It's New Years Day. The holidays are ending, and we're getting ready to go back to our more typical life routines. For those of who visit this little cranny of the net, we get involved with dissecting, analyzing, and pontificating about the goings-on with the Mariners. If you hang out here, you know those efforts usually mix roughly equal portions of angst and schadenfreude, tossed lightly and usually served cold.
This morning, though, I took a few minutes to reflect on what makes me happy about baseball. And what most comes to mind is players - many from my youth growing up in Minnesota - who for various reasons simply have made me happy about baseball. I think that's a good way to start the New Year. So, in no particular order and with no sense of completeness - here are snippets for a few of those players:
- Pumpsie Green
Pumpsie Green didn't have a very distinguished playing career, but is notable because he was the Red Sox first black player (after they decided to not sign Willie Mays). Pumpsie played for the Minneapolis Millers before he was called up by the Red Sox. My dad sometimes took my brother and me out to the old Metropolitan Stadium (at that time the Met was brand new) to see baseball games from the bleacher seats, and I took a liking to Pumpsie Green. I was eight years old, and I was devastated when I heard the Reds called him up.
It's interesting how some trivial things from our youth form associations we carry forward into adulthood. Pumpsie Green for me means sitting in the bleachers with my Dad, watching a ball game and eating a hot dog.
- Tony Oliva.
What a great hitter, whose career was cut short by bad knees.
Every year in Little League, when we got our uniforms we checked to see what Twins ballplayer had the number that matched the one on our uniform. In 1964, I had #6 and nobody on the Twins had #6. Later that year Tony Oliva switched to that number, but by that time Little League was over, so the switch did me no good.
- Rod Carew
What a joy to watch. Saw him steal home in a game on his own - not a called play. He admitted afterward he was lucky the batter didn't swing at the pitch.
- Ricky Henderson
We were living in the East Bay when Ricky came up with the A's, and I had a son in Little League at the time. I still chuckle at the memoriies of seeing Henderson single-handedly changing the texture of a game.
Robert Maynard, the outstanding editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune at that time, wrote about one of his young boys dashing across the living room then sliding into the sofa, emulating Ricky stealing second base. That anecdote to me is a little picture of how something like baseball reaches across generations and cultures and for a brief moment brings us together before we return to rending the world around us.
We were still living in California in 1991, and another of my sons was in Little League. I remember him telling me what a great player this third baseman named Edgar Martinez was.
- Rocky Colavito
There wasn't a guy who I hated to see come to the plate against the Twins more than Colavito. It seemed to me as though he ripped every pitch he swung at. In one of his All-Star game appearances (probably in 1964) he hit a ball that stands in my memory as one of the hardest hit ones I've ever seen. It was a frozen rope that appeared to be still rising as it hit the OF wall.
- Vic Power
I blogged about Vic Power back in my Mariners Wheelhouse days. One fond memory. In Little League, we were always drilled on catching the ball with two hands. Power, a first baseman, was notorious for only using one hand; I remember my coaches admonishing us that unless we were as good as Vic Power, we should always use two hands.
Jack Kralik, a rather pedestrian starting pitcher for the Twins, was working on a no-hitter. Late in the game, Power was chasing a foul pop-up near the stands. Some of the fans started yelling, "Two hands! Two hands!". Power caught ball one-handed, then smiled at the fans before he threw the ball around the horn.