Results tagged ‘ Ron Darling ’

Minor League Cards: Playoff Edition

While all eight teams are still there (for the moment) I thought this was a suitable time to salute the managers, and show them in the blossom of youth, on minor league (or in two cases, even more exotic) baseball cards from decades back.

Some you’ve seen before and some you haven’t, and we’ll start with the American League matchups:
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We’ve shown the “Only Maddon” here before, from the 1976 TCMA Quad City Angels set. That’s Ron Washington from ProCards’ 1987 Rochester set. Washington appeared in about half a dozen minor league sets over more than a decade, dating back to his days as a top infield prospect in the Dodgers’ system. To continue:
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Yup. Gardy, captured in the Pacific Coast League in ProCards ’87 edition. A year later he’d be shown again, as the rookie manager of the Twins’ farm at Kenosha, Wisconsin – part of the same set that shows the young Joe Girardi of Pittsfield of the Eastern League. One of his pitchers that year was Mike Harkey, and joining both of them on the EL All-Star Team, Dave Eiland of Albany. Eiland and Harkey are Girardi’s pitching coaches today.
To the National, and we go very far afield for these:
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That is a TCMA 1979 Japanese Leagues issue card of Charlie Manuel, DH of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, clearly the creators of the busiest batting helmets in baseball history, American, Japanese, or probably anywhere else. By ’87 Manuel would be back in Portland, serving as Ron Gardenhire’s last manager! The Dusty Baker card on the right is from a team-sponsored set put out by the Richmond Braves of the International League in 1971.
And to finish off the playoff managerial match-ups:
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   We’re getting very international here. That, in a 1982 TCMA Tidewater Tides card, is the only French-born manager in the bigs, Mr. Bochy of the Giants. To the right, the 1967-68 Venezuelan Winter League card of Bobby Cox, still, at that point, three or four months away from his major league playing debut with the Yankees.

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Of course as I write this, Coxy has already been ejected from Game 2 of the NLDS, so obviously I’d be remiss to not include the bench coach who succeeded him at the helm of the Braves. That victim of misspelling on the 1987 ProCards Gastonia set is indeed Chino Cadahia, not “Cadania,” now on Cox’s staff in Atlanta just 23 years later.
Cadahia had some team in that season in the South Atlantic League: three kids named Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, and Sammy Sosa. In something that should tell you something, Cadahia and Gastonia finished with 58 wins and 82 losses.
And let’s just finish things off with two of the announcers covering these division series. On the right is a familiar figure on the Mets’ telecast (and that same 1982 TCM
A Tidewater set that depicted Bochy). The other one is a rookie and he’s bounced around among three teams this year: TBS, MLB Network, and PeachTree, but he might make it. I mean, if he can survive the experience of being on the Pro Cards’ 1987 Glens Falls Tigers card set, I suppose he can survive anything. 
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Like A Good Piece Of Art

This is not intended as an insurance advertisement, just a freeze from ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby that struck me as bordering on art: the shadowed silhouettes of fans in the right field bleachers at Angel Stadium during David Ortiz’s ups.

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2010 HOME RUN DERBY (C) MLB/ESPN

Nice, huh?
MORE ON BOB SHEPPARD AND PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCERS:
A commenter on the last post quotes a second version of the only major gaffe committed in the 57 seasons the late Mr. Sheppard announced Yankee games at Yankee and Shea Stadiums. In the version I recounted, a faulty microphone caused his editorial comments about starter Shane Rawley (“if you call that a pitcher”) to echo around the ballpark. In the version the commenter cut-and-pasted, Bob recalled it as Rawley entering a 1982 game in relief and his first pitch getting whacked for an extra base hit, leading to a different comment (“some relief pitching”) going out over an open mic. 
In point of fact, I heard both versions, from Bob. Since Rawley, otherwise effective with the Mariners and particularly the 1987 Phillies, spent his entire two-and-a-half years in the Bronx pitching like the Human Torch, either version could be correct (maybe even both). My point in telling the story was that after initially being terribly embarrassed by the gaffe, Bob came to embrace it and enjoy it as much as the rest of us cherish some of our on-air bloopers (my favorite of my own can’t be repeated or reprinted – I’ll spare you).
This reminds me that one of the first clues as to the identity of Bob’s forgotten predecessor was a open-mic blooper so hilarious that it was recorded by all of New York’s many newspapers in the ’40s, and has since passed into baseball lore – but attributed almost exclusively to another PA man. A few fans sitting front-row in fair territory had draped their overcoats over the then low fence in the outfield. The next day, the papers all reported that the Yankee Stadium announcer had inspired a roar of laughter from the crowd by intoning “Would the fans sitting in right field please remove their clothes…” 
Remarkably, not one of the eight or nine beat reporters – who used to fight each other for details in a way we can’t comprehend today – said who the PA announcer was! This was the first hint that his anonymity was being protected for some reason. Later evidence proved the reason was obvious: it was Yankees’ Public Relations man Arthur “Red” Patterson, and the writers certainly weren’t going to tick off their official conduit to the club by publicly humiliating him by name.
A year or two later, Tex Rickards, the Dodger PA announcer whose style would be the exact opposite of Sheppard’s (earthy, gravelly, sitting not in the press box but next to the Dodger dugout, often wearing a team jacket reading “Dodger Announcer”), made the exact same mistake. Rickards’ version of “will the fans sittin’ in the outfield please remove dere clothes” has gone into history. Patterson’s is an almost forgotten footnote – except he did it first.
Incidentally, the doubling of duties was not unique to New York. A remarkable recording of a Yankees-Tigers game in Detroit from 1934 has Tigers’ radio play-by-play man Ty Tyson telling his listeners that Luke Hamlin was coming into pitching, then, with an audible click, he turns on the PA microphone and makes the same announcement to the crowd.

Imagine Vin Scully doubling as the Dodgers’ voice, on air, and in Dodger Stadium!
One last note about Mr. Sheppard. Visiting with my friend Gary Cohen after the Mets’ game yesterday (and congratulations to Gary, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez for placing second to Vin in GQ Magazine’s ranking of the best TV booths in the game), he told me that Ralph Kiner had mentioned during the broadcast that when Ralph joined the Mets’ crew in 1962 he sought Sheppard’s advice on enunciation and clarity – which gives you a sense of the esteem with which he was held, relatively early in his remarkable career.


Bob Sheppard and Preparation

I’ve heard the story with several different players, one of them being the delightfully-named Kenny Szotkiewicz, utility infielder of the 1970 Detroit Tigers. When such an idiosyncratic name would appear on Bob Sheppard’s scorecard at Yankee Stadium, he would take no chances. He would go to the visitors’ clubhouse (and especially in the pre-renovation Stadium of the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s, this meant more than just a quick trip into the elevator) and ask someone he knew to introduce him to the player in question. 

“Forgive me for intruding. I am Bob Sheppard, the public address announcer here at Yankee Stadium.” As the years wore on this, the self-introdfuction became less and less necessary, of course. “Could you pronounce your name for me so I make no mistake during your introduction?” Then the ritual would ensue: “It’s Soka-witz.” “Sock…a…witz.” “Right.” “As in punching some wits?” The meticulousness extended to the subtler variables. He asked Rick Burleson of the Red Sox if it was “Burl-son” or “Burl-a-son.” That’s how much it mattered to him. 
The personal trips would end in the ’90s or early ’00s (an emissary would ask) but only because Bob eventually had to have an artificial hip implanted. Even then, he was vigorous and with inspiring endurance. Bob missed a game a few years back and the Yankees announced he had had a minor household injury. In fact, the artificial hip had dislodged. Bob’s son Chris found this out when his father called him from the ground floor of his house, having walked – with a loose artificial hip – downstairs from his bedroom. 
The diligence and the work ethic paid off. As outlined below, players like Tony Gwynn consider hearing Sheppard introducing them at Yankee Stadium to be a thrill something close to winning a batting championship. And, after today’s game at CitiField, Ron Darling of the Mets told me that during the two career starts he made in the Bronx, he actually paused while warming up in the Oakland bullpen. “I had to hear Bob Sheppard say may name. I just had to.”

Dumb Stuff And Dumber Stuff

One of the silliest things I’ve ever read about televised baseball has been authored by a guy whose readers have had to develop a virtual immunity to silliness and missing details over the years. Bob Raissman writes in The New York Daily News about the misdirected charges of prejudice against this team or that, especially in the post-season. It’s a mostly insightful piece about Ron Darling – one of the best analysts in the business – until he veers off into a theoretical that seems to leave out a vital historical reality:

Can you imagine if the Yankees and Cardinals meet in the World Series on Fox? First, stink bombs – and charges of bias – will be flying in the direction of Tim McCarver, the former Cardinals player, andJoe Buck, the former Cardinals broadcaster.

To paraphrase Timmy, well that’s a fine piece of amnesia. The supposedly anti-Yankees McCarver broadcast Yankees’ games for the local Fox station from 1999 through 2001.
MUCH DUMBER STUFF
First time I’ve included a non-baseball story in here, I think. You saw the David Letterman extortion/blackmail attempt? Without defending Letterman’s forced-to-confess-transgressions, I went slack-jawed went suspect Robert J. Halderman was arrested. He has been a Producer for CBS News 48 Hours, but what you haven’t read is that when I made my television debut as the New York correspondent for CNN Sports in 1981, Robert J. “Joe” Halderman was the chief assignment editor in the CNN New York bureau. You know when somebody gets arrested for some horrific or moronic crime (like taking a personal check for two million dollars as a blackmail payment), you hear somebody say “that’s not the guy I knew”? Not this time. This is exactly the guy we knew at CNN in 1981.

Recommended Prospects, Recommended Reading (Updated)

Funny that with all the big names moving before the deadline, the number of primo prospects was actually pretty low. I was particularly unimpressed with what the Indians got for Cliff Lee (and Ben Francisco) although I am only about ten percent insufficiently skeptical to address the Lee deal as I did the McLouth one – that the trading team was selling a guy, if not at peak value, then at the last moment he would be seriously overvalued, and were doing well to get anything hopeful back.

Having said that, if you still consider Justin Masterson a prospect and not a full-fledged major leaguer, he was clearly the most gifted of all the players given up for “the names.” A year from now, when Brad Penny and John Smoltz and who knows who else are Red Sox memories, Boston would not have parted with him, and not just because of his pitching gifts. The Sox are astounded by his quiet leadership, an almost unheard-of quality for a pitcher. He doesn’t rant, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t slap his glove against his thigh, and nothing bleeds from his sock. He just inspires his teammates to feel more secure about their talents and accomplishments, and their prospects for winning the game. Terry Francona will miss him, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of his life.
And ironically, given how they are howling in Pittsburgh over the exiling of McLouth, then Jack Wilson, then Freddie Sanchez, the head-and-shoulders pick for the top pure-prospect traded against the deadline was the guy the Bucs got for Sanchez, pitcher Tim Alderson. Harkening back to the Johan Santana/Yankees post here, the rule of thumb is that half of all pitching prospects fail. That would ordinarily discourage the ever-discouraged Pirate faithful. However, Alderson and Charlie Morton are both front-of-rotation, ace-of-staff prospects. If one makes it and the other turns merely into a righty Jarrod Washburn, they’ve done awfully well – and this assumes that very little else from the McLouth or Wilson trades bears great fruit, which is not necessarily a correct assumption.
One more deadline note. The amazement at the Adam LaRoche/Casey Kotchman trade itself amazes me. The Red Sox made a similar acquisition in 2004, a glove-first, low-power starting first baseman, about whom everyone said “where they gonna play him?” His name was Doug Mientkiewicz and the point was, his window as a starting player was pretty much over, as is Kotchman’s. He will never hit enough. So you keep the defensive whiz as your back-up and pay for it by spending the middling slugger with the middling glove. The only complication this time is that the Boston backup on those days when Victor Martinez is playing first, is a fellow named Youkilis, and he’s no slouch.
BRIEF UPDATE NOT WORTHY OF ITS OWN POST

The Rangers sent Frank Francisco out on rehab to AAA. To Frisco of the Texas League. Making him Frank Francisco of Frisco.
Nearly as good as Johnny Podres of the Padres, Jim York of New York, or Ted Cox of the Red Sox.
READ – IN FACT, YOU’RE DOING IT NOW!

Three books to endorse with high praise and the caveat that I’m mentioned in one, and two of them are written by friends. I write as a guy who was once the country’s only nationally-published reviewer of baseball books (who once gave the second edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia a panning for some awful typos) so finding three I like at one time is quite a feat.
First there’s Marty Appel’s Munson: The Life And Death Of A Yankee Captain. When a book reveals details of a man’s life to his own family, it’s a pretty good book. I am duly impressed both with the research effort and the clarity of Marty’s work, and the attempt to recreate that sad day 30 years ago tomorrow when Munson’s death shocked baseball. It is not happy reading, but it is worthwhile reading.
I think Ron Darling may have written (let’s broaden it out to all of them who didn’t go to Yale; even co-written) the best book by a pitcher since Kirby Higbe’s HIgh And Inside. Ron’s is called The Complete Game and it takes a novel approach: a pitch-by-pitch, thought-by-thought recitation of key innings of key games, nearly all of them his own, throughout his long span in college and major league ball. Apart from taking you inside an entire team’s thinking as the pitches succeed each other, Ronnie also underscores what is to me the most underrated skill among elite athletes: Memory. Nearly all of the microscopic detail (what he was thinking between the third and fourth pitches, to the third hitter, in the fifth inning, of his thirteenth start, etc) was pulled from his recall and simply verified in the record books. He rolls the details out the way Gordie Howe once rolled out each shot he took in a Detroit Red Wings-New York Rangers game, 27 years after he played it. A great read, and very well written.
Almost not at all written is the third suggestion: Chris Epting’s The Early Polo Grounds. This is 181 pre-1925 photos taken at the legendary home of The New York Giants and it borders on time travel, even if the captions aren’t always complete (a date of an October, 1910, photo is disputed by the author because the Giants didn’t play in that year’s World Series; he seems not to have known that in those days the Giants and Yankees regularly played post-season series for the “Championship of New York”). Having just spent hours in the photo vaults of Cooperstown looking at all the photos of the fabled ballpark, I can say that this collection rivals that part of the Hall’s from the 20th Century – plus, they won’t arrest you if you try to take it home.


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