Willie Mays was a total jerk to Hank Aaron

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Aaron Mays.jpgAnyone who knows a bit about Willie Mays and Hank Aaron knows that they are totally different, temperamentally-speaking.  Mays is city, Aaron country. Mays has always been a larger than life personality, Aaron a still-waters-run-deep kind of guy.  It extended to their playing styles and, though time and age have softened the distinctions between them in the eyes of the public, still persists to this day.

But until Howard Bryant’s soon-to-be-published Hank Aaron book was written — and excerpted by Allen Barra in the Village Voice — we had no idea just how acrimonious their relationship really was, and likely still is:

Bryant cites a first-hand account from 1957, a United Press/Movietone
News reporter named Reese Schoenfeld, that Mays ragged on Aaron from the
sidelines while Henry was being interviewed in front of a TV camera:
“How much they paying you, Hank? They ain’t payin’ you at all, Hank?
Don’t you know we all get paid for this? You ruin it for the rest of us,
Hank! You just fall off the turnip truck?”

While Aaron became more and more agitated, Mays laid it on thick: “You
showin’ ’em how you swing? We get paid three to four hundred dollars for
this. You one dumb ni—-!”

According to Bryant, “Henry’s reaction for the next fifty years — to
diffuse, while not forgetting, the original offense — would be
consistent with the shrewd but stern way Henry Aaron dealt with
uncomfortable issues. The world did not need to know Henry’s feelings
towards Mays, but Henry was not fooled by his adversary. Mays committed
one of the great offenses against a person as proud as Henry: he
insulted him, embarrassed him in front of other people, and did not
treat him with respect.”

And it wasn’t just that incident. According to Bryant, Mays was frequently dismissive of Aaron and his accomplishments, was obviously resentful that it was Hank — and not Mays — who beat the Babe, and since then has acted as though the two of them were close when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mays is often referred to as the best all-around baseball player in baseball history.  He may be.  But if what Bryant says is true about the manner in which he treated Aaron (and presumably everyone else he considered a rival for the spotlight) he is also one of baseball’s biggest all-around jerks.

Bryant’s Aaron book will be released next week. Sounds like one I’m definitely going to want to read.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.