San Francisco grounds crew helped the Giants win the pennant in ’62

May 29th, 2020

They tried and tried again. No matter what National League clubs did, they just couldn’t slow down Maury Wills in 1962. Wills’ Dodgers were in their fifth year in Los Angeles and thirsty for another World Series appearance. Winners of the 1959 Fall Classic, the team finished a disappointing fourth in 1960. They climbed to second place in ’61 and seemed poised for a return to the post season in ’62. Wills did his part. The Dodger shortstop was historically great on the bases, swiping 104 bags. To put that into perspective, the last time a National Leaguer stole even half that many was in 1920. No big league team matched Wills’ total in ’62. The Dodger squad had one .300 hitter in batting champ Tommy Davis who also led the league in runs batted in with 153 . Davis got help from Frank Howard, the only other Dodger to tally 100 RBI. Together they counted on Wills to get aboard and make his way into scoring position. Dodgers and Giants vie for NL supremacy While Wills was on his way to the stolen base record, the Dodgers fought the Giants for the top spot in the NL. Behind Wills, […]

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Vin Scully and high school teammate Larry Miggins shared a magical MLB moment

May 12th, 2020

During the second semester of the 1943 school year, Fordham Prep High School baseball teammates Larry Miggins and Vin Scully sat in their school’s auditorium sharing dreams of reaching the big leagues. While Miggins fancied himself as a future Major League player, Scully hoped to become a big league baseball announcer. The two men created a dream scenario that would come true on May 13, 1952 at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Larry Miggins tells the story “Vince Scully and I were attending Fordham Prep in 1943,” Miggins wrote in a letter. “At a school assembly he was sitting behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders and said, ‘Larry someday you will be in the big leagues and the first time you hit a home run, I will be the announcer and tell the world about it.’ “Sure enough it happened in 1952. I was with the Cardinals and the first time we played in NY – my home town – Eddie Stanky put me in left field and I hit a home run (my first) off of Preacher Roe and beat him for the first time in two years. Scully had joined Red Barber on radio broadcasts and he actually told […]

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Harry Caray’s rumored affair with the daughter-in-law of the Cardinals owner helped forge two Hall of Fame Careers

July 20th, 2018

CooperstownExpert.com

Famed announcer Harry Caray was the voice of the Cardinals for a quarter century. Beloved in St. Louis, he was known as a womanizing man-about-town. That penchant for sharing time with beautiful women just may have ended his career with his hometown team and solidified the career of Jack Buck. Did the affair happen? The unsubstantiated rumor – that Carey never denied – is that an affair with August Busch III’s wife led to the announcer’s dismissal. Proof of the affair supposedly came to light after Caray was hit by a car on November 3, 1968 and nearly lost his life. The Busch family phone bill for the month showed many calls to Caray’s hospital room. The charges were traced to Susan Busch, the young wife of August Busch III who was the son of the team owner. The story continues that the Busch family hired a private investigator who confirmed that Mrs. Busch was indeed romantically linked to Caray, who was then in his 50s. Whether the story is true or not, Susan and August Busch III were divorced in 1969, the same year the Cardinals opted not to renew the contract of the immensely popular Caray. Caray’s firing […]

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Frankie Frisch’s Vets Committee selections defined and damaged the Hall

January 4th, 2017

Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, and Cy Young are in everyone’s Hall of Fame. Marginal players like the ones selected on Frankie Frisch’s watch on the Veterans Committee have helped define and damage the Hall of Fame.

His five most glaring selections — George Kelly, Jesse Haines, Dave Bancroft, Ross Youngs, and Chick Hafey have ignited many arguments. Here’s a big reason why: Imagine if your favorite player is Keith Hernandez and you think he should be in Cooperstown. He’s flat out a better first baseman than George Kelly. Hernandez was in fact a better player than any of the five Frisch selections. There are likely hundreds of players better than the Frisch Five.

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Former Yankee Captain Don Mattingly reflects on Derek Jeter

July 30th, 2016

Miami manager Don Mattingly spent his first 23 years in professional baseball in the New York Yankee organization, first as a player, then as a coach. In 1995, his final year as a player, the team called up a 20-year old shortstop named Derek Jeter. Jeter went on to become the Yankee’s all-time hit king, the first in franchise history to eclipse the 3,000-hit mark. When Jeter went 5-for-5 on July 9th, 2011 to enter the exclusive club, Mattingly sent him a text to congratulate his former teammate. Mattingly feels special connection “I feel that special connection with him after watching come out of high school and seeing him progress,” Mattingly said. The Marlins skipper was asked if he could predict greatness for Jeter when the shortstop first came up. “Honestly, it was impossible to see when he broke in,” Mattingly admitted. “I did see a quick progression. It seemed like a short period of time, but it was like 2 ½ years and you’re like, ‘Wow, he’s made some big jumps!’.” Big jumps indeed. After his initial cup of coffee in the big leagues, Jeter began 1996 as New York’s regular shortstop, hitting .314 and winning the Rookie of the Year Award. Jeter’s career takes […]

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MLB’s best record wasn’t enough to keep a selfish Barry Bonds happy

July 30th, 2016

Production isn’t enough for a contract Imagine the salary a free agent could demand coming off of an All-Star year in which he led the league in walks and on-base percentage while slugging 28 homers. Teams would line up for his services, hoping to add that rare combination of offense to their lineup. There was one such a free agent available in the off-season of 2008, but nobody signed him that winter. In fact he never played another inning in the major leagues. Such is the life when you’re Barry Lamar Bonds. Stories abound about of his black lounge chair and extra locker in his corner of the clubhouse at Pac Bell Park. His trial for obstruction and lying to a grand jury started last week with an admission of taking steroids and a far-fetched defense of never knowingly doing so. With his prickly personality, and prima donna attitude, Bonds can be a tough guy to like. He was no fan of the media. And as it turns out, he wasn’t always a fan of official scorers either. The early days of the defensive shift During his playing days, Bonds pulled the ball with such consistency that teams employed a defensive shift. The […]

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Dodgers pitch in $250,000, restore pride at Jackie Robinson’s high school

April 20th, 2016

In what can only be described as a sad state of affairs, the baseball field at Jackie Robinson’s high school alma mater fell into severe disrepair. A sloping outfield, dusty infield full of pebbles, and poor dugout areas gave the field at John Muir High School in Pasadena, California a look of neglect and decay. It wasn’t always this way. Robinson and older brother Mack brought prestige and honor to John Muir. The elder Robinson was a track star there and eventually earned a silver medal in the 1936 Summer Olympics, while Jackie lettered in baseball, football, basketball, and track. Over the years Muir produced many professional baseball players including a member of the 400-home run club in Darrell Evans who graduated in 1965. Evans was selected in Major League Baseball’s inaugural first-year player draft upon graduation. Over the first five years of the draft, MLB franchises took six Muir Mustangs. Over the next three decades 14 more Mustang players were drafted. As the 1990s ended, so too did the Mustangs’ baseball success. With the school’s declining enrollment and the emergence of basketball and football as Muir’s best sports, baseball became an afterthought. Interest in the sport waned, the Mustang […]

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HoFer Bert Blyleven gave Don Mattingly an earful in ’84!

August 5th, 2015

By Jim Smiley After fourteen years on the ballot, Bert Blyleven got elected in 2011, his final year on the Writers’ ballot. The first Dutch-born inductee, Blyleven was a practical joker off the field, and a competitor on it. Renowned for having one of the game’s best curveballs, Blyleven could also bring the heat. Just ask former Yankee Don Mattingly. The first time the two squared off was in August of 1984 at Cleveland’s Lakefront Stadium. Blyleven was in the midst of one of his finest seasons. The Dutchman went 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA that year and finished fourth in the American League in strikeouts. Mattingly was near the apex of his career, finishing the year as the A.L. batting champ, leading the league with 207 hits, and 44 doubles. “The first at bat, I hit a seed, a one-hopper right at the first basemen,” Mattingly said. Feeling confident Mattingly came up for his second at bat ready to do some damage. “I was like all right, I’m going to hit him hard again,” Mattingly recalled. Did the confidence pay off? “The first was right at my chin and knocked me down on my ass,” said a smiling Mattingly. After dusting himself off, the […]

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Absent from Cooperstown, former Cy Young and MVP Don Newcombe made a US President’s Hall of Fame

August 4th, 2015

By Jim Smiley Don Newcombe’s baseball resume reads like a history lesson, spanning from the pre-integration era of the 1940s to the present day. The first player to win Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player awards, “Newk” won 20 games and hit .359 in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only championship season. Despite his accomplishments, Newcombe never received more than 15.3% of the writers’ vote in elections for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Though Cooperstown has yet to beckon, Newcombe may very well be in a more prestigious Hall of Fame — one that requires presidential approval for admission. To understand the accomplishments that warrant inclusion into such a Hall of Fame, one must peer into Newcombe’s groundbreaking baseball experiences. Two seasons after beginning his professional baseball career with the Negro Leagues’ Newark Eagles, Newcombe played for the Nashua Dodgers, America’s first racially integrated baseball team since the color line was drawn in 1888. By 1949, Newcombe, with teammates Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella, and Cleveland outfielder Larry Doby was among the first African-Americans to be named to a Major League All-Star team. Apparently aware of Newcombe’s role in breaking baseball’s color line, it was President Obama himself who included Newcombe in the […]

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"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball…"

~Jacques Barzun, 1954