Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Actor Bill Murray, the Professional Baseball Player: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of February 22, 2015

One of the biggest story lines during spring training has and will continue to be the reintroduction of Alex Rodriguez to major league baseball. After being suspended for over a year for PEDs, the 39-year-old New York Yankees’ third baseman is attempting to salvage the remaining years of his career from the scandal pages, but how much progress will he be able to make in that regard?

A-Rod has already issued a formal apology in the form of a hand-written letter. It’s an interesting touch for an athlete who has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in player salaries over the years, but one that certainly comes across as more personal than a statement issued from a publicist or delivered from a dais during press day.

Although he is a statistical titan with his 20 years of super star production, he will never be able to regain the credibility he had before the suspension. All he can do now is make the most of the dwindling time he has left on the field and do his best to add another chapter or two to his story. Villains have a place in baseball too, and despite his recent troubles, Rodriguez is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to writing his final act.

Now, on to the note for the week…

*Sad news to report in the passing of former outfielder Gary Woods. A backup for nine major league seasons from 1976-1985 with four teams, most notably the Chicago Cubs, he hit a combined .243 with 13 home runs in 525 games. More recently, he acted as a scout for the Chicago White Sox, covering Southern California.

*Former coach Wendell Kim has died at the age of 64 due to complications from Alzheimers. The 5-foot-4 dynamo gained cult status during his stint as the third-base coach with the Boston Red Sox because of his aggressive style, which resulted in the nickname “Wave-‘Em-In Wendell.” A former minor league player, he was a career baseball man and had a reputation as one of the best and friendliest people in the game.

*Tom Gage of The Detroit News has the story of Ed Mierkowicz, the last surviving member of the World Series winning 1945 Detroit Tigers. The former outfielder appeared in just 10 games for the team that year but did have one appearance in the Series, and still remembers his time in the game with fondness. He hit just .175 in 35 major league games over four seasons but did enjoy a solid 13-year minor league career where he hit a combined .284.

*Beginner baseball historians can easily recite that the majors were formally integrated when Jackie Robinson took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Unfortunately, spreading equality throughout the game progressed slowly after that, especially when it came to spring training. Michael Bechloss of the New York Times has the story of how baseball struggled in the post-Jackie years to provide equal accommodations to black players training in areas that were unwelcoming of such social change.

*The sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live recently celebrated its 40th birthday. Over the years, a number of baseball figures have made appearances. Here’s a look at some of the best.

*The worst brawl the majors has ever seen occurred in 1965 when San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Juan Marichal struck Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with a bat during a heated exchange. The event was shocking fans and players alike. This piece from Sports Illustrated has an intriguing adaptation from the new book The Fight of their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball's Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption by John Rosengren. It was a seminal moment in baseball, and hopefully one that will never be repeated again.

*Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson spent 18 of his 27 seasons as a skipper with the Detroit Tigers. When he announced his retirement at the age of 61 following the 1995 season, he was the third-winningest manager of all time. Some thought it odd that he left the game at such an early age, including Detroit Athletic Co.’s Bill Dow believes it’s possible he was blackballed because of his refusal to coach replacement players during the 1995 strike.

*Beloved announcer Harry Caray became the face of the Chicago Cubs because of his distinct voice, his unique look and a variety of quirks. However, before that he called games for the St. Louis Cardinals. This article does a nice job describing how he came to switch jobs and became one of the legends of the booth. Holy Cow!

*Few players mean as much to a team as Brooks Robinson did to the Baltimore Orioles during his 23-year career. The third baseman’s fielding was slicker than the kitchen floor of a fast food restaurant, he could hit and was as fine an individual who ever stepped on a baseball diamond. One of his major accomplishments was his turn as the 1970 World Series MVP, helping his team beat the Cincinnati Reds in five games. This video recap of his heroics shows exactly how electrifying his performance was.

*Before he became well-known as a movie star, Bill Murray was a baseball fan; a passion he has carried with him to the present. In the summer of 1978, he actually had a brief stint as a professional player with the Grays Harbor Loggers in Aberdeen, Washington—even collecting a base hit. Rob Neyer of Fox Sports has a write-up of the actor’s career as a ballplayer.

*Speaking of people with second careers, many baseball players have fancied themselves to be singers. This includes a group from the 1964 Los Angeles Dodgers, who appeared on The Joey Bishop Show. Featuring Don Drysdale, Moose Skowron, Ron Perranoski, Frank Howard, Tommy Davis and Willie Davis, the group actually does a credible job of belting out their version of High Hopes.

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