuned. Anyway, at the event, there was a silent auction and lots of great things for sale. I even met some really amazing people (besides Marty Appel), like sports broadcaster Len Berman, writer Ira Berkow, and retired player Ron Blomberg! Speaking of one of the most key figures in baseball history, I got to interview Ron! If you don't know about Ron, here's a summary:

Although he didn't play long, Ron Blomberg is one of the most important figures in baseball history. Why? He was the first DH in baseball history! A DH (designated hitter) doesn't field, a DH just hits. Anyway, Blomberg accomplished this feat on April 6, 1973 in a Yankees uniform at Fenway Park against the legendary Luis Tiant. Ron walked with the bases loaded. In his career from 1969-1978 (he missed 1970 because of the minors and 1977 because of injury), with New York and the White Sox, he batted .293 with 52 homers and knocked in 224 RBIs. Also, he was one of the greatest athletes of his time in high school, having been an All-American in baseball, basketball and football. Well, that's basically all there is to know, so lets get to the interview. By the way, this was my first live interview in the history of Baseball with Matt!

Matt: Why did you choose baseball over basketball and football?
Ron: I was drafted by the Yankees and my whole family was in New York.

Matt: Being a DH expert, would you vote Edgar Martinez into the Hall of Fame?
Ron: Definitely. He's the greatest DH in the history of the game.

Matt: Were you nervous when you came to the plate as the first DH in baseball history and had to face the intimidating Luis Tiant?
Ron: Heck no! He should've been afraid of me!

Matt: Who did you like to hit against the most during your career?
Ron: Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer and Gaylord Perry.

Well, that's the interview. Thanks to Ron for agreeing to let me interview him and to Marty Appel for inviting me to cover the really fun event. Also, make sure to check out Ron's website: Hope you enjoyed the interview and thanks for reading this edition of "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Best Day Ever!!!! 2/26/13

Hey baseball fans!

Last Friday, I went to the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey! I was there, because I got to be on this show called MLB Hot Stove, with Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds (see pic below), both MLB Network analysts. They quizzed me about my World Series knowledge, and we also spoke about the 2012 AL MVP race and other stuff. (Harold, by the way, is a former MLB player who played most of his career for the Mariners, won three Gold Gloves, was a 2x All Star, and won the Roberto Clemente Award.)  Greg and Harold were both super nice guys and made my first live television appearance unforgettable.  I had a great time, and the guys made me feel right at home. If you have not seen it yet, just click here for the video of my appearance. I hope you enjoy it (as much as I did making it).

So, you are all probably wondering, how in the world did I get on the heralded MLB Network? Well, it all started with me going to a speech that Greg gave about baseball (which fyi was a great speech). I spoke with him a lot before his speech about my blog, the history of America's pastime and his love of the Cardinals, and he said that maybe one day I could come onto Hot Stove. Sure enough, several weeks later, a very nice woman named Gina Hemphill (see pic below), the Talent Producer for the MLB Network, called and asked if I would like to be on MLB Hot Stove. How could I refuse?

So, I got to the Network on Friday morning (I missed a little bit of school) and met Gina in person. She was super friendly and patient; nice enough to give me, my mom and my dad a tour of the MLB Network! It was awesome! I think the highlight of the tour was Studio 42 (see pic below). The studio is basically a miniature baseball field. It was really cool running around the bases and robbing fake home runs.

Anyway, there is a lesson behind me telling you about the greatest event that has happened in my life: work hard and always follow your dreams, because you never know what might happen. And now that I've been on the MLB Network, it just makes me want to work even harder to reach my goal of one day becoming a baseball journalist (maybe on the MLB Network) and historian!!


I hope you liked this post and thanks a lot for reading it. Please check back in a couple of days, so I can bring you more of "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chipper Is an Old Braves Chap 2/25/12

Hey baseball fans!

Today, you are about to hear about one of the greatest players in Braves history. He recently retired and is one of the greatest switch-hitting power hitters of all time. I think you can all guess who I'm talking about: Chipper Jones!

Jones played his entire 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves from 1993-2012 (he was injured in '94). In his career, he hit 468 homers and 2,726 hits, also accounting for 1,623 RBIs. The eight-time All Star went to three World Series (1995, 1996, and 1999) and won one (1995). He batted .303 lifetime, and won two Sliver Slugger Awards and one MVP award.

He made his presence really well known in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, held in 2006. In his first at-bat of the tournament, he hit a homer off Braves teammate, Óscar Villareal, who was playing for Mexico at the time. In the full Classic, the player Mets fans hate went 6-17 with a double and two homers. Sadly, the U. S. did not place in that World Baseball Classic. However, no matter what happened internationally, I can conclude that Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones is one of the best baseball players in the sport's history.

Thanks for reading Baseball with Matt and please come back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The One and Only Rube Waddell 2/21/13

Hey baseball fans!

I recently reached out to Dan O'Brien (see pic below), the screenwriter of a play called Rube the Screenplay, a play that talks about a very famous pitcher in the Deadball Era named Rube Waddell. O'Brien also has a website called Dan is a very nice man and a former Emmy award-winning producer and television sportscaster. He has co-authored two books: Mark May’s Tales from the Washington Redskins and MizzouRah! Memorable Moments in Missouri Tiger Football History. He is currently a freelance writer who resides in Greenwood, Indiana. O’Brien’s work has been published in a lot of places, from Western Horseman Magazine to Sports Illustrated. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism is a member of SABR, the Society of American Baseball Research. Anyway, you probably don't know who Rube Waddell is, which is why you should read the following paragraph.

One of the top lefties in the history of baseball, Hall of Famer Rube (see pic below) was also one of the most eccentric and energetic players. Waddell had a great fastball and curve, probably because of his pinpoint control. In 1905, Waddell captured pitching's Triple Crown with 27 wins, 287 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA. Known for his strikeout prowess, he led the American League for six years in a row. His career stats are as follows: a record of 193-143, an ERA of 2.16, and 2,316 career strikeouts. Although he got traded a lot because of his eccentric behavior, he is still known as one of the greats.

So, when I reached out to Dan, I asked him some questions about Rube's career. Here are his answers:

Matt: What should Rube be remembered for in his Hall of Fame career?
Dan: On the mound, Rube was the most dominant pitcher in the first decade of the 20th Century. He led the American League in strikeouts six consecutive seasons and compiled the best career earned run average (2.16) for a left-handed pitcher.

I think Rube's greatest impact on baseball was at the box office. Due the combination of his extraordinary pitching and colorful behavior, Rube Waddell was easily the biggest gate attraction of his era. I have anecdotal stories and statistical information to back up that statement. For instance, when Rube joined the St. Louis Browns in 1908, the Browns enjoyed a 47 percent increase in home attendance while the Philadelphia Athletics – the team he left – experience a 27 percent decrease in home attendance. When Rube died, newspapers in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh reported that Rube personally save the American League from bankruptcy. So, Rube had an impact on baseball, much greater than I had realized before I began my research.

Matt: Which of Rube’s pitches do you think was the most effective to strike out batters?
Dan: That could be dictated by the situation but I'd have to say his fastball or curve were his most effective pitches. The legendary Connie Mack – who managed Rube in Philadelphia and spent nearly seven decades in the majors as a player, manager and owner – often said Rube had the great natural talent – the best combination of speed AND curves – of any pitcher he saw. “He could start a curveball for a batsman's bean and drop it among his shoestrings while the baffled athlete was swinging in vain to connect,” wrote Grantland Rice. As umpire Billy Evans noted, Rube's fastball and curve worked in concert: “When Rube Waddell was at the top of his game, as the greatest southpaw in baseball, he boasted the most deceptive curve of which he made use. The fast ball was his best bet, but the curve more or less made it so.” Of course, movement and command are also essential to a pitcher's success. By all indications, Rube's fastball had plenty movement on his fastball, in addition to pure velocity. Rube's Strikeouts-to-Bases on Balls ratio was 2.88 for his career and better than 3.0 during his prime years. Incidentally – like Connie Mack – Walter Johnson was among those who believed Rube had more natural ability than any other pitcher who ever lived.

Matt: What makes Rube unique from the other great pitchers of his time?
Dan: His eccentric and zany behavior – on and off the field – certainly set him aside from any player of his time, and probably any other time or era. But, I assume you're asking about his pitching. Rube was in a class by himself in terms of strikeouts.

Keep in mind, Rube pitched in the “Deadball Era” when strikeouts were less frequent than today. Hitters placed more of a priority on contact instead of “swinging for the fences.” Rube's best season total for strikeouts was 349 in 1904. That year, the average American League pitcher struck out about four hitters-per-nine innings. In 2012, the average AL pitcher struck out about 7.4 batters-per-nine innings. Only six pitchers have recorded consecutive seasons of 300 or more strikeouts. Rube is the only one to do so before the 1960s. Of the pitchers who finished with a career mark of 7-plus strikeouts-per-nine innings, Rube is the only one who finished his career before World War II. His major league single season strikeout record stood more than 60 years. He still holds the American League single season strikeout record by a left-handed pitcher. There are many, many personality quirks which make Rube unique but, looking at pitching stats alone, his strikeout numbers really stand out.

Matt: What do you think was Rube’s best season?
Dan: I think most would point to 1905. Even though he essentially missed the last month of the season due to injury, Rube won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the American League in Wins (27), ERA (1.48) and strikeouts (287). However, I think in many ways, his 1902 season was even better. Rube began the year in the California League and didn't pitch his first game with the Philadelphia Athletics until June 26, 1902. The A's had only 87 games remaining on their schedule. Yet, Rube finished second in the American League in wins (24) and ERA (2.05) and led the league with 210 strikeouts, 50 more than runner-up Cy Young, who pitched 109 more innings than Rube. He personally accounted for 7.65 percent of all American League strikeouts. To do that today, a pitcher would have to strikeout more than 1,200 batters. Rube's efforts catapulted the A's from fourth place to the 1902 American League pennant.

Matt: Can you describe some of Rube’s off the field accomplishments?
Dan: That's very difficult to answer succinctly since Rube was extremely busy off the field. About a year ago I began emailing a “This date in Rube history” to friends and colleagues. They are astounded by the number of items I send (I have at least one for EVERY day of the year, including the off-season). One of my personal favorite periods of Rube's life was his four-month tour with with a theater company, starring in a melodrama called “The Stain of Guilt.” In one scene Rube is required to physically subdue to the villain. Rube apparently believed in a realistic approach to his acting. Before long, the company manager had trouble finding actors who were willing to withstands Rube's assault. Although his skills as a bona fide thespian were questionable, Rube proved to be a box office smash – as he was in baseball. However, the most dramatic off-the-field event in Rube's life involved his activity during the 1912 flood of the Mississippi River at Hickman, Kentucky, where Rube was wintering with this minor league manager, Joe Cantillon. A concrete flood wall now protects Hickman. At the time, it was only a sandbag levee. While others worked in shifts, Rube toiled through the night, standing in freezing, chest-high or waist-high waters while stacking sandbags to repair the ruptured levee. As a result of his work, Rube contracted a bad cold, which developed into pneumonia and, later, tuberculosis. He died from tuberculosis on April 1, 1914.

Matt: Please tell us something about Rube that most people don’t know.
Dan: That's also difficult since I can never be sure what people do, or don't, know about Rube. I'm amazed that many – even baseball fans – never heard of Rube Waddell. Those who are at least vaguely familiar with Rube are probably aware that he was a talented, but eccentric pitcher. They are amused to learn that he was born on Friday the 13th and died on April Fools Day. But, rarely do I find someone who realizes just how dominant Rube was on the mound. All are even more surprised when informed of his enormous popularity, fame and appeal. Rube made a substantial contribution to baseball which greatly exceeded his statistics – as impressive as they were.

Well, that's all the answers to the questions that I sent to Dan. Thanks to Dan for agreeing to answer these questions and I hope you check out his website, Thanks also to my friend, the famous baseball songwriter, Joe Pickering Jr., for introducing me to Dan.  Also, I hope you enjoyed this post and learned a little bit about the great Rube Waddell.  So, thanks for reading this post and check back in a couple of days for a little more of "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My First Time on TV 2/20/13

Hey baseball fans!

It's been a pretty busy last few days for me. I was recently interviewed by the Jersey Star Ledger and then a couple of days later I was interviewed by Ashley Mastronardi (see picture below) for the Fox 5 TV News!!  Anyway, here's a link to my first ever TV appearance. Hope you like it.

Check back in soon for some more baseball history posts where I promise to keep on bringing you "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Top Opening Day Performances 2/18/13

Hey baseball fans!

Happy Spring Training! Yes, I know it's not the official start to the MLB season, but today I will be rating the top five Opening Day performances in MLB history. (Note that I originally posted this for Big Leagues Magazine, a really great online magazine that I write for. Hope you check it out.)

Number Five-George Bell, Toronto Blue Jays DH, 1988:
On Opening Day in Kansas City, Bell became the first player in history to hit three homers on Opening Day. All three homers were given up by KC pitcher Bret Saberhagen. Had he kept up the pace, he would’ve had 486 homers for the year, but he didn’t, and he finished the season with just 24.

Number Four-Frank Robinson, Cleveland Indians manager/DH, 1975:
At Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Robinson became the first African-American manager in MLB history. Not only did he lead the Tribe to a 5-3 win over the Yankees, but he also hit his 575th career homer.

Number Three-Don Drysdale, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, 1959:
At home in LA, Drysdale became the only major league pitcher in history to hit his second career Opening Day homer. Despite the homer, the Dodgers lost to the Cubs, 6-1.

Number Two-Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians pitcher, 1940:
At the young age of 21, the future Hall of Famer pitched the only no-hitter on an Opening Day to this day. No pitcher has done this since. Rapid Robert pitched in Chicago against the White Sox on that historic Opening Day.

Number One-Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman, 1947:
On this historic day for sports, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to ever play in Major League Baseball. Thanks to him, all races are now able to play in all sports without any complications. On April 15, 1947, now known as Jackie Robinson Day, the future Hall of Famer went 0-3 with a run scored.

Well, there you have it: my picks for the top five Opening Day moments. Do you agree with my choices? Send me a comment on your picks. I hope you all enjoyed this article and thanks for reading it. Check back in a couple days for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz".

P.S. - By the way, I was just recently interviewed by the New Jersey Star Ledger, NJ's biggest newspaper. If you'd like to read the article, just click here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

ML"what would"B: What if Mark Teixeira went to Boston in 2009? 2/11/13

Hey baseball fans!

I just 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 Mark Teixeira had gone to the Red Sox instead of the Yankees in 2009. If you want to know the answer, just click here.  

Thanks for reading Baseball with Matt, where I'm bringing you "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Interview with a "Gator" 2/10/13

Hey baseball fans!

I have another interview for you! This one is with New York Yankees pitching great: Ron Guidry! Some of you probably have no idea who he is, which is why I will tell you all about the "Gator" in the next paragraph.

Ron Guidry played for the Yankees from 1975-1988. In those years, he had a record of 170-91 with a 3.29 ERA. "Louisiana Lightning" won two World Series with the Yanks in 1977 and 1978. In that 1978 season, he won the Cy Young Award, going 25-3 with a dazzling 1.74 ERA. A four time All Star, he also won five Gold Gloves in his career. The 5' 11" 161 pound hurler from Lafayette, Louisiana was one of the best pitchers of his time. Sadly, because he started his career late, he is not in the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, his #49 was retired by the Yankees. Well, that's basically all you need to know about Ron, so let's get to the interview.

Matt: What sports did you play and watch as a kid?
Ron: I played baseball as a kid, but in high school I did track because there was no baseball team. I would watch any sport that was on TV.

Matt: Who was the toughest hitter you ever faced? If you were to pitch against one player from all of baseball history, who would it be?
Ron: Everybody can be tough during their careers. Every team in the bigs at the time I was pitching had at least one guy who I had difficulty pitching to and getting out. But, I think the hardest of them all was George Brett. If I were to face any guy from baseball history, it would be Lou Gehrig.

Matt: What’s your favorite MLB memory?
Ron:  As a kid, you always dream of winning a World Series. So, I would have to say that it was when the Yankees won the 1977 World Series. It was the first Series the Yankees won in about 15 years, so it made New York happy and the players happy as well.

Matt: As a child, were you ever face to face with an alligator in the Louisianan swamps?
Ron:  Sure. I lived in a not-so-swampy area, but when my family went fishing and hunting in the swamps, we would usually come across some.

Matt: How did you get your pickoff move to be so good?
Ron: Whitey Ford helped me a lot. What also helped is remembering the pitch count. Some runners like to run on certain counts, so I just kind of memorized each scenario in my head and I ended up picking off a lot of base runners.

Matt: What was your favorite meal before games?
Ron:  I would usually eat whatever I could get my hands on. If there was a ham sandwich in the freezer, that's what I would eat.

Matt: Since you and Yogi Berra are such good friends, has he ever said a Yogi-ism to you that not too many people know?
Ron: Not really. He has said some funny stuff, but not as funny as his Yogi-isms. We always talk about baseball, so there's usually no: "If there's a fork in the road, take it."

Well, that's the interview. Thanks to Ron for agreeing to let me interview him. And thanks to Joe Howley who runs the PALS charity and to Joni Bronander for helping to arrange the interview. I hope you all enjoyed this interview as much I did conducting it. As always, thanks for reading Baseball with Matt where I'm bringing you "all the buzz on what wuzz".

Thursday, February 7, 2013

NJBM Kids' Hot Korner: New Jersey Baseball Hall of Famers 2/7/13

Hey baseball fans!

I just wanted to inform you all that I have started guest-writing for a cool website: New Jersey Baseball Magazine! It's an online magazine that serves New Jersey, but focuses on baseball all over the country. My first article is about the three Hall of Famers who were born in New Jersey. It's in a section called "Kids' Hot Korner". If you want to check out the article, just click here.
I hope you read the article and I hope you learn a little bit about "the buzz on what wuzz".

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Kind of Word is "Poosh"? 2/6/13

Hey baseball fans!

Today is Babe Ruth's birthday! To be specific, he was born on February 6, 1895. So, if the Sultan of Swat were alive today, he would be 118 years old. Anyway, in honor of the Babe's birthday, I'm going to tell you about one of his teammates who is in the Hall of Fame, just like the Bambino.

"Poosh 'Em Up" Tony Lazzeri, the homer-hitting second baseman for the Murderers' Row Yankees, was very overshadowed by his teammates. Why? I don't know! He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1992 for a reason, you know! As a team leader and key member of six pennant winning seasons for the Yanks in the '20s and '30s, Tony batted .300 or better in five seasons and drove in over 100 runs in seven seasons. Lazzeri created an American League single-game record with 11 RBIs on May 24, 1936. In his career with the Yanks, Cubs, Giants, and Dodgers from 1926-1939, he hit 178 homers and had 1,191 RBIs, while batting .292. By the way, he was called "Poosh 'Em Up Tony" due to a mistranslation by Italian fans of the phrase "hit it out".

Thanks for reading Baseball with Matt where I'm bringing you "all the buzz on what wuzz."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Top Five Fall Classics in MLB History 2/3/13

Hey baseball fans!

Today, I want to tell you about my favorite Fall Classics in baseball history!! My only rule is this: no World Series will be in this list that happened in the last ten years. So, let's get it started with Number Five.

Number Five: The 1954 World Series
Matchup: Giants vs. Indians
Winner (how many games): Giants (4)
Why? This World Series is by far the most lopsided in history. You would've expected the Tribe with 111 wins to crush the 97-win Giants, right? Wrong. With the help of "The Catch" by Willie Mays to save two runs and preserve a Game One victory, the Giants pitchers held Larry Doby and the Cleveland offense to nine runs, while the Indians pitchers surrendered 21 runs to the Giants. In other words, the Giants pulled off arguably the greatest upset in World Series history.

Number Four: The 1986 World Series
Matchup: Mets vs. Red Sox
Winner (how many games): Mets (7)
Why? Thank you 1986 Mets for keeping the Curse of the Bambino alive! In other words, the Mets and their astounding pitching (and a little anti-Buckner Babe Ruth luck) dominated the Sox in one of the most exciting Fall Classics ever. The Mets may have gotten lucky in Game Six thanks to Mookie Wilson, but they played hard throughout the Series, which earned them their second World Championship.

Number Three: The 1945 World Series
Matchup: Cubs vs. Tigers
Winner (how many games): Tigers (7)
Why? In a Series with what seemed like no pitching whatsoever, Hank Greenberg, one of my favorite players of all-time, played like he was 20 years old. He was 34 and had just came back from military service! Anyway, the Tigers lineup exploded with 32 runs, while the Cubs got 29. It was a very exciting Series because of how many runs were scored in each game. Also, I'm happy that the Tigers won that Series, because it was one of the last shining moments that Hank Greenberg had in his career.

Number Two: The 1979 World Series
Matchup: Pirates vs. Orioles
Winner (how many games): Pirates (7)
Why? With the help of should-have-been Manager of the Year and the NL MVP, Willie Stargell, the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates upset the Baltimore O's in the first Pirates Fall Classic win since the passing of Roberto Clemente. Even when the underdog Pirates were down 3-1 entering Game Five, they were optimistic. The Stargell-led Pirates copied the Steel Curtain in the NFL by winning a sports championship for Pittsburgh. Want to know why the Buccos won? Simple: They were family.

NUMBER ONE: The 1993 World Series
Matchup: Phillies vs. Blue Jays
Winner (how many games): Blue Jays (6)
Why? When a World Series ends with a walk-off homer, then the series in going to be remembered forever. Considering that the first time a Fall Classic ended like this was against the Yanks (stupid Bill Mazeroski - which of course means that Series cannot make my list), then the 1993 Series is the greatest ever. But, there has to be more, right? Yes; the walk-off homer just starts the reasoning. The Blue Jays had won the '92 WS and were expected to crush the Phils. It wasn't exactly the outcome that was expected, but the Series was great. Three things were magical:
1) My favorite AL player of all-time, Paul Molitor, won WS MVP.
2) Game Five was a contest won by the Blue Jays, 15-14, the most runs by two teams combined in a World Series game.
3) "Touch 'em all, Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" In other words, Joe Carter hit a three-run shot off Mitch Williams to win the series.
Also, despite these heroics from the Toronto lineup, Jack Morris got his third straight ring! Are you hearing this, BBWAA? In a nutshell, it was great for manager Cito Gaston and the rest of Toronto, but it really stunk for Wild Thing and the Phillies.

Well, there you have it, my five favorite World Series in MLB history. Let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading Baseball with Matt where I'm giving you "all the buzz on what wuzz." (Shout-out to Andy Abrams (the 2nd time for him) for coming up with my new sign-off catch phrase.)