Thursday, October 05, 2006

100 Iraqis a Day Dying in Iraq

Yankees Shot Dead by Tigers
I love baseball; I have loved baseball since I first started playing sandlot ball when I was 8 in Dallas; and Dallas had a wonderful minor league club then, in the Texas League, a great league filled with tons of players who became future MLB stars. First the Dallas team was called the Rebels and then they were bought by a man named Dick Burnett and he called them the Eagles.

San Antonio (at one time a St. Louis Browns farm club) and Houston were the big clubs in those days, the Missions and the Buffaloes. The Houston Buffaloes were a St. Louis Cardinals farm club and their leading pitcher at that time was Howie Poulett; they also had guys like Jack Creel and Harry the Cat Brecheen.

The Beaumont Exporters was the Yankees farm club in the Texas League. They had future Yankees like Hank Bauer, Jerry Coleman, Gil McDougal, Joe Sabbateli, Gene Herbert--and Johnny Keane was their manager.

I got to see a lot of old major leaguers and young future major leaguers play, like Chico Carasquel who played shortstop with the Fort Worth Cats who were managed and caught by future major league player and manager, Bobby Bragan.

And Dallas had Bill Serena, Ralph Rahmes, and the year I left Dallas they got Jerry Witte, who had played for the Saint Louis Browns, who had hit 50 homers with Houston in 1950.

One-armed Pete Gray played one year with Dallas under manager Jolly Cholly Charlie Grimm, and I saw Pete play 2 games--he was rusty by then but still was a crowd pleaser and I saw him get a double once, then steal third, and come home on a line drive single to a huge standing ovation--but like I say, he was rusty and on his way out of baseball by then.

One year, the Dallas opening game was played in the Cotton Bowl with a crowd of over 55,000 people, the largest attendance ever at a minor league baseball game--I was there.

I saw great players like Grady Hatton. Gus Mancuso. Walt Dropo. Wally Moses. Solly Hemus, later a Cardinal great. I saw Clarence Iott. Danny Murtagh.

Once at Burnett Field my friend's father took us down into the Dallas dugout after a game with the Oklahoma City Indians (a Cleveland farm team that once had Early Wynn pitching for them) and I met Dallas players Walt Lanfranconia, a pitcher, and my favorite Eagle, Lefty Altizer, also a pitcher, and catcher Roy Easterwood. It started me to going down to the dugouts and getting autographs after every game on my programs.

In the 1950s, my brother was the sports editor of the local rag and as a result, he got me a special season ticket to all of the Abilene Blue Sox's West Texas-New Mexico League games--where I got to see the great Bob Crues--he hit 60 homers all the time with Amarillo. I also got to see an Longhorn League game between the Big Spring Broncos and the Roswell Rockets, who had the great Joe Baumann, the first player to ever hit over 70 homeruns in one season in American baseball. Joe hit 72 homeruns and that stood until Barry Bonds broke it during the year of the iced up baseballs--those sudden years where all these before not-that-great-a-hitters, like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, started hitting everything out of the park, leaving poor old Roger Maris's 61 homers back in the cold, hard dust of the past.

I saw the great Satchel Paige pitch in an exhibition game with the Saint Louis Browns against the San Antonio Missions in the fifties when I was a Pony League ballplayer and went to San Antonio as an All-Star, a pitcher and first baseman, by then a better pitcher than hitter. Noboby could hit me in those days; I was 7-0 and led the league in strike outs that year. Then I played one year of semipro ball in the Brazos Valley Fast Ball League for the Moore Drillers out of Abilene, Texas, but I was eventually thrown off the team for disobeying the manager and then telling him to go F himself when he chastised me for it. I quit the pros and went off to Oregon with my parents and once there, I was introduced to something I later found even more interesting than baseball thanks to two very older and charmingly beautiful cousins I had out there and who loved going out to Canon Beach nearly every day I was in Portland. That, dear folks, was the end of my baseball career, but I've followed the game closely ever since--and of all the things in baseball I became, I became a Yankees fan back before I ever thought of coming to NYC.

All of this to show my credentials in saying that in spite of what our own sports expert marvelousmarvbackbiter says, I think, after watching today's game, the Yankees are sinkable. Why? Pitching. You have to have good pitchers to win; screw the number of league-leading hitters you have. Even the best hitters can't hit the best pitchers, a fine one, for instance, like the Tigers threw at the Yankees today--a rookie named Justin Verlander, a 23 year old; and though he gave up 8 hits and 3 runs, he held the big bats to one homerun, a 3-run monster by Damon that put the Yanks up 3-1. And that, folks, was it for the Yankees. Verlander shut them down until he left the game in the 6th with the score tied 3-3 after Even Stephen Mike Mussina (a 14-14 pitcher who was 15-7 this year) gave up a run-scoring triple to the Tigers's lead-off man and that was it for the Yankees. The bullpen couldn't hold the Tigers--what a lousy bullpen the Yankees have, and the Tigers bullpen was superb, with the 21-year-old Joel Zumaya throwing 100 mph sliders the best of the Yankees just could not hit. Jason Giambi, however, just missed hitting a homer in the late innings, but the other millionaires couldn't hit the Tiger relievers for dick shit. That's the Yankees's Achilles heel, their bullpen gives up lots of runs. marvbackbiter says you gotta score at least 5 runs to beat the Yankees--not today, four was enough today.

I'm going down to the Irish pub up the block right now and watch the Mets play L.A. Glavine is pitching for the Mets. They should win easily tonight--unless their pitching folds, too; that's a problem the Mets have, too. How would you like to depend on El Duque to get you into the playoff? I don't know; I might rather have Pedro Martinez pitching out of a rocking chair, a la Satchel Paige.

Let's go Mets. At least, here in NYC, if the Yankees don't win, we still have the Mets, who aren't a bad team to back, and that's coming from a Yankees fan.

for The Daily Growler

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