69 Years since the Famous 42 Appeared

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball today.

To almost every American, April 15 is income tax day. This date was established in 1955, following March 1 (1913) and March 15 (1918)  The number 42 is significant to a small but devoted group. To fans of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.  but a man wearing number 42 started a revolution once in this country.

in 1947 on the Ides of April,  the baseball world as it was then known was changed for good and all.  A man of 28 years stepped onto the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He was a Californian, having been a college athlete at UCLA.  He had lost an idolized brother to a traffic crash as the elder man drove to see his brother play. He had served his country in World War II. He and Joe Louis had gone to OCs (Officer Candidate School) together. Under the rules operating then, the man in question couldn’t play major league baseball. Branch Rickey changed all that by signing Jackie Robinson, baseball’s first black player who wore 42 on his back on this day 69 years ago.  Over 26,000 saw the game in a park that held slightly over 30,000. Some 14,000 attendees that day were black. Around the league black fans went to games when the Dodgers came to their city.  Before he was done he put up a .311 batting average in 10 major league seasons.  His Dodgers played in 6 World Series, all against the Yankees and won only one in 1955. While the 1956 World Series is mostly remembered for Don Larson’s perfect game in game 5, Jackie Robinson drove in the winning run in game 6-the last Dodgers’ World Series victory in Ebbets Field. His death at 53, on Oct. 24 1972 was a tragic loss for the baseball world.  Diabetes had robbed him of his sight, and with less medical options than we have now it took his life. No baseball fan of any age should forget who Jackie Robinson was and what is possible now thanks to the cruel sacrifices he made to reach first the playing field and then the  Hall of fame.

The only prepossessing games  of yesterday were  a one-hitter fired at the Brewers by Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia and a shutout by Philly’s Vince Velasquez where he struck out 16 Padres. Garcia had the Brewers baffled as well, striking out an unlucky 13 men. Velasquez didn’t walk a single Padre in his performance. You can see why the Phillies wanted this Californian from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade. vince will be 24 in June. By comparison, Garcia is a wily veteran of 29, with 8 MLB seasons under his belt. The only hit the Brewers got all day off the man from Reynosa, Mexico was a single to right in the sixth by Domingo Santana.

The minors provided a fun story last night. At Lakeland, in the Florida State League the game was delayed briefly as a cat made its way onto the base paths.  The cat, named Henley VIII is a known figure at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.  She and her kittens live near the groundkeeper’s shed. But cats can be cunning, as dogs who try to chase them tend to find out.  Henley got away from her digs and took off onto the field at the old ball park.

Her unscheduled appearance and subsequent efforts to get her back to her assigned spot was clearly the highlight of the game as the homestanding Flying Tigers beat the visiting Hammerheads 5-0 on a five-run 4th inning. While major league stadiums are a lot tighter about security than minor league parks, animals have interrupted major league games. I was at a game in 1972 when a chicken found its way onto the field at Shea Stadium.  It was never clear where it came from, but since the chicken harmed nobody it was a case of no harm, no fowl.

5 years later a dog briefly reached the playing field in a game where the Yankees ultimately beat the White Sox.  The dog, origin unknown was removed by security personnel.

For today’s baseball listener or viewer there is just one day game, the Cubs facing the Rockies at Wrigley Field.  This was how all games were played at Wrigley until 1988.  The plan had been to put in lights in the early 1940’s, but the events of Dec. 7, 1941 put a stop to all that.  After the war and continuing for decades the locals managed to keep Wrigley Field as a permanent home of daytime baseball. Tonight in Cleveland, Bartolo Colon will pitch in what was his home ball park from 1997 to 2002.  The Indians had him in the minor leagues, where I broadcast a few games of his for Canton/Akron when they faced New Britain. The younger guys may well ask if Colon played with Jackie Robinson (or Babe Ruth.)  But he still looked good in his last outing though he didn’t win. I wouldn’t care to be in Mike Pelfrey’s spikes as he takes the hill in Houston tonight. He was pounded by the normally punchless Yankees Saturday.  Now he only has to face Dallas Keuchel who hasn’t lost a home game since July 2014. In 2015 he was 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA at his home  park which is named for a famous orange juice. Meantime the weekend brings a rematch of last week’s 3 terrific games between the Dodgers and Giants.  The Giants go with Madison Bumgarner, or “MadBum” (or is it Angry Hobo?”  The Dodgers match him with Clayton Kershaw. If there’s a finer matchup of lefties (or righties) in this game I can’t name it.  If I had a Mrs. I’d tell her to make sure there was coffee tonight so i could catch this game, much as Red Barber used to tell his wife on the air to keep his dinner warm. When the D-Backs face the Padres in San Diego, the matchup on paper looks better than it probably will be.  Zack Greinke is the D-Backs’ prize steal from the Dodgers.  James Shields, now 34 was once a top pitcher but has struggled out of the gate.  For that matter so has Greinke. Over his career the D-Backs have treated Shields rudely indeed, as he has a 5.30 ERA facing them.


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