Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)
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Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Top of the 1st
I loved watching Clete Boyer, the third baseman for the Yankees in the 1960s. I loved watching him dive to the ground and throw from his knees, like a bullet, to first base. He did it again and again, truly a thing of beauty. Clete died yesterday on the 50th anniversary of the day he joined the Yankees as part of a trade from the Kansas City Athletics. He was only 70.
Clete was a player who never could get the adulation he deserved. He was always in someone’s shadow, always the second. As I noted, he was a terrific fielder. “In all my years of playing with him, he only made one bad throw to me,” former Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson told the AP.
“I got a lot of rings by him playing third base,” Bill “Moose” Skowron, who played first for the Yanks, told AP reporters, “When we played Cincinnati (referring to the 1961 World Series), he made those great plays. He threw a couple balls to me, he was on his knees. He was a hell of a glove man.” But as great a third baseman as Boyer was he would always be second to a guy known as “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” Brooks Robinson.
Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry added, “You’d talk to Moose and he would always tell you how good a third baseman he was,” Guidry told the AP. “You talked to Whitey Ford and he’d tell you, ‘I didn’t have to worry about ground balls. I could pitch inside, throw breaking balls. If they hit it down the third-base line, he was going to catch it.'”
Clete Boyer was a career .242 hitter with 162 home runs and 654 RBIs. “You can’t hit eighth in front of the pitcher if you have power,” Boyer told Baseball Digest, a few years ago. “They’ll knock you down. And, when you stand in the box at Yankee Stadium and look at how far that fence was… I used to tell people I couldn’t hit a golf ball that far.
“If you were a visiting player, it didn’t bother you ’cause you only were there for three games. But, when you play half your games there, it drove you nuts. The park killed me.”
“I would give him a lot of credit for being a good No. 8 hitter. It wasn’t easy in those days, with the pitcher hitting being you,” Yankee teammate Bobby Richardson told the AP. “He was a team player and a great teacher.
“He was a hard liver, I don’t think that’s any secret,” the second baseman said. “He lived life to the fullest.”
But even as a Boyer, Clete was number two. His brother Ken was a seven-time National League All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner for the St. Louis Cardinals. They combined for 444 career homers with Ken leading with 282 and Clete finishing with 162.
In 1964, Ken won NL MVP and he Clete faced each other in the World Series. Following Game 4 of that Series on Sunday, October 11, in which Ken hit a key grand slam to win the game, the Boyer brothers were mystery guests on the popular game show, “What’s My Line.” Panelists Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, and Sammy Davis Jr. had to guess their profession.
In Game 7, the Boyers became the first brothers to homer in the same game. They nodded to each other as they rounded the bases. Ken’s team won that game, 7-5 for the World Championship. Clete’s dream was be Ken’s teammate in the majors with Ken at third and him at short. Their older brother Cloyd was a pitcher with the Cardinals in the early 1950s.
Clete had World Series rings from 1961 and 1962. 1962 was probably Boyer’s best year as a Yankee hitting.272 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI. It was also Boyer’s best Series hitting .318 with a home run and four RBIs in the seven-game victory over the Giants.
If there was a low point in Boyer’s Yankee career it was in the 2nd inning of Game 1 of the 1960 World Series with the Yankees losing 3-1, and two runners on base and no one out, and Casey Stengel pinch-hit for Clete. Dale Long lined out and then Bobby Richardson lined into a double play. The Yanks ultimately lost that game, 6-4. Boyer was obviously demoralized by the decision and never forgave Stengel.
Boyer’s Yankee career ended on November 29, 1966 when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Bill Robinson and pitcher Chi Chi Olivo. Even heading to the Braves, Boyer was in a shadow being acquired to replace Hall of Famer, Eddie Mathews.
But Boyer thrived in Atlanta. Finally away from the cavernous dimensions of Yankee Stadium, Clete hit 26 homers in first season as a Brave and out of the shadow of Brooks Robinson, he won his only Gold Glove came in 1969. Boyer played five seasons with Atlanta, hitting .244 average, with 66 homer, and 251 RBI.
His career with the Braves ended May 28, 1971, after a bitter dispute with GM Paul Richards and manager Lum Harris (this included Harris’ insistence on a midnight curfew before a day game on the road, Clete was known to be a partier). Boyer was released and retired. Clete did continue his career though playing for the Tokyo Taiyo Whales (now the Yokohama BayStars) for four years in the Central League in Japan.
In his last at bat on May 23, 1971, Boyer lined out to second against Ray Sadecki of the Mets in a 4-0 Braves loss. He last his was a double earlier in the game to extend his career ending hitting streak to nine games. During the streak he hit five home runs and drove home 14.
Boyer was Billy Martin’s third base coach with the Oakland A’s in 1980. When I met Clete six years ago, he was a “restaurateur” owning a greasy spoon known as “Clete Boyer’s Hamburger Hall of Fame, outside of Cooperstown. It was a great place. When I introduced myself and told him that I was known as Billy-Ball, his eyes lit up above his bloated cheeks. I can only imagine the late nights and bottles they shared.
In 1982, with Martin’s help, Clete organized a benefit dinner in Scottsdale, Arizona to help pay the medical bills for, Ken, who was dying of cancer. Boyer rejoined the Yankees as a minor league instructor in 1987 and later as third base coach under Martin in 1988 and Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter from 1991-94.
Boyer was cremated and his ashes went in a Yankee urn.
Top of the 2nd
ELLIS HITS FOR THE CYCLE, RED SOX FEEL RECYCLED
Following the Sunday night ESPN game that ended 12:14 yesterday morning, the Red Sox headed to Oakland to play the A’s. The last they needed was a 225-minute, 11-inning game. Actually the last thing they needed was a long game and a loss…and they got both.
The A’s, recovered from Boston’s two-run 9th inning rally and defeated the Sox, 5-4 on Eric Chavez’s walk-off homer.
Mark Ellis became the sixth Oakland player to hit for the cycle, with a two-run triple in the 2nd, a solo homer in the 4th, a double in the 6th, and a broken-bat bloop single in the 10th inning.
David Ortiz hit his 10th homer and first since May 9, a span of 19 games and 69 at-bats. Dustin Pedroia, the AL’s Rookie of the Month, extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a 10th-inning single.
Top of the 3rd
SORIANO CELEBRATES PINIELLA’S SUSPENSION
Alfonso Soriano had five hits, including a three-run homer, as the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2. Alfonso has now homered in his last three games and is hitting .407 over his past 12 games. The last time he had five hits in a game was as a Yankee on Sept. 17, 2002, a 9-7 loss to Tampa Bay.
The win was the second in a row for the Cubs since Lou Piniella was ejected on Saturday in Chicago, after a dirt-kicking tantrum against an umpire following a close play at third base. Piniella was suspended four games by Major League Baseball for the incident.
Lou should sit out as long as the team wins.
Top of the 4th
HOMER IS Y-E-S
Homer Bailey is going to be called up to make his major-league debut at Great American Ball Park this coming Saturday for the Reds. Manager Jerry Narron confirmed that in a roundabout way Sunday when he offered this: “Saturday is TBA,” Narron said. “And it’s TBA, not TBD.”
Bailey, the 21-year-old right-hander and the club’s top prospect, will face the Indians. Bailey pitched Saturday night for Triple-A Louisville and won to push his record to 6-1. He allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. It was his worst outing of the year, and raised his ERA from 1.89 to 2.31.
Top of the 5th
HOME RUN ALPHA DOGS
Here are the home run leaders by letter
A – Aaron, Hank (755)
B – B*nds, Barry (746)
C – C*nseco, Jose (462)
D – Dawson, Andre (438)
E – Evans, Darrell (414)
F – Foxx, Jimmie (534)
G – Griffey, Ken (574)
H – Howard, Frank (382)
I – Incaviglia, Pete (206)
J – Jackson, Reggie (563)
K – Killebrew, Harmon (573)
L – Luzinski, Greg (307)
M – Mays, Willie (660)
N – Nettles, Graig (390)
O – Ott, Mel (511)
P – Palmeiro, Rafael (569)
Q – Quinn, Mark (45)
R – Ruth, Babe (714)
S – S*sa, Sammy (598)
T – Thomas, Frank (494)
U – Upshaw, Willie (123)
V – Vaughn, Greg (355)
W – Williams, Ted (521)
X – None
Y – Yastrzemski, Carl (452)
Z – Zeile, Todd (253)
Top of the 6th
Derek Lowe threw six innings of no-hit ball and then he and the Dodgers had to hang on to defeat the Pirates, 6-5. Jeff Kent, in a 1-for-26 slump, doubled in a run, Rafael Furcal hit a two-run double and Russell Martin hit his fourth homer in his last five starts as the Dodgers took three of four in Pittsburgh. They have won nine of 12.
Top of the 7th
Away Home Time (ET) Away Probable Home Probable
Marlins Braves GM 1: 2:35 p.m. Mitre (2-2) Carlyle (0-1)
Royals Indians 7:05 p.m. De La Rosa (4-5) Sabathia (8-1)
Pirates Nationals 7:05 p.m. Chacon (1-0) Bacsik (1-1)
Devil Rays Blue Jays 7:07 p.m. Sonnanstine (0-0) Halladay (5-2)
Phillies Mets 7:10 p.m. Moyer (5-4) Glavine (5-3)
Marlins Braves GM 2: 7:35 p.m. Vanden Hurk (0-1) Smoltz (7-2)
Cubs Brewers 8:05 p.m. Lilly (4-3) Vargas (3-1)
Reds Cardinals 8:10 p.m. Harang (6-2) Wellemeyer (1-1)
Yankees White Sox 8:11 p.m. Clippard (2-1) Buehrle (2-2)
Tigers Rangers 8:35 p.m. Robertson (4-5) Padilla (2-8)
Astros Rockies 9:05 p.m. Rodriguez (2-5) Hirsh (2-5)
Giants D-Backs 9:40 p.m. Cain (2-5) Johnson (3-2)
Orioles Mariners 10:05 p.m. Burres (3-2) Baek (3-2)
Red Sox Athletics 10:05 p.m. Matsuzaka (7-3) DiNardo (1-2)
Dodgers Padres 10:05 p.m. Schmidt (1-2) Young (6-3)
Twins Angels 10:05 p.m. Baker (1-0) Escobar (6-3)
Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
On Aug. 14, 1971, the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson threw the last and only no-hitter by an opposing pitcher in Pittsburgh during the Pirates’ 121 seasons. There never was a no-hitter pitched at Forbes Field (1909-1970).
Top of the 9th
WHAT DID HE SHEA?
Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo on Shea Stadium. “I would come personally back here to blow it up. I’d pay my own way. Maybe even just to watch it.”
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.