There’s nothing wrong pe se in John Harper’s Daily News column today. In fact, I’d probably rather see Fernando Martinez get the nod over Angel Pagan until Beltran comes back too. But he’s written enough dunderheaded stuff in his life that I got a chuckle out of this anyway. The column:
The ball was hit to shallow center field, too shallow for a runner to score from third. Or so it seemed. However, Angel Pagan promptly showed again that his instincts for baseball never seem quite right, and offered reason to ask whether he should play center field in Carlos Beltran’s absence.
Today’s Mets-Cardinals game: Angel Pagan hit two-run, come-from-behind walk-off homer with one out in the ninth.
It proves virtually nothing, and Harper’s criticism of Pagan’s defense stands, but I like it simply because it illustrates how the model of writing in which a guy is bashed one day, and is made a hero the next day that seems so popular in the east coast tabloids really doesn’t lend itself to baseball. The long view matters so much more in baseball than in any other sport, and we get so much less of the long view than we probably should.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.
Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.
Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.
Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.