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Last week it was a look at the ballot for the Contemporary Era Committee for Managers, Executives and Umpires. This week, I looked at the nominees for the annual Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.
This is a tough one to judge, because most of the nominees are local broadcasters who you wouldn’t hear often unless you follow one of their teams. I’m not sure why only one award is given each year, because it seems many of these guys have pretty equal qualifications to be honored. I hope the Hall of Fame changes that, along with the really bad name of the award.
Monday was also the 136th birthday of Walter Johnson, who still has a pretty solid claim on the title of Best Pitcher Ever. I’m not sure he was, but he’s at least in the photo, you know?
Despite the fact that he’s from Kansas, where I have lived for over 40 years, I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard his name mentioned locally. You’d think that being able to lay claim to being the birthplace of the best pitcher in the history of baseball might be something the state would bring up from time to time. It’s not, and I suppose that’s a function of the fact that Johnson last pitched nearly a century ago, plus the fact that there currently isn’t a single MLB-affiliated baseball team in the state. There’s an independent professional team, the Kansas City (KS) Monarchs, and they pay homage to the Negro Leagues’ famous Kansas City Monarchs and are affiliated with the Negro League Baseball Museum, all of which is awesome. Sadly, they haven’t picked up the cause of The Big Train, and no one else in Kansas has, either. Even the Humboldt Historical Museum in Johnson’s hometown has a broken link to their website, leaving us with nothing but a plaque mounted to a rock in a farmer’s field to mark the place he was born.
Remarkably, a couple of folks on Twitter decided to make the claim that Cal Ripken, Jr., was a “mediocre” baseball player. Now that I think about it, though, I guess it’s not really remarkable. Twitter is the place people go to spout off whatever foolish notion occurs to them, either to get attention or just because they can. Anyway, whatever their motives, I decided to use Tuesday’s newsletter as a rebuttal to their foolishness.
Tuesday marked the 83th brithday of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Kaat. It was also the anniversary of Elston Howard becoming the first Black man to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player award, and of Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Thompson passing away, and of Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart being born. It’s also the date that Jim Rice was announced as the winner of the AL MVP in 1978, one of the most awesome days of my life.
But all of that takes a back seat to the real importance of Tuesday, a much more awesome day in my life. Tuesday was the birthday of the finest ballplayer I’ve ever known, my son, Sam. Happy 28th Boy-o! I love you!
For reasons I will never fully grasp, the Hall of Fame decided to induct Tom Yawkey as a member in 1980, despite not being very successful as an owner and being a pretty overt racist. Among the many dumb things Yawkey did when he owned the Red Sox was to buy an entire minor league franchise just to get the rights to a prospect, then sell the prospect because his manager didn’t like him. Oh, and that prospect then went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Enjoy learning all about it in Wednesday’s newsletter.
Wednesday also would have been Jerry Remy’s 71st birthday if he hadn’t passed away a couple of years ago. I was pretty crushed at his passing, because when he was calling games for the Red Sox his voice always made me think of my dad. Remy sounded like how I envision my dad would have called games, with the same accent, the same smokey hints in his voice, and the same humor. And they died at the same age, just 68 years old. Rest in Peace, RemDog, and happy birthday, too.
In Wednesday’s newsletter, I mentioned the bogus tryout of three Black ballplayers that Tom Yawkey and the Red Sox held in April, 1945, at Fenway Park. They did it under pressure from a local city councilman, not because they intended to actually sign any Black players, a fact they promptly proved by never contacting any of them again.
One of the players was Jackie Robinson. Another was Sam Jethroe. Both would make the major leagues eventually and win the Rookie of the Year Award. Just as worthy as they were of getting a chance at the major leagues was the third player at that tryout, and the subject of Thursday’s newsletter, Marvin Williams.
Finally, Friday brings us the birthday of a notable two-way athlete. Not Shohei Ohtani, or any of his better predecessors from the Negro Leagues like Martín Dihigo or Bullet Rogan who could pitch and hit equally well. Not Deion Sanders, the famous Coach Prime, who made the Hall of Fame as a football player and found baseball to be the much harder sport to play. And not Bo Jackson, who might have made the Hall of Fame in both sports if not for the hip injury that ended his career.
Friday would have been the 93rd birthday of Gene Conley. All he did was win 91 games as a pitcher, make four All-Star teams, and win a World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957, while also being a power forward for the Boston Celtics for six seasons, averaging 12.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per 36 minutes and winning three World Championships.
Conley isn’t usually mentioned in the same conversations with those other great, versatile athletes, but he probably should be.
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