The Dodgers are taking me far too literally. I have always ascribed to the baseball doctrine that offense is pretty, but pitching, defense and speed win. L.A. doesn’t seem to understand that a baseball team still has to have "some" offense to win. Boston’s Bill Mueller put up offensive numbers in one game (three homers and nine RBI’s) on the night of July 29 that are virtually a week’s production for the Dodgers. Second prize in a Sports Junkie trivia contest should be two tickets to a Dodgers game; first prize should be one ticket. The Dodgers could soon be arrested for impersonating a major league baseball team. The Dodgers should all be permitted to use Sosa’s corked bat; on second thought, it wouldn’t help. Get the picture?
Congratulations to Lance Armstrong, recent winner of the 2003 Tour de France and his fifth straight such win, this one by just 61 seconds, but a win nonetheless. With Armstrong, as is the case with many great athletes, it’s all about heart. Lance Armstrong overcame again; he continues to beat the odds.
And it was all about heart with another great champion, Seabiscuit, as well, and with the various people involved with his racing stardom some 60-plus years ago; owner, trainer and jockey. They all beat the odds. The movie is a must-see.
Story of the Week
To the victors go the spoils, and most of the MVP Awards. I don’t agree with this policy, and once in a while, the MVP voters break away from it as well. Once in baseball history, the shortstop of a club tied for fifth place in the standings was named MVP of his league------two straight years.
In 1958, "Mr. Cub", Ernie Banks, led the National League in home runs with 47, RBI’s with 129, and slugging percentage with .614, and played in every game. This was when power stats like these meant something. (I won’t do another editorial on modern-day baseball’s juiced-up balls, juiced-up bats, AA pitchers now known as major-leaguers, artificial surfaces, and smaller ballparks. Whoops, I just did!) A year later, Banks led the league again with 143 RBI’s. And so Banks won two MVP Awards in a row, a great player on a mediocre team.
Banks hit 20 or more home runs in 13 seasons, hit .300 or better three times, and drove in 100 or more runs eight times. He led the league’s shortstops in fielding three times, and, after moving to first base in 1962, led all first basemen in putouts five times.
Banks never played minor league ball, jumping directly from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League to the Chicago Cubs. He played 10 games in 1953, then took over as the Cubs’ starting shortstop the following year. He had his first great season in 1955 with 117 RBI’s and 44 home runs; five of those homers came with the bases loaded.
By 1957, he was one of the most feared power hitters in the league. The late umpire, Tom Gorman, recalled that in 1957, he was knocked down by four different pitchers; they were Don Drysdale, Bob Purkey, Bob Friend and Jack Sanford. In each case, Banks hit the next pitch out of the park.
He led the NL in RBI’s in 1959, and homers again in 1960. Only Eddie Mathews’ 46th. homer in a 1959 playoff game kept Banks, who had 45, from a share of three consecutive home run titles. He hit 293 home runs as a shortstop, and wound up with 512 for his career, playing the rest of his games at 1st. base. Prior to his retirement in 1971, he was voted the Greatest Cub Player of All Time.
Ernie Banks will always be remembered as one of the greatest players in major league baseball history who never appeared in a World Series, certainly no fault of his. Banks leads the list of great athletes who would never have turned their backs on their long-standing local fan base for a championship ring elsewhere.
He will also be remembered as a player who loved the game of baseball, Chicago, and the Cubbies. He had a great attitude. Cubs fans will always remember him as the ballplayer who consistently said, "What a great day for baseball. Let’s play two!" Ernie Banks commands the respect of every baseball purist, and he certainly has mine.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who are the only two players in baseball history to hit at least 200 home runs in both the American and National Leagues? Frank Robinson and Fred McGriff are the only two.
Trivia Question of the Week
Franchises in major pro sports change homes from time to time. This one began in 1937, and has been home team to four different cities. Name this well known team, and name the four cities. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.