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Twenty-four skippers, a thousand stories.

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Baseball managers always make fascinating studies to me. Or at least they do the way I used to perceive them — leathery, gray-templed, chain-smoking, salty of mien, and possessed of some mystical quality that entitles them to a brief hold on one of the most sought-after jobs in America.

(Today’s managers, I suspect, are comparatively younger, blander, better-reasoned and glued to their laptops, which makes them less interesting to me.)

In keeping with my eternal fascination with (a) baseball, (b) history and (c) myself, I’ve undertaken a deep statistical dive into the group of 24 men who were employed as Major League Baseball managers on the day I was born.

No higher purpose, really; just profiling the people who happened to be sitting on that particular hot seat on that particular day.


I don’t have any cards from the year I was born. So to break up my text, I’m using cards from the ’80s, which show the managers with different teams than the ones that employed them in my birth year. It’s remarkable how many of these guys still had jobs a decade-plus later. Is that a sign of their brilliance, or a sign of MLB’s longstanding commitment to hiring the same old guys again and again? You be the judge.

– We’ll start with the names. If you are of a certain age, or just obsessive, you’ll be able to guess the year, and you’ll probably be able to match most or all of the names with their teams. Maybe you’ll even be able to picture their ’70s baseball cards:

Walter Alston, Sparky Anderson, Ken Aspromonte, Yogi Berra, Del Crandall, Leo Durocher, Charlie Fox, Whitey Herzog, Ralph Houk, Eddie Kasko, Whitey Lockman, Billy Martin, Eddie Mathews, Gene Mauch, Jack McKeon, Danny Ozark, Frank Quilici, Red Schoendienst, Chuck Tanner, Bill Virdon, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, Bobby Winkles and Don Zimmer.

– All of these men are white. There’s a year-and-a-half yet to go until Cleveland breaks the managerial color barrier by hiring Frank Robinson.

– Frank Quilici is the youngest of the group, at 34. Leo Durocher, going on 68, is the oldest.

Durocher posts a better record than Quilici that year, by a scant one game. Durocher’s Astros finish 82-80, while Quilici’s Twins end up 81-81. Is that statistically significant proof that age and wisdom beat youth and energy? Something to debate during the next long rain delay.

– Quilici is only three years removed from playing major-league ball. In contrast, Walter Alston’s brief taste of big-league action is more than 36 years behind him.

– Eleven of these men played for the franchise that now employs them as managers (Berra, Schoendienst, Virdon, Fox, Mathews, Kasko, Martin, Houk, Aspromonte, Williams and Quilici).

– Four (McKeon, Ozark, Weaver and Winkles) never played big-league ball for anybody.

I went into this exercise with the impression that a big-league career is no longer so much of a prerequisite for managing. I assumed the ratio of managers who didn’t make The Show as players would be higher nowadays. But fakeout, it’s actually lower: Of the 30 current MLB managers, only three never played in the bigs.


– Eleven of my birth-year managers won a World Series at some point during their managerial careers.

That seemed like a pretty high percentage to me — nearly half — so I went 20 years back in time and 20 years forward for comparison’s sake. In 1953, five out of 16 active MLB managers won a World Series at some point — that’s 31 percent. In 1993, 11 out of 28 MLB managers won one, or 39 percent.

– Seven of the 24 served in the military during World War II (Berra, Fox, Houk, Lockman, Mauch, Ozark and Schoendienst), while an additional four served during the Korean War (Aspromonte, Crandall, Herzog and McKeon).

I am not aware that any current MLB managers have military experience, although I confess to not doing the legwork, and maybe I’m overlooking someone.


He had a punk-rock band named after him, too. Ain’t that a man?

– Sixteen of the 24 will finish their managerial careers with winning records. (It’s easier to list the ones who didn’t: Lockman, Winkles, Quilici, Crandall, Aspromonte, Mathews, Mauch and Tanner.)

– Sparky Anderson will manage more career games than anyone on this list (4,030) and also win more (2,194). Three of the 10 winningest managers of all time will have jobs on my birthday, the other two being Alston and Durocher.


– Gene Mauch will lose more games than anyone on the list, with 2,037.


– Durocher has the most career ties of the group, with 22. (Ties are considerably more common before about 1960 or so; they must have changed the rules at some point.) Only one game will be played to a tie in my birth season, with Alston and Eddie Mathews doing the managerial honors.

– Durocher’s 100 career ejections also rank him first in the group, six ahead of Earl Weaver. Weaver has the distinction of leading MLB in my birth year, getting himself run from seven games.

– Whitey Lockman will manage fewer career games (319) and win fewer (157) than anyone on the list, followed fairly closely in both categories by Bobby Winkles.

– Quilici is one of only five managers in MLB history whose names start with Q, while Don Zimmer is one of only two whose names start with Z. Both men are far and away statistical leaders among managers who share their initial.

– Big-league managing jobs are famously impermanent, and my birthday group of managers will see its share of bloodletting.

Four of the 24 will be fired or quit before the season is out — Pittsburgh’s Bill Virdon, Detroit’s Billy Martin, Texas’s Whitey Herzog and Boston’s Eddie Kasko. Of the ill-fated four, only Kasko will never manage again in the bigs.

Not surprisingly, the pugnacious Martin is first to be fired, on Aug. 30. Also not surprisingly, he doesn’t stay unemployed for long: On Sept. 8, he resurfaces in the Texas dugout, replacing the dismissed Herzog.


Martin at still another of his stops.

– Unexpectedly, the last laugh among my birthday managers belongs to Jack McKeon, occupied in my birth year by managing the Kansas City Royals to an impressive second-place finish.

Thirty years later, the peripatetic “Trader Jack” takes over in May as manager of the Florida Marlins and leads the team to a World Series title.

And in 2011 — nearly 40 years removed from my birthday — the 80-year-old McKeon comes down from the Marlins’ front office and takes over as manager again for the second half of the year.

He is the last of my 24 birthday managers to manage in the big leagues. Indeed, on the day McKeon manages his final MLB game, 12 of his former peers are dead.

– The first game managed by one of my birthday managers took place April 18, 1939, at Ebbets Field, when Durocher’s Brooklyn Dodgers lost to the New York Giants. So the managerial experience of this group of men spans 72 (non-continuous) seasons, literally beginning with Mel Ott and Tony Lazzeri and ending with Stephen Strasburg and Giancarlo Stanton.

I wonder if you’d get a similarly impressive range if you pulled some other day, some other year, and looked closely at the managers du jour.

Maybe someday I’ll find out.

Pilots in flight.

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The other day I went to a place where a long-gone and largely unmourned empire once threw up its short-lived flag and invited people to pledge their allegiance.

Which is a fancier-than-usual way to introduce my annual round of summer ballpark pictures.


I imagine sports journalists are already doing interviews and gathering string for next summer, when they’ll write a whole mess of long-reads and oral histories marking the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Pilots’ only season in Major League Baseball.

The Pilots, one of four expansion teams to start play in 1969, were swept into the American League by circumstances beyond their control.

And, at all turns, they weren’t ready. The players couldn’t keep the pace on the field. The owners didn’t have any money off it. The ballpark was minor-league by any standard. And the fans stayed away in droves.

After months of uncertainty, the Pilots declared bankruptcy six days before the start of the 1970 season. The team was then sold to a group that immediately moved it to Milwaukee, where it continues to operate today as the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Pilots’ failure has to be the quickest and most embarrassing exit ever made by a modern major-league sports team. (The NFL had a one-year team in the Fifties, and the NHL a two-year team in the Seventies, but neither league had the prestige and status of Major League Baseball at the time.)


So what’s this got to do with my vacation?

Well, just as the Confederacy had a patent office, the Seattle Pilots had a more-or-less full minor-league system.

While the big-league club made the headlines, Pilots farmhands labored in obscurity in places like Vancouver, B.C.; Clinton, Iowa; and Billings, Montana. Like minor-leaguers everywhere, they spent their summers grinding out dusty doubleheaders and all-night bus rides, dreaming of seeing their names in the Opening Day lineup for the ’72 or ’73 Pilots.

It just so happens that one of those Pilots farm clubs, the Co-Pilots, called Colburn Park in the tiny town of Newark, N.Y., home.

In 1968 and ’69, the Newark Co-Pilots played in the Class A New York-Penn League. (You’ve heard me hold forth at length about the NYPL before.) I believe they were the only Pilots farm team east of the Mississippi, though I might be mistaken.

Five members of those 1968 and ’69 Newark ballclubs made the major leagues, none with the Pilots. Unless you’re a box-score obsessive, the only Co-Pilot whose name you probably know is Tom Kelly, who played a single year for the Minnesota Twins and then won two World Series as their manager.

(You may be better acquainted with Robin Yount, whose only year in the minor leagues was spent as a 17-year-old shortstop with the Co-Pilots in 1973, when they were a Brewers farm team. He played at Colburn Park too.)


I didn’t see much at Colburn Park to remind me of its connection to big-league history. There’s one paint-peeling section of bleachers down the left-field line that could be original (or at least plenty old), but most of the park looks to have been renovated in the recent past.


There’s also a Newark Co-Pilots banner behind the beer counter, with a pilot-wheel logo on it, but it looks too new and colorful to be fifty years old.

Of course, there was also a thunderstorm threatening when I showed up, and rather than look for plaques or pictures, I was mostly looking for a roof. There wasn’t any.

But the storm did not materialize, and my evening at Colburn Park turned out to be perfectly lovely.


Like a bunch of other former New York-Penn League parks in places like Geneva and Elmira, Colburn Park now hosts summer-league ball for college players — specifically, the Newark Pilots of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

Most of the players in these leagues are not strong major-league prospects. But they play hard, and tickets are cheap, and the seats are up close, and the whole setup makes for a nice night.


A guy who walked into one of my pictures (not shown here) even came up and introduced himself a minute or two later; his name is Bob, and he owns the team. I enjoyed a couple minutes’ chat with him before wandering off to buy a $3 Brooklyn Summer Ale on draft.


The Pilots and Geneva Red Wings played a seesaw game before what couldn’t have been 200 spectators. (Bob said the weather kept the gate down, and I imagine he was right.) There were a few errors here and there, but by and large it was a well-played game, with fans of both teams making themselves known.

Newark took a 7-5 lead into the top of the ninth, at which point I put in the Jerry Garcia Band mix I save for visits to central New York and drove merrily home in the perfect 70-degree summer night, bombing down county roads flanked by darkened fields and feeling generally right with the world.

The Seattle Pilots may be dead and gone, but at least they don’t seem to have left behind any disagreeable ghosts.

A few more shots from Colburn Park:










Don’t look to me for coherence.

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In the brief interregnum between snowstorms I was able to get to the first weekend college baseball of the year — always a big deal around here.

Over in Bethlehem, Moravian College did battle in a doubleheader with Catholic University of America, which is apparently a ranked team in whatever division it calls home.

I surprised myself by staying through the wind and cold to watch the entire (seven-inning) first game, which Catholic won 3-2. I hadn’t thought I was jonesing that hard for baseball, but I guess I must have been. It felt good to watch the choreography of the warmups — third baseman whips to second, who whips to first, who tosses to short, and like that.

Both teams played well, with relatively few errors or slop. The final out came on a bang-bang play at the plate that could have tied it for the home team. It made for a dramatic final play … and I was content not to watch extra innings.

As always, I indulged my hobby of taking amateur photos of the game.

I am the last person in America (here I go with that again) who buys digital point-and-shoots; as my old Kodak has finally bit the dust, I had a new Canon to break in. It seems to work acceptably.

I’ll post some of the better pix here, just ’cause that’s what I do, and also because it will give me something to look at at work on Wednesday while six to eight inches of snow pile up outside.








Did I mention the new camera has a fisheye setting?





No. 14 has just hit one off the scoreboard in right to bring Moravian within one. As close as they got, alas.



The game’s last play. Single to the outfield; Moravian runner on second tries to score …


… and doesn’t.


As the smoke clears and the players drift away, the catcher still has the ball in his glove.


Haven’t we met?

The last time I saw Joe Musgrove, reigning champion of the (American) baseball world, he was trying to work his way out of a jam in front of four thousand people in Fishkill, New York.


Musgrove pitched in four World Series games this fall for the champion Houston Astros, winning one of them. His name sounded familiar when I read it in the news, but I couldn’t place why.

Today I remembered. In August 2014, while vacationing in western Connecticut, I saw a Class A New York-Penn League game between the Tri-City ValleyCats (an Astros farm team) and the Hudson Valley Renegades (a Tampa Bay Rays farm team.)

Musgrove, who nowadays works out of the bullpen, started that game for Tri-City. He pitched into the seventh inning, didn’t allow a run, but didn’t get the win either. (Tri-City ended up winning 2-0 on two runs scored after he left the game.)


Three other members of the 2017 Astros also played on the 2014 ValleyCats — outfielder Derek Fisher, third baseman J.D. Davis and first baseman A.J. Reed. Fisher played the night I saw them, and also appeared in the 2017 World Series; Davis and Reed didn’t do either.


Meanwhile, only one member of the opposing Renegades has made the big leagues to date — and he spent just about the minimum time there, appearing in one game and pitching one-third of an inning. (He got his man, anyway.)

Most people who tout minor-league baseball as a place to see the stars on their way up probably keep close track of who they’ve seen — through programs, through autographs, whatever. That, or they make it a point to go see the hot prospects.

I like my method better. Go spend a night under the lights in an unfamiliar town, have a beer and soak in the scene. And then see what comes back to you after a couple of years have traveled their course.

That night also happened to be Superhero Night at the ballpark, and the interns and summerhelp were decked out in all kinds of costumes.

Perhaps there were people in the building that night who remember nothing of Joe Musgrove but have always remembered the time they saw Spider-Man.

That’s fine too.




Two hours with Cinderella.

One thing I thought about doing this fall, after I discovered the collection of old baseball games at, was to listen to and live-blog an entire World Series.

(I was gonna do 1954, which has the dual benefits of (a) being only four games long and (b) being over on October 2. Just imagine the baseball season being done and over on October 2.)

Clearly I didn’t bother doing that. But I am gonna liveblog one game in the archive, hopefully in time to get it posted in time for its anniversary: Game Five of the 1973 World Series, played the night of October 18, 1973, at Shea Stadium.

Why that one? I’m partial to most things 1973, plus I’m partial to most things Mets as a vestige of my childhood.

And, as I’ve said in other settings, Game Five was the high-water mark for the unlikely ’73 Mets.

Their (spoiler alert) win that Thursday night in Queens put the Mets ahead in the Series three games to two — a mere 27 outs away from going from last place to champions of baseball in only two months’ time.

Of course they lost those last two games in Oakland. Indeed, they never held a lead at any point in Games Six and Seven. Which thus makes Game Five the last of a memorable two-month run of shining moments.

Enough. Time to click the play button and hear other people talk …

# # # # #

The broadcast starts with a list of umpires (Augie Donatelli!) and the zesty sound of the ballpark organ. The announcer — I’ll figure out who he is soon enough — explains the different uniforms the umpires wear; the American Leaguers were still wearing those marvelous maroon jackets in ’73.

Jim Simpson takes over as Jerry Koosman — the hero of the ’69 Series, he says, but the goat in Game Two of ’73 — fires two straight strikes to start off Bert Campaneris.

Simpson then rattles off the Mets’ starting infield, including John Milner at first. Damn — the magnificently diffident Ed Kranepool isn’t starting tonight. Hope he strolls in later.

Campaneris promptly grounds to Wayne Garrett at third, and Milner falls off the first-base bag chasing Garrett’s throw; Krane would doubtless have handled it with bullfighter’s grace.

A balloon blows across the infield and Irv Noren, the old Yankee turned Oakland third-base coach, chases it down near the foul line. Dwell for a moment on the image of Irv Noren in the October spotlight corralling a balloon. Simpson doesn’t hit you in the ribs with it the way Joe Garagiola might have, but for a moment it is marvelously clear that baseball is a funny game.

It’s a cold night in Queens – Simpson says it will be in the 40s before the game ends. Brrrr.

Joe Rudi grounds behind Garrett. Bud Harrelson chases it down and makes a long throw that pulls Milner off the bag again, but Milner recovers to stomp the bag before Rudi gets there. OK, maybe Krane wouldn’t have made that play.

Simpson says “we go back to Oakland Saturday” and instantly I hear Tower of Power in my head.

Sal Bando walks on four pitches and bad MF Reggie Jackson (leading AL HR hitter with 32, leading RBI hitter with 117, stole 22 bases, hit .293) comes to the plate. Simpson says Reggie told the media earlier that day that Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley told him Reggie would “live and die in kelly green and gold – I’m not going to trade you.” Half of that turned out to be true, eh?

Simpson points out that the A’s have not hit a home run all Series. He also points out that the Mets are running an ERA of 1.67 in the postseason, and spells it out (“one point six seven”) to make his point. Who’s the real bad MF here? Koosman is — he gets Reggie hacking to end the top of the first.

Garrett leads off against Vida Blue, having hit a rousing .256 all year. (They built baseball lineups differently then, I think.)

“The teams will leave tomorrow … and so will we, for the West Coast and Oakland, California,” Simpson intones. That’s good, Jim. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to watch a silent game on the tube and call it myself. Though that might be fun with enough beer on hand.

Garrett strikes out; Felix Millan grounds out; and up comes banged-up Rusty Staub, coming off a two-homer day in Game Four. The fans remain appreciative of his effort. “He’s not been puzzled by left-handers. Left-handers are puzzled by him,” Simpson says.

(The 1973 World Series entry on Wiki would have you believe that Curt Gowdy and Monte Moore called the games. I hear Monte Moore but I could swear this guy ID’d himself as Jim Simpson. A mystery to sort out.)

While Staub works the count, Simpson (?) notes that the Mets’ Cleon Jones is very weak from a two-day bout with the flu. This does not stop him from playing left field and hitting cleanup. Sounds like the Mets must not have much in the way of bench strength, I’m thinking — and just as I think that, Simpson addresses that very topic:

“They have Theodore, and Willie Mays, and  … Kranepool,” he notes of the Mets’ bench, and he sounds just as appreciative as I do of the true star out of that bunch. “And Cleon Jones said, ‘I’ll take over in left field just as long as I can go.’ ” A brave and knowing man, Cleon Jones.

Staub lines to left — and dammit, whoever digitized this game (or whoever recorded it) left the commercials out! I was looking forward to hearing about Pontiac Catalinas between innings.

Top of the second and Simpson (it is Simpson – his partner calls him “Jim”) is nattering about pitching matchups while the Mets’ organist plays fast and frantic, perhaps trying to keep his fingers warm.

Gene Tenace tries to walk to first on a 3-1 count but Koosman gets it over for a strike. That move is timeless, I guess. Tenace then makes Irv Noren dance with a hard foul ball (baseball is a funny game) while Jim and Monte say hi to everyone listening on the Armed Forces Network.

Koosman K’s Tenace on a curve. Do people still talk about how good Jerry Koosman used to be? He had a couple of miserable seasons but a couple of very good ones, including an off-the-hook rookie year that I’ll pause the game to go look up. (1968: 19 wins, 12 losses, an ungodly 2.08 ERA. How do you lose 12 games with a 2.08 ERA? Meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and greet the Mets…)

The veteran Jesus Alou steps up. He was one of that deep pool of veterans that showed up as part-timers and role-players on those great ’70s Oakland teams. (Don Mincher! Deron Johnson! Mike Andrews! Billy Williams!)

Alou grounds out and Ray Fosse comes up, toting a 1-for-14 line for the ’73 Series. IIRC, Fosse is an A’s broadcaster at this very time — well, not right now, as the A’s are done for the year — but maybe people sit at their computers today live-blogging Ray Fosse broadcasts like I’m doing right now. In the time it takes me to make this remarkable observation, Fosse lines to the busy Bud Harrelson, who throws him out too.

Did Monte Moore just say “Jim Seaver”? Did he? It sure sounded like it.

The ailing Cleon Jones trundles up; Simpson says Jones went 2-for-2 and a walk “against Koosman” in Game Two. (Y’know, you guys are only calling a World Series here; you might wanna get your names right.)

Jones, not apparently bothered by anybody who pitches to him, lines a shot into left field for a double, the night’s first hit.

Augie Donatelli tells Blue he can blow freely on his hand; both managers (neither of whom have been named over the radio yet) have conceded that tonight.

“Milner swings at a Blue fastball,” Simpson says, and it makes me think of a painter, then of a jazz album: Blue Fastball by the Sixto Lezcano Sextet. Blue rondo a la fastball. Kind of blue.

The wind is so strong that “all kinds of material is floating through the air – bits of paper, balloons, napkins, wrappers from hot dogs – it almost looks like it’s snowing in Shea Stadium,” Simpson says. “It’s been going on like this since game time.” And now I’m imagining the underdog Mets doing battle in a snow globe. It is an altogether charming image — probably much more so than this particular vestige of dirty, crappy Seventies New York deserves.

Staking his own claim for the Bad MF mantle, Milner pulls one under Gene Tenace’s glove at first. Jones scores from second and the Mets take a 1-0 lead while cheers rain down like hot dog wrappers. This is possibly the loudest Shea Stadium has been since Mark, Don and Mel.

Grote flies to Reggie Jax and Don Hahn, another of the ’73 Mets’ scrubby outfield options, steps up to face another blue fastball a la turk. “Most of the spectators here – and we are loaded with spectators – are dressed for winter,” Simpson says.

Hahn grounds into a force play at second so he gets a chance to run instead of shivering on the bench. Harrelson follows with a routine fly to left and the Mets take a 1-0 lead into the third.

Dick Green comes up; the A’s slick-fielding second baseman is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts. When announcers point that out, it’s usually good for at least a double. What happens here? He flies to Hahn in center. 0-for-8.

Blue follows and Simpson points out his special ineptitude at the plate. Again, that’s usually foreshadowing. What happens here? Four-pitch strikeout. He does not trouble the 371-foot and 396-foot power alleys Simpson takes pains to mention while describing Shea Stadium as “a big ballpark.”

Campaneris doesn’t reach those distances either, but he fists a blooper over Harrelson for the A’s first hit. Joe Rudi comes up — and Koosman picks off Campaneris to end the inning.

(A’s manager Dick Williams squawks at umpire Harry Wendelstedt, claiming that Koosman balked, and Simpson excitedly tells us that the videotape showed Koosman’s foot moving toward home plate. But there is no replay on the field in 1973, thanks be to God, and we move on.)

Simpson says that “strangely” there’s been no activity in either bullpen. He was expecting it in the third inning of a 1-0 game? Koosman strikes out, anyway. The air dies down, Simpson says (he means wind, of course); the debris stays put for a few; and Blue takes the air out of Wayne Garrett with a called strike three.

Temperature was 50 degrees at 9 p.m. New York time, which was 10 minutes ago, Simpson notes. A plane flies over the ballpark with the ’73 Mets’ slogan, “Ya Gotta Believe.” It doesn’t help Felix Millan, who grounds out to Campaneris. One-third done and the Mets lead 1-0.

# # # # #

Rudi back up to lead off the fourth. Simpson mentions that Reggie Jax, Sal Bando and Gene Tenace combined hit 85 homers in ’73 — the exact same number hit by the entire Mets team that year. Rudi plunks a short fly into right that Millan collects comfortably; one down.

Simpson mentions that the A’s got three-hit in Game Four, and talks at some length about the Mets’ pitching, which Cincinnati hitters described as (his words) “just not that superb.” Makes me wonder how Pete Rose and Tony Perez spent the evening of October 18, 1973. (I never did much care for Cincinnati, except for the chili.)

Bando reaches on a weird-bounce ground ball past/around/through Wayne Garrett. It’s scored a hit. Are the A’s ready to solve the not-superb Mets’ pitching at last? Let’s see what Reggie Jax does: Hard grounder to Millan, toss to Harrelson, throw to Milner at first for the double play! Beauty.

Bottom fourth. Rusty Staub. Simpson says he refuses to wear a long-sleeve shirt under “that blouse of his.” “Blouse,” Jim? (“Everywhere else you look, all of the players have that undershirt. But Staub? No.”)

Simpson also brings up one of the amusing could-have-beens of that wild ’73 season: If Montreal had won the National League East, the postseason night games would have been played in arctic Jarry Park. (The Expos finished only three-and-a-half games back despite having a record under .500.) “Had Minnesota won it, and had they been playing tonight, it would have been 18 degrees,” he adds. (The Twins finished 13 games back in the A.L. West, respectable but not really in the running.)

The bare-armed Staub pokes one past Campaneris for his eighth hit of the Series. Simpson mentions that the planes that usually flock over Shea from LaGuardia Airport have been redirected the other way. What would a game at Shea have been without a mention of jet engines?

Cleon Jones rifles a single into center and the fans sound like a jet eng– er, a throng of 54,000 excited and Rheingold-lubricated throats. Runners at first and second, none out. Will the Metsies bust it open here?

The A’s send Rollie Fingers down to their bullpen. He’s not usually a long reliever, but his presence may be needed to put out a rally before it gets out of hand (as Monte Moore observes, “You put out a fire when a fire starts.”) Using your closer in crucial early-game situations should really be conventional wisdom beyond the confines of the World Series, but nope.

Speaking of stupid conventional wisdom, Milner bunts, and Blue throws to third for the lead out. Yogi, you hack. I dunno how Earl Weaver spent the evening of Oct. 18, 1973, but if he had to watch that, he probably hucked a can of Natty Boh at his Zenith, followed by a stream of salty language.

Grote fouls out to first. Don Hahn (.229 in the regular season!) grounds to Campy who can’t handle it and everybody’s safe. Alas, the rally is in the slap-hitting hands of Bud Harrelson, who promptly pops up to Gene Tenace; the Mets leave ’em full. Goddamn bunts.

(“The wind, and the fans, have taken away much of the bunting that was here when Game 3 began,” Simpson says, apropos de nada. I love the thought of a bunch of nudniks from Staten Island making off with decorative bunting. Seventies New York couldn’t have nice things.)

Fifth inning. Koosman leads off Gene Tenace with “a big, big, big slow curve,” Simpson exults, and suddenly it’s two years later and I’m picturing Bill Lee throwing a big, big, big slow curve to the aforementioned Tony Perez with deeply disastrous results. Will Koosman kill himself with cuteness? Let’s hope not — “back with another one! Strike two!” And then he throws two more — one for a ball, one for a foul. Tenace works the count full and draws a walk. Goddamn slow curves.

Jesus Alou up. 3-for-15 in the Series, but 2-for-2 against Koosman in Game Two. First-pitch foul pop to Grote behind the plate. One out.

Ray Fosse up, 1-for-15. Simpson keeps mentioning that home-plate umpire Russ Goetz is “an American League umpire,” as if that were reflected in his calls in some way. Fosse works Koosman for a bunch of pitches and a full count before flaring a pop to Felix Millan, who makes a sensational over-the-shoulder catch and almost doubles Tenace off first base.

(Simpson keeps comparing Millan’s catch to Willie Mays’ great catch in the ’54 Series. He does not mention that the great man is shivering on the bench in a satin jacket because he’s no longer good enough to start, or even really to play at all. Baseball is a bittersweet game, unless you’re Irv Noren.)

Green flies to Hahn in center field, completing what Simpson calls a 1-2-3 inning before he catches himself and mentions that the leadoff hitter reached on a walk. Quit watching the hot-dog wrappers and get your head in the game, buddy.

Bottom five. Monte Moore takes over the call. I like his style — lively without being forced. (“Some balloon vendor is doing well in this ballpark, only most of ’em are ending up on the field.”)

Blue strikes out Koosman; Garrett works the count full somewhat begrudgingly (“Garrett looks as if he’d just been stuck in the back with a dull knife; he doesn’t like that call at all by Russ Goetz”) before taking a walk.

Blue throws wildly on an attempted pitchout; Garrett takes second; A’s pitching coach Wes Stock goes out for a mound conference. Moore mentions that Blue has never won a postseason game, and suggests he’s pressing too hard. Millan grounds to first; Garrett goes to third; can Rusty Staub come up big? Nope, he grounds to Campaneris. Another wasted chance.

Top six. Simpson recounts the Mets’ scoring chances, then mentions the A’s haven’t had a man as far as second base. Monte Moore takes over again: Blue, Campaneris and Rudi due to hit. Blue goes down swinging. Campy walks.

Moore says there are 2,000 tickets for sale for the Saturday and (if needed) Sunday games in Oakland. He also mentions Billy North, the A’s missing center fielder, who tore ligaments 13 days before the end of the regular season in Minnesota.

Oakland still has not hit a home run in this World Series, Moore repeats, as if he is willing it to happen for the purposes of looking prescient. Nope: Rudi pops foul to Jerry Grote.

Koosman keeps throwing to first to keep Campy close; Dick Williams on the top step watches every throw intently, waiting to crow “balk!”

Sal Bando gets a break on a two-strike checked-swing call (boooooo, goes the jet engine), then bounces a ground ball off the foot of Wayne Garrett, who’s having a tough night …

… and here comes Reggie Jackson, who’s been long, long overdue to do something with the bat in this Series,” Moore announces. Aw, crap. This half-inning has been going on altogether too long, it seems.

Jackson hits a hard ground ball — precisely where Bud Harrelson is playing him, behind second base. Harrelson steps on second for the third out and a massive (and visible) cloud of exhaled breath fills the air above Shea Stadium.

Bottom six. Simpson says Cleon Jones “actually was ill in left field on Tuesday night.” That’s not a euphemism for ralphing, is it? Jones belts one deep to left, but Rudi “MAKES ANOTHER UNBELIEVABLE CATCH” – of the backhanded and crashing-falling variety, Moore explains. General tumult. Thirty-second pause for station identification, which is cut. Damn.

Simpson explains that Rudi nailed a fencepost and took quite a shock, but stays in the game. He also adds that the game is being briefly delayed so the owner of a Mets pennant that is obscuring part of the right-field foul pole can remove it. Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles both throwing in the Oakland pen.

Milner bounces out first to pitcher. Jerry Grote lines a low curve into left field for a base hit. Moore mentions that one of these teams will go to the West Coast needing only one win for the championship. Gee, wonder which?

The .229-hitting Don Hahn — one of two sets of twins in his family, Moore helpfully explains — runs the count 0-and-2. It’s 48 degrees and windy in New York, “but I don’t know anywhere I’d rather be,” Moore adds. Well played. Then he adds that some of the folks listening on the Armed Forces Radio Network might be someplace where it’s 48 below zero. Did I mention I liked this guy?

“Vida Blue’s been in a lot more trouble than has Jerry Koosman,” Moore says — and a couple pitches later, Hahn hits a gapper into deep left-center for a triple and the Mets lead 2-0.

Dick Williams comes out for Blue, accompanied by a series of boos, or maybe they’re yelling “Bluuuuuuuuuue,” but I somehow doubt that. (Simpson: “Don Hahn, who doesn’t hit for average or for power – either one – has just driven Vida Blue out of the ballgame.” Ouch!)

Simpson mentions that Vida stalked off the mound in a hurry, and that his replacement has not yet arrived in “the little cart” from the bullpen. Remember bullpen carts? Those things were wicked awesome.

The organ player gives it his best Jimmy McGriff for a while, until we finally find out who’s pitching: Darold Knowles, who’s now been in all five games of the ’73 Series. Knowles intentionally walks Bud Harrelson to get to Koosman, who strikes out swinging.

Two-thirds done.

# # # # #

Top of the seventh and the A’s are slumping badly at the plate. They haven’t scored an earned run in 15 innings. With Seaver and Matlack slated to face them in Games Six and (if needed) Seven, Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage is beginning to glow like a crystal.

Tenace leads off. Bud Harrelson jogs in to say something to Koosman, then returns to his position. “He really plays Tenace over in the hole,” Simpson says, and for a second I imagine Harrelson dressed in tennis whites, wielding a Slazenger.

Koosman gives Tenace a leadoff walk. Is he tiring? Tug McGraw, Number 45, begins to loosen in the Mets’ pen while pitching coach Rube Walker strolls out for a chat.

The veteran Jesus Alou up; Koosman bounces the first pitch. So, yeah, is he tiring? Not so tiring that he can’t get Alou, who pops foul to Grote for the second at-bat in a row.

Ray Fosse to the plate; Deron Johnson (remember him from, like, 2,500 words ago?) comes out on deck to pinch-hit for Dick Green. Fosse doubles past Wayne Garrett, who at this point is probably wishing he were eating chili in Cincinnati with Pete Rose, and the A’s have runners at second and third with one out.

Yogi Berra — we are an hour and 44 minutes into the recording and, unless I missed something, this is the announcers’ first mention of the Mets’ manager — anyway, Yogi Berra comes to the mound and calls McGraw into the game. (“How quickly this has turned around,” Simpson intones.)

This is already McGraw’s fourth game of the Series; he’s won one of them. As the heart and soul of the ballclub, he gets a rousing cheer as he arrives. Deron Johnson (19 HRs, 81 RBIs during the regular season) works a 3-1 count, swings at strike two, fouls one off, and works a walk. Sacks jammed, one out. Yeesh.

Dick Williams, making moves on top of moves, pinch-runs Allen Lewis for Johnson and pinch-hits Angel Mangual for the pitcher. (I always thought “Angel” was pronounced like “an-HEL,” but no, it’s “Angel,” like in California.) Moore mentions that a lot of major league baseballs are now made in America but sent to Haiti to be hand-sewn, which seems like an odd tidbit to bring up at a make-or-break moment.

Mangual pops up on the infield, invoking the fly rule; he is automatically out. Big, big, big out.

Argh – here comes Bert Campaneris, who had the game-winning hit the other night. Will McGraw’s nerveless ice-water mojo carry the day? He runs the count to 2-and-2 — with the Mets fans roaring wildly at every strike — and then rings up Campaneris with a called third strike down the middle.

“TUG MCGRAW, THE MIRACLE WORKER OF THE MIRACLE METS, HAS JUST DONE IT AGAIN!” Moore roars. Cut to a commercial break, during which millions of New Yorkers presumably hit the bathroom, get a fresh beer, open a new pack of cigarettes and pick their hearts off the ceiling. (Moore, a minute later: “Boy, that McGraw has been in and out of some scrapes that Houdini couldn’t have gotten out of.”)

Bottom seventh at last. Rollie Fingers on to pitch, Ted Kubiak on to play second for Oakland. Wayne Garrett steps up; he could redeem himself by hitting about six homers at once, but instead he warms up Kubiak with a routine grounder.

Millan grounds to Bando at third; his throw is crap but Tenace digs it out. Staub draws a walk. Cleon Jones, who’s had three good hacks tonight, steps up and some loudmouth under the booth starts mushmouth shouting with particular intensity.

Moore explains that it’s “a rule now in baseball” that the home-plate umpire is required to appeal a ball and strike count if the catcher asks. He quips that first-base ump Harry Wendelstedt has called as many balls and strikes tonight as home-plate ump Goetz.

Jones grounds one through the middle; Campaneris snags and tosses on the run to Kubiak covering second. Dude was an all-star for a reason. Three out.

Top eight. McGraw back out to face Rudi, Bando and Jackson. Chain-smoke city for Mets fans. “This is the golden chance, if there is to be a chance against Tug McGraw,” Simpson intones (I know I keep typing that, but it’s not my fault; the guy just keeps intoning.)

George Stone working in the Mets ‘pen. Rudi crushes a foul to the left side, then grounds to third. “Garrett has this one,” Moore says, his voice rising with disbelief. “Throw to first – he got him!” Blind pig finds acorn.

(Simpson teases a trivia question: Who and when was the last complete game in World Series play, since there haven’t been any this year or last year? Wonder what they’d think of today’s game, where people don’t even think about complete games. They give the answer — Steve Blass, Game Seven, 1971 — without mentioning the career-ending on-the-mound breakdown Blass suffered throughout the 1973 season.)

Bando works 3-and-2 and hits a weak looper into left, but Jones tracks it down for out number two. Reggie Jax up. McGraw works him to 3-and-1 — “the A’s need baserunners now,” Moore says — and Reggie looks down at Irv Noren for something; levity, perhaps? McGraw almost hits him with ball four. Funny game.

“To hit a home run tonight, it will take a line drive to left field,” Moore says; he seems pretty clearly convinced the A’s bats are coming alive any minute now.

McGraw fools Tenace on a slow curve for strike two and the park erupts. He misses outside with a screwball and it erupts again. He misses for his fourth straight 3-and-2 count and consternation rumbles through the park like a subway train … and then McGraw walks Tenace.

The chronically frustrated Jesus Alou comes up (“with a club like this, you’d think something would have to pop soon,” Moore says.) Blue Moon Odom, a speedy pitcher sometimes used to pinch-run, comes on to run for Tenace at second.

Alou smokes one down the third-base line — where Garrett, bless him, happens to be playing, and he snares it knee-high for out number three as Moore and the stadium erupt simultaneously. This is what World Series baseball is supposed to be.

Bottom eight. Milner starts with a single to center off Fingers. Grote bunts (for frick’s sake, Yogi!) and sub first baseman Pat Bourque handles. At least this bunt works as intended, and I imagine Earl Weaver was comatose with beer in front of his TV by this point.

Don Hahn, up next, strikes out. The A’s intentionally walk Harrelson again to get to the pitcher (this guy was, like, 5’6″ and hit two homers a year – I hope he enjoyed every second of this.)

The Mets let McGraw swing the bat; he gets a standing ovation (Simpson: “Mets fans come out, not just in numbers, but in appreciation”) but hits a routine grounder to Kubiak for the last out.

Three more outs to go. Catcher Fosse leads off for Oakland. Of course McGraw starts by working him 2-and-0, because nothing can go easy in Metsland. Fosse spanks a line drive directly at Cleon Jones in left. One out.

Kubiak next. OK, now Tug starts 0-and-2. Can we hope for a three-pitch out? No, a screwball goes high. The crowd is singing “Goodbye, Charlie” to A’s owner Charles Finley; they have more confidence in McGraw than I do (and I know how the game comes out!) Kubiak fights his way to 2-and-2, then watches a called strike three.

White noise.

Another in the A’s cavalcade of veterans, Billy Conigliaro, comes out to pinch-hit for Rollie Fingers.”McGraw allows himself the comfort of a deep breath,” Moore says. (Moore, astutely, also notes that McGraw has not been able to get his screwball over for a strike.)

Two strikes on Conigliaro. McGraw’s in a hurry to pitch; Conigliaro steps out. Moore tells the story:

Listen to this crowd. Here comes the pitch. Screwball – STRIKE THREE CALLED! HE GOT IT! … Putting the Mets on top in this World Series, three games to two!”

That was a moment worth taking two hours and twenty-eight minutes (and 4,730 words) to get to.

Additional small indicators of the continuing flight of time.

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Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch (born May 15, 1974) is the first big-league manager to make the postseason who’s younger than I am.

This has actually been true since 2015 — the first year Hinch’s Astros made the playoffs — but I’m not sure I noticed it then.

Also, it’s unclear whether Bartolo Colon (born May 24, 1973), the last remaining big-league player who’s older than I am, will be back for another year. He says he wants to, but his performance in 2017 (7-14, 6.48 ERA) indicates otherwise.

Carry on.

Outta here.

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News item: Solly Hemus, the first person in New York Mets history to be ejected from a game, is dead at 94.

“The umpires screw us because we’re horseshit.”

Solly Hemus was gone from baseball and working in the oil business in Houston long before I was born.

I know of him only because of his distinctive name, and because of the memorably vinegary assessment quoted above, which is attributed to him in Joy in Mudville, George Vecsey’s excellent book about the 1962-69 Mets.

Other sources confirm what this quote suggests: Hemus was something of a hothead. Or a bench jockey, or a pepperpot, or a fireball … call it what you will.

In his 17 years as a big-league player, coach and manager, Hemus was thrown out of games 31 times — leading the league three times.

That included seven ejections in 1959 alone, the year he took on the unusual role of player-manager with the St. Louis Cardinals. (The playing ended quickly. The managing lasted until July 1961, when the Cardinals sacked him in favor of future World Series winner Johnny Keane.)

On May 6, 1962, scarcely a month into the Mets’ first season, third-base coach Hemus became the new franchise’s first-ever ejection, when future Hall of Fame umpire Jocko Conlan ran him from a game in Philadelphia.

Retrosheet says Hemus got on Conlan’s case about breaking up a meeting on the pitcher’s mound; the New York Times article about the day’s game makes no mention. (Yes, I looked it up.)

Hemus, by Vecsey’s telling, was about the only coach who pushed for effort and improvement among the wreckage of the ’62 Mets. Apparently he still harbored hopes of landing another big-league managing job. Perhaps he was trying to position himself to the Mets’ senior leadership as the kind of energetic leader that septuagenarian Casey Stengel couldn’t be.

Unfortunately, not every crisis is an opportunity. Some of ’em are just crises.

In two seasons with the Mets, Hemus had a front-row seat for some of the worst big-league baseball ever played, and whatever effort he put in seems to have made not the least bit of difference.

His experience with the Mets didn’t end his career — he coached with the Cleveland Indians in 1964 and ’65 — but it didn’t help him get hired as a big-league manager again, either. By 1969, when Major League Baseball added four new managing jobs (and the Mets won the World Series), Hemus had been out of organized ball for two years. He stayed there.

The hard-nosed, spit-and-polish sergeant assigned to the most bumbling unit of raw recruits is a stock comic character. (Many of us have encountered such people in person — at summer jobs, perhaps, or our first or second job out of school. Usually we learn to either throw them the occasional bone, or to altogether tune them out.)

Perhaps there was more to Solly Hemus than that. And perhaps he was right to demand more effort; Vecsey paints some of the early Mets as lackadaisical, more interested in their golf games than their day jobs.

Still, my imagination pictures Hemus the way it would picture an Army major who woke up one day to find himself attached to a circus instead of an infantry battalion.

It’s no wonder, I guess, that an early departure from the proceedings came to look awfully appealing from time to time.

The marvelous archive of old MLB radio broadcasts at the Internet Archive includes the second game of a Mets-Cardinals doubleheader from June 9, 1963, in which Solly Hemus gets tossed by second-base umpire Lee Weyer. Haven’t listened to it yet, but maybe this weekend will allow.

Pictures of kids playing baseball.

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Just got back from the Finger Lakes. I was going to visit a ballpark with some interesting history, and then do the usual pix-and-lines writeup that I do when I go to a new (to me) ballpark.

But then my plans shifted and I ended up going to a much less interesting place — from a historical standpoint, and from a photographic standpoint as well.

Still, you gets the writeup and the pictures anyway, because that’s how I do.


This is Maple City Park in Hornell, New York, a city-owned and -run park that’s home to the Hornell Dodgers of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. (This is a summer league for college-age players, financially supported by Major League Baseball.)


The small (pop. 8,563) city of Hornell hosted affiliated minor-league ballclubs from 1942 to 1957. The best-known and best-remembered of them were part of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ massive minor-league network, though the city also hosted teams linked to the Reds, Red Sox and Pirates.

Tommy Davis, a sure-shot member of baseball’s Hall of Very Good, spent a season in Hornell in 1956. Charlie Neal and Don Zimmer — who both won World Series titles with the Dodgers, only to wash up with the ’62 Mets — played there in 1950.

Dick Tracewski, a two-time Series winner as a player and later one of Sparky Anderson’s trusted coaches, passed through in ’54.

And Frank Oceak played his last minor-league ball in Hornell in 1943. He never made the bigs as a player, but you might remember him as the Pirates third-base coach congratulating Bill Mazeroski after his Series-winning home run in 1960.

Those players and their teams also played at a ballpark called Maple City Park. But it ain’t the same one; that one was torn down in the early 1960s to make way for a new high school.

The school isn’t far from today’s Maple City Park — just up Seneca Street — but it seems likely that today’s park isn’t on the same site as the old one. Which kinda cuts down on the historical interest, compared to cities like Elmira and Geneva, which still have their old ballparks in play on their original sites.


City-owned + next door to a school = no beer with your baseball.

To add insult to injury, the one set of fixed stands at Maple City Park is (a) set back from the field some, and (b) is fronted by a screen that completely covers the view. I understand why it’s there, but I don’t like watching baseball from behind a screen — especially at a little local field — so that cost the park a couple of points.



That said, you can always bring your own chair and sit in foul territory, as a fair number of people do …


… or if you’re too cheap to pay the $4 adult fee to get in, you can always pitch a seat right outside the chain-link fence and watch for free.


While it’s not my favorite park in the world — or even in the Southern Tier — Maple City Park has a few things going for it.

If you don’t bother anybody, you can watch the game from small unscreened areas next to each dugout, which brings you a little closer to the action.


The field is also surrounded by a residential neighborhood, a factor shared by some of my favorite college ballparks. There’s something great about seeing houses all around the field, especially when the houses are modest (though well-kept). Beats being at a ballpark that’s surrounded by acres of parking lots.



I left in the fourth inning with the Wellsville Nitros ahead of the Dodgers 5-2. I didn’t much care who won, and I had to run a 5K early the next morning.

I probably won’t be back … but I’ll end with a couple more pictures, anyway.


I wonder what the Los Angeles Dodgers think of the Hornell Dodgers. The Hornell team doesn’t use the familiar “Dodgers” script on its uniforms or website; this is as close as I remember coming to it at Maple City Park.


Pregame stretch for the starting pitcher.


A random passer-by offered to sell me this scoreboard; apparently it’s been down for two years and they still don’t know what to do with it.


Bless the guys who umpire these games. I wonder what they get paid; I don’t imagine it’s much.


Painting the batter’s box. It’s common for players at this level to do the groundskeeping as well.


I’ve never been the Duke of Action Shots but this one tells the story: An errant throw pulls the first baseman off the bag while the runner scores from third.


The two guys in the background at right played hoop for pretty much the whole time I was there.


Well-used mounds in the bullpen. I believe the building in the background is the junior high (not the senior high that was built on the site of the old Maple City Park). Didn’t know they still put decorative windows like those into schools.


3 BR, 1 1/2 baths, cozy charmer, walk to park.

Baseball again.

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Regular readers know: Every year I go to college baseball games as early as I can in March. And then I come back and blog about ’em.

I rang in the season last Saturday by going to see the Lehigh Carbon Community College Cougars take on the Penn State-Worthington Scranton Lions.

Nothing noteworthy to say about it except LCCC whipped up on PSUWS 19-3 and they stopped the game early, after five-and-a-half innings. Penn State WS appeared to have only about a dozen active players during the national anthem, and the whole thing was kind of a mismatch from the word go.

The usual photos were taken and you get to look at some.

LCCC scored in every inning, which doesn't happen that often, even in short games.

LCCC scored in every inning, which doesn’t happen that often, even in short games.

A storklike warmup.

A storklike warmup.

I would shoot B&W more often if it didn't torque my battery.

I would shoot B&W more often if it didn’t torque my battery.

If I pitched in that game I wouldn't show my face either.

If I pitched in that game I wouldn’t show my face either.

Baseball ready.

Baseball ready.

Another in a long series of modest proposals.

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News item: Former Montreal Expos star Tim Raines passed over once again for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I only care about halls of fame when I have some absurd, momentarily amusing, impertinent thought related to their existence.

And so it was this morning.

In the face of widespread social media calls for Tim Raines’ election to the Baseball Hall of Fame (a cause I’m down with, for what that’s worth), I had the brainflash of taking it a step further:

Ten Reasons Why Every Member Of The Montreal Expos Should Be Elected, En Masse, To The Baseball Hall Of Fame

  1. Just imagine the hall of plaques, full to bursting with the tricolor “elb” cap. (Yeah, I know it’s not an “elb.”)
  2. The Hall of Fame forfeited its status as a trustworthy arbiter of the truly elite many decades ago, and is now pretty much just a cool place to look at gloves and spikes. Why not do away with the pretense?
  3. The resultant flood of Quebecois tourists would lead to the establishment of many authentic poutine restaurants in Cooperstown.
  4. Baseball has long needed something to counterbalance its excessive fixation on New York. A new century calls for a new town. Why not Montreal?
  5. I’ve always wondered who John Boccabella would thank if he had an induction speech.
  6. Nostalgia for Parc Jarry, now unfairly lacking, would be rekindled. By all accounts, the Expos’ first home park was a cozy and charming place, full of enthusiastic fans.
  7. Montreal has a historic record as a great baseball town — most notably, as the city that first embraced Jackie Robinson. If any city deserves this unprecedented kind of mass enshrinement, I say it’s Montreal.
  8. This move gets not only Raines but also Rusty Staub, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Lee Smith, Ken Singleton, Graig Nettles, Manny Mota, Dennis Martinez, Dave McNally, Andres Galarraga and Willie Davis into the Hall of Fame. That’s a lot of hits, homers, wins and highlight-reel plays right there.
  9. (And Bartolo Colon! Whenever he retires, that is.)
  10. Un discours de gratitude prononcé en français sonnerait assez grande. Vraiment!