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Joe DiMaggio

8 Nov

Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., better known to the world as Joe DiMaggio was born the son of a fisherman in 1914. DiMaggio was a bit of an enigma to say the least. To the world he portrayed utter class and the possibility man could reach perfection on the baseball diamond. In his personal life however nothing could be further from the truth, DiMaggio was a troubled, cold, often callous and distant man.

DiMaggio won the MVP award three times to go along with thirteen all star game selections in thirteen years played, the only player in baseball that has ever had that distinction. DiMaggio was also considered to be the best complete package player of of his time with his outstanding offensive and defensive skills and was hailed as the prototypical five tool player of his generation. When he retired at age 36 he was fifth on the career home run list with 361. He also has the longest hitting streak in Major League Baseball (MLB) history which stands to this day at 56 consecutive games. During his years with the New York Yankees they won nine world series titles. No one has ever argued his outstanding performance on the field.

Behind the scenes however DiMaggio was a far different man. In 1938 DiMaggio married actress Dorothy Arnold with whom he had his son Joe DiMaggio III. DiMaggio often neglected his bride living in the New York spotlight which led to their divorce after five years of marriage. It was then DiMaggio met another actress, Marilyn Monroe, whom he married after a brief courtship. The union seemed doomed almost immediately as neither seemed willing to share the spotlight nor realizing how popular the other was. A perfect example of this can be seen in a story from a USO tour Monroe headlined which the notoriously overprotective DiMaggio escorted her on. After Urging Monroe to wear a more drab skin concealing outfit she refused and took the stage. After performing Monroe told DiMaggio “You have no idea what it’s like to have 40,000 people cheer for you,” to which he replied “Yes I do.” After two hundred and seventy four days of marriage Monroe filed for divorce. Upon her death he had a half-dozen red roses delivered 3 times a week to her crypt for the next 20 years and never remarried.

The stories of his treatment of rising star rookie Mickey Mantle are now legendary. DiMaggio was heard saying on several occasions statements to the effect that there was no one that could replace him on the field or in the hearts of Yankee fans, certainly not some Oklahoma rube. While this is true to some degree as DiMaggio held a special place in fans hearts, DiMaggio didn’t want to share anything with anyone. DiMaggio was a notoriously difficult person to work with. During game one of the 1977 world series DiMaggio was tabbed to throw out the first pitch, a service which he charged for. He further became angered over a mix up concerning extra tickets he requested (Which it was later revealed he had no use for) and refused to throw out the first pitch only minutes before game time.

DiMaggio further insisted that at all events such as old timers games he be introduced last and always announced as “The greatest living baseball player.” He also instructed public address announcers to always hold for applause at least thirty seconds longer than any other player at the event. DiMaggio refused to participate in events any further than that. He was further more estranged from his son and later in his life to a far lesser degree his brothers Vince and Dom whom also played professional baseball. Few of DiMaggio’s teammates remained friendly with him or even tried to maintain a relationship with the legend after their playing days ended. In March of 1999 DiMaggio passed and was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.

Whether you knew him as Joltin’ Joe, Mr. Coffee, The Yankee Clipper, or simply in a peripheral sense, he penetrated the minds of a generation. While it is possible but highly argued he ever was the greatest living baseball player, he was a great fit for the team he was on. Over time the legend of Joe DiMaggio has grown and much of the negativity surrounding his personal life has dissipated as it is natural for us to want to overlook the faults of our heroes. I will always look on DiMaggio as a great ballplayer, but I reserve the judgments on him as human as I think we all should.

Baseball Slugger Josh Hamilton Gets Right With God

10 Aug

Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton has suffered through a two-month slump, batting barely over .200 since June 1.There was rampant speculation as to what was ailing Hamilton, the five-time All Star, the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player. Some thought marital problems. Some others thought a relapse into the drug and alcohol abuse with which the 31-year-old struggled in a past life.But the Rangers basher ended the speculation yesterday, releasing a statement in which he attributed his recent problems at the plate to his disobedience to God. More specifically, his failure to quit chewing tobacco.Hamilton’s statement elicited predictable derision from those who do not share his Christian faith.Like the snarky writer for Dallas Magazine who mocked, “So God is punishing Hamilton for using tobacco, and that’s why this year he’s been swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than anyone else in the majors?”

via Baseball Slugger Josh Hamilton Gets Right With God.

via Baseball Slugger Josh Hamilton Gets Right With God.

“Extra Innings” – By Bruce E. Spitzer: Baseball Book Review

13 May

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: We are full swing into the baseball book season. Stopping by my local bookstore (yes…they still have those as e-books have not yet completely taken over), I went straight to the baseball book section. I was amazed at how many new titles were out. With so much to choose from, picking a new title to read can be overwhelming. Let’s face it- we all have busy lives. There is a strong time commitment required to complete any book from beginning to end. If taken too long to read, the stories and messages can often be lost. Thus the special story that you choose must be worthy of your time. To pick the book, read it from beginning to end and walk away having gained wisdom and enjoyment from it. That is why we encourage reading books here on MLB reports and work to find you the latest and greatest titles. Today’s book is revolutionary in the world of baseball and one that completely blew me away. Extra Innings, a novel by first time author Bruce Spitzer. Imagine science was able to bring Ted Williams back to life in the year 2092. Do I have your attention? I knew I would.Here is a brief introduction to Extra Innings, courtesy of extrainningsthenovel.com:

via “Extra Innings” – By Bruce E. Spitzer: Baseball Book Review.

via “Extra Innings” – By Bruce E. Spitzer: Baseball Book Review.

Opinion: Harper adjusting well to the Majors

5 May

Bryce Harper, the rookie sensation, the 19-year old prodigy is making is mark in the majors early. This young man is full of confidence and is not afraid to show it, the Nationals have struck gold; his love for the game is worn on his sleeve, on every play this kid will give you 150%.

via Opinion: Harper adjusting well to the Majors.

via Opinion: Harper adjusting well to the Majors.

The oldest professional baseball player in history

21 Apr

Writing as to the oldest professional baseball player in history is no easy task. Granted a simple biopic would be no problem, but the problem is nobody is truly sure who the oldest player ever was. Some purists say it is Nick Altrock who at age 56 pinch hit for the Washington Senators in 1933. Others say it was Minnie Minoso, and others swear it is Leroy “Satchel” Paige. The problem lies in birth certificates. Paige and Minoso either no longer had or declined to present them which makes their true ages unknown whereas Altrock was confirmed.

Still even if we accept (Which most historians do) that Minoso and Paige were older than Altrock as lying about being older at that point in their lives is contrary to conventional logic we still don’t know which was actually older. Paige and Minoso were also motivated to lie about their age as they began careers when baseball was segregated. Paige played his last game in 1965 for the Kansas City A’s at the believed age of 59. Many people generally believe he could have been as old as 65. Paige was commonly known to dodge issues of age, in part because he wanted to be considered younger and therefor more “signable” when integration entered the world of Major League Baseball. His own mother stated he was three years older than he claimed but Paige maintained she was in her nineties and forgetful when she stated that. However any way you slice it Paige was at the least 59.

Minnie Minoso was a position player making his final appearance for the Chicago White Sox in 1980 at the believed age of 57 although like Paige it is commonly accepted he lied about his age to appear younger at the time of his signing in 1948 by Cleveland. Even at the time of his last appearance reports of his age are conflicted as some sources listed him as 54, others 57, and yet another as 58. Quite frankly it was anybodies guess. His official year of birth is listed as 1925 however that was a year he supplied, not one taken from an official document.

Where this gets cloudy is that in 2003 Minoso drew a walk at the age of 77 as per his possible 1925 birth date for the Independent minor league team the St. Paul Saints. He was paid for the game, however this was something like his 1976, 1980, and 1990 one to three day contracts with the Chicago White Sox which were purely promotional. Again some argue as Minoso did not appear in an Actual MLB game his appearance with the Saints does not count.

So you have your pick of the oldest player. Nick Altrock is the oldest validated by birth certificate player to appear in an MLB game. Minnie Minoso is the oldest known player to appear at any professional level, at least in the United States. Satchel Paige is however likely the oldest player to regularly appear in a game and any doubt about his age shouldn’t be about whether he was younger, but older. Even though his appearance was purely staged as he spent his time in the bullpen being tended to by a “nurse” he did pitch against Boston for three innings and whether it was a one game contract or not, he is in my opinion the oldest player in baseball history, well at least Major League baseball History.

Debating whether Mark McGwire should be in the baseball Hall of Fame

20 Apr

As much fun as the Big Mac was to watch on his historic home run race he is not a Hall of Famer. I won’t argue the steroid or human growth hormone (HGH) angle this point, I will argue what he did on the field. McGwire was as one dimensional a player as I have seen since Dave Kingman who by the way isn’t in the hall either despite his home run hitting prowess.

While McGwire’s 583 dingers are impressive, in an offensively inflated era they don’t carry as much clout as bygone eras. His .263 batting average is pedestrian by hall standards, his post season numbers are abysmal, and even as a first baseman his fielding was poor. He had almost no range or arm in the field. Had he not been in the national league he would have been a designated hitter.

What we have to consider is where do we draw the line? Only 20 years ago a player with 450 homers was considered an almost sure thing for the hall of fame (HOF) however with Dave Kingman who was comparable to McGwire skills wise they drew the line. We look at the immense amount of young one dimensional players hitting homers in cracker jack ballparks and see that over the next 20 years the 500-600 home run club is going to become so diluted what once made it special is gone. Adam Dunn stands out as a current player who does nothing but hit homers and is quickly on his way there.

The drug issue can be debated. Canseco for whatever his opinion is worth claimed Mac began using in the 80’s. Mac claims he used only over the counter supplements but refused to answer questions put forth by congress on the subject. In doing so he sullied his reputation and gave the game a black eye just as much as Sammy Sosa’s “No hablo” defense scheme. People can argue whether performance enhancing substances really enhanced him but there are two points to make here. The first is that performance enhancing drugs were and are illegal- regardless of the sports stance on these. They are controlled substances he took without a prescription and they did in fact violate the MLB policy on such substances although testing, enforcement and punishment was laughable in that era. Secondly if we are to believe multiple sources claiming his use of these over almost all of his career, all his numbers are tainted. There is no litmus test for a before/after comparison as with most players.

McGwire was wildly popular, seemingly talented, and in general a nice guy. I’ve met him personally and he was very likable. The thing to remember is that beyond the numbers the HOF does have a morals clause in the voting which was all but ignored until this era. It is however there. McGwire cheated, he broke the law, and the consequences of such actions are seemingly going to be his denial to the HOF. As much as I like him this is the right choice, there has to be a time where we break with the standards of the past and stand up and do things that are right and not just popular.

The all time best players on the Kansas City Royals

12 Apr

In 1969 Ewing Kaufman entered the world of professional baseball on the grand scale as owner of the expansion team the Kansas City Royals filling a void left by the Athletic’s departure for Oakland. Like most expansion teams they began with a smattering of pro level talent in the old Municipal Stadium before moving to Royals Stadium in 1973. During the Royals history many fine players have come through the organization, some for their full career and others briefly, this is an examination of the best players in Royals history.

 The first name that comes to mind when discussing the Royals is number five, Hall of Fa,er George Brett. Brett spent his entire career in Royal blue primarily as a third baseman although his last couple of seasons saw a move to first base. In a career that spanned twenty one seasons Brett set the baseball world on fire, winning one MVP award and finishing in the top three four more times. A lifetime .305 hitter, Brett collected 3,154 hits with 307 round trippers and 1,595 RBI’s. Brett made thirteen trips to the All Star game, added in a Golden Glove and four Silver Slugger Awards to go with his world series ring. Something that shows his true consistencey was his winning a battle title in three different decades, including 1980 when he hit an amazing .390 that called attention to his prowess around the globe. George Brett truly is the All-Time face of the franchise.

Hal McRae may have spent his first four season in Cincinnati but once he landed in Kansas City he found a home for the next fifteen. Hal was primarily a designated hitter (DH) and outfielder for the Royals during his tenure. While McRae will never find his way to Cooperstown, he did gain entrance to the Royals Hall of Fame by compiling career numbers which boasted 2,091 hits, 191 homers, and 1,097 RBI’s to compliment his .290 average. McRae was a two time All Star and snagged a pair of number four finishes in MVP balloting alomg with a 1982 Silver Slugger Award. The role McRae played in elevating the organization and keeping them competitive can never be denied or underestimated.

Outfieldier Williw Wilson was the Royals first round pick im 1974 and made his debut with the big club in 1976. Wilson was known for his speed on the bases and his ability to cover seemingly emdless ground in center field. Over Wilsons nineteen year career, all with the Royals, he piled up 2,207 hits, 668 steals and a .285 career average to accompany his gold glove and pair of Silver Slugger awards. Wilson also garnered an 1982 batting crown as well as led the league in triples five times, and stolen bases once. Wilson was the spark plug of the Royal’s offense and the glue that held their outfield together during the franchises prime years.

Paul Splittorff spent his entire fifteen year career with the Royals compiling a winning percentage of .536 and posting 166 victories to make him the Royals All-Time wins leader. Paul posted twenty wins for the Royals in 1973, and nineteen in 1978 for his two highest single season totals. Splittorff was a crafty lefty who managed only 1,057 strikeouts but an impressive 3.81 ERA shows he knew how to keep his team in the game and provide a chance to win every time he took his turn in the rotation. While these are far from the type of numbers needed for Cooperstown, they earned him entrance to the Royals Hall of Fame and a place in the hearts of Kansas City fans.

 For a period of time there was no more dominant closer than Dan Quisenberry. While the “Quis” only had a twelve year career, from 1980-1985 he was the man to finish off foes for the men in blue. Quis racked up thirty or more saves five times, twice passing foty. Over the span of his career he picked up fifty six wins to go along with 244 saves and a 2.76 career ERA. While with the Royals Quisenberry amassed five top ten finishes in MVP balloting and anothe five top five finishes in the Cy Young race, twice as runner up. Quis won five Fireman of the year awards and led the league in saves five times as well. Dan Quisenberry to this day may be the best clser in Royals history.

No mention of Royals greats would be complete without the man who took the field at second base for eighteen years, eight time gold glove winner Frank White. White collected 2,006 hits, 178 career thefts, and a .255 career average. While these numbers may not stand out against today’s players, White was integral to the Royals success. He anchored an infield with his amazing fielding and leadership. White may have never enjoyed the accolades showered upon many of his teammates but it in no way made him less valuable to the franchise.

Since the Royals played their first game countless stars have crossed through the organization including Brett Saberhagen, Lou Pinella, Amos Otis, Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, Tom Gordon, Dennis Leonard, and Mike Sweeney. Some only stayed a few years, some several. Most found their fame and best years in other organizations, and some only compiled a couple good years in royal blue which is all that keeps them from my list of Royals greats. Of course like anything in baseball it’s always open to debate, but the six players outlined are all truly Royals greats.