Ernie, Subs and Walkoffs

Ernie

1. The Calls of Our Lives

The great Tigers’ announcer Ernie Harwell passed away yesterday and all of baseball lost an illustrious voice. He was 92 and battled cancer with the same dignity in which he conducted every part of his life. Frequently, in the Detroit Free-Press and elsewhere Harwell referred to his incurable cancer and impending death as “his next great adventure, a gift handed down by God.

“I’ve had so many great ones,” he said. “It’s been a terrific life.”

John Lowe in today’s Free Press summed up what made this Tiger announcer so great for 42 years:

“Unlike some announcers in recent decades, Harwell didn’t litter his broadcasts with shouting, excessive talking or all-knowing pronouncements about players and managers. Listening to him was as pleasant as being at Tiger Stadium in the summertime. As he fell silent between pitches, listeners got to hear the sounds of the ballpark — the crowd’s buzz, the vendor’s cry — and absorb the rhythm of the game. Harwell thus became an ideal companion for a listener anywhere: the couch, the yard, the car or the boat.”

Baseball broadcasters, and writers in a different way, bring the game to you. The great ones make you feel as if it is better than being there. They capture the excitement, they appreciate the athleticism, and they bring you moments that have passed, so that you can better understand the magnitude of the present.

Great members of the baseball media, for whom you know my respect is never ending, teach you to love and respect the game. They want you to love baseball. People ask me frequently, why I work so hard each day, without being paid, writing Billy-Ball.com and I explain why I define myself as a “newstalgist.” I simply want to bring past baseball fans to the present, present baseball fans the past, and create new baseball fans for the future. I want to be like the announcers and newspaper guys and authors who did that for me.

Sharing the love for the game by an announcer can be spotted right away. Not necessarily singling him out, but announcers like Jim Nantz simply share their love for sports announcing. They bring nothing but a mike to the various sports they cover, all with the same amount of saccharine, counterfeit hype and false emotion.

Jerry Green of the Detroit News writes today of following Harwell into the Yankee clubhouse 10 years ago and how the Yankee players all quickly responded to his presence, in particular Derek Jeter. “I used to listen to him as a kid,” said Jeter, who grew up in Kalamazoo, rabid about baseball.” Can you imagine rousing a kid like Derek Jeter to the greatness that Ernie did?

Green wrote this morning: “He taught the game to a million or more youngsters from Monroe to Iron Mountain, down into Ohio, and across into Ontario. Because of him, and his voice, they learned to understand baseball. They learned to love the sport. They learned to respect it.

And the ballplayers and the newspaper journalists learned how to respect baseball, too.

“I have this card-file system that I use,” Harwell, told Green. “I keep it up to date, the same thing that you get in the press guide. I do it so I don’t have to lug the press guides around.

“To me, the play-by-play’s the bread and butter, the score. That’s what people want. They want to know what’s happened, and the other stuff’s a little frosting on the cake.

“You can’t just say ‘ball one, strike one’ for two or three hours.”

I got to see the black notebook that Jerry Howarth, the Blue Jays outstanding announcer, uses during games that make listening to him so entertaining and educational. I was hoping to see what Terry Smith, the fine announcer for the Angels uses to add to his broadcasts but getting to the ballpark was not possible for me this week. I hope someday to meet Vince Scully and have the honor of watching him work. He brings an elegance and descriptive quality to baseball in same the manner that Van Gogh brought to paintings and Lennon and McCartney brought to music.

During my childhood, I listened to Mel Allen who taught me to love the game. Then, and now, I read whatever I could get my hands on about baseball so long before I ever heard Harwell I knew that he was the only broadcaster ever traded for a ballplayer. When Red Barber, the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers, took ill and couldn’t sit “in the cat bird seat,” Branch Rickey, the Dodgers president, contacted the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association and asked about the availability of Harwell to replace him. In return, Rickey sent catcher Cliff Dapper to the Crackers.

I will leave the honor of recounting Ernie moments to those who knew him better than I. There is so much online today about him and I encourage you to read about this man who taught so many to love the game.

I closing, I leave you with this quote that Lowe grabbed from something that Ernie wrote in the Sporting News in 1955 when that publication was “Baseball’s Bible”:

“Baseball is the president tossing out the first ball of the season. And a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. …

“There’s a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh 46 years ago — that’s baseball. And so is the scout reporting that a 16-year-old sandlot pitcher in Cheyenne is the coming Walter Johnson.

“In baseball, democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rule book. And color, merely something to distinguish one team’s uniform from another’s.

“Baseball? Just a game — as simple as a ball and bat. And yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.”

Detroit will always remember their announcer. So will everybody who has loved the game.

2. It Took 12 When 13 Wasn’t Enough

Aaron Rowand tied the game for the Giants last night with two-out solo homer in the 9th, and Aubrey Huff hit a two-run 12th inning single as San Francisco beat the Florida Marlins, 9-6.

This was a game whose initial story was Tim Lincecum. Lincecum was leading 3-0 before Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the 6th. In seven innings of work,  Lincecum allowed only five hits, one walk while striking out 13. He left with a 5-3 lead

Then the bats took over. Dan Uggla hit a three-run homer with two out in the 8th off Sergio Romo to gave the Marlins a 6-5 lead and then Rowand homered on a hanging slider from closer Leo Nunez.

Dan Runzler (1-0) struck out the side in the 11th, and Guillermo Mota pitched a perfect 12th for his first save. Six San Francisco pitchers combined for 20 strikeouts.

3. Yankee Subs Rise to the Occasion

Yankee subs

Ramiro Pena substituted for Derek Jeter at short as Jeter rested as the DH giving Nick Johnson a night off.  Francisco Cervelli was the catcher again as Jorge Posada rested his sore calf. Joba Chamberlain served as the closer because Mariano Rivera has a sore muscle in his rib area and all these subs contributed to help A. J. Burnett (4-0) top the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1.

Pena drove in two runs on a sac bunt and a sac fly and Cervelli had three hits, including his first career triple. And while Joba got the save for the second consecutive night it was

Burnett who outpitched Brian Matusz (2-2) striking out eight in 7.1 innings, allowing five hits, two walks and an unearned run.

Jeter slammed his 443rd career double, breaking a tie with Don Mattingly for third all-time on the Yankees.

4. Mariners Continue to Sink as the Rays Shine

Evan Longoria homered, James Shields won and the Mariners hardly scored. So what else is new? The Tampa Bay Rays continued their great start with a 5-2 victory over the Mariners giving Seattle a total six runs in its last four games, all home losses.

Shields (4-0) allowed eight hits and two runs leaving after the first two Mariners singled in the 9th and enabling Rafael Soriano to get his seventh save in seven tries. Jason Vargas (2-2) allowed just four hits and three runs while striking out a career-high eight in 6.2 innings and took the loss.

The Mariners committed four errors, three by usually reliable shortstop Jack Wilson who double his error total from his first 23 games.

The Rays improved their major league’s best road ERA to 2.21 and baseball’s best road record to 10-1. Tampa Bay is off to the best start in the AL since the 2005 Chicago White Sox also began 19-7. The last team to start better was the 2001 Mariners who went 20-6 en route to an AL-record 116 wins and also started 10-1 on the road.

Milton Bradley is heading to meltdown land. He was 0 for 3 and struck out twice including looking with the bases loaded and manager Don Wakamatsu pulled him.

And in more bright news, the 15,589 fans, second smallest in Safeco Field history, booed the Mariners as they suffered through their fourth consecutive defeat.

5. Day and Night Games Today

AL

Blue Jays (Brandon Morrow) at Indians (Fausto Carmona), 12:05

Orioles (David Hernandez) at Yankees (Andy Pettitte), 1:05

Tigers (Rick Porcello) at Twins (Kevin Slowey), 1:10

Rangers (Colby Lewis) at A’s (Trevor Cahill), 3:35

Angels (Joel Pineiro) at Red Sox (John Lackey), 7:10

Royals (Brian Bannister) at White Sox (Freddy Garcia), 8:10

Rays (Matt Garza) at Mariners (Cliff Lee), 10:10

NL

Mets (Jonathon Niese) at Reds (Johnny Cueto), 12:35

Cardinals (Brad Penny) at Phillies (Kyle Kendrick), 7:05

Braves (Tommy Hanson) at Nationals (Luis Atilano), 7:05

Cubs (Ted Lilly) at Pirates (Charlie Morton), 7:05

Giants (Barry Zito) at Marlins (Nate Robertson), 7:10

Diamondbacks (Rodrigo Lopez) at Astros (Brett Myers), 8:05

Rockies (Aaron Cook) at Padres (Clayton Richard), 10:05

Brewers (Doug Davis) at Dodgers (Chad Billingsley), 10:10

6. Astros 0-for-8 Again

Diamondbacks prevail

No team should suffer through an eight game losing streak and certainly no team should experience the indignity of two eight game losing streaks in a season, no less by May 5 (happy Cinco de Mayo, by the way). Meet the horrible Astros.

Ian Kennedy pitched 6.2 shutout innings as the Diamondbacks beat the Houston Astros 1-0 thanks to a Justin Upton homer. Kennedy (2-1) gave up eight hits and struck out three before Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls completed the shutout. It was Qualls’ sixth save.

Houston starter Roy Oswalt (2-4) made his sixth straight quality start but Houston hasn’t scored more than one run in any of the last four games and has managed just five runs in Oswalt’s four losses this season. The Astros haven’t hit a home run in five straight games.

Oswalt allowed five hits and one run with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

On the other side, the Diamondbacks have had at least one home run in seven straight games.

7. I Love Walkoffs

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I am loving J. J. Hardy who after making a great defensive play in the top of the 9th, tripled in the bottom of the inning and scored the winning run in the bottom of the 9th on a Ryan Perry (1-2) wild pitch as the AL Central leading Minnesota Twins topped Detroit, 4-3.

Nick Blackburn went the distance for the victors making this the first complete game and walk-off win in Target Field history. Blackburn entered the 9th with a one-run lead but a solo homer by Brennan Boesch tied the game.

Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera each had two hits and an RBI for Detroit.

8. I Love Walkoffs

Greg Wells gave it a try

Chase Headley followed an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez with a walkoff RBI single to give the NL West leading San Diego Padres a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. Headley’s single to right-center field scored rookie Lance Zawadzki from second base without a play off Franklin Morales (0-3). Now in four plate appearances immediately following an intentional walk to Gonzalez, Headley is 3 for 3 with a double, home run and sacrifice fly with seven RBI.

Starter Wade LeBlanc gave up two runs on seven hits in six innings for the Padres. He struck out four and walked two, had his ERA go from 0.52 to 1.16. LeBlanc singled and is now 5 for 8.Closer Heath Bell (2-0) pitched the 9th for the win.

9. I Love Walkoffs

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I am loving Carlos Ruiz who hit a leadoff walkoff 10th inning home as the NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1. Ruiz, who’d hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh, homered against Blake Hawksworth (0-1).

What I’m not loving is that fan ran onto field in the top of the 9th a night after another fan who committed the same heinous crime was tasered by Philly police. Tasered?!? Cole Hamels had a six-hitter going into the 9th but after the man last night ran on the field, Hamels allowed consecutive doubles to David Freese and Yadier Molina to tie the game. Closer Brad Lidge came in and kept it tied and Jose Contreras (2-1) pitched a scoreless 10th to earn the win.

Adam Wainwright started for the Cards and allowed one run, four hits and fanned six lowering his ERA to 1.96.

The 17-year old fan that was tasered Monday will be beaten on Broad Street until a Liberty Bell shaped crack appears.