Tag Archives: YANKEES

‘THE FUTURE AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE’ – YOGI BERRA

On September 28, 1951, I was in Yankee Stadium in New York, with my father, to watch the Yankees play a double header against the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees could clinch the pennant over the second place Cleveland Indians by winning both ends of the double header. At age 13 and a rabid Yankee fan, I could not believe I was there.

Allie Reynolds took the mound for the Yankees in Game 1 of the twin bill. Reynolds was at the top of his game that day. He had already pitched one no hitter that year and had a second no hitter going in the last of the ninth with two outs and the Yankees ahead 8-0. The only person between Reynolds and his second no hitter was the Splendid Splinter Ted Williams, the greatest hitter in baseball at that time and probably of all time.

Reynolds got Williams to hit a pop foul and Yogi Berra got under it and, unbelievably, dropped it. Reynolds went back to the mound and got Williams to hit another pop foul and Yogi caught this one, ending the no hitter and clinching a tie for the pennant for the Yankees.

Five years and ten days later, in Glidden Hall, at Nasson College, in Springvale, Maine, I watched on a black and white television as Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history against the Brooklyn Dodgers in that same Yankee Stadium. When pinch hitter Dale Mitchell was called out on strikes for the third out of the game, the catcher, that same Yogi Berra, charged the mound and leaped into Larsen’s arms and the picture of that happening is one of the most famous pictures in baseball history.

Yogi Berra passed away this past week at age 90. The two events above that I was fortunate to have witnessed were just the tip of the iceberg in the amazing career and life of Yogi Berra. Yes, he was perhaps the greatest catcher ever to play the game but he was much more than a catcher.

He was born and raised in The Hill section of St. Louis where he grew up with his friend and fellow catcher Joe Garagiola. After they tried out, Garagiola signed with the Cardinals and Yogi supposedly turned down a contract offer from them because they offered Garagiola more money than him. Yogi eventually signed with the Yankees.

After just beginning his baseball career with the Class B Norfolk Yankee farm team in 1943, he enlisted in the Navy and trained as a machine gunner on a Rocket Boat and was at Omaha Beach during the
D-Day Invasion of Normandy. He returned from the Navy in 1946 and hit .314 in 77 games with the Newark Bears before being brought up to the Yankees in September.

He played for the Yankees from 1946 until 1963. After his playing career was over, he managed the Yankees to a pennant in 1964, managed the Mets from 1972 until 1975, winning the National League pennant in 1973, and managed the Yankees again from 1984 until he was fired by George Steinbrenner after the Yankees started the 1985 season 6-10.

After leaving baseball, he opened the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University near his home in Montclair, New Jersey. The facility, which, is described in it’s literature as capturing ‘the rich history of baseball and the career of Yogi Berra is a wonderful learning experience for both adults and students alike’, serves thousands annually.

Yogi was almost as well known for his ‘Yogi-isms’ as for his feats as a baseball player. He is one of the most quoted athletes in the world. My favorite quote supposedly was uttered while he was playing in a baseball game when he was in the Navy and stationed at Groton, Connecticut. After not doing well at his first at bats in a game, swinging at bad pitches, the coach told him to think while he was up there. Yogi supposedly went up and took three strikes without swinging and when he came back to the dug out said ‘I can’t think and hit at the same time’.

Yogi, the baseball player, was signed by the Yankees in 1943. He played on 10 World Series winners from 1947 to 1962, the most of any player in history. He was named to every All Star team from 1948 until 1962 and was Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1951, 1954 and 1955.

He had his greatest year at the plate in 1950, hitting .322 with 28 homers and 124 RBI’s. 1950 was the second year of the Yankees all time record five consecutive World Series wins. He also threw out a remarkable 57.6% of the runners who attempted to steal against the Yankees that year. Even more impressive is the fact that he was behind the plate in 148 of his team’s 154 regular season games that year. He caught more games in 1954, totaling 149. For his career, he batted .285 and hit 358 home runs and drove in 1,430 runs.

He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1972. According to the web site Baseball Reference, the highest salary he earned with the Yankees was $65,000. in 1957. Somehow, I think Yogi would have played for nothing, he loved the game that much.

Yogi passed away on September 22, 2015, exactly 69 years, to the day, after he made his debut as a Yankee in 1946. In that first game of his career, which the Yankees won 4-3 over Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Phillies, Yogi batting eighth, went 2-4 with a home run, two RBI’s and a run scored.

Baseball has lost a great player, manager, ambassador and character and the world has lost a great American. Before his death, he was proposed as a candidate for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Hopefully, the movement to accomplish this will continue and he will be recognized for all that he did for baseball and America.

JAYS RECORD STREAK – FACE YANKEES TONIGHT

The charging Toronto Blue Jays won their eleventh game in a row last night, beating the Oakland Athletics 4-2 to maintain their half game lead over the Yankees in first place in the American League East. The Jays became the first team in baseball to record two winning streaks of 11 games in the same season since the Cleveland Indians did so in 1954.

On July 28, Toronto was 50-51, in fourth place, eight games behind. Today they are 64-52. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki played his first game with the Blue Jays on July 29 after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies. In his first game with Toronto, he went 3-5 with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored and two RBI’s.

He has not kept up that pace at the plate but has handled 120 chances in the field without an error. At the plate, since joining the Jays, he is 12-52 with three homers and six RBI’s but, since he was activated and played his first game on July 29, the Jays have won 14 and lost 1.

David Price, acquired by Toronto from the Detroit Tigers on July 30, has had his part in the streak as well. In his two starts since coming over, he went eight innings against the Twins on August 3, giving up just one run on three hits and striking out 11 and, on August 8, shut out the Yankees for seven innings on just three hits and struck out seven. His ERA for two starts with the Jays is 0.60 and he has two wins. He was 9-4 with Detroit with a 2.53 ERA.

The Yankees are coming to Toronto tonight for a three game series. It will be interesting to see if Toronto can continue its winning ways. In Game 1, Price will face Ivan Nova, 4-4. Game 2 will see Marco Estrada, 10-6, against Masahiro Tanaka, 8-5, and Game 3 will pit Drew Hutchison, 11-2, against Yankee rookie, 21 year old, Luis Severino, 0-1, in his third start with a 2.45 ERA.

Toronto looks to have the pitching advantage and a sweep would put them
3 ½ games up.

THE RED SOX BLEW IT AGAIN!!!!

The Red Sox brought up Henry Owens from their minor league AAA, Pawtucket team and started him against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium last night. Owens, a 23 year old, 6’6′, 220 pound, left hander was 3-8 with Pawtucket with a 3.16 ERA. Last year, he was 17-5 between Pawtucket and AA Portland with a 2.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 159 innings pitched.

In the eight games this year in which Owens took the loss, the Pawsox got shut out three times, scored one run four times and two runs once for a total of six runs in eight losses for Owens. In 45 innings in those eight games, he gave up a total of 20 runs for an ERA of 4.0 and the most runs he gave up in any one start was four. With a little support, his win/loss records could have been much better.

Owens started against the Yankees and appeared to have a case of the jitters in the first inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, before getting out of the inning. He gave up a single to Chase Headley to lead off the second and then proceeded to shut down the hot hitting Yankees for the next four innings, getting 12 batters in succession.

At the end of five innings, the Sox had come back and led the Yankees 2-1 going to the sixth. At that point, Owens had thrown 87 pitches and the Yankees had the meat of their order, Chris Young, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann coming up.

In his first big league outing, it looked like an ideal time to get the rookie out to make his first big league experience a positive one. Taking him out at that point would ensure that he couldn’t lose and he had had a great game against the first place team in the division. The last thing he needed was a bad finish to his first outing.

Instead, Farrell sent him out to start the sixth and he gave up a single to Young and a double to Rodriguez. Then, Farrell took him out and the floodgates opened and the Sox relievers gave up 12 runs as 21 Yankees batters came to the plate in the next two innings.

In his 21 starts at Pawtucket this year, Owens had averaged 95.3 pitches per game and he had already thrown 87 when the sixth inning started. Why leave him in when it was obvious he would be over 100 before the inning was over? Why leave him in when the bullpen had had a day off the day before and should have been ready to go? Why leave him in to face the meat of the Yankee order, for the third time? It isn’t as if the game was crucial to the Red Sox winning or losing the pennant.

There was no logical reason to send him out there in the sixth. There was every reason to take him out after five and let him savor his outing and build his confidence.

Henry Owens is obviously going to be an effective major league pitcher for many years. The Red Sox have kept him in the minors, not wanting to rush his development and hurt his future and rightly so. I have felt and predicted all along that he would help this ball club this year and expected he would be in Boston before now, particularly given the lack of effective pitching the starters have shown.

The decision to leave him in the game in those circumstances is just the latest example of bad decision making at the field and management level that has given Boston fans a last place team that can’t get out of its own way.

The Red Sox have 47 wins and 60 losses in their first 107 games. To put that into perspective, even Bobby Valentine won 53 of his first 107 games.

CURE THE WINTER BLUES WITH BASEBALL

It’s hard to believe that it’s already January 3 and we are just two months from opening day in both the Cactus and Grapefruit Spring Training seasons. A little over a month from now, pitchers and catchers will report for the start of Spring Training workouts and the position players will be right behind them.

I, for one, have had enough of winter, even though, here in Maine, we have had mild weather so far, with only one snow fall, way back on Thanksgiving Day, and the second one beginning to fall as I write this.

Spring Training is what I wait all winter for. For any baseball fan, particularly the ones that live in my house, it seems like we have been without baseball forever. This is our year to go to Florida for our annual Spring Training pilgrimage. If you have read my weekly column in the Biddeford, ME, Journal Tribune over the past three years, you know that we alternate years between Florida and Arizona.

Both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues are home to 15 teams for Spring Training and, beginning March 3, there are games every day and night right up until April 4, the day before the regular season begins. The season opens late this year, with Opening Night kicking off with a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs at night on Easter Sunday. The rest of the teams start the next day.

In addition to watching as many games as possible the last week or two of Spring Training, we plan to catch Opening Day of the regular season and the next two games at Tropicana Field with the Tampa Bay Rays hosting the Eastern Division Champion Baltimore Orioles. We will then start north and stop at Camden Yard to see the Sunday game between the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays as we wend our way home.

Spring Training in Florida is always exciting, particularly since I am a Yankee fan and my wife is a Red Sox fan and they both train there. In addition to being loyal fans, however, we are both fans of baseball in general and I prefer Arizona to Florida for two very basic reasons.

Number one, the weather in Arizona in March is almost always sunny and warm as opposed to Florida where it can be cool and/or rainy at that time. Secondly, the training facilities in Arizona are all in the greater Phoenix area, within a short ride of each other. In Florida, on the other hand, some of the parks are an hour or two apart, making it sometimes difficult to see ball games in different arenas.

In Arizona, it is not unusual for us to see two games in one day. One year, for example, we saw the Angels play the Rangers in Tempe Diablo Stadium in the afternoon, drove up to trendy Scottsdale, where we had a nice dinner outdoors at an excellent restaurant and then walked over to see the Giants play the Athletics at Scottsdale Stadium. Last year, in the last seven days of Spring Training, we took in 11 games, a feat that would usually involve a lot of driving in Florida.

In our years when we travel to Arizona, we generally stay for the first series of the year if the Diamondbacks are home. Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks play their home games, is a modern, fan friendly, ballpark, complete with retractable roof, located in the heart of downtown, a stone’s throw from the interstate with plenty of parking and lots of nice places to have lunch or dinner before the game within walking distance of the park.

While at Spring Training, whether in Florida or Arizona, I send articles about the teams’ progress to the Journal Tribune every few days and, this year, will also be doing talks about and signings of my new book, ‘ From Beer To Beards ‘, about the 2011-2013 Red Sox, at libraries in Lee County where the Sox training facility, Jet Blue Park, is located.

If you’ve begun to get cabin fever like I have every year at this time, the best cure is to plan a visit to spring training. Even the planning process makes the winter seem shorter and there is nothing like leaving the cold north and finding yourself in warm sunshine at a baseball game in Arizona or Florida.