And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

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Markakis swing.jpgOrioles 4, Red Sox 3: Juan Samuel gets his first win as the O’s manager
and the O’s get their first win in ten games. Nick Markakis breaks an
0-14 slump with the game-winning RBI single in the 11th. According to
the game story, they were doing the shaving cream pie in the face thing
in the clubhouse after the game. Really Baltimore? I’m not saying we
always did it right back in the day, but if my Babe Ruth league coach
caught us celebrating like that after one win in the middle of a crap
stretch we’d be running in the outfield for the next six hours.

Brewers 4, Cardinals 3: Manny Parra strikes out ten Redbirds, including
four in one inning. He didn’t get the win, though, Zach Braddock did.
Note: “Zach Braddock” is not the secret identity of a teenage super
hero, no matter how much it sounds like it is. It’s merely the name of a
pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers. As far as you know.  Anyway, the
point is, Braddock did not get a pie in the face as a celebration. He
got a beer shower, which is a far better way of celebrating baseball
accomplishments. Especially in a game between teams from Milwaukee and
St. Louis.

Rockies
3, Diamondbacks 2
: Ubaldo shut the Dbacks down through seven, but
was obviously out of gas to start the eighth giving up a double, a
dinger and a walk before being lifted. His scoreless innings streak
ended at 33 and his ERA shoots way the hell up to 0.93, so like, I guess
he’s some kind of scrub now or something.

Angels 9, Mariners 4: Mike Napoli had four hits including a two-run homer as the Halos sweep the M’s, outscoring them 27-7 in the series. Anaheim’s fifth straight win overall. Ron Roenicke was the acting manager because Mike Scioscia was attending his daughter’s high school graduation. I think that was just a cover story, though. Because as everyone know, Roenicke went 4-0, sweeping these same Seattle Mariners, as a fill-in skipper when Scioscia was suspended for four games back in 2006. So, yeah, Roenicke is a Mariners-killer.

Astros 6, Cubs 3: After dropping five out of six, Chicago now has to fly to Pittsburgh for a makeup game tomorrow and then right on to Milwaukee for a series against the Brewers. There they go, playin’ the star again. There they go, turn the page.

Athletics 5, Twins 4: Oakland avoids the sweep behind Gio Gonzalez’ seven strong innings. Game story: It was Little League day, and “Some 275 Little Leaguers from [Dallas] Braden’s hometown of Stockton attended.”  Given that they’re from the 209, I’m guessing they’re the toughest and most tattooed bunch of 12 year-olds west of the Mississippi.

Giants 6, Pirates 5: Brian Wilson blows the save and gets the win, which is a scoring decision that would be utterly impossible if I ruled baseball. Lincecum still struggled with his control, but not as badly as his last couple of starts, walking only two this time out.

Rays 9, Rangers 5: A game that lasted over four hours and, according to Joe Maddon and the Rays who complained about it, the heat was something fierce. Seems like it’s always hot down there, no matter when you come. It’s the kind of heat that holds you like a mama holds her son. Tight when he tries to walk, even tighter if he runs.

Royals 7, Tigers 2:  Brian Bannister is great in day games and great against the Tigers, so this one was no surprise. Next up: the 1935 Yankees are going to trade for him and see if they can’t steal that pennant from Detroit. Game aside: I totally need this shirt, don’t I?  Yeah, I thought so. See honey! They don’t think $35 is too much for a t-shirt, so you should let me buy it!

Reds 5, Nationals 4: We’ll all remember where we were the first time Stephen Strasburg charted pitches in the Major Leagues. Matt Capps blew his third save in four chances.  Note: ever since Capps met my friend Megan at that charity ball last month, his ERA has gone from 0.98 to 3.62. Watch out, boys, she’ll chew you up.

White Sox 8, Indians 7: The Chisox rally from down 6-2 to salvage one against the Tribe. Mark Buehrle continues to struggle, as he needed 95 pitches just to get out of the third inning. He has struggled since the end of last year, really. The lesson here: Armando Galarraga was very lucky not to have thrown that perfect game. It’s the kiss of death, brother.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: All hail Javy Vazquez. The man who was booed gave up one hit and two runs in seven innings against a team that has knocked the cover off the ball this year. That’s two outstanding starts in a row for Javy. Of course the last one was against Baltimore, so weigh that however you’d like.

Mets 7, Marlins 6: The Mets were down 5-0 in the sixth before asploding. Jeffy Francouer’s three-run bomb in the seventh tied it up and Ike Davis hitting into a double play — but plating a run all the same — drove in the game-winner. The Marlins now get Mike Stanton, by the way, and he hits ten homers a game so this losing with a mere six runs thing is officially now a thing of the past.

Padres
6, Phillies 5
: The Padres took the lead in the 10th. The
Phillies tried to rally in the bottom of the inning, with Placido
Polanco reaching on a walk. Chase Utley was up next and he singled to
center, but Tony
Gwynn Jr. nailed Polanco trying to make it to third
. Sweet play, as
the ball was softly hit and Gwynn never got a chance to plant and throw.

Dodgers
5, Braves 4
: The Braves took a 4-1 lead but then squandered both it
and many other opportunities to with the game. In more uplifting news,
the Dodgers made it Jose Lima tribute day, having his son throw out the
first pitch and playing video of Lima singing the National Anthem and
“God Bless America.”

Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame election validates a child’s baseball memories

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — My great uncle Harry was a boat salesman in Detroit. He had some Tigers front office types as clients so he got a lot of free tickets to Tigers games. and he’d use them to take my brother and me to Tiger Stadium several times a year. We were always right behind home plate.

My parents tell me that I went to my first game in Tiger Stadium on the Fourth of July, 1978. I was too young to remember a thing about that one. The first one I do remember was June 17, 1979. A few years ago I tracked down the box score for that game on Baseball-Reference.com to get all of the details, but before I knew all of the specifics I remembered the important details: it was a day game against the California Angels and Alan Trammell hit a home run. He instantly became my favorite player. I was not quite six years old.

Like any other kid who has a favorite player, I obsessed over him. I collected every one of his baseball cards. I looked for his name in every box score. When I played Little League I begged the coach to let me play shortstop even though I had no business playing shortstop (the coach did let me wear number 3 at least). I made sure that, when a Tigers game was on TV, no one turned it off until Trammell had come to bat at least once.

On one occasion I even sort of stalked him.

My grandparents lived in Detroit and rumor had it that Trammell rented a house just down the street from them during the season. Once, when we were visiting my grandmother, my brother and I walked to the house and knocked on the door. A woman in her 20s answered it. We presumed it to be his wife or girlfriend. We asked if Alan Trammell was there. She said no and shut the door on us. At the time we assumed that, darn our luck, he had already left to go to the ballpark that day. In hindsight I realized that it probably wasn’t his house, and that the woman, while taciturn to the point of being misleading, was technically telling the truth. The point here is that back then I just liked to assume that Alan Trammell lived two doors down from my grandparents. A kid will believe a lot about his hero ballplayer in order to be closer to him.

My thing for Trammell continued for a good decade or so. By the end of that decade it seemed plain to me that was the greatest shortstop in the history of baseball and anyone else who didn’t recognize that was simply irrational. With nearly 40 years of hindsight, I now know that Trammell wasn’t the greatest shortstop in baseball history. Probably. He was damn good, though.

After I moved away from Michigan and Trammell’s career began to wind down, Greg Maddux became my favorite player. It was a different thing with him — I was too old for a baseball player to be my hero, exactly — but it’s the case that I thought less about Trammell than I had in the 80s. That probably would’ve happened naturally, but there were other factors which worked to make me think of Trammell less than I did when I was younger.

It’s easy to get jaded if you spend enough time writing about baseball. I’ve never stopped loving or enjoying the game, but if you focus most of your life on it, you end up seeing so many amazing things that you forget some of the other amazing stuff you’ve seen. In my case, I’ve pushed out a lot of the stuff I enjoyed when I was a kid. I didn’t do it on purpose. It just happened. There is only so much baseball you can hold in your head at once and I have a lot of baseball in my head.

Part of me pushing Trammell out of my head was defensive, though. He first made the Hall of Fame ballot in 2002. He didn’t get even 20% of the vote until his ninth year. He never got as much as 37% of the vote. It pained me to see the Hall of Fame voters — many of whom would eventually become my friends and colleagues — fail to recognize him year after year. I get why that happened. Trammell was a bit of an odd duck for his era. After decades of being used to heavy leather, light bat shortstops, Hall of Fame voters weren’t ready for a guy at that position who could play gold glove defense, hit for both average and power and take an occasional walk. At the very least they weren’t ready to process several of them at once. Cal Ripken and Robin Yount, understandably, filled up that space in their heads while Ozzie Smith impressed upon them that the traditional shortstop archetype remained strong. There just wasn’t room for Tram their minds.

But even if his being overlooked was somewhat understandable, it was still painful. It seemed like a rebuke of my childhood memories. I’m not a sentimental guy. I don’t believe in that whole fathers-and-sons-passing-baseball-down-from-generation-to-generation thing. But I did wonder why I’d bother taking my kids to the Hall of Fame if I could not go into the plaque room and see my Hall of Fame-worthy boyhood idol. Why should I care about the Hall of Fame if, as far as it was concerned, Alan Trammell was an invisible man? Alan Trammell happened. I saw it. I saw him do all of those great things and, because of the manner in which baseball history is chronicled and remembered, he was forgotten in some important way. It pissed me off.

I never thought Trammell would make the Hall of Fame. Not for a moment. I knew a couple of years in that the BBWAA wouldn’t vote him in and I had no confidence, until the moment I heard the news of his election last night, that the Veteran’s Committee would ever give him his due. But they did.

It was a shock and a surprise. When I heard he made it I stopped what I was doing and just sat back dumbfounded. Happy. Flooded with memories of watching Trammell play when I was a kid and he was my favorite player. Happy that, after years and years of almost wondering if I was the only person alive who watched him play, my childhood memories were validated. Validated in a way that I never thought was really necessary but, now that it has happened, makes me feel better than I did before. Better about baseball. Better about baseball history. Better about the memories I had that, for a while, I began to even question since no one else seemed to remember Trammell like I did.

This old man’s memories of Alan Trammell aren’t all that important. Baseball memories of old men have had more than their fair share of validation over the years to the point where baseball history is almost distorted as a result. But what of the baseball memories of younger generations?

The Baseball Hall of Fame and its voters have seen fit to shun the baseball greats of the 1990s and 2000s. A host of them — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and others — are now and likely forever will be kept out of the Hall of Fame. We certainly have not forgotten those players, but we’re not honoring them.

The Hall and its voters will eagerly explain to you why that is. It’s about ethics and morality and authenticity and all of that, they say. I’m not sure, however, why that would matter to a person who, when they were six-year-old, was amazed by their feats and exploits. I’m not sure how an entire generation of people who became baseball fans as a result of those players should be made to feel that their memories are somehow not worth memorializing. Why they should be expected to go to the Hall of Fame with their children if they can’t walk into the plaque room and say “there’s the greatest player I ever saw.”

Until last night I discounted that feeling. I don’t think I’ll discount it anymore.