Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mickey and The Big Bam

I’m reading a book about Babe Ruth by Sports Illustrated’s Leigh Montville. Details about his upbringing, starting out as a pitcher, and how his hitting soon overshadowed his pitching. Ruth said the demands to do both were too great. We’ll see how the Angel’s young pitcher/outfielder holds up. As good a pitcher as Ruth was, there was more pressure on him to pitch well. Early in his career Ruth hit the longest home runs in both Tampa and Jacksonville spring training – and soon the longest home runs in all eight American League parks. Traded to the Yankees, when he went on his first real home run barrage in 1920 a heart attack and a stroke were both blamed on the excitement stirred by the Babe. 
 
The Ruth book details how in 1920 machines were first employed to manufacture baseballs, which replaced looser hand-made balls. This brought an end to the Dead Ball Era.
 
In 2021 the Home Run Derby comes to SunTrust Park. I’m interested in seeing how far the balls travel. Haven’t seen a ball land past the left field bleachers or the third deck above the Hank Aaron Landing. Wonder if a ball could fly over concession stands beyond the bleachers – out of the park. In right field I’ve seen one or two home runs land on top of the Chop House. Would like to see one fly over the Chop House, and maybe out of the park.  
 
For the past few years hardly anyone was hitting home runs out at Gwinnett. This year the International League switched to the Major League baseball, and balls are flying over fences at a record pace.
 
MICKEY MANTLE  [SABR Bio] was so physically unimposing as a youngster that when his dad took him for a workout with the sad-sack St. Louis Browns, they sent him home without even letting him on the field (as described in the book The Last Boy and the end of America’s childhood The glory of SLB’s lone pennant was probably still fresh enough. Nevertheless, he and a famous teammate were both recruited to play football at a major college football powerhouse. Both he and Roger Maris could have played football at the University of Oklahoma. The best catch he ever made was the most important one. In the 1956 WS, he raced down a deep drive to centerfield off the bat of BRO’s Gil Hodges.  The play helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect G.

Tuesday: David and Haley picked me up at the house. Matthew came out to say hello. We went down and picked up Margaret at the Houston’s on West Paces Ferry. Hurt expertly navigated down Johnson Ferry to Riverside through Sandy Springs past their old house then past where I lived as a freshman at Tech, to Mt. Paran Road to Northside Parkway. Drove up Northside Parkway to the stadium. Haley had never been to SunTrust Park, though she’s been to a few Giants game in SF and even one Golden State Warriors home game.
 
Went in the First Base Gate and introduced the gang to Miss Marion. Margaret and David ate burrito bowls and Haley and I grabbed Fox Brothers BBQ – me a BBQ brisket sandwich. Not the greatest game to attend. Margaret works near Lenox. Kudos to Haley for arranging the night out. Neither David nor I are big event planners.
 
David’s brother Harry was at the game. Also my boss Eric and former coworker Nelson, who years ago had flown me down to Miami to eat Cuban and attend the last GT/Miami game in the old Orange Bowl stadium. Now the Marlins baseball stadium is there.         


Time for my bi-weekly rant: The last few years every time the Braves would trade for or sign a pitcher the experts on social media would complain about the lack of offensive players being signed. Third baseman Todd Frazier was available for a king’s ransom, and the experts complained when the Braves didn’t sign him. Now Frazier is batting .250 for the Mets and the Braves have four third basemen far outplaying Frazier. Then the Braves went out and signed former MVP Josh Donaldson and 7-time all-star Brian McCann. Then they complain the Braves didn’t sign someone better – like Marlins catcher JT Realmuto, for whom Miami asked for a king’s ransom. Now Donaldson and McCann are tearing the cover off the ball. Harper is plodding along. Rookie Austin Riley is added to the lineup and he goes on a tear. Acuna is heating up again. Those same experts are relieved young sluggers Riley and Acuna weren’t traded for two years of Realmuto. Though some fans question why they can’t hit a home run every game.
 
Now the Braves have the best offense in baseball despite only trading for all those young pitchers. The top free agent pitcher is signed, Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel – and fans don’t celebrate but instead say Madison Baumgardner is needed as well. The bullpen still needs attention, and has already received a complete makeover two months into the season. Two of the best teams in baseball, the savvy Astros and deep-pocketed Dodgers, have worse bullpens than the Braves. So does all four of the Braves division rivals. Trades have been made, and three young starters have been called up to solidify the relief core. More moves will be made by the trade deadline. The Braves lead the division, win nine games in a row, and fans still complain. Perhaps the Braves just might know what they’re doing, huh?

At Tech the new head coach came in and immediately the social media was on the uptick. The players dance and strength coaches are strong, but can the players play football? My fear is now running the same old pro style offense that everyone else runs (and defends) with average ACC athletes will keep them in the middle of the ACC pack. What’s to distinguish them from UNC, Duke, UVA, Wake Forest, Syracuse, BC, etc? Paul Johnson was never going to compete with Clemson for titles, though GT may beat Clemson every now and then (before Clemson became a juggernaut). In 2019 with Johnson I think they could’ve won ten games and maybe the division and get a decent bowl. Might be a step back for the new coach – hopefully with a rosier future down the road. We shall see.
 
Ceil helped out at a soup kitchen for the homeless Tuesday night, off Delk Road. At the end of May I let my beard grow since Ceil was headed to SC. Kept it while her friend was in town, and for last week’s Braves game with the Pirates. Found out I was going to last night’s game so I kept it for Father’s Day and the game. Had planned on shaving it off this morning anyway, and I did.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Filling Up the Tank

By 4 pm on Friday afternoons, after a long work week the brain isn’t working a peak efficiency. I was focused on knocking out a few more tasks to end the week on a good note. Then I got hit with three tough non-customer related problems. One was extra hard. They messed up the tags and the work order and tried to fix it and made it worse. If I didn’t get it done right then than all the managers in North Carolina were going to have heart attacks first thing Monday morning. Fixed the cost then fixed the tags, and everything came out right. Then got the other two problems solved before quitting time. Just didn’t get my own work done.
 
Got gas on the way home. Might’ve made another stop. Ceil cooked a late dinner. Afterwards I drove out to get zero-octane gas for the mower, that hadn’t been starting for me all week. Only certain stations have the special gas. QT was out of all gas. RaceTrac across the street didn’t have it. Drove from East Cobb to West Roswell to another QT. The trip took over an hour. Watched the US Open.
 
Anna arrived home later Friday evening. I think I went to bed before the big Braves comeback. Saturday morning I did some cleaning up. Took M’s Jeep to get the oil changed. Some people ask why I get the cars maintained instead of letting the kids do it, and it’s because I want to make sure it gets done, and make sure I learn about any other potential problems the vehicle might have. Ceil and Anna ran some errands. Later Christian arrived and they went grocery shopping.
 
I gassed up the mower and it started on the first pull. Must be the fresh gas. Cut the grass and blew the drive. Later I watched the US Open. Also MASH. Later the Braves. Missed see Sean newcomb get hit in the head with a line drive. Did dishes and folded clothes.
 
C and A&C prepared supper: Mexican pulled chicken, grass fed ground beef, peach salsa, cheese, chips, guacamole, tortillia shells, refried beans, rice. W&MC were playing golf and didn’t arrive until 8:45. MC had to get home to bake a cake. Did the dishes. A&C watched the movie Get Smart. M was looking for a movie to watch but couldn’t find anything on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. I was pointing out some classics, like Tootsie.

Wasn’t sure what A&C were doing on Sunday. Turned out they cooked breakfast: French toast, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit. A&C joined us at Sunday School and church. We divided into groups, and Christian impressed with several insights. Big group of friends in the service: Clark Davie, Danny Downing, Shane from GT, three Hall’s, four Cho’s, four Earharts, four Murphys.
 
C was going to cook a chicken for lunch but since it was already 1 pm I suggested leftovers. A&C ate with us. After that we still had two containers of leftovers. Braves and US Open. A&C read. I caught up on some computer stuff. C cooked the chicken for supper, with rice pilaf and tossed salad. Around 8 pm Anna headed back to Athens and Christian back to Snellville.       
 
Monday: Ceil went to a friend’s birthday dinner at Pizzeria Lucca. I left work about 5:45 and drove straight home, because I was hungry. You’ll never guess what I fixed: fish tacos. I was digging through the fridge looking for leftovers and found the breaded fish strips Matthew had cooked late last week. I had already drug out the panini press to cook the soft taco shells, and added cheese and sauce. Very good.  Washed it down with a Coke Zero so the caffeine would offset my fish allergy. I could feel a slight throat swelling the rest of the night, but nothing too bad.
 
Last night I was working on an essay about the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What they don’t tell you is that everywhere the term “pro football” is used, what they really mean is “NFL.” All rival leagues don’t count, and are bugs to be crushed. Also watched two episodes each of Modern Family and The Neighborhood, then flipped it over to the Braves game just as it started to rain. I’m supposed to go to tonight’s game with David Hurt and daughter Haley. Organized by Haley. So if they lose you will know why – though they won last week when I went.
 
Looks like Brian McCann had got his hitting stroke back from years ago. In an age when everyone’s trying to pull the ball and hit home runs or strike out, the veteran catcher has gone back to hitting to all fields, to hit the ball where its pitched.
 
Need to get my right eye checked out. All of a sudden I’m having problems with it. I’ll try to go as soon as I can.
 
Outlook and temperament have a lot to do with how you were raised. Birth order factors in as well. Lots of factors. I remember years ago when the kids were young eating a meal at the Norman’s house. The boys were running around having fun. It was chaos. Steve and Becky were relaxed. I was all tensed up, just waiting for someone to cry or something to break. Saw the same thing with Ceil’s family. Eventually I realized everyone didn’t have the same upbringing as me. I know how I should act, but that doesn’t always make it easy. Still hard for me to relax and enjoy.
 
Not sure if this is an interesting article or not…
 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Putting the PRO in Pro Football

All-Pro. The Pro Bowl. The Pro Football Hall of Fame. Terms synonymous with the NFL. But should they be? Over the years there have been numerous other pro football leagues. The Canadian Football League has been in operation for decades. The AAFC. AFL. XFL. AAF. USFL.

You also see a lot of Pro Football this and Pro Football that on social media and the internet. Why is this? Because big brother NFL has licensed its own name. No one else can use it. Same with the Super Bowl. Fans of the NFL and PFHOF deputizing themselves as Barney Fife "experts" and "historians" "since 2015" defending the practices of the league and PFHOF. Why is this? Everyone's got a gig. Align yourself with the big bad NFL and you're somebody. Just don't include NFL in your title.

Unlike the NBA and MLB, the PFHOF has a smaller, more rigid selection committee comprised of only 44 electors. Candidates are screened and are narrowed down from a long list to the eventual enshrinees. Since only so many are elected, a backlog of worthy candidates are passed over year after year. A senior committee can elect certain candidates, and for their 150th anniversary the NFL is working to add extra players to the 2020 class.

The exact criteria used for selection is not detailed. Many factors are reviewed, including statistics, championships won, awards won (MVP, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, etc.). Makes sense to look for honors that show how a player stood out from his peers. There should be exceptions, because (1) great players from bad teams don't win championships and (2) rarely get voted for honors over players from winning teams. The All-Pro teams are voted by the national media, who mostly pick be most productive at a position. Versatile players that play a number of positions (or pass catching running backs whose rushing totals are lower due to the passes he catches) often are overlooked in the process.

Peter King, the well-respected pro football writer and hall of fame voter, selects not just on number but by what he sees, while still respecting numbers and longevity. Hard to compare numbers across eras. King thinks out of the box.
This makes Herschel Walker the ideal candidate. Herschel passes the eye test with flying colors. Walker's world class speed as well as power produced more long touchdown runs than most that came along before and after him. He's the only NFL player with a 90+ yard rush, return, and reception. In one game he had an 84 yard run and 84 yard catch. No one else has done that. Rushing, receiving, returns, special teams, longevity, records. Another eye test plus: The Walker Trade was the most monumental in NFL history, springboarding the Cowboys into The Team of the 90's.

Herschel had a tremendous impact on The League. Not just strong and powerful but with world-class speed. No one trick Pony Express just running the ball but catching and returning. No flash in the pan like Sayers, Davis, or Campbell but long-tenured as well. Not a bad boy like Riggins, Lewis, or Owens - perhaps too much of a goody two shoes, a fine citizen and entrepreneur, fit and strong well into his 50's. You'd think the NFL would embrace such a positive influence.

His NFL numbers alone were the best of his era - he retired second all-time in total yards. Totaled more than all previous eras save Walter Payton, and in the 20 years since Herschel retired only six players have passed him. As for longevity, no other running back played more games. Only seven backs played more NFL games. In his 15 seasons the least he gained was 951 yards. Every other year bettered a thousand.

Walker's candidacy lacks in one area: awards. He played in two Pro Bowls, was league MVP in 1985, and was named to two all-USFL teams. In this area Herschel's versatility has hurt him.

Players from other leagues have been enshrined in the PFHOF. Why wouldn't they be? Warren Moon put up huge numbers in the CFL, then signed with the NFL and added more. In fact he's passed for more yards than any other QB in "pro football" history - just not NFL history. Moon's CFL accomplishments are noted in his PFHOF profile. Former USFL standouts Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Reggie White, and Gary Zimmerman are in the PFHOF as well. Their PFHOF bios all reference the years and stats from their time in the USFL.

The PFHOF website is all about the NFL, though it's careful not to do so explicitly. One must look hard for mentions of other leagues. More than once the website references the USFL in negative terms. Perhaps due to the legal fees the NFL had to fork out to defend itself against the USFL's successful lawsuit. Perhaps due to the USFL opening its doors to college underclassmen. And since Walker was the USFL's first big name, is he being shut out by the PFHOF selection committee?

Walker has appeared on several early PFHOF selection lists, but at one point or another gets passed over. He's not eligible for the veterans committee yet, but with the large backlog of candidates, that route isn't any easier. Those "pro football" shrills all toe the company line, citing the lack of "All Pro" and "Pro Bowl" selections as reasons why Walker is omitted. They lack the vision and foresight of a Peter King. Or me.   

Perhaps one day I'll be able to champion a successful Walker candidacy, like a fan did several years ago for Floyd Little. Not like I haven't been closely following the NFL for over fifty years. Didn't fall off the turnip truck in 2015. I won't let a couple of unaffiliated shrills get in my way.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Talking Points

Entered a contest to go to a Braves game with AM 680's Chris Dimino. Didn't win but I wanted to be ready with talking points in case I had. Here are my very rough notes.

Cubs fantasy camp: Jimmy Piersal, Pepitone, Drabowsky (had read about him in a book), Huntley, Cardinal, Beckert, Santo. Catcher Gene Oliver was like Uncle Charlie Weaver from Hollywood Squares. Campaneris. Manager Jim Marshall. Playing baseball was fun, but sitting around listening to those guys talk was the real treat. Chicago's Mike North.

I asked Denny Neagle about the alumni game with the imposter Chris Woodward and Neagle's face lit up. Bobby remembers everyone and he couldn't place that guy. I kept score of that alumni game!

Met Dale Murphy. He called me "cousin!"

Hot Stove in Cumming: umpire Marvin Hudson, guy was at Maz HR game, scout, Ga State coach Greg Frady, who coached thr German team. Those old guys go to day games, SABR conventions, minor league road trips, etc.

Will: 680 athlete of the week…two triple plays…caught HR ball at Turner…ECB…Cooperstown…Weiss saw him hit in the cage…pitched 1-hitter at old Engle Stadium as a 9th grader for varsity…attended the 2000 ASG clinic at GT with Killebrew, Skok, and Steak.

Steelers coach Danny Smith hangs out with us at the beach. Just missed out seeing Randy Johnson's perfect game. Was there for the Cole Hamels, Pappelbon no hitter on Labor Day. Had a long MLB streak broken. Was supposed to go on 9/11/2001. Back then had the young kids and traveled for work.

Bobby Dews should be in the Braves HOF. Glavine has more sac bunts than any other pitcher. Maddux has the most for a righty pitcher. Phil, Joe Niekro, Smoltz also near the top of the list. Guys today don't square around like Maddux used to.

As a kid had a Braves bday party. It was the Saturday game of the week. Set record for most HR in an inning. Clemente Stargell Aaron etc. Every year my family would attend the Falcons training camp at Furman. Coach Norm  Van Brocklin took my brother out on field, called him his little buddy.

Attended 1st WS game vs Twins. Last WS game at AFC vs NYY - Leiritz HR. Playoff vs Astros - Clemens lost. I'm friends with the Chocolate Papa & Lemke's friend Darrell. The Chief works at my Kroger, we talk baseball.

In AFC LF bleachers...
...Rico Carty backed up rundowns & made 3rd putout of triple play.
…Sonny Jackson replaced Aaron, hit backstop in the air, tipped his cap to heckler.
…Komminsk grand slam during Goody's home run inning.
…opening day loss to Big Red Machine. Fans drinking beer out of a women's shoe, fights. Gonna be a long year.
...out on field before game for photos in 67.
...Banner night, bat day, etc.

Was at Falcons game when…
…Dave Hampton gains 1000 yards, gets ball, then thrown for loss.
…beat 12-1 Vikings in last game of season. Joe Kapp.

Attended games in Tampa, STL, Arlington, Houston, RFK, Wrigley, old Comminsky, Fenway, Shea, SF, Baltimore, Augusta, Macon, Greenville, Chattanooga, Rome, Gwinnett, Myrtle Beach, Athens.My dad played football at Grady High for Erk Russell
 
Books: Torre, Pete Van Weiren, Mariano, Glavine/Mussina, Catcher in the Wry, Brees, Tom Cochlin, Belichik The Punch, Arnie, Feinstein on the Minor Leagues, Mike Shannon, Tony Dungy, Gehrig, Jim Abbott, Zim, Summer of 75, Mantle, Wakefield, Hammer, Smoltz, Chipper, Bunts, Moneyball, Summer of 49, Clemente, Garagiola, Faithful by Stephen King.

 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

I Love a Parade



Found several old photos of the Braves parade through downtown Atlanta before their first regular season home game. Good stuff. 
The Hammer.
Recently a minor league team held an "obscure jersey night." Guy on Twitter asked who had obscure jerseys. My collection is strong: 1976 Braves Andy Messersmith Channel 17, 1954 Milwaukee #8 Bob Uecker, 1969 Braves home pinstriped #16 Sonny Jackson, green Braves spring training St. Patrick's Day #82 Ronald Acuna, late 70's Braves red #3 Dale Murphy batting practice jersey, and Brett Favre's rookie jersey: Falcons #4.
I think I've figured out my next obscure jersey purchase:
Ted Turner's 1978 Braves #27 road jersey.
I'll have to have it custom made.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Snowplow Parenting

Interesting article in Sports Illustrated about "snowplow" parents. It used to be helicopter parents hovering around making decisions for their kids. Now in sports parents will spend their lives coaching and grooming their young kids up through high school and college, through the draft and even attending pro practices and hiring special coaches for the professional athlete kids - during the season! Examples include Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins and LaVar Ball and to a lesser extent Tua Tagovailoa. College coaches are seeing parents move to town along with the players. Parents used to drop off their kids at summer sports camps. Now the parents are sticking around to "supervise."

College coaches are having to "re-recruit" their current players every year to keep them from transferring. All this involvement from parents is driving coaches and agents crazy. At some colleges they consider parents a problem they have to manage, and assistants are assigned to specific problem parents.

Positives include a lesser chance for a player to be hoodwinked by someone wanting to take advantage of him. Negatives include kids not being emotionally mature enough to withstand the rigors of a professional sport. Some don't know how to set an alarm clock. Parents are handling their child's problems instead of letting them work it out themselves. What the article didn't mention was the 99.9% of athletes who don't make it to the pros, or all the college players who leave school early then don't get drafted. Many never earn a college degree, and have to play overseas, then most have a career than only last three or four years at best.

Glad we didn't go off the deep end with baseball like that. Will played against elite competition and excelled, but didn't make it all consuming.

Ceil made turkey meatballs and spaghetti. Tossed salad. Not much else. Kept up with the game but went to bed long before it was over.

Can the Raptors repeat? Looks like the Warriors "dynasty" is over, unless no one rises up to challenge them. The Lakers are in shambles. Can the Rockets mount a run?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

First Place

Today the Braves stand alone in first place.

Still a long way to go, but all those so called experts who spent the off season predicting gloom and doom because the Braves didn't sign several all stars to big time contracts right then - all those experts were wrong again. The lineup is stacked top to bottom, the defense is good, the bench has been productive and deep with Culbertson, Camargo, McCann or Flowers, and the surprising Joyce. The starters have become one of the best in baseball with Fried, Soroka, Keuchel, Teheran, and former all-star Folty in the fifth spot. The bullpen is stronger as well - a completely new cast than who started the year. After I wrote this Bill Shanks said the same thing.
Wednesday: watched some of the Braves but went to bed before the big comeback. Riley broke out of his slump with a triple and home run. Also scored from first on Albies' walk-off double into the gap in right center, to win the game. Soroka also knocked in some runs.
Will went to the game today. Next week I may go to the Tuesday game. Buddies Acuna (vs. Miami) and Albies (vs. Pittsburgh) have rebounded, putting up big numbers in the last two series.

Had a dream last night that Ceil and I were at a church event, being held in a gymnasium. There was a real tall lady that was nice. I realized there was a chance Don Head was at the event so I bent my head to look around the person in front of me to look for Don. Then I realized that it was Don standing right in front of me.

Wednesday: Focus group was just me in the room reading stuff on a computer, then taking a test on what I'd read, then discussed it with the moderator, who was from Detroit. Stopped by a thrift store on the way home, and got an ice cream and drink from RaceTrac.

M and C made fish tacos with spicy slaw. They would've made chicken for me. There was one fish taco covered in slaw already made so I ate that. Second time I ate fish this week, tempting fate. Haven't died yet.

Work is busy. It's go go go all day. Lots going on at home trying to trim expenses. Get home after 7 pm, and if I forget to stop somewhere on the way home to run one of numerous errands, something won't get done.

Friday the Macon Bacon are wearing Macon Peaches uniforms. I could've done a better design job.