Saturday Morning Quote

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is. — Bob Feller

— Joe Boesch

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Boone is Yanks Manager

— Joe Boesch

The Statistical Side of Baseball

Do we need to have 280 brands of breakfast cereal? No, probably not. But we have them for a reason – because some people like them. It’s the same with baseball statistics. — Bill James

— Joe Boesch

Rewind: Miracle of Coogans Bluff

Here’s a reprint of the “Shot Heard Around the World” story by Red Smith

By Red Smith

Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.

Down on the green and white and earth-brown geometry of the playing field, a drunk tries to break through the ranks of ushers marshalled along the foul lines to keep profane feet off the diamond. The ushers thrust him back and he lunges at them, struggling in the clutch of two or three men. He breaks free and four or five tackle him. He shakes them off, bursts through the line, runs head on into a special park cop who brings him down with a flying tackle.

Here comes a whole platoon of ushers. They lift the man and haul him, twisting and kicking, back across the first-base line. Again he shakes loose and crashes the line. He is away, weaving out toward center field where cheering thousands are jammed beneath the windows of the Giants’ clubhouse.

At heart, our man is a Giant, too. He never gave up.

From center field comes burst upon burst of cheering. Pennants are waving, uplifted fists are brandished, hats are flying. Again and again, the dark clubhouse windows blaze with
the light of photographers’ flash bulbs. Here comes that same drunk out of the mob, back across the green turf to the infield. Coat tails flying, he runs the bases, slides into third. Nobody bothers him now.

And the story remains to be told, the story of how the Giants won the 1951 pennant in the National League. The tale of their barreling run through August and September and into October … On the final day of the season when they won the championship and started home with it from Boston, to hear on the train how the dead, defeated Dodgers had risen from the ashes in the Philadelphia twilight … Of the three-game playoff in which they won, and lost and were losing again with one out in the ninth inning yesterday when— Oh, why bother?

Maybe this is the way to tell it: Bobby Thomson, a young Scot from Staten Island, delivered a timely hit yesterday in the ninth inning of an enjoyable game of baseball before 34,320 witnesses in the Polo Grounds… Or perhaps this is better:

“Well,” said Whitey Lockman, standing on second base in the second inning of yesterday’s playoff game between the Giants and Dodgers.

“Ah, there,” said Bobby Thomson, pulling into the same station after hitting a ball to left field. “How’ve you been?”

“Fancy,” Lockman said, “meeting you here!” “Ooops!” Thomson said. “Sorry.”

And the Giants’ first chance for a big inning against Don Newcombe disappeared as they tagged him out. Up in the press section, the voices of Willie Goodrich came over the amplifiers announcing a macabre statistic: “Thomson has now hit safely in fifteen consecutive games.” Just then the floodlights were turned on, enabling the Giants to see and count their runners on each base.

It wasn’t funny, though, because it seemed for so long that the Giants weren’t going to get another chance like the one Thomson squandered by trying to take second base with a playmate already there. They couldn’t hit Newcombe and the Dodgers couldn’t do anything wrong. Sal Maglie’s most splendorous pitching would avail nothing unless New York could match the run Brooklyn had scored in the first inning.

The story was winding up, and it wasn’t the happy ending which such a tale demands. Poetic justice was a phrase without meaning.

Now it was the seventh inning and Thomson was up with runners on first and third, none out. Pitching a shutout in Philadelphia last Saturday night, pitching again in Philadelphia on Sunday, holding the Giants scoreless this far, Newcombe had now gone twenty-one innings without allowing a run.

He threw four strikes to Thomson. Two were fouled off out of play. Then he threw a fifth. Thomson’s fly scored Monte Irvin. The score was tied. It was a new ball game.

Wait a moment, though. Here’s Pee Wee Reese hitting safely in the eighth. Here’s Duke Snider singling Reese to third. Here’s Maglie, wild —pitching a run home. Here’s Andy Pafko slashing a hit through Thomson for another score. Here’s Billy Cox batting still another home. Where does his hit go? Where else? Through Thomson at third.

So it was the Dodgers ball game, 4 to 1, and the Dodgers’ pennant. So all right. Better get started and beat the crowd home. That stuff in the ninth inning? That didn’t mean anything.

A single by Al Dark. A single by Don Mueller. Irvin’s pop-up. Lockerman’s one-run double. Now the corniest possible sort of Hollywood schmaltz — stretcher bearers plodding away with an injured Mueller between them, symbolic of the Giants themselves.

There went Newcombe and here came Ralph Branca. Who’s at bat? Thomson again? He beat Branca with a home run the other day. Would Charlie Dressen order him walked, putting the winning run on base, to pitch to the dead-end kids at the bottom of the batting order? No, Branca’s first pitch was called a strike.

The second pitch — well, when Thomson reached first base he turned and looked toward the left-field stands. Then he started jumping straight up in the air, again and again. Then he trotted around the bases, taking his time.

Ralph Branca turned and started for the clubhouse. The number on his uniform looked huge. Thirteen.

— Joe Boesch

Baseball, Movies & Thanksgiving

So here it is, the dreary winter and the “rat race” begins. Tis the season for dreaming of baseball and the summer. Well, to keep the imagination of the mind going I give to you a list of baseball movies that may be good for a stocking stuffer or two.

The list is in no specific order:

  1. The Natural with Robert Redford.
  2. 61 produced by Billy Crystal.
  3. When It Was A Game: Triple Play Collection.
  4. Ken Burns’ Baseball produced by Ken Burns.
  5. Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner.
  6. For Love of the Game with Kevin Costner.
  7. Bang the Drum Slowly by John Hancock.
  8. A League of Their Own by Penny Marshall.
  9. Bull Durham with Kevin Costner.
  10. 100th Anniversary of the New York Yankees.

While there are many movies to list, in my mind the above are worth watching to the baseball fan.

A note on my previous column of baseball books: I would like to add a few more from some of the comments posted by readers and my own insight into the books. So, here’s an expanded view of more books to read.

  1. Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig.
  2. It’s Outta Here: The History of the Home Run from Babe Ruth to Barry Bonds by Bill Gutman.
  3. Tales from the Mets Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Stories Ever Told by Bruce Markusen.
  4. Idiot: Beating the Curse and Enjoying the Game of Life by Johnny Damon.
  5. The 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia by Peter Palmer.
  6. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning by Jonathan Mahler.
  7. The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness by Buster Olney.
  8. The Bill James Handbook 2005 by Bill James.
  9. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.
  10. Voices of Summer: Ranking Baseball’s 101 All-time Best Announcers by Curt Smith.

If there are more books, please feel free to send them to me. Maybe we’ll have a third column on the best baseball reads.

— Joe Boesch

A Great Ambassador for the Game

— Joe Boesch

All Rise…A.L. Rookie of the Year

— Joe Boesch

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