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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mantle, Mays and Klinger From M*A*S*H: The Baseball Historian's Notes for the Week of December 7, 2014

Baseball lasts through the years not just because of the championships and the statistics, but also because of the memories. The game has produced so many enthralling stories that it will remain its own significant chapter in the story of America. The best way this is all preserved is by historians of the game, and this group lost a titan with the recent passing of Dick Bresciani.

In a 40-plus-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Bresciani worked in public relations and ultimately became the official team historian. So exhaustive was his knowledge of the team that club CEO Larry Luchino described him as their “intuitional memory.” He was always willing to lend a hand or a thought to a historian in need (including yours truly), and while he will be truly missed, he created a legacy that will continue for years to come.

Now, on to the notes for the week.

*It’s usually not a good sign if fans of a team are well-acquainted with the names of their base coaches, as that can be indicative of their maverick style in managing base runners. From 1997-2000, Wendell Kim manned the third base coaching box for the Red Sox. While he had an aggressive style that led to some dubbing him “Wave-‘em-Home Wendell,” he became a wildly popular figure because of his visceral love and passion for the game. In addition to his stint with the Sox, he had a lengthy career coaching and managing with various franchises (particularly in the minors).

 Sally Tippett Rains of the StL Sports Page reports that Kim is sadly in the advanced stages of Alzheimers. The first Korean-American to don a major league uniform, it’s bitter irony that the man who brought countless good memories to so many is being robbed of his own. All the best to him and his family.

*Slugger Babe Ruth gained fame belting home runs for the New York Yankees, earning him the distinction of highest-paid player in the game during much of his career. However, it was nowhere near what players are paid today. As a result he was consistently involved in ventures designed to capitalize on his fame, including touring the Vaudeville circuit and doing various speeches, skits and other buffoonery. This picture shows the Babe on such a tour. Although this is much different than what would be expected of modern players, it was an excellent way for fans around the country to see the famous player when attending games wasn’t a possibility and televisions were yet to be invented.

*Did you know that major league teams have scored 25 or more runs in a game 26 times throughout history? If random stats like that interest you, this page of rare feats might interest you. It’s a treasure trove of tidbits about some of the landmark accomplishments in baseball.

*Dick Allen was a polarizing figure during his 15-year major league career. Playing from 1963-77 with five teams (his greatest success was with the St. Louis Cardinals), the right-handed slugger hit .292 with 351 home runs. However, he also gained a reputation for being a complicated presence. This was often because of his refusal as a black player to kowtow to those who might belittle him or treat him as lesser than during a time when baseball was still figuring out integration. Bill James once called him the second-most controversial figure in baseball history behind Rogers Hornsby.

Allen has a resume that makes him a viable candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he fell off the ballot in 1997 after failing to get the requisite number of votes during his maximum 15 years under consideration. He is now under consideration for induction by the Golden Era Committee and may get to see his plaque in Cooperstown after all. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has a terrific piece on the proud and talented former player.

*What more could you want from a commercial than Klinger from M*A*S*H and the singing duo of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in bonnets? To find out what I mean, check out this vintage Blue Bonnet Margarine commercial.

*Charles “Whammy” Douglas was a right-handed pitcher who went 3-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 11 games with the 1957 Pittsburgh Pirates. Although he played minor league ball for ten seasons that was his only taste of the majors. The numbers he produced are nice but nothing special, until you take into consideration that he pitched with a glass eye.

Dylan Howlett of the Carrboro Commons has a piece detailing the career and life of Douglas, who sadly passed away in November at the age of 79. It’s a glimpse of a lesser known player from baseball history with his own very unique story, going from when he lost his sight in a school yard fight as an 11-year-old, to his feats on the diamond, including winning 27 games for the 1954 Brunswick Pirates.

*Former New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui once hit a home run a very long way. The tater in question came when he was playing professional ball in Japan. The majestic drive hit off the ceiling of the Tokyo Dome but still had enough to clear the wall by plenty. Seriously, you have to see it.

*The New York Post’s Larry Getlen has an interesting snippet regarding sports announcer Al Michael’s recent memoire You Can’t Make This Up concerning his former partner Howard Cosell and an off-color remark he once made to a teary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda about his deceased friend, Ken Boyer.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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