RIP Maury Wills

Maury Wills
Maury Wills, 1960 (University of Southern California Libraries / California Historical Society / Release under the CC BY Attribution license — https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Maurice Morning Wills was born October 2, 1932 in Washington, D.C. He began playing semi-professional baseball at the age of 14 and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, upon graduating from high school. He made his major league debut with the Dodgers, now in Los Angeles, in 1959 and spent most of his career with L.A. He was a member of the Dodgers team that won the World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965.

Wills was named the National League MVP in 1962, stealing a record 104 bases to break the previous modern era mark of 96 set by Ty Cobb. He was named to seven All-Star teams and was the first MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1962. Wills also won Gold Gloves at shortstop in 1961 and 1962. Over the course of his fourteen-year career, Wills batted .281 with 20 home runs, 458 runs batted in, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples, 586 stolen bases, and 552 bases on balls in 1,942 games.

Wills was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, serving as a representative of the Dodgers Legend Bureau, from 2009 until his death. Maury Wills died on September 19, 2022, at the age of 89.

2022 All-Star Game schedule

The All-Star break is now underway, and the All-Start game is slated to take place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Here is the schedule for the next couple of days:

Home Run Derby: Monday, July 18, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

All-Star Game: Tuesday, July 19, 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox

If you are interested in following the Home Run Derby, you can find the bracket and information about the competition’s participants through ESPN.com here.

Rosters for the All-Star game can be found here.

Dodger_Stadium,_Los_Angeles,_California_LCCN2013632442.tif
Dodger Stadium (Library of Congress)

This day in baseball: Rookie Shea wins All-Star Game

Spec Shea became the first rookie pitcher to win an All-Star Game on July 8, 1947, when the American League defeated the National League, 2-1. In the game, Shea pitched the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings in relief for Hal Newhouser. The New York Yankees hurler allowed one earned run and was declared the winning pitcher.

Spec Shea in 1953 (public domain / Wikimedia Commons)

Mike Schmidt’s Hall of Fame induction speech

Mike Schmidt played 18 seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, and in that time, Schmidt was a 12-time All-Star and a three-time National League MVP. Over the course of his career, Schmidt hit 548 home runs, including 40 or more home runs in three separate seasons and 30 or more home runs in ten other seasons. He also won ten Gold Glove Awards and was named The Sporting News Player of the Decade for the 1980s.

Mike Schmidt was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. In his induction speech below, I particularly like Schmidt’s discussions on positive encouragement for kids and on the need for baseball to reconnect with its fans.

Quote of the day

I was told I would never make it because I’m too short. Well, I’m still too short, but I’ve got 10 All-Star games, two World Series championships, and I’m a very happy and contented guy. It doesn’t matter what your height is, it’s what’s in your heart.

~Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett - Brittanica
Brittanica.com

“Vida Blue,” Albert Jones

Vida Blue was a left-handed pitcher who is primarily known as a vital member of the Oakland Athletics dynasty that won three consecutive World Series championships from 1972 to 1974. Blue won the American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award in 1971, and he was the first pitcher ever to  start the All-Star Game for both the American League (1971) and the National League (1978).

This tribute by Albert Jones was released in 1971.

2021 All Star Game

Congrats to Pete Alonso of the Mets on his Home Run Derby victory last night! I am a bit crushed that Salvador Perez got knocked out in the first round by Alonso himself, but I am glad that Salvy managed to put on a show of his own.

The 2021 MLB All Star Game takes place tonight at 5:30 pm Mountain Time at Coors Field. You can find the rosters for both teams here.

coors-field-all-star-game-1.png

R.I.P. Jim “Mudcat” Grant

James Timothy “Mudcat” Grant was born on August 13, 1935 in Lacoochee, Florida. He was one of seven children of James Sr. and Viola Grant.

Grant was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians prior to the 1954 season. After four seasons in the minor leagues, from 1954 to 1957, he made his MLB debut on April 17, 1958, at the age of 22, winning a complete game against the Kansas City Athletics. In June 1964, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins, then in 1965, he went 21–7 for the Twins, helping to lead the team to the 1965 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately, the Twins lost the series in seven games.

During the 1965 season, Grant became the first black pitcher in the American League to win 20 games, leading the American League in victories with a 21-7 record, also posting a 3.30 ERA in 270 1/3 innings, and starting 39 games. He started three World Series games, winning two. In Game 6 at Metropolitan Stadium, he gave up only one run in a complete game, and even hit a three-run homer en route to a 5-1 victory.

Grant pitched for seven teams during his 14-year big league career and was with the Twins for four of those seasons. Over the course of that career, he had a 145–119 record in 571 games, while starting in 293 of them and throwing 89 complete games. His resumé also includes 18 shutouts, 53 saves, with 2,442 innings pitched on a 3.63 ERA.

Grant was named to the All-Star team in 1963 and 1965. He received his catfish-inspired nickname when a minor league teammate thought he was from Mississippi.

Mudcat Grant died on June 12, 2021 at the age of 85.

Rest in peace.

See the source image

History of Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park At Camden Yards, 2013 (Wikipedia)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, frequently referred to as just Camden Yards or Oriole Park, opened as the official home of the Baltimore Orioles on April 6, 1992. The stadium had been built to replace Memorial Stadium, a multipurpose stadium that had served as home not only to the Orioles, but throughout its life also hosted the minor league Bowie Baysox (1993), the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League (from the late-1940s to the early-1980s), the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League (1994-95), the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL (1996-97), and also served as the venue for various high school and college athletic events.

Oriole Park was built as a baseball-only facility in downtown Baltimore. When the city of Baltimore and the Maryland government refused to commit money to replace Memorial Stadium, the Baltimore Colts responded by moving to Indianapolis in 1984. Realizing that the city could also potentially lose the Orioles, city and state officials immediately began planning a new park in order to keep them in town.

Initially, the architectural firm Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) Sport Venue Event (now known as Populous) proposed a design similar to that of the new Comiskey Park. The Orioles turned down the proposal, however, in favor of a more retro-style stadium, wishing instead to follow in the footsteps of the great old ballparks like Fenway, Wrigley, and Ebbets. The new stadium would feature steel, rather than concrete trusses, an arched brick facade, a sun roof over the upper deck, an asymmetrical playing field, and natural grass turf. Construction of the new stadium began in 1989 and lasted 33 months, costing approximately $110 million.

The field itself is set sixteen feet below street level and is comprised of a sophisticated irrigation and drainage system below the grass turf. The purpose of this design is to reduce the frequency of rainouts by shortening the length of rain delays. The field’s system makes it possible to get the field ready for play within half-an-hour after the end of a heavy rain. An impressive feat of engineering, the drainage system can remove as much as 75,000 gallons of rainwater from the field in an hour.

The B&O warehouse that serves as a backdrop beyond the right field wall was a point of contention in the stadium’s design plan. Many people wanted the warehouse demolished, while others fought to leave it in place. Still others liked the idea of using the warehouse as the right-field wall instead of the backdrop. Perhaps it is fitting that the warehouse remains, given the name ultimately bestowed upon the new stadium, though it didn’t end up being the stadium’s right field wall — Eutaw Street separates the stadium from the warehouse, instead. The floors of the warehouse contain offices, service spaces, and a private club. The warehouse has never been hit by a legal home run during regulation play. However, several players have reportedly struck the wall during batting practice, and it was hit by Ken Griffey, Jr. during the Home Run Derby of the 1993 MLB All-Star Game.

Former Orioles owner Eli Jacobs favored naming the new venue Oriole Park. Meanwhile, Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer preferred to name the stadium Camden Yards, after the former rail terminal at the site operated by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. After considerable debate, a compromise was reached and it was decided that both names were to be used: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Following the 2000 season, the ballpark’s infield and outfield were completely rebuilt, and the drainage system was modernized to better protect both the pipes and the playing surface. Following the 2005 season, all new irrigation heads were installed, and in 2007, the warning track around the field was replaced. In 2008, the sod was replaced with a sand-based blend of Kentucky bluegrass to give the field a more vibrant green color. After the 2008 season, a new HD video display and scoreboard were installed below the right field bleachers. Before the start of the 2011 season, the seats in the lower seating bowl were replaced and several skyboxes were eliminated and refurbished to make room for more party suites and casual luxury boxes. The renovation reduced the park’s capacity from 48,876 to 45,971.

Notable events at Camden Yards over the years include the aforementioned hosting of the 1993 All-Star Game. On June 18, 1994, one of the stadium’s multiple-story escalators, overcrowded with fans heading to their upper-deck seats, jerked backward, throwing passengers to the bottom landing. The accident resulted in 43 people injured. On September 6, 1995, Camden Yards witnessed Cal Ripken, Jr.’s record-setting 2,131st consecutive game, and one year later, Eddie Murray blasted the 500th home run of his career at the ballpark.

In 2012, the park celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of its opening, launching the website CamdenYards20.com as part of that celebration. The site featured videos of Opening Day in 1992, a written history of the park and its improvements over the years, and photo galleries of Camden Yards, featuring everything from ballpark construction to celebrity visitors.

The success of Camden Yards sparked a trend in the construction of more traditional, fan-friendly ballparks in downtown locations across the U.S.  The park also ended a quarter-century trend of multipurpose stadiums in which baseball and football teams shared the same venue. Although intended to cut costs, the fundamentally different sizes and shapes of baseball and football fields ultimately made this concept inadequate for either sport. By the 2012 season, all but two MLB teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics) played in baseball-only parks.

RIP Don Sutton

Donald Howard Sutton was born on April 2, 1945 in Clio, Alabama. In a career that spanned 23 years, Sutton had a career record of 324-256 and an ERA of 3.26 while pitching for the Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, and California Angels. 58 of his wins were shutouts, five of them one-hitters, and 10 were two-hitters. He is seventh on baseball’s all-time strikeout list with 3,574, and he was named to the All-Star team four times.

Sutton entered broadcasting after his retirement as a player. He worked in this capacity for a number of teams, the majority of which were with the Atlanta Braves. Sutton was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 with 81.61% of the vote. Sutton was also inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in July 2015 for his work as a broadcaster.

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Sutton died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, after a long struggle with cancer. He was 75 years old.

Rest in peace.

Sutton in 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)