“Life,” by Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant

This piece was written by former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant.  In 1965, Grant became the first black pitcher to win 20 games in a season in the American League and the first black pitcher to win a World Series game for the American League, throwing two complete game World Series victories.

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Life is like a game of baseball,
You play it every day.
It isn’t just the breaks you get,
But the kind of game you play.

So stop and look your whole team over,
And you’ll find dedication there.
You’re bound to be a winner,
With men who really care.

Your pitcher’s name is Courage,
You need him in the game.
For faith and trust your keystone men,
The grounders they will tame.

Your center fielder is very fast,
Though small and hard to see.
So watch him, son, when he gets,
The ball. He’s Opportunity.

In left field there’s Ambition,
Never let him shirk.
For in right field there’s a husky man,
I’m told his name is Work.

At first base there’s Religion,
He’s stood the test of time.
At third base there’s brotherhood,
The stalwart of the nine.

Your catcher’s name is Humor,
He’s important to the scheme.
For with honor warming in the bull pen,
The game is always clean.

With Love on the bench,
You’ve perfection no less.
With a winning team,
And joy and happiness.

Your other team is Strong, son,
Greed, Hatred, Envy and Defeat.
Are four strong infielders,
You’ll have to buck to make your game complete.

Deceitfulness and a man called Waste,
Are always playing hard.
Selfishness and jealousy,
None can you disregard.

Carelessness and Falsehood,
Are the big boys in the pen.
You’ll have to swing hard, son,
When you come up to them.

There’s one more man you’ll have to watch,
He’s always very near.
He’s the pitcher on that team,
And I’m told his name is Fear.

This game will not be easy,
There’ll be trouble, there’ll be strife.
To make the winning runs, my boy,
For this game is played on the field of life.

So stand behind your team, my boy,
There’ll be many who’ll applaud.
Just remember that you’re the player,
And the umpire here is God.


This day in baseball: Mantle reaches 50

On September 18, 1956, the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle became just the eighth player in baseball history to hit 50 home runs in a season.  Mantle’s home run came in the top of the 11th inning off the White Sox’s Billy Pierce.  Whitey Ford and Bob Grim combined efforts to shut down Chicago in the bottom of the inning, thus sealing the American League pennant for the Yankees.

mickey-mantle


History of Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman2

Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri first opened as Royals Stadium on April 10, 1973. Construction for the stadium began in June 1967, when a $102 million bond was issued by Jackson County for construction of two sports stadiums.  One of those stadiums was for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League.  The other stadium, meanwhile, was intended for the Kansas City Athletics.

The Philadelphia Athletics, owned by Arnold Johnson, had moved to Kansas City in 1955, bringing Major League baseball to the city for the first time.  The Athletics moved into Kansas City Municipal Stadium, a facility originally built in 1923, which was then rebuilt and expanded for the A’s.  Johnson passed away in March 1960, and on December 19, 1960, Charles Finely purchased a controlling interest in the Kansas City Athletics from Johnson’s estate.

In the early 1960s, Finely began looking to move the team to a new city.  In an effort to keep the Athletics in Kansas City, the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority was established to oversee construction and funding for a new sports complex for the A’s and the Chiefs, who also shared Municipal Stadium.  Original plans called for a multipurpose stadium, but these were scrapped due to design and seating capacity issues.  Going against the trend in other cities that were building multipurpose stadiums at the time, the county decided to build two new stadiums, one for the A’s and one for the Chiefs.

Charles Finely, however, did not want to wait for the construction of a new stadium, and in October 1967, Finely took the A’s to Oakland, California, where a new multipurpose stadium had just been erected.  After the move, United States Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri threatened to press for the revocation of baseball’s anti-trust exemption if they did not give Kansas City a new team.  The MLB responded by hastily granting expansion franchises to four cities, including a Kansas City team owned by a local pharmaceutical magnate, Ewing Kauffman. The new teams were scheduled to start playing in 1971.

ewing_kauffman_1968

Ewing Kauffman (Wikipedia)

However, pressure from Symington and other officials prompted the MLB to allow the expansion franchises to begin playing in 1969. The new club in Kansas City was named the Royals, and they played their first four seasons in Municipal Stadium.  Meanwhile, construction on the Truman Sports Complex, including the Royals’ new stadium and the Chiefs’ facility, Arrowhead Stadium, began on July 11, 1968.  The Royals played their first game in their new ballpark, originally named Royals Stadium, on April 10, 1973 against the Texas Rangers.

Royals Stadium was the American League’s first ballpark with Astroturf as the playing surface.  It held 40,793 seats, which all faced second base and were arranged in three tiers featuring maroon, gold, and orange seats.  The stadium’s most unique feature, however, was the display of fountains and a waterfall beyond the outfield fence.  Stretching horizontally for 322 feet, it remains the largest privately-funded fountain in the world.  The fountains are on display before and after the game and in-between innings, while the waterfalls are constantly flowing.  A twelve-story scoreboard, in the shape of the Royals’ crest, was placed beyond the center field fence.

In 1993, the stadium was renamed in honor of Ewing Kauffman.  Two years later, the Astroturf was replaced with grass.  Then, after the 1998 season, Kauffman Stadium was given a full makeover.  The renovation included the addition of Crown Seats, Dugout Suites, new clubhouses, and an exclusive restaurant and lounge known as the Crown Club.  All of the formerly-brightly-colored seats in the stadium were replaced with blue seats.

Then, on April 4, 2006, Jackson County, Missouri voters approved a 0.375% sales tax increase to fund plans to renovate the Truman Sports Complex, including a $256 million renovation of Kauffman Stadium.  Along with this, the Royals committed to a lease that will keep them in Kansas City until 2030.  The renovation included a reduction of capacity to 37,903, a new high-definition scoreboard in center field (known as “Crown Vision”), new bullpens perpendicular to the field, expansion of the seating in the Crown Club and Dugout Suites, and new fountain view terrace seats in the outfield.  New fan attractions included a kids’ area known as “the Little K” and a new Royals Hall of Fame in left field.

Four statues stand in the outfield concourse behind the fountains. Three of the statues are located in right field (featuring George Brett, Dick Howser and Frank White, all of whom have had their numbers retired by the Royals), and in left field is the former Royals owner Ewing Kauffman and his wife Muriel.

Kauffman Stadium Google maps

Google Maps


Quote of the day

Arch (Ward) called me one day and asked me to have dinner with him. I didn’t know he had anything in mind other than a sociable dinner until he sprang the All-Star Game idea on me, and I was flabbergasted at first. The idea was sound enough since that was the first year of the World’s Fair in Chicago and Arch wanted to make an All-Star Game one of the highlights. His sales pitch was that it would be a wonderful thing for baseball. I told Arch I would submit the proposition to the owners. The American League owners finally agreed after considerable discussion that it would join strictly as an attraction for the 1933 Fair. At first the National League opposed it, but finally agreed to play the game for only one year. The game turned out to be so wonderful and so well accepted by the fans that the owners quickly agreed to continue the game and it became a solid fixture.

~Will Harridge in Professional Baseball: The First 100 Years (1976)

Harridge Will

sabr.org


2018 MLB All-Star Game

2018 MLB ASG

And for tonight’s All-Star Game, here are our starting lineups.

For the American League:

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Mike Trout, CF
4. J.D. Martinez, DH
5. Jose Ramirez, 3B
6. Aaron Judge, LF
7. Manny Machado, SS
8. Jose Abreu, 1B
9. Salvador Perez, C
SP: Chris Sale, Red Sox

And for the National League:

1. Javier Baez, 2B
2. Nolan Arenado, 3B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, DH
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B
5. Matt Kemp, LF
6. Bryce Harper, CF
7. Nick Markakis, RF
8. Brandon Crawford, SS
9. Willson Contreras, C
SP: Max Scherzer, Nationals

With the starts by Sale and Scherzer, tonight’s ASG will be the second time in history that the Midsummer Classic will feature the same starting pitchers in consecutive seasons. The first time this happened was in 1939 and 1940, with pitchers Red Ruffing of the Yankees versus Cincinnati’s Paul Derringer.

Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8 pm ET at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.


Roger Maris

Most baseball fans are familiar with the name Roger Maris.  Those who paid any attention to the home run race of 1998 definitely have a familiarity with the name, because from 1961 until 1998, Roger Maris held Major League Baseball’s single-season home run record.

Roger Eugene Maras was born on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota, the son of Rudolph S. “Rudy” and Corrine Maras (Roger would later change his last name to “Maris”).  Roger also had a brother, Rudy, Jr., who was older by a year.  In 1942, the Maras family moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, then onto Fargo, North Dakota in 1946.

Maris attended Shanley High School in Fargo, and he met his future wife, Patricia, during his sophomore year.  Roger and Rudy Maras, Jr. both competed in sports throughout high school, including track and football.  During the summers, they participated in American Legion baseball, and in 1950, Roger led his North Dakota legion team to the state championship.  Roger was also a standout football player and was even recruited to play for the University of Oklahoma.  Though he initially planned to attend Oklahoma, he

rookie roger maris

Maris in his rookie year with Cleveland (Wikipedia)

changed his mind in favor of staying close to his brother, who had been diagnosed with polio.  Maris instead decided to pursue a baseball career, and at the age of 18, he signed with the Cleveland Indians, starting out with their Fargo farm team.

After a few years in the minors, Maris made his Major League debut on April 16, 1957 playing outfield for the Indians.  Halfway through the 1958 season, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.  He recorded 28 home runs during the 1958 season, then in 1959, he represented the A’s in the All-Star game.  However, he missed 45 games during the 1959 season due to an appendix operation and only hit 16 home runs.

In December 1959, Maris was traded to the New York Yankees, along with Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri.  In the 1960 season, Maris hit 39 home runs, which was a career high for him at that time, and led the American League with 112 RBIs.  He again played in the All-Star game, and the Yankees won the American League pennant.  However, New York lost the World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Maris won the Gold Glove award and was also named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

Roger Maris

biography.com

In 1961, Major League Baseball extended its season from 154 to 162 games.  When the season started, Maris started out slow, but he hit 11 home runs in the month of May and another 15 in June, putting him on pace to reach the single-season record of 60 set by the Babe Ruth in 1927.  As mid-season approached, it seemed wholly possible that either Maris or fellow Yankee Mickey Mantle, if not both, would break Ruth’s home run record.  The media focused intensely on the home run chase, fabricating a rivalry between Maris and Mantle that didn’t actually exist.

Very much an introvert, Maris grew weary of having to talk about the record with reporters day in and day out, and his hair started falling out due to increasing pressure.  To make matters worse, as the season progressed, there was much discussion as to what would happen if Maris couldn’t break the record within 154 games, some going so far as to say the record didn’t count if Maris couldn’t do it within those 154 games as Ruth did.  The popular belief that an asterisk would be placed on Maris’s record if achieved after 154 games, however, was urban legend.

Maris wound up with 59 home runs during that allotted 154-game time frame, and then Maris tied Ruth in game 159.  He hit his 61st homer on the last day of the season.  From then, until 1991, Ruth and Maris were acknowledged separately in the record books, just not with an asterisk.  Maris also led the AL with 141 RBIs and 132 runs scored in 1961, winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player award once again.  The Yankees went on to win the World Series over the Cincinnati Reds, four games to one.

In 1962, Maris compiled 33 home runs and 100 RBIs and he was named to the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year.  The Yankees repeated as World Series champs, this time defeating the San Francisco Giants, four games to three.  In 1963, Maris played in only 90 games, hitting 23 home runs.  He also missed much of the World Series due to injury.  In 1964, Maris made a bit of a comeback, appearing in 141 games and batting .281 with 26 home runs.  His play continued to decline after that season, however, and in 1966, the Yankees traded Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Maris played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, helping them to win the 1967 and roger maris cardinals1968 pennants.  While the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series, they lost a very close 1968 Series, four games to three, to the Detroit Tigers.  Maris retired from baseball after that season.

His playing days behind him, Maris and his brother owned and operated Maris Distributing, a Budweiser beer distributorship in Gainesville, Florida.  Maris also coached baseball at Gainesville’s Oak Hall High School, which named its baseball field after him in 1990.  On July 21, 1984, his jersey number 9 was permanently retired by the Yankees, and that same year, the Roger Maris Museum was opened in the West Acres Mall in Fargo.

In 1983, Maris was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  He died from the disease in Houston, Texas, on December 14, 1985.  He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota.


This day in baseball: Connie Mack Stadium

On February 13, 1953, the Philadelphia Athletics renamed their stadium from Shibe Park to Connie Mack Stadium, in honor of the legendary manager. During his fifty-year career as manager for the A’s, Mack led the team to nine American League pennants, appearing in eight World Series and winning five World Championships.

baseball

digitalballparks.com