Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-5-24

5/24/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Top of the 1st
A VISIT TO MISSOURI
They explained to me that in some parts of Missouri it’s pronounced “Missour-ee” in other parts it’s pronounced “Missour-uh”; I was in Springfield, where I don’t remember how it’s pronounced, “D’oh.” All I know is that there were no oceans on either side of me so I was out of my element. My internal map is strikingly similar to the famous Saul Steinberg 1976 New Yorker cartoon, “A View of the World from Ninth Avenue.” (http://billy-ball.com/AViewoftheWorldfromNinthAvenue.htm)

I was in Springfield with Alex Bok and other Boston luminaries (including Boston City Council member John Tobin who threw out the first pitch, showing better stuff than Keith Foulke) to visit the beautiful Hammons Field, home of the Double A, Texas League, Springfield Cardinals.

Bostonians, have you ever given any thought to who Shea Stadium was named after? The miserable Flushing Meadows Stadium is named for attorney William Shea, who was instrumental in bringing a NL expansion franchise to New York in 1962. He first tried to bring an existing franchise to New York but the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates all refused Shea’s overtures. At this point Shea, along with Branch Rickey, announced the formation of the Continental League in 1959. The Continental League would be a third major league and would begin play in 1961. Faced with this threat, the National League awarded the Mets to New York.

Why do I mention that? Simply because if it were still that time, the next ballpark built in Boston would be called Bok Field, because, remember this, Alexander Bok will bring minor league baseball to Boston, he will bring a great ballpark (if Hammons Field is any indication of the work of the architectural firm, Pellham-Phillips-Hagerman of Springfield) and Bostonians and visitors will flock to this low-priced complement to Fenway. But, first, let me assure you that it won’t be named after Bok, the driving force behind bringing indy ball to Boston, simply because the $32 million ballpark in Springfield will cost about $50 million in Beantown and the stadium will require the naming rights to be sold. Billy-Ball Field sounds about right from this seat.

And the seats are indeed comfortable. Wide seats, each with cup holders, all facing the field with no obstructed views and plenty of space so that when you walk through the aisles and to your seats athletic maneuverability is not a prerequisite. The concession areas, including gift shop, are located on an open, clean, well-lit concourse. There are working elevators and handicap seating. There are areas for private parties which would be ideal for families in this area whose children may never have had the opportunity to go to a professional baseball game because of lack of available tickets and exorbitant prices. The left-field line features a premium party deck

The luxury boxes are really beautiful. You can watch the game in the outside seats or from indoors where food is delivered and there is a flat-screen TV. To be honest, as engaging as the game was, we switched from the closed-circuit broadcast of our game to ESPN and also watched the Red Sox defeat the Yankees.

The facility, funded entirely by local businessman, hotel mogul and benefactor John Q. Hammons, is located in the center piece of the midtown development project. The field is also used by Missouri State University. Dodger Bill Mueller is an alum and the MSU clubhouse is named for him as he was very helpful in its creation. All the clubhouses, home, visitor, and umpire are comfortable, large and well-equipped. There are outstanding work-out areas plus a spectacular indoor infield for fielding and batting practice.

Cardinals’ fans will be happy to read that their Springfield team is playing at the same level of excellence of their facility. In the game I saw, starting pitcher Stuart Pomeranz led the Redbirds to a 2-1 win over the Midland RockHounds, the A’s Double A team. Pomeranz, Cory Doyne and Mark Worrell held Midland to just three hits, as Pomeranz (6-0) became the first six-game winner in the Texas League. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits over seven innings. He turned it over to Doyne, who worked a 1-2-3 inning in the 8th. Mark Worrell followed with a perfect ninth, recording his Texas League-leading 12th of the year. Last night, Springfield won their fourth straight game and moved to a franchise record, 11 games over the .500 mark, beating the RockHounds, 9-7. With Tulsa’s loss on Tuesday at home, the Cardinals (27-16) are now three games up in the Texas League’s North Division.

Soon, once again, Boston will be a two-team city. There will be hurdles along the way and this won’t be the last that you hear from me on this topic, but affordable, professional baseball will come to Boston. Fans deserve it and the game itself needs it to help in grooming fans for their major league experiences. Whether it is the majors, the minors, or independent baseball a night at the ballpark is a great way to spend an evening and right now too many locals and visitors are deprived that opportunity and shortly, thanks to efforts of Alex Bok, that will be a thing of the past.

By the way, you can add Hammons Field to the many ballparks that I did not catch a foul ball. I did catch a cold, but that doesn’t count.

Here are some pics from the visit – http://billy-ball.com/Springfield.htm

Top of the 2nd
THE RIVALRY
Johnny Damon now has 17 leadoff homers in his career, his most recent coming last night to give the Yankees a quick 1-0 lead in their 7-5 victory over the Red Sox. Prior to last night, Damon’s last lead-off homer was on Aug. 29 for the Red Sox also at Fenway Park. The last time he hit one as the first batter in the game was in St. Louis for Game 4 of the 2004 World Series.

Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run shot to put the Yankees ahead 7-1 and chase Tim Wakefield (3-6). Jaret Wright pitched five shutout innings, allowing four hits and leaving with a 3-0 lead when he tweaked his groin on a grounder back to the mound. “He wasn’t asking to go back out there, he was demanding to go out there … We just basically shut him down,” Yankee manager Joe Torre said. “We’re hopeful that he won’t miss any starts or anything.”

Manny Ramirez hit a three-run homer for Boston to narrow the gap off the porous Yankee bullpen, before Mariano Rivera got five outs for his ninth save.

The Yankees are 2-4 against Boston this year as Randy Johnson faces Matt Clement tonight in what should result in another battle of the bullpens.

Top of the 3rd
THE STORY
The story this season (if you ignore the elephant, with the over-sized head, in the room) is the incomparable Albert Pujols. Heading to the airport yesterday, our taxicab driver, noting our baseball talk simply blurted out, “Isn’t that Albert Pujols something? And he’s clean!”

We are privileged to live in the Pujols era and for all you folks in American League cities, if there is a Cardinals game on television, make it your business to watch it because you are going to want to tell your grand kids you watched this guy hit.

Last night, Pujols hit a three-run homer to help Jason Marquis win his third straight start in the St. Louis 8-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants. It was Pujols 23rd dinger of the season in the Cardinals’ 46th game. B*nds hit his 23rd in the Giants’ 44th game on May 21, 2001, on the way to hitting 73* and breaking Mark McGwire’s single-season record of 70*.

Besides leading the majors in homers, Pujols is 13th in the NL with a .318 batting average, he leads with 57 RBI, runs with 47, he leads with.812 slugging average, leads with a 1.252 OPS (On-base percentage plus slugging percentage), he’s third with a .446 on base average, and he’s fourth with 36 walks.

“I don’t want to be the next Barry B*nds,” Pujols said. “I want to be Albert Pujols and that’s it.”

That’s thrilling enough for me.

Top of the 4th
THE COMEBACK
One comeback continues to thrive, while the other comebacker barely survives. Jim Thome and Frank Thomas were on display last night as the Chicago White Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 9-3. Jim Thome had three hits, including his league-leading 18th of the season, and scored three runs. He also had a run-scoring double to give him 43 RBI, also tops in the AL. His 41 runs ties him with Cleveland’s Travis Hafner for the league lead. He left the game for a pinch runner after singling in the 8th because of a tweaked right groin, but said he’ll be fine on Wednesday.

Former White Sox star Frank Thomas, who signed with Oakland in the offseason, went 0-for-1 with three walks and was hit by a pitch in his second game in Chicago with the A’s. He homered twice in his return to Chicago on Monday. Thomas is hitting just .194.

Top of the 5th
THE FISH
Mike Jacobs hit a two-run single off Ryan Dempster with two outs in the 9th giving Florida a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs and denying Kerry Wood his first win in 10 months. The Marlins overcame a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Cubs. Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer for the Marlins, who improved to 5-14 at home before a crowd of 10,979. They have won two straight following a seven-game losing streak.

It was the first win this season in which the Marlins trailed by three or more runs. They were the last team without such a victory in 2006.

In the continuing adventures of Ace and Kerry, the Ambiguously Great Duo – Kerry Wood, making his second start since shoulder surgery last August, left with a 4-3 lead after five innings. He allowed two hits, walked five and struck out three, and had an RBI single. Wood threw 86 pitches, 49 for strikes. He was looking for his first win since July 15, 2005, against Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, Cubs ace pitcher Mark Prior is slated for a second rookie league start today. He threw 45 pitches during a bullpen session on Monday. Prior is rehabbing a strained muscle in his right shoulder. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild told MLB.com that Prior would likely make three rookie league starts before beginning a minor league rehab stint.
Prior will need at least two minor league rehab starts, which means he’s at least four outings away from returning to the majors.

Top of the 6th
THE CHALLENGED
I go away, I come back, it doesn’t matter, the Royals still lose.

Last night, the Royals blew a 4-0 lead and lost 8-5 to the Tigers, extending their losing streak to 11 games. Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez went 3-for-5, scoring once and driving in two runs. The Tigers have won 11 of 12 games and have the best record in the majors (31-14). Detroit has played just 10 of its 45 games against teams with a current record better than .500 and were swept by the White Sox in their only series so far. Coming up (May 29-June 8), they face the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox in following a three-game set against the Indians. We will soon see how sharp their teeth are during this upcoming stretch.

On the other hand…

Kansas City is the first team since 1900, to record two losing streaks longer than 10 games this early in its season. The only other teams to post two streaks of 11 losses by the 43-game mark were Pittsburgh in 1890 and Cincinnati in 1876 — which had three 11-game losing streaks by that point.

The Royals are a major league-worst 10-33. The Royals are two games behind the 1962 New York Mets who were 12-31 and 10 games ahead of the Brockton Rox who have challenged the Royals for most wins this season. The Rox season begins tomorrow night.

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 5/24/2006
On this date, Joe McCarthy was replaced by this man
KILL BY DICE

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 5/24/2006
Who surrendered Babe Ruth’s 714th homer?
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 5/24/06
Slim moans – Al Simmons

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 5/24/06
Who holds the record for most homers hit in a span of 10 consecutive years?
Sammy Sosa’s 479 from 1995 to 2004

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that the Giants’ Steve Finley hit his major league-leading eighth triple? At 41, he tied Sam Rice as the third-oldest players to hit that many triples. Rice hit eight in 1931 at age 41. Honus Wagner had 17 at the age of 41 in 1915. Wagner also hit nine at age 42 the next year.

Top of the 9th
2006 ALABAMA SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Mickey Andrews
Joe Ciampi
Tim Flock
Mia Hamm
Lionel James
Buddy Mcclinton
Michael E. Stephens

JIM “PEANUTS” DAVENPORT
Davenport, a former San Francisco Giant and native of Siluria, was a two-sport athlete at Southern Mississippi. He was a quarterback on the football team and an infielder on the baseball team. After his junior year, he signed a baseball contract with the San Francisco Giants in 1958. He played 13 years in the Major Leagues, all with the Giants. In 1962 he won the Golden Glove for his play at third base and also led the National League in fielding percentage for three consecutive years. He established the league record for consecutive errorless games by a third baseman (97) from July 1966 to April 1968. In 13 seasons, he had a lifetime batting average of .258 and was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1962. He was voted by the fans as the third baseman on the Giants’ 25th anniversary Dream Team in 1982. After his playing days, he went into coaching. He has been involved with four major league franchises over the years (San Diego, Philadelphia, Detroit , and the bulk of his coaching career has been with the Giants). During his coaching career he has been a coach, manager, hitting instructor, third base coach and advance scout. He is still associated with the San Francisco Giants organization.

BOB VEALE
A native of Birmingham, Veale played 13 years in the major leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox. He was known as one of the hardest left-handed pitchers in the majors. He led the National League in strikeouts in 1964 and finished second in 1965 and third in 1966. He struck out 16 Philadelphia Phillies in a nine-inning game in 1965 and 16 Cincinnati Reds in 12 innings in 1964). His lifetime ratio of 7.96 strikeouts per nine innings ranks fifth all-time (1,500-plus innings). He played in two All-Star games (1965 and 1966). When he retired in 1974, he was the only Pirate pitcher to have 200 strikeouts in a season. He finished with 120 wins, 95 losses, 20 shutouts and an ERA of 3.07. He played on the Pirate squad that won the World Series in 1971. He was also a minor league pitching instructor for the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees.

Bottom of the 9th
VISIT-BILLY-BALL-WORLD
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Have a great day!

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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.