Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Rivalry: Yanks vs Red Sox - By Harvey Frommer

The Rivalry: Yanks vs Red Sox
By Harvey Frommer                    
C:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Desktop\yankees flash drive photos\ruth talks with youngsters 05_02_010507_1933 BPL.jpg
Babe Ruth at Fenway
Back then, as the story goes, there was a get-together in the woods. A  Red Sox fan, a Cub fan and a Pirate fan were there. They all wondered when their team would make it to the World Series again and decided to call on God for advice.
The Cub fan asked first: “When will my team return to the World Series?”                                                                                 
And God replied: “Not in your lifetime.”                                                                                         
The fan of the Pirates popped the same question.
And God replied: “Not in your children’s lifetime.”                                                                                                                      
The Red Sox fan, who had listened quietly, finally worked up the nerve to ask:
“When will my beloved Red Sox return to the World Series?”  
God thought for a moment and then answered: “Not in My lifetime.”                                                                                          
        But that answer was incorrect. As all of us know, the guys from Fenway broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.  For six straight seasons through 2003, the Sox finished second to the hated New York Yankees, a combined total of 58 ½ games behind. So it was a big deal for the BoSox to show up their rivals from the Big Apple.
Nowadays, the tables seemed to have turned and favor the Sox in a bitter rivalry that goes back to the first time the teams met on May 7, 1903 at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston.
    They weren't the Yankees and Red Sox then. They had more geographically correct names: the Highlanders who played on the heights of Manhattan; and the Pilgrims – a nod to their New England heritage.
      The competition has always been much more than a baseball team representing Boston going against a baseball team representing New York.  It is a match-up between the provincial capital of New England and the mega-municipality of New York competing
The New York Yankees are the sizzle and the steak, the glamour and the glitz, the most successful franchise in baseball history, perhaps in all sports history.  Through the years, winning has been as much a part of Yankee baseball as their monuments and plaques, as much as the pinstriped uniforms, the iconic intertwined “N” and “Y” on the baseball caps.                   
The rivalry is the Babe and Bucky and Butch and Boo. It is Carl Yastrzemski trotting out to left field at Fenway Park after failing at the plate against the Yankees, cotton sticking out of his ears to muffle the noise of Sox fans. The rivalry is Mickey Mantle slugging a 440-foot double at Yankee Stadium then tipping his cap to the Red Sox bench.
It is Carlton Fisk's headaches from the tension he felt coming into Yankee Stadium. The rivalry is Ted Williams spitting, Reggie Jackson jabbering, Luis Tiant hurling for New York and Boston and smoking those fat Cuban cigars.  It is the Yankees' Mickey Rivers leaping away from an exploding firecracker thrown into the visitors' dugout at Fenway.
It is the Scooter, the Green Monster, and the Hawk, Yaz and the Commerce Comet, Mombo and King Kong. It is Joe Dee versus the Thumper. It is Roger Maris hitting number 61 off Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard, breaking the Babe’s record.
It's Ted Williams spitting, Reggie Jackson gesturing, Billy Martin punching, Roger Clemens throwing inside.
The rivalry has been characterized by some of baseball's craziest moments. Incidents, anger, rage, occasionally violence, all have been there through all the long decades. Sometimes it has been triggered by personality clashes. At other times the trigger has simply been the "Blood Feud."
The Yankees of New York versus the Red Sox of Boston is the greatest, grandest, strongest, longest-lasting rivalry in baseball history – a competition of images, teams, cities, styles, ballparks, fans, media, culture, dreams, and bragging rights.
  What happened on January 9, 1920, “Harry Frazee’s Crime,” supercharged the rivalry and changed the course of baseball history. At a morning press conference an elated Jake Ruppert announced: “Gentlemen, we have just bought Babe Ruth from Harry Frazee of the Boston Red Sox. I can’t give exact figures, but it was a pretty check – six figures. No players are involved. It was strictly a cash deal.”
Since that “cash deal” all sorts of Red Sox misfortunes followed. Just a few include: losing Game 7 of the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986 (the ball dribbling through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6); being done in by the Aaron Boone eleventh inning home run on October 17, 2003 that gave the Yankees a stunning 6-5 come-from-behind triumph over the Bostons just five outs away from winning the American League championship.
And the wind-blown homer that forever made the guy who hit it always remembered in New England as "Bucky F_____g Dent and adding another pennant playoff loss to one suffered through in 1948; Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer, age 72, going at it and the Yankee coach tumbling end-over-end a few times, and more.  
MIKE STANLEY: Regardless of where either team is in the standings, people mark off the Yankee-Red Sox playing dates on their calendars,
        It's the Charles River versus the East River, Boston Common against Central Park, the Green Monster versus the Monuments, Red Sox Rule versus Yankees Suck, WFAN versus WEEI, the New York Daily News matched up against the Boston Herald.
 It’s "I LOVE NEW YORK, TOO - IT'S THE YANKEES I HATE" versus  “BOSTON CHOKES. BOSTON SUCKS. BOSTON DOES IT IN STYLE.
Part of the rivalry is the glaring contrast in the images of the teams. The New York Yankees are the glitz and glitter that comes with being the most successful franchise in baseball history. The Bronx Bombers boast an “A” list legacy that includes: Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, Mariano Rivera, Phil Rizzuto, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth...
      Through the years, winning has been as much a part of Yankee baseball as the monuments and plaques in deep center field, as much as the pinstriped uniforms, the iconic intertwined “N” and “Y” on the baseball caps.                    
The Sox have had also had their share of stars like Cy Young, Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Mel Parnell, Johnny Pesky, Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, Dwight Evans, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs (he also played for the Yankees) Babe Ruth (also a Yankee), Roger Clemens (same), Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez,  Nomar Garciaparra, Big Papi.
MEL PARNELL: The Red Sox Yankee rivalry was one of the most unique things in baseball history, especially in my time. We were criticized as being a country club ball club being pampered by Mr. Yawkey, our owner. The differences in our ball clubs, Yankees and Red Sox, were that we were probably a step slower than the Yankees. They also had more depth.      
LOU PINIELLA: I was always aware of the mix at Fenway Park. There was always a lot of excitement in that small park that made it special. You might have 20,000 Red Sox fans at Fenway and 15,000 Yankee fans. Their rivalry helped our rivalry. It excited the players who had to respond to it.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS: (former governor of Massachusetts and 1988 presidential nominee): The games between the Yankees and Red Sox are always intense. I get a sense that the players feel it too. No matter who they are, or where they come from, how long or little they’ve been with the team, there’s something about those series.
This weekend another series, another match up. Times change. Rosters change. The rivalry continues.
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About Harvey Frommer:  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.


His ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK debuts this fall. PRE ORDER from AMAZON: http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html .

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dog Days at Fenway Park - By Harvey Frommer

Dog Days at Fenway Park
By Harvey Frommer


C:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Pictures\fenway pix\red sox-ivins\60s\60s nunsday rsox067.jpg
With the crowds having fun at the hub in Boston, with the team gearing up to go deep this October, with a roster loaded with talent and more on the way, a flashback to Sox in the Sixties is almost like culture shock.  
September 28th, 1960, Red Sox vs. Orioles.  Overcast, dank, chilly the final day of the final home stand of the 1960 season. Only 10,454 showed up.  The game was not televised locally or nationally. “You Made Me Love You,” playing over the loudspeaker, created a melancholy  mood.
FRANK MALZONE:  I wish there was more people there.  They didn’t realize, you know.  
Curt Gowdy, Red Sox radio and television voice, began the spare ceremony: ''Twenty-one years ago, a skinny kid from San Diego, California…”' Boston Mayor Collins, seated in a wheelchair, presented a $1,000 check to the Jimmy Fund, the favorite charity of Ted Williams, 42, who was given a plaque by the local sports committee. The inscription was not fully read. Williams hated a fuss. 
He even was annoyed by the news announced to the crowd that his uniform number, 9, would be permanently retired. It was  the first time the team ever honored a player that way.
Williams said over the loudspeaker: ''In spite of all the terrible things that have been said about me by the knights of the keyboard up there ... and they were terrible things, 'I'd like to forget them, but I can't…. I want to say that my years in Boston have been the greatest thing in my life.''
FRANK MALZONE: Ted hit two balls good, the first one got into the wind in the right field corner and was pulled back and caught by the right fielder, the next one the center fielder caught.
CURT GOWDY (Game Call) "Everybody quiet now here at Fenway Park after they gave him a standing ovation of two minutes knowing that this is probably his last time at bat. One out, nobody on.
BOB KEANEY: Ted dug in, wiggled his fanny, and glared at pitcher Jack Fisher. Everyone stopped breathing. Ted swung as hard as he could, but he missed the fat pitch and nearly sprained his arms.    Some dreamers said later that Ted missed on purpose, so that Fisher would be fooled into throwing that fast ball again.
CURT GOWDY (Game Call)  Jack Fisher into his windup, here's the pitch. Williams swings -- and there's a long drive to deep right! The ball is going and it is gone! A home run for Ted Williams in his last time at bat in the major leagues!"
JERRY CASALE:  I was in the bullpen with  Bill Monbouquette and Mike Fornieles and others. We were all  up front looking over the railing.  The ball went over our heads.
  Williams circled the bases as he always did, in a hurry, with his head down trotting out Number 521, his final homer. The crowd stood and cheered the man and the moment.
BROOKS ROBINSON:  I was playing third base.   He went running around the bases, and I looked at him as he passed second base. I had my arms folded as he passed me. That was absolutely a magical moment to be a part of that history.
STEVE RYDER: He had that regal trot around the bases.  Didn’t tip his cap, didn’t look at the stands, just right into the dugout.
The inning ended and Williams went out to play left field in the the top of the ninth. Just before the inning began Carroll Hardy replaced him. “The Kid” ran in. The crowd had one more standing ovation in it.
“We want Ted. We want Ted!" The fans chanted. But he refused to come out for a curtain call. Later it was reported that players and umpires tried to get him to come out. No dice.
FRANK SULLIVAN:  We all wanted him to stop and at least take his cap off but that sonofabitch, he just ran into the dugout.  He didn’t stay around or let us say anything.    You know that was the way that Ted was.  He went down the dugout steps straight into the tunnel. That was it, aloha.  We didn’t know that that was his last game but we all suspected it.  We were out of contention, so he wasn’t robbing the team.  It was just Ted was Ted.
In My Turn at Bat, Williams wrote: "You can't imagine the warm feeling I had, for the very fact that I had done what every ballplayer would want to do on his last time up, having wanted to do it so badly, and knowing how the fans really felt, how happy they were for me. Maybe I should have let them know I knew, but I couldn't. It just wouldn't have been me."
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About Harvey Frommer:  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.
 His ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK debuts this fall. PRE ORDER from AMAZON: http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html .

“As a lifelong Yankees fan, I was devouring every last delicious new detail about my beloved Bronx Bombers in this fabulous new book.” —Ed Henry, author of 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How Murderers' Row Shaped Baseball - BY HARVEY FROMMER

How Murderers' Row Shaped Baseball
                                    BY HARVEY FROMMER


When Yankee owner Colonel Ruppert's "Rough Riders," as some called them in the late 1920s, were not going head to head against their American League competition, they were playing exhibition games in Buffalo, Omaha, Rochester, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis... 
Everyone in the little cities and small towns wanted to catch a glimpse of the Babe, Lou and the others. Wherever the Yankees went, there were always packed ballparks and playing fields. The team was a magnet, a syncopated jazz band playing a baseball song with the Babe leading, striking up the band with his home run baton, his bat. Whole towns came out early and they stayed late studying the moves of "the Colossus of baseball," how he walked, how he ran, how he swung a bat, how he caught and threw a baseball, how he joked and wrestled with kids in the fields of play, how many different kinds of home runs he hit. Demand for the Yankees came from all over.  Murderers' Row even played exhibition games in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, National League cities.
In Omaha, Nebraska, the King of Clouts, Ruth, and his protégé the "Prince of Pounders," Gehrig seemed genuinely happy to make the acquaintance of one "Lady Amco" who was known as the "Babe Ruth of chickens."  She was a world champ at laying eggs. The morning the Babe and the Buster met her she produced on cue, laying an egg for the 171st straight day. In Indianapolis, the Sultan of Swat failed to homer or even swat the ball out of the infield in his first three times at bats.
Each time the smattering of boos and heckling became louder, all good natured, of course. According to reports, Ruth in his fourth at bat tagged the ball, and it leaped over the fence in right field into the street bouncing into box cars in a nearby freight yard. That was the story.
And its punch line: "I guess I did show those people something, make fun of me, will they," the Big Bam boomed going into the dugout. In a dilapidated park in Ft. Wayne, Indiana before 35,000 against the Lincoln Lifes, a semi-pro team, the scene was all too familiar. Hundreds of kids screamed, ached to ogle, to get an autograph or just to be close to George Herman Ruth, their idol.
The Bambino, to save his legs, played first base, as was his custom many times during those exhibition games.  Gehrig played right field. Going into the tenth inning, the score was tied, 3-3. Mike Gazella was on first base when Ruth stepped into the batter's box. Always the showman, signaling to the crowd that they might as well start going home, the Big Bam poked the ball over the right field fence giving the Yankees a 5-3 win. Hundreds of boys who had been relatively controlled and contained mobbed their idol as he crossed home plate. It took quite a while before Ruth and the Yankees could clear out of the park.
Wherever the exhibition games were staged, overflow crowds sat in the outfield watching the action. Attendance records were broken. Mobs cheered. They roared and howled and jumped to their feet, marveling at the power and magic of the mighty Yankees and especially George Herman Ruth. "God, we liked that big son of a bitch. He was a constant source of joy, Waite Hoyt said. "I've seen them kids, men, women, worshipers all, hoping to get his name on a torn, dirty piece of paper, or hoping for a grunt of recognition when they said, 'Hi-ya, Babe.'
He never let them down; not once. He was the greatest crowd pleaser of them all." In a game played at Sing-Sing, New York against the prison team, Ruth slugged a batting practice home run over the right field wall and then another over the center field wall. "I'd love to be riding out of here on those balls," one of the prisoners joked.  During the game the Sultan of Swat turned to the crowd of cons in the stands and bellowed in that big booming baritone voice of his:  "What time is it?"  Many of the cons shouted back the answer.  "What difference does it make?" the showman Ruth yelled. "You guys ain't going anyplace, any time soon."
The Yankees were going anyplace they could play baseball. On May 26 they were at West Point. Entering the Mess Hall at noon to dine with the Cadets for lunch, the team from the Bronx received a standing and enthusiastic ovation from the 1,200 West Pointers. Before the baseball exhibition game began at West Stadium, "Jidge" Ruth presented members of the Army nine with autographed baseballs and a specially autographed baseball to the leading ball player of each of the twelve companies.   
The Yankees used virtually their regular lineup except that Ruth and Gehrig switched places in the field. Earle Combs walked to start the game. Mark Koenig singled. Babe Ruth was struck out by Army pitcher Tim Timberlake and that got a mighty rise from the Cadets.
James Harrison later described the scene in The New York Times:  "'Aw, he didn't try to hit the ball,' said one of the cadets.  'He was just trying to make us feel good.' " However, the truth of the matter was that the Big Bam was so eager to hit a homer for the Hudson folks that he went after bad balls which he couldn't have reached on a stepladder.
No matter. A good time was being had by all until lightning, thunder and a soaking rain brought the festivities to a quick conclusion after just two innings. The Yanks, as usual, won another, 2-0. It was said that the Babe got a big kick playing in exhibition games. It was said that he liked that time to show off his skills, play without pressure, and have fun. That was what was said.  But there was also the unpublicized financial benefit. At the beginning of his participation in exhibitions gigs, Ruth received 10 percent of the gate receipts. That arrangement ballooned later to a guaranteed $2,500 against 15 percent of gate receipts.
Just how many became fans of the Yankees after attending those exhibition games cannot be measured. Just how many heard about the dramatic doings of the team and became lifelong fans of the team that were calling "Murderers' Row" is also beyond calculation.
The author’s THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK  debuts this fall. PRE ORDER from AMAZON: http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html .
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About Harvey Frommer:  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 honored by the City of New York to serve as 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. He’s also the founder of HarveyFrommerSports.com.

Friday, July 28, 2017

REMEMBERING MEL ALLEN By Harvey Frommer

  REMEMBERING MEL ALLEN
              By Harvey Frommer

Image result for mel allen wikipedia


   I had the very good fortune in 1990 to visit the legendary Mel Allen at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut. I was there to collect memorabilia for the “Stars of David: Jews in Sports” exhibit that I was the curator and executive producer for at the Klutznik Museum in Washington, D.C.
My wife Myrna came along with me. Mel had his sister Esther at the ready. I had driven out from Long Island in my Toyota Celica. The thinking was that I would spend a few hours, collect whatever Mel Allen offered and go back home. It would up as a virtually an all-day affair. My car was too small and the time was all too brief.
I was a so impressed with the warmth and the kindness and intelligence of Mel Allen. His hospitality and that of his sister -food and beverages – was a kindly gesture to strangers in their midst. Growing up in Brooklyn, his was the “voice” I had listened to those long ago summer days and nights that so splendidly spun the tales of New York Yankee baseball. It was the pleasing southern voice that got me interested in writing about sports, especially baseball, especially the Yankees.   
            At the top of his game as a broadcaster, Mel Allen received in excess of a thousand letters a week.  The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he born in Johns, Alabama, near Birmingham on Feb. 14, 1913. He enrolled at the University of Alabama at age 15, went on to earn degrees in political science and law and passed the bar.  

And he joked “I took a class with the great football coach Bear Bryant and earned all A’s. I was absent all the time.”
      Remaining close to home working as a speech instructor, covering football for a radio station in Birmingham, in 1936, Allen went to New York City with friends for a Christmas time break and on impulse stopped at CBS for an audition. By 1939, he was announcing home games for the network of the New York Giants and New York Yankees. By 1940, he held forth as the main voice on radio, then TV for the Yankees. His incredible time in the Yankee booth started in the sad days of the end of Lou Gehrig and ended in the final sad days the Yankee Empire of the 1960s. If you were a fan of the Yankees, chances were you loved him. Chance are that if you were anti-Yankee, you were anti-Allen.

EDDIE LOPAT: He was accused of being prejudiced for the Yankees. One year we won thirty-nine games in the seventh, eighth and ninth. He had to get riled up.
      JERRY COLEMAN: I worked with Mel Allen was the personification of the great broadcast voice. He was magnificent in what he did and how he did it. And he could talk forever.
The articulate and enthusiastic Mel Allen brought the game to millions in a cultivated, resonant voice. He began broadcasts with "Hello, everybody, this is Mel Allen!" He created nick-names: "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio, "Scooter" for Phil Rizzuto, "Old Reliable" for Tommy Henrich,
Allen’s signature phrase "How about that!" originated in 1949, when Joe DiMaggio slammed three home runs in three games coming back from a severe heel injury. Each DiMaggio home run call was punctuated by Allen with "How about that!" "Going Going, Gone!" was Allen’s trademark call for a homer and a description of a four bagger as "Ballantine Blasts" and "White Owl Wallops" was a nod to sponsors.   


MONTE IRVIN: Mel Allen had that golden voice. We thought he used to root more than anybody. Red Barber did less rooting. Mel was strictly a homer, but he was a truly fine announcer.
         Allen’s resume highlighted his announcing 20 World Series and 24 All-Star Games, being there for nearly every major Yankees event. Suddenly, strangely, when the 1964 season ended, the great “Voice of the Yankees” was let go.
       MEL ALLEN: They never even held a press conference to announce my leaving. They left people to believe whatever they wanted -- and people believed the worst.            
       RED BARBER: He gave the Yankees his life and they broke his heart.
Pained, angered, confused, Mel Allen moved into the shadows for a time, disappeared from public view and consciousness. He broadcast Cleveland Indians games in 1968, called 40 Yankees' broadcasts annually for several years on SportsChannel. He had a long run from 1977 on as the voice of "This Week in Baseball." He became the host of the MSG Network program "Yankees Magazine" in 1986.     

 It was George Steinbrenner who is generally credited with bringing him back into the Yankee family, hiring Allen to do games on cable TV and emcee special events at Yankee Stadium. "The minute I bought the Yankees,” Steinbrenner said, “I wanted to know where Mel Allen was and I immediately brought him back to the organization.”
PAUL DOHERTY: Mel’s return to the Yankees organization actually occurred six years before George’s arrival in January 1973. His first return to the Yankees was to call the Old Timers Day Game on the field at the Stadium in 1967.  After the return, Mel came back the Stadium to do the play by play on field for most all of the Old Timers Day games for next two decades. He also received a nice pat on the back from the Yankees brass when they had him call Mickey Mantle from the dugout on Mantle Day, June 9, 1969. So his exile from the Yankees didn’t last very long.

The long broadcasting run of Mel Israel Allen came to an end on June 16, 1996. The “Voice of the Yankees” was finally stilled. He passed away at his Greenwich, Connecticut home. The heart trouble that had afflicted him for several years was the cause of death. Fittingly, the 83-year old Mel Allen had just finished watching a Yankee game on television.  
The above profile is excerpted from the author’s THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK which debuts this fall. PRE ORDER from AMAZON: http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html .


About Harvey Frommer:  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 honored by the City of New York to serve as 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.