Hope Springs Eternal

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” - Rogers Hornsby, Hall of Fame second baseman

Until spring, at least I have Philip Roth and hockey.

This is probably the most stylish baseball has been since the invention of pinstripes.  Very superfans only, this thing really has it all. 

As a kid in Detroit I grew up with Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker turning double plays at the corner of Michigan and Trumball in the heart of the Motor City.  I learned how to keep score from the decidedly dedicated “Bleacher Creatures” in right and left centerfield. 

My childhood isn’t quite destroyed, though steroids in baseball, movies based on G.I. Joe, Transformers and the Dukes of Hazzard are doing their best to lay it to waste. 

Hope still springs eternal.  

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”
 - Walt Whitman

Ernie Harwell’s Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Thank you, Ralph Kiner and thank you folks for that warm Cooperstown welcome. This is an award that I will certainly cherish forever. I praise the Lord here today. I know that all my talent and all my ability comes from him, and without him I’m nothing and I thank him for his great blessing. I’d like for you to meet my very best friend and she is my best friend despite the fact that this month we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, Lulu Harwell. Lulu, will you stand up please. My son, Bill, right next to her, his wife Diane, their youngsters, my son, Gray, his wife Sandy, and their three youngsters, and my daughters, Julie and Carolyn.

I’m very proud of this award, but I’m even more proud of my family. You know the life and times of Ernie Harwell could be capsuled I think in two famous quotations, one from a left handed, the New York Yankee pitcher and the other one from a right handed English poet. The Yankee pitcher, Lefty Gomez, once said, “I’d rather be lucky than good. ” And the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, once wrote in his epic poem Ulysses, “I am a part of all that I have met.” Well, I know that I’m a lot luckier than I’m good. I’ve been lucky to broadcast some great events and to broadcast the exploits of some great players.

When I went to Brooklyn in 1948 Jackie Robinson was at the height of his brilliant career. With the Giants I broadcast the debut of Hall of Famer Willie Mays. When I went to Baltimore the great Brooks Robinson came along to replace my good friend George Kell at third base. Kind in my 22 years at Detroit it’s been a distinct privilege to watch the day by day consistency of Hall of Famer Al Kaline. Yes, it’s lucky that I’ve been there and I’ve been at some events too. I want to tell you about one that Ralph mentioned Bobby Thomson’s home run October 3rd. I felt a little sorry for my Giant broadcasting partner that day, Russ Hodges. Ole’ Russ is going to be stuck on the radio, there were five radio broadcasts and I was gonna’ be on coast to coast TV and I thought that I had the plum assignment. Well, as you remember it turned out quite differently. Russ Hodges’ record became the most famous sports broadcast of all time, television, no instant replay, no recordings in those days, and only Mrs. Harwell knows that I did the telecast of Bobby Thomson’s home run. When I got home that night after the telecast she said to me, she said, ”You know Ernie when they turned the camera on you after that home run I saw you with that stunned look on your face, and the only other time I had ever seen it was when we were married and when the kids were born.”

That other saying, I’m a part of all that I have met, I think that would have to begin with my wonderful parents back in Atlanta when I was a youngster five years old I was tongue tied. They didn’t have much money, but they spent what they had sending me to speech teachers to overcome the handicap. I know that a lot of you people who have heard me on the radio probably still think I’m tongue tied, but through the grace of God officially I’m not tongue tied any more. Also I’m a part of the people that I’ve worked with in baseball that have been so great to me, Mr. Earl Mann of Atlanta, who gave me my first baseball broadcasting job. Mr. Branch Rickey at Brooklyn, Mr. Horace Stoneham of the Giants, Mr. Jerry Hoffberger in Baltimore and my present boss, here’s too the greatest ever, Mr. John Fetzer and Mr. Jim Campbell. I’m also a part of the partners that I’ve worked with and there have been so many great ones, beginning with Red Barber and Connie Desmond at Brooklyn and continuing on to my present partner WJR’s Paul Carey.

But most of all, I’m a part of you people out there who have listened to me, because especially you people in Michigan, you Tiger fans, you’ve given me so much warmth, so much affection and so much love. I know that this is an award that’s supposed to be for my contribution to baseball, but let me say this I’ve given a lot less to baseball than it’s given to me and the greatest gift that I received from baseball is the way that the people in the game have responded to me with their warmth and with their friendship. Yes, it’s better to be lucky than good and I’m glad that I’m a part of all that I have met. We’re all here with a common bond today. I think we’re all here because we love baseball.

Back in 1955, Ralph referred to this, I sat down and wrote a little definition of baseball to express my feelings about this greatest game of all. And I know that a lot of things have changed since then. Especially in this strike filled year but my feelings about the game are still the same as they were back then and I think that maybe yours are too. And I’d like to close out my remarks for the next couple of minutes with your indulgence to see if your definition of baseball agrees with mine.

Baseball is the President tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That’s baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his (Babe Ruth’s) 714 home runs.

There’s a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh forty-six years ago. That’s baseball. So is the scout reporting that a sixteen year old pitcher in Cheyenne is a coming Walter Johnson. Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed. And then becomes a statistic.

In baseball democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team’s uniform from another.

Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It’s a veteran too, a tired old man of thirty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.

Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby. The flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an over aged pixie named Rabbit Maranville.

Baseball is just a game, as simple as a ball and bat, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, a business and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the fairy tale of Willie Mays making a brilliant World’s Series catch. And then dashing off to play stick ball in the street with his teenage pals. That’s baseball. So is the husky voice of a doomed Lou Gehrig saying., “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies day, “Down in Front”, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Baseball is a tongue tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America, this baseball! Thank you.

My girl GETS me.  YES!  Oh, and also baseball is coming.

oldtimefamilybaseball:

Where do you claim citizenship?

(via Reddit)

(via digmuseum)

digmuseum:

oldtimefamilybaseball: From the excellent Life photo series

I was once tossed from a game for throwing a chalk-covered potato into centerfield.  True story.  I covered a spud in baseline chalk before a game and waited until just the right moment.  With a runner on third I moved to throw the ball back to the pitcher.  I reached inside my vest, grabbed the spud and chucked it into center.  The runner did the smart thing and come trotting home.  I tagged him with the real ball while my centerfielder ate the evidence.  I was tossed for bringing a foreign object onto the field.  My argument was the spud was raised in Idaho so I couldn’t have been foreign.  The ump wasn’t buying it. 

This time of year, yeah… this is what I’ve nearly always running through my head.  

rosieloveswords:

Centerfield — John Fogerty

Somehow, Tim does not know this song.

How is that possible?

Finest Facial Hair in the Majors

Baseball’s Opening Day is just a handful of days away and I’m growing more and more giddy as time rolls on.  It’s a long season, but ya’ gotta trust it.  With that, I’ve compiled my list of the greatest facial hair in the major league history.  Here goes.

#10. Here’s the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky, who apparently was a Hells Angel in the offseason.

   

#9.  Slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell, whose facial hair and build are just as well suited to professional wrestling.

#8. Junkballing righty Jim Kern, who with the Horde Festival look of a man who’s had far too many pot brownies may have wanted to change his look as his career records stands at 53 wins to 57 losses.

#7. Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter sporting the dirty look of the fabulous Mid ’70s Oakland A’s.  Did I mention his name is Catfish?

#6. Not to be outdone in the tradition of ’70s facial hair glory, you cannot imagine the enormity of the shit Yankees catcher Thurman Munson did not give.

#5. Another Hall of Famer, Mr. Goose Gossage, who combines the winning style of those vintage Padres uniforms with the thick handlebars of a guy clearly out of his mind.

#4. Johnny Damon groomed this fantastic Captain Caveman look prior to Boston’s inexplicably magical run to the 2004 World Series title.  After he ditched the beard, Boston ditched him.  Neither Captain Caveman or Damon have been the same since.

#3. The bronze medal goes to… Oscar Gamble, the journeyman outfielder and designated hitter whose look was “stolen from Jim Kelly in Enter in the Dragon.”  We ain’t fucking with him.

#2. Our silver medalist is the mighty King Kelly, whose career batting average of .308 was enough to get him elected to Cooperstown in 1945.  Here we have OLLLLLLLDDDDDD school cool, just at home in a gunfight with the Earps as he is on the basepaths.

And our gold medalist… for you baseball fans you had to know this was coming.  Inspired by the 300 bucks the A’s owner was putting up to whoever could grow the best moustache, Rollie Fingers just killed it.  Living up to the ‘stache’s villain prowess, Fingers made it to Cooperstown as well.  Here it is.  Bask in all its glory.

The best sports writers have always written about baseball.

mightyflynn:

… And think for a moment of the way the umpire watches the catcher as he goes about his housekeeping there behind the plate. Sometimes the arbiter has actually picked up the man’s cap and mask from the ground during the play previous, and now he hands them over with an odd, uncharacteristic touch of politeness. Both of these men wear shin guards and chest protectors and masks, and although theirs is mostly an adversary relationship, they crouch in identical postures, inches apart (some umpires actually rest one hand on the catcher’s back or shoulder as the pitch is delivered), and together engage in the dusty and exhausting business down behind the batter, living and scrounging on the hard corners of the sport. For one game, that is. Tomorrow, the ump working behind home will be stationed out at third base—almost a day off for him—so that he can recover from such labors, but the same catcher most likely will still be down there bent double behind the batters. Here y’are, the ump’s courtly little gesture seems to say. You poor bastard.

- Roger Angell, from “In the Fire” - The Sporting Scene, The New Yorker, 12 March 1984

(photo: Roy Campanella & unidentified umpire, 1955, by John Dominis)

“I’ve been watching this couple on the third baseline now for the last few minutes. He’s kissing her on the strikes and she’s kissing him on the balls.”
— Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, drunk broadcasting an afternoon game at Wrigley in the early ‘90.
“A damned good poet and a fair critic; but he can kiss my ass as a man and he never hit a ball out of the infield in his life.”
— Ernest Hemingway, on T.S. Eliot (via mightyflynn)

My Secret for Eternal Youth…

…is actually quite simple. I play in the dirt and grass with my friends whenever I can.

Notice I did not write eternal life. Only one guy can do that and I ain’t him.

No, I meant youth, by which I mean joyful exuberance, laughing out loud, getting dirty, sliding, cursing, playing with friends. I’m talking about baseball.

So if you need me and can’t find me, I’ll probably be in centerfield.

Where I’m From

I am fighting ships of old, from Levis and leather and Bruce Springsteen cassette tapes. 

I am from the shores of Lake Erie, home to the blue-collar working class, blustery winter snow storms and perfect Septembers. 

I am from the Stargazer Lily and Birds of Paradise that blossom in the spring and rise up to greet my mornings.

I am from bandits and intellectuals, a Jew and Janny Pie. 

I am from the rebellious and the romantics. 

I am from comic books and baseball cards and impossible hope peppered with science-fiction. 

I am from Van De Kamp’s fish sticks and mom’s French toast.

I am from the BZ Special and the backyard bombardier, from the fence hoppers and the street fighters, from Sailors and Marines. 

I am from the guns of the patriots and the sons of liberty.