Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-7-15

7/15/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…
By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Top of the 1st
(A)MUSINGS FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
You know I always feel like it’s a good day when Senior National Correspondent Jerry Malitz graces us with his writing. I really enjoyed this piece and I know you will as well.

Wonder Why You Haven’t Before
By Jerry Malitz

The House that Little Alvin Jackson built, Shea Stadium is in the midst of season number forty-five. Its high society neighbor to the north, The House that Ruth built, Yankee Stadium, has been hosting the Yankees since 1923 (you do the math). This year, they will walk together choking neck hand into choking neck hand, where they will both be greeted by Ebbetts Field and the Polo Grounds at the gates of baseball’s New York City Valhalla.
Many amongst us have some beer stained memories of one or both. Some, who will need more than foggy memories, are even poised to strike out and buy a souvenir that will be splashed across eBay soon after the season ends. Rick Reilly has already come out with a Yankee Stadium price list for several mementos including a seat $300-$2,500 or some dirt $200-$500 http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3479929.
The cost of a memory becomes prohibitive when looking at it this way. I mean $2,500? Heck, that would enable you to buy a single game special box seat ticket to the new Yankee Stadium. And dirt for $200? That will be worth four valet parking sessions at the new stadium. Won’t that be a better way to spend your money? Times have changed and that calls for better schemes. But it hasn’t always been about planning.
My college roommate for two years Irv found himself having to think on his feet on two separate occasions. The first came on February 11, 1968 – soon before he started college so he was not yet wise to the ways of the world – when he attended the last N.Y. Rangers game at the old (version 3) Madison Square Garden. During this 3-3 tie with the Detroit Red Wings, featuring a game-tying goal by the Rangers’ Jean Ratelle, Irv partook in one of the more famous episodes of rhythmic cheering, one that would make European soccer crowds envious. Throughout the game fans stood and stomped… on their wooden seats… breaking loose the slats so they could take home a piece of Garden history. No police or usher interference as they too wanted in on the action. The players probably thought that the crowd was totally into the game until splinters started to make their way onto the ice. Irv left with some future firewood and those who attended the February 12-13 92nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (the last event ever held in Garden III) were left to watch the 2,580 dogs in a standing room only scenario, a first for the Dog Show.
Irv’s second brush with mob rule mentality came on September 30, 1971 when as the Washington Post headline boomed out, “Rowdy Fans Hand Senators Final Loss.” Yes, Irv was an active participant when as reported “In the top of the ninth last night — with the Senators leading 7 to 5 and two out — several hundred youths in the yelling crowd of 14,460 surged onto the playing field at R.F. Kennedy Stadium. They ran the bases and stole home, tore out tufts of grass, grabbed the ball boys’ folding chair and pinched dirt for their jacket pockets.” Irv has since told me he was never so proud as then to be referred to as a “youth.” He now had grass and dirt to go with his wood, and a campfire scene was not far off.
This leads me to my own personal experience. On Saturday April 18, 1964, one of my 8th grade buddies, Eddie, and I decided to go to Shea Stadium for the 2nd game in its history. Eddie and I already had a colorful sports-related history. Unfortunately it had to do with gambling. You see at the start of our 8th grade year we decided that what our school, Meyer Levin J.H.S. 285 in Brooklyn, needed was a weekly betting pool on what the top 10 songs would be on radio station WMCA, home of the Good Guys (For example, the #1 song for the week of April 15, 1964 was Do You Want To Know A Secret by The Beatles). We had a thriving business until we got caught in a sting. Our punishment? We were put into a 7th grade class for one week – Note to educators: Do not mix older kids with younger kids if you want to keep the younger ones pure of thought – to reflect on what we did.
So it was with this background that we headed out to Willets Point on the subway that day. After a first game sellout of over 50,000 people the Saturday crowd was a bit smaller at 31,480. The Pirates (Stargell, Clemente, Mazeroski) had a 9-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th. It was then that the crowd began to empty out and Eddie and I made our way from the upper deck to the shiny new yellow box seats along the first base line. The 7th inning began what would become a trademark Mets late game rally. With 2 runs in the 7th and another 2 in the 8th the crowd was all pumped for the 9th inning. People were waving hankies and screaming and causing all sorts of a ruckus. It was at this time that Eddie and I noticed how loose the side bolts on our seats were. It was touch and go there for a while in terms of the stadium being ready for opening day and I guess they didn’t have time to tighten everything up. While the Mets loaded the bases the two of us were busy loosening the bolts even more until they were but one wrist movement away from coming off. The Mets scored one run but left the bases loaded as the original Frank Thomas lined to center against Elroy Face to end the game. As soon as that happened with one more turn we were each left holding a seat in our hands. Luckily it was April in Shea so we wrapped them in our jackets and ever so calmly walked out of Shea Stadium with two souvenirs that we didn’t have to wait 45 years for.
As a kid I watched many games on TV and listened to many more on the radio sitting on that seat. As for the next Mets game, well they won their first game at Shea 6-0 behind a 6-hit shutout by Little Alvin Jackson who officially became the first Shea Stadium hero in Mets history. I still feel a bit sorry for the two unsuspecting fans who attended that game and were left standing in true Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show fashion. No, truth is this is actually the first time their plight occurred to me. What can I say, I was a kid who knew I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars 45 years down the road for an artificial piece of history. I have my seat, I took part in its history, and I ended up with a like-minded college roommate. And people think college roommates just happen by chance.

Top of the 2nd
ALL-STAR LINEUPS
NL
Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez at the top of the order, followed by Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols at designated hitter, Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, Colorado’s Matt Holliday in right field, Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, Chicago’s Kosuke Fukudome in center and Cubs rookie catcher Geovany Soto.

AL
Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will bat leadoff, followed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton, New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, Rangers designated hitter Milton Bradley, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Top of the 3rd
WRITERS ACROSS AMERICA USE “NO, JOSHIN'” RECORD NUMBERS OF TIMES
I got home from dinner last night just in time to see the amazing display of batting practice power by Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hit a record 28 homers in the first round of the All-Star Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium before he was beaten out by Minnesota’s Justin Morneau in the final round, 5-3.

Everything after the Hamilton was a total and complete waste of time and I really wish I had gone to bed instead of watching it.

Here are my two hopes for next year – first the competition should only be two rounds, second, I should just not turn on the television.

Top of the 4th
DAVE RICKETTS
Longtime St. Louis Cardinals coach Dave Ricketts, who played on their 1967 World Series championship team, died early Sunday. He was 73. He had been battling cancer and living in St. Louis.

Ricketts was a reserve catcher, who played sparingly for the Cardinals in 1963, ’65 and ’67-69. He was traded to the Pirates in 1970, his final season in the majors. He played 130 major league games and hit .249 with one home run.

He became a coach for the Pirates in 1971. He had two stints as a Cardinals coach, first from 1974-75, then from 1978-91. He was also a minor league instructor for the team.

“Sometimes the word great is overused, and it’s a shame,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before St. Louis played the Pirates. “There have been some truly great Cardinals that have come through our organization, but I don’t know anybody who was as great or more beloved than Dave Ricketts. I put him in the George Kissell category, or Red Schoendienst, as far as … the fondness that they (people in the organization) feel for him.”

The same message was delivered to me by long-time reader Gene Schmittgens whose family spoke so highly of Ricketts.

Top of the 5th
GIMME FIVE
Last Thursday, Justin Morneau had five hits for the Twins against the Tigers. His fifth hit was the game-winning homer in the 11th inning at Comerica Park. Later that evening, Hanley Ramirez had five hits for the Marlins against the Dodgers in L.A. His fifth hit was a winning homer in the 11th.

The last player before Thursday with at least five hits and a game-winning homer in extra innings was Angels outfielder Jose Guillen in 2004.

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-SITE-OF-THE-DAY
Here is a terrific historic retrospective of Yankee Stadium:
http://i.usatoday.net/sports/graphics/yankee_stadium_08/control.htm

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
Ben Sheets, 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA for the NL.
Cliff Lee, 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA for the AL.

Then everyone else.

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
This All-Star game is the highest-priced in baseball history, with lower-deck seats costing $525 to $725 and bleacher tickets $150. The home run derby sold for $100-$650 and the Futures Game $50-$225.

On Stubhub.com, tickets for tonight’s game were on sale for up to $6,390 each. That’s cheap next to the regular-season finale against Baltimore on Sept. 21. The asking price on Stubhub is as much as $65,000 per seat.

Top of the 9th
THE TRIPLE A ALL-STAR GAME
The Pacific League will take on the International League’s best in the 21st annual Triple-A All-Star Game, slated for July 16 in Louisville, Kentucky. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. eastern daylight time and can be seen live on ESPN2.

The International League will look to pick up its third consecutive win at the mid-summer semi-classic after coming out victorious in the 2006 All-Star Game held in Toledo, Ohio and the 2007 Game in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This will be the 11th showdown under the current IL vs. PCL format, as the first ten contests pitted All-Stars selected from National League affiliates against those from American League affiliates. The IL and PCL are currently tied 5-5. The winning League this year will once again earn the right to have its champion play as the “home team” at the Triple-A Championship Game – the Bricktown Showdown – in Oklahoma City this September.

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.

Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sports, http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427 or from your favorite bookstore worldwide.

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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.