Saturday, January 24, 2009

#15 - Walt Williams

Walt Williams

Walt Williams is an athlete that needs a nickname. The NBA player was known as The Wizard. Pro Bowling's all-time leading money winner uses his middle name and goes by Walter Ray. The MLB outfielder was dubbed “No-Neck” by former Houston Colt .45 (no, I’m not making any comments about that) teammate John Bateman. I think he got the worse end of the deal, but look at him. He wasn’t tall (5’6”), but went 185 and was very powerfully built. He’s also got great mutton chops, but is not John Olerud’s uncle, despite seeming to wear a batting helmet (no flaps in the early 70’s) while fielding. Bruce Markusen writes a great blog and I stole liberally from his article about Walt.

I got this card autographed through the mail a few years ago. I love the way he uses one W for his first and last names. He just oozes coolness in a way few people do. Can't you see Walt dressing -- no, he wouldn't just dress -- he'd be stylin' and profilin' after the game walking down Michigan Avenue in Chicago after games.

Walt did break up White Sox teammate Stan Bahnsen’s bid for a no-hitter when he was with the Indians in 1973 with a 2 out single in the 9th. In 1972, he platooned in RF with Pat Kelly for an overachieving White Sox team that finished 2nd. At the end of the year he was traded to the Indians and then went on to the Yankees. Supposedly, New York was quite to Walt’s liking because he could go out after games with teammates and put away a lot of food. That reminds me of something a guy I was on a business trip said to me a couple of years ago while we were eating in O’Hare on the way home: “You don't drink, but you can sure eat a lot of food.” Everybody’s got to have a talent. Make sure yours is socially acceptable. One thing I did find out about No Neck in researching him is that he is almost universally beloved, especially by White Sox fans.

1972 Feature

My modern translation of General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous quote would be "War sucks." I had a grandfather that used to quote President Franklin Roosevelt's statement, "War. I hate war." I remember a Star Trek episode where a couple of "advanced" civilizations tried to sanitize war and make it less gruesome, so they continued at war for several centuries. Don't get the idea that I'm anti-war. I'm not. When we have a legitimate foreign policy objective to achieve and military force is necessary, I'm in favor of that and in favor of giving our military what they need to win in terms of supplies and political guts.

Another quote I hear about war is to tell someone, "The War's Over" to get them to quit being stubborn. However, in the 21st century, I think a lot of us forget the genesis of that statement. Part of it comes from Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi. Sgt. Yokoi was forced into Japan's Imperial Army in 1941, taken from his life as a 26 year old tailor. I suppose when you sneak attack a superpower, you'd better get a bunch of soldiers ready. In 1943 he was stationed on Guam. In June 1944, United States forces landed to retake the island and Yokoi was separated from his platoon. He went to the jungle to hide out. He stayed in the jungle until this date in 1972, when he was subdued by a couple of local fishermen. He was there for almost 30 years.

I can't say he continued fighting the war. The accounts I have read say he'd seen flyers announcing the war was over and he was hiding mainly to avoid harsh treatment he'd heard that Japanese soldiers were receiving. He returned to Japan, became a celebrity of sorts and received back pay of about $300. What, the Japanese paid their soldiers about $10/year? Now that his war was over he settled down, married and died in 1997 at a ripe old age of 82.

However, World War II was still not over. There were two more Japanese soldiers discovered in 1974. Then, the war was over.

Friday, January 23, 2009

#14 -- Phillie Rookies (Koegel, Anderson, Twitchell)

Pete Koegel (minor league record)

Generally, I didn’t like the rookie cards. I didn’t know the players and you didn’t know if they’d ever be any good. For example, Pete Koegel hit one big league homer. It came with 2 outs in the 9th off Tommy John in 1970. Sounds like potentially a big hit. Wrong. It spoiled a 5-0 shutout. Otherwise, the only thing I know about him is that he was big (6-7), hit for power, struck out a lot and was a nomad between catcher, first and the outfield. Mike Anderson and Wayne Twitchell had better careers, but neither were world-beaters. Twitchell was the Phillie All-Star representative to the 1973 game in KC. He threw a scoreless 6th, giving up a leadoff double to John Mayberry, striking out Reggie Jackson and then getting Carlos May and Bobby Murcer out.

This brought up a big question for me at first thought. Why did Sparky Anderson pick Wayne Twitchell over Steve Carlton when everybody knows Carlton was a better pitcher? In 1972 Lefty was 27-10 with over 300 K’s and a sub 2.00 ERA. Wayne Twitchell’s first half split was 8-3 2.29 ERA, 2 shutouts and 103 K’s in 137.2 innings. However, in the first half of 1973 Carlton was 7-7, 4.28 on his way to a 13-20 season with a 3.90 ERA. So, upon further review, Wayne Twitchell really was the more deserving Phillie All-Star representative in 1973. Sadly for Wayne, that was the only year he won more than 6 games or had 200 innings pitched.

Mike Anderson was a good defensive outfielder with gap power. He went on to be a solid pinch-hitter/role player with the Phillies and Cardinals. One day in 1979 the Phils had a tough day in Wrigley. They were down 11-2 in the 8th and they’d already run through a lot of their bullpen. Mike went to the mound. (I love these kind of games.) He strikes out former teammate Jerry Martin (ouch). Then he strikes out Mike Vail……looking!!! (double ouch). Steve Ontiveros and Barry Foote follow with singles. The Cubbies decide you never have enough runs in Wrigley and a 9 run lead isn’t safe, even with Bruce Sutter in the bullpen, so they send Larry Biitner to pinch-hit for Dick Tidrow. Biitner grounds to second. Threat over. Mike strikes out 2 in one inning. Despite giving up the hits, this has to be one of the best non-pitcher appearances in terms of strikeouts (Andy, maybe there’s a Stat of The Day column here somewhere……).

1972 Feature

In 1972 I thought pro wrestling on TV was real. We didn't get the WWF telecast out of New York. We got a local promotion in Missouri called the Central States. The big names there were Harley Race, Rufus R. Jones, Bulldog Bob Brown and Lord Alfred Hays. I don't think Skandor Akbar had made his presence felt yet, but he was probably the most infamous name. I couldn't believe they would allow someone as vile and anti-American as that heel Saudi (later, after Ayatollah Khomeini took American hostages, Akbar became an Iranian) on the TV. Compared to what came later, it was hokey and schlocky, even by pro wrestling standards. However, the steel chairs became imprinted with men's heads and we had the great interviews, with lines like, "______, when we come to St. Louis on Saturday night, October 12th at the Checkerdome, I'm gonna beat you like the dog that you are." They didn't bother with political correctness. Chief Frank Hill was like every other American Indian wrestler in that he had a tomahawk chop as his finishing more and his opponents referred to him as a "broke down Injun."

The company that publishes Pro Wrestling Illustrated starting giving year end awards in 1972:

Wrestler of the year: Pedro Morales
Tag Team of the year: Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher
Match of the year: Bruno Sammartino wins Los Angeles Battle Royal
Most Popular Wrestler: Jack Brisco and Fred Curry (tie)
Most Hated Wrestler: The Shiek (not the Iron Shiek)
Most Inspirational Wrestler: Lord Alfred Hayes
Rookie of the year: Mike Graham
Manager of the year: Bobby Heenan
Midget Wrestler of the year: Little Bruiser

The big promotions at the time were the NWA and the WWF. Pedro Morales was the WWF champ and Dory Funk, Jr. (Terry Funk's brother) was the NWA champion. However, the most notable development on the pro wrestling scene came in Atlanta, where an upstart UHF channel called WTCG put on a show called Georgia Championship Wrestling hosted by legendary wrestling announcer Gordon Solie. Most wrestling fans know that show grew as the upstart UHF channel went satellite as WTBS and when I was in high school, I could go to a friend's house and watch it Saturday nights from 5-7 p.m. That, along with the McMahon's taking the WWF national on the USA network took wrestling to popularity in the 1980's that was unmatched.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

#13 -- Joe Grzenda

Joe Grzenda

Why does "Shaky Joe" Grzenda seem to have a little bit of a smile on his face? Perhaps he’s happy to no longer be a Senator? Perhaps he’s simply happy to have survived the final AL game at RFK. You see, the last pitch Joe threw in 1971 was the last pitch at RFK Stadium before the Senators moved to Texas. In fact, for over 30 years, it was thought he threw THE last pitch there until the Expos moved to the Capitol. In the top of the 9th, Joe induced pinch-hitter Felipe Alou to ground out for the second out of the inning with the Senators leading 7-5. Joe was in line for his 6th save of the year. The bases were empty and Bobby Murcer was coming to bat. However, upset Senator “fans” stormed the field, taking dirt and pieces of the turf as souvenirs. The game was forfeited to the Yankees.
1972 was Joe’s last season and, sadly, he didn’t get a save opportunity. The crowd at RFK deprived Joe of his 15th and final big league save. Joe was on the Cardinals roster all year, but only pitched in 30 games and 35 innings. He was a mop-up man and handled short relief when Moe Drabowsky and Diego Segui were unavailable.

1972 Feature

When I was young, Saturday night was pizza night. My mother would make a pizza on a square pan out of homemade crust and a Chef-Boyardee pizza mix (I know, that's got to be heresy to some of you). My sister and I got used to that being our Saturday night ritual.

On January 22, 1972, there was something added to our Saturday night ritual for a few years. The TV show "Emergency!" debuted on NBC. It starred Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe as a couple of paramedics for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. It was a spinoff of Adam-12 and lasted until 1979. I know we must have watched it every week, but it was always the same show. Somebody had a pressing disaster (wreck, fire, etc.) and Mantooth and Tighe would have to rush in and help. They'd also have to repeat for the audience what they were doing, such as "Squad 51, start an IV with lactate ringers, STAT. Rampart out." They were "Squad 51" and the dispatcher was from fictional Rampart Hospital. Also, Randolph Mantooth was supposed to be the dreamy looking guy that all the teenie-bopper girls (and their mothers) would swoon over. Fortunately, I was too young to notice much swooning in my house.

My memory of the show is that it probably wasn't as good as I thought it was. Mantooth and Tighe have basically had bit parts since then, the most significant being Tighe's portrayal of John Locke's dastardly birth father in "Lost." Emergency! never brought in the ratings that Adam-12 did, but I think it consistently won it's time slot later on. I'm surprised it survived the first year becuase it had to go head to head with the #1 rated show, All In the Family. But Archie moved nights and Emergency! kept LA County safe. We'll come back to some great TV characters like Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford later on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

#12 -- Jose Cardenal

Love the sneer. Or is it a wry smile? He was a big league hitter, but traveled around a lot with a reputation of being moody, flippant or hypochondriac. Late in his career with the Phillies, Pete Rose accused him of corking bats. With 138 lifetime homers, he should have done a better job. Of course he's listed here as only being 5-10, 155.

This card also lists him as being Bert Campaneris' cousin. Everyone knows in 1965 the A's let Campy play all 9 positions in a meaningless September game. Somehow, things worked out that the first batter Bert faced was his cousin Jose. Jose grounded out to second. I'm sure that had to stick in his craw.

In 1972, Jose was the rightfielder for the Cubs and had a good season. He had a fine 5 year run with the Cubbies, some of the best of his career. His last game was Game 6 of the 1980 World Series for the Royals. He went out with singles off Steve Carlton and Tug McGraw in his last 2 at bats after hitting .340 and starting 16 games in the outfield down the stretch.

1972 feature

Even though as a 4 year old in 1968 I pestered my dad until he got me a bumper sticker for my toy box, 1972 is the first presidential election I remember. I was a weird kid that watched the national news every night and, while I may not have understood what the stories meant, I certainly knew what was going on.

Richard Nixon was not going to face any significant challenge from the Republicans. He had a solid first term and actually performed better than expected. Early on, the Democrats hoped to run Senator Ted Kennedy against him, but the Chappaquiddick incident derailed that run. Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, who was defeated by Nixon in 1968, was then expected to be the nominee, and faced significant challenges from segregationist Governor George Wallace, moderate Senator Ed Muskie and Senator George McGovern. We know who got the Democratic nomination, but the way it all played out was fascinating. We'll look at all of that later.

The 1972 nomination process didn't produce the chaos that plagued the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, but there were plenty of stories. Most of them will prove that the names may change, but politics doesn't change much over the years.

#11 - Bobby Valentine

Bobby Valentine

The temptation is there to draw Groucho Marx glasses/nose on him, but this was taken when Bobby Valentine was The Next Big Thing. He was young, handsome, talented and a hustler. His hustle allowed him to meet a wall and break his leg with the Angels in 1973 and it didn’t heal right. His career was never the same.

At this time, he's a young guy on the rise. At least that was the perception. He seemed to be one of the better Dodger hitters of 1972 (3, 32, .274 in only 119 games), but his OPS+ was a hollow 88. He was also either a versatile player or a man without a position. His 1972 mirrored his career. For his career, he started between 100 and 170 games at short, outfield, second and third. His fielding stats were average to slightly below.

Bobby was a flashy guy and that helped him stay around as a player. It probably also helped him as a manager. His Ranger teams were solid, but never better than second. His Met teams never won the division, but went to the Series once as a Wild Card. He won over 500 games with the Rangers and Mets, but then wore out his welcome. He's on a 4 year contract with Chiba Lotte in Japan and won a championship, but I saw a story where his contract wasn't being extended beyond this year. I wonder if Bobby is the opposite of an "acquired taste"?

1972 feature

I don't have a fond recollection of any 1972 cars. It was the first year of the Honda Civic, which makes it a bad year for American auto makers. Ford came out with their "Better Idea" line, including the Pinto, Mustang, elongated Thunderbird, Cougar and Maverick. Chevy had the Monte Carlo, Chevelle, Malibu and the Corvette. The Volkswagen Beetle was still a popular car and that year became the world's most popular car.

1972 also marked the first time there were more cars than drivers in the USA. The gap has continued to increase. I remember in the early 1970's, my folks had a Monte Carlo and a pick-up. The pick-up was more of a work truck than anything. It was probably in the late 70's before we had 2 cars we could use a lot.

Cars have come a long way. In 1972 seatbelts were usually there, but seldom used. Didn't really have to because the cars were built out of steel and they'd withstand a crash pretty well. Of course, you'd fly around in the car.... We were just starting to think about emissions controls. Cars then ran on Regular or Ethyl. I don't remember Unleaded gasoline being one of the choices, but with gasoline costing about a quarter a gallon, it wasn't a big deal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

#10 - Amos Otis

Amos Otis

Amos was the Royals’ first big star and fan favorites. I remember going to games and getting sick of the fans chanting “A-O, A-O” incessantly. He could do it all: run, field, throw, hit for power and average. He didn’t get a lot of attention, but was an All-Star and one of the best Royals ever. I got to see him play at Royals Stadium in the 1973 All-Star Game and he went 2-2.
Think of the best AL centerfielders of the 70’s. Fred Lynn comes to mind. Mickey Rivers was a good leadoff hitter. Reggie Jackson played center until the A’s got Billy North in 1973. Bobby Murcer was there for the Yankees in the first half of the decade. The Orioles had Paul Blair and Al Bumbry. However for consistency over the entire decade, a case could be made that Amos was the best of the bunch in the AL, but he’s probably not going to come to mind in that discussion.

I got this card autographed through the mail by Amos in the early part of this decade. I think I counted about 67 different 1972 autographed cards. That's my other enjoyment in the hobby. It started on a rainy Saturday in September 1999 when I decided to send off some of my doubles for autographs to fuel my 4 year old son's interest in baseball. When the cards started coming back, he loved it, but I realized it would be just as easy to put 2 cards in the envelopes as 1. He's 14 now and I'm not sure how into autograhped cards he is when there's skateboards, Facebook and video games. But we still collect and recently went over the 1900 mark on autographs from different ballplayers. According to SportsCollectors Net, Amos still signs through the mail, but now he charges $5/card.

1972 Feature

At this point, the only radio I ever listened to was an AM station in the car that my folks liked that played Top 40 music. I'd also listen to Cardinal games, but only if I was home because they came in on a local FM station and the car (1970 Monte Carlo) didn't have FM. I've looked back over the Billboard Number Ones for the year and I wasn't really a big fan of any of them.

However, there were two 1972 song I heard more than any other and neither one was a Number One. The first finished the year as #93, the other was #72. I'm going to go with the #93 song and leave #72 to later. The New Seekers sang this song at #93 that became a cultural landmark for 1972 (Gag, I'm starting to sound like Casey Kasem.) You see, the Coca-Cola corporation changed a couple of the words and made it a famous commercial. Coke may not have brought world peace, but they did achieve world domination.

#9 -- Stan Williams

Stan Williams

When I was preparing for this post, I was going to write about how it would make a good night card for a certain ball card blogger. Well, the Night Owl has already let us known it's his favorite night card. His post is excellent and I'd recommend it to you.

Stan had the good/bad fortune of being behind Koufax, Drysdale and Podres with the Dodgers in the late 50's-early 60's. It was good fortune because he didn't have to face the other team's aces as often, but at the back end, he'd see his starts diminish to give a younger guy a chance, as happened in 1959 when the Dodgers wanted to see what Danny McDevitt could do.

Stan had to recreate himself as a reliever and did a good job. He was a big part of the Twins winning the AL West in 1970, but he got shipped off to the Cardinals in late 1971 and only had 3 appearances with the Red Sox in 1972. That was it for Stan as a player, but he had a long career as a major league coach.

1972 Feature

Today is Inauguration Day. I always love to watch the news coverage, especially when there's a change in leaders. History tells us that leaders don't typically give up their positions easily. However, we've never had that problem here. Even when it's a situation of political enemies, we've always had an orderly succession of office. In my lifetime, I've seen 3 situations where one President handed off to a man who beat him in an election (Ford to Carter in 1976, Carter to Reagan in 1980 and Bush to Clinton in 1992). In each of those instances I'm sure it had to absolutely suck to sit out there in the cold for an hour, smile and be patient, knowing the guy up there that everyone's fawning over just beat you and took your job. Still, this is the United States of America and we set the example of orderly transitions and adhering to the rule of law.

I had a chance to attend Reagan's second inauguration in 1985. I'd taken a semester of college and was doing a program at American University where I could get 16 hours of credit by writing a paper and going to seminars around DC 2 days a week and work as an intern for Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. I wanted to work for Congressman Jack Kemp, but the only offer I had was full-time and I needed part time.

Fortunately for me the 1985 inaugural parade was cancelled because of bitterly cold weather because I'd have been out there on Pennsylvania Avenue for 2-3 hours with a wind chill of -10 or so. They also moved the inaugural ceremony to inside the Capitol building because of the bitterly cold weather. Too bad nobody looked out for William Henry Harrison. He delivered the longest inaugural address ever, on a cold wet day. He died a month later from pneumonia believed to have been caused by his exposure that day as did outgoing First Lady, Abigail Fillmore.

Whether you were a supporter of Barack Obama during the election or not, he's now your President. You don't have to agree with him, and you can respectfully dissent, but he does deserve your prayers and support. I hope you watch the inauguration and appreciate the history and design of our political system and the respect we should have for it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

#8 -- Ron Swoboda

Ron Swoboda

If you get a photo looking up from waist level, you don’t have to airbrush the hat he’s wearing. That surprises me. The Yankees acquired him in June 1971 from the Expos and Topps took a lot of their photos in Yankee Stadium. You'd think they had a lot of opportunities to photograph Ron, but they couldn’t even get a posed shot of him with a Yankee lid? I originally thought this was an Expos hat. As we look up, we see number 4 on the inside of the bill. According to Baseball Almanac, Ron wore number 14 with the Expos and the Yankees in 1971, but wore number 4 with the Mets in years before that. To me, that makes Topps look even worse. They went all the way back to at least 1970 to get this photo of Ron and it's in a Mets hat! Come on, Topps!

Ron’s career was about over at this point. He hit .248 in spot duty in 1972, but when he was stuck at .116 after 43 at bats in 1973, he was done in the big leagues. For several years he's been the radio voice of the New Orleans Zephyrs, AAA affiliate of the Mets (in the past) and now the Washington Nationals.

I couldn't find video of it to put in here, but Ron is best known for a sprawling catch off Brooks Robinson in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Mets were leading 2 games to 1, but everyone was waiting on the Orioles to kick it in. In the top of the 9th, the Mets were up 1-0, but the Orioles were threatening against Seaver. Runners are on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and Brooks Robinson hits a liner to right-center. Good sense would have told Swoboda to play it on a hop and try to keep Powell at 2nd, but Swoboda sprawled out and caught the thing. Frank Robinson scored on the sac fly to tie the score, but Seaver got Ellie Hendricks to end the inning and the Mets won the game in the 10th on a controversial bunt play with J.C. Martin at the plate.

1972 Feature
Today is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Obviously, that didn't exist in 1972. Dr. King had been gone 4 years at this point and was still a lightning rod figure in American culture. He was a man that fought for civil rights not just as a cultural matter, but because of his fervently held religious belief that any man or woman created by and in the image of Almighty God had the right to be treated equally under the law.

By 1972 the Civil Rights movement had accomplished much, but still had a ways to go. The big accomplishment in 1972 was the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. This provided a context and jurisdiction for the EEOC to review complaints, file class-action lawsuits and have jurisdiction over state and local governmental bodies. We know the EEOC continues in existence today.

In 1971 the United States Supreme Court upheld forced busing out of the local district under the supervision of the federal courts as a constitutional means of desegregating schools. I don't know if it was in 1972, but I do remember a lot of controversy on the evening news about this issue. I know what SCOTUS was trying to accomplish, but I'm not sure the kids riding buses over an hour each way to school while people were shouting and yelling at them understood any better than I did watching it on the news. I'm a patriotic American, but I'm not convinced picketing and yelling at kids riding a bus to school was the best way for the opponents of forced busing to get their point across.

I'm glad America has come a long way since 1972 and we're closer to the kind of world where a person can stand or fall on their own merits and is thought of a simply a child of God rather than what color of skin they have.

#7 -- Enzo Hernandez

Enzo Hernandez

I don’t know why Enzo has a bat in this card. It’s not like he ever used it. He was one of the worst hitters in the 70’s. In 1971 he had one of the all-time worst seasons. In 603 plate appearances he had 12 RBI. His teammate, Nate Colbert, had 13 in a doubleheader. About all you can say for Enzo is that he had good speed and walked more than he struck out. If he were in Tony LaRussa’s lineup, the pitcher would definitely hit 8th. He didn't start off as a bad hitter. He went 2-3 with a walk in his major league debut, getting half of the Padre hits that day against some guy named Carlton with the Cardinals.

In fact, the Padre lineup is the only one in 1971 where Enzo did do better in the RBI department than the pitchers….just barely. The Padre pitchers only had 8 RBI, but they only had 346 at bats, so they probably even had a better ratio. For comparison, the Red Sox pitchers had 8 homers and 42 RBI in 406 at bats and the Cub pitchers had 8 homers and 35 RBI in 426 at bats. Mind you, Enzo probably didn’t have a lot of RBI possibilities as he was hitting leadoff most of the year. Let that sink in. Enzo Hernandez was a leadoff hitter. That meant he had the 8th place catcher (Bob Barton or Fred Kendall) and the pitcher hitting in front of him. Any other team still gets at least 20 RBI from its leadoff spot. But not when your leadoff hitter’s name is Enzo.

Enzo picked up the pace in 1972 with 15 RBI and a homer off Jim Willoughby of the Giants in Candlestick on the last day of the year. He went 4-5 in that game to raise his 1972 season average to .195. If George Brett had been playing in 1972 we could have the "Enzo Line" instead of the Mendoza Line.

Enzo had good speed. Bob Skinner is a good baseball man, playing with the Pirates and coaching for many years. As we approach Spring Training, we’ll see interviews where many players will be complimented incredibly. However, Skinner may have an all-timer here: “If he could get on base often enough, I think he could break Maury Wills’ record (for stolen bases).” Yeah, and if he could get enough balls over the wall, he could have broken Babe Ruth’s record while he’s at it. If there were ever a Futility Infielder, Enzo would be it.

I know I've kind of ragged on Enzo. He was a good base stealer and a league average shortstop with good range. He always ranked at the top of the league in sacrifice bunts and he didn't strike out, so Enzo was one of those guys who we don't see anymore. He had the fundamentals down, but didn't swing from the heels. He's also well thought of in his native Venezuela, as one of the stadiums the ballclubs play in down there is Stadio Enzo Hernandez del tigre edo anzoategui (I cut and pasted that from a Caribbean Series website and have no idea what it says. I apologize in advance for offending anyone.)

1972 Feature
Baseball purists come in all types. Some don't like the wild card. Some think the league lost something in the 1961 expansion. Some thought it was wrong to lower the mound and juice up the ball. Some bristle at interleague play. I probably swing more to the old-fashioned purist. Not to say that there should only be 16 teams that wear flannel uniforms and travel on trains. I can handle some expansion, but we're at the absolute limit now. I don't really like the wild card or interleague play, but I can tolerate it because I love baseball.

I like Hal McRae, Tommy Davis, David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, etc. But I don't like the designated hitter. For me, that leaves 1972 as the last "pure" season because it's the last time we didn't have it. I remember the debate leading up to the DH. Actually, it was widely called the DPH (Designated Pinch Hitter), but that became unwieldy.

I will say that the DH has given some guys more time. Tommy Davis, Orlando Cepeda and Tony Oliva are the best examples of guys the DH gave more time starting in 1973. Tommy Davis was practically out of the league. Cepeda also, getting only 87 at bats in 1972, but getting 550 with the Red Sox as their DH in 1973. Oliva tore his knee up after 28 at bats in 1972, but the DH gave him 3 more years he would have struggled through.

Still, I'd rather see the pitchers bat.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

#6 -- Fred Scherman

Fred Scherman

Pitchers were different in the early 70’s than now. If Fred pitched now, he’d be a lefty specialist and have 57 appearances and 41 1/3 innings pitched. Instead, Fred has 94 innings pitched in 1972. For the ’72 Tigers, he did it all. He finished 27 games, saving 12, and made 3 spot starts. The last 2 were disasters in the September pennant race. He lasted 5 1/3 in the first….and then threw 5 innings in relief 2 days later. Who would let their closer or lefty specialist do that now? However, in 1972, there really wasn't any such thing as a left-handed specialist. Pitchers were expected to pitch and get out whoever had a bat in their hand, no matter what the inning was. Now, pitchers have to have a "role" and if Mariano Rivera were to enter a game in the 7th inning, there would be so much second-guessing about how he was used.

Most of the 1972 cards are posed shots. Fred's no exception. He's also got the long sideburns that you'll see on several other cards. There's a lot of activity in the background and, WAIT, IS THAT A UFO BELOW THE "R" IN TIGERS? Oh, never mind, Just a stray baseball. Whew. I also noticed how the Tigers had football numbers on their sleeves. I'm glad that didn't catch on.

1972 Feature
Evel Knievel. He was so cool. It seemed like he was on ABC's Wide World of Sports doing a jump 2-3 times a year. Later on he'd try to jump canyons. I can't forget his interview in the early part of the decade on the Jim Rome radio show when asked why he'd attempt the Snake River Canyon jump when he knew it was a 50-50 chance he'd be killed, responding simply, "Do you know who the hell I am?"

The Snake River jump was supposed to have taken place on Labor Day 1972, but a disasterous landing at the Cow Palace caused a concussion and broken back and took him out of action for a year. He ended up attempting that jump in 1974. Every boy in the 70's wanted the Evel Knievel action figures. I've read varying accounts that they came out in 1972 and 1974. No matter.

Evel led a wild life, but I was happy to read in the year before his death he was publicly baptized and professed his faith in Jesus. I don't care who you are, that's not a jump you can make by yourself.

#5 -- John Bateman

John Bateman

John was a fair to middlin’ catcher for most of his big league career. He was good defensively, but couldn’t hit or run enough to stay in a good lineup. Still, name me a Houston Astro catcher that’s bested his 16 homers in a season. Can’t do it, although I think that’s got to be beaten in the next 5-7 years. He was also the first ever catcher on the Expos. The best team he was on was the 4-man King and His Court, Eddie Feigner’s traveling 4 man team that beat 9 man All-star teams in softball.

John died in 1996, but that hasn’t stopped him from maintaining a Myspace page. Check it out. There are some interesting stories about how he didn't get along with Gene Mauch in Montreal, but did fancy himself as a 1970's Jack Bauer.

1972 Feature
Probably the most heinous event of 1972 occurred on September 5 in Munich, Germany. This will be written about separate from the Olympics, because I have such fond memories of the Olympics that year I don't want to ruin it again with this.

Members of a Palestinian group called Black September infiltrated the Olympic Village and got to the condo where the Israeli Olympic team was staying. They kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli Olympians. Three of the terrorists were captured, but later released in exchange for release of a West German airliner that had been hijacked. No bother. Israel has its own way of dealing with terrorists. Those were called Operation Spring of Youth and Operation Wrath of God.

I don't think we realize what a big event this was. This Olympics was something special for Israel. Only 27 years before, the nation of Israel did not exist and Jews were being slaughtered by the millions by Nazis at the Dachau Concentration Camp, only 10 miles from the Olympic Village. Yet Israel could now send a team to the Olympics in Germany. What started out with so much promise ended with so much tragedy and sorrow.

The world had dealt with terrorism before. There were groups all over the place perpetrating bombings and assassinations. This was different, however. The Olympics should have been a safe, hands-off area and these athletes weren't combatants. However, the reason you don't negotiate with terrorists is that terrorism has no rules. This event changed the world because Jim McKay broadcast it to the world. We had to see it, feel it and deal with it. I remember it, but as an 8 year old I had no idea how it would change the world.

"Our worst fears have been realized......They're all gone."