Arizona and Coastal Carolina Set to Square Off in CWS Final Round; Who’s Hottest in MLB this Hot June? In Memoriam, Jim Hickman

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this last Monday in June.

So it’s come to this.  Two teams, 2 games out of 3 for the 70th College World Series championship. Arizona has been here before, countless times and won it as recently as 2012.  Coastal Carolina has never seen Omaha before unless they were flying over it.  But the Chanticleers have earned the respect of most knowledgeable college baseball fans, beating LSU two straight in Baton Rouge just to get to Omaha, then beating Florida, Texas Tech and twice beating TCU to reach the final round.  One unhappy Horned Frog took the low road, saying “We may have lost but all they gained is a temporary fan base for a few days.”  But that nameless man doesn’t know the cachet  this Omaha run will gain Coastal’s coach Gary Gilmore as he recruits future uyoung high school boys to become Chanticleers.  In the past, he had Myrtle Beach to offer and not much else.  The old ball park Coastal used until 2012 was something of a joke.  When a decent team came to town they had to use the minor league ball park of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.  Then for two full seasons they played in Myrtle Beach while their new baseball stadium was being built.  Now it’s there and it’s theirs.  They still play a few games at the minor league park but it’s not mandatory.  In the future they may be able to host an NCAA  regional, if not a super regional. That will depend on how the team plays and the crowds they draw now that the new stadium is open.  But over the next few days they will try to take the last step, slay the last standing giant, the Arizona Wildcats.  Saturday the Wildcats had the more passionate, if smaller crowd.  Almost constantly they were chanting U. Of A., for University of Arizona.  There were some 9,000 at the early game as Arizona knocked out the Oklahoma State Wildcats to punch their ticket to tonight’s matchup.  Coastal took the night game on Saturday, withstanding a furious TCU rally to win 7-5.  Neither team has their best pitchers, since they both had to come through the loser’s bracket. Worse yet, Arizona’s Nathan Bannister was hurt Friday and can’t be counted on at all.  If Coastal can find the pitching to win one of the next two games, their ace Andrew Beckwith, 14–1 will be available on full rest Wednesday.  Should they lose tonight they would doubtless turn to him tomorrow on short rest.  Bobby Dalbec, the best remaining starter for Arizona could only be ready Wednesday, and that on 3 days rest.  So both teams will have to mix and match with their other pitchers and try to find enough pitching to win two games out of 3.

The Cubs were the hottest team in baseball early on, getting off to a blazing start.  But as the weather warmed up, other teams have been  hotter and the Cubs have cooled off to the point where even Jake Arrieta looks hittable.  The hottest team of all as July approaches is the Cleveland Indians.  They’ve won all 9 games they’ve played against the Tigers this season, sweeping a trio of 3-games series.  Overall they’ve won 9 in a row after wiping out the Bengals yesterday 9-3.  The Tigers’ Justin Verlander, who in the past accomplished great deeds that few Tigers had done, got his name in the record book for the wrong reason yesterday.  No Tiger pitcher in history,  not while they played at the venerable stadium of several names,  Tigers’ Stadium or their modern home had given up 4 home runs in a single inning until Verlander did the unthinkable yesterday. You’re talking about well over 100 years, in some of which the Tigers’ pitching wasn’t the best. In the last of the fifth, Juan Uribe and Tyler Naquin led the inning off by launching shots out of the lot. After two were out, Mike Napoli hit a two-run blast and so did Lonnie Chisenhall.  6 runs on 4 bombs in 2/3 of the fifth inning.  That was all for Verlander. Once before, in 2007 he gave up 4 dingers in a game-also to the Indians at Jacobs Field.  But this time they all came in the same inning. The Indians have reason to hope to extend their win streak to double digits as they face the Braves, who can only seem to manage to beat the Mets.  They did it again yesterday, 5-2 leaning on a 3-run home run by Adonis Garcia.

As hot as the Cubs were early on, the Giants and Rangers each now have more wins than the NorthSiders.  Both San Francisco and Texas have 49 wins following victories yesterday while the Cubs have 48.  The Giants are 32-10 since May 11, their best run since 1954 when they played in New York. They won a thriller yesterday on a walk-off double by Conor Gillaspie.  It had been tied at 1, 5, 6 and   7 before his hit to end things in the 9th. It was win number 800 as manager for Bruce Bochy.  He can catch Bill Terry (823) and in all likelihood  Dusty Baker (840.) That would put him second among all Giants managers behind only John “Mugsy” McGraw who won 2,583 games in a career that spanned 3 decades. Bochy also has 951 wins as manager of the Padres in a dozen years on their bench.

The Rockies gained a split of a wild 4-game series with a 9-7 walkoff win yesterday.  The D-Backs won the first two 7-6 and 10-9 with 9th-inning rallies but yesterday it was the Rockies’ turn. They hadn’t won a game on a walk-off hit all year despite the volatile nature of games at Coors Canaveral.  With the game tied at 7, with no fresh bull pen arms to go to and no more bats off the bench, their last pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds launched a two-run home run to end the game. Carlos Gonzalez had hit a grand slam to give the Rockies their first lead at 6-5 in the fifth.  After Arizona put up a pair to grab the lead Trevor Story tied it at 7 on a home run of his own.  He was hit by a pitch in the 9th and, though he ran the bases ahead of Reynolds’ home run he could not have come out for the top of the 10th according to his manager Walt Weiss.

We have the sad duty to mention the passing of Jim Hickman, who turned 79 on May 10. He hit .252 in a career that ran from 1962-1974.  He was an original 1962 Met, and later an All-Star with the Cubs in 1970. He had been in the Cardinals’ minor league system since 1956, trying to break into an outfield that included Stan Musial.  He wasn’t protected when the expansion draft happened and the Mets chose him.  While this put him in the majors, it put him on the 40-120 Mets. He was with them through 1966. As a Met he hit for the cycle in the Polo Grounds, and hit the last home run at that fabled park. Two years later he hit 3  home runs in a game, becoming the first Met to do so.  He did that at crumbling Sportsmans’ Park in St. Louis half a season before it was replaced. All 3 shots came off future Met Ray Sadecki. In his all-star 1970 season he hit .315 with 33 doubles and 32 home runs. He singled home Pete Rose in the last of the 12th inning of the All-Star game in Cincinnati, with Rose crashing into Ray Fosse and laying waste to his catching career.

Former Angels and Cardinals’ outfielder Jim Edmonds is 46 today. All told he was a .284 hitter between 1993 and  2010. He was an All-Star 4 times between 1995 and 2005.  He came 7 short of 400 home runs. He took 8 gold glove awards and finally a World Series ring with the 2006 Cardinals. He wasn’t a huge prospect, being taken in round 7 in 1988 out of high school by the Angels. He has done pregame and postgame analysis on Cardinals’ cable-tv since 2014.

Rico Petrocelli is 73 today. He broke in as early as 1963 with the Red Sox and was with them  throughout his career which ended in 1976. At some point in his career he played for Winston-Salem in the Carolina League.  Jack Fox, who for many years has narrated talking books for the blind was the broadcaster for those game and remembers Rico to this day.  Sadly, he didn’t record any of his broadcasts.  The Brooklynite whose full name is Americo Peter Petrocelli was an All-Star in 1967 and 1969 and played in both the 1967 and 1975 World Series. In game 6 of the 1967 Series he hit two home runs against Cardinals’ pitching. He was a shortstop until Luis Aparicio joined the Red Sox, when he moved to third base. In the 1975 World Series he hit .308 driving in 4 runs and scoring 3 even though but one year of his career was left.

One of Petrocelli’s managers, Eddie Kasko is 84 today. He was also an infielder and played his final year with the Red Sox in 1966.  Before that he’d spent most of his career with the Reds, then the Houston Colt .45’s. He managed the Red Sox between 1970–73. With the Reds he was selected to both 1961 All-Star games. He didn’t play in the wind-blown affair in San Francisco but took part in the second All-Star game played at Fenway Park.  That year he also made his one World Series appearance as the Yankees bulldozed the Reds in 5 games. During his tenure as manager, Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans joined the team and it came within half a game of winning the AL East in 1972, losing out to the Tigers. He worked in the scouting department for the next two decades, rising to scouting director before retirement.

The man I know as “Twig,” Wayne Terwilliger is 91 today.  I knew him as a coach with St. Paul when I broadcast there from 1997-1999. Before making the bigs he performed on a much bigger stage. As a corporal in the Marines, he participated in the invasions of Tinian and Iwo Jima. His first stop in the minors was in Des Moines in 1948 where Stan Hack was his manager.   He played in the bigs between 1949 and 1960.  While he was with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he told me he was the backup second baseman behind Jackie Robinson, and in that position he didn’t get a lot of playing time.  In a dozen years he hit .240 coming off the bench. He became a  minor league manager and coach. He coached in the Senators’ organization from 1963-68, then was third base coach in the majors under Ted Williams from 1969-72, 3 of those years in DC, the last in Arlington, Texas. He coached under 4 managers in Texas in a 4-year stretch in the early ’80s. He coached for the Twins from 1986–94, including both World Series champions there. He managed the St. Paul Saints in 1995 and coached there until 2002.      In 1998 he racked up 50 years in a baseball uniform. He managed the independent Fort Worth Cats from 2003-05 and coached there until 2010. Managing a dozen minor league teams he compiled over 1200 wins. His book “Terwilliger Bunts One,” came out in 2006 and can still be bought from Amazon.  I hope mine is still there 10 years after it comes out.

Two Twig stories I’ll tell here.  In Sioux City, Iowa there was a gambling boat, and we unsaintly St. Paul Saints liked to go there and gamble our meal money away. Twig climbed aboard one morning, got his money and started to play.  From nowhere at all, he heard a loud “Too-oo-oot,” and the boat which we all thought was permanently at anchor started pulling away from the pier. Naturally Twig hurried to find out if he was being shanghaied. It turned out that on certain days the boat pulled away for a few hours, then returned to pier.  When it did, Twig got off, none the worse for wear and was able to do his coaching duty that night.  Nobody had a bigger laugh than Twig himself. The other story, Twig didn’t find so funny.  We were making a routine milk run from St. Paul to Duluth, a two-hour trip.  We all got on the bus and left.  When we got there, we found Twig in Duluth just as mad as a wet hen.  It seems the bus had left without him, and he had to take an unplanned trip in the car with one of the other coaches.  He was furious that not one man in 25 players would tell the bus driver to wait for Twig. The only other time I saw him upset was when it was too warm in winter to go ice fishing, which by that point had become a great passion to the affable Twig.



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