Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball today. As disappointingly dull as yesterday’s 4-1 win by the Rays over the Cuban national team was, the worst part for my money was their blind broadcaster Enrique Oliu did not make the trip to Havana. Seriously? 140 people at least made the trip, why not two more-particularly when one could have been yet another first for Cuban baseball? It would have been the first time a blind man broadcast baseball from there. Oliu has broadcast baseball in Spanish for the Rays going back a good many years. When I was with Charleston, a Rays’ A-ball team he was kind enough to work with me on my Spanish so I could interview the many Latin American ball players the team had. He and his partner re-create the games from a studio as often as not, but on one memorable occasion during the 2008 World Series they did the Spanish broadcast live from Citizens’ Bank Park. Considering yesterday was at least an equally special occasion I hoped radio station WGES would send their duo to Havana. No such luck. The game was a yawner also. The Cubans’ only real rally was in the first inning when they had two men on with one out and didn’t score. They got a run in the 9th but it was all over but the shouting by then. The Rays’ played it close to a real game, with Matt Moore going the first 6 innings and 3 pitchers covering the last 3 innings. The Cubans used 10 or 11 pitchers for no better reason than to let each of them say he’d pitched in the game. As with the Orioles game in Havana in 1999 the crowd was by invitation only, and we were officially told 55,000 were there. The Rays’ broadcasters told us that some of the invitees began heading for the exits as early as the 4th inning. Even fans in Atlanta stay longer than that. Also, in a park smaller than Camden Yards and with the wind blowing out only one ball left the lot, a shot hit by James Loney of the Rays.
I know June 10 is a ways from now, but this is too great to hold onto. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs (a name I never cared for much) for one night will become the Lehigh Valley Cheesesteaks. On June 10, as part of a Salute to Philadelphia night, the AAA Phillies will become the Cheesesteaks for a night. The iconic Philadelphia sandwich is believed to have been initiated at Pat’s Steaks in South Philly. Over the decades versions of the cheesesteak have spread across the land along with some mutations a Philadelphian wouldn’t consider eating. Between now and then there will be a contest to determine if the hats will be designed with or without onions-the time-honored debate on how to eat a cheesesteak. Write-in votes for pizza or mushrooms will be summarily ignored.
As if losing Zack Greinke to free agency wasn’t bad enough, now the Dodgers will be without outfielder Andre Ethier from 10-14 weeks with a broken left leg. He broke it this past Friday fouling a ball off it. While x-rays missed the break, the unrelenting pain led the Dodgers to order a bone scan which showed the bad news. carl Crawford and Scott van Slyke will figure to share the time while Ethier is on the shelf. Amid a rash of lesser injuries this is the second major injury the Dodgers are dealing with. Pitcher Brett Anderson had surgery for a bulging disk and will be out until further notice.
Workers losing their jobs have been “put out to pasture” forever, but it may be more reality than figure of speech for Ross Ohlendorf. At 33, having been released by the Royals his next stop may just be the pasture of his family’s cow ranch in Austin, Texas. This probably isn’t the first time his family’s occupation has left him open to the jibes of buffoons such as I. He studied at Princeton University, and I can’t imagine many cowboys have come through those hallowed halls. The D-Backs took him in round 4 of the 2004 draft, then sent him to the Yankees for an aged Randy Johnson just before the 2007 season. He went to the Pirates the next year, and his troubles began wihh a 1-11 mark in 2010. From 2012 on he’s bounced around with minimal success.
One of the Yankees’ big 3 at the back of the bull pen is the first baseball birthday today. Dellin Betances is 28. Exotic name or no, he hails from Washington Heights, at the upper end of Manhattan. His earliest call-up was in 2011 and he’s been a steady Yankee since 2014. The last two seasons he’s been an All-Star. As a boy of 10 he attended David Wells’ perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. I heard that game from our apartment in st. Paul on the Twins’ radio station. The Yankees drafted him in the 8th round in 2006. Had they not done so he planned to play at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Both he and Masahiro Tanaka were Yankee rookie pitchers who were All-Stars. No rookie Yankee pitcher could make that claim since Spec Shea in 1947.
Mark Buehrle (pronounced Burly) is 37. His record is an excellent one, 214-160 since 2000. He starred for the White Sox through 2011, went to the Marlins in 2012 and spent the past 3 seasons in Toronto. He’s been an All-Star 5 times, the last in 2014. The White Sox won the World Series in 4 over Houston while he was there in 2005. He took 4 straight gold gloves between 2009 and 2012. He has both a no-hitter and a perfect game on his record, both while with the White Sox. His no-hitter featured only one walk, to Sammy Sosa who was then picked off. In spite of a 15-8 mark he didn’t make the playoff roster for the Blue Jays and hasn’t gotten a job for 2016. As of the end of 2012 he owned a pit bull which he had to leave with his family upon being traded to Toronto. Animal laws in Canada are administered province by province, and pit bulls are banned in Ontario.
Surprisingly, we have a second Ivy Leaguer who is a baseball birthday player today. Mike Remlinger is 50. He was a sensation on the Dartmouth team that went to the NCAA regionals in 1987. After Dartmouth lost the regionals to Georgia, he was drafted in the first round by the Giants. He played for a number of teams between his first call-up in 1991 with the Dodgers and his swansong in 2006 with the Braves. His one All-Star vote was as a Brave in 2002. He also was with them in 1999 when they were swept in 4 by the Yankees, and in 2000 and 2001 when they made the playoffs but did not reach the World Series.
Lee May is 73 today. Of him, Fritz Peterson says, “Happy Birthday to Lee May, a truly outstanding hitter who played for the Reds (1965-71), Astros (1972-74), Orioles (1975-80), and Royals (1981-82). The Big Bopper hit 354 homeruns during his eighteen-year major league career. The first time I faced him was on May 3, 1975 at Cleveland Stadium. He went 3-for-4 against me, two singles and a double. Lucky for me, I only gave up two other hits that game and the Indians won, 6-1.”
For my own part I remember May with the Reds in 1971, the first year I discovered baseball. He had played with the Reds in the 1970 World Series which they lost 4 games to 1 to the Orioles. He hit one of several line shots which were somehow snared by Brooks Robinson at third base. As fate would have it, he would be an Oriole in 1979 when they lost in 7 to the Pirates.0