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Friday, February 3, 2017

2017 Baseball Predictions

I have been asked over the last several weeks about my picks for the 2017 baseball season. My prediction for the two wildcard teams in the AL are Toronto and Houston.  A game in which the Astros will defeat the Blue Jays. The next round winners will be Boston and Cleveland with Boston capturing the American League title.

In the National League the Mets square off with the Giants in the wildcard with the Mets prevailing in that game. The Cubs and Dodgers win their respective series, and the Cubs beat the Dodgers for the National League title.

The Cubs win their first back-to-back titles in the 1907-1908, by beating the Red Sox in seven games. Now, you didn't really think I was going to go against the Cubs did you? Please feel free to leave comments, or twitter me at @jsph1959,  you can email them to me by going to my webpage.

AL East                                   AL Central                              AL West

Boston                                    Cleveland                                    Texas
Toronto                                   Detroit                                         Houston
New York                               Kansas City                                 Seattle        
Baltimore                               Chicago WS                                LA Angels
Tampa Bay                             Minnesota                                    Oakland

NL East                                   NL Central                              NL West

Washington                                 Chicago Cubs                          LA Dodgers
New York                                    St. Louis                                  SF Giants  
Miami                                          Pittsburgh                                Arizona
Philadelphia                                Milwaukee                                Colorado
Atlanta                                         Cincinnati                                 San Diego

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Little League Drama by J.R. Sweeney

J.R. Sweeney writes to have fun and researches his Irish and French genealogy back to early AD. He lives in New England with his Father and Brother but the true"apple of his eye" are his terrific Daughter and Grandson

I cringed at the sight of Noah in the on deck circle. There were whispers and sighs as Noah walked to the plate. The crowd was had my same thoughts, it is over. Noah’s team was down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the last inning. His under nine year old team’s chance is all but finished.

My grandson Noah hasn’t had a hit all season. I can almost swear he thinks the object is to strike out. My other grandson, Nathan “The Natural” has walked ahead of Noah, he stole second and third, but rests at third with a forlorn look of hopelessness as Noah takes two strikes.

Wow! Noah takes the next two pitches both out of the strike zone. The anxiety builds, and I can’t bear to watch. The next pitch sails up and out of the strike zone for ball three. Wtf! I mutter to myself, can’t his mom and dad throw him a few pitches to work on his swing? I’m disgusted, they are so close, but it will end with another strike out.

In my moment of despair, I hear the distinct sound of the ping of a baseball striking an aluminum bat. What is going on? Do my eyes deceive me? The ball has dropped into rightfield, and Noah is strolling into second base with RBI double. He had struck out over 30 consecutive teams that season, and has never made contact.

What magic is this? Now, our clutch hitter Matao steps up to the plate, and rips the ball deep into the gap. Noah races home with the run that tied the game, and Matao scores behind him with an inside-the-park home run. Certain defeat has turned into victory!

The game is over! Noah’s parents are hugging him, and their faces beam with pride. The kid that never had a hit all season was the hero. He had saved the best for last

 I feel foolish that I gave up on him, that eight-year old showed me can do anything he damn well wants.

The village of Jodicus by [Sweeney, J. R.]

Monday, January 16, 2017

Al Rosen and the Cleveland Indians

Don Drewniak was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts. In addition to having taught public school science and math for thirty years, he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He co-authored The Junk Picker (a Great Depression memoir) with his father, Jan F. Drewniak, and has since authored two additional books, Desert Assassin (science fiction) and When Baseball Was Baseball (history).

It was the summer of 1948. Maybe I saw Johnny Sain win one of the 24 games he won that year. Maybe I saw Warren Spahn win one of his 15 victories, and one of his 363 lifetime wins. And most likely I saw the five Braves' players who batted over .300 in '48 – Tommy Holmes, Alvin Dark, Eddie Stanky, Jeff Heath and Mike McCormick.

I was five-years old when my parents brought me to see the Boston Braves play a home game at storied Braves Field. I was too young to realize I was watching a baseball game. Surrounding me were more people than I had ever seen in one place. They alternately cheered and booed, while seemingly eating and drinking most of the time. When my father cheered, I cheered. When he booed, I booed. Best of all, I ate two hot dogs which seemed to me to be the best tasting food I had ever eaten.

Lost on me at the time was that the Braves went on to play the Cleveland Indians that year in the World Series. It was the first World Series for the Braves since 1914 and the first for the Indians since 1920. Cleveland won in six games. The Indians had defeated the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League championship, thus preventing an all-Boston World Series.
Three years later, baseball became the primary focus of my life. And, I was a fan of the Cleveland Indians. This despite the fact that I was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts. Located approximately fifty-miles south of Boston, the city with a population of approximately 100,000 at the time was, as to be expected, Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox territory.

I entered third grade in September 1951. Except for the memory of the hot dogs I consumed three years earlier at Braves Field, I doubt that I had given much thought to baseball during the intervening time. By the start of the 1952 MLB season, I had become a rabid fan of the Indians. Al Rosen, the team's third baseman, was my favorite player. How did an eight-year old in that environment come to be an Indians' fanatic?
Today's professional baseball in the United States is business – big business, with even major league bench warmers making more than a half-million dollars per year. In 1950, most players had to work in the “real world” during the off season, as their predecessors did going back to the beginnings of professional baseball. There were also those who were fortunate enough to barnstorm.
My parents took me to see a barnstorming game played in Fall River Stadium on October 14th, 1951. One of the teams was that organized by Birdie Tebbetts, Birdie Tebbetts All-Stars. I'm guessing that the opposition was comprised of some of the local area's better players. Tebbetts had just finished his first season with the Indians after having played with the Red Sox during the previous four years. Other Indians on the team were Al Rosen, Jim Hegan and Mike Garcia. The main attraction was Bobby Thompson who just four days earlier had hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World." 

If memory serves me correctly, my parents and I were seated several rows in back of, and to the right of, the dugout used by Tebbetts' team. At some point in the game, a foul grounder was hit toward the area in which we were sitting. I raced toward the railing separating the playing field from the seats. My momentum carried me over the railing resulting in my dropping a short distance onto the field.

The baseball gods must have been watching. I was unhurt and before I could move, Al Rosen came out of the dugout, picked me up by the back of my shirt, grabbed the ball and brought me into the dugout. He proceeded to sign the ball and had several other players do so as well. After escorting me back to the “scene of the crime,” he lifted me over the railing and I scurried back to my seat.

As soon as I was told that Rosen played for the Cleveland Indians, I was forever “doomed” to be a fan of the team.

When Baseball Was Baseball by [Drewniak, Don]The Junk Picker by [Drewniak, Jan F., Drewniak, Don]Desert Assassin by [Drewniak,Don]

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Gold Glove Winner Kevin Kiermaier Highlights

The Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermairer has won two gold glove awards in brief Major League career (2015, 2015) along with being awarded the 2015 Platinum Glove Award.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New York Yankees Catcher Elston Howard

Elston "Ellie" Howard was one of the best catchers in storied history of the New York Yankees. Following in the footsteps of a the great Yogi Berra. In his career with the Yankees, he would be on four World Series champion teams. His career started in the Negro Leagues with the famed Kansas City Monarchs under Buck O'Neill.  Where he would be the roommate of a future member of the baseball Hall of Fame, a kid named Ernie Banks. In 1950, he was signed by the New York Yankees. Howard was signed as an outfielder, and it wasn't until the spring training of 1954.

In 1955, he made his debut with the Yankees.  He would spend his first three seasons playing between outfield, and serving as the backup catcher. In his first season, he hit .290/.336/.477 slash line with 10 home runs, with 43 RBI, in 305 plate appearances. On April 14, 1955, he became the first black player to wear the uniform of the New York Yankees. 

During the course of his career, he was a 12 time all-star in as a member of the New York Yankees. 1963 was his best season, he hit 28 home runs with 85 RBI, and a slash line of .287/.342/.528. He would be named Most Valuable Player in the American League, and becoming the first black player to win the award in the junior circuit. He also was the Gold Glove award winner that season, and would capture the award again in 1964. 

He finished his playing career with the Boston Red Sox. After his playing days, he would return to the Yankees as a coach for two seasons, and being a part of the staff on the World Series champions in 1977 and 1978. Tragically Howard would die at the young age of 51 of heart failure after being diagnosed with myocarditis. His #32 was retired by the Yankees. 

The Alou Brothers

They were three brothers that all escaped poverty in the Dominican Republic, and were each signed by the San Francisco Giants.  The Alou brothers were the first set of three siblings to play in the outfield together on September 15, 1963. They were also the first set of three siblings to bat in the same half inning only 5 days earlier. They never started a game together in the outfield.
Jesus Rojas Alou at the time of his signing the Giants considered him the best prospect of the three brothers. The Giants signed him for $4,000. July 10, 1964 was the best game of his career going 6 for 6 with a home run and five singles. He never developed the power the Giants expected. He had a career high of 9 home runs in  1965. 1970 with the Houston Astros was his best offensive season slashing .306/.335/.384, but with only one home run his was traded to the Oakland Athletics. In Oakland, he would be part of the 1973-1974 Oakland A's World Series Champions. Always a solid outfielder, he had a long career with 15 seasons in the Major Leagues.
Mateo "Matty" Rojas Alou made his Major League debut for the Giants on September 26, 1960.  His career was wasting away in San Francisco as platoon player. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and under the instruction of Harry "The Hat" Walker his career was revived. In his first season with the Pirates in 1966, he won the National League batting title hitting .342/.373/.421. It was the start of a four-year stretch where he hit .330 or above. He was a National League all-star in 1968-1969. He was also a member of the 1972 Oakland A's World Series Champions. He closed out his career with the Cardinals, Yankees, Padres, and a three-year stint in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Felipe Rojas Alou signed with the Giants in 1955 for$200. When he made his debut in 1958, it would be the start of a 17-year career in Major League Baseball. It wasn't until 1961 that he started to get enough playing time for his power to blossom. He hit 18 home runs that season, he would hit 25 and 20 respectively before being traded to the Milwaukee Braves. In 1966, he enjoyed the best season of his career hitting 31 home runs with 74 RBI. He topped the National League in runs scored (122), hits (218), and had the best slash line of his career .327/.361/.533/.894. 1968, he again led the NL in hits with 210 hits, but at 33 his power was tapering off at a rapid rate. He would bounce between the Oakland A's, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos, and Milwaukee Brewers to close out his career. He was 3-times all-star (62, 66, and 68). He served as manager of the Montreal Expos from 1992-2001, and was National League Manager of the Year in 1994. He also managed the San Francisco Giants from 2003-2006. In 2015 he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and 2016, Alou was elected to the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday, November 21, 2016

.The Cleveland Indians Sudden Sam McDowell

Sam McDowell was 6-5 southpaw with a nice easy motion when he delivered the ball to plate gave rise to the nickname Sudden Sam. McDowell broke in with the Cleveland Indians as an 18-year old. When in his only appearance he walked five, and fanned 5 hitters in a 6.1 innings of work. It was an omen of things to come for McDowell.  in 1962 & 1963, he struggled to find his spot on the pitching staff. 
1964 was to be McDowell's break out season. He finish with a won-loss record of 11-6 with an ERA of 2.70, he walked 100 batter, while striking out 177, in 173.1 innings of work.  In 1965, he would go 17-11 with a league leading ERA of 2.18. He would lead the league in strike outs with 325, walks 132, and 17 wild pitches. Effectively wild?  Five of the next six seasons he would lead the American League in strikes outs.  Five of the next seven seasons, he would lead the league in walks.  1970 would be his only 20 win season of his career, and after that season his numbers began to tail off. 
After the 1971 season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants where he won 10 games in 1972. McDowell would make stops at the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates before calling it a career. He was six time American League all-star (1965, 1966, 1968-1971).  His won loss record was 141-134 with an ERA of 3.17, and finished with 2,453 strike outs.

Remembering Gil Hodges

It is a mystery to many why Gil Hodges isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hodges was key member of the great Brooklyn Dodger teams of the late 1940's and 1950's. He hit 20 or more home runs in 11 consecutive seasons for the Dodgers, including six seasons of 30 or more home runs.
Hodges made his Major League debut at 19 in 1943, but he would miss the 1944-1945 due to military service in World War II, and didn't make it back to Brooklyn until 1947. 1949 was his break out season, when Hodges hit 23 home runs and knocked in 115 runs.  His slash line was .285/.360/.453.  He would drive in over 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons.  He wasn't just a slugger, but also considered to be one of the best defensive first basemen in the game during his career. 1957-1959, he was award the Gold Glove. On August 31, 1950, he would hit four home runs in one game against the Boston Braves. He would play his last two seasons with the hapless New York Mets. After his playing career was over he managed the Washington Senators and New York Mets. He died while playing golf at the age of 47 on April 2, 1972.
Hodges was an eight-time all-star, he part of two World Series champions. The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, and the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1969, he would manage the Amazing Mets to the World Series championship. During his career he hit 370 home runs with 1,274 RBI. His #14 has been retired by the New York Mets, and he is a member of the New York Mets Hall of Fame.