Who Was It that said Baseball was Boring?

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday morning.

Whoever said baseball was boring needs to consider last night’s slate. 5 walk-off endings and one epic brawl.  That can be a good week in this game, or one night’s work around the bigs. Yes, there were some unwatchable games, like the two 3-1 wins by the Pirates over the Anemic (not Amazing) Mets.  But the Twins, Dodgers, Reds, Padres and Tigers have their fans smiling this morning after late rallies-what the late and great Gordon McClendon called “Garrison finishes.” The Tigers were going nowhere until the last of the 9th when they put up a pair to tie the game  and one in the tenth for a  3-2 win over Toronto. The Jays figured they  had the Tigers tranquilized by a Kevin Pillar home run in the 5th and an RBI grounder by Jose Bautista two innings later.  But ask Sigfried and Roy what can happen if they give a tiger a little too much room. Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera doubled home runs to tie it in the home 9th. An inning later Kinsler struck again, with a single driving home the winning run. In San Diego, the Braves proved they are, well, the Braves.  They were ahead 3-2 in the 9th before closer Arodys Vizcaino (Who certainly is no Aroldis Chapman,) served up a monster home run to Derek Norris, the Padres catcher. From there it was just a matter of when, as Will Myers singled home the game-winning run.

In Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Los Angeles the walkoff endings were more dramatic in nature. Joey Votto launched a walkoff home  run to propel his Reds to a 7-6 win over the Cardinals. This win could have been much easier than it was.  The Reds had a 6-1 lead into the visiting 8th. But nobody would confuse the Reds’ bull pen with that of the 1970’s Big Red Machine.  3 runs in the 8th and 2 in the 9th had the game tied, and Matt Carpenter didn’t help his cause by being thrown out stretching the game-tying double into a triple.  That left Votto the opening he needed to end it in the home 9th. The way the game works, Reds’ closer Tony cingrani had a brutal outing but got the win because of Votto’s blast.

Across the Mississippi and much further  north, the Twins generated  a rare exciting win in their  awful season. It took 11 innings to pull off but was well worth it to the few faithful left of the announced 19,020 on a 70-degree night, which qualifies as a heat wave once you reach the land of 10,000lakes.  The visiting Marlins were ahead 4-2 in the 5th when ex-Yankee Eduardo Nunez homered for the Twins, a taste of things to come.  In the 8th, Robbie Grossman, replacing Miguel Sano who’s been on the DL took one out of the lot to even the game at 4 all. 3 innings later with a man aboard Brian Dozier unloaded the home team’s third home run sending everybody home.

The night’s final walkoff game was a Hollywood finish in LaLaLand. Trayce Thompson, who has been here before ended the Dodgers-Rockies game with a shot over the fence for a 4-3 win. The Dodgers had gotten ahead early on a 3-run home run by Justin Turner in the first inning. But a run in the third and two in the 7th had evened it for the visitors from across the Great Divide. But Thompson had hit a walkoff long ball on May 10 against the Mets and uncorked another off the Rockies’ Carlos Estevez. There hadn’t been a night of 5 walkoff endings in 5 years.

In an otherwise ordinary  game at Camden Yards,  the Orioles and Royals put up their dukes in the home team’s 9-1 demolition of the Royals.  Yordano Ventura, the Royals’ pitcher who’s already had a history of dusting hitters off once again channeled his inner Bob Gibson.  He threw way inside twice on the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the second, then plunked him in the fifth. Machado was hit in the back with a 99-MPH heater, the hardest pitch Ventura threw all night.  After that, it was a free-for-all.  Machado and Ventura each landed shots before the Orioles’ masher was grabbed from behind and decked by Salvador Perez, who might be looking for a contract with WWE some time soon. When the dust settled Machado and Ventura were both ejected, and probably will hear from the league office around the time you’re having lunch today if not sooner. Ventura said he didn’t do it on purpose. But, considering he was suspended for a week last year for just this sort of thing, and he went Oriole-hunting in September, his word on the subject is as valuable as Bill Clinton’s word on being faithful to your mate.

When tempers cooled, the o’s struck back in a more acceptable fashion. Chris “Crush” Davis and Mark Trumbo slugged back-to-back bombs out of Camden Yards.

Former Mets’ catcher and now manager of the Blue Jays John Gibbons is 54 today. The native of Great Falls, Montana will never be remembered for his catching, which he did with the Mets between 1984-86. He hit .220 with a total of a home run  and two RBIs. But he’s on his second stint as Blue Jays’ manager.  He ran the show there from 2004-2008 and began again in 2013 in a job he still has.  That’s highly unusual in these days where managers are fired as easily as 401K plans are looted. He coached and managed in the Mets’ minor league system starting in 1991, then coached in Toronto from 2002 until he was named manager. Last season his Jays reached the playoffs for the first time in 22 years, losing the ALCS to the Royals.

Mark Belanger, the shortstop for the Orioles in their glory years was born this day in 1944 and died in 1998 at 54. As the game was played then, a .228 hitter could be considered one of the best if he were good enough in the infield-which Belanger was. Though he broke in late in 1965 he missed the 1966 World Series, but was the regular shortstop before 1967 was out.  He won 8 Gold Glove awards, was once an All-Star in 1976, and got a World Series ring for 1970. His teams lost the 1969 and 1971 World Series and lost the 1973 and 1974 ALCS to Oakland. One of his very few home runs was hit in the first ALCS game ever played, in 1969 against the Twins.

Eddie Gaedel, the midget who made the majors was born this day in 1925 and died in 1961, just days after turning 36. Edward carl Gaedel (GahDell) of Chicago had his 15 minutes on August 19, 1951. The St. Louis Browns (now the Orioles,) were owned by Bill Veeck, who would put on a show if his team couldn’t put on a ball game.  He brought Gaedel in secretly and sent him to home plate wearing number 1/8 on his back.  He was all of 3 feet 7 and  65 pounds. Tigers’ starter Bob cain walked him and a pinch-runner was summoned. The enterprising midget made some easy cash by appearing on TV shows and talking about the event.

In an interview with Veeck’s wife Mary Francis in 1991, she told me this: Following Disco Demolition Night, another Veeck promotion which led to a game being forfeited, she said to her husband “It looks like you finally got the midget off your back,” meaning Veeck would now be remembered for something besides the appearance of Eddie Gaedel in a game. Veeck’s son was my employer for much of my baseball career, so my former wife came to know the Gaedel name.  She was so short and slim I used to say she was Eddie Gaedel’s long-lost granddaughter. She was not amused.

The man with baseball’s most musical name, Van Lingle Mungo was born this day in 1911 and died in 1985. Though he lasted from 1931-45 in the show, he isn’t known for his 120-115 record. A song by Dave Frishberg recorded in 1969 brought his name and that of many other 1940’s-era baseball players to an audience who might never have heard of them. The opening lines go:

Henry Majeski, Johnny Gee,  Eddie Joost, Johnny Pesky, Thornton Lee, Roy Campanella, Van Lingle Mungo.”

He was born and lived out his days in Pageland, South Carolina. He was an All-Star 4 times-3 with Brooklyn, one in his final year with the Giants. In 1936 he led his league in strikeouts. He bought and operated a movie theater when the cheering stopped. While he never got a dime for the song, its author was told that both Mungo and his wife enjoyed it. It was recorded on the first of 2 Baseball’s Greatest Hits CD’s, now believed to be out of print.

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2 Comments
  • Tom M. Thomas
    June 9, 2016

    Dave Frishberg also wrote “Conjunction Function” for a children’s TV show.

    • Don Wardlow
      June 9, 2016

      in all likelihood that would be for “The Electric Company.” The very funny Tom Lehrer wrote and sang some songs for that show. He was probably the only Harvard math professor with a sense of humor. One of his funniest was “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” which is on youtube. That was not_ written for kids, I can assure you.

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