Hi all. This is how I see baseball on this Wendesday, July 20.
First of all, I hope this is the end of delayed or not written columns. This was my last day of physical therapy after 15 months. In March and early April, 2015 I couldn’t stand unassisted thanks to a major injury. In August, with my brother’s assistance I began this column to see what kind of readership I would get. In the off-season I began the Facebook group Baseball As I See It, to keep up on baseball when it didn’t seem necessary to write a full column. Now, the therapy is done and if I miss a column it will be for a job interview or something equally important.
Today’s games are underway as I write this. The Reds and Braves have already started in Cincinnati. The Twins and Tigers have already begun in Detroit. Twins’ starter Ervin Santana may have Allied Vanlines on speed dial, as pundits figure the Twins will trade him. The Indians and Royals will probably have begun before we go to press, continuing how long it takes to write this column. The Padres and Cardinals also have a matinee in St. Louis as part of a day-night doubleheader. Also the Mets and Cubs have an early call at Wrigley to close their series out Bartolo Colon will face Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. After consecutive late nights in Colorado caused by rain delays (in what locals claim is the dry season) the Rays and Rockies square off at 3:10 at Coors Canaveral. Houston faces Oakland and the White Sox meet Seattle, both at 3:35. King Felix Hernandez of the Mariners makes his first start since before Memorial Day. He’s been dealing with a strained calf. He faces Miguel Gonzalez whom the White Sox claimed off the scrap heap and who has largely done well for the Pale Hose. Also Toronto faces Arizona in the late afternoon. One of the few night games features the First Red Sox outing of Drew Pomeranz, acquired from the Padres last Thursday. I was at a minor league game that night when the news came over the wire, and thought it was an interesting move for the Red Sox to make. He’s a lefty pitcher, and righty hitters will be staring at the Green Monster seemingly right behind shortstop.
Cardinals pitcher Kevin Siegrist is 27 today. Unfortunately, whenever I hear his name on a game broadcast my mind snaps to Ryan Seacrest, the annoying replacement for Dick Clark (like anybody_ could replace Dick Clark in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.) Siegrist, a Buffalo native was a long shot to ever reach the bigs, taken in the 41st round in 2008. But such is the need for lefty pitchers that by 2013 he was in the show, as the big leagues are called. As a rookie from the bull pen his ERA was an astonishing 0.45 with 50 strikeouts in under 40 innings. He’d been a starter up until that year with mixed results owing to back and shoulder problems. He’s been in the pen ever since. As of this writing he’s on the shelf with mono. At 27 he’s the oldest person I’ve heard of to have that disease which is normally associated with teens.
Matt Szczur (pronounced Caesar,) of the Cubs is also 27 today. Much more was expected of him by the Cubs, as he was a 5th-round draftee in 2010. He made the bigs by 2014. He calls home Cape May Courthouse, NJ (Yes, that’s the name of the town.) He played both baseball and football at Villanova, a school best known for its men’s basketball program a few decades back. In football his team won the Division 1AA title in 2009, the first championship the Wildcats had won.
Stephen Strasburg, who was prominently mentioned in this forum for his 13-0 start this season is 28 today. He began to open eyes as a high school senior but wasn’t drafted then. He went on to super stardom at San Diego State. There he once struck out 23 men in a game which made him a household name from then on. The Nats made him the first overall pick in the country in June 2009. For his pro debut, 7,895 fans jammed the Harrisburg Stadium. I’ve been there-I can’t imagine how they crammed that many fans into that ball park. 70 press credentials were issued that night-an unthinkable amount for a AA game on a cold April night. He struck out 8 giving up 1 earned run. Since joining the Nationals in 2010 he’s put up a 66-37 record in spite of missing much time owing to Tommy John surgery. He struck out 14, walking none in his MLB debut against the Pirates. He was an All-Star in 2012 and in the most recent All-Star game played July 12 this year.
Former pitcher Mike Witt is 56 today. The Angels took him in round 4 of the 1978 draft from high school in Fullerton, California. He was a big leaguer from 1981 to 1993. With the Angels he threw a perfect game in 1984 and was an All-Star twice. He also pitched for the Yankees. In his perfecto against the Rangers he struck out 11 in Arlington. The Twins won the game 1-0. Sandy Koufax had won the last perfecto which ended in a 1-0 score in 1965.
Former Tigers outfielder Mickey Stanley is 74 today. Born Mitchell Jac, Stanley, the native of Grand Rapids was a Tiger his entire career, from 1964-78. He took 4 gold glove awards in his time. His most memorable moments came at the end of 1968 when his manager Mayo Smith asked him to play shortstop to let 3 strong hitting outfielders-Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Jim Northrup-be in the lineup. Stanley, the good soldier played shortstop. The move, which was questioned by many was soon overshadowed by the pitching of Bob Gibson who set a World Series record of 17 that stands today, and another Mickey, Lolich of the Tigers who won game 7 after they had been behind 3 games to 1. Stanley caught the final out at Yankee Stadium before its 1974-75 face lift.
Another outfielder of the same era, Tony Oliva is 78 today. In a career marred by injuries, the Cuban native still hit .304 and played for the Twins from 1962–76. He was an All-Star 8 times running, from 1964-71. He won 3 batting titles in that time frame and was 1964 Rookie of the Year. He became a coach after his playing days and remained a coach through the two Twins’ World Series titles of 1987 and 1991.
While Oliva isn’t in the Hall of Fame, one HOF’er had a birthday today. Henry Emmett “Heinie” Manush was born this day in 1901 in Alabama and died in 1971. In his day it wasn’t unusual for German-American players like Manush to be called Heinie, which would be unthinkable today. His one World Series came with the Senators in 1933, where they lost to the Giants. He had joined Clark Griffith’s team in 1927 after 4 years under playing manager Ty Cobb in Detroit. He won his one batting title in 1926 after tutoring by Harry Heilman, who won 4 batting titles himself and went on to broadcast Tigers games. 6 times Manush was among the top 4 hitters in the league. He was an All-Star once, in 1934. This was only the second year of the MidSummer Classic and was one of the best All-Star games ever played.0