Today I’m taking the 5th, as in five years. Today is a milestone for me and my website. Exactly five years have passed since my very first Sports Junkie article of 8-9-01 featuring Jackie Robinson. This is article #260, and no plans to stop. I love writing these articles, and I greatly appreciate my website’s growing number of readers and responses from literally all over the world.
MY SINCERE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU.
As I do every year, last Saturday I watched all four hours of the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Although all six acceptance speeches had different deliveries, parts of all six were very similar as the words traced the significant relationships from start to finish. No matter what the sport, any player or coach who makes it to that respective Hall of Fame has my complete and total respect and envy. I played three sports over 10 years in the B’Nai B’Rith League in St. Louis; that’s all I ever accomplished in team sports. I can only imagine the fantastic sense of joy and accomplishment felt by those inducted into any of the Halls of Fame. It has to be overwhelming!
Neil Kessler gave me this one. The 1969 NBA finals pitted the Lakers against the Celtics. The series went the full seven games. The final game was the only one won by the road team in that series. Unfortunately (I’m a Lakers fan), Boston won the title that year. However, the great Jerry West was named Series MVP, and he is the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award as a member of the losing team.
It’s all one big joke. Had the current MLB baseball been in play when Henry Aaron was around, he’d have wound up with 1510 career homers instead of 755. I remember when home runs were truly a sign of power. No more! Monday night, Andruw Jones shattered his bat and still hit the ball 420 feet for a home run in Atlanta. Jones' homer was typical of what baseball has become. If it’s homers and offense Bud Selig wants, then call it like it is. Take the cover off that damn golf ball for all to see. Remember the movie “Field of Dreams”………Build it and they will come. This is mine for today’s major league baseball………Just stick out your bat and they will go. The players don’t need steroids for power; the modern baseball is on steroids!
If you knew nothing more than the fact that two specific MLB players were very fine fielders at their respective positions, and they had the following batting stats, if you could pick only one of them, which one would he be?
Years BA OBP SLG HR RBI BB SO SB
Player H 18 .273 .361 .487 370 1274 943 1137 63
Player M 17 .260 .302 .367 138 853 447 706 27
There’s no comparison. Of course you’d pick Player H, who happens to be Gil Hodges, rather than Player M, who happens to be Bill Mazeroski. Yet Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame, only because he ended the 1960 World Series with a walk-off home run. Yes, Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field had longer dimensions than Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, but it was still no power contest. If Mazeroski belongs in the Hall, and he surely does not, then Gil Hodges, overlooked all these years since his retirement as a player in 1963, surely does belong in Cooperstown. (See my article on Gil Hodges dated 9-4-03.)
Story of the Week
He was an imposing figure on the mound. At 6-4 and 210, the guy could flat-out bring it. He pitched in the majors from 1954 to 1963. During those nine seasons with four different clubs, he appeared in 385 games, primarily in relief, and had a respectable career ERA of 3.54 with 507 K’s. He’s famous in baseball circles, but his stats aren’t the reason. Jim Brosnan became famous as an author.
In the stone age of sports journalism, there was a thin gruel cooked up by ghosts and predicated on the notion that America’s pastime was just good, clean fun. Then along came The Long Season, Jim Brosnan’s witty and acerbic diary of his 1959 campaign with the Cardinals and the Reds. A middling middle-reliever, Brosnan went beyond anecdote to explore his deep feelings about the game of baseball and the people he felt made baseball life harder than it should be. He revealed that players resent being scapegoats, symbols and story material rather than normal men with a little extra athletic talent.
Brosnan’s observations, like his pitches, were often hard and inside. He dusted owners, fans, sportswriters and his favorite target, coaches, “who mostly try to find something to do besides count baseballs and pick their noses.” He let us in on all sorts of secrets, ala how to throw a spitter, what it’s like to be booed, how stewardesses behave on team charter flights, what’s being discussed in the bullpen, etc.
Brosnan also set up several generations of writers who have since examined the elegant complexity of the most profoundly American of games, baseball. Many years ago, historian Jacques Barzun wrote, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” Brosnan not only learned baseball, but also understood why we find it so enthralling.
Without his The Long Season, there would have been no Ball Four or Instant Replay. Nor would there have been another favorite Brosnan book, The Pennant Race. Jim Brosnan was a pioneer; he made his life an open book, and professional sports became one as well.
Per book reviewer K. A. Goldberg:
The insightful diary “The Long Season” by pitcher Jim Brosnan recounts his struggles on the mound for the 1959 St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. Jocks weren't supposed to write books, but this college-educated ballplayer (uncommon in the 1950's) wrote a very good one. Brosnan's mild irreverence annoyed the game's overseers in an era when ballplayers earned modest paychecks and rarely popped off. Older fans may enjoy reading about long-forgotten ballplayers playing in now-demolished ballparks like Forbes Field and Sportsmen's Park. Brosnan followed this book with "Pennant Race," a diary from the 1961 season. Some alledge that the Chicago White Sox tried to insert a clause in Brosnan's contract banning him from publishing anything, while others say he was blackballed from the game after 1963 for his writings. Readers may also enjoy "Ball Four," pitcher Jim Bouton's funny and more combative diary of the 1969 season.
As a point of fact, the above-noted books, revealing for their time, would be matter-of-fact today. But they were something way back then. They still make for terrific reading.
Last Week’s Trivia
The first NFL televised game on September 30, 1939 saw the Brooklyn Dodgers defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 23-14, at famous Ebbets Field. (The Dodgers, Giants and Yankees were all names of NFL franchises in New York at one time.)
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only player in MLB history to win a pair of batting crowns with two different teams? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.