Tag: baseball

7 Inspiring Baseball Players Who Overcame Adversity

 

Mordecai Brown, Chicago Cubs
It’s tough to make it to the major leagues and it’s even tougher to stay there. It takes a not-insignificant amount of natural physical ability, a lot of hard work, and plenty of self-confidence to get there and stay there. It’s a battle that plays out every day through competition from the amateur level through the minor leagues and at the major league level. It’s even tougher for some who have an additional opponent they have to conquer along the way. That’s the purpose of this post – to briefly tell the stories of a few of those who had an additional obstacle on their way to the majors. I think I’ll proceed in chronological order.

Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown

RIP, Hank Aaron

 

Hank Aaron in the batting cage spring training 1960
Baseball great Hank Aaron passed away today, January 22, 2021, at age 86. No cause of death has been provided.

Henry Louis Aaron was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama to Herbert and Estella Aaron. He was one of eight children which included a younger brother, Tommie, who would also play in the major leagues. The family was quite poor and so the young Henry had to work at odd jobs including picking cotton to help ends meet. He loved sports and learned baseball in sandlot games in which bottle caps or rocks usually substituted for balls and sticks or broom handles substituted for bats. He hit cross-handed from the start and he would keep hitting cross-handed until he began his professional career. Perhaps this is how he developed such quick and strong wrists which was much remarked upon from the beginning of his career. He did play baseball and football in high school, but like the young Willie Mays, he also began playing semi-pro baseball around the age of 14 thus adding another small sum to the family income.

RIP, Joe Morgan

 

This year has been a terrible year in many ways for just about everybody. It’s been no exception for baseball fans. This year had so far seen the loss of five Hall of Famers; Al Kaline, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, and Whitey Ford. This Sunday, a sixth has been added to that list, Joe Morgan. Morgan passed away at his California home on Sunday at the age of 77 due to non-specified polyneuropathy.

Joe Leonard Morgan was born on September 19, 1943, in Bonham, TX, the youngest of six children. He moved to Oakland, CA with his family at five when his father found work with the Pacific Tire & Rubber Company. As a boy, Joe played baseball, basketball and ran track. His best sport was baseball, but he was not considered a major league prospect in high school because of his lack of size (he is listed at 5′-7″, 160 lbs during his playing career) and he was, at best, the second-best player on his team behind Rudy May who was highly sought after in high school and would have a fine major league career as a pitcher. He played baseball at a local junior college where he did attract the attention of the scouts and he signed a contract with the Houston Astros for all of $500 per month plus a $3,000 signing bonus. He worked his way through the expansion Astros minor league system rapidly, getting cups of coffee in the bigs in 1963 and 64 becoming the Astros starting second baseman in 1965 at age 21.

With the Astros, “Little Joe” quickly blossomed into a fine player. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1965 and made two All-Star teams while in Houston. However, the combination of the dismal performance of the team (they were always in the second division) and playing his home games in an awful hitter’s park (The Astrodome) helped to hide his light behind a bushel. A blockbuster trade between the Cincinnati Reds and the Astros in the winter of 1971 would change that. The Astros sent Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke, Jack Billingham, and Ed Armbrister to the Reds in exchange for slugging 1B Lee May, fellow 2B Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart. Morgan was initially upset with the trade. He’d made a home in Houston, and he and his wife were expecting their second child. However, the trade would kick his career into overdrive. Over the next six seasons, he was probably the best player in baseball. And, playing for manager Sparky Anderson and teaming with all-time greats Johnny Bench and Pete Rose in one of the best eight-man lineups in history, the Reds would average 98 wins per season and win back-to-back World Championships in 1975-76.

Winning Ugly

 

Let’s get superficial here at Ricochet and talk about looks. This is a tw0-part essay.

Coming into the 2020 season, 19,960 people had played at least one game in the major leagues. Among those 19,960 were all sorts, tall guys and short guys, guys as fast as greased lightning and guys slower than molasses, smart cookies and dummies, honest men and crooks, handsome devils, and those who were a little less fortunate in the looks department. Among that latter group was Don Mossi.

Mossi was a pitcher and pretty good one. He pitched 12 years in the majors as both a reliever and a starter and he was good in each role. He pitched in the majors from 1954 to 1965 and posted a career 101-80 won-loss record, a 3.43 ERA and 50 saves in 460 games and 1548 innings pitched. In his best individual season (1959) the left-handed Mossi went 17-9 and he was also a part of the best pitching staff of the 1950s as a rookie– the 1954 Cleveland Indians – the Indians that year won the AL pennant with a 111-43 won-lost record, one of the best regular-season records of all time, powered by a pitching staff which included Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Hal Newhouser. Mossi held his own with a 6-1, 1.94 ERA, 7 save performance.

Jim is back! Join Jim and Greg as they cheer on former Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann as the Washington Post settles the $250 million lawsuit he filed against it. They also cheer on the advancement of a possible coronavirus vaccine with tens of thousands of patients set to be part of a clinical trial. And they cringe as COVID-19 suddenly threatens Major League Baseball.

It was one thing when people argued over ventilators and lockdowns. But naturally, a culture war had to arise out of the coronavirus, and wearing masks is it. Who should wear them and when? Should the government mandate it and for how long? Also, is it right to shame people who choose not to wear one?

Links to the stories Park mentions:

Willie Mays: An Appreciation

 

Wednesday was baseball great Willie Mays’ 89th birthday and I thought I’d post a brief appreciation of his career. I’ve been a baseball fan almost all my life, and since I grew up in northern California and started following baseball circa 1960, the Giants were my favorite team and I gravitated quickly to their best player Willie Mays.

Willie Howard Mays was born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama. Willie was a precocious athlete. His father was a semi-pro ballplayer, playing for a company team in the local league made up from coal and steel companies in the area. By the time he was a teenager, young Mays was on his father’s team playing against grown men twice his age. And, although he played on his high school football, basketball and baseball teams, he began his professional baseball career in 1947 at age 16 joining the Chattanooga Choo Choos, who were essentially a farm team for the Negro League Birmingham Black Barons, a team he would join within a year. The Black Barons manager, Piper Davis would become a mentor to Willie. He worked with the young ballplayer on his weaknesses as a player and required that he finish high school. Since the Dodgers had broken the color line with Jackie Robinson in 1947, major league scouts from those teams willing to add black ballplayers to their roster began scouring the Negro Leagues for major league talent and it didn’t take them long to stumble across Mays who had helped the Black Barons to the Negro League World Series in 1948 mainly with his great defensive play.

RIP: Al Kaline

 

Al KalineBaseball great Al Kaline passed away today April 6, 2020 at his Bloomfield Hills home at age 85. No cause of death has been given although it is known that he suffered a heart attack several months ago. Kaline, who was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, was an early “bonus baby” signing with the Detroit Tigers at age 18 for enough money ($35,000) that the rules of the time required that he stay with the major league club. He would stay with the Tigers from that first day forward in 1953 for the next twenty-two years until his retirement following the 1974 season thus being one of the few major league players never to spend even a day in the minors.

Kaline came into his own as a player in 1955 as the 20-year old led the league in hits (200), total bases (321) and in the process became the youngest batting champion (.340) in history. The following season he would drive in a personal best 128 runs and he would continue to play at an all-star level for the better part of the next two decades. Kaline took as much pride in his defense as he did with his hitting and the right fielder would garner 10 gold gloves to go along with 15 All-Star Game selections. He would not win an MVP but he would finish second in the voting twice and be considered one of the ten most valuable players in the league nine times. For his career, he would join the 3,000 hit club with 3,007 hits but would just miss several other round numbers with 399 home runs, 498 doubles, and a career .297 batting average. The newer advanced metrics also attest Kaline’s greatness – his 92.8 WAR ranks 29th all-time among position players, while his 443 Win Shares is 28th all-time among position players. The highlight of his playing career probably came in 1968 as his Tigers beat the St Louis Cardinals for the World Series Championship as he did his part hitting .379 with 8 RBI. Kaline played his entire career with a deformed left foot due to a childhood bout with osteomyelitis which caused him problems off and on during his playing career. Here is a link to his statistics.

Kaline’s playing career was capped with his selection to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1980. After his playing career, “Mr. Tiger” joined the Tigers as an executive and he would remain employed by them until his death. Kaline, who had been a clubhouse leader during his playing career was universally liked and respected throughout the baseball world. He is survived by Madge, his wife of 66 years, and their two grown children.

Member Post

 

This year’s World Series features two franchises who have been relatively unsuccessful until recently. The Houston Astros are making their second World Series appearance in the last three seasons, and their third overall World Series and are seeking their second World Championship (having won the 2017 affair), while their opponent will be the Washington Nationals […]

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How to Build a Computer 36: Chemical Vapor Deposition

 

No matter how much fun you’re having etching silicon, applying and stripping photoresist, or implanting ions, sooner or later you’re going to have to actually put down some lines. Gotta build a circuit eventually. Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) is one of the main ways this gets done. Let’s have a look at what we’re doing, shall we?

If I had known I was going to use this picture at least three times I might have put a little more effort into the sketching.

Baseball Needs a Pitch Clock. Change My Mind.

 

Baseball is going to die a rapid death if they don’t do something drastic about the pace of play.

I’ve had full season tickets to the Milwaukee Brewers for 25 seasons. Before I got married and had kids I always went to 70-plus games a season. I’d even take half-day vacation time to go to the weekday day games. My best season in 2001 I attended a total of 85 games (two pre-season, two road games, and all 81 home games), and I only left one game early, it was a weeknight that it went into extra innings and I was the ride for a friend who couldn’t stay any longer.

I’ve sat through to the end of 16-1 blow-out losses (“Hey, three or four grand slams, we’re right back in this one”). One of my favorite baseball memories is attending double-headers on consecutive days in July 1997 – in the first game, Steve Woodard made his major league debut against Roger Clemens, gave up a lead-off double to Otis Nixon, then proceeded to strike out the side, set a league record by striking out 11 (or was it 12?) in his debut, and won the game 1-0. In the second game of that doubleheader, the Brewers turned their first Triple play in something like 17 years.

Member Post

 

Last Friday night, I spent the evening at our new minor league baseball park. A local book club invited me to go to a game with them. We watched the Augusta Greenjackets host the Greensboro Grasshoppers (don’t you just love minor league baseball team names?). I hadn’t been to a Greenjackets game in years, and […]

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Member Post

 

Spring has sprung, baseball season is underway, and the theme of the Opening Day coverage was that baseball is broken. Attendance last season was down 3 million from the prior season and 10 million over the past decade. World Series ratings are trending downward as well, and to add insult to injury Kyler Murray spurned […]

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Ichiro Retires

 

A few years ago, Ichiro Suzuki said his goal was to play major league baseball until he was 50. Well, that’s one baseball goal Ichiro won’t attain. Yesterday, March 21, 2019, the 45-year-old told the Mariners that today’s game would be his last. It was a homecoming of sorts for Ichiro, as the Mariners started the season with a two-game set against the Oakland A’s in Tokyo, Japan. Although the Mariners swept the two games, Ichiro went hitless in both games but received a well-deserved standing ovation as he was removed from the second game in the bottom of the eighth. Thus ended one of the most unique careers of all time.

Ichiro, of course, came to the major leagues at age 27, joining the Seattle Mariners after playing nine years in Japan. He had owned the league in Japan winning batting titles in all seven seasons in which he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the honor. How he would do in the majors was an open question. He answered that question in a hurry winning a batting title, the Rookie of the Year and the MVP for a team that won 116 games in the regular season.

Gather ‘Round the Stove

 
A Chicago newspaper illustration prior to the 1913 American League Meetings

If you want to keep the peace then you don’t step on the third rail of American conversation. No, it’s not Donald Trump. It’s not even politics. Or religion.