Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-4-12

4/12/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Now throwing the first pitch…

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Top of the 1st
LOVE AT FIRST PITCH
I have to admit I love ceremonial first pitches, particularly those on Opening Day. I think I love them for the wrong reason, however. I really do love it when the celebrity who is throwing the pitch basically crashes and burns with an awful. That attitude is another reason why I’m glad I’m not a NASCAR fan.

I don’t want everyone to fail on this pitch. I would have been rooting yesterday for the children of the late Kirby Puckett who was honored before the star of the game. A’s coach Ron Washington, who was a teammate and roommate of Puckett in Minnesota, and Twins center fielder Torii Hunter caught the ceremonial first pitches from Puckett’s children, Catherine and Kirby Jr. Those kids I would be rooting for.

In the same way you root for kids, you have to root for old people. At Fenway yesterday, Bobby Doerr, Charlie Wagner, Eddie Pellagrini, Don Gutteridge, Dave ”Boo” Ferriss, and Johnny Pesky, all members of the 1946 AL champion Red Sox, threw out ceremonial first pitches. No heart attacks, no strokes, no pulled groin muscles, so I guess that went well.

The Giants also went for the senior route having eight survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake participate in the ceremonial first pitches before the Giants’ home opener last week. Giants manager Felipe Alou was a rookie that season.

It was Yogi, once again, throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium yesterday. Yogi threw it out last year and two years ago he was joined by Phil Rizzuto, and Whitey Ford. Yogi should be on the receiving end not on the throwing end, crouched behind home plate.

I wasn’t crazy about the fact that when Busch III opened on Monday in St. Louis that Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter, the NL MVP and Cy Young Award winners respectively, threw out dual ceremonial first pitches to retired Cardinals greats Willie McGee and Bob Gibson. I think it should have been the opposite, but I think they were afraid that Gibby would brush back Pujols.

In Washington yesterday, Dick Cheney became the eighth vice president to throw out a first pitch for Washington’s baseball team on opening day at home and the first since 1968 when Hubert Humphrey tossed the first pitch when the team was the Washington Senators. Cheney, wearing a Nationals’ jacket that obviously was covering a bullet-proof vest because he looked the size of David Wells, did not shoot anyone but he stood directly in front of the mound and still threw a ball that hit the dirt in front of home plate. That was an improvement over last year when the Washington Times wrote regarding the first pitch of District Mayor Anthony Williams, “To say that Williams throws like a girl would be a gross understatement — and an insult to high school softball.”

The President threw out the first pitch in Cincinnati, after having thrown them in St. Louis for the Cardinals in 2004 and in Washington, D.C. for the 2005 debut of the Nationals, along with Williams. Well, it wasn’t so much of a pitch as it was a leak.

Actor Michael Keaton, whose career has jumped the shark, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Pittsburgh Pirates opener at PNC Park. Michael is available for supermarket openings.

Academy Award winner Chris Cooper threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Later Royals officials explained to Cooper that the fans were shouting “Boo”, they were simply asking “Who?”

A few years ago, actor Martin Sheen was filming a scene for the television show “The West Wing,” in which he plays a fictional president and so he went to Baltimore to throw out the first pitch. He actually threw four: one outside, one in the dirt, two high. “It seems like the plate is three miles away,” he told reporters afterward. “And the mound is two miles high.”

Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch before the Florida Marlins played the Houston Astros on April 3 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Both teams tried to sign him.

U.S. Olympic speed skating medalist Shani Davis threw out the first pitch of the Chicago White Sox-Cleveland Indians baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. I bet it was fastball and she caught it after she threw it. Another Olympian Kelly Stephens, a member of the bronze medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team, threw out the first pitch before a Seattle Mariners game on April 9. She then was assessed a two-minute minor for cross-checking the catcher.

Then there were the parade of football players tossing the first pitch
Retired Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis threw the first pitch at Comerica Park in Detroit. Nobody told Bettis he threw like a girl. Heisman Trophy winner and San Diego native Reggie Bush threw out first pitch in San Diego, then he and everyone in the stands went to the beach. Former Texas quarterback Vince Young threw the first pitch before the Houston Astros’ game in Houston and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks threw out the ceremonial first pitch on April 3 at Safeco Field in Seattle. Both were relieved that they were not intercepted.

Sometimes, I fantasize that I will be asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, but I fear I would be overcome with nervousness. I keep picturing the headline the next day, “Billy-Ball Throws Up the First Pitch”.

Top of the 2nd
YO, YO, BRONSON
Bronson Arroyo homered in his only at-bat in his Reds debut last week, and he did it again in his first at-bat in the Reds’ 9-2 win over the Cubs yesterday. Arroyo is the first pitcher in the live-ball era to hit home runs on each of his first two at-bats in a season.
Arroyo is also the first pitcher in major-league history to hit a home run and earn a victory in each of his first two starts of a season. The only other pitcher even to hit homers in his first two starts was Sean Bergman of the Astros in 1999. Since 1900, only two pitchers have homered in more consecutive games: Ken Brett of the 1973 Phillies (four straight games) and Don Drysdale of the 1958 Dodgers (three straight games). Before his homer last week in Cincinnati, Arroyo was 4-for-55 career with 33 strikeouts

Arroyo, who was named for actor Charles Bronson and former Yankee pitcher Luis Arroyo, remains 753 homers behind Henry Aaron on the all-time home run list.

Top of the 3rd
NO VOICE OF GOD
Public-address announcer Bob Sheppard was missing from the New York Yankees’ home opener for the first time since 1950 because of a hip injury. Sheppard, who won’t give his age, is thought to be in his nineties. Although Reggie Jackson said, “I think he’s closer to 100 than he is 90.”

Jackson mimicked Sheppard’s “Voice of God” intonation, imagining the announcer ordering breakfast. “Coffee — cream — one sugar,” he said slowly.

Sheppard helped Jackson on drafts of his speeches for his Hall of Fame induction and number retirement ceremony, which originally were too long.

“He said: ‘Less — of — you. Very — hard — for — you,’ ” Jackson recalled, laughing.

Top of the 4th
THE FIVE OLDEST PLAYERS ON OPENING DAY:
1. Julio Franco, Mets, 47 years, 223 days.
2. Jamie Moyer, Mariners, 43 years, 136 days.
3. Jeff Fassero, Giants, 43 years, 88 days.
4. Terry Mulholland, Diamondbacks, 43 years, 28 days.
5. Randy Johnson, Yankees, 42 years, 205 days.

Top of the 5th
STREAKING
* The Indians won their sixth straight defeating the Mariners, 9-5. The Tribe is 6-1, the best start by the club since 2002, when the Indians jumped out to an 11-1 mark.
* The Angels scored two in the bottom of the 9th and defeated the Rangers, 5-4. The Halos have won eight straight against Texas and 15 of 18. Vladimir Guerrero extended his hitting streak against the Rangers to 38 games by going 4-for-4.
* Derek Jeter’s three-run homer capped a five-run 8th inning rally, and New York beat the Kansas City Royals, 9-7. The Yankees have now won a club-record nine straight home openers. Kansas City hasn’t won at Yankee Stadium since August 2002 losing 12 straight in the Bronx.
* Mike Lowell went 4-for-4 with three doubles as the Red Sox defeat the Blue Jays, 5-3. Boston is 6-1 for only the ninth time in team history and the second time in the last 51 seasons. The Sox have won five straight.
* New York Mets rookie Brian Bannister shut down Washington, for his first major league win, 7-1. The Mets are now 5-1.

Top of the 6th
FRANCONA-LY SPEAKING
Among managers who have spent more than one season in Boston, Terry Francona ranks 4th in winning percentage (.596) with the best mark since 1951:
Jake Stahl 144-88 (.621) 1912-13
Joe McCarthy 223-145 (.606) 1948-50
Steve O’Neill 150-99 (.602) 1950-51
Terry Francona 193-131 (.596) 2004-
Grady Little 188-136(.580) 2002-03

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 4/11/2006
Happy birthday, to this catcher born in Brooklyn.
DUAL CUPOLA

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 4/11/2006
Before 1997, how many players hit more than 55 home runs in a season?
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 4/11/06
Happy Birthday, Christopher
TORN TOXIN – TROT NIXON

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 4/11/06
With Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa not playing this season, who is second on the active all-time homer list behind Barry B*nds?
Ken Griffey Jr.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
On Nov. 18, 1980, the Yankees sent Brad Gulden and cash to the Mariners for infielder Larry Milbourne and a player to be named later. On May 18, 1981, Seattle sent that player to be named later to New York. His name was Brad Gulden.

Top of the 9th
FORTY YEARS IN ATLANTA
The Braves mark the 40th anniversary of their first regular-season game in Atlanta tonight by reuniting the 1966 team before the game against Philadelphia at Turner Field.

Felipe Alou was the first batter for the Braves in their new home of Atlanta. His brother Matty had been the first batter for Pittsburgh in that 1966 National League opener at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

More than a dozen 1966 Braves — including Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, Opening Night starter Tony Cloninger and slugger Rico Carty — are scheduled to take part in the festivities. Cloninger pitched all 13 innings on April 12, 1966, but lost 3-2, to the disappointment of the 50,671 fans. Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell gave the Pirates the victory with an extra-inning homer. The Braves’ runs came on homers by current New York Yankees manager Joe Torre.

The current Braves will wear replica 1966 uniforms tonight and the Braves also are offering throwback ticket prices. Upper-reserved and upper-pavilion seats will be $2.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.