Baseball history remains a popular subject of study. Given the increasingly quicker pace of life and the availability of other sporting options for fan consumption, this may be somewhat surprising. But on second glance there should be no surprise at all.
Baseball is the National Pastime for a reason. It is unsurpassed in having figures that can be identified with by wide swaths of people across the country and the world. “Every men” to superstars have done memorable and amazing things in the game, making their stories resonate with fans all the more. With the age of the game and the number of players and wonderful moments continuing to pile up, the material is there for generations to be drawn in by its history for years to come.
And now, on to the notes for the week…
*Roy Campanella forged a Hall-of-Fame career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in his 10 seasons with them as a catcher (1948-1957). Unfortunately, he was forced to retire after becoming paralyzed in an auto accident in 1958. His medical bills were so astronomical that his old team played an exhibition game that year in their new home in Los Angeles against the New York Yankees. Over 93,000 fans packed into the venue, which is remembered by this terrific MLB.com short film.
*Speaking of the Dodgers, their legendary announcer Vin Scully is still going strong after well over half a century with the team. Here’s a picture of the now 87-year-old from around the mid-1930s when he was a school boy. As you can see, even then he had his trademark red hair.
*Julio Franco, who has previously appeared in these notes, is still going strong and making news with his baseball career. The 56 year-old, who has played professionally since 1978, including a 23-year major league career, just signed a 2015 contract to be a player-manager for a semi-pro Japanese team. It’s further proof that when it comes to loving baseball, there are no age requirements.
*Sad news to report in the passing of Nick Koback. Signed out of high school as a bonus baby in 1953 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the catcher got into 16 major league games in parts of three seasons (1953-55), hitting a combined .121 with a triple. He also played six seasons in the minors before turning to a career in clothing sales. He was 79.
*Also passing away was Ray Hathaway, who appeared in four games as a pitcher for the 1945 Brooklyn Dodgers. The right-hander lost his only decision, and allowed four earned runs in nine innings. He won 108 games in parts of 20 minor leaguer seasons between 1939 and 1965, ultimately becoming a manager with 1,441 career wins over another 25 minor league seasons. 98 at the time of his death, he had been the second-oldest living former major leaguer.
*Up and coming baseball blogger (Baseball with Matt) and author Matt Nadel recently appeared on the Rambling On Podcast. He chats about the game, his writing and other projects. Have a feeling you will be seeing his work around for a long time to come.
*Outfielder Jonny Gomes has crafted a lengthy career in the majors based not only on his powerful right-handed bat but also his reputation as one of the best clubhouse presences in the game. He rose to prominence in 2013 as one of the most visible members of the bewhiskered Boston Red Sox that won that year’s World Series. However, he is lucky to be alive today, let alone have the success he is enjoying. This piece by ESPN E:60 tells his story about how simple twists of fate could have very easily altered his life on a permanent basis.
*These days, spring training occurs in either Florida or Arizona. Camps dot the landscapes of those two sun-soaked states. However, they haven’t always been the exclusive homes of baseball preparedness. Arkansas used to be a true baseball hotspot, as described by this 1993 Sports Illustrated article by Jay Jennings. Travel might be difficult but it sure would be interesting to see a little more variety in where teams set up camp.
*A YouTube user recently created a mashup of two of my favorite things, baseball (specifically the Red Sox) and The Wonder Years. Check it out.
*Baseball History Daily has found another gem in the form of a 1914 article describing what life on the road looked like for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. Not surprisingly, the rules and expectations of being a professional ball player were just a bit different than they are today. For example, one rule of the Seals while traveling was “Don’t run around to dances.” In this age of high-priced and often poorly behaved athletes, there are much bigger things to worry about than running around to dances.
*Finally, check out this vintage commercial starring former New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle and former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath. They’re shilling for their employment agency, Mantle Men & Namath Girls, Inc (Who knew?). Apparently, they started around 1968 and were in business for several years before shuttering their doors in the mid 1970s.
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