Spring training is finally here! Like a long-anticipated oasis arising from the glittery sand dunes of the desert, the 2018 season is upon us. Over the next week or so, players will gradually trickle into their respective camps and get their bodies and minds into shape for another season. Surprises and excitement are sure to abound, as every team will be steeled in preparedness for 162 games of regular season action; not to mention the yet-to-be determined playoffs. Buckle up and enjoy the ride! Now, on to the Baseball Historian’s notes for the week.
-Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella was paralyzed in an automobile accident in the winter of 1958 that ended his playing career. Despite the tragedy, he was back at Dodgers’ spring training the following year as a coach/advisor. This video clip shows him talking with manager Walt Alston about helping the team, which went on to win the World Series that year.
-Newly elected Baseball Hall of Fame member Jim Thome will be wearing a Cleveland hat at his induction and on his plaque. However, he is making sure that is a very specific hat. The retired slugger has announced that his Cleveland cap will be the one with the “C” emblazoned across the front instead of the traditional (and racist) Chief Wahoo logo. Not only has he earned the right to make this request after spending 13 of his 22 major league seasons in Cleveland, it is refreshing to see him take a stand on such an important issue.
-Well-regarded general manager Kevin Towers passed away from cancer at the age of 56. Following a career as a minor league pitcher, he helmed the front offices of the San Diego Padres (for whom he was a first-round draft pick in 1982) and Arizona D-Backs for the better part of two decades. Widely respected in the game, a high point of his career was helping the Padres to the 1998 World Series, where they eventually succumbed to the New York Yankees.
-Recently retired shortstop Jimmy Rollins should be enjoying himself immensely now that he has a bit more free time on his hands. The switch-hitter recently plunked down $10.65 million for a luxurious mansion in a gated community in Encino, California. With eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, he now has the ability to accommodate a full baseball team should he ever choose to make a foray into the world of Airbnb.
-Players are getting antsy since many of their free agent brethren remain unsigned with spring training right around the corner. Whispers/accusations of collusion are starting to waft through the air, with some suggesting that a player shutdown this spring isn’t out of the question. Salaries may be soaring, but by all accounts the game is strong. It would be unfortunate to see squabbles over money interfere this momentum.
-Baseball has traditionally attracted multi-sport athletes. While some have chosen the sport as their primary pursuit, others have decided to concentrate elsewhere. Yahoo!’s Mark Townsend has compiled an all-time baseball team comprised of players who were also involved in football. Some, like Bo Jackson, may be obvious, but the team is stacked with many who may come as a surprise.
-Some neat footage here of a brief conversation between Earl Averill and Joe Vosmik of the Cleveland Indians during spring training in 1934. The two were among the best outfielders in the game at the time, and despite their best efforts, the team ultimately finished in third place, well behind the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees.
-Recently, the 157th anniversary passed of the Charter Oak and Atlantic Baseball Clubs playing a baseball game on a frozen pond in Brooklyn. The players wore skates and modified the rules to accommodate for their unusual playing surface. It must have been quite the spectacle, as Atlantic prevailed by a score of 36-27.
-Oscar and Emmy winning filmmaker Ezra Edelman will be moving forward with making a biopic of Hall-of-Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente. Edelman, who has received the most acclaim for his documentary O.J.: Made in America, will have his work cut out to capture the life of the Puerto Rican legend. No word yet as to who will depict the subject of the movie or hold other roles.
-Reinstating the use of the bullpen cart has been suggested as a way to speed up baseball games that continue to be seen by many as interminable. This piece celebrates the history of the handy vehicle and the impact it has had on the game over the years. Anyone who assumes bullpen carts are just lightly dressed up golf carts have another thing coming.
-Country music singer Charley Pride is a Hall-of-Famer in his artistic genre. However, some might be surprised to find out he originally was on the path of a professional baseball player. He never made the major leagues but did briefly pitch in the systems of the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. He also played in semi-pro leagues, particularly making his mark in Helena, Montana, where he later gained even greater distinction with his musical talent. This piece tells that story.
-Finally, more sad news in the death of former outfielder Wally Moon at the age of 87. The left-handed hitter was renowned for hitting opposite field “Moon shots” home runs while with the Los Angeles Dodgers when they played at the old Coliseum. All told, he played 12 years in the majors with the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals (1954-1965), hitting a combined .289 with 142 home runs.
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