11th and Washington

11th and Washington: February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Helping the Yogi Berra Museum (and myself)

While flipping through Google Reader last night, I came across a post mentioning a rummage sale of sorts at the Yogi Berra Museum at Montclair State. My first thought was, Cool! Glad I checked this post. The second thought was surprise that I hadn't heard about it sooner. (A third, momentary thought was disappointment that I'd not seen it in time to stop by yesterday, but more on that in a moment.)

Were it not for my news alert for the museum on Google, I would've missed it altogether. Our local weekly newspaper, which often has announcements of appearances and programs at the museum, had no mention of it. The only outlets that had it were the previously linked Montclair blog Baristanet and the hyper-local community site Patch.com.

Curious to see what the museum would be selling off, I stopped by this afternoon. On tables set up in the new atrium were photos from former museum displays, a few posters and banners and boxes of assorted Yankees baseball cards (sold in plastic cases of 25, most had  a recent Mariano Rivera showing on one side and an older card -- as old as a 1976 Catfish Hunter and as recent as a 2003 Jason Giambi -- on the other side, though many of the older cards were recent Topps Heritage reprints). Most of what was left was priced from $10-20, and I overheard a teenage employee or volunteer say that they had a lot of good stuff out yesterday. But not wanting to spend too much money, I was happy to have missed yesterday's expanded -- and likely more tempting -- selection.

There were only six of us there when I stopped in: two middle-aged men browsing as I was; the teenaged boy and another employee/volunteer, a middle-aged woman who stood talking with the sixth person, a woman older than she who I quickly recognized as Carmen Berra, Yogi's wife. With Yogi down in Spring Training, I guess she figured she'd stop by to see how the sale was going.

After eyeing the tables of museum-mounted photos -- many showing Yogi in various stages of his life and career, from young St. Louis sandlot player to Yankee rookie to veteran to Mets coach -- I settled on two items and passed on two others. I left behind a black-and-white photo of Paterson-raised Larry Doby in his Newark Eagles uniform ($20; similar to this photo, if not actually that photo -- unsigned, of course) because it was really heavy. Many of the photos from displays were on thick, metal slabs with wide mounting braces on the back, meaning the whole setup weighed several pounds. And because I want to display these things in my basement, with its thin paneled walls, I didn't want to have to deal with hanging too many of them. Next to Doby's photo was the famous one of Bill Mazeroski reaching the plate after his 1960 World Series-winning home run (also $20). Had I seen an image of Yogi in his Newark Bears uniform, I probably would've extended my budget.

The two purchases I did make, each for $10, were of players with New Jersey roots. The first is this 13 5/8-by-9 1/2-inch printout of Doby's 1958 Topps card. Born in South Carolina, Doby grew up in Paterson, played for the Eagles (after a tryout at Paterson's Hinchliffe Stadium) and became the first black player in the American League when he debuted with the Indians three months after Jackie Robinson did with the Dodgers. The image is a paper printout on a foam mount. There's a minor blemish -- it looks like there may have once been a description or something else taped to it -- on his cap, but that doesn't bother me.

For my second item, I did choose one of those heavy, metal-mounted and braced museum display photos. It depicts King Kelly, a Hall of Famer from the 19th Century who played for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs), Boston Beaneaters (later the Braves) and New York Giants. He was a teammate of Cap Anson on those Chicago clubs and last August was inducted into the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame at Foley's NY Bar and Restaurant in New York.

The text reads: "One of four boys from Paterson, NJ to reach the major leagues together, Hall of Fame catcher/outfielder 'King Kelly' was the nation's No. 1 baseball idol in the 1880s." Measuring 13 5/8 inches by 9 inches, it is a heavy item, so I'll probably display it on one of the shelves set in the walls rather than try to hang it. Kelly was born in Troy, N.Y., but grew up in Paterson, playing for some of the semi-pro teams in the city before becoming a full-fledged professional. I bought the photo because of Kelly's New Jersey connection -- and his fabulous mustache. It's a familiar photo, found often, including on his Baseball-Reference page.

So there we go: Building my New Jersey baseball archive piece-by-piece, never knowing where the next thing will come from.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

He could throw that speedball by you

Check out the story behind this jersey over at Yahoo!'s Big League Stew blog.

Bruce rules, always.

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Los Angelinos

Brilliant! The Angels announced last week that they will in fact feature their original uniforms as part of their "Flashback Fridays" this season. And, as the release mentions, they will have the halo on the caps.

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Waino's woes

It's a shame Adam Wainwright will likely miss the 2011 season and need to have Tommy John surgery. This photo is from Spring Training 2008, when I flew into Orlando one March morning and drove straight to the Braves' spring ballpark. After this game, I motored east to Titusville to watch the space shuttle launch -- which it is coincidentally going to do today. Then I continued on to Vero Beach and Port St. Lucie over the next two days.

As for Waino, a top-five finish in the Cy Young Award voting this year would have triggered his 2013 option (his second-place finish last year triggered his 2012 option). He'll be 30 next spring and should have most of next season to pitch for his '13 contract, though it seems now that there would be little he could do to convince the Cards to pick up the final option at $12 million.

Here's to a full recovery and a return early in 2012.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alas, Dodgertown

Just felt like posting a shot from my first Spring Training trip, three years ago to Florida. I went specifically to see Dodgertown before the Dodgers left their longtime spring home for Arizona. I understand their need to move their spring base out west, closer to their Los Angeles home, but it's still sad to look through the photos and know that it's not like that anymore. It was a great day, a great way to spend a morning and afternoon as a baseball fan.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Stair-way to threadom: The most decorated ballplayer in history

Last week at Uni Watch, a reader speculated that Joe Smith -- if that's his real name -- had worn 33 distinct uniforms in his NBA career, which now includes a record-tying 12 franchises for which he's played. Paul Lukas declared those 33 different styles to be an NBA record and then wondered who might hold the same distinction in other leagues. I took that as a challenge.

Paul speculated that Mike Morgan, the pitcher who shares the MLB record with 12 teams in his career, or Kenny Lofton, who donned 11 clubs' colors, might be baseball's most uniformly decorated player. Not counting batting practice/Spring Training or minor league uniforms, I found 33 different uniforms worn by Lofton (including one documented throwback design) in 17 seasons and 39 by Morgan in his 22 years. (In his three seasons with the Diamondbacks, 2000-02, Morgan wore at least eight different designs. There was the 2000 home/road uniform, the new home/road unis in 2001-02 and various alternates and variations, like "Arizona" in purple, black and gray and the "A" in sleeved, sleeveless and black. I think that franchise has had more jersey designs in 14 seasons than the Yankees and Red Sox have had, combined, in their existence.) But neither Morgan nor Lofton top MLB's list.

Matt Stairs blows them both out of the water. Since breaking in with the Expos in 1992, Stairs has equaled Morgan's record by playing for 12 clubs and is trying to make his 13th this spring in Nationals camp [Update: It occurred to me while shoveling New Jersey's latest snowfall that Stairs started his career with the Expos/Nationals franchise, so he wouldn't set a record with his 13th club if he makes the team this spring, but he would still add to his uniform total.] With several uniform design changes, the proliferation of alternate jerseys and the rise in throwback nights, his clubs have sported 46 different jerseys -- and there are probably a few (or several) throwbacks that we don't know about. I'm comfortable giving Stairs the title.

The retro replicas included are basically because I happened upon them while looking for other photos, though the Padres' 1984 and 1978 designs worn last year were easy to remember. If Stairs makes the Nationals, he'll have four jerseys to add to his list, because in addition to home and road tops, Washington has red and blue alternates as well. That would bring his known total to an even 50.

So here's the breakdown. Settle in for a trip down (or up?) the sartorial Stair-way.

Expos (1992-93): Home and road.

Red Sox (1995): Home (unable to find Stairs in the road uni).

Cubs (2001): Home, road, alternate.

Brewers (2002): Home, alternate (unable to find a road shot).

Pirates (2003): Road. Could not find photos of Stairs sporting the home white, black alternate or, sadly, the 1903 throwbacks (hey! Kenny Lofton! Plus, that 2004 date is wrong, because Boston and Pittsburgh did not play that year) worn against the Red Sox. [Update 2/23/11: Stairs was on the DL for that Pirates-Red Sox series, so it's unlikely he wore the throwback uniform.]

Royals (2004-06): They changed their uniforms during Stairs' Kansas City tenure, so we have 2004-05 home, 2004-05 road, 2006 home, 2006 road, blue alternate, black alternate and the Kansas City Monarchs throwbacks.

Rangers (2006): Home, home vest alternate, blue alternate, road vest. Couldn't score a shot of him in the sleeved road jersey.

Tigers (2006): Home, road.

Blue Jays (2007-08): Home, 2007 road, 2008 road, light blue alternate, black alternate. It's unclear if Stairs, a Canadian, ever wore the Jays' red Canada Day alternates, because the club was on the road for the holiday both years. If they did, then add another jersey to Stairs' total.

Phillies (2008-09): Home, road, alternate.

And the bonus: Team Canada in red and white from the World Baseball Classic.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

From ND to MLB: The index

Notre Dame is about more than football. It's about more than sports, really, but that's getting into alumni-level fanaticism. Fighting Irish football history is well known, and the school's basketball accomplishments have provided some equally memorable moments and stars. But its baseball history, which stretches back into the 19th century, includes two Hall of Famers and a host of lesser-known but no less significant contributions to the greatest game ever invented. Cappy Gagnon's Notre Dame Baseball Greats: From Anson to Yaz explored that history through photographs. With that book as inspiration, I've taken it upon myself to present a more in-depth look at the players who have advanced from the playing fields in South Bend to the professional ranks, particularly the 78 men who played under the Dome and made it all the way to the Major Leagues.

The roster of those players is culled from two sources, with Gagnon's book providing some basic background. I started with the list on Baseball-Reference. But then it occurred to me that Louis Sockalexis wasn't included there, yet he's in Gagnon's book. So I went to the Notre Dame baseball media guide. On page 135, the media guide lists the 21 Irish baseball alumni active in affiliated ball (Major and minor leagues) in 2010, followed by their list of 76 Domers who, through the 2010 season, had reached the Majors. There are seven players listed in the media guide who aren't included in Baseball-Reference's list, and one on the B-R list not included in the media guide, so combining the two gives us the final tally of 78 players. Six of the seven B-R omits are late-19th or early-20th century players, so some omissions may simply be oversights, but others may stem from the fact that players moved around from school to school a bit in those days (as in the case of Sockalexis, who was more known for playing at Holy Cross).

So here, then, is the list. Alphabetically, it begins and ends with a Hall of Famer. Active players -- those currently in the Majors or in the minors with past Major League experience -- are in bold. Those already profiled are bulleted and linked to their respective posts.

Cap Anson (A's, Cubs; 1871-97)
 John Axford (Brewers; 2009-present)
Al Bergman (Indians; 1916)
Bob Bescher (Reds, Giants, Cardinals, Indians; 1908-18)
Lou Bevil (Senators; 1942)
Joe Birmingham (Indians; 1906-14)
Jim Brady (Tigers; 1956)
 Billy Burke (Braves; 1910-11)
Count Campau (Tigers, Browns, Senators; 1888-94)
Frank Carpin (Pirates, Astros; 1965-66)
Tom Carroll (Yankees, A's; 1955-59)
Paul Castner (White Sox, 1923)
Clem Clemens (Cubs; 1916. Also Chicago Whales, Federal League, 1914-15)
Craig Counsell (Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Brewers; 1995-2011)
Harry Curtis (Giants, 1907)
George Cutshaw (Dodgers, Pirates, Tigers; 1912-23)
Bert Daniels (Yankees, Reds; 1910-14)
Jean Dubuc (Reds, Tigers, Red Sox, Giants; 1908-19)
Shaun Fitzmaurice (Mets; 1966)
Steamer Flanagan (Pirates; 1905)
Bill Froats (Tigers; 1955)
Norwood Gibson (Red Sox; 1903-06)
Jim Hannan (Senators, Tigers, Brewers; 1962-71)
Ed Hanyzewski (Cubs; 1942-46)
Aaron Heilman (Mets, Cubs, Diamondbacks; 2003-present)
Bert Inks (Dodgers, Senators, Orioles, Colonels, Phillies, Reds; 1891-96)
Burt Keeley (Senators; 1908-09)
Herb Kelly (Pirates; 1914-15)
Red Kelly (White Sox; 1910)
Ed Lagger (A's; 1934)
Bill Lathrop (White Sox; 1913-14)
 Brad Lidge (Astros, Phillies, Nationals; 2002-present)
Adrian Lynch (Browns; 1920)
Earle Mack (A's; 1910-14)
Matt Macri (Twins; 2008)
Jeff Manship (Twins; 2009-present)
Jackie Mayo (Phillies; 1948-53)
Alex McCarthy (Pirates; Cubs; 1910-17)
Ed McDonough (Phillies; 1909-10)
Willie McGill (Indians, Browns, Reds, Cubs, Phillies; 1890-96)
Dan McGinn (Reds, Expos, Cubs; 1968-72)
John McHale (Tigers; 1943-48)
Chris Michalak (Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Rangers, Reds; 1998-06)
Rupert Mills (Newark Peppers, Federal League; 1915)
John Mohardt (Tigers; 1922)
Red Morgan (Red Sox; 1906)
Pat Murray (Phillies; 1919)
Red Murray (Cardinals, Giants, Cubs; 1906-17)
Lou Nagelsen (Indians; 1912)
Hank Olmsted (Red Sox; 1905)
Peaches O'Neill (Reds; 1904)
Christian Parker (Yankees; 2001)
Dan Peltier (Rangers, Giants; 1992-96)
Andy Pilney (Braves; 1936)
Doc Powers (Colonels, Senators, A's; 1898-1909)
Billy Reed (Braves; 1952)
Ron Reed (Braves, Cardinals, Phillies, White Sox; 1966-84)
Ed Reulbach (Cubs, Dodgers, Braves; 1905-14, 1916-17. Also Newark Peppers, Federal League, 1915)
Dick Rusteck (Mets; 1966)
 Jeff Samardzija (Cubs; 2008-present)
Frank Scanlan (Phillies; 1909)
Paul Schramka (Cubs; 1953)
Tillie Shafer (Giants; 1909-13)
Shag Shaughnessy (Senators, A's; 1905-08)
Tommy Shields (Orioles, Cubs; 1992-93)
Duke Simpson (Cubs; 1953)
Red Smith (Giants; 1927)
Lou Sockalexis (Indians; 1897-99)
Billy Sullivan Jr. (White Sox, Reds, Indians, Browns, Tigers, Dodgers, Pirates; 1931-47)
Yank Terry (Red Sox; 1940-45)
Henry Thielman (Giants, Reds, Dodges; 1902-03)
Dick Thoenen (Phillies; 1967)
Ed Walsh Jr. (White Sox; 1928-32)
John Walsh (Phillies; 1903)
Kyle Weiland (Red Sox; 2011)
Tom Whelan (Braves; 1920)
Cy Williams (Cubs, Phillies; 1912-30)
Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox; 1961-83)

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The 1894 piecemeal pay scale

There has been a lot of talk lately about the highest-paid players in the game, from the Albert Pujols talks to the history of the game's most-compensated stars through the years. And then Devon Young over at Seamheads compared those milestone contracts to what players make today, an illuminating look at player compensation vs. inflation.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a unique proposal for paying players -- in 1894. It's another gem from Low and Inside, the book of baseball anecdotes published in 1949 that described a plan to build a ballfield atop Grand Central Terminal in 1912.

Here's the proposed new salary structure:

A friend of the workingman (baseball-playing division) made a profound proposal back in 1894 in an essay written for the Detroit Journal, under which ballplayers would no longer have to suffer under an economic system by which they got regular pay. The Detroit thinker recommended that they be paid on a piecework basis.

He was inspired by the fact that in a single day of that 1894 season three Western League teams produced an over-all total of one hundred and nine runs.

"It is not fair," said the essayist, "to work men as hard as the players did that day. It would be more desirable all around if the men were paid by what they do rather than so much a week or a month."

He then proposed the following piecework scale:

Runs ..................... 50 cents each
Put-outs ............... 40 cents each
Assists ................. 30 cents each
Singles ................. 10 cents each
Two-base hits ...... 20 cents each
Triples ................. 30 cents each
Home runs ........... 40 cents each
Sacrifice hits ........ 05 cents each
Stolen bases ........ 05 cents each

He did not make it quite clear just how much a home-run hitter would get -- presumably forty cents for the homer and another fifty cents for scoring. Errors, he suggested, would be charged against the player on a sliding scale, and there would be a special scale for pitchers.

I was curious as to how this pay scale would work with today's players, in today's dollars. Of course, there are a few gaping holes: no RBIs, no indication of what the sliding scale for errors might be, and no idea what the pitchers' scale might be. So for the sake of argument, let's assign an 1894 value of 25 cents to runs batted in. I'm going to ignore the penalty for errors, because that's a lot more work than I'm willing to do at the moment. If anyone has a suggestion, feel free to comment. And we'll leave pitchers out of it for now, too.

First, we need to convert 1894 dollars into 2010 dollars (because I'm going to be using 2010 stats), so I found a calculator online. The results:

Runs .................. $14.92 each
Put-outs ............. $11.94 each
Assists ................. $8.95 each
Singles ................. $2.98 each
Two-base hits ...... $5.97 each
Triples ................. $8.95 each
Home runs ........... $11.94 each
Sacrifice hits ........ $1.49 each
Stolen bases ........ $1.49 each
RBIs ................... $7.46 each

You might be able to see where there's going to be a problem already -- putouts are going to skew the results toward certain positions. After plugging last year's stats into a spreadsheet with formulas converting the stats into these dollar amounts, the game's best player earned the most money, but not nearly as much as his 2010 contract paid him. Pujols, who made nearly $14.6 million last year, would have been the highest-paid player under this system -- with a salary of $22,474.85. Second on the list is Adrian Gonzalez ($19,900.60) and third is Oakland first baseman Daric Barton ($19,765.15). First basemen held the first 19 spots and 22 of the top 23 as catchers (who get putout credit on strikeouts) start creeping onto the list.

It's not really worth exploring the numbers any further. Clearly that 1894 model wouldn't work today, and not just because of how the game's pay structure has left inflation in the dust. For one thing, I can't imagine there's anyone who values putouts by a fielder as much as home runs by a hitter (outs recorded by a pitcher, however, may be the starting point for developing a pitchers' pay scale).

And of course, ballplayers in 1894 weren't seen as the superstar celebrities they are today. They were certainly held in high esteem, but more as active, sporting men than athletic royalty. It was a nice try, Detroit Journal essayist, but it just won't work.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

From ND to MLB: Johnny Mohardt

As I've mentioned in previous posts of this series, one of the issues with trying to track down and collect evidence of the Major League careers of the 77 men who have passed through South Bend on their way to The Show is that so many of them were Domers long before the Majors became known as The Show, long before Topps came on the scene.

There are quite a few guys for whom I may have to fork over $10-20 for an autographed index card, or $5-10 for a reprint of a black-and-white photo. For others, it may take upwards of $30 (or much more) to land a tobacco card, and there are two for whom I've found signed index cards that would set me back triple figures (and it doesn't help that one of those guys played for the Boston Braves in 1910-11 and shares the same name as an actor in one of those godforsaken tween vampire series AND the name of a golfer in the 1930s: Billy Burke). I'm trying to do this in a much more economical way than that. For some players, like Cy Williams, I've passed on the $30 autographed index card for a $3 Conlon card from 1991. For others, I will have to improvise.

This is the first improvisation. I've been a fan of The Infinite Baseball Card Set since discovering it sometime last year through Uni Watch. In his blog, graphic designer Gary Cieradkowski researches players that interest him, then creates beautiful tobacco cards depicting the players from a particular part of their careers, often in the minor leagues or amateur and semi-pro stages. I purchased the first printed set he put out and it was from one of those cards -- of Otto Rettig -- that I learned of the Doherty Silk Sox semi-pro team that played in my current hometown of Clifton in the 1920s. Major League clubs would often make the trip to the ballfield behind James Doherty's silk factory to play exhibition games -- including the Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox and Giants, bringing with them the likes of Rogers Hornsby and Babe Ruth.

Anyway, when Gary started asking for guest entries, an idea struck me: If I came across a player with a compelling story, the right background to really warrant such a fabulous tribute as inclusion in the Infinite Card Set, I would contact Gary to see if he'd consider it. I'd already been in touch with him to suggest a card of Jack Kerouac -- and it turned out that he had already come up with the design long before I wrote him, so my e-mail send the card to the top of his list. This time, the turnaround was just as quick.

I wrote to Gary on Saturday, Feb. 5 with my proposal and included my full writeup so that he could learn the whole story should he want more background. Two days later, he wrote back and said he liked the idea. Last Thursday, he wrote again to say he had the front of the card done and just needed from me a 160-word summary for the back of the card.

And so I present to you John Mohardt, Irish football and baseball player from 1919-21. Detroit Tiger in 1922. Chicago Bear in 1925. And there's a lot more. But I don't want to take away from Gary's efforts, so to read the full story on Mohardt, please visit The Infinite Baseball Card Set and then look around at some of the past entries. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Here's the blurb from the back of Mohardt's card to pique your interest:

Mohardt distinguished himself in three fields – the ballfield, the gridiron and the operating room – while playing with and for some of the largest legends in American sport. At Notre Dame from 1918-22, he was a teammate of George Gipp and Curly Lambeau under Knute Rockne. In Detroit, he took orders from player/manager Ty Cobb, who once called for the rookie to pinch-run for him. After a brief five-game Major League career, Mohardt played professional football, sharing a backfield on the Chicago Bears with the Galloping Ghost, Red Grange, under coach George Halas. When he wasn’t lacing up his spikes, Mohardt was earning his medical degree. With that in hand, he gave up his athletic endeavors for good. He worked at the Mayo Clinic before serving in the Army during World War II, then offered his services to Veterans Affairs after the war. He eventually relocated to Southern California, where he died by his own hand at the age of 63.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sarandon on 'Bull Durham'

Cool stuff here from The New York Times in which Susan Sarandon talks about three of her roles, including Annie Savoy in Bull Durham.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Rediscovered: Taylor Buchholz as a BlueClaw

Just came across this in a folder of BlueClaws papers I have. It's a 2002 schedule card (brochure size -- it measures roughly 3 inches across by 8 inches down) signed by Taylor Buchholz.
Buchholz was Lakewood's opening day starter in the BlueClaws' inaugural season, throwing the first pitch in franchise history in Kannapolis, N.C. This schedule must've been printed at the end of the '01 season, because Buchholz only spent that one year in Lakewood and I must've had it signed at the end of the season. The other clue: Lakewood's ballpark is called GPU Energy Park here, but after 2001 (to this day), it's been called FirstEnergy Park.
Here's the account of that first game in BlueClaws history:

But no-hitter, shutout averted 
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- It was one for the history books, this first Lakewood BlueClaws baseball game but the Shore area's new minor league team had hoped to write a more satisfying opening chapter. 
The BlueClaws lost to the Kannapolis Intimidators, 9-1, after being no-hit for the first six innings. It was a homecoming at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium for BlueClaws manager Greg Legg, who led the Piedmont Boll Weevils to the Northern Division title managing here last summer. 
After the season, the Boll Weevils changed their name after NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt -- known on the racetrack as The Intimidator -- joined the ownership group. 
"It's real strange," Legg said before the game about managing from the visitors' third-base dugout. "But for some reason I feel comfortable." 
The fans gave Legg a warm ovation, and some seated near the BlueClaws dugout teased their former manager, who was asked by Kannapolis manager Razor Shines to explain the ground rules during the pregame lineup ex-change. 
"Yeah, he asked if I'd do it," Legg said. "Normally the home manager will explain the ground rules, but he said that since I was here last year, he asked if I'd do it." 
On a comfortably cool overcast night to open the 2001 South Atlantic League season, the only official mention of Earnhardt came in the prayer and an address from Sally League President John H. Moss during the pregame ceremonies. 
But his influence was evident throughout the stands, where scores of fans wore hats, shirts and jackets bearing Earnhardt's No.3. 
Right fielder Carlos Acevedo, one of four BlueClaws starters who spent time playing for Piedmont in the Class A league last year, led off the game and took a strike on the inside corner. Legg then called for the ball, which was taken. out of play and given to the BlueClaws. On the next pitch, Acevedo grounded out to shortstop Guillermo Reyes
The next 13 Lakewood batters would follow Acevedo's lead -- Kannapolis lefthander Dennis Ulacia retired the first 14 batters, carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning. A walk to left fielder Gregg Foster gave the BlueClaws their first baserunner in history.
Ulacia left the game after six innings, allowing no hits and three walks while striking out eight. Foster then broke up the no-hitter, lining a pitch from Arnaldo Munoz into left field with one out in the seventh inning. 
Righthander Taylor Buchholz earned the starting assignment for Lakewood, throwing a ball low for his first pitch. The 19-year-old from Springfield, Pa., allowed five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings while striking out four and walking none. 
Matt Riethmaier endured a rough seventh, allowing four Intimidator runs, including a towering two-run home run to right field off the bat of first baseman Casey Rogowski
Lakewood finally put a run on the board with two outs in the eighth, when center fielder Jason Barnette trotted home from third on a line-drive single to left by first baseman Dario Delgado

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Photo fun: That's a red apple!

I've wanted to try this technique for a while now, but the lack of Photoshop and patience kept me from giving it a shot. But I had the hankering to give it a whirl recently, so I picked a simple shape and got decent results. More to come, perhaps.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Orange you glad they're not black?

I've come to enjoy Bethany Heck's Eephus League site since she was featured on Uni Watch a few weeks ago (and not just because she gave me a nice plug). There's a lot of cool stuff there, so it's worth a look around.

I learned something in an interesting post on Monday: The Mets' ballpark is the only one of the 30 in MLB without yellow foul poles. Orange is always better, of course, but it's nice to know that the pleasing aesthetics also make the ballpark unique among its 30 peers. (Can ballparks have peers?)

Anyway, the visual evidence I didn't know I had:

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

ND to MLB: Shaun Fitzmaurice

When I began this project, I really had no idea -- or even expectations -- of where it would go. I simply hoped to learn more about each of the players to go from South Bend to the big leagues and give myself a unique subset to my vast collection of baseball cards, photos and memorabilia. As a reporter, it only felt natural to try to contact each of the living alumni for an interview -- no matter how brief -- and to make an effort to expand those entries beyond the results of a Google search.

What I maybe should've anticipated, though, was that one thing might lead to another, that one door might open another -- that one player might turn out to be the key that opens those other doors. That person has turned out to be Frank Carpin, who has offered insight not just on his career, but on that of others and has urged some of them to get back to me.

One of those assists came on Friday, when my cell phone started ringing. I was out running errands and didn't recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail. When I checked it later, I heard the voice of Shaun Fitzmaurice, Notre Dame Class of '65, Met for nine games in '66. He was calling to get my mailing address. "I put together a some thoughts as to my days on the baseball team," he said. "I was gonna mail it to you, but I don't have your mailing address."

He left his number in Virginia, so I called him back. "Frank Carpin was getting on my case," he said with a chuckle, his Massachusetts accent dropping the "R" in Carpin's name all these years later. On Monday, I received Fitz's letter, with his thoughts written out in a hand I recognized from the autographed photo I picked up on eBay.

Fitzmaurice  -- pronounced "Fitzmorris" -- graduated from high school in 1961 and earned a spot on the United States all-star squad that faced a team of New York all-stars in the annual Hearst Newspapers charity game at Yankee Stadium. In the fall, he landed in South Bend.

"I came to ND in the fall of '61 without a scholarship," he said. "Freshman year I played against the varsity because you couldn't play on the varsity until your sophomore year. In that game I hit a home run and two doubles, after which I was offered a half-scholarship."

With speed to go with his strong outfield arm and powerful bat, Fitzmaurice was soon faced with a decision.

"My sophomore year I ran track, running the 60-yard dash two-tenths of a second off the world record," he said. "I was offered a track scholarship not to play baseball. But my sophomore year in baseball I set the school record for consecutive-game hitting streak."

He earned a letter in track that spring, but if he had taken that scholarship, it's doubtful I'm writing this post 48 years later. It's not like he didn't have a chance to run on the diamond, tough, playing the outfield and setting Notre Dame records for triples. His 10 three-baggers in 1964 are the most by a junior in Irish history and remain second overall, topped only by Scott Sollmann's 11 in '95. In 2010, the entire Irish team had just nine three-base hits. Fitzmaurice averaged 0.34 triples per game that year to lead the nation, one of seven Irish players who have led the country in a statistic. The others are: Dan Peltier (32 doubles, 1989), Sollmann (11 triples, 1995), Aaron Heilman (1.61 ERA, 1998), Steve Stanley ("hardest to strikeout," 24.64 at-bats per strikeout, 2002), Craig Cooper (79 runs, 2006) and Brett Lilly (31 HBPs, 0.56 per game, 2008).

"My junior year, I led the nation in triples, had the fifth-best slugging average in the nation, broke my consecutive game hitting streak and was captain elect," Fitzmaurice wrote to me.

Fitz's 14 career triples -- in two seasons -- are tied for third all-time in Irish history. He's the only player in the top 10 who entered school before 1992 and the only one to play fewer than three years. Only Sollmann, who hit 24 triples in three seasons for an average of eight per year, had a better average per campaign than Fitz's seven.

In 248 college at-bats over two seasons, Fitzmaurice hit .355 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs. He led the Irish in RBIs in each of his two seasons, with 27 in '63 and 28 in '64.

The Irish were just one of four teams Fitz played for in '64. After the college season, he spent the summer playing for Sturgis in the Basin League, a semi-pro circuit loaded with college players (certainly making up the "semi-" part of that designation) with teams based in South Dakota and Nebraska. He opened the season with a 19-game hitting streak, believed to be a league record at the time, and drove in 33 runs, scored 26, launched seven home runs, rapped six doubles, hustled for five triples and hit .455 over that stretch. Batting .431 through the first 36 games (the Irish played just 29 that spring), he was one of four Sturgis players to make the league's all-star team. Seven games later, he was still above .400 at .404 and making a run at Frank Howard's league-record .390, set in 1957. Fitz was also tied for the league lead with 11 home runs, equalling the total of Ball State's Merv Rettenmund, who was playing for a team based in the town of Winner.

Fitzmaurice tied the Basin League record of nine triples in a game in August but was overshadowed by the opposing pitcher, Valentine's Al Closter, who earned a complete-game, 18-inning victory, allowing 11 hits and striking out 24. Those two-dozen Ks stood as a league record only until the next August when Scott Morton -- like Closter a product of Iowa State -- fanned 25 in 16 1/3 innings of relief. I wonder what the Iowa State coach thought of those stat lines.

Fitz helped Sturgis win the Basin League title that summer with a 31-19 record after the club had never even posted a non-losing mark in previous summers. In the title-clincher, a 10-8 victory over Rapid City on Aug. 10, Fitzmaurice hit a grand slam to give him 54 RBIs, topping the record of 53 set by Hal Holland in 1960. It was the fourth record set by the league MVP in two nights; the night before, Fitz passed the previous league record for hits (finishing with 77), total bases (143) and triples (10). His season totals included 10 doubles and 12 homers, second in the league. His league-leading batting average fell to .361 at the season's conclusion, falling short of Howard's record that he'd been chasing all summer. Four teams made the Basin League playoffs, and Sturgis was swept in two games by Valentine in the first round. (The Hearts then lost the final series to Sioux Falls in three games.)

Fitzmaurice, standing next to Joe Lewis
That October, Fitzmaurice joined his third team of 1964, the U.S. National Team, which played a one-game exhibition against a team of Japanese all-stars as a demonstration sport at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He's one of four Irish players to play for Team USA, having been joined by Brant Ust in '98, Heilman in '99 and Grant Johnson in '02, though those three played in the World Junior Championships, not at an Olympics. The Tokyo Games marked the last time baseball would appear in any form at the Summer Games until 1984. Playing games in Hawaii and Korea on the trip, the U.S. squad went 14-4-2 under legendary -- even at the time -- USC coach Rod Dedeaux. Fitzmaurice hit .355 and homered on the first pitch in the Olympic exhibition, as well as in his last at-bat of the tour. A Japanese team offered him a signing bonus to stay and play professionally, but he returned home to another offer.

"I signed when I came back, playing nine years of pro ball," he said.

Following his eye-opening play in South Dakota and Japan, Fitzmaurice signed a deal with the Mets that November and went straight to their St. Petersburg base for the Florida Instructional League, joining his fourth team of the year. He was among eight of the 20 Olympic players to sign deals upon returning home. His signing bonus was reported to be $25,000 and he was initially assigned to the Mets' Auburn affiliate in the Class A New York-Penn League.

The Mets' Instructional League club began that fall losing 28 of its first 36 games, but after Fitzmaurice arrived, the New York prospects won six out of seven, with Fitz starting three of them. In one doubleheader with the Twins, he drove in both runs in a pair of 1-0 victories. He singled in the fourth inning of the first game and had two of the Mets' five hits, plus a stolen base, in the contest. In the nightcap, his 400-foot homer in the seventh and final inning kept Carl Finafrock from a potential one-hitter. The next day, Fitz nearly played the hero again, but a bid for his third hit of the game in the 10th inning -- with the winning run on third base -- was snared by the Senators' diving first baseman, Tony Libertella. (Also of note in the Dec. 12, 1964, Sporting News roundup of Florida action was the play of Orioles prospect Lou Piniella and A's farmhand Tony LaRussa.)

In 1965, Fitzmaurice went to spring training with the Mets, where Olympian Jesse Owens was a running coach for the club.

"What I want to do," Owens said, according to a March 3, 1965, New York Times story, "is make the players realize that conditioning is most important in their careers. They all run flat-footed when they come here -- it's an occupational thing with baseball players. But now they're up on their toes and they've got some spring when they run."

Fitzmaurice, then 22, was cited in the story as having "the springiest steps so far," along with 20-year-old hurler Frank McGraw and 29-year-old pitcher Al Jackson, who was described as being "quick as a cat." It's probably safe to say that Fitz's track experience helped set him apart from the other ballplayers in camp.

Fitzmaurice's spring must've made an impression on the Mets' decision-makers, because he never reported to Class A Auburn. Instead, he spent 1965 playing for Williamsport in the Class AA Eastern League, batting .262 with 14 doubles, 10 triples, two home runs, 30 RBIs, 46 runs and nine stolen bases in 131 games. Beginning with Notre Dame's 1964 season, Fitz played in 284 games from March 1964 to September 1965 -- 29 for the Irish, 52 for Sturgis, 20 for Team USA, 52 in the Instructional League and 131 for Williamsport. And that doesn't count any spring exhibition games in '65.

Fitz was one of nine Williamsport Mets that year who played Little League ball, joining Jerry Craft, Rob Gardner, Jerry Hinsley, Will Huckle, Dick Martin, Sherwin Minster, Keith Weber and Bob Moorhead.

On May 27, 1965, Fitzmaurice's speed helped the Will-Mets (not sure that they were ever called that, but I derived it from the current Binghamton Mets' B-Mets abbreviation) come away with a 5-4 win against Elmira. Fitz was on first base and Minster on third in the 11th inning of 4-4 game against the Pioneers. When Fitzmaurice broke for second on a steal attempt, Elmira catcher Larry Haney threw down to try to nail him. Minster sprinted home, sliding under the high return throw for the game-winner.

Fitz's name came up on the less-desirable side of a notable play about six weeks later. On July 12, 1965, he lined into a triple play, drilling the ball to Springfield second baseman Tony Eichelberger with runners on first and second. Eichelberger tossed the ball to shorstop Damaso Blanco to force Dick Martin off of second. The relay to first baseman Arlo Engel nabbed Jim Lampe for the third out.

When the 140-game Eastern League season ended, Williamsport (67-73) finished fourth out of six clubs, 18 games behind the Pittsfield Red Sox. Elmira made it a pennant race, finishing a game back, but third-place York was 17 1/2 off the pace. Fitzmaurice ranked in the top 20 in several batting categories, including a tie for second with his 10 triples.

On Oct. 21, 1965, Fitzmaurice and Dick Rusteck, another Domer, were added to the Mets roster, perhaps to protect them from the Rule 5 draft at that year's winter meetings. But when the 1966 season began, he was once again in the minors, splitting the season nearly evenly between Williamsport and Class AAA Jacksonville, 64 games to 61. In those 125 games, he hit .270 with 13 home runs, 57 RBIs, 51 runs, 11 doubles, four triples, seven stolen bases and a .793 OPS (.364 OBP, .429 SLG).

May 2, 1966, Fitz helped Jacksonville beat the parent Mets, 2-0, despite the Suns going hitless. Jacksonville scored both runs in the third when Fitz walked, moved to second when Jack Tracy's grounder was booted by Mets third baseman Lou Klimchock, then advanced to third on starting pitcher Galen Cisco's sacrifice bunt. Buddy Harrelson grounded out to drive in Fitzmaurice, moving Tracy to third. A passed ball allowed Tracy to score.

In August 1966, Fitzmaurice earned Topps Minor League Player of the Month honors, helping him earn a September promotion to the Mets. He joined the big club on the same day as Nolan Ryan and made his Major League debut on Sept. 9, two days before the future Hall of Famer. Fitz got the start in center field against the Braves that day, batting leadoff. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, striking out in his first two at-bats, popping out to second in the sixth and walking in the seventh. The base on balls prompted Atlanta manager Billy Hitchcock to pull starter Dick Kelley from the game. In the ninth, Mets skipper Wes Westrum sent Johnny Lewis to the plate to pinch-hit for Fitzmaurice with a runner on third and one out, the Braves leading by five. Lewis struck out and Ron Hunt grounded out to end Atlanta's 8-3 victory.

A day later, Fitzmaurice pinch-ran at second base for catcher Greg Goossen with one out in the seventh and the Braves leading, 3-2, but would be stranded there as the Mets lost by that same score.

Autographed card from Paul's Random Stuff
It was six more days before Fitzmaurice got back into a game. The Mets were in San Francisco, facing a Giants team that was just three games behind the NL-leading Dodgers coming into the game. The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the fourth before the Giants tied it with a run in the seventh and took the lead on a Willie Mays single in the eighth. But the Mets rallied in the ninth. Chuck Hiller pinch-hit for Ron Swoboda to lead off the inning and drew a walk. Fitz was sent in to run for Hiller and, after Hunt struck out, stole second. Danny Napoleon, pinch-hitting for Ed Kranepool, struck out, and the Mets were down to their last out. But Hawk Taylor -- pinch-hitting for pitcher Darrell Sutherland -- singled to left field, driving in Fitzmaurice with the tying run. Taylor advanced to second on the throw to the plate and Johnny Lewis trotted out to pinch-run for him. Harrelson then tripled to put the Mets ahead, 4-3, and stole home for an important insurance run before Eddie Bressoud flied out to end the inning. Harrelson's swipe of home proved to be the winning run after the Giants scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth.

Three days later, in Houston, Fitzmaurice again replaced Goossen on the bases, but after being sacrificed to second in the ninth inning of a scoreless game, was stranded there. The Mets eventually won, 1-0, in 10 innings. On Sept. 23, Fitz pinch-hit for pitcher Ralph Terry in the sixth inning in Cincinnati, striking out in his only at-bat. The Mets lost, 7-0. The next day, he pinch-ran at first base for catcher Hawk Taylor in the ninth with the Mets trailing, 4-3, with two outs and Al Luplow on second. A wild pitch moved the runners up, but Goossen popped out to end the game.

Signed card from The Amazing Shea Stadium Autograph Project
Back at Shea against the Cubs on Sept. 28, Fitzmaurice drew his second start in center field, batting seventh in the first game of a doubleheader. The Cubs' Dick Ellsworth would go the distance in a 4-1 win, but Fitz featured in some Mets highlights. After grounding out in his first at-bat, he recorded an assist in the fourth when he nailed Cubs shortstop Ron Campbell at the plate trying to score the second run on Ellsworth's two-out single. Coming to bat in the fifth, Fitz logged his first Major League hit by beating out a grounder to Campbell. In the seventh, Fitzmaurice reached first on an error but was again stranded. In the ninth, he whiffed for the first out of the inning with a runner on first.

On Oct. 2, the final day of the season, the Mets hosted the Astros in a twin bill. In the first game, Fitz pinch-hit for fellow Domer Rusteck leading off the seventh with Houston ahead, 6-0. He singled to center and, two outs later, advanced to second on Hiller's single. After Luplow walked to load the bases, Cleon Jones walked to forced Fitzmaurice home before Jim Hickman's strikeout ended the inning. Fitz finished the game in center field, striking out against Claude Raymond in the eighth.

Westrum gave Fitzmaurice the start in Game 2 that day, slotting him eighth and again playing center. He grounded out in his first at-bat in the third, walked in the fifth and reached on an error in the seventh, getting stranded on the bases each time. His final at-bat came in the ninth of the Mets' 8-2 loss. With Jerry Grote on first, Raymond again got the better of Fitzmaurice with a strikeout.

On Nov. 23, 1966, the Mets sold Fitzmaurice's contract back to their Class AAA farm club in Jacksonville, to create room on their roster for the upcoming drafts at the winter meetings. Fitzmaurice was available to other teams at the meetings, but wasn't taken, spending the '67 season -- his last in the Mets' farm system -- in Jacksonville.

In '68, Fitzmaurice played for York (Class AA) and Columbus (Class AAA) in the Pirates' system and Syracuse (Class AAA) in the Yankees' organization, just missing out on joining the list of players whose entire Major League careers consisted only of games with the Mets and Yankees. In '69, he again saw time with Columbus, but this time it was split with the Braves' Class AAA club in Richmond. He spent the 1970-73 seasons with the R-Braves before retiring and settling in the area.

He continued to perform well in Richmond, particularly in '71 when he batted .309 (good for 16th in the International League) with a .409 OBP (ninth) and .435 SLG. On Aug. 29 that year, he reached base six times, including three hits (among them a homer and a double) and a hit-by-pitch, and scored five runs in a 15-8 win over the Winnipeg Whips.

After batting .199 -- though with a career-high-tying 13 home runs -- in '72, he rebounded to .248 in '73, his final season. There was one final highlight on May 21, 1973, when Fitz's grand slam provided the only Richmond runs in a 6-4 loss to the Braves in an exhibition game in Virginia. The slam put the farmhands ahead in the sixth, but Ralph Garr's three-run triple highlighted a five-run eighth as Atlanta triumphed.

At 30 years old in 1973, seven years removed from his pot of coffee in the Majors and nine years beyond his whirlwind 1964, Fitzmaurice probably realized Richmond was as far as his career would go. That season -- with a .248 average, .324 OBP, .374 slugging, 11 doubles, two triples, six homers and 33 RBIs -- was his last. His final -- though incomplete -- minor league numbers show a .257 average, .350 OBP, .384 slugging, 84 doubles, 31 triples, 64 home runs and 327 RBIs in 877 games.

He was the second of three Domers to play for the Mets (Rusteck beat him by three months), and though the photo -- likely taken in spring training -- shows him wearing No. 50, he was the fifth Met to wear No. 5, according to Mets By The Numbers. And it doesn't look like anyone else will from this point forward.

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