Groundhog Day and Baseball? You Better Believe It!

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Yesterday was the first day of the Caribbean World Series. Before I get to the actual games, I must say how shocked I was that the TV commentary was better than the radio call. That should never happen. But the trio on radio, most notably former Yankee Orlando El Duque Hernandez showed little or no interest in the play-by-play account of the game. The main guy tried to maintain the focus but El Duque especially would get lost in these stories. With my limited Spanish I’d get lost trying to make sense of them and lose all track of who was up or what the score was. The TV commentators at least kept you there pitch by pitch. Here is what correspondent Jesus Millan said.

Post Game Update Serie de Caribe 2016: Game 1:  Venezuela (The Aragua Tigers) defeated  Puerto Rico 2-1 in what was a pretty good Pitching Match up between Former Seattle Mariners All Star Freddy Garcia for Venezuela and Seasoned Pitcher Aldaberto Flores for Puerto Rico.   2 runs were made by Venezuela in the bottom of the 3rd inning on an  RBI Triple by Jose Martinez. The One Run by Puerto Rico Was by Ruben Sosa.  The rally  started with a triple, and he came home on a scoring fly ball. (Editor’s note: I heard that part. Puerto Rico in the top of the first then Venezuela got the two runs Millan mentioned.)   Sosa went 2-3 with some great Defensive Plays in Left Field. Note that Sosa Batted .319 this season of Roberto Clemente Winter League Baseball.  love his discipline at the plate used the whole field had great at bats against Garcia.  had a great game today despite the loss he can be a factor for this Puerto Rican Team that hasn’t won a Caribe World Series Championship in 15 now going on 16 years.  the last time a Puerto Rican team  won, it was with this team the Santurce Crabbers in this same Ball Park Quisqueya Stadium Now Named in Honor of 1983 Hall of Fame  inductee Juan Marichal.  As for Venezuela, their last winner was in 2009 when the Tigers won. In yesterday’s game their best fielding play was made by Adonis Garcia at third base, who may reach the show with the Braves soon.   Venezuela will play the Escodigo Leones from the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night. Puerto Rico will not play Tuesday.
Game 2:
Post Game Update Caribe World Series 2016: Mexico Beat the Dominican Republic 3-2.  One of the highlights was the inside the Park home run  by Lerey Garcia which tied the Game at 2 apiece then Mexico scored a run in the fifth.   Mexico has won 3 Caribbean World Series in the last 5 years. This year’s team is from Mazatlan, Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico.  They play the Cuban team today at 2 PM Eastern.

Back in the land of colder weather, it was a bad day in the Bronx. Prospect Greg Bird will miss all of 2016. Ryan Milkins reports:

“Future first baseman for the Yankees, Greg Bird will miss the entire 2016 season with a torn labrum. Bird felt discomfort in his shoulder in May of 2015 while in the minors and the pain resurfaced this offseason. He will be undergoing shoulder surgery tomorrow, thus ending his season before it even started.

While the Yankees hadn’t planned on placing Bird on the big league roster to start the season, he was almost guaranteed to play a role some way or another in 2016. He was called up to the majors last year on August 13th, planning to play a backup role at first behind Mark Teixeira as well as an extra DH. He collected his first hit on August 15th and two days later when Teixeira went down for the season with a leg injury, Greg Bird took over as the starting first baseman.

Bird filled in for Teixeira and performed better than anyone had expected. For the 46 games he played in pinstripes, the bird was the word. His power, sure handedness at first and the way he acted as a glimpse into the future made Greg Bird a fan favorite. The 23-year-old rookie made his presence known quickly when he delivered his first two career home runs in a game against the Twins on August 19th. The two dingers, both two-run blasts, came at important moments in the game when the Yanks saw themselves down on the scoreboard.

His two homers and four RBIs in the game accounted for all the Yankees offense in the game and led them to a victory at one of the most important times of the year. Bird continued his clutch hitting on September 7th when he hit a go-ahead three-run homer late in a game against the Orioles. A couple of weeks later he hit a game-winning three-run home run in the tenth inning of a matchup against the Blue Jays. Bird came up big on multiple occasions throughout the season, right in the middle of a division race. He finished the year with a .261 batting average, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in just 46 games.

The loss of Bird is undoubtedly a big one for the Yankees, but the timing could have in fact been worse. Greg Bird would have played a role one way or another for the Yankees in 2016, but he wasn’t expected to take over the starting job at first until 2017 when Teixeira’s contract expires. In a way, the Yanks lucked out in that he is undergoing surgery now and not prior to the 2017 season, which would have left them without a first baseman. Of course the significance of this loss relies on the health of Mark Teixeira. If Tex can stay healthy and play the way he’s capable of performing, the loss of Bird will not be felt as harshly as it could’ve been.”

All I have to offer from here is, why wasn’t this done last May when he felt the pain?  Athletes lie to their managers and worse yet to themselves about injuries and when they finally get help who knows how much damage has been done.

It’s Groundhog Day. The first Groundhog Festival was celebrated in 1887 in Punxsutawney, PA.  The day might be entirely forgotten if not for the movie “Groundhog Day,” where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over and over until he gets it right. Given my choice, I’d sooner relive the day of game  6 of the 1986 World Series. I was 23, and my girl friend and I … never mind.

Our first birthday today is Scott Erickson who turns 48 today. He was a World Series winner and an All-Star, both in 1991 as a Twin in just his second season in the show. He had pitched a piece of 1990. He was the first pitcher since 1954 to win 20 in his first full MLB season.  Erickson  pitched a no-hitter against the Brewers in 1994. It was the first no-hitter pitched at the unlamented Metrodome, the mother-in-law of big league stadiums.    After his Twins and Orioles time he had a few forgettable years trying to hang on. He lost 2001 to an elbow injury and 2003 to a torn labrum, the same injury that has laid Yankees prospect Greg Bird low for this season. The injuries effectively ended his career. As of 2015 he was a broadcaster for the Pac12 Networks.

This man never played the game but Yankees TV commentator Michael Kay is 55. Kay, which is his real name is from the Bronx and a nephew of Danny Aiello. I first heard him on WFUV/FM, the Fordham radio station as early as 1980. I assumed then that he was only a few years older than I and it turns out I assumed correctly.  He and Matt Loughlin were two of the major inspirations for me to go into sports broadcasting in college. He followed Vin Scully and Sal Marciano from Fordham to fame.   After college he was a reporter for the Daily News, and as there was no way for a blind person to access the paper then I didn’t hear of him again until he joined the Yankees radio broadcasts in 1991. He left the Yankees after the 2001 World Series for the bright lights of television. Living in South Carolina, I rarely saw him until we could get the MLB Network in 2013. Now I’m back where the Yankees once ruled the roost and the YES Network is a regular part of our cable package.

Buddy Biancalana is 56 today. I wouldn’t mention him, but the last two seasons I was a broadcaster, he was the team manager. We were with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League in 2001 and 2002. His given name, which I didn’t know then is Roland Americo, so the nickname is easily understood. While he was a lifetime .205 hitter he hit .278 in the 1985 World Series as the Royals beat the Cardinals.  How many little known men have shined in the fall classic while the big stars fade. I remember him running a “quality food bus” when we were on the road, in a largely futile attempt to keep the players out of McDonalds.  My broadcast partner and I could be counted on to take the quality food bus, as could the coaches, but few players joined us.

John Tudor is 62 today. While I couldn’t put it in the early edition, his info warrants its own space. He was 117-72 in a career that was cut short by injuries.  He originally hailed from Schenectady, New York but grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts and was a 1976 Red Sox draftee.  He made the show in 1979, and won 13 in both 1982 and 1983 for the Bostons. After a 12-11 year with the Pirates in 1984 he was sent to the Cardinals for 1985 when they came as close as an umpire’s call to winning the World Series. While opening 1-7 h e then went 20-1, nearly as good as Jake Arrieta of the Cubs this past season. He pitched 10 shutouts, and is the last player to have done so. After pitching well in World Series games 1 and 4, he lost game 7 and added injury to insult by punching an electric fan-with_ his pitching hand! He was also on the 1987 Cardinals team that lost the World Series, but with the Dodgers he won a ring the following year.

Don Buford is 79 today. When Buford, who was nobody’s home run hitter launched one off Tom Seaver in inning 1 of game 1 of the 1969 World Series a lot of Orioles fans leaned back and said something like “Ain’t the beer cold.” (Chuck Thompson’s catch phrase for a winning situation.) Though the O’s won that day they lost all 4 games after that, bringing about an astonishing upset.  Buford had been with the White Sox from 1963-67. He and the Orioles would win the next World Series but lose in 1971, a year Buford was an All-Star at the memorable midsummer classic in detroit. Without a job after 1972 he played four seasons in Japan. I remember him as manager of AA Bowie in the Eastern League. Although no recording was on at the time, he told either my broadcast partner or myself that he wouldn’t tell us if he had any injured players for fear of gamblers getting wind of it.

Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst (said Shane Deanst) is 93. In his day he was an All-Star 10 times. In 1950, the All-Star game went extra innings-which it hadn’t done before. In the top of the 14th his home run provided the winning run for the National League.  He won World Series rings with the Cardinals (1946,) and the Milwaukee Braves (1957,) as a coach with the Cardinals in 1964 and 1982 and as their skipper in 1967. He missed another ring by a heartbeat in 1968 when the Tigers came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit to win. He managed the Cardinals for a dozen years. Only Tony LaRussa has had a longer run, though they may need a towing chain to remove Mike Matheney, their manager now. Schoendienst is even now a special assistant coach. As player, coach or manager he’s worn a baseball uniform from 1945 to 2015-an astounding 70 years. He reached Cooperstown in 1989.





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