Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)
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It’s not just any day, it’s Mrs. Ball’s birthday!
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Top of the 1st
BASEBALL A TO Z – 2006 SPRING TRAINING EDITION
* A is for A-Rod who is the reigning AL MVP; is this the year he finally wins a World Championship?
* B is for B*nds who I’m afraid will be baseball’s story all season long, both on and off the field.
* C is for Chicago, home of the World Champion White Sox and home of the continually cursed Cubs who once again are looking at another iffy season from Mark Prior.
* D is for Dee-troit and the Detroit Tigers who this year have Jim Leyland at the helm and many intriguing players. I am a big fan of Dmitri Young, but not crazy about Kenny Rogers or Todd Jones. Let me put it this way, they should finish closer to Cleveland than to Kansas City.
* E is for Ernie Banks who turned 75 this past January and retired 35 years ago (how could that be?). Mr. Cub is another one of baseball’s senior citizens who should honored while he’s still alive and can enjoy the moment. My late mother used to say, “Don’t put flowers on my grave, give them to me now while I can still smell them.”
* F is for Jeff Francis, the lefty who is the number three starter on the Colorado Rockies pitching staff behind Jason Jennings and Aaron Cook. You know, if those three guys pitch okay (and I think Francis is the sleeper of the three), the Rockies could be competitive this season.
* G is for greenies. With baseball finally cracking down on amphetamines, viewers won’t be the only ones napping come the 7th inning, the players on the bench will be joining them.
* H is for hemorrhoids. Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt in his new book, “Clearing the Bases,” writes that while during the 1980 World Series, Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett made headlines when he underwent surgery to relieve acute pain from hemorrhoids, Schmidt was hurting privately from the same condition. Unlike Brett, Schmidt never capitalized on his situation by making a hemorrhoid medicine commercial. “George made a few bucks having hemorrhoids and I just suffered,” Schmidt says.
* I is for Ichiro, the only major leaguer to play in the WBC final.
* J is for Jimmy Rollins and his 36 game hitting streak. Even if he hits in 57 straight purists will say that it was done over two seasons and that he didn’t exceed Joe D, so here’s hoping he ends with a 93-game streak.
* K is for Koby Clemens who may be the number one reason the old man will keep playing and keep playing for the Astros. You got to think that Roger would love to be teammates with his son. Who knows, maybe it will happen this September.
* L is for Larsen. This is the 50th anniversary of his perfect game, the greatest game pitched in the history of baseball, and so far only the Brockton Rox are celebrating this great feat.
* M is for the Major League Baseball Championship, a proposed name to replace the “World Series” now that Japan has won the World Baseball Classic. How about instead we change the name of the WBC to the March Baseball Classic and leave the World Series alone.
* N is for New York, so good they named it twice, once for the probable winners of the AL East and the second time for the probable winners of the NL East.
* O is for Omar Minaya who is my pre-season pick for Exec of the Year for the way he has re-shaped the New York Mets. Okay, he got my vote once he got rid of Anna Benson.
* P is for the Pittsburgh Pirates who have genuinely improved. This team should be in contention for fifth in the NL Central.
* Q is for Mark Quinn who played from 1999 to 2002 with the Kansas City Royals and is the all time home run leader amongst players whose last name begins with the letter “Q”. Quinn had 45 for his career.
* R is for the Rays, the Reds, and the Royals. Of the three, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have the best chance of winning 75-80 games and the Royals have the best shot of losing over 100, while the Reds have the best chance of being in Cincinnati.
* S is for Selig. Buddy-Boy’s tenure will not be defined by globalization but how he handles the B*nds situation.
* T is for Toronto. The Blue Jays made enough acquisitions this year to catapult them into the Red Sox traditional second place slot in the AL East this year and maybe into Boston’s regular Wild Card spot in the AL.
* U is for Ugueth Urbina, the former reliever who is currently awaiting trial in Venezuela for attempted murder, accused of attacking five workers on his ranch with a machete, gasoline and lighter fluid. I wouldn’t draft him for your Fantasy League this season.
* V is for Vin Scully who is entering his 57th season in 2006 as voice of the Dodgers. Scully has called three perfect games, 18 no-hitters, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star Games and makes every game a joy to listen to.
* W is for the World Baseball Classic which proved that baseball is now a game of the world. Now, if only, someone would bring it to America….
* X is for the X-Factor that the White Sox had last year and the Red Sox had the year before. Who will have it in 2006? It could be Oakland, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the Dodgers who will have it until Grady Little doesn’t relieve Odalis Perez late in Game 6 of the Series against the Yankees.
* Y is for Yoandy Garlobo, the Cuban third baseman who has been Cuba’s hottest hitter in the World Baseball Classic. “Hello, Fidel? This is Theo Epstein, how about Mike Lowell, Trot Nixon, and Alex Cora for Garlobo and a box of cigars?”
* Z is for zzzz. Looking for a nice quiet place to nap? Head on over to a Florida Marlins game. If they thought attendance was bad last year, wait until they see how many fans are rushing to see Dan Uggla play second.
Top of the 2nd
I WISH I HAD HAD TEACHERS LIKE THIS
A primary-school teacher in Osaka, Japan, apologized after complaints were made that he had been watching Thursday’s WBC game between Japan and South Korea on a television in his classroom while giving an exam. Some of the fifth-grade students reportedly said they couldn’t concentrate. The 47-year-old teacher apologized by saying, “Some students were looking forward to watching the game, and I was also anxious about it. I was so thoughtless.”
Top of the 3rd
THE THREE MAN LIFT
I hope I’m not ruining the surprise. For those of you who are not aware of it, “The Three Man Lift” is one of the great rookie hazing gags of Spring Training. As Johnny Damon describes it, “Three people lie on the floor, and they lock arms. You brag to everyone that you’re so strong; you can lift all three of them off the ground at once. The victim is the guy in the middle.”
In the old days in Reds training camp, Dave Parker, was the lifter. Three guys would lie on the floor about to be lifted. They would lock arms, as Parker strutted around getting ready for the lift. What the guy in the middle didn’t know was the other two were actually holding him in place and he was about to get nailed with shaving cream, talcum powder, mustard and ketchup.
Damon recalls playing the gag on Kevin Youkilis, “Lucas, one of our clubhouse boys, held him down on one side and Gabe Kapler…held him down on the other. To sell the thing to Youkilis, the guys were all taking bets on whether I’d be able to lift them all up or not. Jason Varitek kept on saying, “John, your knee is all banged up. I don’t think you ought to do this. You’re going to hurt yourself.” Youkilis was sure this was on the level.
Then all at once, the rest of the guys started pouring on him anything they could get their hands on, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, Coca-Cola, All Sport, and anything else available. This was about a half an hour before the game and Kevin was wearing his Red Sox home whites; he was a mess.”
I only bring this up because the gag was just played on Kenji Johjima, the new Mariners catcher who is a veteran from Japan, but a rookie here in the States. “Joh took it great,” veteran pitcher Jamie Moyer said. “And you can see that at some point, he’s going to get somebody back for what happened.”
Veteran prankster Eddie Guardado sold Johjima, telling him that he was going to win a bunch of clubhouse bets by lifting three men off the ground — in this case, Johjima and interpreters Ken Barron and Antony Suzuki. Using Barron to link arms with Johjima on one side and Suzuki on the other, Guardado approached as if he were going to try to lift them with a weightlifting belt that was wrapped around Johjima’s waist. But at the last minute, he ducked away and all of the Mariners swarmed Johjima, dumping the residue from breakfast and whatever else was close at hand — catsup, mustard, mayonnaise, syrup, orange juice, soda.
“You’d think everybody would have heard about the three-man lift or read about it or something,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “But every year there’s somebody who hasn’t. This year we had to go all the way to Japan to get one. I think this was the best I ever saw.”
Top of the 4th
SEE YOU LEITER
Al Leiter retired Sunday after pitching to one batter in New York’s 2-0 win over the Cleveland Indians. The 19-year veteran had just returned from the World Baseball Classic attended the New York Yankees’ spring reunion, then after he got Cleveland’s Eduardo Perez to ground out to third, the only batter he faced, time was called, and Leiter handed the ball to Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry. Alex Rodriguez patted him on the head and he began a slow, teary walk off the field for the final time.
“It feels good to be able to go out on your own terms,” Leiter said. “I love the game very much, but when you were a certain type of player for a few years, being a front-end starter, that’s the way I still think I can pitch. But the body tells you no.
Leiter, a second-round draft pick by the Yankees who made his major-league debut with New York in 1987, finished with a record of 162-132 and won World Series titles with Toronto (1993) and Florida (1997). He also pitched for the New York Mets.
Top of the 5th
JUAN GONE BACK?
Frequently injured outfielder Juan Gonzalez, limited to one at-bat last season, agreed to a minor-league contract with the Red Sox. The Red Sox are considering adding him to their Disabled List, later this season.
Top of the 6th
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
Toronto pitcher A.J. Burnett’s elbow problem is just scar tissue breaking away in his right elbow. Burnett had Tommy John surgery three years ago. The sound you hear is all of Canada breathing a sigh of relief.
Kansas City Royals closer, Mike MacDougal, has a strain in his upper right arm and is expected to be sidelined for about a month. The sound you hear is all of Kansas City breathing a sigh of apathy.
Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 3/21/2006
On this date in 1975, Ducky died.
JIM WED COKE
BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 3/21/2006
Who did the Phillies honor by retiring number 36?
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com
Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 3/13/06
This birthday boy wore number 3 and number 7 for the New York Yankees –
PIFFLE SCAM – Cliff Mapes
BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 3/21/06
In October, 1922, the World Series was broadcast for the time on radio – who was the announcer for radio station WJZ, Newark?
Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
Going into yesterday’s action, the Padres catching trio of Mike Piazza (6-for-14), Doug Mirabelli (9-for-20) and David Ross (8-for-16) has combined for a .460 batting average (23-for-50) while hitting eight of the Padres’ 19 Spring home runs…additionally, the trio has driven in 23 RBI and scored 16 runs.
Top of the 9th
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAXIE
Happy birthday to my wonderful wife, my clean-up hitter, my closer, my all-star. You make all things possible for me, including Billy-Ball.
I love you.
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.