Results tagged ‘ Hank Aaron ’

The Greatest eBay Sales Pitches Ever

At the outset let me point out that there’s very little I can add to either of these authentic stream-of-conciousness sagas of Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, the Mexican Dentist who saved him $20,000, the bartender, Adam West, the Elks Lodge, Socialized Medicine in France, “super famous guys living on cat food,” and the autographed baseball cards. So here are the links: the first one, the second one, and the – frankly – disappointingly brief third one.

All I can do is entice you to go, read them – preferably aloud. Maybe organize a party; anticipate needing an hour or so as you may want to read them aloud then dramatize them with various people playing the roles of the late Mr. Mathews, and the woman he gave the cards to, Michelle, and of course Larry Hagman. These eBay listings are at least a Telenovella if not a screenplay.

Just remember that she has strayed slightly from the premise of trying to get you to bid on these autographed cards.

For any of you who have heard unfounded allegations of Eddie’s control over the Drink OR RATHER, LACK THEREOF, it was not true.

Mind you, that’s the Topic Sentence in a 1,064 word attempt to sell you a baseball card.

But I’m interrupting! Sorry…

THE STORY NOW, I NEVER ASKED EDDIE FOR ANYTHING, NO SIGNED NOTHNG, WHICH I THINK SHOCKED HIM because everyone always did, napkins, any piece of paper they could find, it was tasteless. BUT, MY MOM WAS DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION OF WARNER BROTHERS when we were kids and our neighbor’s were  Batman(Adam West), and another neighbor Larry Hagman, of” I Dream of Jeannie”, at the time (he chased down some mean boys who stole my brothers Halloween Candy, so he has always been a hero since our little 4 year old minds watched the Superhero save the day in Malibu Colony, AND I WAS “FAMOUS PROOF”, meaning I  always knew we were all equal and had things to learn from the bums in the street ergo we are equal!! So Eddie made a point of giving me a signed card on my B-Days and holidays. Normally he wasn’t thrilled when people asked for stuff, some were great, the kids and real fans, but some were just opportunists who wanted to make a buck of him when he died, as he put it!!! Never one to mince words. I miss Eddie terribly. After his death I organized for his wife to throw in the first pitch at a Padres Game, and we all took a bus down and we did an event at the local Elks Lodge, but Eddie was woefully ignored by the Baseball Commissioner, Hank Aaron, and all the baseball world when he died and it was a Shameful thing, especially for the Commissioner and Hank Aaron, who was there and laughed when Eddie said that which led to his firing, it was that era, but he was caught up in the Politically Correct Avant-Garde, though the whole team, including Hank, talked a certain way to each other, but when the Press attacked Eddie for a mild statement of the times, Hank and the Team didn’t back him up, and it really broke his heart, deeply, I guess after all those years it was like your family saying, we don’t want you here anymore, the days of the hard drinking Babe Loving Babe Ruth days are over and now we are all so PC, and I usually am, but I know what he said and he should NEVER have been let go.

I’d like to point out one factual error that threads through all of these “item descriptions.” As the seller notes in each auction, the Braves – with Mathews as manager – did indeed announce that they would keep Hank Aaron out of the lineup for their opening series in Cincinnati in 1974 so he wouldn’t tie (and maybe break) Babe Ruth’s home run record on the road. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn did step in and order the Braves to play him at least once against the Reds (and he promptly tied Ruth’s record on opening day).

But contrary to the lady’s claims, Mathews wasn’t fired as skipper the night of (April 8), or the day after, Aaron’s 715th homer. The Braves let him go on July 21. And also contrary to the lady’s claims, when Mathews was canned at the All-Star Break the Braves’ players rose up to defend him in a way that I recall even at the time was considered unusually strong. In particular, Aaron was outraged. “It’s their club and they can do anything they want to,” he was quoted by United Press International as saying. “Personally I thought he did a hell of a job. I’ve seen a lot of managers fired but this one touched me especially hard. It was a blow to me.”

But I’m getting in the way of the pitch, which concludes with one of the greatest lines ever used on eBay – or maybe anywhere else:

Thanks for listening to the story, don’t know all that much about cards or their worth, but Eddie gave me the ones I am auctioning, so we know they are real, and his wife, Judy, lives in Del Mar and she’ll give me a confirmation, though I haven’t seen her in years.

emAnd yes, by the way, that “one bid” you see for each of the cards? Those are mine. The descriptions may be remarkable as uses of the written word, but the sentiment seems absolutely sincere and compelling. Feel free to outbid me.

 

Aaron And Gibson Lefthanded, and The Wrong A-Rod (Revised)

Hank Aaron’s appearance this week on The Late Show With David Letterman not only brought as hearty a series of laughs from baseball’s real all-time homer champ as I’ve ever heard him produce, but it also added one of those delightful footnotes to history. Letterman claimed that the day Aaron homered off Jack Billingham of the Reds to tie Babe Ruth’s mark of 714 at Riverfront Stadium in 1974, he was in the crowd. There’s no reason to doubt it: that was the year between Letterman’s career as a tv weatherman and the start of his comedy writing and performing.

Hank was there to provide the briefest of plugs for Topps’ celebration of its 60th year in baseball cards (he presented Letterman with a one-of-a-kind card in the style of the 2011 set, complete with a diamond in it – 60th being the ‘Diamond Anniversary’). For the sake of disclosure, Topps is paying Mr. Aaron to do the publicity, and for the sake of further disclosure, I’m an unpaid consultant for Topps as well.

They did not discuss two of Aaron’s more interesting cards. Obviously the portrait on the 1956 card here is the young Henry. But who is that sliding into the plate, an “M” on his cap and nothing on his uniform?
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Correct. It’s Willie Mays sliding home, his uniform doctored to kind of look like a Braves’ jersey. There’s no special value to that mistake, because they never corrected it. In fact I don’t know if it’s considered a mistake – I think “fudge” is a better term.

The 1957 edition, meanwhile, is a beautiful thing and NBH (Nothing But Hank)…but as the old cliche goes: what’s wrong with this picture?
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Yes, 1957 was Topps’ first year working with their own full color photographs, and when scanned the printing often leaves much to be desired. But of course the problem here is, Hank never hit lefthanded. This is not like the 1959 card of Aaron’s teammate righthanded pitcher Lew Burdette, who posed as a southpaw for a joke at the photographer’s expense, nor like later tricks attempted by Bob Uecker and Gene Freese (successful), and Jim Brewer, Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver (caught in time). In the case of Aaron, Topps simply reversed the negative, as the backwards “4” on the left side of the uniform confirms.

The “Lefty Gibson” card is seldom seen and thus reproduced here in full:
Thumbnail image for Proof1968Gibson.jpgIf you can imagine this, Topps prepped its first series of 1968 cards in the winter of ’67-68 and not only did Gibson succeed in this stunt, but so did Seaver, who had tried it while posing for his very first card.

Each got all the way to the printer’s proofs level – just a handful of sheets printed. Then the Topps Copy Editor had his apoplectic attack and replaced both the Gibson and Seaver lefthanded pitching poses with nice tight portraits.

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One of Topps’ most famous photo goofs is shown at the left. This is the 1969 card of the “original” A-Rod, the late brilliant defensive third baseman, Aurelio Rodriguez. It’s a great photo, but it’s not Aurelio Rodriguez. It’s Leonard Garcia, a rather mature-looking Angels’ batboy from 1968.

For years Topps has taken the rap for the mistake – there have even been understandable suggestions of an ethnic slur implied by the screw-up. In fact, it wasn’t entirely the company’s fault. In the winter of 1967-68, the newly-powerful Baseball Players Association was squeezing Topps into dealing with it, rather than on a player-by-player basis. Topps, which theretofore had been able to sign guys for a down payment as low as a dollar, resisted. The MLBPA promptly forbade its members for posing for Topps during Spring Training, and in fact throughout the entire regular season, of 1968.

Thus, guys who changed teams in ’68 or the ’68-69 off-season are shown hatless in old photographs in the first few series of the 1969 set. But 1968’s rookies for whom Topps had no photo? It had to get them in the minor leagues (the Topps files were filled with photos of nearly every Triple-A player in 1968), or buy shots from outside suppliers. At least a dozen images in the ’69 set, including Reggie Jackson and Earl Weaver – and “Aurelio Rodriguez” – were purchased from the files of the famous Chicago photographer George Brace. Somebody at Topps should’ve known, but the original Rodriguez/Garcia goof appears to have been Brace’s.

Incidentally, eight years later Garcia got his own card under his own name, in the Cramer Sports Pacific Coast League Series. By this point he was the trainer of the Angels’ AAA team in Salt Lake City. The biography on the back makes reference to the 1969 Topps/Brace slipup.
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The Pete And The President And The Hall of Famer Shortage

It wasn’t the first time, and it doesn’t mean they said anything more than ‘howdy,’ but Pete Rose met with MLB President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy here in Cooperstown over the weekend.

Perhaps just importantly, when Rose said his former teammate (and Hall of Fame Vice Chairman) Joe Morgan was “here,” he was slightly underselling reality. Morgan’s visit to Rose, in the same venue as DuPuy’s, lasted closer to an hour.
While the rest of us were all distracted by the official big doings down Main Street, the action at the memorabilia shop where Rose hawked his autographs all weekend, must have felt heavy enough to merit a revolving door. Besides the emotional visit from (and fractional forgiveness by) Rose’s old manager Sparky Anderson, witnesses say DuPuy also stopped by the shop, and Morgan did not spend his hour there just reminiscing.
All of this continues to feed the extrapolation that MLB is seriously considering reinstating Rose – at least for eligibility for the Hall – and that Commissioner Bud Selig is being heavily lobbied by people he greatly respects, to pardon Rose, or give him clemency of some sort. As Bill Madden of The New York Daily News reported, Hank Aaron told a couple of reporters (ironically including one who works for the Hall of Fame) “I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there.”
Madden has since updated the story with a detail that really turns up the volume:

It was also learned by the Daily News that in a meeting of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors at the Otesaga later on Saturday, two of Rose’s former teammates on the board, vice chairman Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson, also expressed their hope that Selig would see fit to reinstate Rose.

At roughly the same hour, as I first reported late Saturday night, Sparky Anderson marched into the “Safe At Home” shop as if he were going to the mound at Riverfront to pull Jack Billingham, and, tears welling in his eyes, told Rose, “You made some mistakes 20 years ago, Pete, but that shouldn’t detract from your contributions to the game.”


There was a rather petulant piece at ESPN pooh-poohing the story, and another less dyspeptic one from the solid reporter Phil Rogers of The Chicago Tribune claiming Selig was angry enough about the Daily News report that he nearly issued a rare formal denial.

But the Commissioner did not do that, and the reasons are not hard to gather. Aaron is not only his close friend but someone whom Bud has always held on a pedestal. Morgan’s power within baseball, and particularly the Hall, has been steadily growing. Frank Robinson is perhaps the game’s elder statesman. Rogers’ conclusion that “there has been no movement by Rose’s peers to have him take a seat among the greats in Cooperstown” might be numerically correct, but it does not take into account the relative influence of these three larger-than-life figures.

Perhaps just as importantly is the upcoming trauma of the 20th anniversary of Rose’s banishment, and, a week later, the 20th anniversary of Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s stunning, and to so many of us, heartbreaking, death. Selig and baseball can completely co-opt the story and turn it into one of redemption (whether or not it really is). The Veterans’ Committee vote on Rose can finish with only Aaron, Morgan, and Robinson voting “aye” and everybody else shouting obscenities, and Selig will have still redirected the coverage at the end of next month. It’s the scene from “Catch-22″ where the General, Orson Welles, wants to court-martial the Captain, Alan Arkin, for dropping his bombs in the Mediterranean. “We thought of that,” says the Major, played by Martin Balsam, “but then we considered the inevitable publicity.” Welles sighs. “You don’t have to say another word, Major.”

And lastly there is the drum beat growing louder and louder about the Hall of Fame and steroids – and Rose. It’s not just the issue of relative immorality. There is a looming Hall of Famer shortage. Exactly who are we to think are the lead-pipe, no-controversy, no-rumor, no-speculation first-ballot cinches among the recently-retired? Fred McGriff next winter? Larry Walker for the ceremonies of July, 2011? Bernie Williams of the class of 2012? Craig Biggio the year after that? There are, to me, literally two certainties out there and only one of them is certainly retired – Greg Maddux will be here five summers hence, and, if he doesn’t try to pitch again, so will Tom Glavine.

And in the interim? Robby Alomar? 

I mean – and I intend to go into this in depth in a future blog – I think this is great news for Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, and maybe even Roger Maris, Gil Hodges, and Ron Santo. But the next few years are not going to be remembered for serene and joyous election revelations and inductions. It ain’t gonna be Jim-Ed fans buying out the postcards of their Red Sox hero by late on the day of the ceremony, as they just did this weekend.

Good grief, the Hall might – gasp – need Pete Rose for his star power.

MEANWHILE, IN THE BASEMENT:

I am spending two extra days here researching the obscure stuff I can’t find out about anywhere other than the Hall’s incredible library. The entire staff (particularly librarian Jim Gates and Collections Senior Director Erik Strohl) has already passed several camels through the eyes of needles and before you say they’re just sucking up to a guy with a tv show, their long-ago predecessors Cliff Kachline and the late Jack Redding treated me with the exact same level of respect the last time I darkened the library’s doors – when I was fourteen years old.

Anyway, the research later. For now, here is one of the things we stumbled over, buried in a box in the Scorebooks and Scorecards Collections, while – of course – looking for something else:

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This is a nondescript, hand-drawn scorebook – in an otherwise ordinary composition notebook – with no markings or identification. Maybe the same name will jump out at you, that jumped out at me.

Batting second and playing centerfield for Shelbyville, Kentucky, of the Blue Grass States League, is Stengel. Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. It’s July, 1910, and he’s just been saved from having to go back to dental school in Kansas City after his first professional season as a player came to an abrupt halt when the Kankakee team went out of business! Stengel latched on with Shelbyville (the franchise moved in mid-season so some records show him with Maysville), opened up with a 1-for-3 day in a 3-2 win, and would remain in baseball until his death in 1975.

And this is a scorebook, apparently belonging to a fan, who saw him play 20 or so times, in the lowest of the minors, 99 years ago. And the Hall of Fame has so much stuff that this not only isn’t on display, but nobody had yet had the time to look long enough at the book to figure out that that’s what it was.

And finally I have some ideas of what I want my house to look like!

Since you’ve read so long, just to say thanks, I give you something you never see – what the non-baseball part of Cooperstown looks like – here’s Lake Otsego, which is about a four-minute walk from the Hall’s front door:

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Ball Rolling Toward Rose Eligibility

And the clues continue to mount.

The teary-eyed communion between Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose at a baseball memorabilia shop here in Cooperstown on Saturday wasn’t the only hint over induction weekend that the ice may be breaking around Rose’s 20 years in suspended animation – and eligibility for, if not necessarily election to, the Hall, might be in the offing.
The impeccable Bill Madden reports in today’s New York Daily News that Hank Aaron held a “seemingly impromptu” gaggle with a handful of reporters on Saturday during which he not only endorsed an asterisk for steroid users who reach Cooperstown, but brought Rose up himself and said “I would like to see Pete in. He belongs there.”
On Saturday night I reported that Rose’s old Cincinnati manager stunned onlookers in the card shop in which Rose spends most of induction weekend, by bounding through its doors to have a brief conversation with him. Saying he had been convinced of the rightness of the timing by his wife, Anderson told Rose: “You made some mistakes 20 years ago, Pete, but that shouldn’t detract from your contributions to the game.”

I had the briefest of conversations with Rose yesterday. He confirmed the Anderson visit, said it had been “a long time” since they had last talked (although he wasn’t certain it was the full two decades). Pete Rose is never tight-lipped about his prospects for reinstatement, but he was clearly being circumspect. “Sparky was here. Morgan was here. Perez was here. Schmidt was here.” He smiled, then answered my question about the ultimate outcome of his saga. “I think it’ll be all right.”

With the advent of increased Hall of Famer influence on the Hall of Fame itself, Joe Morgan in particular has grown powerful within the Cooperstown infrastructure. A Morgan greeting to Rose wouldn’t mean much. A Morgan word to Bud Selig about ‘time served’ might be – and Madden reports at least one other Hall of Famer is arguing such a line.

I was a steadfast opponent of Rose’s reinstatement for all of his first fifteen years of banishment. My belief was, even if he bet only on the Reds to win, this constituted a kind of passive/aggressive form of game-fixing: his use of players, especially his best relief pitchers, might be much more aggressive in games on which he had a wager, than those he did not. But the light bulb has slowly flickered on above Pete’s head, he has lowered the volume on his woe-is-me-ism, and most importantly, his crimes have been contextualized by the PED-era. There is no form of game-fixing more subtle nor more insidious than juicing. Not even gambling.

The 20th Anniversary of his banishment is a month away: August 24th. It has served its purpose. Rose will never get a significant job in the game; if necessary he can be statutorily prevented from getting one. Who knows? A reinstated Rose might even be a terrific in-person warning to minor league players and young big leaguers he might serve as a hitting coach, about the consequences of breaking the key rules – the ones about gambling, and the ones about performance-enhancers.

It’s time.

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