Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-3-30

3/30/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Top of the 1st
CARRYING JACKIE’S TORCH
Tomorrow in Memphis, Tennessee, Major League Baseball has scheduled the inaugural Civil Rights Game. The exhibition game between the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians will be played at downtown AutoZone Park, just blocks from the National Civil Rights Museum, a structure that includes the hotel where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

On that day, the Cardinals had players like Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Bob Gibson. The Indians had players like Lee Maye, Leon Wagner, and Dave Nelson. Take a look at their rosters at this Civil Rights Game and help me find the black faces.

When you look at the Indians you will find their Opening Day pitcher C.C. Sabathia. To his credit, Sabathia made sure he was not the only who noted that he was the only African American on his team. “It’s not just a problem, it’s a crisis,” he told reporters. “When I grew up, I was a pitcher and I liked the Oakland A’s. I liked Dave Stewart. I was a big left-handed hitter, so I liked Dave Parker. You had Barry Bonds playing in San Francisco, guys like that. There were a lot of guys to look up to.”

The 2005 Houston Astros were the first team since the 1953 Yankees to play in a World Series without an African American player. And speaking of the Yankees, they will start the season without even one single African American. The last time the Yankees did that was 1954, prior to the arrival of Elston Howard. The closest they will come this season is the bi-racial Derek Jeter.

The teams are the rule rather than the exception. A study of the 2005 major league season that found just 8.5 percent of players were African American — down from a high of 28 percent in 1975. “There are only two black starting pitchers (Sabathia and Dontrelle Willis),” Sabathia said. “That’s amazing. That’s unbelievable. Now, I don’t even see any African-American kids playing college baseball back home. That’s amazing. That’s unbelievable. I don’t think people understand that there is a problem. They see players like Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and just assume that they’re black.”

“Baseball combs the world for prospects and revenues,” Hall of Famer Dave Winfield told Reuters in an interview. “It cannot afford to forget the fans and prospects in the U.S.”
“We can all do more,” Sabathia said. “Talking about the problem isn’t going to solve it. It’s time to do something.”

One thing we can do is by making sure we remember the great players who followed in Jackie Robinson’s footsteps. In “Carrying Jackie’s Torch, The Players Who Integrated Baseball – and America,” veteran Newsday sportswriter Steve Jacobson writes about 19 players who helped integrate the sport.

The stories are moving, inspirational, and shocking. We give Jackie his well-deserved accolades, but what his peers went through was no piece of cake. Just remember the world hadn’t changed that much when Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League just 11 weeks after Jackie’s arrival in the majors. In the book, there is a Doby recollection of walking onto the field prior to his first game and finding no one would have a catch with him to warm-up until after standing for minutes, which must have felt like an eternity, before second baseman waved his glove to him to throw the ball.

“I thought my life was a constant stream of insults,” Ernie Banks said. Three times he thought pitchers deliberately hit him: Bob Purkey, Jack Sanford and Bob Friend. Each time, he hit a home run the next time up.

In his chapter on Banks, Jacobsen wrote, “There was the time bandleader Lionel Hampton and singer Pearl Bailey, black celebrities of the time, came to young Ernie Banks. Hey, young man, they said, you’re playing for a whole lot of people, you gotta be the best. And we’re gonna check on you to make sure you do not get into trouble.

It’s an awesome burden to feel you’re carrying the hopes of a whole race, under constant scrutiny, thinking that every error, every strikeout, every failure in the clutch was taken as a reflection of inferiority in your whole race. Robinson felt it in Brooklyn and Larry Doby felt it in Cleveland. Now it was the weight on Banks in Chicago. His alternative to succeeding was going back to Dallas and working as a bellhop in the Gustavus Adolphus Hotel or the equivalent, which was no alternative at all. So Banks kept up his good nature and held his tongue along with the few other black players. “It also labeled us with the next wave of players who came into the majors and we were called `Uncle Tom’ because we didn’t question anything,” he said.”

There are stories from each of the subjects, Mudcat Grant recalled a game in Yazoo, Mississippi when a white man and his son visited him in a dugout before a game and said, “Well, you’re gonna find out we’re not as tough on niggers down here as you think we are. Can I get an autograph for my son?”

Alvin Jackson was a member of the 1962 New York Mets and remembered staying with his teammates at the Colonial Inn in St. Petersburg during Spring Training. Jackson, the first black person ever to register there was greeted by a call from the hotel manager who asked Jackson to do him a favor – don’t go into the bar, the restaurant, and especially the pool.

The stories of Bob Watson, Emmitt Ashford, Curt Flood, Frank Robinson are powerful and important. Steve Jacobson, who was a reporter for Newsday for 44 years starting in 1960, does an outstanding job sharing them. The words of these pioneers should be reminders and inspirations to everyone as we approach the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s entry into the big leagues on April 15, 1947.

Top of the 2nd
ANSWERS YOU DON’T EXPECT
Here’s a trivia question for you – which active pitcher is third on the all-time list in games pitched AND is second in World Series games pitched?

See the Top of the 9th for the answer

Top of the 3rd
HE STILL IS “THE GREATEST”
Using a walker, Muhammad Ali shuffled into the Angels’ Tempe Diablo Stadium clubhouse Tuesday and took a seat in the middle of the Angels’ locker room. Players, coaches, trainers, front-office officials, clubhouse employees and Manager Mike Scioscia all waited in line for their moment with The Champ who posed for pictures and, with the help of his handlers, signed a few bats and baseballs.

“He’s arguably the greatest athlete to ever live,” reliever Scot Shields told the Los Angeles Times. “In my opinion, it’s him and Michael Jordan…. You know you’re pretty big when you’ve got the whole clubhouse standing around, and every single person wants to take a picture with you. That’s something special.”

I met Ali once at a James Brown concert at Yankee Stadium. Think about it, The Greatest, the Godfather of Soul, and Billy-Ball, wow!

Top of the 4th
BLOGGED DOWN
There’s always more for The Senator to share – Scheck it out: http://38pitches.com/

Top of the 5th
THEY’LL ROB YOU BLIND IN NEW YORK
In 2006, the Mets and Yankees finished at the top of the major league leader board in team stolen-base percentage. The Mets ranked second in the majors with 146 steals, but first with an 80.7-percent success rate. Second in the majors were the Yankees at 79.9 percent. They were successful 139 times in 174 attempts.

Top of the 6th
GIANTS SCOREBOARD ON STEROIDS
Baseball fans visiting AT&T Park this season will see a $3 million, high-definition scoreboard, one of only three in a professional sports stadium in the United States (the other two are at Turner Park, home to the Atlanta Braves, and Dolphin Stadium, home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

In addition, the Giants teamed with PG&E to install hundreds of solar panels around the stadium that will produce as much as 120 kilowatts of energy. A year ago, the team mounted 225 flat-screen high-definition televisions throughout the ballpark. And in 2004, it set up a wireless broadband network for fans who want to access the Web on their laptops or mobile devices during the game. The team is also adding thirteen 17-inch LCD televisions on the stadium’s Dugout Club level.

The new display, 31 1/2 feet high by 103 feet wide, is the latest addition to the high-tech ballpark was designed to be able to fully capture all of Barry B*nds head. The next generation of screens hopefully will be large enough to capture B*nds’ ego.

Giants scoreboard
Width: 103 feet
Height: 31 feet, 6 inches
Weight: 28 tons
Total LEDs: 3 million
Cost: $3.1 million
— Mitsubishi Electric

Top of the 7th
ARE YOU GOING TO OPENING DAY?
I’ve always felt that like New Year’s Eve, Opening Day is for amateurs. I have been to a number of Opening Days in a few different venues in the Northeast and in each case returned home butt-less as that body was frozen off while at the game. But according to today’s Wall St. Journal, even if you want to attend the game it’s getting harder to get a ticket. Not just because of the amateurs, but because of the scarcity of tickets. This year, for example, the Los Angeles Dodgers offered about 14,000 individual tickets for its first home game, down from 16,500 last year, because it had included more of its Opening Day tickets in multiple-ticket plans. The New York Mets offered about 6,000 individual tickets for this year’s game, about half of last year’s count. The Milwaukee Brewers sold out of the 1,000 or so individual tickets it offered for its first game this year, down from the 4,000 it offered last year. The team had fewer individual tickets in part, it says, because it doubled its inventory of nine-game ticket plans that include Opening Day. (This year the Brewers sold out all 10,000 of the packages, with prices from $117 to $297.)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Mickey Mantle has the only uniform #7 that has been retired.

Top of the 9th
COMING MONDAY
Billy-Ball makes his picks known for the coming season – c’mon influence me, I’m begging you!

Write me Bill@billy-ball.com

TRIVIA ANSWER – Mike Stanton of the Reds with 1,109, behind Jesse Orosco (1,252) and John Franco (1,119) and is second in World Series games pitched with 20, behind Whitey Ford (22). Excluding the 1994 strike season, he appeared in the playoffs 11 seasons in a row from 1991 to 2001.

Have a great weekend!

Bottom of the 9th
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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.