M.C. Hammer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

I never imagined that M.C. Hammer would make his way into this blog, but it turns out, Hammer Time has a connection to baseball.

Stanley Kirk Burrell (M.C. Hammer’s given name) once upon a time served as a batboy for the Oakland Athletics. After seeing the 11-year-old break dancing in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum, A’s owner Charlie Finley offered him a role as a clubhouse assistant and batboy, and Burrell served as a “batboy” with the team from 1973 until he graduated from high school in 1980. Whenever Finley was out of town, young Stanley would be on the phone in the A’s dugout, relaying the play-by-play. Finley loved the boy so much, he gave Burrell the title of Executive Vice President for the organization, and Burrell was paid $7.25 per game.

Philip Nelson, Laughing Squid and MC Hammer
M.C. Hammer in 2010 (Philip Nelson, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

As for Burrell’s future stage name, its origins come in part from Hank Aaron, a.k.a. Hammerin’ Hank, to whom many felt the young batboy bore a resemblance. Reggie Jackson, using the resemblance as inspiration, began calling Burrell “Hammer,” which stuck. He acquired the nickname “M.C.” for being a “master of ceremonies” when he began performing at various clubs while on the road with the A’s (and later in the military).

Burrell even tried to pursue a baseball career himself, having played second base for his high school team. He made it all the way to the final round of cuts with the San Franciso Giants. He did not make the team, however, and it was after this point that he turned his full attention to music and pursuing a career as a rapper. Nevertheless, Hammer has been a participant/player in the annual Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game wearing an A’s cap to represent Oakland and has returned to the Coliseum to throw out the first pitch on a number of occasions.

Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson, April 2010 (Steven Groves / Wikimedia Commons)

Pitcher Edwin Jackson was born on September 9, 1983 in Neu Ulm, Germany while his father, Edwin Jackson Sr., was serving in the United States Army there. He has the distinction of having played for more major league teams than any other player in Major League Baseball history. Over the course of a career that spanned sixteen years, Jackson played for fourteen MLB teams:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers (2003–2005)
  • Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays (2006–2008)
  • Detroit Tigers (2009, 2019)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (2010)
  • Chicago White Sox (2010–2011)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (2011)
  • Washington Nationals (2012, 2017)
  • Chicago Cubs (2013–2015)
  • Atlanta Braves (2015)
  • Miami Marlins (2016)
  • San Diego Padres (2016)
  • Baltimore Orioles (2017)
  • Oakland Athletics (2018)
  • Toronto Blue Jays (2019)

Jackson was named to the American League All-Star team in 2009. On June 25, 2010, as a Diamondback, he threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jackson was also a member of the 2011 World Series champion Cardinals, though he lost the only game he appeared in. Jackson’s last MLB appearance took place on September 28, 2019 with the Detroit Tigers.

In 2021, Jackson was named to the roster of the United States national baseball team, which qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The team went on to win silver, falling to Japan in the gold-medal game.

On September 10, 2022, Edwin Jackson announced his retirement from baseball.

Edwin Jackson, 2021 (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Robert Jordan/Released)

RIP Jeremy Giambi

Jeremy Giambi wasn’t exactly a standout player in MLB. If anything, he generally seemed to be playing in the shadow of his older brother, Jason. However, Jeremy Giambi began his Major League career with the Kansas City Royals, just a few years after I first became a Royals fan and began to really pay attention to them, so the news of his death — especially at such a young age — caught my attention.

Besides the Royals, Giambi played with the Oakland A’s, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox during his 6-year MLB career. He finished his career with a .263 batting average, 52 home runs, and 209 RBIs. Giambi was also portrayed in the film and book versions of Moneyball.

Giambi died last night, February 9, 2022, at the age of 47.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

“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.

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)

How Hans Became an American, by Elinor Nauen

This poem by Elinor Nauen is a bit longer, but well worth the read. It demonstrates how closely baseball gets associated with Americanism, even to those outside the nation’s borders. I especially love the line, “He goes home because he has nowhere else to go.”

*

I’ve been sitting at my desk a lot
staring at my father.
It’s a picture taken in summer
a few months before he died.
He’s looking at me
with a wry and knowing
–did he know?–
expression. He looks like a man
who needs a private joke
to get a proper snapshot.
He’s looking straight at me, even as I sit
in a cold May, a little too tired,
the Yanks getting beat 4-1 in the 5th
by Oakland out on the coast,
a lackluster they’ll-never-catch-up game
Rasmussen not getting shellacked
just doesn’t have anything
and neither do the hitters.
Gone native in his Arizona retirement
Dad is wearing a bolo tie and looks shrunken, frail.
I liked to kiss him on the top of his bony head
in the desert mornings.

He took all of us to a game only once, my first, I was ten,
Charlie was eight, Lindsay was twelve
and the baby was left home.
We drove all the way from South Dakota
up to Minneapolis
to see the Twins play the Yankees
(my team).
Daddy was a refugee from Nazi Germany
and Mom was English.
They were grownups
who’d never seen a game either. They went
because he was the father of Americans
and I was a little baseball fanatic.

Mom sat quietly for about twenty minutes
fanning herself with a straw sunhat and beaming
then asked, when does the game begin?
Look down there, we said.
It was already the second inning
but I still don’t think she spotted it.
I think she was waiting for the play by play.
The familiar radio sounds
so different in the ballpark.

Daddy wore plaid shorts over his white skinny legs
and puffed a cigar.
He began to like baseball
when he found someone
who knew less about it than he did.
He explained it all to Mom
mostly according to his own logic–
He had an accountant’s sense of symmetry
and the diamond pleased him–
the implication of infinity.
The profusion of numbers and their richness
impressed him…
and it was a damn nice summer day.
I think now of those bleachers
old Metropolitan stadium full of stolid Scandinavians
who never corrected him–
that would have spoiled their fun.
Mom would ask: Where’s that chap running off to now?
And Dad would explain:
He goes home because he has nowhere else to go…

My brother and I spent most of the time under the stands
scrapping with baby Twinkies–
Twins fans who didn’t take to our rooting for the enemy.
Charlie thinks he remembers a game-winning
Bobby Richardson grand slam.
I only recall the Yanks winning in the 10th
and the incredibly intense luxury of that lagniappe inning.

Daddy stuck with baseball too.
Like the voting
that made him proudest as a naturalized citizen
he quietly exulted
at being able to talk to his kids
about what they liked to talk about
which was sports. What pleasure
it gave him
to be able to call
(those Sunday calls!–this later
after we’d all left home)
and say, “So, Mattingly’s still leading the league”
or “I see where the Yankees aren’t doing to well.” …

But tonight there’s an amazing comeback
another 10th-inning heroic to call home about
(“I see where the Yankees are going great guns”)
thought it’s a few second basemen later
and the serene and splendid Willie Randolph
who pulls it out for the team.

RIP Joe Morgan

Legendary second baseman Joe Morgan played Major League Baseball for the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and Oakland Athletics from 1963 to 1984. Over the course of his career, Morgan won two World Series championships with the Reds in 1975 and 1976 and was also named the National League MVP in each of those years. Morgan was also a ten-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove winner, and won the Silver Slugger award in 1982. Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990, and he has also been inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame and the Astros Hall of Fame.

Joe Morgan died on October 11, 2020 in Danville, California at the age of 77.

Rest in peace.

Morgan Joe CR73-587_HS_NBLMcWilliams
Joe Morgan, 1973 (Baseball Hall of Fame)

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