Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Friday, May 18.
I rarely do baseball player birthdays anymore. The site I used to get them from went out of business. But today, two of the very best who ever played the game are a year older. While both played before ESPN created “sports center moments,” these guys created moments that either fill you with joy or remind you of the agony their great deeds caused your team. The younger of the two is Reggie Jackson, Mr. October. A Pennsylvania native, Reggie is 71 today. All you really have to say is “one game, 3 home runs, 3 pitchers, 3 pitches.” I was 14 when he pulled that off in game 6 of the 1977 World Series. The third one was an enormous home run to the depths of dead center field in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium. I was just as happy as I could be except for one thing. On the radio, Ross Porter did the play-by-play. Nothing against Ross Porter, but he just wasn’t Vin Scully. Nobody was. I knew that even as a kid of 14. I didn’t see why CBS radio didn’t use Scully instead of his number 2 man. I also understand how the Dodgers’ fans felt that night. I had been there. 4 years earlier, Reggie had hit a home run in game 7 of the 1973 World Series to power the A’s to a win over the Mets.
I knew that “The Straw that Stirs the Drink,” as Reggie has called himself could also deliver an ice pick to the heart.
The other baseball immortal who has a birthday today was known, particularly around Baltimore as “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” and not because of how he could eat. He could “Pick ’em,” as the players say for a guy who can make great plays. Writers who saw Brooks Robinson in his prime said that if he couldn’t make a play at the hot corner, it just couldn’t be made. He made plays, particularly in the 1970 World Series that left the writers and broadcasters wondering if they really just saw what their senses told them they had seen.
One play in particular was a vicious liner hit by the Reds’ Lee May that Robinson caught with men on board.
Brooks Calvert Robinson hailed from Arkansas and called it a career in 1977, the year when Reggie did the unbelievable in the World Series. While his reputation was crystalized around his glove, he nearly had 2850 hits over his 23 years in the game. His slick fielding won him the MVP Award for the 1970 World Series where the Orioles trounced the Reds in 5 games. Robinson had manned third in 1966 when his Orioles swept the Dodgers. 3 years later he had been on third while the Mets, the Amazing Mets took the Orioles down in 5 extremely tight ball games. Robinson won 16 consecutive gold gloves, from 1960–1975. I can’t see that ever happening again. Reggie Jackson received a letter from an Oriole fan when the Reggie Bar came out. It said, “They named a candy bar after you. We name our children after Brooks Robinson.” Happy birthday to both.
As I did yesterday, I’ve spent much of today listening to the Division 3 NCAA tournament. Rowan, TCNJ and Ramapo, all 3 from the New Jersey Athletic Conference won their games. I was disheartened by the fact that the Ramapo game was not on the Internet, as most were. The games have uniformly been poorly attended, probably due to the rotten weather most of the country has endured. The best broadcasts were from Rowan (my alma mater) and Marietta where a team of a father and son shared the duty. If the weather holds Rowan will play at 4:30 and Ramapo at 5.
On the big league ledger for tonight, Max Scherzer faces the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling. He’s made 3 starts with his team in dire need of starting pitching. Any pitcher is the underdog if Max Scherzer is on top of his game. The Pirates hope Ivan Nova will get well against the Padres. In his last few outings he’s given 14 runs in 12 innings. The Mets’ Jacob DeGrom duels with Zach Godley of the D-Backs. Coming off a hyperextended elbow, he threw 45 pitches in one inning and was removed. John Lester carries the mail for the Cubs in Cincinnati. He faces Homer Bailey, who you just want to get it back together after numerous arm surgeries. He won his first game this last Saturday and had to labor to do so. The Indians face the Astros this weekend in a battle with another of last year’s playoff teams. Mike Clevenger faces Charlie Morton in the first game of the series. He was acquired by the Phillies as a journeyman but has never pitched better than he has for the Astros. This year his ERA is third-lowest in his league at 2.03. For once, the Brewers’ Brent Suter has the rest he needed. Last Tuesday he worked in emergency relief of Wade Miley. He was told to go as long as he could. Then last Saturday he worked a day earlier than normal because Brian Anderson had become ill and couldn’t pitch. Tonight he faces the Twins and Kyle Gibson. CC Sabathia hopes to get his 250th win as the Yankees play Minnesota tonight.