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.
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.)
Induction Day: As we arrived at the Clark Sports Center
about a mile south of Cooperstown proper, two things struck us: it was raining lightly and there was a tent set up over the stage where the induction was obviously going to take place. We found where the tour company had set up our chairs and, after changing seats a couple of times to get a better view of the unlighted stage, we settled in to wait the hour before the festivities were set to begin. That’s me on the right in the picture below.
To set the scene, if I were standing on the stage at the podium, I would be looking out at gently rolling fields of grass ending perhaps a quarter of a mile away in thick forest. In front of the stage a rickety dark green picket fence cordoned off an area, which we rightly assumed were for the families of those who would be on stage and other former ballplayers and dignitaries and their retinue. You can see part of the green fence in the picture above. We found out later that we could have paid $200 extra to sit in the VIP area. I would gladly have paid it to sit closer, had we been given the option. But I digress.
Back to me pretending to stand on the stage looking out: to my right was a large TV screen which wasn’t anywhere near big enough to enable those who were near the aforementioned forest to see, but it would help those of us who were in the middle of the pack.
To the left along the road were vendors selling food and souvenirs, as well as a long row of portapotties lined up like fat blue soldiers. Shuttle busses arrived every few minutes behind the portapotties delivering more people and paraphernalia.
New arrivals came out to the field and set up their chairs higgledy piggledy on either side and behind the fenced in area. There were aisles whitewashed into the grass, but they were observed more in their breach than anything else. Over the next hour, those assembled were alternately getting wet when the heavens drizzled and hot when the sun came out, steaming them in their rain gear. The whole thing looked like a cross between an active bee hive and a homeless encampment. See slide show at: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/photogallery/year_2009/month_07/day_26/cf6074528.html.
Induction Ceremony begins Amid Sprinkles: Finally, the festivities began and we were welcomed by the President of the Hall of Fame, Jeff Idelson, who proceeded to introduce the 51 Hall of Famers (of the 65 still living) seated on chairs on the stage.
Those in attendance included such greats as: Dennis Eckersley, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Henry Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Johnny Bench, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Senator Jim Bunning, Orlando Cepeda Carl Yastrzemski and Ozzie Smith, who rose as their names were called to standing ovations.
A slight woman with shoulder-length salt-and-pepper curly hair was introduced as Judy Gordon, the daughter of the Veterans’ Committee’s 2009 inductee, the late Joe Gordon who played second base for the Yankees and Cleveland from 1938-1950.
Judy gave a heartfelt speech about her father and what baseball meant to him and his family, declaring with tears flowing that her father refused to have any kind of funeral when he died in 1978, but “We consider Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as his final resting place, a place he will be honored forever.” By now the sun had come out so it wasn’t rain that adorned the cheeks of many people in the audience.
Power-hitting leftfielder Jim Rice was next introduced to cheers from the many Red Sox fans in attendance.
He talked about his rise in the Red Sox organization where he played his entire career, poked a jab or two at the media with whom he had a testy relationship, and thanked the Baseball Writers Association for voting him in during his last year of eligibility.
Tomorrow: Rickey Steals the Show