Cruz Leads Mariners to Extra Inning Win; Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Wolf Dies at 96

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, July 17.

Owing to numerous injuries to their starting pitching which is any team’s most valuable asset, this hasn’t been a season Mariners’ fans will look back on with much happiness.  But for a day at least Nelson Cruz brought happiness and a few laughs to fans of his current team. Cruz, who turned 37 when this month began has certainly been around the block in baseball since breaking in with the Brewers in 2005. In 2011 he bludgeoned opponents’ pitching and led the Rangers to the World Series.  In the ALCS alone he had 6 home runs and 13 RBIs, more than some men produce in a season.  Yesterday the well-traveled slugger launched a home run in the 10th to lead the Mariners over the White Sox 7-6 in Chicago.  Well before that, he got laughs from the fans when, after being hit by a pitch he bluffed charging the mound where an old teammate of his, Derek Holland was on the job. In the 10th, the five-time All-Star had a green light on a 3-0 count and destroyed Chris Beck’s pitch for a “no doubter” home run. Thanks to a pair of home runs from Avisail Garcia, the home team built a 5-0 lead early. Home runs by Danny Valencia and Kyle Seager led the Mariners’ comeback.  Before Valencia stepped up, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson threw wildly on what could have been a double play and was tagged with his 21st error, 7 more than any other shortstop in the league.  Two batters later, with two men on Valencia hit a 3-run home run tying the game at 5 in the 5th. Holland lasted into the 6th but gave up 6 runs all told. The Sox’ Jose Abreu tied it at 6 by doubling home a run in the home 7th, setting the table for the 10th-inning dramatics.   As bad as things have been the Mariners are still just a game shy of breaking even which counts for something even though the Astros have run away from all competition in the AL West.

What do you do when you have a 10-0 lead and barely hold on to win the game 10-7?  That was the question facing the Nationals.  The near-meltdown this weekend was just the latest bad effort by a bull pen that has struggled all year long.  The Nationals made an attempt to solve the problem by acquiring aged reliever Ryan Madson and lefty Sean Doolittle from Oakland in exchange for struggling reliever Blake Treinen and two prospects. One of these was a lefty pitcher and one a third baseman, neither of whom will be major-league ready for several years if ever.  This particularly applies to the pitcher Jesus Luzardo who needed Tommy John surgery before the ink dried on his first contract. At 36, Madson had spent 3 years out of the game before reinventing himself in Kansas City’s bull pen in 2015.  Working in baseball purgatory in Oakland he has a 2.06 ERA and Doolittle’s mark is 3.38.  The Nats wish anybody in their bull pen had done as well up to now. The Nats still need help, as starter Joe Ross will need Tommy John surgery.

The Nationals play in a rare Monday afternoon game in Cincinnati at 12:35 today. Whatever fans may attend will see the Nats’ Stephen Strasburg who would have been the 12th-inning pitcher in the All-Star game had it gone that long. The rest of the schedule is at night in the majors while some dozen daylight games dot the minor league schedule. The Mets continue a home stand as the Cardinals come to Flushing. The Cardinals trot out Adam Wainwright against the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. The Mets took 2 out of 3 from the Rockies though they were demolished 13-4 yesterday. Having split a 4-game series with the Yankees, the Red Sox now welcome the Blue Jays to Fenway. The Red Sox plan to start Eduardo Rodriguez who has lost 6 weeks of action with a knee injury. Meantime the Yankees head to Target Field to face the Twins. The Mariners, subject of today’s main theme head to Houston to take on the class of the league. The Indians face the Giants in tonight’s late game in San Francisco.

One of the last links with baseball’s distant past was severed when broadcaster Bob Wolf died Saturday at age 96. If you’re under a certain age you may not think you know him, but you’ve seen him.  When they show the film of Yogi Berra and Don Larsen after Larsen’s perfecto in the 1956 World Series, the voice you hear is that of Bob Wolf. At 36 he had already been a broadcaster for 10 interminable years for the Washington Senators.  He would remain with them through their first year in Minnesota.  He covered 3 World Series on radio-in 1956, 1958 and 1961, all won by the Yankees.  In those days the commissioner of baseball decided what announcers would cover the series, and Ford Frick in particular tried to give exposure to announcers whose teams were not World Series teams.  That explains Cleveland voice Bob Neal calling the 1955-57 World Series.  Wolf worked with the Braves’ Earl Gillespie in 1958 and with the Reds’ Waite Hoyt in 1961.  He had called the All-Star game in 1956 when it was played at Griffith Stadium in Washington. I first heard his voice calling Knicks’ basketball games on WOR-TV channel 9 in New York.  Home games weren’t televised and road games were seldom broadcast, so Wolf did the play-by-play on the TV games. I got a surprise when my gym teacher loaned me the record “50 Years of Yankee Stadium” which was given to the fans in attendance at the last game before the House that Ruth Built was renovated.  On that record, along with baseball and boxing highlights there was a clip from the end of the 1958 NFL playoff game featuring the Giants and Colts.  The TV voice of that game was Bob Wolf. When cable-tv was introduced Wolf worked on the Madison Square Garden network calling multiple events from the “World’s Most Famous Arena” as it certainly was then.  Beyond the major sports he was the voice of the Garden’s famous dog show for 33 years. Most particularly, fans in New York will remember and miss him. R I P

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