Friday, July 04, 2014

Lou Gehrig in Asbury Park

Lou Gehrig, 1927, Asbury Park, N.J. (Personal collection)
A couple of years ago, I came across this photo on eBay. It's small -- maybe about 2x3 inches -- pasted to a blank postcard. On the back, in pencil, it says, "Lou Gehrig and [illegible] 1927 Ashbury Pk." The illegible name looks like Janu, but it could be anything. I suspect it might be the man in the dark suit directly behind Lou.

It was taken outside the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel the day Lou and Babe Ruth came through with their barnstorming tour in October 1927.

The game was delayed an hour because William Truby, the promoter, failed to produce the $2,500 cashier's check that he had promised. Walsh always demanded money up-front, with paydays ranging from $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the size of the town and the expected crowd. If receipts from ticket sales went beyond a predetermined level, he and his players would also receive a percentage of the gate. When a local politician offered to write a personal check for the $2,500 so that the game might begin, Walsh rejected it, saying only a cashier's check would do. He and Gehrig and Ruth went to the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel to wait. When the cashier's check finally arrived, Gehrig pulled a cardigan sweater over his baseball jersey, tucked his mitt under his left arm, and walked out of the hotel into the afternoon sun. Outside, cars were waiting to drive the men to the ballpark.
-- Jonathan Eig, Luckiest Man, p. 110

It's quite the record of one day in a legend's life, when he came to New Jersey.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The definitive SI baseball preview cover analysis

{NOTE: Originally posted on April 1, 2010, this analysis is now updated yearly to show the latest accurate numbers. I haven't come across a study like this, but it doesn't mean it's not out there. Though it would be a bit of a downer if I found out I did all this research for nothing. With only a few exceptions, all links lead to images of the covers.}

After I posted the 2010 Sports Illustrated baseball preview cover on Facebook (in addition to here), my friend Brad left this comment:

One of my first SI issues was the 1987 baseball preview issue, with Cory Snyder and the Indians on the cover. The Indians, of course, went 61-101 that year.

And that got my mind racing. How accurate has the magazine been in its choices for the annual baseball preview? We all know about the cover jinx, but does the jinx hold up through an entire season as well as it seems to on a more short-term basis, from week to week? It didn't take me too long to whip up a spreadsheet, scroll through SI's covers gallery to find each preview and plug in the numbers, with the help of Baseball-Reference.

So I may get a little obsessive at times, assigning myself mundane tasks that, in the end, result in little more than some neat -- and possibly very arbitrary -- numbers to peruse. But I don't care. Here are the results, showing how many teams, players and positions were featured, plus the teams' and players' results that season, from stats to All-Star nods to awards, plus a little more.

The totals and general figures
Through 2014, SI released 60 baseball season preview issues (not covers, as I'll explain shortly), featuring 25 of the 30 franchises that exist today. If you count the Montreal Expos and two instances of the Washington Senators separately, there are 33 different teams in that time. Twenty-five have been featured on the cover; neither Senators club made it, but the Twins and Rangers have. Both the Expos and Washington Nationals have had players on a cover.

In 2013, the magazine also introduced full regional covers for its baseball preview for the first time. From 2009-11, the main image on all covers was the same nationally, but there were regional insets, which I chose not to count in the player totals. Those players will be noted in the yearly breakdown below, however. As for the regional covers beginning with 2013, I've decided to count those collectively as one issue for the 60 noted at the start of the previous paragraph (to indicate the number of years the magazine has produced a baseball preview issue) but have credited each player with a solo appearance (hence Sabathia's two solo covers).

In 2014, the Yankees broke their tie with the Red Sox to retake the lead with eight covers -- though one of Boston's was the 1990 cover featuring a long-retired Ted Williams and the headline, "Was it a better game in Ted's day?" That was one of two covers to feature an inactive player, along with the 1984 one with Yankees manager Yogi Berra, and one of eight that didn't have an active player at all. There were six years from 1956-65 that showed no players: 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1963 and 1965.

Here is the team-by-team tally:
Yankees 8
Red Sox 7
Dodgers 6
Cardinals 6
Phillies 5
Orioles 3
Giants 3
Reds 3
Tigers 3
Royals 3
Angels 3
Mariners 3
Indians 2
Twins 2
Mets 2
Pirates 2
Nationals 2
Brewers 1
D-backs 1
Rockies 1
Cubs 1
Rangers 1
Padres 1
A's 1
Expos 1
Rays 1

There have been 74 different active players to grace the cover before a season, including 16 Hall of Famers (though Williams and Berra are among those), 41 players who would have All-Star seasons the year they appeared on the cover, two who would take MVP honors (both in the NL), four Cy Young winners (with each league represented), two who would break significant records, three who would win 20 games and 11 who went on to lead their respective leagues in one of the triple crown categories: batting average, home runs, RBIs, wins, ERA and strikeouts. Those 11 players led the way in 13 categories overall, particularly boosted by the Cy Young-winning pitchers. Hitters have averaged .295 (158-for-535) with 23 home runs and 85 RBIs. Pitchers have averaged a 14-8 record, 176 strikeouts and a 3.19 ERA (68 earned runs in 193 innings).

Starting pitchers have appeared the most, 32 times each (no relievers have appeared), followed by 20 outfielders, 11 first basemen, six third basemen, five shortstops, five catchers, two managers, two second baseman and one owner. Eleven of the covers have featured multiple people, but only four times has it been multiple representatives for one team. Mays, Derek Jeter, Mark McGwire, Steve Garvey, Roy Halladay, Albert Pujols and CC Sabathia are the only players to appear more than once (twice each), with Garvey, Pujols and Sabathia the only ones to be featured solo on a cover. Fifteen players were featured the year they joined a new team and 13 covers showed the defending World Series champions.

Now for some jinx-related numbers. Twenty-six of the 68 teams have reached the postseason the year they were on the cover, with six winning the World Series, five losing it, three losing the ALCS, two losing the NLCS, seven losing the ALDS and three losing the NLDS. Both Division Series stats include the 1981 strike-interrupted season, when the Phillies (first half) and Royals (second half) won half the season but lost in their respective division series. Twenty-three teams finished in first place in their divisions (or leagues, before 1969), 15 finished second, 18 third, six fourth, one fifth, three sixth and two seventh. Seven teams won 100 games, two lost 100. Over the years, the teams have averaged a third-place finish and an 86-72 record.

That's it for the broad strokes. Here are the year-by-year covers, broken down by decade. For simplicity, I stuck with the triple-crown stats (AVG/HR/RBI for hitters, W-L/ERA/SO for pitchers), even if that's not how we're supposed to evaluate players these days.

1950s
SI launched in August 1954 -- with baseball on its cover in the form of Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews -- so its first baseball preview issue did not appear until April 1955. The first team to appear on a season preview was the New York Giants, who had won the World Series in '54. The cover subjects were center fielder Willie Mays and manager Leo Durocher, flanking Durocher's wife, Laraine. The cover was controversial because Laraine Durocher, a white woman, is touching Mays, a black man. It has three pages dedicated to it in James S. Hirsch's recent Mays biography. The Say Hey Kid blocked out any distractions, though, and went on to an All-Star season that year and led the Majors with 51 home runs.

Following a series of generic covers, Mays appeared again in 1959, another All-Star season.

1960s
Orioles outfielder Jackie Brandt appeared in 1961, an average .297/16/72 All-Star season, followed by Tigers pitcher Frank Lary, who had a horrible 1962: 2-6/5.74/41. Sandy Koufax got things back on the superstar track in 1964, when he was an All-Star (19-5/1.74/223) and led the NL in ERA.

In 1966, Dick Groat became the first player shown with a new team (and perhaps that's why he was chosen). It backfired when he put up .260/2/53 that season. The editors went the same route, presumably, in 1967, when new Pirates third baseman Maury Wills got the cover and fared ever-so-slightly better (.302/3/45).

Lou Brock was up in 1968, when he led the Majors in doubles, triples and stolen bases and the Cardinals became the first featured team to reach the postseason, losing to the Tigers in the World Series. Brock's appearance also marked the first of four straight years in which the defending World Series champ was on the cover. In 1969, it was Tigers catcher Bill Freehan, who was an All-Star in a .262/16/49 season.

1970s
The defending champions trend continued with Mets left-hander Jerry Koosman (12-7/3.14/118) in 1970, surrounded by caps of the other clubs, and with Orioles slugger Boog Powell (.256/22/92, All-Star) in 1971, the first year that SI's pick went on to win 100 games and the World Series. Cardinals third baseman Joe Torre (.289/11/81) and his sideburns was the choice in 1972, snapping the streak of defending champs.

Though I didn't tally how many of the cover subjects were coming off an award-winning season, I did note that 1973 cover boy Steve Carlton of the Phillies was the defending NL Cy Young winner, following his 27-10/1.97/310 NL Triple Crown campaign. His follow-up was pretty much the opposite: 13-20/3.90/223 for the last-place Phils. Reds outfielder Pete Rose graced the cover in 1974, a nondescript year for him (.284/3/51), and Garvey made his first appearance in 1975, when he went .319/18/95.

The year of my birth, 1976, may have been the bull's eye of SI baseball preview covers. The subject was Reds second baseman Joe Morgan, a future Hall of Famer for the defending World Series champs. He went on to have an MVP and All-Star season, batting .320/27/111 as the Reds went 102-60 and won the Series again. Morgan was so good that year, I'll go a little sabermetric for you: he let the Majors with a .444 OBP, .576 SLG and 1.020 OPS.

As good as '76 was for SI's choice, 1977 was as bad. New Angels outfielder Joe Rudi -- "The Angels' $2-million man" -- went on to a .264/13/53 season for the fifth-place club. The first cover shared by players from different teams appeared in 1978, when Twins first baseman Rod Carew (.333/5/70) and Reds outfielder George Foster (.302/30/98) mugged for Walter Iooss Jr.'s camera. Iooss and the magazine repeated the theme in 1979 with Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice (.325/39/130) and outfielder Dave Parker (.310/25/94) of the Pirates, who won the Series that year. All four were All-Stars as well.

1980s
In 1980, SI asked, "Who is Keith Hernandez and What Is He Doing Hitting .344?" He underachieved at the plate that year -- just .321/16/99 in an All-Star season -- but his mustache, as always, had a Hall of Fame-worthy season. Perhaps foreshadowing the year to come, in 1981 SI split the cover and hit on two teams that would win their divisions during that split season: Mike Schmidt and the Phillies (the defending champs) and George Brett and the Royals. Despite All-Star seasons by both (Schmidt hit .316/31/91, led the Majors in homers and won the NL MVP; Brett hit .314/6/43), the Phillies and Royals each lost in their respective newly-created-for-one year-until-1995 Division Series. The Dodgers won the World Series in '81, prompting Garvey's second cover appearance in 1982, though his numbers (.282/16/86) weren't as good as after his first cover.

In 1983, SI managed to get Gary Carter in between team success -- his Expos reached the playoffs in that split '81 season, and he later starred for the mid-80s Mets, but in '83 he was just the game's best catcher with an All-Star line of .270/17/79. Only the second manager to appear on an SI baseball preview came in 1984, when new Yankees skipper Yogi Berra was shown. The Yanks finished third with an 87-75 record. New York was the subject again in 1985, but this time it was the Mets' Dwight Gooden, coming off his NL Rookie of the Year campaign. He topped that with his Cy Young, MLB Triple Crown season (24-4/1.53/268) for the second-place Mets (98-64). The magazine went up I-95 in 1986, choosing third baseman Wade Boggs (.357/8/71, All-Star) of the Red Sox, who lost the World Series that year to the Mets.

Now we have the cover that started this whole project, the 1987 issue featuring the Indians' Cory Snyder and Joe Carter. It is, perhaps, the single worst baseball preview cover choice in SI's history, though not through the fault of the players. Snyder his .236/33/82 and Carter .264/32/106, but Cleveland went 61-101 -- the first of just two 100-loss teams to appear on a baseball preview cover -- and finished last in the AL East.

The publication bounced back in 1988 with Bay Area first basemen Will Clark (.282/29/109, All-Star, NL RBI leader) and Mark McGwire (.260/32/99, All-Star), whose A's lost the World Series to the Dodgers. (I convinced my parents to subscribe a year later than Brad apparently did with his folks, because this is the first baseball preview issue I recall getting.) The decade closed with Padres catcher Benito Santiago looking up at the camera in 1989; we looked down on him, then looked down on his .236/16/62 season.

1990s
Following the Williams cover in '90, SI tabbed a future Hall of Famer in 1991 in Rangers fireballer Nolan Ryan (12-6/2.91/203). Another future enshrinee appeared in 1992 in the form of Kirby Puckett (.329/19/110), who led the Majors with 210 hits that year and was an All-Star. David Cone got the cover in 1993, the year he returned to Kansas City, but he went just 11-14/3.33/191.

Another split cover preceded baseball's worst season, 1994, when no one won a World Series that didn't happen. After appearing on the first fold-out baseball preview cover, Ken Griffey Jr. hit .323/40/90 for the Mariners, who were in third place (49-63) when the season was stopped, and Mike Piazza went .319/24/92 for the first-place Dodgers (58-56). When baseball returned in 1995, future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken was the face of the season, during which he was an All-Star and went on to hit .262/17/88 while breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played streak.

Burned by the Indians in '87, SI waited until the Tribe was coming off a World Series appearance to feature them again in 1996, with Manny Ramirez (.309/33/112) on the cover. Cleveland fared better this time, winning the AL Central before losing in the ALDS. The Big Unit's big face hit mailboxes in 1997, when Randy Johnson went 20-4/2.28/291 and was an All-Star for the NL West-winning (and ALDS-losing) Mariners. He finished second to Roger Clemens in AL Cy Young voting.

McGwire made his second preview cover in 1998, the year he broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record. McGwire's .299/70/147 All-Star year* got him second in NL MVP voting to Sammy Sosa. SI closed the decade, the century, the millenium with new Dodgers pitcher Kevin Brown, who had signed baseball's richest contract in the offseason and at least had a solid 1999: 18-9/3.00/221.

2000s
SI opened the decade in 2000 with a bang, choosing Red Sox righty Pedro Martinez the year he went 18-6/1.74/284 and won the AL Cy Young while leading the Junior Circut in strikeouts and pacing the Majors in ERA. Derek Jeter (.311/21/74, All-Star) followed in 2001, following his World Series MVP autumn, and the Yankees reached the Fall Classic again before losing to the Diamondbacks on the last night of the Yankee dynasty. New Yankee Jason Giambi was the pick in 2002, one of his great years (.314/41/122). A third straight Yankee cover tested the tolerance of the rest of the country in 2003, and it was truly overkill. Not only did it feature five starting pitchers (Roger Clemens, Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina) and the headline, "You can't have too much pitching," centered among all those pinstripes was George Steinbrenner, the only owner on a preview cover.

No Yankees in 2004, but an injury-prone Kerry Wood, who went 8-9/3.72/144 for the Cubs, who didn't win the World Series (again). But Jeter (.309/19/70) returned in 2005, when he and Johnny Damon (.316/10/75) exchanged suspicious glances and then both teams bowed out in the ALDS. SI got the World Series champions right in 2006 with Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (.331/49/137) and new Red Sox hurler Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12/4.40/201) in 2007.

In 2008, a showcase of young talent brought six players representing five teams to the fold-out cover: Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Justin Upton of the D-backs and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies made the front cover; Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox and Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals appeared on the fold-out flap. Braun (.285/37/106 and the only All-Star of the bunch) and the Brewers lost in the NLDS and Boston, with Ellsbury (.280/9/47, AL-leading 50 stolen bases) and Buchholz (2-9/6.75/72), lost in the ALDS. Upton (.250/15/42) and Arizona (second, 82-80), Tulo (.263/8/46) and Colorado (third, 74-88) and Zimmerman (.285/14/51) and Washington (sixth, 59-102) sat out the postseason.

In 2009, the Yankees' new import, CC Sabathia (19-8/3.37/197, MLB lead in wins) was the centerpiece and proved to be a big piece of the Bombers' 27th world championship. For the record, though not part of these stats as I said, the inset photos customized for six regions showed David Wright (lost season), Manny Ramirez (NLCS loss), Carlos Zambrano (face-plant), Carl Crawford (solid campaign), Dustin Pedroia (ALDS loss) and Justin Morneau (ALDS loss).

2010s
When Halladay joined the Phillies, he got the cover in 2010, with insets featuring Sabathia (21 wins, third in AL Cy Young voting), John Lackey (14-11, 4.40 in 215 IP), Brian McCann (.269/21/77, All-Star), Pujols (.312/42/118, second in NL MVP voting), Tulowitzki (.315/27/95, fifth in NL MVP voting) and Matt Kemp (.249/28/89). The next year, Halladay made history by being part of the main image (not the inset) in consecutive seasons when the entire Philly rotation got the cover in 2011. Halladay did well those years, winning the NL Cy Young in '10 with a league-leading 21 wins (against 10 losses), 2.44 ERA and 219 strikeouts. His 2011 was very similar (19-6/2.35/220) for an average line those two years of 20-8/2.40/219.5. Philadelphia won the NL East both years, going 97-65 in '10 (when they lost the NLCS to the Giants) and 102-60 in '11 (when they lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals).

In 2012, it was back to the single, true national cover, with Pujols making his second solo appearance after signing his huge free-agent contract with the Angels in the offseason. He started slowly but finished strong to post a respectable .285/30/105, even if the average and home runs were the worst of his career. He still somehow managed to finish 17th in AL MVP voting for a club that went 89-73 and finished in third place in the AL West.

Following a practice it has used often for college preview issues, whether leading into a season or postseason, SI printed six regional covers in 2013, unveiling them on Twitter at the rate of one an hour in the morning and early afternoon the day before they hit newstands. Stephen Strasburg -- and the magazine's pick to win the World Series, the Nationals -- led it off just after 9 a.m. ET, followed by David Price (the first Rays appearance in their history), Justin Verlander (amazingly, the first Tiger since Freehan in '69), Sabathia (his second solo appearance, joining Garvey and Pujols), James Shields (the first Royal since Cone in 1993) and Clayton Kershaw (the Dodgers' first appearance since Brown in '99). Using six starting pitchers also widened the gap between hurlers (31 to date) and the next-closest position, outfielders (19).

The 2014 preview went back to the one national cover, with a caveat -- three certain regions got their own unique images. Masahiro Tanaka drew the honors for the national cover, but those in the Northwest received Robinson Cano, the Southwest (I would guess) got Mike Trout and the Midwest got Yadier Molina. Tanaka and Cano, of course, fit the player on a new team criteria, with Tanaka (a Yankee) also on a team with postseason aspirations (sorry, Mariners). Molina's team, the defending National League champions, also is expected to play into October, and Trout is the best player in the game.

The Nationals, for the second straight year, are SI's pick to win the World Series. In '13, they missed out on the playoffs by four games, with a still-respectable 86-76 record.

My two Nationals fan friends asked in 2013 if the six regional covers meant just a 1/6th chance of a cover jinx for their club, and I suppose this spreading of the wealth could dilute such a hex, though the Nats remained the only club picked to win the World Series, so it wouldn't be an even six-way split, if you ask me. Not that it matters. I'm not sure there's a jinx so much as a heightened awareness of the teams and players featured -- who generally are the top teams and stars, at least in the past few decades -- so that anything short of a World Series title or award-winning season is seen as proof of a hex. I mean, are Mariners fans really going to blame the SI cover jinx if their team doesn't win the World Series in 2014?

But hey, I've run the numbers -- use them as you see fit.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Zack Wheeler's first Citi Field pitch


Going through some photos from last year and came across this GIF I (OK -- Google Photos) made. I'd forgotten about it, even though I took these shots of his first home pitch with this specific plan in mind.

Here's hoping he does even half of what Matt Harvey did last year.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mrs. Met is back!

Mrs. Met is back! Today's Culinary All-Stars event at Citi Field was meant as an unveiling of the food offerings for next month's MLB All-Star Game at the ballpark, but it was the unannounced appearance of walking, gesturing Mrs. Met that drew as much attention as the myriad food samples on display at the Caesar's Club.

I tagged along with the wife, who was invited by Aramark, and if there was anything that was going to pull me away from the (limited edition) All-Star Meatball Hero, it was a big-headed woman walking into the club. She was there -- with a nametag, as if she needed one -- to glad-hand the guests and pose for photos. She looked hungry, though she tried to hide it behind that ever-present smile.

She's not much for words, so it's not like we chatted for a bit. I did talk with one of the retail (hats, jerseys, etc.) managers, who said that Mrs. Met does have a uniform, so I suspect she'll be making some appearances during ballgames, as well. We'll have to see this weekend.

As for the food ... I should have fasted more. As in skipped dinner last night. There was just. So. Much. The last time we went to one of these events, before (I think) Citi Field's second season, we split a Shackburger, simply for the pleasure of having a free Shackburger. This time, we didn't think of it, not with Mex Burger sliders (a smaller version of the burger from Keith's Grill), lobster rolls from Catch of the Day, mac and cheese (lobster, bacon and three-cheese options) from the suites menu, beef brisket sliders from Blue Smoke, fries from Box Frites and, from the in-house chefs, loaded tater tots (cheese, bacon and scallions), several panini sandwiches and the aforementioned meatball hero. And that's just what we sampled and shared between us. There was pizza and sushi and Pat LaFrieda meats and Mama's of Corona sandwiches. I'm not sure you could get through it all in a nine-game homestand, and this was meant as an unveiling for just a three-day event -- the Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game itself. Anyone attending all three will definitely not go hungry.

If you're attending any of the three events, bring your appetite (and, no doubt, your credit card), and be sure to seek out the All-Star Meatball Hero (available near Section 138) and some of the other new or unfamiliar offerings. The Mets and the vendors are rolling out some all-star eats for an All-Star event.

Catch of the Day offerings
Grilled shrimp po boys and lobster rolls at Catch of the Day

Mmm ... Box Frites ...
Box Frites with pesto, buffalo blue cheese and smoky bacon sauces

Major League Grilled Cheese
Major League Grilled Cheese -- swiss, cheddar, gouda and bacon

Sliced sirloin and cheddar panini
Sliced sirloin and cheddar panini, with pepper relish and crispy onions

Chef-carved grilled black angus skirt steak
Chef-carved grilled black angus skirt steak, with German fried potatoes and creamed spinach

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A 1964 Shea Stadium postcard and the great Pearl Bailey

1964 Shea postcard

I finally got around to scanning in a pile of various things I've picked up over the past year, and this is one of the cooler ones. It's not just the 1964 view of Shea Stadium in its first year, featuring the colored panels hanging outside the ramps, the old buses parked near the subway bridge, the vintage cars in the parking lot and the cartoons of the Jets and Mets (interesting number choice, by the way; No. 45 wasn't worn until 1964, by Ron Locke). Those things are cool, but it's a pretty common postcard. I've seen it plenty of times. What made me buy it was the back -- be sure to note the date it was sent.

1964 Shea postcard sent 1969

First of all, I love old postcards that have been sent. I don't need to know anything about who sent it, who received it, or where it went. It's interesting to me just to get this small little window into one brief moment of a day or a trip in someone's life, decades ago. Of all the things they saw, experienced or had to tell someone, what was it that made them choose these details?

But back to this postcard: The Mets won the 1969 World Series on Oct. 16 at Shea; this postcard was mailed six weeks later from Flushing. Interesting choice by "Sidney," who makes no mention of anything but Broadway, the weather, and her (his?) flight. No talk of the Mets, no mention of the ballpark, no indication of why this postcard was chosen.

It's a shame Pearl Bailey wasn't in that Saturday performance of "Hello Dolly" -- Bailey and Cab Calloway starred in a very successful all-black production of the musical, and Bailey won a Tony Award in 1968 for her role -- because therein lies a connection not to just to baseball and the Mets, but also Game 5 of the '69 Series. A big Mets fan, Bailey sang the national anthem before Game 5 and took home a clump of sod from the field after the victory, according to The Amazin' Mets 1962-1969, by William J. Ryczek.

I wonder if Sidney had any idea of the subtle connection between that star and the front of the postcard sent to Miss Helen Phelps in Beaver, Pa.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

News, notes and rumblings around the minors

Sun sets in Sussex County
Skylands Park, 2005
I don't know what it is about expansion and relocation when it comes to sports teams, but it always piques my interest. It doesn't even matter if the team leaving is hundreds of miles away, or if it's moving to somewhere else that's also hundreds of miles away. I guess I just love the newness of it -- new uniforms, colors, logos, identity. A new community, new fan base, new history. There's not a league I could care less about than the NBA, but I still read all about the New Orleans club dropping the Hornets nickname for Pelicans (and I think it'd be boring, lame and a bit disingenuous for the Charlotte Bobcats to change their name to Hornets; it's been done).

So when there's talk of expansion or relocation in the minor leagues -- the latter of which brought affiliate minor league ball back to New Jersey in the '90s (to Trenton) and 2001 (to Lakewood); perhaps that's where the interest comes from -- my ears perk up. And there's been quite a few rumblings in recent weeks involving leagues -- and one site -- that play in or near New Jersey.

 The New York-Penn League plans to move a club to Morgantown, W. Va., to share a ballpark with West Virginia University. The rumored team to make the shift is the Jamestown Jammers, who were next-to-last in NY-Penn attendance in 2012 (36,078 total, 1,031 per game), besting only their upstate New York neighbors, the Batavia Muckdogs. This would make the New York-Penn League the New York-Penn-Connecticut-Massachusetts-Vermont-Maryland-Ohio-West Virginia League. New Jersey used to be in there, too, before the Cardinals left Sussex County for State College, Pa.

 Speaking of Skylands Park up in Augusta, the new owner is exploring all avenues for a tenant, including summer collegiate leagues. But the ever-expanding Atlantic League may have some interest, too.

 As for the Atlantic League, it could soon find itself with franchises in Fort Worth, Texas (giving the Sugar Land Skeeters a neighbor), and in Virginia Beach and Loudon, Va.

 And, finally, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson continues his push to bring a Double-A Eastern League team to his city to be a Blue Jays affiliate, which will only revive speculation that Binghamton, N.Y., could lose its Eastern League club (and its Mets affiliation, which currently runs through 2016). It appears unlikely that Binghamton would lose affiliated baseball completely, because there remains speculation that NYSEG Stadium could then receive a New York-Penn League team, likely Batavia. This one particularly fascinates me because of the added layer of player development contracts. I looked at some affiliations last February, and though the expiration dates are, well, out of date, few if any of the affiliations changed. I'm curious if PDCs have ever been broken, renegotiated, bought out or even traded before. I'll try to get in touch with some contacts for some background.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Brief thoughts on '42'

Jackie's 42 I'm no critic and I don't aspire to be one. I don't have a technical eye. I don't go to movies looking for flaws, inconsistencies or mistakes. I've never walked out on a film because, if I've paid money to be there, I might as well get the full value from the pretty people and bright colors on the screen. So if you're looking for a review of "42," move along.

Simply as a fan -- of baseball, of movies, of Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers (I realized years ago that there's something about that team that would've drawn me to it -- I loved it. I loved the costumes and the cars, the reproduced uniforms (even if they got the Brooklyn caps wrong), the computer-generated ballparks from Florida to Jersey City to Brooklyn and Pittsburgh. I thought it was wonderfully acted, even if Harrison Ford seemed like a caricature. Chadwick Boseman was stellar and Nicole Beharie devine. I can only imagine what Rachel Robinson thought seeing a part of her life dramatized on screen.

But what I think I loved most were the baseball scenes. (I don't know who choreographed them or what former players, other than C.J. Nitkowski, may have suited up.) This may be the best, the most realistic baseball choreography I've ever seen on film. It's heavy on game action, and maybe once -- one swing -- out of all those recreations did I think it looked awkward. The first time Boseman steps into the batter's box as a Montreal Royal to face the Dodgers in a spring exhibition and the pitch comes in high and tight felt so real. It sounded just like when you're playing catch and you lift your glove to catch a hard one at your ear -- that sound of the air whooshing around the seams and then the smack of the ball into the glove: Fffffffffssss-THWACK!

Digital reproduction of real -- and long-gone -- places has advanced so much that scenes in the old ballparks looked more like they were filmed on location with a soft lens than with an actor in front of a green screen. Maybe it's me, but I thought some of the scenes at Ebbets Field or Forbes Field make "Titanic" look like it was filmed in a bathtub. The ballparks looked familiar, like I'd remembered them from visits even though they were all gone more than a decade before I was born. But I love to look at (and sometimes collect) photos of these long-gone cathedrals, and I've "played" a few games at Ebbets and Forbes and the Polo Grounds on various versions of Xbox and PS3 baseball games. The movie brought the pictures to live and put the video games to shame, even if they gave Forbes Field a wooden (?) green outfield wall -- not brick, and no ivy -- and put the flagpole behind the center-field fence instead of on the field of play.

  

I thought -- minor spoilers in this paragraph -- that limiting the setting to 1945 through the end of the '47 season provided the perfect window to squeeze Jackie's story into a manageable 128 minutes. There is little politicalization -- there's no dialogue about what Jackie's trailblazing will mean for society as a whole. Other than the voiceover intro and just a few off-field scenes of segregation and racism, nearly all of that discourse is presented in the context of a ballgame. We didn't need to see anything before 1945, and ending the film with a key home run may have been hokey, but it worked for me. I'll let that slide. And yes, I realize the Dodgers didn't clinch the 1947 NL pennant in Pittsburgh and that the game that day didn't play out as depicted, but I found that out only after coming home to look it up. I doubt anyone not alive that day to remember it didn't realize the artistic license until they got home and delved into baseball-reference.com, either.

The epilogue -- a few more spoilers -- captivated me. In typical biopic fashion, we're given updates on what happened to the real-life people after the timeframe of the film. The characters are shown one by one, with text on the screen listing their accomplishments. We see several actors, in scenes not shown earlier in the film, in action until the image freezes and the text appears. The splendid "Life Is A Ballgame" by Sister Wynona Carr plays, and after several actors in character have flashed by, up pops a black-and-white photo of Rachel and Jackie -- the people, not the actors. Jackie's accomplishments are displayed alongside photos of the man himself. It was actually a bit emotional and very well done. The slideshow then transitions into recent MLB footage of current players wearing No. 42, with text explaining how the number was retired throughout Major League Baseball and is worn by everyone on April 15 each year. And with that, events that happened nearly 70 years ago, to and by a man who died 40 years ago, are put into the context of today's game.


  


Whatever its flaws, "42" did it for me -- as a baseball movie, a biopic and a dramatization of historical events. There was even a moment in the film, when Branch Rickey tells Robinson that he saw a white boy in a sandlot pretending to be Jackie Robinson, that sounded a lot like what I wrote  in a short story for a college class in 1997. If I had ever tried to write a screenplay, this subject would've been one I wanted to write about and parts of this movie would've been how I wanted to write it. And that's when I know I've loved a film.

Monday, April 08, 2013

BlueClaws helping to restore the Shore

Brady delivers

The Lakewood BlueClaws completed their opening-weekend series yesterday, but their record in the four games doesn't matter. What matters is that they raised $15,000 for the BlueClaws Charities Restore the Shore initiative after auctioning off the special jerseys worn throughout the weekend. Each jersey featured the name of a Shore-area town on the back, making some shirts more attractive to bidders and leading to some high-priced last-minute bidding as the auction came to an end after the eighth inning on Sunday. The money raised -- both from the auction and on related purchases in the team store -- will go to fund grants that will go to Sandy victims who apply. And though the game-worn jersey auction ended yesterday, I'm told that there will be a few additional jerseys going up for auction online soon.

Charles at first I wasn't sure if I'd get in on the bidding, but after seeing my hometown, Little Silver, on the back of catcher Chad Carman during pregame warmups, two things stood out: First, he wasn't huge, and second, he wore No. 18. The number actually didn't matter much to me, though it helps that 18 isn't an unattractive number (worn by Darryl Strawberry and any number of Japanese aces not named Yu Darvish). But Carman's size (5-foot-10, 189 pounds) did. If my hometown had been on the back of 6'6", 220-pound first baseman Art Charles, for example, there's no chance I would have bid on that bedsheet.

After placing my initial bid -- and only the third on the sheet overall -- around the fifth inning, I went down to check on its status with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Someone had outbid me by the minimum $25, so I raised it another $25, but was willing to go only another $50 higher. Then I stepped back among the crowd of bidders to watch the game from the concourse. Another out; I was now one more from winning the jersey. Then a BlueClaws batter hit a fly ball into right-center, and I'd never wanted a ball hit by the home team to be caught more (at any game I've attended) than this one. But the diving right fielder came up short. We had to wait out another batter.

Little Silver on to warm up the pitcher But then it happened: The next batter struck out and the BlueClaws staffers manning the tables quickly pulled up the tablecloths with the bid sheets taped to them and disappeared into the offices to sort through the bids. After the game, they collected the jerseys from the players and distributed them to the fans who returned to the concourse to pick them up.

Carman had the day off Sunday, so I didn't get to see my jersey in action, except for the innings when he came out to warm up the pitcher while yesterday's starter, Chace Numata, put on his equipment. But that was actually better, because when I picked up the jersey, it was clean and still smelled like laundry detergent.    In fact, the jersey's final play in a game came on Saturday evening, when Carman fielded a throw from right fielder Brian Pointer and tagged out Kannapolis' Kale Kiser as he attempted to score the tying run to preserve Lakewood's 3-2 victory (its only win so far this season).

It had to have been interesting -- and perhaps educational -- for these players (only four of whom played in Lakewood last year) to join their new team but not wear the actual team name on their chests until the fifth game (which is tonight). I don't know if Chad Carman bothered to ask where Little Silver is or if any players inquired about the amount of damage sustained to any of the towns, but I'm sure some thought about it.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Opening Day thoughts

The Captain

Well, we're two days past Opening Day now, but I figured as long as I get this post up before the Mets play Game No. 2 tonight, I'm good. I just had some thoughts throughout the day -- both Mets-related and MLB-wide -- that I couldn't shake ...

 I love Opening Day ceremonies. I slept in last year and arrived at my seat just as the Mets were running onto the field, and it just didn't feel like Opening Day. So we made sure to catch a train an hour earlier from New Jersey and were walking into the Rotunda right around noon. I love seeing all the players lined up along the baselines, the new guys getting their first exposure to the fans, last year's mid-season callups (Hey, Matt Harvey!) getting the Opening Day treatment. The national anthem gets star treatment (Emmy Rossum!), there's usually a huge flag stretched across the outfield (though nice touch this year with the NY heart and Hurricane Sandy support crews) and the first pitch is often a VIP (Rusty!!!).

The 7 Line Army
 Opening Day crowds. They may struggle to break 15,000 tonight in Queens (heck, it's supposed to be in the 20s -- 10,000 might be pushing it), but on Opening Day, no matter what the prospects for the season are, the crowd is full and enthusiastic. There's hope. Look at Houston -- I'm not sure you'll find 10 people outside the clubhouse who think the team can win 62 games, but those fans were jazzed on Sunday night. Sure, it helped to have the Rangers in town for the first American League game in Astros history, but that crowd was into it. I don't care who your team is or what the expectations are, 1-0 feels a lot better than 0-1, especially if you're in attendance.

 Ballpark exploration. Each winter, teams take a look at what they offer their fans and ditch what didn't sell and come up with new offerings and upgrades. Some even release the new additions to great fanfare. Though the Opening Day crowds often make it a tough slog, I do enjoy taking a lap around the concourse to see what's new. Even if I don't get in line that day, I make a note to come back during the next (less crowded) game. But on Monday, when we realized Mom had bought tickets in the last row of the upper deck and the wind was blowing through us, we descended to the food court behind home plate to try Pat LaFrieda's steak sandwiches and Parmesan garlic fries and Oh. My. God. Shake Shack, you have competition. (And dammit, I saw Danny Meyer out in DannyMeyerLand before the game but didn't realize it was him before he walked off, so I didn't have a chance to thank him. Or more.)

 I was happy to see the Padres line up in their road gray jerseys. I'm OK with alternate jerseys (used to be a fan, but now they're such a gimmick, I've come down with my enthusiasm), but not on Opening Day. Opening Day -- like the All-Star Game and World Series -- is a showcase. Come out in your finest, your dress whites (or grays), your primary look. Leave the black/blue/red tops in the clubhouse for the next game. (I'm looking at you, Pirates, Marlins and Rockies.)

 Small sample sizes. The numbers are so much fun to play with. David Wright is going to steal 324 bases! Collin Cowgill will drive in 648 runs!

 Changing addresses/new stars/absent stars. Maybe this was just the beginning of something special for Jackie Bradley Jr. or A.J. Pollock. It's also weird to see others in new uniforms. We got used to Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes, but not those pinstripes. And how strange (but nice, as a Mets fan), to see Chipper Jones throwing out a first pitch and not swinging at one?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The six covers of SI's 2013 baseball preview issue

It's that time of year. Sports Illustrated released its baseball preview cover yesterday.

Actually, that should be covers. For the first time in the 59 years of SI baseball preview issues, the magazine has printed true regional covers, six in all, with a main image customized for four different regions of the country: Northeast, Mid-Atlanic, South, Midwest (both Rust Belt and Plains) and West. My comprehensive look at the history of the baseball preview covers has been updated to include this year, but in this post I'm going to take a closer look at each of the six produced for the 2013 season, in the order of success I think they'll have.

But first, what these covers do for the totals. By featuring six starting pitchers, SI widened the gap between starters (31) and the next-most-frequent position, outfielders (19). Five of the six players made their baseball preview cover debuts, pushing the total number of players shown over the years to 70. We've also got a team represented for the first time, bringing us up to 25 of the current 30 clubs, leaving out only the Blue Jays, White Sox (a bit surprising), Astros, Marlins and Braves (also quite surprising).

So here are the six 2013 preview covers listed, in my mind, from least deserving to most, with "deserving" defined as ideally being the favorite (or at least a top-two favorite) to win its division.


James Shields, Royals

Shields is the only one of the six this year to fulfill one of two themes that have come up frequently: a player on a new team or a player on the defending champions. The right-hander, of course, was traded to Kansas City (most of the "new team" players were free agents, with the Phillies' Roy Halladay in 2010 another trade exception). Shields is the first Royal on the cover since David Cone in 1993 -- when he was new to Kansas City after signing a free-agent deal.
The Royals are certainly an interesting story this year. They added Shields, Wade Davis (in the same deal) and Ervin Santana to the rotation and they have a deep, young core with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler (and you can add Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain to the list if you'd like). And though expected to be dominated by the Tigers, the AL Central is otherwise a pretty balanced division, or at least one in which the Royals could make some noise. But I just don't see them as one of the top two contenders -- that'd be Detroit and Chicago -- like four of the other five covers feature.


CC Sabathia, Yankees

This is the issue that arrived in my mailbox today. Despite the cover (which I knew I'd receive), it was a pleasant surprise, because what used to be a regular Wednesday (Thursday at the latest) appearance in my mail has, over maybe the past year, become more of a Thursday-if-I'm-lucky/usually Friday/occasionally Saturday treat in the mail. So to have it the first day I could conceivably expect it was nice.

As for the cover subject, let's put this out there now: The Yankees are there because SI didn't want to omit the huge New York market. Robinson Cano would've been the better choice, but it certainly looks like these six cover subjects were chosen because they're all pitchers (clearly, I haven't flipped through the issue -- or read the headlines -- yet). But if you ask me, the Yankees don't fit the criteria of a top-two contender in the division, either. With their age and all the injuries (not mutually exclusive), I think they'll have an uphill battle to catch Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Yankees have holes at catcher, third/first base (wherever Kevin Youkilis doesn't play, and at least until -- though maybe after -- Mark Teixeira returns) and wherever Vernon Wells plays (but to be fair, SI had its preview in the bag before that deal went down).

But this choice makes Sabathia one of the rare two-time featured athletes. Only seven players have appeared on multiple covers (two each), with only three of those getting the featured spot to themselves. Willie Mays appeared in 1955 and '59, Steve Garvey in '75 and '82 (both solo), Mark McGwire in '88 and '98, Derek Jeter in 2001 and '05, Albert Pujols in '06 and '12 (both solo), Halladay in 2010 and '11 and Sabathia in 2009 and '13 (both solo, because I'm not counting the 2009 regional inset).


Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Kershaw is the first Dodger to grace the preview cover since Kevin Brown in 1999 -- the year he (wait for it) began a seven-year deal with Los Angeles. He was baseball's first $100 million man, signing for $105 million. The Dodgers are certainly one of the big storylines of the upcoming season, and it wouldn't have surprised me to see them featured nationally, had SI gone that route. But they still have to take on the defending World Series champions -- who didn't get a regional cover, despite a worthy hurler in Matt Cain, who I probably would've gone with over Shields. L.A. is a strong contender, easily a top-two pick in the NL West, but among these cover candidates, I think it has the fourth-best chance of winning the division.


David Price, Rays

With this image, Tampa Bay became the 25th active club to have a player featured on a preview cover. Not even the 2008 collection of '05 draft picks included a (Devil) Ray. (That's because Tampa Bay selected Wade Townsend eighth overall, passing on Red Sox coverboys Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz, not to mention Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Matt Garza, to name a few.)

Price is an apt choice as the defending AL Cy Young Award winner, the head of a strong, young pitching staff and a stud who's about to come into a big payday of his own. Plus, the Rays have a great chance to contend in (and win) an AL East that sees the Red Sox still trying to get their footing, the Orioles having made no major changes to the luckiest team in Major League history (an unprecedented -- and likely unrepeatable -- 29-9 in one-run games, not to mention 16-2 in extra innings) and the Yankees aging before our eyes. Sure, the Blue Jays are loaded after a busy offseason, but just ask the Marlins -- several of whom are now in Toronto -- how that worked out last year.

I should say, too, that the Blue Jays -- particularly R.A. Dickey -- would've been a great choice for a cover, too, but I wonder if he was omitted because SI is an American magazine and choosing a regional cover for Toronto might not fit into their marketing plans. The Jays have never been featured on a preview issue before (though the Expos have), but it certainly wasn't going to happen as a regional option.


Justin Verlander, Tigers

In reality, I'm considering this one a tie with the next one. In fact, I think Detroit has a better chance of winning its division, but I'm listing it here for a reason I'll get to in a moment. But as I said in discussing the Shields cover, it's going to take a mighty effort by the White Sox, Royals or Indians to overtake the Tigers in the AL Central, and with that lineup and this guy heading the rotation, it's unlikely.

Surprisingly for a franchise that's had Sparky Anderson, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Cecil Fielder and currently the best pitcher in the game, Verlander marks the Tigers' first appearance on a preview cover since Bill Freehan represented the defending champs on the 1969 cover.


Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

While I do think Detroit has a better chance of winning its division than Washington, I list this as the most deserving cover because the Nationals are SI's pick to win the World Series. In my mind, they'll have a tougher time fending off the Braves than the Tigers will holding back any of their division opponents, but if the magazine is picking the team to go all the way, then give it the cover, I say.

Strasburg represents D.C.'s second preview cover appearance, after Ryan Zimmerman on the 2008 fold-out issue. The previous Washington franchises -- both iterations of the Senators -- never got the honor. As I noted in the cover analysis post, my friends in Virginia aren't happy about the cover jinx touching their team, but one rationalized that it's only 1/6th of a jinx, on account of the regional covers.

We'll see about that. But one thing's sure: After what was seen as a surprising run to the NL East title last year, the Nationals won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. They're the favorites, and everyone will be gunning for them.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Samardzija joins short list of Opening Domers

Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs


When Jeff Samardzija delivers the first pitch of the Cubs' season on April 1 in Pittsburgh, he'll be the fourth pitcher to come out of Notre Dame and make an Opening Day start in the Major Leagues.

And he'll be the first to do so in 99 years.

The last Domer to toe the rubber as a starter on Opening Day was Ed Reulbach, when he raised the curtain for Brooklyn at Ebbets Field on April 14, 1914, manager Wilbert Robinson's first game at the helm. Fellow Notre Dame grad George Cutshaw started behind Reulbach at second base and a future manager manned right field: Casey Stengel.

Brooklyn -- nicknamed the Robins in the days when nicknames were a bit more fluid (they had been and would again be the Dodgers) -- won, 8-2, over the Boston Braves with two runs in the second, one each in the third and fourth and four more in the fifth. Reulbach went seven innings, allowing two runs, six hits, one walk and striking out five. He had a hit and a walk at the plate, the free pass coming in the two-run second, which may have produced more runs had Reulbach not been caught trying to swipe home on a double-steal.
With Reulbach on third and Dalton on first the double steal was tried, but Whaling fooled Reulbach by feigning a throw to second and caught him between the bases. -- The New York Times, April 15, 1914
The start was Reulbach's second on Opening Day. He'd previously done so for the Cubs in 1911, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie after 11 innings. And the only other Domer to get a start in his team's opener was Willie McGill, who got the start for the Chicago Colts (later the Cubs) in 1893. Chicago lost that game to Cincinnati, 10-1.

So teams are 1-1-1 on Opening Day when a former Notre Dame player throws the first pitch. Whether or not Samardzija gets the decision, that record will change on April 1.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Eagles: A sporting band



There's no question that the Eagles were one of the most influential bands of the '70s -- their greatest hits album sold more copies than any other record in the 20th Century. But until watching the recent two-part documentary on Showtime, I had no idea that the band was also among the pioneers in jersey-wearing rockers.

It's a common sight these days to see musicians dressing like the rest of us -- that is, in an authentic jersey of a local pro team, or perhaps a customized shirt in team colors. Someone probably has a Tumblr of musicians in jerseys. Anyway, in the '70s, I imagine it wasn't such a common sight. But in watching the documentary, I caught several instances of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and one or two others in a jersey or T-shirt that looked enough like a jersey to make this post worth my while.

All these photos were taken from my TV with the documentary paused, so the quality of some is rather poor. In some cases, the details in the shirt were much more apparent in motion than in any frames on which I paused. So if something's not clear in an image, just take my word for it.

So at the top, we have Glenn Frey in a three-quarter-sleeved baseball shirt during one of the band's pickup softball games. "This is a real healthy thing," Henley says in the film. "It promotes good feelings, you know, among the guys, and it keeps us from killing each other." Frey adds: "If we can yell at each other on a baseball field, then we don't have to yell at each other when we're working." Putting the numbers on the front left room on the back for what appears to be a nickname for the band's private plane.



Also of note: Frey throws left-handed, but plays guitar right-handed. We'll come back to Frey in a bit.


Next, we have the jersey that really piqued my interest and had me start taking pictures of all these images while watching the documentary. From the front, it just appears to be Don Henley in a mighty afro and a rather long shirt with the band's name across the front.



But after he passes the cameraman, who turns to follow the band toward the stage at an outdoor festival, we see that Henley's shirt -- more of a jersey than a, ahem, henley -- features his surname and a No. 13 on the back.


So not only did the band have numbered shirts for softball games, it appears that they also each had their own football shirts, because in this next image, someone else is wearing what appears to be the Eagles football (or football-like) jersey (that's Henley, second from right, so it's not him).


Sticking with Henley, here he is representing northeast Texas -- he's from Linden -- with a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt.


Sticking with the Cowboys, next we have one of the band members in what looks to be a satin Cowboys jacket in 1980. He's gesturing at a departing limo into which Don Felder fled following the infamous July 31, 1980, Long Beach concert that marked the breakup of the band.


Speaking of Felder, he joined in the sartorial sporting fun at least twice. First up is what appears to be a San Diego Chargers jersey-like shirt.


And then we have what appeared from the front to be a plain blue button-down collared shirt, but upon further inspection -- that is, looking at the back -- we find a Chicago Blackhawks logo. (I'm pretty sure this is Felder again. I didn't take any notes, and now that I think about it, I don't specifically remember who this is. And of course, they all had long, flowing hair in the '70s.)


Speaking of unsure I.D.s, here's a sound engineer in a shirt with the nickname (I presume) "Radar" and a zero on the back.


Now to the last big-name band member: Joe Walsh. He didn't appear in any jersey-like shirts until late in the documentary, but then he popped up three times. First was this grainy shot of him smoking weed in what looks like a football jersey.


That previous shot and this next one both came during the portion of the documentary in which Walsh discussed his addictions. Below, he's preparing for an interview in a white football jersey with what looks like sewn-on numbers. (Just before this frame, he asked the off-camera interviewer where he should look, took a swig from a beer bottle and then placed it on the floor to his left.)


And below, we've got the band at the end of a show, possibly in 1977 in Washington, D.C. (based on footage earlier in the program). Walsh is second from right in an Illinois sweatshirt; Frey is second from left in a University of Colorado T-shirt.


And that brings us back to Glenn Frey. He, more than any other band member, donned jerseys and T-shirts supporting various teams. First up, an unidentified possible football a likely Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, No. 7. [UPDATE: A commenter ID'd this one.]


Then we have a black-and-white photo of Glenn in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey.


Next up, the Detroit boy dons a wig and a Michigan football jersey shirt with No. 53 on the shoulders.


But this Michigan man has some good taste, because it turns out he owned two Notre Dame shirts, the first of which is similar to the Michigan one above.




And, to wrap it all up, we have the full band in custom Eagles varsity jackets, which were worn -- mostly by Frey, occasionally by others, including (I think) the manager -- in footage throughout the film. The simple old-English E is the only adornment on the jackets. The backs, as best I could tell, were blank. Left to right are Don Felder, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.


I figured a post about a rock band should end with a video, so here's the group in the video that opens the documentary -- with Frey in the Colorado T and Walsh in the Illinois sweatshirt. First, they perform a verse of an a cappella "Seven Bridges Road" before going on stage to play "Hotel California." The post says 1979, but the Showtime doc said it's a 1977 Washington, D.C. show.


Eagles - Hotel California 1979 (Live) by rooroo