And That Happened: Classic

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Note: due to the All-Star break, we now bring you a special “Classic” edition of “And That Happened.” The following originally ran on July 13, 1969:

Orioles 4, Red Sox 0: A three hit shutout from Mike Cuellar lays the
Bosox low. After two years of upstart seasons — first from these very
same Red Sox and then the Tigers last year — it looks to this scribe like the
Baltimore Orioles are firmly back in control of the American League. The
reason is simple: a class organization, top to bottom, and so will it
ever be.

Royals 7, White Sox 0: Look, great day for Kansas City, but let’s be honest: neither of these teams are going anywhere this year, and I can’t be bothered with this game. I’m far more concerned about this moon shot they’re planning on Wednesday. Look, I know we’re doing this because we have to beat the Russkies, but let’s be honest here. Those boys are going to probably die up in the cold void of space, either because their rocket explodes or they run out of fuel or the lander doesn’t meet back up with the orbital unit or something. Better off if they simply film the whole thing in some Hollywood studio like that way-out movie with the apes and the rectangles last year. The Russians wouldn’t know the difference. Of course no one ever asks me anything and I’m sure I’m the only one who’s thought such fanciful thoughts.

Twins 11, Pilots 1: Bouton got into the ballgame today. Pitched two and two-thirds innings and gave up two hits, one of them a tremendous double by a former teammate of his at Western Michigan, Frank Quilici. They lost this one 11-1 and the Fat Kid hit another. The Seattle staff is impartial in the home-run race between Killebrew and Reggie Jackson. They both kill them.

Athletics 4, Angels 2: The Athletics take one at home.  The only thing dampening this day was a little bit of something that’s all too common on these trips up to the Bay Area: hippie uprising. A bunch of pinkos from up Berkley way were blocking the players’ entrance before the game, demonstrating for workers’ rights or something. Luckily this game’s starting pitchers — Catfish Hunter and Andy Messersmith — worked together to break things up. Good choice with those two. Company men. You know they’d never be swayed by that union organizer brain washing.

Tigers 15, Indians 3: Mickey Lolich runs his record to 12-2 and the
Tigers beat the Indians in the latest installment of the Battle of Lake
Erie. Before the game this reporter learned that Cleveland officials are confident that the last remnants of the fire that broke
out on the Cuyahoga River three weeks ago will be contained within the
next few days. A shame what’s happened down in Cleveland. How envious
the Indians players much be as they visit Detroit these past few days.
Engine of Democracy, capital of the music world. Perhaps one day it can
aspire to the Motor City’s heights, though admittedly, few cities can.

Yankees 3, Senators 1: The Yanks win one on the road in R.F.K. Stadium, which will be host of this year’s All-Star Game on July 24th.  Just got word of the game’s details: they’ll be 25 men on each team, one of whom will be a starting pitcher who will handle the bulk of the game. The rest of the players will either start and play the majority of the game or will sit on the bench in case of an injury or the need for some pinch hitting. As it is an exhibition game, the results will not count in the standings or for any other purpose.  The only difference this year is that, for the first time, the All-Star Game has been expanded into something they’re calling “All-Star Week,” with all manner of festivities to mark the occasion. Rather than just the game on the 24th, there will be drinking and carousing on the 22nd and the 23rd.

Shameful and needless spectacle, I say. It used to be just about the game, ladies and gentlemen, it used to be just about the game. I guess that’s progress for you. Why, some day in the future, if man and woman are still alive we may find that everything we think, do or say will be in the pill we took today.

Er– sorry about that, it’s just that that song is on the radio everywhere you go lately, so the future has served as a terrifying prospect to me of late.

Cubs 7, Phillies 4: The way this Cubs team is rolling, my friends, there appears to be nothing that will stop them from taking the pennant and putting and end to their seemingly interminable 61-year drought. I mean, let’s be serious: who’s gonna challenge the Cubbies? The Mets? Ha! That sad sack club is five games back and doesn’t have a field general the likes of one Leo Durocher on their side. Start printing those World Series tickets now, boys, start printing those World Series tickets now.

Cardinals 6, Pirates 3: Three base on balls for Pirates’ starter Steve
Blass. Rare to see his control rattled like that. I’m sure it’s nothing,
however.

Astros 10, Reds 4: Little Joe Morgan walked twice and scored a run for Houston, but he didn’t get any hits. I wish someone would tell him that if you don’t get hits, you’re really not doing your job as a hitter. Hitting the ball gets things moving along. Walking just clogs up those bases. He could learn a lesson from his counterpart on the Reds, Mr. Pete Rose, who had a couple of hits yesterday and really helped his ballclub. Sure, the Reds lost, but that’s because Larry Dierker is a winning pitcher. Hard to win against a winning pitcher like that.

Dodgers 3, Giants 2: Over 45,000 were in attendance for a close, 14-inning affair. The Dodgers expect even bigger crowds for their August 8th and 9th Family Night promotions, brought to you by Gateway Markets!

Padres 7, Braves 5: No home runs for Henry Aaron on this day, but he continues his torrid season all the same. While Babe Ruth’s hallowed record will almost certainly belong to Willie Mays one day, Hammerin’ Hank stands a chance of hitting as many as 600 or 650 home runs if things break right for him.  If he does, however, his mark should be discounted by historians, what with playing as he does now in that band box of a stadium down in Atlanta. It’s an unfair advantage and a mockery of all competition. As far as this writer is concerned, Babe Ruth — and possibly Willie Mays — will forever be the Gold Standard when it comes to the long ball.

Expos vs. Mets: Postponed:  Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head . . . And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed, nothing seems to fit . . . Hey, I just made that up on the spot!  Not bad, eh? Plunked it out on the piano right here as I was typing. Hope I didn’t disturb my neighbor Burt Bacharach with that one!  He’s been working hard on the score to some new cowboy movie and has a had a serious case of writer’s block.

That’s all the games from yesterday. If you want to discuss these game summaries, I can be reached here:

C. Allen Calcaterra
c/o Hard-Ball-Talk
National Broadcasting Company
Rockefeller Center
New York, New York

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Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.