Results tagged ‘ Yogi Berra ’

American Legion & M L B, Two Peas in a Pod

 

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I was especially proud and honored this past weekend to hear that Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon decided to honor the “American Legion” brand of baseball spirit.

images (7)And adding a cherry on top of it all, Maddon picked St. Petersburg Florida’s own American Legion Post 14 just a few miles down the road from Tropicana Field as a focus point.

American Legion unique style of baseball was first proposed during a speech by Major John L. Griffith (then collegiate commissioner of the Western Conference or called the Big Ten today) during a state convention in Milbank, South Dakota back in 1925.  Griffith centered his comments towards the role athletics can play in the development of youth.

Griffith stated to the assembled American Legion members: “Athletic competition teaches courage and respect for others, fostering their growth into active citizens.”

images (4)The South Dakota convention agreed and passed a resolution urging the Legion to create an organized summer baseball league that started each June and ended with a World Championship series. American Legion’s 1925 National Commander James A Drain backed the resolution and was easily passed during that year’s National Convention in Omaha, Nebraska.

The American Legion held its first World Series in 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where a team from Yonkers Post 321 defeated a squad from Pocatello, Idaho. A World Series was not held in 1927 due to the rising costs of attending the American Legion’s National Convention in Paris, France, but soon the Legion found a common ground benefactor to help nurture the development and funding of its young baseball program.

images (8)Early in 1928 the Legion’s Americanism Director Dan Sower had a plan to help keep the Legion baseball league solvent. Sowers attended an executive meeting of Major League Baseball hoping to catch a sympathetic ear of then Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  The M L B Commissioner pledged a $50,000 annual donation and within 2 years’ time the Legion baseball program expanded to include teams from every state plus the District of Columbia.

During the lean years of the Great Depression, MLB had to rescind their $50,000 a year endowment, but as the economy rebounded so did their contribution that started again at $25,000 in 1935 and gradually worked its way back to the original donation amount. M L B now contributes about 3 % of the total budget.

images (3)Since its inception in 1925, the American Legion baseball program has grown tremendously to now sporting over 5,400 teams from all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Almost 100,000 young players ages 15-19 pull on American Legion jerseys annually. Nearly 60 % of all current college players are graduates of the Legion baseball program.

M L B has help fund American Legion baseball almost since its inception and Legion baseball has produced a huge bevy of M L B prospects. The amount of former Legion ballplayer who go onto the professional ranks increases with every season and it is estimated more than half of all current major leaguers have Legion roots.

From fresh-faced M L B rookies playing short season summer baseball to current M L B players and Baseball Hall of Fame members, many got their true starts towards a professional career by playing Legion ball.

images (6)Hall of Famer Yogi Berra played for the Fred W. Stockholm Post 245 in St. Louis, Mo and was once heard saying American Legion ball was” the most fun he ever had.” Ted Williams pulled on a Legion jersey for a post back in San Diego, California.

Frank Robinson helped lead his Oakland, Calif. Squad to the only back-to-back World Series win in Legion ball history.

Babe Ruth however never got a chance to play Legion baseball as he was too old to participate during its younger years but spent the final years of his life promoting the Legion program as its director of operations.

Even though Maddon chose Post 14 as his local Post, it is not one of the most prolific American Legion baseball programs in Tampa Bay. That honor goes to Post 248 in Tampa, Florida which produced such future M L B players as Luis Gonzalez, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield.

images (5)Other Florida notables include David Eckstein who played for Post 53 in Sanford, Fl and Chipper Jones and Luke Scott both played for Post 6 out of Deland,Fl.

American Legion baseball even has another great ambassador who played on the gridiron in Bob Griese who played for the Evansville, Indiana post who were the American Legion champs in 1964.

Here is just a small list of some of the current M L B players who have their baseball roots firmly planted within the American Legion program: Cliff Lee (Benton,Ark), Justin Verlander (Post 201), Drew Stubbs and Will Middlebrook (Texarkana), Craig Kimbrel (Post 15), Jason Motte (Post 152), Chad Billingsley (Post 300), Jackie Bradley Jr. (Post 146), Brian Wilson (Post 27), Madison Bumgarner (Post 29) and many, many more…..

downloadI hope this shows some of the sheer magnitude of talent that has come through the American Legion system and are now inspiring members of the major leagues.    

American Legion baseball is something truly special and I was thrilled to be a part of it back in the late 70’s playing for Post 14.  And even though Post 14 never advanced to the World Series while I was playing Third Base, it solidified my personal growth and life foundation through competition, unity of team and created experiences I have used throughout my life.

Playing Post ball helped mold me tighter and wiser as a person while also embracing the spirit of the organization and embracing as well as respecting and honoring for those who fought bravely for our freedoms.

images (2)Some people see the High Schools and college systems as the feeder systems towards a M L B career. I hope this post shows that the American Legion program has deep roots within the American game of baseball and its presence is only going to increase.

I am glad Maddon decided to embrace this past weekend as an American Legion weekend and that he rewarded those in attendance Friday night in Post 14 by picking up that night’s bar tab of over $550.

I wasn’t there that night but if I was, I would have raised my glass high and saluted Major Griffith for having the foresight to embrace a Legion baseball program and giving so many of us great Legion memories.

I mean as the banner said that was displayed in the Rays Clubhouse, Post 14 is “The Fun Post”.

Braden’s Gift on Mother’s Day is just….Perfect

 
 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty
Yogi Berra would have been very proud to watch this Mother’s Day baseball game today. In fact his classic line of “Déjà vu happening all over again” would have been the “perfect” ending to the conclusion of the game. All week long there have been numerous National media members and broadcasters  who have been saying that your team had to be almost perfect to beat the surging Tampa Bay Rays right now.
 
And for one Sunday afternoon, the level of perfection by Oakland A’s starting pitcher Dallas Braden proved to be the right and exclamation point answer to finally trumping the Rays, and securing the first road series victory by an opposing home team from the Rays this season. Coming into today’s game, the Rays boasted an unheard of 13-2 road record, and were 4-1 on their present road trip. 

With an overflowing sea of pink Mother’s Day MLB merchandise scattered across the assorted tables in the Oakland A’s clubhouse, you have to think that primary on Braden’s mind coming into this start was his departed mother, and the maternal grandmother who stood by him in rough times and turned the rebel youth into a prototype model for left-handed perfection. His Grandmother did not teach him to pitch, but she did teach him how to be his own man. And after today, no one will ever remember the “mound” spat with Yankees Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez earlier the 2010 season when absent-minded A-Rod stepped on Braden’s mound during one of his starts.

Now the world will remember Barden for his articulate off-speed pitching that seemed to dazed and confused the Rays. All day long the Rays were caught looking or guessing at the combination of change-ups, sub-90’s mph fastball and a stifling curves thrown at them over the nine innings. Barden never seemed to sweat, or seem remotely nervous in this Mother’s Day start and was still throwing in the ninth inning for the first time of his short MLB career. Along with the “Perfecto”, Braden threw his first complete game of his career on a day that MLB used to celebrate all of our mothers.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

And firmly planted within Braden’s mind during his pitching performance on Sunday afternoon was the many sacrifices and the pain and suffering shared by his two “Mother-figures” in his life. For Barden’s life might have taken a different path if not for the hardnosed approach by his mother, Jody Atwood during his high school years.  And the light bulb finally came on for Braden during a high school trip to Mexico, he began to see the constant path through his mother’s guidance and talks and made an immediate 180 degree turn in his life choices.


But Atwood was not in the stands today to see the mature and well poised Braden throw his first professional pitching gem as she had succumbed to melanoma cancer while Braden was still in his late teens and turned the ball to her mother Peggy Lindsay. So it was only fitting that Braden was so emotionally charged and focused on the mound today as he wore the pink ribbon over his heart on his A’s jersey. But even more important today was that at no moment in the game did we ever see a crack in his armor, either in his facial expressions or his pinpoint pitching accuracy.

Some will say that he might have been channeling former Athletics southpaw Jim “Catfish” Hunter who only 15,331 days earlier had thrown a similar Perfect game for the Athletics back on May 8, 1968. And this is not to suggest that Braden will transform into the second coming of Hunter, but to even be within  a small piece of that shadow of a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee will do wonders to Braden’s inner confidence as a pitcher, and as a man. And amazingly enough, the final score of that 1968 game was 4-0, the same as today’s final score.

But then some others will say that the always rightious Baseball Gods might have rewarded Braden for his stern discipline of safeguarding the “Unwritten Rules” of the game by his argument with A-Rod today. But the conclusion I  have come up with is divine guidance through physical integrity. This is a guy who was so cool, calm and relatively collected after throwing his last pitch of the game in which Rays Rightfielder Gabe Kapler hit a ball towards A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington who threw to Daric Barton at First Base to secure the perfect game for the left-hander.

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

How ironic is it that within the last year, the Rays have been victims of two different Perfect Games by two outstanding left-handed pitchers. In their July 23,2009 game against Chicago White Sox starter Buehrle, the Rays struck out 6 times in their 27 times to the plate. Interestingly enough, they also struck out 6 times today against Braden. Buehrle threw 116 pitches while Braden only needed 106 to complete the Perfecto. Both pitchers earlky on seemed to be “in the moment” but today, Braden did not need a “big play” to secure his Perfect Game. The closest he got to that was a hard hit line drive by Evan Longoria down the Third Base line that A’s Third Baseman Kevin Kousmanoff took in easily early in the game.


Braden got his own personal revenge on these same Rays who took advantage of his early wildness the last time he faced the Rays on April 28,2010 in Tropicana Field.  On that day Braden also opposed Rays starter James Shields on the mound, but the Rays got to Braden early and chased him from the game after only 88 pitches. The loss he suffered that day ended Braden’s personal three game winning streak. You got to think he mentally put it in the back of his mind for some redemption today to end Shield’s own 4-game winning streak when he took the mound against the Rays today.

It was simply amazing to watch the top of the 9th inning as all 12,228 fans in attendance stood for the entire Rays at bat, then remained standing and becoming more emotionally attached with every single pitch thrown during that final half an inning. For they instantly knew of the impossibility of this moment when Braden came back out to the mound in the top of the ninth inning, and knew the immediate importance of this win that would snap the Rays early season dominance on the road.


Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

It truly did take a tremendous effort on the mound today against the Rays for Braden to eventually have his name mentioned along with Hunters in that elusive collection of Athletic’s outstanding pitching performances and capture this memorable Perfect Game. And if I was in attendance at Oakland/Alameda County Coliseum today, even if I was head-to-toe in Rays gear, I would have stood and cheered along side the huge amount of A’s fans after the conclusion of this sparkling pitching gem.

It is the thought of achieving such levels of perfection that drives some athletes to sweat more, and work increasingly harder within the sport of baseball. And  for an athlete to even have a chance to finally fulfill that destiny, the momentum of the moment and final gasp of breath after achieving that moment is unexplainable. On a Sunday when the entire MLB community is showering the stadiums with support for those special women in our lives, perfection was in Braden’s heart today.
 
And  Braden’s transformation on the mound today was remarkable and makes me want to stand up and cheer loud and proud for him today. Baseball immortality is now shining long and bright on Braden today, or maybe  a few of thowe past motherly influences finally coame to fruition to lighten up this memorable Mother’s Day. 

 
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty

Cherish the moment.

Yankees Used to be the Class of the League, Now They are Just A**

 

Trivia Question: Who has the current record for most World Series rings?

 

Answer at the end of the Blog

 

 

I driving along today and listening to the Rays/Yanks game on the Rays’ Radio Network, when our rookie third baseman Evan Longoria was up to bat in the first inning.  Here we are, two days removed from the “whiny” accusations of Yankee manager, Joe Girardi, and Longoria is plucked by the pitcher in the midsection.


The Yankees’ had minor league pitcher, Heath Phillips, starting the game due to Andy Pettitte’s apparent tendonitis situation. That might be the reason for farmhand  Phillips to get the nod for the game versus the Rays, or there could be another reason Pettitte was not pitching today? 



Andy is a class act player, and maybe he wanted nothing to do with the  kid games about to be played on the field. Pettitte is a hard nosed pitcher who is not afraid to pitch the inside corner, but doesn’t have a history of  brush-backs or knock downs of  any MLB players. The reason I bring this up is that the Yankee starter, Phillips was ejected in the first Inning for a up-and-in fastball that hit Longoria. Kind of funny that he picked that player to pitch closely inside, and not the likes of  Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd or  Jonny Gomes.



Home plate Umpire Chad Fairchild immediately sent Phillips to the showers while being given an earful by Yankee manager Joe Girardi concerning the ejection.


But that would not be the end of the fun today.


Not even an inning later,with the Yankees up to bat in the bottom of the second, Shelly Duncan was running out a ball hit down the Left field line when he came in with his spikes up on Aki Iwamura. Replays showed that the relay throw beat Duncan to the base by about 30 feet, and he would not have had any chance to beat the throw to the bag without Aki dropping the ball.



With that in mind, Duncan decided to do his “Ty Cobb” imitation and come in with the spikes up around the knee/groin area and opened a small gash over Aki ‘s right knee.

 

 


Immediately following the play, Rays Right Fielder, Jonny Gomes raced in and leveled Duncan from behind  to set off  a bench clearing brawl.  Gomes said he wasn’t surprised Duncan did what he did considering his comments to the New York media this week that he would consider retaliation for Saturday’s play, and he didn’t hesitate to get involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“That was sort of second nature,” he said. “I was taught from T-ball all the way up to have your teammate’s back. With that guy trying to hurt a teammate, I just acted how I acted.”


Gomes did get an initial shot in on Duncan, but said an all-out brawl wasn’t his goal. Because of his actions, Gomes, Duncan and Yankees Third Base coach, Bobby Meacham and Yankees Hitting Coach, Kevin Long were ejected from the contest won by the Rays’ 7-6. My question is, where was the secret instigator, Joe Girardi during all of this mayhem. Probably giggling on the bench like a schoolgirl.

 

 


Rays closer,Troy Percival was in the clubhouse for the play, but he saw the spike marks visible on Iwamura’s uniform pants, above his knee on the inside of the leg, and wasn’t happy. “You’re just going out there, spikes high, trying to put them into somebody?” said Percival. “There’s no room in baseball for that kind of stuff. Ty Cobb’s been gone a long time.”


Is this the predestined action for the fun during the upcoming season for these two aggressive teams. Are the Yankees going to try and play hard, intimidation ball with a team that can dish out the same in return every night of the week.

 


In 2000,the Boston Red Sox came in to the Trop. in the send of the year, and tried to do the same to the Rays’ in their home stadium. Red Soz pitcher Pedro Martinez hit Gerald Williams and a brawl ensued. I remember seeing Red Sox first baseman/ Strike Scab, Brian Daubach getting leveled by a bullpen guy and being helped off the field. Of course, in that game several pitches were thrown that got pitchers tossed from the game. The best was the pitch by the late Cory Lidle that missed the back of a Sox’s player by two feet.

 

Does the actions of Jonny Gomes show that this team means business this year. Could we really be seeing the evolution of this franchise into respectability. I think the answer to both those questions is a loud and proud “Yes.”

 

Does today’s clear retaliation mean we have the Yankees worried for a change. Do they have a feeling that their “Empire”or “Dynasty” status is being challenged by an upstart team from the south. The last part of that word is what they have become in my eyes, just plain “nasty”‘


This is going to be a fun year to be a Rays and Yankee fan.

 

“It’s not typical of them, that’s for sure,” said Percival. “They’ve always been a professional organization. They’ve always played hard and they’ve always played smart. I won’t say that about today’s game.”


I am all about hard hustle and playing to win every game,at-bat,or pitch. But what Duncan did was beyond the usual action of the game. Should he be suspended by MLB?, that is not for me to say here.


But I would be leery of him standing in Right Field for Batting Practice at the Trop. I will be ready to lay a few lines on him about his cheap sportsmanship.

 

I will clap for any teams,even a Yankee, who shows hustle and a great play or show of true sportsmanship. But I hate and loath a guy trying to inflict,or injury a player out of retaliation for a hard-nosed play from a past game. Shelly Duncan had no business doing a “spikes up” play on Aki and it shows his lack of class to even wear that Yankee uniform. 


Gomes,Percival and others also feel unanimously that the play was “Bush League,” and had no business  being attempted today.  Dirty play,” said B.J. Upton. “Just a flat-out dirty play. Period.”

 

Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon summed it up best today:

“The other day we were playing in Tampa, that play you saw at home plate was a good, hard baseball play,” he said. “What you saw today is the definition of a dirty play. There is no room for that in our game, it’s contemptible, it’s wrong, it’s borderline criminal, and I cannot believe they did that.”

 

Triva Question Answer:

 

Yankees’ all-around good guy, Yogi Berra won 10 rings from 1946-1962.

Hey Shelly Duncan, Yogi Berra was a true winner, not a  half *** whiner.

 

 

 

 

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