As one last hurrah to 2022, I signed up to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Kauffman Stadium today. The weather was about as good as one could hope for on December 31st, but it was still pretty chilly, and I was glad I bundled up for this experience. My tour guide was an older gentleman named Michael, whose daughter also works for the Royals. According to Michael, one month after he retired, his daughter insisted that he needed something to do and helped him get set up giving tours of Kauffman during the off season and working in the Royals Hall of Fame during the season. He’s been working in this capacity for the last eight years, and he certainly knew his stuff.
This post is going to be predominantly pictures, but I’ll try to include explanatory captions where appropriate.
Forty-year-old Roger Clemens agreed to a $10.1 million, one-year deal with the Yankees on December 30, 2002. At the time, Clemens indicated that 2003 would be his final year in baseball, and the end of the 2003 season became a series of public farewells met with appreciative cheering. Clemens would come out of retirement almost as quickly as he went into it, however, signing with the Houston Astros in early 2004.
In December 1919, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth for $125,000 to the Yankees, and also secured a $300,000 loan from the New York team. Throughout history, Frazee has been criticized for this deal, taking the blame for igniting the Curse of the Bambino, in which Boston did not win a World Series from 1918 to 2004. In the video below, originally aired in 2005, ESPN Classic takes a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the deal and comes to Frazee’s defense. True, Babe Ruth was one of the great pitchers of the era, but Ruth ultimately did not want to be a pitcher, but rather expressed more interest in hitting home runs. Additionally, Ruth’s antics off the field were well-known headache-inducers for any team. These are just a couple of the reasons that motivated Frazee to make the deal.
I stumbled upon this video this morning, and I found myself caught between laughing out loud and shaking my head in astonishment. This video from FivePoints Vids features Little League ball fields, high school fields, minor league fields, and even a rec center field and a couple of softball fields. As you’ll discover, these ballparks are truly atrocious. The multipurpose fields are, in my opinion, the worst of the worst, but even some of the baseball-only fields are pretty horrendous. The narrator of the video makes some pretty hysterical comparisons as he describes each failure of a ball field, so if you can spare a few minutes, it’s worth the watch.
After years of discussion around adding two teams to the National League, in order to match the American League, on December 18, 1990, the National League expansion committee eliminated Charlotte, Nashville, Phoenix, and Sacramento from consideration to cut the list down to six finalists. The shortlist of locations included Buffalo, Denver, Miami, Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Washington, D.C. The expansion would eventually result in the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins) being added to the NL.
I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of former Yankee Paul O’Neill’s memoir, Swing and a Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me. While I could never bring myself to root for the Yankees, I did enjoy watching O’Neill play during his time in New York. He was one of those player who, when watching, you could always tell that he cared about the game and about playing it well.
This memoir, published in May 2022, focuses a lot on O’Neill’s thoughts and perspectives on hitting. And he talks about everything hitting-related — about his stride, his leg kick, his approach at the plate early in the at-bat versus with two strikes, facing left-handed pitchers, hitting against the shift, his conversations with other players in the game about their own approaches to hitting, and so on.
I found myself glad that I had just read Ted Williams’s The Science of Hitting not too long ago, because this book by O’Neill felt very much like a complement to the Williams text. In fact, Paul O’Neill references The Science of Hitting multiple times in his own work. There was little doubt, as I made my way through Swing and a Hit, that O’Neill worshipped Ted Williams. He even goes so far as to a phone call he received from Williams as speaking with “the voice of God.”
The book wasn’t entirely about hitting, though, as Paul O’Neill also chronicles his life and baseball career. He discusses his father’s influence, which was substantial in his life and career. O’Neill also delves into his relationships and views on players and managers around him. He discusses what it was like to be a player with the Reds when the Pete Rose gambling case was making headlines, describes what it was like to play with Derek Jeter, and also what a terrifying experience it was to face Randy Johnson’s pitching.
All-in-all, while I enjoyed the book, I do feel it was a bit lacking on the actual memoir side of things. It felt more like a MasterClass on hitting a baseball — again, like a complement to Ted Williams’s book. It’s worth the read if you’re into that sort of perspective, but if you’re looking for something more personal, this book won’t quite get you there.