And That Happened: Classic

10 Comments

Note: due to the All-Star break, we now bring you a special “Classic”
version of “And That Happened.” The following originally ran on July
14, 1956.*

Glad that All-Star break is over. Man, Griffith Stadium leaves a lot to
be desired! Only 28,000 in attendance? Maybe they’d draw
more people if they stretched the event out a bit and made a bigger
to-do of it. For example, perhaps they could do some sort of
radio-friendly skills competition the day before the game. Like a pepper
contest or a bowling tournament. Whatever is decided, I’m about
through with this All-Star business. Charlie Maxwell made the squad but
didn’t even get in the game! History will remember that slight. Anyway,
on to the yesterday’s scores:

Red Sox 5, White Sox 4: Sure, the
BoSox take this one, but there’s no reason to believe that they’ll
finish the year ahead of Chicago. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a
thousand times: the Pale Hose play in a bigger city and have ownership
that simply cares more about the team. For that reason, they will be a
better team than Boston for decades. Boston lost one team a few years
ago, and I won’t be surprised if they lose the other sometime soon.

Braves 8, Dodgers 6: It’s gotten to the
point where I simply can’t listen to Dodgers games anymore. Red Barber
was, bar none, the best in the business, and his putative replacement
— this Vincent Scully character — saps the broadcast of all of its fun
and enjoyment. No one’s tearing up the pea patch anymore. No more
rhubarbs. No more catbird seat. Nothing but phony erudite
professionalism from this new kid. Trust me: he won’t be broadcasting
in Brooklyn much longer.

Braves 6, Dodgers 5: And Milwaukee
sweeps the doubleheader. The second half was delayed a bit, as the
between-game entertainment ran long. Seems that some local hood was
worried that he was “losing his cool” and thus attempted to break a
world record and leap his motorcycle over 14 garbage cans. The whole
thing was filmed by the “You Wanted to See It” show. The filming itself
went fine. The delay came when some local high school kids with
strangely long, and seemingly blow-dried hair, launched into an
impromptu performance of “Blueberry Hill” while playing electric
instruments that weren’t plugged into anything.

Cubs 7, Pirates 6: That Bob Clemente
(3-4) and Ernie Banks (2-4, 2 RBI) sure can rake. Quite the credits to
their race, they are. And hey, here they are now! What say you, Bob and
Ernie?

Ernie: Thank you, Craig! Bob and I are just here to
thank you for all the hard work you do. And to tell you and your
readers that lighting up a PALL MALL just naturally goes with that
feeling of satisfaction you get from a job well done.

Bob: That’s right, Ernie. For PALL MALL pays you a rich reward
in smoking pleasure — an extra measure of cigarette goodness.

Ernie: You said it, Bob. PALL MALLS are made longer – to travel
the smoke further – to make it cooler and sweeter for you.

Bob: So let me get this straight, Ernie; if I smoke a pack of
PALL MALLS, I won’t have a scratchy throat or have to deal with an
unpleasant after-taste?

Ernie: That’s right, Bob. PALL MALLS have a such smooth, rich
tobacco flavor, you’ll want to smoke two!

Phillies 6, Redlegs 4: Insult to
injury here, in that immediately after the loss, the Redlegs were the
subject of a speech by the recently-disgraced Senator Joseph McCarthy
who, in what appears to be a shot at redemption and renewed relevance,
said “The Cincinnati clubhouse is infested with communists. I have here
in my hand a list of names that were made known to the Commissioner of
Baseball as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless
are still playing baseball in Cincinnati.” Redlegs manager Birdie
Tebbetts in response: “We must remember always that accusation is not
proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear
into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine,
and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”

Athletics 3, Orioles 2: A short day
for Connie Johnson, as he only goes seven innings. Back when I was a
kid, starters didn’t beg out so early. They stayed in, threw their 175
pitches, and were ready to go the day after tomorrow. I tell ya, things
aren’t like they were back in the Golden Age. By the way, keep the
name Lou Skizas (2-4, HR, 2 RBI) in mind, because that’s a fellow who’s
really gonna set the world on fire one day. I can just feel it.

Yankees 10, Indians 0: Tom Sturdivant
(CG SHO 2 H) dominates the Tribe. Lock him up to a long term contract
now, Messers Topping and Webb, because the last thing you want is to see
him wearing another uniform. From the game story: “Young Mickey Mantle
declined this writer’s offer of dinner after the game, stating that he
was due to go on a ‘beaver shoot.’ While I find it strange — there
aren’t any woods close to gotham — it’s good to know that the slugger
is out getting some fresh air instead of staying cooped up in an
apartment building. I asked him to get a pelt for me, as I would love a
nice winter hat, but the Commerce Comet found my request humorous for
some reason.”

Senators 12, Tigers 11: No one
represented themselves well in this one, but Steve Gromek and Duke Mass
led the ignominious charge for the Tigers’ bullpen. Say what you want
about this Senators team — and their record says plenty — but baseball
is only one half skill. The other half is something else. Something
bigger! They’ve got hope! They don’t sit around and mope. Probably
because nuthin’s half as bad as it may appear. They wait’ll next year
and hope. When their luck is battin’ zero, they get their chin up off
the floor. Mister, they can be heroes. They can open any door.

Cardinals 7, Giants 5: Musial’s first
game in 1941 featured him getting two hits. He had two hits again
yesterday. Seems he hasn’t improved at all.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be taking the following ten days off
from writing this feature, as I recently won a contest for an
all-expenses-paid cruise on a swanky Italian ocean liner.
The missus and I will be returning to New York on the 25th.

*Not only is this a repeat from 1956, it’s also a repeat (in reality) from last summer, when I posted it over at The Hardball Times.  I was going to do an original “Classic” for this morning focusing on 1984, but (a) it was my birthday yesterday and I had other things I wanted to do last night; and (b) there were only so many “Where’s the Beef” jokes I could think of.  Anyway, if you were one of the relative few who saw this last year on ShysterBall, apologies for the rerun. If not, I hope you enjoyed it.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

Getty Images
69 Comments

UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.