Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball the day before the new season opens. CC Sabathia will be, ironically enough the Yankees’ fifth starter. Considering the fifths he’s started and emptied, nobody should be surprised unless they’re surprised he’s on the team in the first place. He’s not a Fireballer anymore. making what he makes he doesn’t have to go cheap and drink Fireball whiskey. At 24 million a year he can buy the most expensive whiskey on the market, such as Midleton Very Rare and buy it by the case. Meantime Ivan Nova will be in the bull pen for the time being at least. Between CC, Tanaka and Pineda he’ll be back starting again before you can say Jack Daniels. (or is it Jack Robinson?)
On a much less humorous note, A. J. Pollock of the D-backs needs surgery for a fractured elbow. He was injured on a play at the plate in last night’s game against the Royals. This is the same injury that happened to Ted Williams in the 1950 All-Star game. He got his broken elbow by crashing into what was then an unpadded outfield wall at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago. Pollock has been here before. He broke the same elbow in 2010 and didn’t play an inning all year. The elbow was troubling him all spring. Until last night he hadn’t played in more than 3 weeks. Injuries are a part of the game, and you have to be philosophical about them. The D-backs are taking that term literally by tabbing Socrates Brito to start in center field on opening day. The Cardinals also suffered an injury yesterday when Ruben Tejada strained a quad. He’s coming off a badly broken leg suffered on a Chase Utley slide in game 2 of the NLDS when Tejada was still a Met.
Al Nipper is 57 today. The San Diego native pitched for the Red Sox between 1983 and 1987, then the Cubs and Indians. He was in the Sox’ rotation during the 1986 World Series. He has been pitching coach with the Red Sox twice and is still a coach at the minor league level with the Royals.
Reggie Smith is 71 today. Born Carl Reginald Smith, The Shreveport native broke in with the Red Sox in 1966 and lasted with them until 1973. He played with them in the 1967 World Series and their near-miss in 1972 when they came so close to winning the AL East over the Tigers. He then played for the Cardinals and Dodgers, with whom he played in 3 World Series, winning one in 1981. He was an All-Star 7 times between 1969 and 1980. As of now he runs a baseball academy in Encino, California.
Hall of Famer Don Sutton is 71 today. He registered a 324-256 record between 1966 and 1988, then took the microphone for the Atlanta Braves. He reached the show April 14, 1966 the day Greg Maddux, his fellow Hall of Famer was born. On the staff were Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Ostene. Between 1972 and 1977 he was an All-Star 4 times, but wasn’t selected after that.
Another Hall of Famer, Battling Luke Appling was born this day in 1907 and died in 1991. He rang up 2749 hits with the White Sox between 1930 and 1950. Twice he was American League batting champion, in 1936 and 1943. He was an All-Star 7 times between 1936 and 1947. He was a career .310 hitter who hit .300 or better 9 years running, starting in 1933.
A number of others have birthdays but I can’t profile them due to time constraints. Denny Hocking is 46. So is John Lieber, a pitcher the Yankees should have kept. Curtis Leskanic is 48. Pete Incaviglia is 52. He’s the most obvious example of the difference between college baseball in his day and the MLB ranks. With the souped-up aluminum bats then used in college he hit 48 home runs in a college season at Oklahoma State. He never approached that in the bigs. Tommy Barrett is 56. He was a coach with the New Britain Red Sox when I broadcast for them in 1993 and 1994 under Jim Pankovitz. Billy Sample is 61. To me he’s better known behind the mike than as a player. I nicknamed him Billy Nembutal when he was announcing for the Braves, as nembutal is used for putting animals to sleep. Mike Kekich is 71. He and Fritz Peterson were two lefty starters for the Yankees when I was a boy. They are linked forever by swapping families in 1973, though I didn’t discover that until decades later. The Mets’ SuperSub Al Weiss is 78. He hit a home run to tie game 5 of the 1969 World Series after the Orioles had jumped ahead 3-0 early on. The Mets would go on to win 5-3 and take the Series in 5. Dick Radatz was born this day in 1937 and died in 2005. Billy Pierce was born this day in 1927 and died last July 31. He was one of the Giants’ aces in 1962 when they nearly won the World Series. Bobby Avila was born today in 1924 and died in 2004. He played second base and won the league batting title for the 111-game-winning 1954 Cleveland Indians who were swept by the Giants in that year’s World Series. He missed out on a ring by breaking in with the tribe in 1949, a year after they had beaten the Braves in the World Series. Today’s announcers would be more cautious and pronounce his name correctly as “Ah-Vee-Lah.” In his day his name came out rhyming with “Tequila.”0