Wednesday, June 7, 2017

REMEMBERING JIMMY PIERSALL: ONE OF A KIND By Harvey Frommer

REMEMBERING JIMMY PIERSALL: ONE OF A KIND

By Harvey Frommer

The recent passing of the totally talented Jimmy Piersall made me go

to the Frommer archives and prepare the following excerpts from my book


Remembering Fenway Park.:

http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/


I spent a good deal of time interviewing him; Jimmy was honest,

unassuming and a terrific story teller. The passages bring his time and him

back to our consciousness. He was one of a kind.



JIMMY PIERSALL: My first day in the big leagues was

September 7, 1950. I was 20 years old. And we were playing

Washington and I was sitting on the bench. We’re down by four

runs and Steve O’Neil who had replaced Joe McCarthy as manager

said it’s time for me to pinch-hit. He called me “pierseraroll”— he

didn’t know what the hell my name was.


JOHNNY PESKY: A big left handed pitcher was going against

us. Piersall was going up for his first at bat. “Goddamn this guy’s

awful wild, God damn it, I’m afraid,” Jimmy said.

“If you’re afraid,” I told him, “you better get a lunch pail and

go home.”


JIMMY PIERSALL: I walked up. My hands were sweating. I

swung at the first pitch and the bat lands beyond the third base

dugout. And I’m standing there without a bat. The on deck circle

guy gives me another bat. The count goes to 3-2, and I hit a ball

between second and third for a hit.

==

Fighting at Fenway during the 1952 season seemed contagious.

Hyperactive Jimmy Piersall and Billy Martin got into a shouting match

before the Red Sox-Yankee game on the 24 th of May in the tunnel beneath

the stands. After the game they were at it again. As the story goes, Boston

pitcher Ellis Kinder accompanied Piersall and Bill Dickey accompanied

Martin as seconds. Martin sucker-punched,threw the first blow. They got

into a clinch. That ended the “fight.” Piersall supposedly changed his

bloody shirt in the clubhouse and was verbally on Martin from the bench

during the rest of the game.


JIMMY PIERSALL: It wasn’t a real fight, just pushing and

shoving. The only guy that got hurt was Bill Dickey. Heck, the way

the media played it up it was like a real brawl. You know, writers

would hang their mothers for the Pulitzer Prize.

Less than a month later on June 11 th in a game against the Browns,

Piersall led off the ninth inning against Satchel Paige announcing that was

going to bunt. He laid down one safely. Then the Sox outfielder began

imitating the ageless hurler’s moves yelling “Oink‚ oink‚ oink." An infield hit

moved Piersall to second base. Mimimcry and “oinks” continued.

Exasperated and unnerved, Paige walked the bases full. Another

walk to Billy Goodman scored a Red Sox run. Ted Lepcio singled, re-loading

the bases. Sammy White slammed a grand slammer. Then seemingly

influenced by Piersall’s behavior, the Red Sox catcher rounded third base,

crawled home and kissed the plate. It was a bizarre day at Fenway.

==

JIMMY PIERSALL: I was traded away but by 1953, I was

back with the Red Sox. At first, players on other teams would call

me “Gooney bird” and go “coo coo, coo coo.”

I finally said to myself, “I’m a pretty good player.” So if I hit

a home run or make a good play I’ll give them the finger.

On May 8 th , 1953 – Boston snapped a 13-game losing streak to the

Yankees . A Billy Goodman homer off Johnny Sain was the game winner in

the bottom of the 11 th inning. The next day the first-place Yankees nipped

Boston, 6–4. Mickey Mantle homered off Bill Werle. But the Mick’s bid for a

second home run was denied as Jimmy Piersall made a great catch in front

of the Sox bullpen in right-center field. There is no report of his giving the

finger.


DAVE HUTCHINSON: It was incredible how many times

Jimmy Piersall was able to do that. Defensively, for so many

years, he was something else.

Jimmy Piersall was truly something else.
--------------------------------------------

About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral

historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan,

Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is a A professor in the MALS

program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by

their alumni magazine.



His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee- Book-Beginning- Today-

Essential/dp/1624144330

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SPORTS BOOKSHELF: Dinner with DiMaggio, Coach Wooden and Me. … and more By Harvey Frommer

SPORTS BOOKSHELF:

Dinner with DiMaggio, Coach Wooden and Me. … and mor
e


By Harvey Frommer



All kinds of new sports books. All kinds of interesting reading. What

follows if the pick of the pack. Enjoy


Dinner with DiMaggio by Richard Sandomir (Hatchette Books, $26.00,

350 pages) is a bit overblown and repetitive which more careful editing would

have fixed. There is also data on the Yankee Clipper that has appeared in print

before. That being said, if you are of a certain age, this tome will appeal to you.

Filled with gossip, opinion, stories, it worth spending a few hours with. A GOOD

READ



Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar focuses in on his half

century friendship with the fabled UCLA basketball coach. They first met in 1965

when Jabbar, then 18-year- old Lew Alcindor, showed up at UCLA. The rest, as

they say is the stuff of legend in basketball history as Jabbar led the way for the

Bruins to cop three NCAA national championships.

This is a book to read and savor and keep on your sports bookshelf. It truly

is an inside look at two legends and their special relationship. Wooden was coach,

mentor, friend, critic, father, all things to Jabbar who was a player and person who

helped shape the legacy of his great coach. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED



The Pride of the Yankees by Richard Sandomir (Hatchette Books, $27.00,

293 pages is the inside and sometimes never told story of the making of the classic

film about Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and so much more. Through the years I have

gone back and forth as to which sports film ranks Number One.

I have always come back to The Pride of the Yankees. This terrific tome is

filled with anecdotes galore, new information, elegant writing that matches

Sandomir’s prodigious research. ONE THAT BELONGS HIGH ON YOUR

SPORTS BOOKSHELF


About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists

and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends

Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the

New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the

New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as

an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field.

A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College,

Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.

Pre-Order from Amazon

 Pre-Order HERE!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Derek Jeter and the Yankees of New York, By the Numbers - By Harvey Frommer

Derek Jeter and the Yankees of New York, By the Numbers
                   By Harvey Frommer 



          All the hype and hullabaloo has now ebbed and Derek Jeter day and night is part of baseball lore and legend. He was and is one of a kind. Driven, dedicated, talented, the “Captain” deserves all the accolades, all the awards. He has earned them.
        The Yankees have always had a thing about Derek Jeter and also about numbers.  And if Jeter is the last Yankee to wear Number 2, the question begs to be asked: Who wore Number 2 first? 



The answer: Mark Koenig
       Back in 1929,  the New York Yankees introduced identifying numbers sewn on the backs of player jerseys, the first time that uniform numbers were used on a full-time basis. The "original" ten Yankee uniform numbers were:
            #1 - Earle Combs
            #2 - Mark Koenig
            #3 - Babe Ruth
            #4 - Lou Gehrig
            #5 - Bob Meusel
            #6 - Tony Lazzeri
            #7 - Leo Durocher
            #8 - Johnny Grabowski
            #9 - Benny Bengough
            #10 - Bill Dickey

          Since then, uniform numbers and all matter of numerology have affixed the lore and tradition of all things Yankees. Not to be accused of shameless pushing of my newest baseball tome: THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK, coming fall 2017, http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html, what follows is a sampling of Yankees By The Numbers.   

                              Zero 
The 1927 Yankees made no changes to its roster all season long. They team began with 10 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders, five outfielders, and ended that way.
Fewest passed balls in a season, 1931 
          In 283 innings in 1961, Whitey Ford did not allow a single stolen base.
Number of days Dave Winfield spent in minor-league baseball before reaching the majors.
         
  With Derek Jeter's No. 2 , the Yankees will be the only team with no single-retired  uniform numbers. Disclaimer – unless they issue and retire zero if that is considered a number.
The Yankees have never had player names on the back of any jersey, unlike most other MLB teams.

0002 
After Allie Reynolds pitched his second no-hitter for the Yankees in 1951, the Hotel Edison where he along with some teammates lived changed his room number from 2019 to 0002.
.00009 
Difference between the batting average of George "Snuffy" Stirnweiss: .30854 and White Sox Tony Cuccinello: .30845 in the closest batting race in major league history, 1945. 
1 
Pitcher Clark Griffith, 1903-1907, was the first Yankee Captain
Number of times Babe Ruth was pinch hit for. (Bobby Veach on August 9, 1925.)
Joe DiMaggio was the only player to get at least one hit in All-Star Games at Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field.

       During Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hit streak, he had just one hit in 34 of those games.
        Mickey Mantle hit for the cycle only 1 time in his career. He did it against Chicago at Yankee Stadium in 1957.
Billy Martin number retired August 10, 1986
          Derek Jeter is the only Yankees shortstop to win the Gold Glove Award.



   1.10   
       The major league rule banning a sticky substance such as pine tar on a bat beyond 18 inches from the bottom. That rule led to the "pine tar affair," Yankees against Royals in 1983.
1 1/2 
       When George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, he officially made Merrill the singing voice of the Yankees for as long as the baritone opera singer wanted. The team even gave him his own pinstriped uniform and number sewn on the back. For many years Merrill sang the national anthem at Yankee Stadium.

PAUL DOHERTY: Others sang the anthem in person after Steinbrenner took over, although Merrill’s recording was used primarily with Jerry Vale’s, The Boston Pops (of all Orchestras!!) and at times The New York Philharmonic’s.

1.64
          Top ERA in a season, Spud Chandler, 1943
 1.95
   Career earned-run average of Herb Pennock in World Series competition.
2     
  Shortstop Kid Elberfeld, second Yankee Captain, 1907-1909
 Babe Ruth, two days in a row, hit grand slam homers.
          Alex Rodriguez homered twice in the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium on September 5, 2007 against the Mariners giving him 48 home runs for the season.
The number of managerial tours of duty of Bob Lemon, Gene Michael and Lou Piniella.
      Fewest shutouts by a Yankee pitching staff in a season, 1994.
     Fewest times in a season grounded into a double play: Mickey Mantle, 1961, Mickey Rivers, 1977.
    Most grand slams in a game by a Yankee, Tony Lazzeri, May 24, 1936 at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. 
2.45
          Bob Shawkey’s 1920 season league leading ERA title was the first ever won by a Yankee pitcher.
$2.50

         Prior to the second world war, box seats were regular wooden chairs that went back about two or three rows from third to first base. They cost about $2.50.” Red Foley, NY Daily News


2.57
 Lowest earned run average by a Yankee pitching staff, 1904. 
3
First baseman Hal Chase was the third Yankee Captain, 1909-1912. 
All three perfect games in Yankee Stadium history were seen by Joe Torre: Larsen's beauty as a 16-year-old fan, and the ones pitched by David Wells and David Cone from the dugout as Yankee manager. The Yankees have the most perfect games pitched by one club, all at Yankee Stadium.                      
            Babe Ruth's uniform number, retired June 13, 1948, second Yankee number. While the great Yankee was the first to wear it, he was far from the last. Seven other Yankees wore No. 3. Outfielder Cliff Mapes wore it in 1948 when it was retired. Mapes switched to No. 7 the next year. After he was traded to the Browns in mid-1951, No. 7 went to a rookie named Mickey Mantle.
Shortstop Joe Sewell struck out only three times in 503 at-bats in 1932.
Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel are two of the players in history to hit for the cycle three times.



The Yankee Clipper is the only player to earn a ring for winning the World Series in each of his first four seasons, 1936-1939. 
Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra each won three MVP awards.
Top number of perfect games by a franchise: Don Larsen, David Wells, David Cone.
          In September, 1998, Yankees outfielder Shane Spencer tied a Major League record by hitting three grand slams in one month.
            Paul O’Neill is the only player to have been in right field for three perfect games: Tom Browning of the Reds (1988), David Wells (1998) David Cone perfect game (1999).
3.1



          Record time Mickey Mantle  able to run from home plate to first base, fastest for any player in history

4
Most consecutive losing seasons for Yankees, 1912-1915 and 1989-1992
Shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh was the fourth Yankee Captain, 1914-1921
In 1923, Babe Ruth hit for his highest single-season average: .393. He came within four hits of batting .400.
Lou Gehrig's number, retired on July 4, 1ballpark.939, the first athlete in any sport. He is the only Yankee to have worn number 4. 
          Four straight Yankee MVP awards twice: Yogi Berra in 1954 and 1955, Mickey Mantle in 1956 and 1957. Then Mickey Mantle in 1960, Roger Maris,  1961, Mantle1962, Elston Howard, 1963.
Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 is the setting for the fourth All Star Game.
          All-time record for All-Star saves by Mariano Rivera
4.02
Lou Gehrig’s career RBIs for at bats, second to only Babe Ruth.           



4.88
          Highest ERA by Yankee pitching staff, 1930
5
Outfielder Babe Ruth was the fifth Yankee Captain, May 20 to May 25, 1922.
Lefty Gomez was a starter in five All-Star Games, winning 3 of them)
Number of times Mickey Mantle hit a ball into the copper facade that hung from the old stadium's roof. 
Joe DiMaggio's uniform number, retired in 1952
Yanks won the World Series a record five straight seasons – 1949-53 
October 16th, 2003 - Aaron Boone was the fifth player -- and second Yankee -- to end a post-season series with a walk-off home run. His solo shot in the bottom of the 11th inning capped a 6-5, Game 7 victory over Boston, giving the Yankees their 39th American League Pennant.



No team in baseball history matches the Yankees for five catchers the quality of Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada.
Playing fields for franchise:  Hilltop Park 1903-1912, Polo Grounds 1913-1922, Yankee Stadium (original)  1923-1973, Shea Stadium 1974-1975, Yankee Stadium (refurbished) 1976-2008, New Yankee Stadium 2009 –
Shortstop Everett Scott was the sixth Yankee Captain succeeding Babe Ruth, 1922-1925
On June 6, 1934 - Yankee outfielder Myril Hoag tied an American League record with six singles in six at-bats. 
Second baseman Joe Gordon, who played mostly in the 1940s, wore No. 6. He was inducted posthumously into Cooperstown in 2009.
Number of Yankee starters: Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Red Rolfe, Red Ruffing, and George Selkirk in the 1939 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium.  
Mickey Mantle's rookie uniform number, changed by equipment manager Pete Sheehy to #7 after Mantle was recalled from Kansas City.
Number of times Billy Martin had a tour of duty as manager.
Don Mattingly hits a grand slam off Boston's Bruce Hurst at Yankee Stadium on September 29, 1987, setting a Major-League record with six grand slams in a season.
Joe Torre's Number retired by Yankees.

 About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.

PRE ORDER from AMAZON: 

http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html



Start Spreading the News

                                By Harvey Frommer




With the New York Yankees back in business and the future looking bright and my THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK coming out this fall, for your reading pleasure - -a small excerpt.

                    Apocryphal
 Story or statement of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true.
           
                                     The Trade                  
        As the story goes, Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankee boss Dan Topping were at Toots Shor’s one night bantering about how much more suited to hit at Yankee Stadium was Ted Williams and how much more suited to hit at Fenway Park was Joe DiMaggio. The evening allegedly concluded with the two owners exchanging a handshake and agreeing to make a DiMaggio for Williams’s trade.
            It was reported that when Topping arrived home at 4:00 A.M. and realized what he had agreed to, he picked up the phone and in a panic called Yawkey.       "Tom," he began, "I'm sorry but I can't go through with the deal."
            "Thank God," was supposedly Yawkey’s reply.
            Another version of the purported DiMaggio-Williams deal has Tom Yawkey being the one who made the phone call.
             "Dan, I know it's very, very late, and I still want to make that trade we discussed. However, if you still want to make it you'll have to throw in that left-handed hitting outfielder. You know who I mean, that little odd-looking rookie."
            "I can't," Topping said. “We’re thinking of making him a catcher. I guess we’ll have to call off the deal."
So Joe DiMaggio remained a Yankee.
Ted Williams remained a member of the Red Sox.
And the little and awkward looking rookie remained with the Yankees and became a catcher. His name - Lawrence Peter Berra.


 “413”
                   The 1966 season and September 22nd proved to be sad metaphors for the sorry state of affairs for the New York Yankees. The whole week had a light schedule.

          PAUL DOHERTY: The only Yankee games scheduled for the week were Tuesday the 20th of September, a night game and Friday September 23rd. The Yankees closed out their home season that Sunday the 25th.
          Those who had tickets would get rain checks first for Wednesday (no go, rain) and then the Thursday. In effect, they would only be able to go to a week day game on the 22nd. Prior to this 9/22 makeup game the Yankees had lost 10 out of their previous 14 games. And Mickey Mantle was not playing either.  There were probably a number of people who assumed this game would not be made up at all.
 There was a strong possibility of rain on September 22. The entire metropolitan area was wet generally. The day before that game, 5.54 inches of rain fell on New York City – still a record for that day. So, maybe people just assumed that the field would be unplayable? The forecast for the day of the game had a chance of rain in it too.

          On September 22, 1966 just 413 showed at the Stadium, the smallest home crowd in the Yankee’s proud history. The last-place Yankees were downed, 4-1 by the White Sox. Broadcaster Red Barber ordered TV cameras to show the empty seats. As the story goes, that assertiveness by one of the greatest baseball announcers of all-time cost him job with the Yankees.
"I don't know,” Red Barber said, “what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium...and this crowd is the story, not the game." 

PAUL DOHERTY:  Making an issue of the 413 in the house was not the reason Barber was let go. Although Red still called a good game on radio, he was never a good TV announcer. By 1966 his vocal instrument wasn’t as supple as it had been in his Brooklyn heyday.  And Red was far too caught up in broadcast booth politics and egotism to function properly as the broadcast team’s leader. His Yankee fate was sealed no matter what happened at the low-attended game. By the end of 1966 Garagiola and Rizzuto wouldn’t work with Barber who just worked on-air with Jerry Coleman. Alas, at this stage of the game, Red was the haughty one. And it cost him his Yankee career. He never landed a regular play-by-play gig with a major league team again.
          And something rarely brought up. The next day’s game, 9/23 Friday against Boston, day game: 1,440 was the attendance. This game must also be among the lowest attended games ever. It was a breezy day, around 70 degrees. And Yom Kippur started at sundown this day.
        
                    “Yogi Bear”
Yogi Berra never was paid for the character Yogi Bear even though it was obviously named for him.



“Mickey Mantle’s Tape Measure Shot”
 According to Marty Appel: "Red (Patterson) never got hold of a tape measure; he walked it off with his size 11 shoes and estimated the distance."

“Centerfielders: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bernie Williams”         
The popular perception is that Joe DiMaggio was a Yankee centerfielder for 13 seasons, His tenure was actually for 12.5 seasons. In 1936 the Yankee Clipper started 54 times in center field. After that he made at least 113 starts almost every year for the remainder of his playing career aside from 1949. Injuries limited him to just 76 games. Service in WWII 1943-45 cut into his playing career.
        After DiMaggio retired, Mickey Mantle became the next longest serving center fielder. However, “the Mick” was not exclusively a centerfielder. In his rookie season of 1951 DiMaggio was still there. The Commerce Comet played 84 games in right field and three games in centerfield.  From 1952 for the next 15 seasons the Mick was fixture as the Yankee centerfielder.  In 1967, Mantle moved to first base for his final two seasons.
Bernie Williams was not the regular center fielder until 1993. He actually played from in 1991-1992, but that was part-time. The graceful Williams manned centerfield through the 2005. His 16th and final year as a Yankee in 2006, he splitting time between left field, center field and designated hitter.



                    Wally Pipp & the Aspirins
“"I took the two most expensive aspirins in history" has gone down in history as one of baseball’s most famous quotes.” It is untrue.
Technically Gehrig's streak began a day earlier when he pinch-hit. The next day he was positioned at first base and his long tenure began – 2,129 straight games. Back in those days a mild headache would never keep a player out of a game. They played on through pain and injury. That, in fact was what the Iron Horse had to do to set his record consecutive games played.

          About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.

PRE ORDER from AMAZON: 

http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html

On Uniform No. 0, the Yankees Rule Out Nothing - by Tyler Kepner

On Uniform No. 0, the Yankees Rule Out Nothing

May 13, 2017
Extra Bases
By TYLER KEPNER

When the Yankees officially retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on Sunday night, they will have no more single-digit numbers remaining to issue to their players. Or will they?
Every pinstriped die-hard knows the roster of previously retired single digits: Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Joe Torre (6), Mickey Mantle (7), Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey (8), Roger Maris (9). With Jeter, it’s now a complete set — depending on your viewpoint.

No Yankee has ever worn No. 0.
This seems in keeping with the Yankees’ austere image: no player names on the jerseys, no beards or long hair, no mascots frolicking around the stands. But there is no formal policy on wearing zero, said the equipment manager Rob Cucuzza, because no one has ever asked for it.

If someone did, Cucuzza said, he would probably ask Brian Cashman, the general manager, for guidance. Cashman said that while he would have to ask ownership about it, he would have no problem giving out zero, depending on the player.
“Always liked Al Oliver,” Cashman added.

Ah, yes — Al Oliver. A .303 hitter across 18 seasons, from 1968 to 1985, Oliver now goes by @Alscoop16 on Twitter, combining his first name, his nickname — he was a first baseman in later years — and the number he wore for the Pittsburgh Pirates. When they traded him to the Texas Rangers after the 1977 season, Oliver chose No. 0.
“All of a sudden, I was going to a new league, a new city,” Oliver said in a telephone interview. “Zero is a starting point, and I wanted to start all over again. A lot of people thought it was ‘O,’ for Oliver, which makes sense, too. But rather than it being an ‘O,’ it was zero.”
The word “zero” is rarely uttered in baseball, if you think about it. A 3-0 score is generally said to be “three to nothing.” A 3-0 count is “three-oh,” “three balls and no strikes” — or sometimes, if the broadcasters want to mix it up, “three and nothing.” A 4.05 earned run average is “four point oh five” — and so on.

Danny Ozark would have liked the idea of minimizing the zero. Ozark was Oliver’s manager with the San Francisco Giants in 1984 and had strong opinions about Oliver’s number. Or integer. Or whatever.

“What really cracked me up is that Danny Ozark always said, ‘Zero is not a number!’” Oliver said. “It was funny to hear guys debating about it.”

Zero, of course, is a stopping point between minus 1 and 1, and while it represents nothing, it is, in fact, something: a starting point, as Oliver insists. To him, choosing No. 1 for his fresh start would have defied logic.

“In my mind, if you start with nothing, then you have nothing,” Oliver said. “So that’s where zero came into play. If you don’t have any money, then you have no money. But if you have one — then you’ve got something, one cent, one dollar.”

Oliver thrived with his new number. He made two All-Star teams as a Ranger and two more as a Montreal Expo, and he won the National League batting title in 1982. Once he switched to 0, he said, he decided to wear it for the rest of his career, which he finished with the Toronto Blue Jays. A teammate there, Cliff Johnson, wore 00.

“I never paid attention to the public-address announcers, but somebody said when they were reading off the lineup card, it was ‘Al Oliver, wearing nothing, and Cliff Johnson, wearing double-nothing,’” Oliver said, laughing.

According to the Baseball Reference online database, Oliver was the first of 18 players to wear zero, including four this season: Yunel Escobar of the Los Angeles Angels, Terrance Gore of the Kansas City Royals, Adam Ottavino of the Colorado Rockies and Mallex Smith of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The N.F.L. and the N.H.L. do not allow players to wear zero, and 11 teams besides the Yankees have never had a No. 0. But enough have passed through the Bronx as visitors to present a challenge for Bob Sheppard, the Yankees’ longtime public-address voice.

Sheppard, the chairman of the speech department at John Adams High School in Queens and an adjunct professor of speech at St. John’s University, would announce players in a precise manner: “Number two, Derek Jeter, number two.” But he changed his delivery when a No. 0 appeared.

Paul Doherty, a friend and agent of Sheppard’s, shared an audio file of Sheppard announcing the Rangers’ lineup before opening day in 1981 at Yankee Stadium. Sheppard introduced Oliver this way: “The designated hitter, zero, Al Oliver.” It was his dignified way of denying that zero was a number.

Intentionally or not, the Yankees have done the same — making Jeter, at least for now, the last of his kind.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Moe Berg - Who Knew? A Baseball Player and an American Spy?

Who knew???



When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy Japan, in 1934, some fans wondered why a  third-string catcher named Moe Berg was included. Although he played with five major-league teams, from 1923 to 1939, he was a very mediocre ball player.  But Moe was regarded as the brainiest ballplayer of all time. In fact, Casey Stengel once said:  "That is the strangest man ever to play baseball".

When all the baseball stars went to Japan, Moe Berg went with them and many people wondered why he went with "the team"



The answer was simple: Moe Berg was a United States spy, working undercover with the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of today's CIA).

Moe spoke 15 languages - including Japanese.  And he had two loves: baseball and spying.



In Tokyo, garbed in a kimono, Berg took flowers to the daughter of an American diplomat being treated in St. Luke's Hospital - the tallest building in the Japanese capital.

He never delivered the flowers. The ball-player ascended to the hospital roof and filmed key features: the harbor, military installations, railway yards, etc.

Eight years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg's films in planning his spectacular raid on Tokyo.




His father disapproved and never once watched his son play. In Barringer High School, Moe learned Latin, Greek and French. Moe read at least 10 newspapers everyday.

He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton - having added   Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver. During further studies at the Sorbonne, in Paris, and Columbia Law School, he picked up Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian - 15 languages in all, plus some regional dialects.

While playing baseball for Princeton University, Moe Berg would describe plays in Latin or Sanskrit.



During World War II, Moe was parachuted into Yugoslavia to   assess the value to the war effort of the two groups of partisans there.  He reported back that   Marshall Tito's forces were widely supported by the people and Winston Churchill ordered all-out support   for the Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than Mihajlovic's Serbians.

The parachute jump at age 41 undoubtedly was a challenge. But   there was more to come in that same year. Berg penetrated German-held Norway, met with members of the   underground, and located a secret heavy-water plant - part of the Nazis' effort to build an atomic bomb.

His information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombing raid to destroy that plant.




There still remained the question of how far had the Nazis progressed in the race to build the first Atomic bomb.  If the Nazis were successful, they would win the war.  Berg  (under the code name "Remus") was sent to Switzerland to hear leading German physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Laureate, lecture and determine if the Nazis were close to building an A-bomb.  Moe managed to slip past the SS guards at the auditorium, posing as a Swiss graduate student.  The spy carried in his pocket a pistol and a cyanide pill.

If the German physicist indicated the Nazis were close to building a   weapon, Berg was to shoot him - and then swallow the cyanide pill.  Moe, sitting in the front row, determined that the Germans were nowhere near their goal, so he complimented Heisenberg on his speech and walked him back to his hotel.

Moe Berg's report was distributed to Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and key figures in the team developing the Atomic Bomb. Roosevelt responded: "Give my regards to the catcher.”

Most of Germany's leading physicists had been Jewish and had fled the Nazis mainly to Britain and the United States.  After the war, Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom - America 's   highest honor for a civilian in wartime. But Berg refused to accept it   because he couldn't tell people about his exploits.

After his death, his sister accepted the Medal. It now hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.




Moe Berg's baseball card is the only card on display at the CIA.


A movie about his story is expected to be released in 2018.  I can't wait to see it!

http://moebergfilm.org/



So now you know.