Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Earl Weaver Teaches the Art of Umpire Arguing: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of March 1, 2015

Los Angeles Angels’ slugger Josh Hamilton has had a roller coaster career. The former first overall draft pick has fought through addiction to forge an abbreviated All-Star career in the majors. Unfortunately, word came down this past week that the 33-year-old had suffered a relapse with drugs and alcohol and is facing a lengthy ban.

Hamilton should be a cautionary tale for everyone, both young and old. No matter how talented or what amazing opportunities are available, nobody is immune from going down such dark paths. Addiction is a disease, and one that is able to dig its claws in like no other. He will hopefully be able to fight back like he has before but even if he does there is no way to reclaim the portions of his life and career that have already passed by.

And now, on to the notes for the week…

*Former outfielder Jim King has died at the age of 82. The left-handed hitter played in 11 major league seasons between 1955 and 1967 for six different teams, achieving his greatest success with the Washington Senators. He hit a combined .240 with 117 home runs in 1,125 games.

*Another passing to report in former journeyman pitcher Don Johnson at the age of 88. The right-hander had parts of seven seasons in the majors with five different teams, going a combined 27-38 with a 4.78 ERA in 198 games (70 starts). His best season came with the 1954 Chicago White Sox, as he was 8-7 with a 3.13 ERA and three shutouts.

*The Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, was one of the greatest hitters baseball has ever known, spending his entire 19-season career with the Boston Red Sox. His death in 2002 created sensational headlines, not just because of the passing of a legend but because of his participation in Cryogenics, which has kept his head frozen in the hopes of future revival. The 30-for-30 short film, An Immortal Man, is a tremendous look at the controversy and his enduring legacy.

*Few players were as beloved as St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial. This clip provides both video and audio of the sweet-swinging lefty’s final big league at-bat, which ended his legendary career with 3,630 base hits and a .331 batting average.

*Minor league baseball has been a presence in Pawtucket, Rhode Island for decades, including the last 42 years as the Triple-A affiliate of the Red Sox. It was recently announced that connection is coming to an end, as the team has been bought by a group of investors who plan to relocate to nearby Providence in 2017. It will be a tough loss not only for the city and its economy but also because of the history it represents. Many future major leaguers and seminal baseball moments have graced McCoy Stadium over the years. The New York Times’ Dan Barry recently reviewed the team’s past and the change that is ahead.

*More than 100 years have passed since the occurrence of one of baseball’s greatest mysteries. During spring training in 1907, Red Sox (Then called the Americans) player-manager Chick Stahl committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. He had accumulated a .305 batting average over 10 big league seasons and was about to begin his first full season as skipper before his untimely death at the age of 34. The Naples Herald’s Glenn Miller has more on this sad story.

*Babe Ruth wasn’t just the best-known ballplayer of his lifetime and a national hero. He was also a showman who was involved in many entertainment pursuits off the field. This photo shows his work in the 1927 movie Babe Comes Home. He played Babe Dugan, a star player with Los Angeles Angels—not exactly a far stretch from real life.

*Although right-handed hitter Joey Meyer was one of the best slugging prospects in the 1980s, he played just two seasons in the majors—both with the Milwaukee Brewers. He didn’t pan out the way many might have expected but he is still remembered well in minor league circles. In particular, he hit one ridiculously long home run in Denver in 1987 that still defies belief.

*Baseball is a game that can be conquered through the use of many discreet advantages. One of them is the art of pitch framing, which is delved into in some depth by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh. In particular, former catcher Brad Ausmus and Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley are cited as two masters of this precise art.

*In addition to hitting lots of home runs, former Baltimore Orioles slugger Boog Powell was a talented pitchman. This 1978 television ad for Miller Lite Beer displays those talents, as long as you don’t mind the mean-spirited humor directed at the umpire.

*It’s hard to believe but apparently Hall-of-Fame pitcher Addie Joss was discovered by “Professor Henry Lewis,” a performer whose profession was playing pool with his nose and other non-hand body parts. Baseball History Daily has the full story here. The professor was never paid the small bonus promised for his discovery but presumably went on to sniff out a living by virtue of his schnozz.

*Finally, during his Hall-of-Fame career with the Orioles, manager Earl Weaver was nearly as well known for his arguing with umpires as he was for helming annual contenders. It’s tough to teach such skills but this clip shows how he once tried to school Bob Uecker in the art of really giving it to the men in blue.

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