Thursday, September 14, 2017

REMEMBERING RED BARBER by Harvey Frommer

RED BARBER
Image result for red barber

“Red was perhaps the most literate sports announcer I ever met."-Vin Scully
In my early and middle years of writing sports book, I called on Red Barber to blurb them. He never failed. He along with Mel Allen those long ago summer  nights spun the tales of New York City Baseball and hooked me on one day writing books about the sport.  
Red Barber was one of my inspirations – listening to him spin the story of Brooklyn Dodger and then New York Yankee baseball, made me love, understand the game, and write about it. He always came through. I am in his debt.  
            This profile is for you “Red.”

Walter Lanier “Red” Barber passed away at the age of 84 from complications after emergency surgery on October 22, 1992. His 33-year career as a play-by-play broadcaster had many acts, most notably as the top man announcing Brooklyn Dodger baseball for 15 years and then as part of the Yankee team with Mel Allen for a dozen seasons.
The “Old Redhead,” the pride of Brooklyn, had his relationship with “Dem Bums” severed when he was fired or resigned in 1953. One story circulated was that Barber’s outlandish salary demands triggered his departure. Another was that he was too critical of the team at times in his calls. No matter.  

      The Yankees scooped him up quickly and paired him with Mel Allen.   The two men had contrasting styles but they worked well, even complemented each other even though their personalities, approaches, were very different. Allen was hot, and Barber was cool. Both would be the first broadcasters inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame's broadcasting wing.

            The new announcing job with the Yankees was quite a comedown for Barber after twenty years as the main man in Cincinnati and Brooklyn. The new announcing job with the Yankees was quite a comedown for Barber after twenty years as the main man in Cincinnati, 1934-1938. It was there that he introduced such folksy expression like “tearin' up the pea patch,” “Rhubarb (fight)” and “Catbird seat (being in charge.”

The main man on the Yankees and principal broadcaster was Mel Allen, the most famous sports announcer anywhere.  Barber’s role was pregame and postgame shows on televised home games, working a few innings of play-by-play. He traveled with the team occasionally. Despite the down-sizing, the soft-spoken southerner accepted his role.
“Mel,” Barber said, “accepted me as an equal, He could not have been nicer to me either then or all through the years we worked together.”

      When Barber joined the Yankees, many of the colorful expressions he had used broadcasting Dodgers games belonged mainly to the past: “Oh-ho, Doctor!” (Wow oh, wow!), the home run call - "Back, back, back, back, back, back." He was more restrained, more objective, highly accurate, even though he was no longer the “main man.”
        In 1966, the Yankees were owned by CBS and were a dismal last-place team. During a home game on Thursday, September 22, the first for CBS executive Mike Burke as team president, only 413 fans were scattered around the huge ball park. It was a makeup game against the White Sox that most thought would be rained out. The TV cameramen were under strict instructions from CBS media relations not to transmit images of foul balls into empty seats. Red Barber, truthful to a fault, described the scene on air. A week later, Red Barber was invited to a breakfast meeting. Burke snapped out the news the legendary announcer would not have his contract renewed for 1967. In the space of just a couple of seasons, two incredible baseball announcers were let go by the Yankees. It was a sad time for those who appreciated the great narratives of Yankee baseball they had provided.

PAUL DOHERTY: Mike Burke inherited the Red Barber situation, a situation made apparent long before this ill-attended game versus the White Sox. Dan Topping (who had just sold his interest in the Yankees completely to CBS) left it for Burke to deal with as Red’s option was coming due at the ’66 season’s end.
A non-renewal of Barber’s contract was also pushed by the head of broadcast for the Yankees, Perry Smith, a former NBC executive and a big Joe Garagiola backer (Joe Garagiola had joined the Yankees as Mel Allen’s replacement for the 1965 season). Red’s bitterness over former-athletes-as-announcers did him in, nothing else. His testiness on air with fellow broadcasters Garagiola and Phil Rizzuto won him no fans within the organization, let alone with his fellow announcers and Smith.

Nevertheless, the “Old Redhead” kept busy in the post-Yankee years, authoring seven books, many articles and reviews, serving as a voice in a few documentaries. In 1981, he joined National Public Radio’s Morning Edition as a regular commentator.
Walter Lanier Barber had quite a run broadcasting 13 World Series, 4 baseball All-Star Games, hosting so many other major sports events. He was there when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, when Roger Maris hit the 61st home in 1961, through all the marker events before and after those.
         RED BARBER: I worked day and night to learn my business and I respected it to the end. I didn’t win 20 games or hit .350, but I worked harder at my trade than any announcer I knew about.
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. 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

  Article is Copyright © 2017 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide

Monday, September 4, 2017

YANKEE MONIKERS & NICKNAMES - By Harvey Frommer

YANKEE MONIKERS & NICKNAMES
      C:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Desktop\yankees flash drive photos\LIBC\B Ruth bb card   lc.jpgC:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Desktop\yankees flash drive photos\LIBC\B Ruth bb card   lc.jpgC:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Desktop\yankees flash drive photos\LIBC\B Ruth bb card   lc.jpgC:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Desktop\yankees flash drive photos\LIBC\B Ruth bb card   lc.jpgC:\Users\Harvey Frommer\Desktop\yankees flash drive photos\LIBC\B Ruth bb card   lc.jpg
By Harvey Frommer         
A lot of things are not the way they used to be. And that is especially true in the world of sports. Baseball once held bragging rights to the best and most nicknames. And the Yankees led the pack in that regard.
For your edification and pleasure, a sampler of some of the of the more interesting nom de plumes, aliases, sobriquets, catch words - nicknames, all time, all ways for Yankees. These have run the gamut, from apt to asinine, from complimentary to crude, from hero worshipping to hellacious, from amusing to amazing.. 
Babe Ruth leads the pack in the number of nick-names attached to him.  Called "Babe" by teammates on the Baltimore Orioles, his first professional team because of his youth. Early on  he was also called “Infant Swatagy,” G.H.Ruth was also called "Jidge" by Yankee teammates, in German, short for George.
Opponents referred to him negatively as "The Big Monk" and "Monkey." He was also called "Two Head, a negative nick-name used by opponents to describe the size of his head which seemed very huge to some. They also called him a lot of unmentionables.
Sportswriters glamorizing the big guy came up with these monikers: “Home Run King,” "The Bambino", “Bammer,” “the Bam, ” "the Wali of Wallop", "the Rajah of Rap", "the Caliph of Clout", "the Wazir of Wham", "the Sultan of Swat",  "The Colossus of Clout,”  “Maharajah of Mash", "The Behemoth of Bust,” “Behemoth of Biff,” "The King of Clout" and the “Goliath of Grand Slams.”  
"The Babe" - George Herman Ruth leads off the list and pads it for most nick-names acquired. He called most players "Kid" because he couldn't remember the names of even his closest friends. 
            In spring training 1927, Babe Ruth bet pitcher Wilcy Moore $l00 that he would not get more than three hits all season. A notoriously weak hitter, Moore somehow managed six hits in 75 at bats.  Ruth paid off his debt and Moore purchased two mules for his farm naming them "Babe" and "Ruth."
            But enough of George Herman Ruth. Now onto the bon mots, aliases, expressions for all matter of Yankees:

A-Rod – Abbreviation for Alex Rodriguez.
“All American Out” – What Babe Ruth called Leo Durocher because of his limited hitting ability.
            “Almighty Tired Man” - Mickey Rivers, for his slouching demeanor
         "American Idle" - Carl Pavano was known as this because he could never stay on the field and stay healthy.
“An A-bomb from A-Rod” – classic home run call, John Sterling
     “It is high, it is far.  It is gone!  The Yankees win. Thuuuuuuuuh Yankees win!”   -  another classic home run call, John Sterling       "Battle of the Biltmore" - 1947 World Series celebration in Manhattan's Biltmore Hotel was a time and place where Larry MacPhail drunkenly fought with everyone ending his Yankee ownership time.
"Babe Ruth's Legs" - Sammy Byrd, employed as pinch runner for Ruth and "Bam-Bam" for Hensley Meulens, able to speak about five languages, but had a challenging name for some to pronounce.
        "Banty rooster" - Casey Stengel’s nickname for Whitey Ford because of his style and attitude.
           “Barrows” – Jacob Ruppert’s corruption of Ed Barrow’s name
"Billyball" - the aggressive style of play favored by Billy Martin.
"Biscuit Pants" - Lou Gehrig, reference to the way he filled out his trousers.
    "Blind Ryne" - Ryne Duren’s vision, uncorrected -20/70 and 20/200.
      "Bloody Angel" - During 1923 season the space between the bleachers and right-field foul line at Yankee Stadium was very asymmetrical causing crazy bounces. It was eliminated in 1924.
"Bob the Gob" - Bob Shawkey in 1918 served in the Navy as a yeoman petty officer. 
   "Boomer" - David Wells, for his in your face personality.
The “Boss” –George Steinbrenner and that he was. Reggie had actually labeled the owner "the big guy with the boats" long before he became the "The Boss"
"The Boston Massacre" - Red Sox collapse in 1978 and the Yankee sweep of a four game series in September.
"Broadway" - Shortstop Lyn Lary was married to Broadway star Mary Lawler.
"Bronx Bombers" - For the borough and home run power of Yankees.
            "Bronx Zoo" - A derogatory reference to off color Yankee behavior on and off the playing field through the years, especially in the 1970s.
   "Brooklyn Schoolboy" - Waite Hoyt had starred at Brooklyn’s Erasmus High School.
  “Bruiser” – Hank Bauer, for his burly ways
  "Bulldog" - Jim Bouton was dogged.
   "Bullet Bob" - Bob Turley, for the pop on his fastball.
            “Bullet Joe” – Joe Bush, for the pop he also could put on his fastball
         “Bye-Bye"- Steve Balboni, the primary DH of the 1990 Yankees, 17 homers but .192 BA.
"The Captain" - Derek Jeter - was such an icon that the Yankees have yet to name a new Captain one since his retirement.
          “Captain Clutch” - Derek Jeter, that he was
   "Chairman of the Board" - Elston Howard coined it for Whitey Ford and his commanding and take charge manner on the mound.
''Carnesville Plowboy'' - Spud Chandler, for his hometown of Carnesville,
           “The CAT-a-lyst" - Mickey Rivers, given this name by Howard Cosell. 
"Georgia Catfish" - James Augustus Hunter was his real name but the world knew him as “Catfish,” primarily because of Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley. Finley. Hunter ran away from home when he was a child, returning with two catfish. His parents called him Catfish for a while. Finley decided that Jim Hunter was too bland a name a star pitcher and revived Hunter's childhood nickname.
"Columbia Lou" - Lou Gehrig, for his collegiate roots.
.          "Commerce Comet" - Mickey Mantle, for his speed and being out of Commerce, Oklahoma.
“The Colonel” - Jerry Coleman saw combat in both World War II and the Korean War, As a Marine Corps aviator, he flew 120 combat missions and earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
It was also a nickname for pitching coach Jim Turner who came from the south and used by Jim Bouton in Ball Four in a derogatory fashion.
"The Count" - Sparky Lyle, handlebar mustache and lordly ways
  "The Count" – John Montefusco, because his name reminded people of the Count of Monte Crisco. 
“Core Four” Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada were all drafted or signed as amateurs by the Yankees in the early 1990s. After playing in the minors together they made their debuts in 1995. With the four as a nucleus, the Yanks in the next 17 seasons missed the playoffs only twice, played in the World Series seven times, won five world championships.
"The Crow" - Frank Crosetti loud voice and chirpy ways.
 "Curse of the Bambino" - Since 1920 and the selling of Babe Ruth to the Yankees by Boston owner Harry Frazee in 1920, the Yankees have won all those championships. The Red Sox have won a few.
"Daddy Longlegs" - Dave Winfield, for his size and long legs.
         "Danish Viking" - George Pipgras, for his size and roots
"Deacon" - Everett Scott, for his not too friendly look.
  "Death Valley" - the old deep centerfield in Yankee Stadium.
  "Dial-a-Deal - Gabe Paul, for his telephone trading habits.
"Donnie Baseball" - Don Mattingly’s nickname. Some say it was coined by Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay; others say it came from Kirby Puckett. Kay takes the credit; Mattingly gives the credit to Puckett.
"Ellie"   - Affectionate abbreviation of Elston Howard's first name     
  "El Duquecito" – Adrian Hernandez because of a pitching style similar to Orlando "El Duque."
 "Father of the Emory Ball" - Rookie right-hander Russ Ford posted a 26-6 record with 8 shutouts, 1910, using that pitch.
  “Figgy” – Ed Figueroa, short for his surname which was tough, for some, to pronounce
"Five O'clock Lightning" - At five o'clock the blowing of a whistle at a factory near Yankee Stadium signaled the end of the work day in the 1930s and also the power the Yankees were unleashing against opponents on the Yankee Stadium playing field.  
          “Fireman" - Johnny Murphy, the first to have this nick-name was the first great relief pitcher. Joe Page picked up this nick-name for his top relief work later on.              
            “Flash" - Joe Gordon was fast, slick fielding and hit line drives.
“Flop Ears” - Julie Wera. Was dubbed that by Babe Ruth. A backup infielder, Wera earned $2400, least on the ‘27 Yankees
Yankees,"Fordham Johnny" - for the college Johnny Murphy attended.
“Four hour manager" - Bucky Harris, who put his time in at the game and was finished.
"Friday Night Massacre" - April 26, 1974, Yankees Fritz Patterson, Steve Kline, Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, and half the pitching staff were traded to Cleveland for Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, and Ceil Upshaw.
            "Gator" - Ron Guidry, for his hailing from Louisiana alligator country.
            "Gay Caballero" - Lefty Gomez, for his Mexican roots and fun loving ways.
            "Gay Reliever" -   Joe Page, for his night owl activity.
  “Gehrigville" – The old Bleachers in right-center at Yankee Stadium.
            "The Godfather" - Joe Torre, for his Italian roots and his leadership skills on the baseball field.
            “Godzilla” - Hideki Matsui, his power earned him the moniker after the power- packed film creature.
            "Goofy" or "El Goofo" - Lefty Gomez, for his wild antics
"Gooneybird" - Don Larsen, for his late-night behavior.
            "Goose" – Richard Michael Gossage, for his loose and lively style.           
           "Grandma" - Johnny Murphy, for his pitching motion, rocking chair style. Another explanation is that fellow Yankee Pat Malone gave him the name because of his complaining nature especially as regards food and lodgings.
"The Great Agitator" - Billy Martin, self-explanatory.
           "The Great Debater" – Tommy Henrich, for his sometimes loquacious and argumentative ways.
"Happy Jack" - Jack Chesbro, for his time as an attendant at the state mental hospital in Middletown, New York where he pitched for the hospital team and showed off a very pleasant disposition.
"Holy Cow" - One of Phil Rizzuto's ways of expressing awe
"Home Run Twins" (also “M & M Boys”) - Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, phrase coined in 1961.
"Horse Nose" - Pat Collins via Babe Ruth, a reference to a facial feature
"Iron Horse" - Lou Gehrig, for his power and steadiness.
"Joltin' Joe" - Joe DiMaggio, for the jolting shots he hit
"Jumping Joe" - Joe Dugan, for being AWOL from his first big league club as a youngster
"Junk Man" - Eddie Lopat, for frustrating hitters and keeping them off stride with an assortment of slow breaking pitches thrown with cunning and accuracy
"Kentucky Colonel" - Earl Combs, for his Kentucky roots
"The King and the Crown Prince" - Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, self-evident
Some of the material in this piece 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.