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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joe DiMaggio Selling Christmas Coffee Makers: The Baseball Historian's Notes for the Week of December 14, 2014

Although the major league baseball offseason is in full swing, there are plenty of other things keeping the game in the news. That’s one of its best traits, as there is always something of interest or value that fans can discover or rediscover on a regular basis. There is simply no other sport that can engage the senses on so many levels. At least that’s my take…

Now, on to the notes for the week.

*The Baseball Golden Era Ballot voting has come and gone, and there will be no new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame from this body in 2015. Dick Allen and Tony Oliva each came within one vote of being elected, while Jim Kaat, Maury Wills and Minnie Minoso narrowly missed as well.

As usual, there was varying amounts of outrage on the behalf of the ten candidates. The simple fact is that while they were all excellent players and contributors to the game, none of them were slam dunk choices. If they were, most would not have been elected from the writers’ ballot. That being said, this kind of process and debate is good for the game and keeping people interested in its history.

*More regarding the Hall of Fame. There has never been a player inducted with 100 percent of the votes from the writer’s ballot. This even includes the likes of Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. Sports Cheat Sheet’s Eric Schall has compiled a list of the top-10 vote getters by percentage of all members of the Hall of Fame. Hint; they probably aren’t who you think.

*With the holidays nearly upon us, the shopping season produces a vast quantity of advertisements to hawk gift ideas. Check out this 1977 Christmas Mr. Coffee commercial starring Joe DiMaggio. If even a fraction of those who grew up idolizing the “Yankee Clipper” bought one of his coffee machines, the company must have had a very merry holiday season.

*Louisville Slugger bats are synonymous with baseball. An incredible number of players have used them for decades, and they are truly part of the fabric of the game. This video gives a succinct history of the company and how they have evolved over the years.

*Actor and director Penny Marshall (of Laverne and Shirley fame) will be bringing an important baseball story to the silver screen. It was recently announced she will be directing a biopic of Effa Manley appropriately titled Effa. The first woman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Manley was a groundbreaking owner in the Negro Leagues who trail blazed not only for herself and women in the game but for her players.

*With 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts in his career, former left-handed pitcher Randy Johnson was one of the most dominant hurlers in the history of the game. He is on the 2015 writer’s ballot and it will be a major surprise if he is not a shoo-in for induction next summer. That being said, baseball is far from being what defines him. ESPN’s E:60 recently had a great feature showing what the lanky southpaw is up to these days, as he seems to have seamlessly transitioned into the next phase of his life.

*Chuck Connors gained his greatest fame as a Hollywood actor, becoming known for such roles as the Rifleman and as a slave owner in the epic television miniseries Roots. Before that, he was a fine athlete, playing professional basketball and baseball. Here is a photo of him during training with the Brooklyn Dodgers, demonstrating a proper sliding technique.

In 66 games with the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs (1949 & 1951) he hit a combined .238 with two home runs, so he definitely made a wise career choice!

*A huge collection of baseball memorabilia has been discovered at Birmingham’s old Rickwood Field, the oldest active ballpark in the country. This trove of artifacts, autographs and other amazing items (including a pair of Reggie Jackson’s cleats) is being put up for auction, and the public will be able to take away a piece of history that had been tucked away for years.

*The Baseball History Daily has dug up another lost gem of a story. In 1883, Providence Grays outfielder Cliff Carroll decided to water down fan Jimmy Murphy after taking a drink from a hose during a game. The drenched crank was so incensed that he retrieved a gun and took a potshot at the player. You’ll have to read the whole entry to find out what happened in this crazy encounter.

*Outfielder Mark Gilbert had a major league career that lasted all of seven games with the 1985 Chicago White Sox. Although he had six hits and four walks in 26 plate appearances, his playing career was over by the time he was 29. Fortunately, it looks like he has moved on nicely. USA Today reported last fall how the now 58-year-old was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the United States’ ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. Just recently, that appointment was confirmed by the Senate, making him the first former major leaguer to hold such a post.

*Detroit Tigers Hall-of-Fame outfielder Al Kaline turns 80 later in the week. The Detroit News’ Tom Gage wrote a profile of the legend and looks back on his outstanding career that lasted 22 years as a player and is still going strong with his role as an adviser with the same team that made him a bonus baby signing in 1953. "Al continues to be involved in all of our major meetings and discussions," Tigers' president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said of the legend, who does what he loves and loves what he does. It’s great to see he is still involved, and many warm wishes for that to continue for years to come.

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

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