No matter what the game was, how long it dragged on or how quickly it passed, how unpleasant the weather or how perfect the setting, it was always better if I got to say hi to Bill Shannon.
He was already a veteran of the press boxes at Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden long before I got into this business in 1979. He knew virtually everything that had ever happened in baseball and probably just a little bit more about everything that had happened in New York sports reporting.
The topics occupied him, mystified him, energized him, endlessly. Off-and-on for several years, we individually dabbled in trying to unearth such mysteries as who had preceded the legendary Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard at Yankee Stadium before Sheppard got the job in 1951. Off the top of his head Bill went through the identities, resumes, and secret lives of Sheppard’s counterparts at Ebbets Field and The Polo Grounds, and details of the days when the Yankees refused to install a PA and stuck to having men walk around the field with megaphones, and then after rolling out all this information he said, with no sense of irony, “but let me look a few places.”
We were still engaged in what had become a near-decade-long search for the etymology of the official scoring system by which the shortstop is numbered “6″ and the third baseman “5″ (as in “6 to 3 if you’re scoring at home”). I had found an 1890′s Giants program with “how to score” instructions that indicated it had been the other way round. “Ah, yes,” Bill bellowed, in an accent I knew from my childhood to be authentic New York City, “At some point it was. What we need to do is find out when it changed.” He then launched into a story he’d been told by a veteran writer with whom he had worked in the ’60s, that was from itself from a veteran writer from the teens, who had heard it from one of the combatants, of a near fist-fight between the two official scorers at an early World Series, one of whom adhered to the Midwest preference of “5″ for the shortstop, while the other one came from the Northeast, where he had always been “6.”
These tales, these miniature trips through time, were at Bill’s fingertips. They were instantaneous and generously offered and if they could help you, they were so much more joyful for him.
Bill could do this about any topic. And any crumb of research that might enlighten him on something he didn’t know – or better yet, something he mistakenly thought he knew everything about – was like a gift of a gold nugget to him. He was publishing a brief (and impeccable) guide to official scoring (and he was the senior in the field at both New York ballparks, and I never heard anyone complain about one of his decisions) and asked me if I could help him with identifying the ones at some of the early World Series. I dug up the information fairly easily. He treated it as if I had written half the book for him.
It is impossible, it is personally physically painful, to write here that Bill Shannon died in a fire at his New Jersey home this morning, a fire from which his mother was rescued. He was 69 years old. He had worked for everybody: UPI, AP, the local papers, his own stringing service, Madison Square Garden, at least two soccer leagues, Who’s Who In Baseball.
Loss is a part of everything and everywhere, and I’m confident I did not see Bill once in 31 years outside of one of the Stadiums. But as I write this I literally cannot imagine walking into either of the New York press boxes next year knowing I will not see this lovely man again.
Thanks to the impeccable Bill Francis at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library, I can now merge my correct memory of the 1984 World Series with the official record, and confirm that until Bengie Molina appears for the Rangers in the first game of the World Series tomorrow, Lonnie Smith of the 1985 Royals will remain the only player in baseball history to play in a Series against a team for whom he also had played in the same season.
They could – and did – give the trophies to other guys, but let’s face it, if you’re a fan of the Phillies, or the ’09 Yankees, or the ’10 Giants, you know that the World Series MVP last year was Damaso Marte, and the NLCS MVP this year was Javier Lopez.
AB HR RBI AVG SLGAt Home Vs LHP 82 5 13 .305 .524On Road Vs LHP 84 3 10 .238 .393Overall Vs RHP 352 24 77 .401 .716
Forgot completely about this.
After the Phillies’ 4-2 victory in the Fifth Game of the NLCS, Charlie Manuel matter-of-factly mentioned that Roy Halladay pitched from the second inning on with a mild groin strain suffered while “humping up” on a pitch to Buster Posey.
The bad news for the Yankees is that Mark Teixeira suffered a Grade 2 strain of the hamstring and will miss the rest of the season.
Few recent stories have sounded so comical yet contained such madness and potential threat. In the top of the fifth inning if Monday nights third game of the American League Championship Series, a man bolted from the stands behind third base and scrambled towards the foul line. Police and Yankee Stadium Security caught up to him quickly, but despite their intervention the individual continued to struggle for several minutes before he was finally removed – still kicking and shouting – from the field. Just as Game Four of the Series began tonight, Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin show on the ESPN radio station in Dallas broke the amazing back story: the man was not just an ordinary drunken spectator but, as one police source phrased it to me, a guy intent on harming Alex Rodriguez because of Cameron Diaz. As Rogers reported from his multiple police sources, the man was identified as 33-year old Grim LeRogue of the Bronx, and he had gotten into the Stadium and on to the field without even a ticket to the game. But he was carrying photographs of Diaz and Rodriguez and what I was told was some kind of threat against Rodriguez. There is no evidence that Rodriguez was aware of the threat, at least as of late in Mondays game as he was chatting and joking with fans near the on-deck circle during the bottom of the 9th. Yankees Media Relations Director Jason Zillo adds he had no indication until the middle of Tuesday nights game of the nature of the on-field incident and did not think Rodriguez did, either. Unless there are two Grim LeRougees in the metropolitan New York area, some of his resistance might be explained by this: a Grim LeRogue fought in the areas Golden Gloves in 2008.
As 5 PM Eastern nears here in the Bronx, ex-Yankees Bernie Williams and Tom Flash Gordon are here. Bernabe is to throw out the ceremonial first pitch (by itself something of a thaw in his slightly chilly relationship with the club since they dropped him – hes yet to go to an Old Timers Day). I suspect Flash showed up to come in for Burnett in the 2nd. This fourth game has all the feelings of the end of another up cycle for New York, a night reminiscent of the end of the 2003 World Series or the ALCS the next year or – for the elderly – more like the end of the 81 Series or some of the grim regular season finales later in that decade. The Yanks surefire stopper, Andy Pettitte, was vanquished (and before the top of the first inning last night) and having learned the lesson of the Pinstripes Latent Vampirism, Ron Washington played the six-run top of the ninth like he was down by a dozen. And three hours to game time and there isnt a Yankee on the field. It is as quiet as the cliche here – too quiet.
The most telling observations off Twitter yesterday: The colored-in beard sticking out from Brian Wilson of the Giants makes him look either like Bluto from Popeye or Bill Murray playing Hercules (“That boulder is too large. I could lift a smaller one”) on Saturday Night Live.
y new pose of Jim Tyng (inventor of the catcher’s mask) was discovered just last year, not long after we had all realized that the “only” card of Baltimore manager Billy Barnie was actually two different photos, taken within seconds of each other, and showed only a slight change in where his gaze was directed, and a previously unknown player, Whitey Gibson, was only unearthed in 1980. And thus the charm of collecting: we’re still getting new cards, 113 years after Goodwin & Co. first made them.
After that exhibition of lunkheaded managing by Ron Washington in the top of the 8th of Game One of the ALCS, I believe anyone who predicted a Rangers’ triumph over the Yankees should be given a mulligan.
1. You used four relievers in the eighth inning and none of them are your flame-throwing closer Neftali Feliz?2. Having already used two of the four lefties in your bullpen, the 5-0 and 5-1 leads now just memories, southpaw Clay Rapada on the mound with lefty-killer Marcus Thames coming to the plate, you pull Rapada and replace him with another lefty in Derek Holland? Apart from everything else you are now down to one lefthander left in your pen, rookie Michael Kirkman. And of course, oopsie, lefty-killer Thames kills lefty Holland with the game-winning hit.3. Harold Reynolds made a great point on MLB Network. Up 5-1, with Gardner on and C.J. Wilson tiring, you have Michael Young playing in close at third against Derek Jeter? Fearing he’s going to bunt? When all he still does well is pull lefties? Don’t you want Jeter to bunt? You need six outs and you can give three runs. Idiocy.
4. This is the weakest point but it still needs to be raised. Why did Washington let Wilson start the 8th? I know the set-up men are not lights out, but once again, as with Ron Gardenhire in Game One of the ALDS, you have Sabathia beaten. If you don’t think Darren O’Day (tied for 7th in the AL in Holds) and Oliver and all the rest are good enough to get you three outs, revert back to Question #1.
The Yankees are, as noted here during the Twins series, Vampires. It is not necessary for the opposing manager to walk his virgins across the field and offer up their necks to them on a platter.