Thursday, July 21, 2016

THE BLACKWING 56 – A SALUTE TO JOE DIMAGGIO

Blackwing Luxury Pencils has released a pencil salute to New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio, called the BlackWing 56. Paying tribute to the 75th anniversary of the Yankee Clipper's 56-game hitting streak, the new model has all the details down, including the quality of the item and the pin stripes. For more keep reading on their website.



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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Black Prince of Baseball- Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game: A Review

Before Babe Ruth, another mega star dominated the baseball landscape.  His name was Hal Chase and he was a supremely talented and flawed athlete and human, who was ultimately overtaken by his demons and unceremoniously cast out of the majors because of his penchant for gambling and allegedly throwing games—which possibly included involvement in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Detailing his rise and fall is Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella, with their excellent The Black Prince of Baseball: Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game (University of Nebraska Press, 2004/2016).

Chase was a first baseman who spent 15 seasons (1905-1919) in the majors with five different teams; rising to stardom with the New York Highlanders/Yankees. Known as one of the slickest fielders the game has ever seen, he was no slouch at the plate, hitting .291 with 941 RBIs and 336 stolen bases during the final decades of the Dead Ball Era. Off the field was another story, as he was an inveterate gambler and womanizer; thought nothing of jumping contracts if the money was right; and was an alleged frequent flyer when it came to making a couple of bad plays to keep the score close, or even orchestrating outright dives for a price.

Dewey and Acocella have done a first-class job in researching and writing about Chase’s life. Always a shadowy figure, it was surely no easy task, but the reward is massive, as they have produced a seminal work on the first sacker.

Trying to track the movements of the nomadic Californian must have been quite an undertaking but The Black Prince emerges with a coherent timeline that takes the reader throughout his life. His exploits on the field are fun (he was a bonafide gregarious star who by all accounts had the hands of a magician in the field) to read about but the real star of the show, sad though they may, be are all of his transgressions. One cannot possibly take delight in his wrongs, yet when splashed across the pages, they keep the reader from looking away, much like a car crash.

In addition to the suspicions of intentionally playing poorly and recruiting others into his nefarious schemes, he also frequently held out or jumped to different teams in order to extract the most money. This included stops in the Federal League and a bushel of professional and semi-pro circuits in California, Arizona and Mexico. Although the fans adored him, his reputation within the game was something less, given his constant focus on making a buck or gaining an angle.

Although he was not officially thrown out of baseball, nevertheless, a cloud of impropriety continues to hang over Chase’s head to this day. The book is rife with accounts from opposing players and former teammates who claim they were witness to his transgressions. There was also substantial suspicion that he was among those who conspired to rig the 1919 World Series in an effort to make a financial windfall by betting. No formal charges were ever proved against him, but he never played or coached in another major league game after the 1919 season, despite still being a productive player.

Utilizing thorough research, the authors paint a complete picture of Chase. While he cut a dashing and brash figure as a player, despite his schemes, things were quite different in his personal life. He was a serial philanderer, who once erroneously accused his first wife of cheating on him so he could secure a divorce in order to marry his second wife (with whom he had been having an affair). He was an absentee father, who alienated many of his family members because of his dishonest and boozy ways. 

Ultimately, once his body began to betray him, and baseball of any kind was no longer an option, his life spiraled into a pathetic end. A memorable passage in the book has an acquaintance recalling how Chase was so down and out that he used to emulate his baseball swing with a pool cue in Arizona border town bars in exchange for drinks.

Chase can best be summed up as the extremes in baseball that came to be because the games popularity outgrew its leadership and infrastructure. He lived and played as to be a lesson to those who came after him. That’s not a great legacy to aspire to but it’s the best the flawed first baseman has nearly a century after he departed the game in disgrace.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free advanced copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Minor League Baseball Remains a Budget-Friendly Entertainment Option

Minor League Baseball issued the following press release today:

Minor League Baseball Remains a Budget-Friendly Entertainment Option 

Family of four can attend a game for an average of less than $65 

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Minor League Baseball announced today that attending one of its games is, yet again, one of the most economical forms of family entertainment available. The average cost for a family of four to enjoy a Minor League Baseball game this season is only $64.97; a price that includes parking, two adult tickets, two child tickets, four hot dogs, two sodas and two beers. 

The average cost for two adults to attend a game at one of the 160 ballparks in the 14 domestic-based leagues that charge admission ranges from $33-$37, depending on the fans’ choice of beverages. 

The ticket prices are based on the most economical fixed seat in a stadium, although a majority of the clubs have discounted, free or special ticket prices for children under a certain age, senior citizens and/or military personnel. Berm seating, concessions specials and other deals available through clubs’ social media platforms also save fans money and contribute to making the cost of attending a Minor League Baseball game one of the best budget-friendly options among all professional sports leagues. 

“Minor League Baseball has long strived to be a budget-friendly source of family entertainment, providing fun promotions and a quality product on the field,” said Minor League Baseball President and CEO Pat O’Conner. “We take great pride in knowing that over 42.5 million fans chose Minor League Baseball to help create lifelong memories with family and friends.” 

About Minor League Baseball Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball clubs through their farm systems. Fans are coming out in unprecedented numbers to this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found at Minor League Baseball ballparks. In 2015, Minor League Baseball attracted 42.5 million fans to its ballparks to see the future stars of the sport hone their skills. From the electricity in the stands to the excitement on the field, Minor League Baseball has provided affordable family-friendly entertainment to people of all ages since its founding in 1901. For more information, visit www.MiLB.com.  

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

For Baseball Hall-of-Famer Fred Clarke, Mustaches Were a Hairy Subject

Facial hair is all the rage these days for those many, who spend inordinate amounts of time and money cultivating beards, mustaches and other elaborate whiskery concoctions. Although many ball players currently sport all manners of hair on their faces, it’s something that has not always been tolerated. An early opponent was Hall of Famer Fred Clarke, who came out swinging heavily in the press in 1905 when the question of mustaches was broached with his team.

For whatever reason, whiskers have been a regular point of contention throughout baseball history. At various times, they were prohibited, or at the very least, frowned upon, despite whatever craze might have been sweeping through society. The powerhouse New York Yankees are well known for not permitting their players to have anything on their faces other than eye black and a smile during the season. This has branched out to other teams, as the Miami Marlins adopted a similar policy under new manager Don Mattingly, a long-time former Yankee and former wearer of a very distinctive mustache.

This all takes us back to Clarke. A .312 batting average in 21 years (1894-1915) as an outfielder with the Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates occurred simultaneously with a 19-year stint as a player manager, resulting in a .576 career winning percentage, four pennants and winning a World Series in 1909. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1945. Simply put, he was one of the most successful all-around figures in the history of the game, so when he spoke, it was wise to listen.

In 1905, Clarke was 32, one of the stars (along with shortstop Honus Wagner) of the Pirates and in the midst of directing his squad to a 96-win season. He was asked why he didn’t let his players wear mustaches, which were in vogue at the time, and he had a surprising amount to say about his mandate on shaving

“Mustaches make the men look older than they are and I think the people like to see men as young as possible playing the game,” mused Clarke. “The time was when practically all the players who could raise them wore mustaches, but that day is past, and I don’t think it will ever return. I wore a mustache once at Savannah, when I played there. If I could show you a photograph taken at that time you wouldn’t recognize me.”

It was interesting reasoning from Clarke to say the least but his conviction has had staying power over the years. Although teams like the 2013 Boston Red Sox will certainly continue to rear their shaggy heads, many teams will play with their players sporting faces as smooth as a baby’s behind, and in part that can be attributed in part to those like Clarke who have been so passionate about keeping facial hair out of the game.

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