It’s been a while since I posted an article on this blog. Before I get kicked out of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I thought I’d give you an article about this-and-that about the A’s during the last couple of months, in no particular order.
Where I’ve Been: First, let me explain my absence from these pages. I needed to get my 120,000 word novel into final form with the help of my free-lance editor, Rick Hurd. Once that was done (Is it ever done?), I began last week the unenviable task of trying to find an agent to represent my novel Contract Year: A Story about Love and Baseball. I had to do a lot of research trying to find agents who like baseball, which is not easy to do. That’s not something they usually share in their agent profiles. So far, I have queried 3 agents and I have identified another who likes sports. So that’s why I have not posted an article in almost 2 months.
So on to News of the A’s:
A’s New Radio Station: During the off season, the A’s attempted to buy their flagship radio station KTRB, which had filed bankruptcy. A deal couldn’t be accomplished, so March 31st the A’s announced that they have a new flagship station, KBWF FM 95.7 “The Wolf,” a country and western station with perhaps the strongest FM signal in the Bay Area. Given the problems with reception in various places in the East Bay and elsewhere that we fans experienced in the last few years, this is very good news.
Apparently AM radio popularity is waning and FM is gaining in popularity rapidly, and is expected to take over the sports broadcasting market in the near future. The A’s are currently the only MLB team whose sole flagship station is in FM format, and the broadcast quality is vastly superior to AM. Several other teams have both AM and FM stations carrying the same braodcast.
On April 15th, only 2 weeks later, KBWF rebranded itself as Sports Radio 95.7, changing it’s format to full-time sports talk radio. This allows the A’s pregame show to expand to a full hour and Chris Townsend’s post-game call-in show to last at least an hour and sometimes longer. In short, this is a really good situation for the A’s and their fans and will continue through the 2014 season under the current contract. FYI, KBWF is also the flagship radio station for the San Jose Sharks.
A’s Organizational Changes:
Sacramento River Cats:The A’s extended their contract with the Sacramento River Cats, the A’s Triple-A affiliate since 2000, through the 2014 season.
In 2010, the Rivercats won their 9th Pacific Coast League Division title in 11 years, and the team has won 4 PCL Championships since they joined the A’s organization. They also led Minor League Baseball in attendance during 9 of the last 11 years.
A’s Shuffle Minor League Affiliates: The Burlington Bees of the Midwest League is now the Single-A affiliate of the A’s in the Midwest League, replacing the Kane County Cougars.
The Bees were the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City A’s from 1963-1967 and continued as the A’s Single-A affiliate for 6 more years after the A’s moved to Oakland. FYI, this season so far, the Bees are 8-2, leading the Western Division with the league’s best W-L record. Kane county is in last place.
The Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League has replaced Vancouver Canadiens of the Short Season Northwest League, as the A’s short season Single-A affiliate. Of the new teams, A’s GM Billy Beane said, “Both areas are steeped in rich baseball history and offer very supportive communities. It should be an exciting and mutually beneficial partnership for all parties involved.”
A’s Coaching Changes: Curt Young, who was the A’s pitching coach for the last 7 years, is now the pitching coach for the Red Sox. We are all sad to see him go but wish him the best of luck.
Ron Romanick, at left, the A’s bullpen coach for the last 3 seasons, was promoted to fill Curt Young’s shoes with the A’s. Before becoming the bullpen coach, Romanick spent 9 years as the A’s minor league roving pitching instructor, and was instrumental in developing pitchers Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden and others. The bullpen duties are now handled by Rick Rodriguez, who has been the pitching coach for the Sacramento River Cats for most of the last 10 years.
Also, Gerald Perry is back as A’s hitting coach, replacing Jim Skaalen, who held the position during the last two seasons. This is Perry’s second stint as A’s hitting coach (2006). In addition, Joel Skinner, who came over from the Cleveland Indians, has replaced Tye Waller as A’s bench coach, with Waller sliding over to first base coaching duties.
Trainers and Other Medical Changes: Steve Sayles is no longer the A’s head trainer. Nick Paparesta, who was the assistant trainer for the Tampa Bay Rays for the past three seasons, has assumed the reins. Walt Horn remains an assistant trainer along with Brian Schulman, who was a trainer at Cal Berkeley for the last 7 years.
In October of 2010, the A’s parted company with the Webster Orthopedic Group, shortly after Dallas Braden filed a medical malpractice suit against the group,
for the permanent nerve damage when they nicked a nerve during a cyst removal from his foot. He has no feeling in part of his foot, which affects his pitching delivery, his perfect game notwithstanding.
Ticket Sales up: A’s season ticket sales are up 50% this year. It validates the moves that Billy Beane made this offseason. (See previous post on this blog here.) The presence of Hideki Matsui probably accounts for much of the rise. Also, inspite of playing in a bad ballpark, threats of moving the team elsewhere, and some anti-fan moves (like the tarps and cancelling the annual FanFest), people still like the A’s a lot and remain loyal.
Facebook Study: The social media giant conducted a study of members who “like” their teams.
Phillies fans were found to be “most loyal”, St. Louis Cardinals are most beloved by women, but the Oakland A’s fans are the “most social,” meaning they have the most friends on Facebook. A’s fans are the only team-based community that averages over 500 “friends” per member. A’s fans are also the “most scattered around the country”, are “among the youngest”, “most likely to be single”, and “most male-centric in the major leagues.” You can read the report here.
Now to Leave Lou With Something Musical. One of my favorite baseball songs is entitled, “Somewhere between Old and New York” by Dave Grusin, Randy Goodrum and Dave Loggins, and sung by Phoebe Snow. Enjoy it here. Listen carefully to the lyrics. They are pure poetry.
As promised in my last blog article, Justine Siegal took the mound today and pitched BP at the Cleveland Indians Spring Training site. You can read about it and watch a video of her pitching here. On Wednesday she will pitch to A’s players in Phoenix. I’ll keep you posted from time to time on her progress.
Today on the MLBlogs.com’s home page, the featured blog is Justine’s Baseball Journey. Justine Siegal is the first woman ever to coach 1st base on a men’s professional baseball team (The Broxton Rox of the Canadian American League).
Justine is in her 31st season of playing baseball (make no mistake, we are talking baseball – hardball style).
Justine also founded Baseball for All, a non-profit that provides meaningful instruction and opportunities in baseball, especially for girls. Justine envisions a day when girls will have the same opportunities as boys to compete in baseball at every level of play.
She served as assistant baseball coach at Springfield College in Massachusetts from 2007-2010. She has coached and played baseball on 5 continents and has served as Technical Commissioner for the International Federation of Baseball, which is the worldwide governing body for the sport of baseball. She is presently working toward a Ph.D. in Sport and Excercise Psychology at Springfield College.
Justine also founded the “WBL Sparks,” a 12-and-under baseball team, which is the first all-girl team to compete in the national “boys” tournament at Dreamspark in Cooperstown, NY in 2009, site of the baseball Hall of Fame.
ESPN aired a documentary on the tournament entitled “The Girls of Summer.” Watch the Trailer. You’ll be very impressed.
Justine dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues but she had the misfortune of being born in the 1970’s, when the only real way for a girl to play ball was to play softball. Other than working in the front office or working the concessions, participating at any level of professional baseball was extremely rare at that time.
The other girl with a dream to play baseball was Christina-Taylor Green. Her name may be familiar to you as she was the 9-year-old girl who was gunned down with Congressman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last month. Like Justine, Christina dreamed of becoming the first woman to play major league baseball, and was a star on her Canyon Del Oro Little League team.
Christina was also interested in politics which is why her neighbor brought her to a Tucson shopping center on that fateful day to meet her local congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. It was an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and our prayers go out to her family. By the way, the neighbor took 3 bullets trying to protect Christina.
You may not know that Christina had baseball in her blood. Her father, John Green, is a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and before that for the Baltimore Orioles. Her more-famous grandfather was Dallas Green, a pitcher for the Phillies in the 1960’s. After his playing days ended, Green joined the Phillies front office. In 1979, he was appointed the manager of the Phillies, replacing Danny Ozark, and dispite his tough abrasive manner, led the team to the 1980 World Series title. Dallas is now a senior advisor to Phillies General Manager, Reuben Amaro, Jr.
Dallas Green was rocked when his granddaughter was killed. “You know I’m supposed to be a tough sucker,” he said last week, “but I’m not tough when it comes to this. She embodied what’s good about kids, and what’s good about growing up in the United States. She was a really special young lady, probably older than her years.”
Dallas is probably at spring training right now with the Phillies. He never considered skipping it this year. Most likely it will be a welcome diversion while he and his wife, Sylvia, try to cope with this awful tragedy.
To honor the memory of Christina, the Canyon Del Oro Little League has created a commemorative patch which all their players will wear on their uniforms this season.
You can obtain one or more of these patches from the league
On February 21st, all of the above will come together in one place. Justine Siegel will achieve another first by becoming the first woman to pitch batting practice to a Major League baseball club when she takes the mound in Goodyear, AZ, to pitch BP to the Cleveland Indians. Two days later she will throw BP at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to the Oakland A’s. As a tribute to Christina, she will wear the commemorative patch on her uniform.
How did Justine get the opportunity to pitch to major league teams? “It’s all in the ask,” she says. She approached quite a few teams about the possibility of pitching BP at spring training, and “there were only two teams that dared to dream with me.” The Indians and the A’s are special teams indeed.
P.S. I tried to find the picture of Christina that was all over the news after the massacre, but the photographer who took the picture threatened to sue any media outlets who aired or printed it, and the picture has all but disappeared from the internet. What goes around, comes around, and he is reportedly out of business because people were so appalled at his apparent greed in a time of sadness. How’d that work for you buddy?
First of all, I apologize profusely for the amount of time since my last post. My only excuse is that my editor is making me rewrite the last 1/3 of my novel, “Contract Year,” to change the ending. So I have had to concentrate on that. But here are a few things that I’ve noticed since my Eri Yoshida update on July 22:
Bob Feller Diagnosed With LeukemiaLegendary pitcher Bob Feller recently revealed that he is being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a type of the disease that is very common in elderly men. Feller is 91 years old. “It is curable, but not guaranteed,” he told the Cleveland Fox News Affiliate. Bob is the third oldest living Hall of Famer after Lee McPhail and Bobby Doerr, who are both 92. The day he announced his condition, he was in his regular seat in the Indians’ Press Box, after missing 5 games while undergoing outpatient treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. He makes regular appearances on behalf the the team and is much loved by Cleveland fans. You can read about my experience meeting him in April at Spring Training in my post entitled, “Meeting Bob Feller.” Check it out.
Dallas Braden Gets Some Bling
On Sunday, Joe Stiglich’s A’s Blog
(Contra Costa Times website) had a note about a brief ceremony in the A’s clubhouse, at which Co-Owner Lew Wolff presented Dallas with a diamond ring honoring him for his perfect game.
Lew also gave him a diamond pendant for his beloved grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who raised him after his mother died of breast cancer. Wolff asked Braden, “Can you do two in one year?” Dallas replied in characteristically droll fashion, “I don’t have that club in my bag!”
From Indie Ball to the Majors in 2 1/2 Months
On June 18th, 28 year-old Justin James was a pitcher for the Kansas City T-Bones in the independent Northern League. He had pitched in the Toronto and Cincinnati organizations before being released in 2009, following an injury-riddled 2008 season. He signed on with the T-Bones because they were the closest indie team to his home in Yukon, OK.
On June 19th, the A’s signed him to a minor league contract and he spent the last two months between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, posting a 1.83 ERA and 49 strikeouts with only 16 walks in 39 1/3 innings. “I can’t stand walking people,” he said. “I’ve always been against it.” (We need more pitchers with that attitude and the ability to put it into practice.) He throws a 95 MPH fastball.
Last Wednesday, Justin got “the call” and reported for his major league debut, which turned out to be at Yankee Stadium, where the A’s were playing a 4-game series. We won’t talk about how that series went. Let’s just say that it went better for Justin than the team. He came into the game and pitched an inning, giving up 3 hits and an earned run with 2 strikeouts and a walk. Not bad against the mighty Yankees. In yesterday’s game against the Angels, he fared better, pitching an inning and and allowing just 1 hit.
“It’s really unbelievable,” he said before his Yankee Stadium appearance. “I didn’t expect that this would happen this year, coming from independent ball. I am as happy as I have ever been.”
That’s it for now. Hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend.
As one of the Comcast SportsNet California TV broadcasters said recently, “If it weren’t for Adam Rosales, the A’s wouldn’t be where they are right now,” which, as of today (May 29th), is 3 games above .500, a half a game behind the division-leading Texas Rangers. After the last couple of years’ dismal seasons, the A’s are definitely in the hunt for a post-season birth. But let’s back up a minute and take a look at how Rosie wound up in the role of utility man extraordinaire for the A’s.
Adam M. Rosales was born on May 20th, 1983 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and still lives there. He went on to Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo,where he was named to the All-Mid-American Conference 1st Team.
He was selected by the Cincinati Reds in the 12th round (362nd overall) of the June 2005 Amateur Draft. He was immediately sent to Billings in the Pioneer League (rookie) for 34 games, where he batted .321, and was elevated to Low Single-A Dayton in the Midwest League, batting .328.
In 2006 and 2007, he worked his way up the Red’s organization, ending up at Chattanooga in the Double-A Southern League. In the fall of 2007, he participated in the Arizona Fall League, a showcase league for the top 6 or 7 best players in each MLB team’s minor league system, where he batted .281. (See my previous blog article on the AFL.)
In 2008, he started the year with the Louisville Bats in the International League (Triple-A), and was called up to the Reds on August 9th for a brief stint, and again on August 20th when Jerry Hairston Jr. went on the DL. He started the 2009 season back at Louisville, but was called up on April 28th when Edwin Incarnacion fractured his wrist. He played in 87 games with the Reds that year, batting .213.
But batting is not all that Rosie was known for. He was signed as a shortstop and played that position until 2007, when he was moved to first base. In 2008, he played both short and 3rd at Louisville, and 3rd and 2nd with the Reds.
In 2009, he put in time at all 4 infield positions for the Reds. His hustle was rewarded by the Reds’ naming him as their representative for the Heart and Hustle Award. He was selected “for his passion for baseball and his embodiement of the values, tradition and spirit of the game.” Others nominated that year included: Chase Uttley, David Eckstein, Pablo Sandoval and Albert Pujols in the National League, and Nick Markakis, Joe Mauer, Nick Swisher and Evan Longoria in the AL. Jack Cust was nominated by the A’s. Really?
Rosie played in the Mexican Winter League this past winter, where he got considerable experience playing in left field. This was icing on the cake for Bob Geren and Billy Beane, who were looking for a utility infielder for this season.
On February 1st of this year, he was traded by the Reds, along with Willy Taveras, to the A’s for Aaron Miles and a PTBNL. Billy Beane has been quoted as saying that the player in that deal he really wanted was Rosales. This became clear when the A’s released Taveras a few weeks later. Of note, the Reds designated Aaron Miles for assignment on April 5th. Who got the better of the deal? A no-brainer.
So who is Adam Rosales? What we’ve seen so far this season is a guy who sprints around the bases whether he hits a homer or works a walk, a good fielder with a great arm at any position he plays, and a guy with some pop in his bat who seems to get hits when the team needs them. This type of situational hitting has been a real problem for the A’s over the past few years, especially with Jack Cust batting in the number 4 hole.
It is nice to see Rosie, Jake Fox, Ryan Sweeney and Kurt Suzuki take up the slack this season.
Also, Rosie is very disruptive on the base paths, as are Rajai Davis, and Coco Crisp (when he isn’t on the DL). And it’s the running game, I feel, that has made a big difference this year. Rosie rattles the pitchers, forces the opposing fielders to rush their throws, often resulting in errors. Rosie is also lightening fast, beating out infield hits almost routinely. As Manager Bob Geren put it, “Those kind of at-bats, that kind of speed, generates some action.”
Recently, I attended an Oakland A’s Booster Club luncheon where Rosie was the player on the dais.
He admitted that he was “scared to death” to be standing in front of 100+ Boosters, but not at all scared on the field. He was asked what he thinks about the A’s as a team, and responded without hesitation that they are “the best team in the Majors. There’s great chemistry. We’re like brothers.”
When asked why he runs so fast around the bases, he responded, “I always said if I ever get to the Major Leagues, I’m gonna play like I was 12 years old.”
He says he likes playing all the infield positions, but is most comfortable at shortstop and 2nd base. “I’ll play anywhere the team needs me to play.”
On the personal side, he she has a girlfriend, but is not married. In an interview with Kate Longworth of Comcast SportsNet California, he said that If he weren’t a baseball player, he’d be a rock star. His favorite bands are Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam. His favorite sports movies are “The Natural,” and when he was a kid, “Sandlot,” not surprisingly, both baseball movies. His pet peeve is “Waiting in Traffic!”
When asked what 3 things he takes on the road, he said: his toiletry bag, his cell phone, and his guitar. He hasn’t played for the his teammates yet. “If they’re lucky enough, maybe I’ll play for them.”
His best baseball memory was facing his first pitch at Wrigley Field. Since he grew up in Chicago, “I was really amped up.”
The A’s are extremely happy to have Adam Rosales on their roster.
When he’s in the lineup, good things happen. He’s had two 4-RBI nights in recent weeks, he’s hit homers, stolen bases, and made great plays in the field.
He always seems to have a smile on his face.
And everyone cheers when he sprints around the basepaths. What more could we A’s fans want?!
By now you have undoubtedly read many articles about Dallas Braden pitching a perfect game on Mother’s Day.
He is to be congratulated for his outstanding effort Sunday, to become only the 19th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish that feat, and the 2nd A’s pitcher to do so. Catfish Hunter pitched the other on May 8, 1968, 44 years and 1 day before Dallas’ perfecto.
Dallas Braden is such an unlikely hero. He was never a “prospect” (the top echelon of players in a team’s minor league system). In fact, he was drafted by the A’s out of Texas Tech in the 24th round of the 2004 June Draft, and was the 1383rd player taken overall. Definitely not on most people’s radar.
Even in 2005 when he was the A’s Organizational Player of the Year, having won 15 games that year, he was ranked only the 19th best player in the A’s minor league system by Baseball America. In 2006, he didn’t crack the top 30. In 2007, he was called up when Rich Harden went on the DL, and won his first decision but lost the next 8. Hitters had a .303 batting against him, and his ERA was 6.72. Nothing to write home about.
“Braden did have something else,” writes Joe Posnanski, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated. “He had a bold certainty that he belonged. … There was this boldness about him, this conviction that overpowered the way other people viewed his talent. These are the players that fascinate me most–the ones who deeply believe that they’re going to make it even when all available evidence suggests that they probably will not.”
Billy Owens, the A’s Director of Player Personel, summed up Braden well. “Just to see him out there being able to get by with the guts, the guile, the confidence, the no-fear attitude, the athleticism, it’s refreshing to see all that combined with an ordinary fastball to make him an outstanding Major League pitcher.”
The drama on Mother’s Day played out with the much-talked-about feud with A-Rod in the background. You’ll remember that A-Rod dissed Braden by walking across the pitcher’s mound on his way back to the dugout, while Dallas stood nearby. Dallas told him to “Get the F**K off my mound,” or something similar. The verbal jabs flew back and forth across the country for the next few weeks, culminating with A-Rod’s statement a few days ago that he wasn’t “going to prolong his (Braden’s) 15 minutes of fame.”
A-Rod has never been one of my favorite players, though his stats speak volumes about his abilities on the field. His ego is regularly on display and he can be downright rude. He appears all too often in the media, and much of it is not flattering. So when he belittled Dallas after the latter complained about his walking across the mound, I was and still am firmly on Dallas’ side in this.
Well, Dallas made a big statement to A-Rod with his pitching arm on Sunday. Word has it that the Yankees were in the clubhouse that day and had the game on TV, probably because the A’s were playing the Rays who were at the top of the Eastern Division with the Yankees nipping at their heels. Anyway, A-Rod disappeared to some other part of the clubhouse, refusing to watch Dallas pitch. When the no-no got into the 5th inning, someone found A-rod and told him he’d better get in to watch the game, but he still refused. After the 8th inning, some members of the Yankees found A-Rod and dragged him in and made him watch the top of the 9th. What a jerk!
Yes, Dallas’ 17 career wins in three years in the Majors may not impress A-Rod, but you might be surprised to know that one of the 18 other pitchers to accomplish the feat had even fewer wins. Charley Robertson of the 1922 Chicago White Sox only had 1 win before pitching his perfecto, in his 4th career start.
Thanks to David Feldman, the A’s Historian and an MLB Official Scorer, I can share some other interesting facts about Dallas’ accomplishment. Did you know that given that only 19 perfect games have been pitched, that’s approximately 1 perfecto for every 11,000 games played? And Dallas’ is the 2nd perfect game in a row pitched against the Tampa Bay Rays? Mark Buehrle did it on my birthday (July 23rd) last year.
Sunday’s game was also the first perfect game ever pitched on Mother’s Day, and the 2nd A’s perfecto using one pitcher (the aforementioned Catfish Hunter) and one catcher. Both Ray Fosse and David Feldman mentioned one other perfect game pitched by the A’s but it involved 4 pitchers and 2 catchers, so it isn’t considered one of the 19.
It is also interesting to note that in the first 100 years of Major League baseball, 11 perfect games were pitched. 8 have been thrown in the last 22 years. Either pitchers are getting better, or hitters are not as good as they used to be. I’ll place my bet on the former.
Unfortunately, I was not present to watch Dallas work his magic on Sunday. I had to be content with seeing on our HD TV, and I’m not complaining. I especially enjoyed watching Dallas and his Grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, hugging after the game for a long time. Dallas was clearly emotional, holding on the the woman whom he believes saved his life after his mother died when he was just starting his senior year in high school.
We got a much better view of the moment on TV.
I was, however, seated in the first row behind the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium on July 28, 1991, when Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos threw a perfect game beating the Dodgers by a score of 2-0. Former A’s catcher, Ron Hassey was behind the plate that day. He was a little surprised that someone would flag him down at a Dodger game and call him over to talk. That would be me. He was very gracious with his time. By the way, he is the only catcher to catch 2 perfect games!
Los Angeleans are an interesting crowd. They straggle in around the 2nd or 3rd inning and start leaving in the 7th inning “to beat the traffic,” as I was told. No one left that day and we all stood up during the entire 9th inning, and applauded every pitch that Martinez threw, even though he was pitching for the visiting team. It was truly exciting to witness the 13th perfect game ever thrown.
I wish Dallas Braden all the success in the world after what he accomplished on Sunday. I’m not sure he’s quite prepared for what will happen to him from now on. He began doing national interviews from his Stockton, CA home early the following morning. They continued later that day, after the A’s charter flight landed in Texas, where the team begins a 3-game series with the Rangers tonight (May 11th). Apparently, he delivered the Top 10 list from the Ranger’s clubhouse on David Letterman last night. He also taped an ESPN Sports Center interview, and appeared on “All Things Considered” on NPR.
15 minutes of fame, my foot! I agree with Braden’s Grandma Peggy: “Stick it, A-Rod!”
When I was down in Phoenix for spring training, I met Bob Feller, one of the greatest pitchers of all time. I found him sitting under the stands, signing autographs with Ferguson Jenkins and two other former players.
They were signing autographs to raise money for Fergie Jenkins’ Foundation which supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Red Cross and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and others. Bob had quite a crowd around him.
I worked my way up to the front, paid my $20 (most of which went to the Foundation), and watched as he signed a pristine ball, put it in a plastic display case and handed it to me. I told him that I was taking this home to my husband, Ralph, who grew up in Toledo, Ohio, listening to Cleveland Indians games on the radio or watching on TV.
The volume was always cranked up in the Hylinski household because another game was also on in the other room. Mr. Hylinski–that sounds so formal but I never met the man–positioned Ralph in the room with the radio, with strict instructions to remember exactly what happened in that game, while his father was glued to theTV in the other room.
I told Bob that his was the only player’s name my husband could remember from those years, when Ralph was forced to listen to baseball games when he’d rather be outside or at the Paramount Theater in downtown Toledo. Feller was my father-in-law’s favorite player on his beloved Indians.
A huge smile broke out on Bob Fellers face. He took my hand and held it saying, “Thank you so much for telling me that story. It means a lot.” Our eyes held for a few seconds before he let go of my hand.
I remember Bob from my childhood also. He was pitching mostly in relief when I saw him in 1955, as he was nearing the end of his career (he retired after the following year).
Number 19 still had good stuff, but his fastball had lost some of its zip. The A’s radio announcers often talked about how good Bob was when he was in his prime, so he was a familiar figure to me.
Of course, the A’s were terrible during their first few years in Kansas City, and were called a farm team for the Yankees. (There is some truth to that, according to a recent book by Jeff Katz, entitled The Kansas City A’s and the Wrong Half of the Yankees: How the Yankees Controlled Two of the Eight American League Franchises During the 1950s.)
Some have said Feller threw harder in his heyday than Nolan Ryan ever did.
Did you know that Bob is the only pitcher ever to throw a complete-game no-hitter on Opening Day (April 16, 1940)? And did you know that in the prime of his baseball career he enlisted in the Navy during WWII was a highly decorated anti-aircraft gunner on the USS Alabama? Or that he came back from the war was as great a pitcher as ever? In fact, his best season ERA (2.18) was in 1946, his first full year back from the war.
The year before the no hitter, Bob’s parents were in the stands Chicago on opening day when Bob took the mound. Bob went the full nine innings but his mother was not so lucky. The White Sox third baseman, Marv Owen, sliced a line drive foul into the stands that hit his mother in the face. She was rushed to the hospital where she stayed for 2 weeks with two black eyes and various cuts and bruises. What’s worse, it was Mother’s Day.
So it was with much apprehension that Mrs. Feller attended opening day in 1940. If that had happened to me the previous year, I don’t think I would have gone back to Chicago for opening day, especially as it was a fiercely cold and windy day. As Bob says, “The only people in the whole ballpark who were warm were the pitchers and the catchers.” But his mother fared much better than she did the year before. No foul balls came her way and her son dazzled her and the other Cleveland fans in attendance with a no-hitter.
Bob was an 8-time All Star, he lead the American League 6 times in wins, 5 times in innings pitched, 7 times in strikeouts, and was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, receiving 93.8% of the votes.
Feller’s 4 years of military service meant that he won only 266 games and recorded only 2581 strikeouts. If he hadn’t enlisted, he could have won 350+ games and might have struck out nearly 3500. So those of you who look only at his overall numbers and think he wasn’t all that good, remember he voluntarily fought for his country for 4 years during the height of his baseball career. Hardly anyone does that sort of thing in today’s world.
Bob threw out the ball that day in Phoenix when I met him, and he threw what looked like a strike from where I sat. Not bad, as he is 92 years young. So if you run in to him at an autograph signing (he’s very generous with his time) or at the Bob Feller Museum in his home town of Van Meter, Iowa, tell him I send my regards.
Quote and other material from: “Now Pitching Bob Feller,” by Bob Feller and Bill Gilbert, Harper Perennial, 1990
(Editor’s Note: There is a glitch in the Movable Type program that MLBlogs uses for this website. Inserting pictures changes the size of the typeface in the paragraphs before and after a picture. I apologize for the varied type sizes.)