Results tagged ‘ Tony Kubek ’

Moose Skowron: The Merry All-Time World Series Great

The list of the top ten Home Run hitters in World Series history is fascinating, but not for the reasons you’d think.

Mickey Mantle still leads (and almost certainly will; Albert Pujols trails him by 14, cluster-hitter Nellie Cruz trails him by 15, and Alex Rodriguez trails him by 17). Babe Ruth (15) and Yogi Berra (12) follow. Duke Snider is fourth with 11, Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson tied for fifth at 10. The rest of the top ten are three men tied with eight homers each: Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, and Moose Skowron.

Moose Skowron?

Bill “Moose” Skowron died today after a fight with cancer. He was 81. He was one of the most appreciated, most fun, most filter-free guys in baseball history (“Keith Olbermann! You look great! But, Jeez, ya put on a little weight, huh?”). For the last 40 years he had gradually become the stuff of anecdotal legend, roaming the various parks of the White Sox and dropping into almost anybody’s broadcast booth and inevitably being asked about the stash of Mantle-signed baseballs he supposedly kept locked away somewhere (“Oh, now don’t start on me about that again, Sheesh, I’m not talkin’ about that again”).

What got lost in all this merriment – and that’s the word for it, Bill Skowron was almost unstoppably merry - was that he was a helluva first baseman, mostly for the New York Yankees. And unless somebody gets on the stick, he is going to be in the top ten in all-time World Series home runs for quite awhile. Because while you may or may not be able to prove that there is such a thing as clutch hitting, Moose Skowron played in 39 World Series games, got 39 hits, hit his eight homers, and drove in 29 runs. He slugged .519, hit two homers in the same Series in two different years, and in the dramatic 7th Game in 1958, with the Yankees having just broken a 2-2 tie in the 8th Inning, he hit a two-out three-run job to kill off the Braves and Lew Burdette (who had only won the Series from the year before by pitching three victories for Milwaukee).

To throw more numbers at you:

Most Career World Series RBI

1. Mickey Mantle                40

2. Yogi Berra                        39

3. Lou Gehrig                      35

4. Babe Ruth                        33

5. Joe DiMaggio                  30

6. Bill Skowron                    29

Something else to consider about this cascade of stats. Moose would be the first person to tell you he was no Mickey Mantle and certainly no Babe Ruth. But he put up World Series numbers that approach both of them, with far fewer opportunities. In his first three Series, Skowron was platooned by Casey Stengel. He only batted four times in the ’57 Classic.

Skowron only had 142 World Series plate appearances. Mantle had 273, Berra 295, DiMaggio 220. Mantle homered once every 15.2 ups, Skowron once every 17.75, Berra once every 24.6, DiMaggio once every 27.5.

The RBI rate is even more impressive. Rewrite that list based on plate appearances (lower is better), with the caveat that a tack-on Grand Slam, like the Moose hit in Game 7 in 1956, can go a long way.

Plate Appearances Per World Series RBI:

1. Gehrig                           4.0

2. Skowron                      4.9

3. Ruth                              5.0

4. Mantle                          6.8

5. DiMaggio                     7.3

6. Berra                             7.6

Again, Bill’s explanation for this was pretty easy (“I was real lucky”). In point of fact, he produced in this way even though, almost invariably, Mantle, Berra, and later Maris, were batting ahead of him. As often as he might have added tack-on runs, he was probably much more often coming up after one of the epic sluggers had cleaned off the bases. He hit when it counted.

But ultimately, Moose (and although he went to Purdue on a football scholarship he was 5’11″ 195 – the “Moose” came from a haircut that made the childhood Bill look like the Italian dictator Mussolini) was just endless good fun. I had the great luck to be invited by Tony Kubek to join his family at the 2009 Hall of Fame inductions. Kubek’s first roomate was Skowron, and they were proud enough of their Polish heritage that Skowron introduced the rookie Kubek to a fellow countryman, Stan Musial to get some batting tips. Moose was sitting next to be as Kubek got up to begin his acceptance of his entry into the Broadcasters’ wing. Kubek smiled towards us and said “I have to start with a story about my first year in the majors, and my first roomie, Moose Skowron, and when he introduced me to Stan Musial.”

Moose buried his head in his hands. “Oh, Jeez, Tony, don’t tell that story,” he muttered, “Jeez, don’t tell that story!” As the MLB Network cameraman raced towards us to get a reaction shot, Bill muttered again, “Keith, can’t you do something to stop this? You’re on tv, ain’t ya?” When I pointed out that I was part Polish, too, Bill sat upright and said “You’re one of us? Well, I guess that means you can’t. I’ll just have to sit here and take this.”

Cooperstown: Sunday – And More On Rose

The Hall of Fame induction speeches are always heartfelt and always noteworthy, but rarely do they have such emotional impact as this year’s.

Frankly, Rickey Henderson gave as good a speech as anybody could’ve imagined. It was respectful, it was self-deprecating, it was eloquent, it was moving. The only self-references were to say “I thank” – and he seemingly thanked everybody. And between his childhood memories of being bribed to play the game with donuts and quarters, to adolescent stories of asking Reggie Jackson for an autograph but getting only a pen, Henderson’s good-heartedness and generosity did more to enhance his reputation than anything else he could have done in fifteen minutes. I also think that Rickey finally admitted he had retired – the first-ever combination HOF acceptance/retirement speech.
Jim Rice was equally genuine and sincere, and instead of making even the slightest reference to the indefensible delay in his election, he poured oil on the troubled waters by saying it made no difference to him. My friend Tony Kubek did what he had always done so well: give us insights about others in the game. He began with a reference to his first Yankee roommate, and the man seated beside me, that roommate, Moose Skowron, tried to hide. Tony later inspired the longest sustained applause of the afternoon by thanking Henry Aaron for being such a hero and role model, inside and outside the game.
But the day was headlined by the daughter of the great Yankee and Indian second baseman Joe Gordon. Noting that her father, who had died in 1978, had ordered that there be no funeral nor ceremony, Judy Gordon said that her family would now consider Cooperstown his final resting place. If there was a fan who did not tear up, or feel a lump in the throat, he or she was not evident from where I was sitting.
Coming up tomorrow, a little more on the Pete Rose/Sparky Anderson ice-breaking I reported here Saturday night – the story is not only correct, but it’s only the beginning of what Rose considered a very rewarding weekend. First, some ground-level photos from Cooperstown 2009.
The mass of humanity assembles. It’s still more than an hour until the ceremony and thousands are already present:
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A little Yankee-Red Sox interplay. Brian Cashman at the left; Sox co-owner John Henry in the nifty hat, on the right:
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A colleague of mine – part of the contingent sharing the big day of his old partner Tony Kubek – interviewed, beforehand. Afterwards Bob and more than a dozen NBC Sports production figures of the ’70s and ’80s gathered for a lengthy reception in Tony’s honor:
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Mr. Kubek himself – getting a brief pre-ceremony pep talk from son Jim:
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And one more – that rare, almost transcendent appearance of Sandy Koufax, in the moments after the speeches ended. He is talking to Dave Stewart, once an Albuquerque Duke while Koufax was the team’s pitching coach. Eddie Murray at the right:
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Cooperstown: Saturday Evening

Had the great pleasure of joining the family of 2009 Frick Award Winner Tony Kubek on its private tour of the Hall (and lunch) and while private means private, I can share some of the artifacts and one very nice family image.

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How many Tony Kubeks are in this photo?
That is the great Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek, Jr, on the left, of course, and his son, Tony Kubek III on the right, and in between them, Tony Kubek IV. The photo they have picked up is of the first Tony Kubek, congratulating his son the Yankee during his World Series triumphs in their native Wisconsin in 1957. The Hall prides itself on a file on literally each of the 17,000 or so players who’ve performed in the majors since 1871 (to say nothing of a few thousand more on executives, broadcasters, and even famous fans), and it gave the Kubeks a chance to look at Tony’s. The inductee himself stood by with a kind of patient stoicism, while insisting we should be looking at all the other neat stuff. 
Such as this Shroud of Turin-like object, the importance of which Hall curators didn’t even fully comprehend until last year.
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That, they thought, was some vintage sandlotters’ uniform, circa 1900. It had been labeled such for all the time it had sat inside the Cooperstown collection. Then the light hit it just right, and what seemed to be a murky discoloration on the right breast, just below where the sleeve is folded, revealed itself as the outline of a “Y.” 
A similar “N” was found on the left, and certain other characteristics (like the buttons for converting the sleeves from short to long) became evident. That was a 1905 New York Giants’ uniform – the letters had simply come off, or been taken off, in the interim. In fact further investigation proved it was Christy Mathewson’s 1905 uniform. Not the one he wore during his three World Series shutouts that fall, but his regular season model.
Here’s another relic, a little blurry, and not for the faint-of-heart Red Sox fan:
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Yep, promissory note, from Yankees’ owner Jacob Ruppert to Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, for part of the sale price of… Babe Ruth. The front signatures are Ruppert (r) and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston (Ruppert’s less vocal partner – even though his middle name translated as ‘The Man God’). On the back is Frazee’s endorsement, plus five cents in official document tax stamps, used to retire the debt from World War One.
Thus you are looking at what you get when you sell your soul.
The Mathewson shirt (there was also a 1930-era Babe Ruth brought out for our gasping pleasure) is part of a vast collection, kept in archival quality boxes stacked atop each other. They were not just major leaguers’ – there were half a dozen at least from the All-America Girls’ Baseball League of the ’40s and ’50s – and they were certainly not all Hall of Famers’, which brings us to this anomaly of an image.
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So Pete Rose is in the Hall of Fame – boxed between Jackie Robinson and Al Rosen.
Which causes my mind to wander off the point, and the famous Rose joke from the early ’80s that enabled card collectors and memorabilia dealers to be the first to sense something was very wrong with Pete’s finances. Collector goes up to a uniform dealer and asks for a game-worn Rose jersey.
Buyer:  He wore all these in games?
Dealer: Yep.
Buyer:  There are a lot of them. I can’t decide
Dealer: Well. Cincinnati, Montreal, or Philadelphia?
Buyer:  Uh, Cincinnati
Dealer: Home or Away?
Buyer:  Um, home?
Dealer: ’60s vest style or ’70s-era doubleknit?
Buyer:  Doubleknit
Dealer: What size would you like?
This last item is not from the priceless archives, nor the temperature-controlled storage vaults beneath the public displays, nor was it gingerly handed to us by Exhibitions and Collections Director Erik Strohl, but it was as wonderful a find as I could’ve had. Two 1988 Topps cards, tacked up to a cork board in the librarians’ main area, reflecting at once the difficulties of baseball research and record-keeping, and its sheer silliness:
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Yep. Andy Allanson, and Allan Anderson. A beautiful kind of symmetry.
And this brings me to the last and saddest of the imagery. It is not in the Hall, but rather, in a CVS Drug Store nearly directly across the street from the Hall. It is not in front of the CVS, where Bob Feller was signing autographs when I last walked by, ninety minutes or so ago. It is not even in the front of the CVS. It is in the back, near the tissues.
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There. Third shelf from the bottom, below last year’s baseball cards, and the boxes of Red Sox brand tissues. To the left.
Take a closer look.
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Oh Holy Toledo Mudhens – it’s a pile of autographed 8 x 10′s of ex-Giant and Yankee John “The Count” Montefusco. Your cost? $4.95 each. The prints themselves probably cost 50 cents apiece, and rigid photo-holders that size are worth just about that. Meaning “The Count’s” Amount is down to about four bucks at the CVS in Cooperstown. And they were not flying off store shelves.
Fame is fleeting.
And with that, this is your faithful correspondent signing off from blog central, on the front porch,
on one of the prettiest streets of the Democracy, until an update after tonight’s big soiree or tomorrow morning’s pre-induction mayhem.
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The Cooperstown Flood

Greetings from Cooperstown, New York, where baseball did not begin, but where it could conceivably end Sunday at what could easily wind up being the first-ever underwater Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies.

At least seven separate cloudbursts drenched this quaint village and the surrounding “Leatherstocking” district of the James Fenimore Cooper works, and the only hope is that the forecast for Sunday (rain, possibly thunderstorms) will be as inaccurate as today’s was.
Here is Main Street, Cooperstown, at about 6:00 PM, during what all official and unofficial weather outlets insisted was “72 and Mostly Sunny”:
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This was at about the point where this, the sixth rain, started to hit hard enough to blow the dirt out of the planters next to the shops.
Thus were the hottest commodities in this stretch of American commercialism that rivals any four blocks in the nation, not Jim Rice jerseys nor Rickey Henderson t-shirts nor even Pete Rose autographs (he’s here again), but, simply, umbrellas. One woman was overheard delighting in the red bumbershoot, matching her favorite team’s colors. “Now all I have to do is draw an ‘F’ on it for ‘Phillies.’” She paused. “No, a ‘P.’”
Here is the Hall of Fame itself, the last time I got close enough to confirm it was still there.
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And overheard moments later, from one of the people in the foreground, the early frontrunner for quote of the weekend: “Where’s the Chinese food again?”
That, of course, is until Sunday’s speeches, whether they are conducted outdoors, indoors, or on an evacuation raft. Rickey Henderson will necessarily be fabulous; the long-suffering Jim Rice has been underrated both for his speaking and the depth of his thought; and, it will be fascinating to hear Joe Gordon’s daughter – who claims her father never spoke of the game at home – accept on behalf of a second baseman whose career parallels that of Ryne Sandberg (except for Gordon’s five World Series rings). But the sleeper bet for best speech is from Tony Kubek, the Ford C. Frick Broadcasting winner, whose prowess as a Yankees shortstop (they did not truly replace him until the ascent of Jeter) and fearlessness and insight as an NBC, Toronto Blue Jays, and Yankees announcer, were never fully appreciated until he suddenly left the game in protest of the materialism that seemed to have reached a tragic peak around the time of the 1994 strike, and the owners’ cancellation of The World Series.
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