Zach Wheat

Happy Birthday Zach Wheat! Born 23 May, 1888.

Lifetime batting average, .317, with 2884 hits. Played for the Millers a bit, in 1928. One of the best baseball names ever.

“One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have seen, one of the truest pals a man ever (had) and one of the kindliest men God ever created.”

– Casey Stengel

Passed away 11 May, 1972.

Good game, Zach!

Roger Kahn, Memories of Summer

I recently finished reading Memories of Summer, by Roger Kahn, and enjoyed it quite a lot. Kahn’s book is a memoir, and roughly the first third of the book tells of growing up in Brooklyn, going to Ebbets field with his father, playing ball and going to school and discovering that he wants to be a writer. His father happens to know the city editor of the New York Herald Tribune, and this gets 19-year-old Roger an interview and a job as a copy boy in 1946. I particularly enjoyed this part of the book, stories of how Roger learned about newspapers and sports writing from some of the greats, such as Red Smith and Heywood Broun. In 1950 he became a copyreader in the sports department ($48/week; do they still have copyreaders?), and soon after that he was out on general sports assignments, covering everything except major league baseball. (They wanted their baseball writer to be older than the players, and I suppose that’s a good general rule of thumb.) But just two years later, at the wise old age of 24, Kahn gets dispatched to Florida to cover the Brooklyn Dodgers spring training. Those were different times, obviously, but I think this speaks to Kahn’s ability as a writer, that they thought he was ready.

His first year covering the Dodgers they win the National League pennant, and (no dilly-dallying in those day, no 8 rounds of playoff games) they play the lordly New York Yankees in the World Series, and Kahn covers this experience closely in the book, and brings home the drama and personalities in the story. And there are quite a few personalities involved: Jackie Robinson, Casey Stengel, Pee Wee Reese, Mickey Mantle, Roy Campanella, Allie Reynolds. The Yankees win it in 7 games, a hard fought, well-played series. After the game, (and about a million years ago,) a reporter asked Mantle about his off season plans.

At the age of twenty, Mickey Mantle had arrived, batting .345 with two important home runs. “Nice Series, young man,” Rud Rennie said. “What are you up to now?”

“Headin’ back to Oklahoma. I got me a job working down in the mines.”

“Work in the mines? The winning share is more than $6,200. You don’t have to do that now.”

“Yes, I do,” Mantle said. “You know my dad died, and I got seven dependents who’re counting on me.” Mantle named three brothers, a sister, his mother, and his wife.

“That’s six,” Rennie said.

“A baby is due in March,” Mantle said. “I don’t know whether I’ll be in the electrical crew or the pump crew or whatever.” The Yankees’ slugging hero of the series smiled pleasantly. “I’m just lucky the mining company offered me a job.”

The second part of the book traces Kahn’s career after he leaves the newspaper, and features some chapters that focus on some individual players, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in particular. These are thoughtful and personal character studies; Kahn tells us a lot about these legends, in a subtle and natural way.

Many of you baseball fans out there are familiar with Kahn’s other huge best-seller, The Boys of Summer. That seems like it was written a hundred years ago now, (published 1972, so, really, only 45 years ago) and it is well worth re-reading. Kahn brings the same care and skill to this book, and leaves me wanting more. And so I’m planning on tracking down another Kahn book, The Era, 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World. 

Nice to note that Roger is still with us, 89 years old, and I hope writing another book.

Good game, Roger!

Vargas. With an HR.

So far, so good.

If you are a Twins fan you have to be pretty happy with the way the team is playing this year. Last night, a two-run pinch hit home run by Kennys Vargas ties the game up in the bottom of the 9th, and a fly-ball by Polanco brings Mauer in to score in the 10th for the win over KC.

Hector Santiago gave up 3 runs in his five innings, and Duffy, Belisle, Rogers, and Kintzler (W) shut the door after that.

Last year at this time: 10-28. (ouch.)

Today’s a rain out, and, so, a very good day to read a book about baseball. I have been busy in that regard, and have read some excellent books, and I’ll leave that teaser there for another post.

 

 

That’s Berrios. With a K.

The highly-touted (if not vaunted) Jose Berrios pitched a pretty darn good game yesterday, winning his second of the season, going 7 2/3 innings, striking out 11. It was nice coming after a loss in the first game of the day-night doubleheader. Nothing sucks the life out of a day like losing both games of a doubleheader. But no: the youthful Berrios climbed up and set them down.

I watched a bit of video on those 11 strikeouts.They were brutal. Could we only be so lucky to see this on a regular basis from Mr. Berrios?

Berrios came up last season and had a less-than-auspicious start. 3-7, 8.02 era. He had a bit of trouble finding the plate. This season he started in Triple A, and located the pale platter. He went 2-0, with a .59 ERA and .391 WHIP. He got called up and made his first start with the Twins on May 13th in Cleveland, and got the win, 4-1, pitching 7 2/3, giving up 2 hits, a run, and striking out 4. Yesterday, another 7 2/3 innings, 2 hits, a run, and 11 strikeouts.

We’ve been hearing about this Berrios for quite awhile. Let’s hope he’s finally arrived, for we could surely use him.

Pitcher’s duel

There was something in the paper about how this was the first time in many years that the Twins played a game where both starting pitchers had an ERA of under 1. Or maybe it was under 2. (I think that was it.) Ervin Santana against Chris Sales, for the Bostonians.

Well, naturally, that was like the kiss of death.

And the Twins got pasted, 17-6. (Though really they only got pasted for an inning, as they gave up 10 in the ninth.

Funny how pasted and shellacked have become other ways of saying defeated. Why is that?

walk-off

Joe Mauer gets his first career walk-off homer last night as the Twins take one from Boston. As all Twins fans know, a Twins game isn’t over until it’s OVER. That is to say, the Twins took a 3-1 lead into the top of the ninth, and started the bottom of the frame tied 3-3. Nothing is ever really in the bag for the Twins, except for this, the walk-off HR in the bottom of the ninth. That’s a lead that’s pretty safe. In the bag. Put it in the win column. Touch ’em all, Joe Mauer.

The boys have been showing some resiliency this season. Or maybe it’s just that Ervin Santana has been untouchable? No, I guess there’s a bit more too it than that. But, as we say in Minnesota, So Far, So Good.