Lockdown Dailies #7: Best Players

Pros v. Joes.

Best youth athlete you ever competed against/with (not how they turned out, but at the time)

TOB: 

Basketball: As an adult, I have played against too many guys who played major college basketball to choose one. But as a kid, I’ll never forget the first player who made me realize I did not have a future in basketball: John Gianonni. South Tahoe High basketball was a big thing when I was a kid. The program won a ton, including state championships at the highest level, and had plenty of players who went on to play major college basketball. It’s was the thing in town; the varsity guys were local celebrities.

The school held a youth basketball camp every year, staffed by current and former STHS players and coaches. Kids from all over the state came to learn Coach Orlich’s motion offense. I went every year, and I was pretty good back then. 

The camp schedule was drills in the morning, lunch, and then games in the afternoon. In 5th or 6th grade, I was put on a team with this guy John. He was from out of town. The staffers all knew me, and usually they loved me, but damn. I knew right away – John was so much better than me, and if I knew it the staffers did, too. They started calling him MJ. I wasn’t mad or sad. I was just impressed, really. He was so good. 

After we left Tahoe after my sophomore year, I heard he moved there to be part of the program, and then I didn’t hear much. But I looked him up this week. John got a scholarship to Portland State, and later transferred to Chico State, where he played with, by my count, three other guys I grew up playing with in Tahoe. 

His career seems to have fizzled in college. He ended up only 5’10, the same height I am now. But I think he was about that height in 6th grade. I think if he had continued to grow, he would have been very good.

Football: Timmy Sprinkles. Incredible athlete. Good at everything he did. Smart and nice, too. He was my quarterback, and he got a scholarship to play safety in football and also baseball at Washington State. It didn’t work out for him there, and he ended up playing QB at a small school in California, before retiring due to concussions. As a freshman in high school, though, he was big, and fast, and strong, and had a cannon arm. The highlight of film sessions each week was watching Timmy truck some 120-lb DB who tried to come up and stop him on a scramble. BOOM! 

Baseball: This is easy. Greg Bruso. I have no idea if this is true, but everyone said he threw 70+ as a 12-year old. My rough math puts that at about the equivalent of a 100 mph fastball at an MLB distance. I faced him once as an 11-year old. It was not fun, I assure you. Bruso was good and got better; he was eventually drafted by the Giants, spent a couple years in their system, reaching AA, and was traded to the Brewers for Eric Young in 2003. He suffered a shoulder injury and retired just a couple years later. 

PAL: First of all, Timmy Sprinkles is one hell of a QB name. That could be the name of a protagonist in a Matt Christopher sports book. 

Baseball: Readers of 1-2-3 know by now that I played against Joe Mauer from 6th grade catholic school league through high school. Hard to argue against a potential Hall of Fame baseball player as the best player I ever played against.

As great as Mauer was, it didn’t jump out at you. He was super athletic, but it was understated in a weird way. He had a kinda dorky demeanor about him. He was this big kid who ran kinda funny. He threw hard but it didn’t look like he was really trying to throw hard. He hit everything, but there were other players that seemed to hit the ball harder. Obviously I didn’t know what I was looking at. 

One moment has always stuck with me. We were playing Mauer’s team in Legion (16-18 years old), and we had Sean Pickert come in for relief. Pickert was probably the best player I played with growing up, and while he rarely pitched (elbow issues as a young kid), he was throwing on the other side of 90 MPH when he did. 

Mauer was 6”6’ by then, but the lefty stood – and I am not exaggerating here – 3″ from the inside corner of the plate. It made no sense to try to pitch him on the outside corner, as he could easily reach it. The only option was to punish the inside corner with the hard stuff. Pickert threw one an inch off the plate inside, so basically directly under Mauer’s hands. Mauer essentially picked the ball out of my glove – that’s how late he waited to swing – and hit a 90+ fastball on the inside corner onto the golf course fairway behind the left fielder. He inside-outed a ball about 400 feet to the opposite field with a beat up TPX bat. 

As far as college goes, I’m going to need some help from the fellas. In terms of guys I played with, Andy Salmela was pretty damn good.

Hockey: I got to play with Marty Sertich, the eventual Hobey Baker winner, for several years. Wasn’t big, wasn’t fast, didn’t have the hardest shot – but he had the best hands I’ve ever seen, and shifty as all get out. He stickhandled unlike any player. Teams could not get the puck off of his stick, and could not check him. He was so much better than any player on the team, and he legit got a bigger kick out of setting up someone else’s goal than he did scoring himself…which he could do pretty much whenever he wanted.  

How about you? Who was the best you ever shared the field/rink/court with/ 

More Dailies: 

  1. Your favorite baseball cleats
  2. Greatest game you ever played in
  3. Glove Rules
  4. Coaching Unis
  5. Best Fields/Courts/Venues you’ve every played on
  6. Favorite players (by decade)

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Week of March 27, 2020

Happy birthday to my brother, Sean, who has been there for me since Day 1, and turns FORTY today. I love you, big bro! -TOB


This Week’s Best from Posnanski’s Top 100

No. 11, Mickey Mantle:

A journey into how terrible Mickey Mantle’s father is:

Mickey was his father’s life’s work. His mother, Lovell, would say that when Mickey was 12 hours old, Mutt showed him a baseball for the first time and felt just a little bit heartbroken when Mickey turned toward milk instead. Mickey said he was taught baseball player positions before the alphabet and his nightly lullaby was the radio broadcast of St. Louis Cardinals games.

At this point, I’m laughing because I know it’s a little crazy…but also, I can absolutely relate to all of it. 

His mother, Lovell, was distant and detached. Neither of Mickey’s parents said, “I love you,” throughout his childhood.

I’m now socially distancing myself from Mickey’s parents. I know it was a different time, but god damn. That’s awful.

The love, as it was, came through daily baseball workouts. Mickey would come home from school, and Mutt would come home from the mines, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, exhausted from his day, and the sessions would begin. They were long and intense and inescapable no matter the weather.

“Dad, I’m hungry,” Mickey would say when dinner time hit.

“Your belly can wait,” Mutt would growl, and that’s when he might throw one at his son’s head to get the point across.

“When his Dad would pitch to him for hours,” Merlyn wrote, “out of a hundred pitches, Mick would be in terror of missing one and looking bad and having his father frown or criticize.”

Mickey Mantle wet his bed until he was 16 years old.

Christ. My oldest loves playing sports (My youngest is getting there, too). All sports. He’s voracious. But he’s the one begging me to play after I get home from work. And once we play, he’s the one begging me to keep playing. But the second he is done, I’m done. 

When you read this story, you will feel so bad about the obvious pain Mantle had to deal with his entire life because he had terrible, un-loving parents. -TOB

PAL: Posnanski deserves a sports writing award for these essays. What a feat, for real. Aside from the novelty of the countdown, I love the anecdotes within so many of these stories. Mantle’s is the best yet. Publish this book already!

This particular passage caught me: 

He won the Triple Crown in 1956. He was even better in ’57. He played 18 years in the big leagues, and his Yankees went to the World Series in 12 of them. He hit 536 home runs and won three MVPs and along the way, he inspired the hopes of countless kids. Singer/songwriter Paul Simon was one of those kids, and when he wrote “Mrs. Robinson,” he really was thinking, “Where have you gone, Mickey Mantle.” But “Joe DiMaggio” had the right amount of syllables.

This serves as an important reminder that greatness is not always measured in sum. Longevity is just one measure of greatness, and – outside of a couple examples – it might be the least inspiring. Bill Simmons will tell you Karl Malone was a very good player, but he’s not great, even though his numbers will tell you he’s a top-10 NBA player. Simmons is right, and anyone who watched the NBA in the 90s would tell you the same. 

Bob Costas described Mantle as, “[T]hat baseball hero. And for reasons that no statistics, no dry recitation of the facts, can possibly capture, he was the most compelling baseball hero of our lifetime.” 

By any account, prime Mantle was the Mike Trout of his time (rather, Mike Trout is the Mantle of his time), and Mantle went to the World Series 12 times, winning seven rings! Can you imagine Trout on the Yankees and winning 7 times. Oh, and by the way, Mantle was a switch-hitter and holds the following World Series records: 

  • Home runs
  • RBI
  • Extra-base hits
  • Runs
  • Walks
  • Total bases 

And then there was life for Mantle. This paragraph from Posanski got me. It’s just such an incredibly sad notion: 

Mantle himself couldn’t understand it. I saw Mantle a few times late in life — at events, at baseball card shows — and his body was destroyed by injuries and alcohol and all those late nights, and people would approach him with tears in their eyes as they tried to find the words to explain the role he had played in their lives. And, more often than not, he would turn away from them, as if he couldn’t tolerate their affection or, more likely, as if he felt entirely unworthy of their love.

For Mickey Mantle, living was the hard part.

But on the field, in his prime? Good grief, he must’ve been a sight to see.  

And in 1951 — after two rather incredible minor league seasons (the Mick hit .383 in Joplin, Mo. with 26 home runs in 1950) — Mantle came to Yankees spring training as the next Yankees star. The team was so sure about it that they gave him uniform No. 6, to put him next in line.

Uniform No. 3: Babe Ruth.

Uniform No. 4: Lou Gehrig.

Uniform No. 5: Joe DiMaggio.

Uniform No. 6: Mickey Mantle.

And then he struggles, and then there’s the scene between father and son after Mantle gets sent down to the minors… Read this essay.

Finally, show me a switch-hitter, and I’ll likely show you an asshole dad.

TOB: One thing, though (and this is the second time I’ve had to correct Posnanski for telling an apocryphal story as truth – the last being his retelling of a previously disproven story about Roberto Clemente). Posnanski’s bit about Paul Simon using DiMaggio instead of Mantle is very likely not true. When I read it, it seemed suspicious. So I did a little digging. It was easy, though; there’s a whole Wikipedia section about it in an article on the song. Posnanski gets his story from this:

References in the last verse to Joe DiMaggio are perhaps the most discussed. Simon, a fan of Mickey Mantle, was asked during an intermission on The Dick Cavett Show why Mantle was not mentioned in the song instead of DiMaggio. Simon replied, “It’s about syllables, Dick. It’s about how many beats there are.”

But from all other evidence, it seems Simon was joking when he said that to Dick Cavett:

Simon happened to meet DiMaggio at a New York City restaurant in the 1970s, and the two immediately discussed the song. DiMaggio said “What I don’t understand, is why you ask where I’ve gone. I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial, I’m a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven’t gone anywhere!” Simon replied “that I didn’t mean the lines literally, that I thought of him as an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply. He accepted the explanation and thanked me. We shook hands and said good night”. In a New York Times op-ed in March 1999, shortly after DiMaggio’s death, Simon discussed this meeting and explained that the line was meant as a sincere tribute to DiMaggio’s unpretentious and modest heroic stature, in a time when popular culture magnifies and distorts how we perceive our heroes. He further reflected: “In these days of Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence”. Simon subsequently performed “Mrs. Robinson” at Yankee Stadium in DiMaggio’s honor shortly after his death in 1999.

Simon’s words about DiMaggio seem sincere and ring true. The story about Mantle seems like a joke.

No. 10, Satchel Paige:

Paige was one of the greatest pitchers, and characters, in baseball history. I’ve long read stories about him, but it’s nice to have them all in one place.

Paige was a natural showman. You had to come to the ballpark and see what he might do next. Sometimes, he would catch fly balls behind his back. On occasion, when he was feeling puckish, he would tell his outfielders to sit down because he was just going to strike out this sucker anyway. Sometimes he would purposely load the bases and then strike out the next three batters, just to give the fans a thrill.

He usually guaranteed to strike out the first six or first nine or first 12 batters he faced. The first time he made the guarantee, it was in Birmingham. He said he would strike out the first six, and there was much shouting and abuse from the Birmingham Barons’ bench. But after he struck out the first five — while the crowd lost their minds — the Barons players stood up in unison and waved their white towels in surrender.

Ol’ Satch took pity on them and let the sixth guy pop out.

Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts faced Paige in an exhibition and, in Roberts’ memory, he got a hit. Years later, when Roberts was inducted into the Hall of Fame (as a pitcher; he actually couldn’t hit much), he saw Paige and reminded him of the hit.

Paige shook his head. “Roberts,” he said, “at home, I have a book with the names of all the great hitters who got a hit off me.”

He paused.

“You ain’t in it,” Paige said.

In 1965 — at age 58 (at least; the papers called him 60 years old) — Satchel Paige pitched one last time in the Major Leagues.  You know, Paige had a pretty successful big-league career even if he didn’t get there until he was 41 (at least). He posted a career 124 ERA+. He was 10 wins above replacement.

To give you an idea of how good that is, he ranks eighth all-time in WAR after age 41, ahead of many other celebrated old pitchers including Jamie Moyer, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry and Grover Cleveland Alexander. How good must the young Satchel Paige have been?

His last game was a publicity stunt. Paige knew it. “I’m a gimmick,” he said. The Kansas City A’s owner Charlie Finley was looking for a big gate at the end of another dismal season, and most people saw through it — there were fewer than 10,000 people at the ballpark in Kansas City that day. A rocking chair was set up for Paige and there was a woman dressed as a nurse who stood by him as he rocked.

Paige didn’t mind. He was, after all, a great showman. And he felt like he had a surprise left for people. “I got my fastball and my famous hesitation pitch,” he said. “I can go three innings for sure. I got as good a chance as any of those young boys out there.”

He did just that. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowing one hit, a double off the center-field wall. Here’s a good bar bet: Who got the one hit in Satchel Paige’s last big-league game? It was Carl Yastrzemski, who celebrated after the game by hugging Paige tight.

“I don’t know how old he is,” Yaz said. “But that man can still pitch.”

Yep. One hit in 3 innings at age 58 against the fuckin Red Sox with 25-year old Yaz and 20-year old Tony Conligiaro.

“How do you do it?” he was asked many times about that control, and he always shrugged. Of all the extraordinary things he did in his life, working up through poverty and racism and becoming a legend, throwing strikes seemed like the easiest part of all.

“Home plate don’t move,” he said.

Haaaaaaaaaaahahahaha. Fantastic.

PAL:

“I want,” Paige said not long before his death, “to be the onliest man in the United States that nobody knows nothin’ about.”

Goddamn, that’s a great tombstone. 

“Even if you’re only seven, eight or nine, it eats at you when you know you got nothing and can’t get a dollar,” he said. “The blood gets angry. You want to go somewhere, but you’re just walking. You don’t want to but you got to walk.

Heavy stuff right there. And how about this nugget: 

You could argue that the greatest pitcher in baseball history, Satchel Paige, and the greatest hitter in baseball history, Babe Ruth, both began their baseball journeys in reform school.

Paige and Ruth were naturals. Paige’s rock-throwing skills transferred perfectly to the pitcher’s mound. He threw hard. He threw with purpose. And — we will come back to this again and again — he had impeccable control.

“A musician is born with music,” Paige said. “A pitcher is born a pitcher.”

I really love all the Page quotes, especially:

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were.”


A Timely History Lesson from the Iditarod

I found this gem of a story about the Iditarod on Medium this week. As most of you know, the Iditarod is a month-long dog-sledding race in Alaska. This year, the race took place as the world realized coronavirus was spreading unchecked across continents and oceans. Within 48-hours of the NBA’s Rudy Gobert testing positive, it seemed all sports were put on hold until further notice. The dominos – the NBA, NCAA winter sports, NCAA spring sports, NHL, all high school sports, Soccer, etc., all fell. All except the Iditarod. 

Per Jolene Latimer:

While nearly every major sporting event and professional sports league worldwide did postpone or cancel their events, the Iditarod organizers decided to persist, launching a herculean, constantly changing strategy to keep the race operative.

In reading this story, I learned the ‘origin’ of the race, which is surreal considering our current circumstances. While the competition didn’t begin until 1973, the real race began long before that: 

It has been nearly 100 years now since the famed “Great Race of Mercy” occurred, a feat so epic it has since been canonized in history books and feature films.

You probably know the story but in case you need a refresher, here it goes: Faced with a diphtheria outbreak that threatened to wipe Nome off the map, a sled dog relay that included 20 mushers and 150 dogs transported a lifesaving antitoxin across the Alaskan wilderness to save the town’s inhabitants.

Early Iditarod organizers spent much time during the race’s formative years honoring these original Serum Run mushers. The solidarity they represent permeates the Iditarod’s culture even now.

“We are almost full circle,” Urbach said. “It’s interesting where we are almost 100 years later.”

Don’t that just leave you stunned? I am. Please do yourself a favor and read Latimer’s full story. – PAL 

Source: After Sports Were Cancelled, Only the Iditarod Remained”, Jolene Latimer, Medium (03/21/20)


The Hidden…Potato (?)…Trick

Look, it’s been a long week and it’s late and I don’t want to write a ton. But also, this story tells itself. So I’m simply going to give you the hightlights of the time a minor league pitcher tried to circumvent the rules by using a potato in a modification of the ol’ hidden ball trick.

The idea found Bresnahan in a bar. He was putting down beers with teammate/roommate Rob Swain at a place called Joey’s when they saw a story on TV about pitchers tampering with baseballs. 

Years earlier, Bresnahan had read about a player who somehow deployed a potato during a game, so he mentioned his idea to Swain. 

Then he did his homework. 

He scoured the rulebook to make sure it was not explicitly illegal. He had one of his teammates call a major-league umpire and throw out his hypothetical idea; the umpire said at worst he might get ejected.

Back at his apartment, he peeled the skin and chopped off the ends with a knife. He whittled and smoothed and shaped, and when he was finished he attempted to draw stitches with a red pen (it didn’t work). 

With a runner on third and two outs, Bresnahan asked home plate umpire Scott Potter for time. The netting in his catcher’s mitt was broken, he said, and Potter told him to get a new one.

Bresnahan emerged from the dugout with a fresh mitt and squatted behind home. No one noticed that he’d pulled an object out of the new glove, which he now held in his right hand. He called for a slider, low and away, snagged the pitch — a ball — with his glove and immediately came out firing. 

All along, the plan was for him to sail the throw over the head of third baseman Swain, his roommate and coconspirator. 

But…

“I made a great throw,” Bresnahan told some reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer named Jayson Stark. “He did a hell of a job missing it.”

At that point, the third-base coach for the Reading Phillies, Jim Lefebvre, yelled to the runner on third, Rick Lundblade, to “Go, go, go!” Lundblade took off for home.

Bresnahan threw his mask, to look pissed. At the same time, his teammate, Miguel Roman, picked up the ball in left field. Roman was not in on the plan. He stopped “dead in his tracks.”

And then, right before Lundblade got to home plate, Bresnahan stuck out his glove and said, “You’re out, Rick.”

The stadium was silent. There were 4,000 people there, and no one knew what they’d just watched.  

“Brez,” said Scott Potter, the umpire, “What in the hell did you do?”

Lefebvre, the third base coach, ran to the outfield, then ran toward home.

“Hey Scottie,” he yelled, “it’s a fucking potato!”

Potter was furious.

“You can’t bring another ball on the field!” he told Bresnahan.

“It’s not a ball,” Bresnahan said, “It’s a potato.”

Potter wasn’t having it. The run scored. Bresnahan’s manager, Orlando Gomez, pulled Bresnahan and fined him $50 for “an unthinkable act for a professional.”

“It’s a fuckin potato…it’s not a ball, it’s a fuckin potato.” That killed me. I’m dead. Put it on my tombstone. -TOB

Source: “This Spud’s For You: The ‘Unthinkable Act’ Behind a Minor-League Legend,” Jayson Jenks, The Athletic (03/20/2020)


Video of the Week:


Tweets of the Week:

We got a lot this week, folks!

And, in keeping with the Mantle-theme, but the opposite:


Song of the Week: Guy Clark – “Rita Ballou”


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But then I saved him by glueing his shell back together. 

-Kevin Malone

Lockdown Dailies #6: Favorite Players (by decade)

Inspired by Posnanski’s article about his favorite player, Duane Freakin Kuiper (atta boy, Kuip!), and an ensuing article by Grant Brisbee where he listed his favorite baseball player at different points of his life, we bring you our favorite athletes at ages 10, 20, 30, and (apparently this is touchy so I will be precise…37 and 38 and change. ;): -TOB

Favorite Players – Age 10 (1992)

Baseball

PAL: Kirby Puckett. I mean, we’re just coming off the second world series victory for the Twins in 1992, and Kirby is about to have yet another MVP-caliber season. He was bigger than Prince in Minnesota at that time.

TOB: THE KID. No contest. 

Football

PAL: It slips my mind that the Vikings traded what became the foundation of the Cowboys mid-90s dynasty for Herschel Walker…but I never forget his awesome run when his shoe comes off 

…in re-watching…not as sweet as I remember it. Maybe Minnesota shouldn’t have given up 4 players and 8 draft picks (3 first round picks, 3 second round picks, a third round, and sixth round)…but Walker sure was big and fast, wasn’t he? 

TOB: Uh. Probably Joe Montana. Maybe Bo Jackson.

Basketball

PAL: I mean, there’s only one answer here, right? MJ

TOB: MJ.

Hockey

PAL: I was a big Pavel Bure guy for some reason. 

TOB: Hah, wow. I was ALSO a Pavel Bure guy. Somewhere I have a Pavel Bure autographed card. But I don’t think I was really a Bure fan until 1994, when they had a run to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Rangers. They should bring those uniforms back. Fire!

 

Favorite Players – Age 20 (2002)

Baseball:

PAL: Pudge Rodriguez. I think for favorite players that never play for your team, you have to see them do something incredible live. Watching Pudge throw to second, even in between innings, was unlike any other catcher I’d seen until that point. Why anyone would try to steal third on him…

TOB: Bonds. This was the year he was just a few hits from .400, and had an OBP of .582.

Football:

PAL: Randy Moss, baby! Favorite football player ever. 

TOB: No one sticks out. Maybe Vick….

Basketball:

PAL: Pass

TOB: Chris Webber.

 

Hockey:

PAL: Pass.

TOB: I think by this point I had mostly stopped watching hockey, but Petr Forsberg’s name jumps out at me. 

Favorite Players – Age 30 (2012)

Baseball:

PAL: Timmy Lincecum. Must watch for a couple years there. Never rooted for a non-Twin so hard in my life. 

TOB:

Big Time Timmy Jim. By 2012 point he had tailed off already, and was in the bullpen during the 2012 playoffs. No matter. My favorite baseball player ever. And that highlight above was my favorite game I ever attended. Incredible.

Football:

PAL: Randy. 

TOB: The Goat.

PAL: I thought you said the GOAT.

TOB: That’s right. Highest single season passer rating of all-time? Aaron. Highest career passer rating of all-time? Freakin‘. Lowest career interception rate of all-time? Rodgers.

Basketball:

PAL: Give me a lil Baron Davis. 

TOB: The King.

Hockey:

PAL: I mean, Ovechkin highlights are pretty sweet. 

TOB: I think by this point I had mostly stopped watching hockey, but Petr Forsberg’s name jumps out at me. 

Favorite Players Now – Pushing 40 (2020)

Baseball:

PAL: Can we hold off on this “pushing 40” bullshit? Back to my earlier point, you need to see something special in person for a player not on your team to be your fav. I love watching Nolan Arenado. I love watching him at third, and I love watching him slug. It feels like the Giants are either playing the Padres or the Rockies every time I go to a game, and Arenado always makes a ludicrous play in the field and goes 3-5 with a 3 RBI

TOB: Wow. Hm. I’m not sure I know. But I really like Ozzie Albies. One of those guys who is really good, hustles, and obviously loves the game. Javy Baez is another one like that.

Football:

PAL: JJ Watt. HAHAHA. Just kidding. I mean, who doesn’t love the TE era? George Kittle is a beast. Dude will not go down. 

TOB: Mahomes has to be the most fun to watch. Rodgers is still my favorite, though he seems to be declining, finally.

Basketball:

PAL: A hot Curry is still mighty spicy. Must see. 

TOB: Probably Curry, but this is a close one with a lot of candidates. The NBA is so deep right now.

Hockey:

PAL: Conor McDavid highlights are a nice wormhole. 

TOB: I dunno. Ovechkin? I have no idea.

How about you? Share the favorite athletes of your childhood, young adulthood, and old-as-hell-hood in the comments.

More Dailies: 

  1. Your favorite baseball cleats
  2. Greatest game you ever played in
  3. Glove Rules
  4. Coaching Unis
  5. Best Fields/Courts/Venues you’ve every played on

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Lockdown Dailies #5: Best Venues

What is the best field/court/whatever on which you’ve competed?

PAL: I’m starting to notice how much these ideas revolve around baseball. Somebody’s missing the start of the season! While, for me, this tends towards baseball fields, I’ll give a rundown of the best fields I played on as a kid. Please share your selections, and send a pic if you can find one. 

Baseball

Little League: Brooklyn Center, no contest.

Grass infields, real, sunken dugouts, best concession stand ever. Burgers with grilled onions. Every player in their annual tourney was given a free burger and a pop each day. 

High School: Athletic Park – Chaska, MN – a crown jewel of ‘town ball’ in MN. It’s perfection. 

While there are many of these types of fields, this one was the best I ever played on. 

College: Need help on this one. Chico State was nice, but that is/was a independent league field. We did play on a field in Missouri that Mickey Mantle played minor league ball at apparently – Joe Becker Stadium. Could’ve been a nice field, but I don’t remember it that way. I just recall freezing my balls off behind the plate during an early March game in freezing rain. 

All-time: Chaska. Did you look at the picture? 

Hockey: 

  • Best ice: Oscar Johnson – St. Paul, MN
  • Best atmosphere – Aldrich Arena – Maplewood, MN
  • Oddity: Coliseum at MN State Fair – St. Paul, MN. Pictured above. Fun fact, my grandpa help build this.

Soccer: Whatever rich high school put in a new football/soccer field the previous spring. 

More Dailies: 

  1. Your favorite baseball cleats
  2. Greatest game you ever played in
  3. Glove Rules
  4. Coaching Unis

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Lockdown Dailies #4: Coaching Uniform

What is the minimum age/level of baseball in which it’s okay for a coach to wear a uniform? 

PAL: I remember one coach in Little League (ages 10-12) wore the full uni. Dave Fagerlie, Senior. I played several seasons with Fagerlie’s son, Dave “Big Dog”, Jr. (Jr. was a legit 6’ 7” lefty…maybe one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, actually – a walking Civil War encyclopedia – but that’s another story).

Back to Senior and the Little League uni. He was the manager of the Yankees. They had a white, v-neck pinstripe top, but every team in the league were given the same, bland grey pants in our league. The whole getup was hilarious on Senior, who is north of 6’ 5” and lanky as a ball of unspooled twine. The pants hardly crossed his knees, and he elected white sanitaries, sans stirrups. Woof. He would sit cross-legged on the end of the bench keeping book while barking out instructions to players mid-pitch. I can still hear him. An oversized man in a kids uniform folded into a little league-sized dugout. 

All of this is to say that Little League is much too young for a coach to wear a full uniform. 

Honestly, I’m not sure even a regular season college game requires the full uni from a manager. Baseball pants, turf shoes, and a short sleeve warmup gets the job done, but you go full uni for a playoff game. 

One thing is for certain, no baseball coach – no matter the level – can really call himself/herself a coach if they don’t rock the Oakley Blades. 

 TOB: If every coach needs Oakley Blades, then I am a born coach.

(True story: That is a generic lens and piece that holds it, but real Oakley Blades ear pieces that I bought off a friend who broke his pair. I swapped the real ear pieces into my generics, even though the colors didn’t match. So stupid but so hilarious.)

PAL: Are those blades knock-offs, or Bollé knock-offs?

More Dailies: 

  1. Your favorite baseball cleats
  2. Greatest game you ever played in
  3. Glove Rules

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Week of March 20, 2020

Back to Running 

If you want to know why people actually run, then read this article. In a week when gyms and spin classes, and yoga studios are closed, people are going back to the roads. Natalie and I have seen it, and I’m guessing you have, too. Runners. A lot of runners.  

While I urge anyone even a little bit interested in running to read the entire story (it’s short), Talya Minsberg calls out running as an odd side effect of the world stopping: 

It’s the perfect sport for a pandemic. All you need is a pair of shoes and a six-foot buffer from the next person. (Some New York City paths, however, have gotten crowded with runners and walkers, making social distancing even there a challenge.) [PAL: the same can be said for Lake Merritt here in Oakland]

…The newest runners are easy to spot, falling into one of three camps: overexcited, overstriding or overly dramatic about the hill up ahead. But a transformation comes quickly. A few blocks later and it’s easy to see the release on the faces of runners who have found their new outlet.

Last Saturday, I was a little over halfway through my training for a marathon in Vancouver. Every run had a mileage, a pace, a small part in a plan to run a race in a certain amount of time. This week, the runs have no set distance or pace. I’ve taken different routes. There’s nothing to hurry back for – no meet-up or reservation. Each run is self-contained. The goal is to find that meditative sweet spot when the mind shuts off and the only acknowledgement is the sound of footfalls synced with my breath. Breath in for three steps through the nose, breath out three steps through a loose jaw. 

I’d much rather be training for a race and going out to dinner with friends, and going to the office to work, and having dinner with Natalie’s mom and dad, and flying to see my family; but I’m really thankful for the each mile of each day this week. I need the mental break and physical burn. 

As a regular runner, you become addicted to the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other because when you’re running hard, that’s all you can think about. The lactic acid building in your legs doesn’t care about your work calendar or your school assignment or etiquette for video conference calls or the state of the pandemic today.  Just get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get to the next mile, to the next repetition, to the next tree, to the next breath.

To all runners out there this week, you’ll be getting the nod from me. Hope to see you out there. – PAL 

Source: “Running From Coronavirus: A Back-to-Basics Exercise Boom”, Talya Minsberg, The New York Times (03/19/20)


Moon Golf: That’s Deep 

This is a strange story, and I loved it. Read it twice. In 1971, Alan Shepard hit three golf balls from the lunar surface. While his explanation was that it was “a form of scientific outreach,” the real reason was because Alan Shepard loved to play golf and thought it would be cool to hit a golf ball on the moon. 

But Graham MacAree makes a pretty interesting observation in his story. Perhaps no two pursuits better sum up the success and downfall of man better than exploration and domestication. The moon is the high-water mark of human exploration. As for golf…I mean, is there anything more domesticated than a 6-iron?  Sheppard was staring at a new frontier* while golfing. 

Golf is an expression of mastery, of a hostile world rendered submissive. Those verdant greens and carefully placed trees invoke a nature that’s been twisted into parody for our own amusement. Humans have been fighting against the rest of the world since the dawn of our species (and been rather too successful, might I add), and golf is perhaps the most brutal expression of our need to tame the environment.

Perhaps the idea of domesticating (and destroying) the moon is particularly interesting this week. Brilliant observation on MacAree’s part. – PAL 

Source: Alan Shepard Once Played Moon Golf”, Graham MacAree, SB Nation (03/19/20) 

*A new frontier to everyone on earth but a few guys named Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins.


This Week’s Best from Posnanski’s Top 100

No. 12, Honus Wagner, showing you why the best players don’t always make the best coaches:

His most famous quote is simply: “There ain’t much to being a ballplayer if you’re a ballplayer.”

So true.

But the funny part is that while Vaughan undoubtedly learned so much from Wagner by simply being around the great man, Honus was not what you might call a demonstrative or vivid teacher. Yes, Wagner worked with Vaughan for hours on the field, but when someone asked Vaughan how it was progressing, he smiled.

“I’m not sure,” Vaughan said. “When I asked Mr. Wagner what to do, he said, ‘You just run in fast, grab the ball and throw it to first base ahead of the runner.’ But he didn’t tell me how.”

Source: The Baseball 100: No. 12, Honus Wagner,” Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (03/18/2020)


Checking in on the Players from Jackie Robinson West Little League

Way back in 2014, the year we started this blog, Jackie Robinson West Little League from the Southside of Chicago made a run to the Little League World Series championship game. Their run sparked a lot of interest, because they played with a lot of joy, and a lot of flair, and yes because they showed that baseball is not dead with today’s African-American youth.

Well, those kids are all entering adulthood now, and at least a couple of them are prospects. This article checks in on the shortstop on that team, Ed Howard, nicknamed Silk by broadcaster and Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, is a senior in high school and is expected to be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft…if its held. The article is an interesting look at how much work went into Ed’s game from the time he was a little kid.

But it got me wondering…what about Tre Hondras? Trey is the player featured in our logo at the top of the page. He made it because of his hilarious response to ESPN about what he does to relax before a game:

Still funny.

So I looked him up. Turns out Tre is a pretty good player himself, and is headed to Michigan in the fall to play ball. Good job, Tre! -TOB

Source: “Six Years After Jackie Robinson West, Ed Howard is a Surefire MLB Prospect,” James Fegan, The Athletic (03/19/2020)


A Much Needed Dose of Kruk and Kuip

I need them back! -TOB


Lockdown Dailies Overview

A distraction – I sure as hell need one. I can’t go down the pandemic wormhole every day. There are no sporting events to argue over or to celebrate. We need to do it ourselves, so TOB and I are sharing a short post daily. Don’t care how goofy the topic (the goofier the better), and we’re asking our readers to join the conversation.  

Possible topics to include (readers, please email us at 123sportslist@gmail.com or hit us up on the socials to add your suggestions or request from the current list)

  • Greatest game you ever played in
  • Your favorite cleats growing up
  • Glove Rules: What you need to know before you put on someone else’s baseball glove 
  • What is the earliest level of baseball can coaches wear full uniform w/o ridicule?
  • Sport you wished you hadn’t quit (or had quit earlier)
  • Sport you never played but think you could’ve been pretty good at
  • Greatest spectating memories
  • Ever been ejected? Do tell. 
  • Worst mistake you ever made in competition
  • Analyzing TOB’s LL stats from Tahoe (altitude)
  • Best youth field you ever played on
  • Best youth althlete you ever competed against/with (not how they turned out,but at the time)
  • Cal – how do we make them not suck?
  • Why Augustana should not go D1…but if they do can I claim D1 status (asking for a friend)?

Video of the Week: 


Tweet of the Week:


Song of the Week: Haim – “The Steps”

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Twitter: @123sportsdigest

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I’m telling you that baby could be the star of a show called Babies I Don’t Care About. 

-Deangelo Vickers

Lockdown Dailies #2: Greatest game you played in

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared on the author’s personal blog in 2009.

One night, during law school, I went to the gym looking for some pickup with the undergrads. I played about four games, and was ready to head home.

As I was walking off the court I saw a guy from my Law School League basketball team (Yeah, it was a law school-only intramural league. Law school is small, and the basketball talent is slim, but we managed to stockpile all the good players on one team. In three years, we lost zero games). He told me some of the guys from my law school team had an intramural game in an undergrad league starting in a few minutes, and they could use me. I was pretty tired and a bit worried about a knee injury I was just easing back from, but I gave it a shot. 

We had a very good team (I was maybe the 8th best of 9 guys), but so were the undergrads. We were down 50-44 with about 45 seconds left and we started fouling. They missed their free throws and we managed to tie it up at 54. We had a decent final shot for the win, but it was no good. In overtime, we were up 3. We got hosed on a horse shit call, and then they hit a 3 to tie. 

We went to double overtime, and we were down 1 with 2.8 seconds left. We called timeout, but we still had to inbound the ball full court. And then, essentially, this happened.

I’m not kidding. We (well, I was on the bench) threw it the length of the floor and somehow my teammate Chris caught it on the right wing. He took a couple dribbles toward the baseline, shot it from behind the backboard over 2 guys, and buried it, as the buzzer sounded.

The shot itself was kind of like this.

It was god damn incredible. And don’t think for one second that I didn’t run around like Thomas Hill after that Laettner shot when it happened. Well, less crying and disbelief; more whooping and mobbing. I would pay $100 to see the whole thing on video. 

Post Script: Just because these commercials were awesome…

 

When I first wrote this story, back in 2009, my friend Senthil pointed out that as amazing as this game was it does not surpass the time I tackled a guy and ended the game with a bench clearing brawl. But that is a story for another day… -TOB

PAL: Your memory is bonkers, TOB. Are you the LeBron of your field? Can you recount trials in perfect sequence? 

First the defendant told us about his usual morning. Eggs with chorizo and spinach. Cheese: Jack. Coffee – medium roast with half-and-half. Morning news – 4 tabs on the laptop: SF Chronicle, ESPN, 1-2-3 Sports!, CNN. Only after his coffee did he threaten his tenants with eviction via SMS text for the fourth time February, 2018.  

A few games stand out, but I don’t remember the exact sequences. Some highlights:

  • Little League: My brother and brother-in-law coached a rival to my team, and they beat us in a close one. I made the final out as my brother, leaning on years of experience pitching to me in the garage, openly instructed his star pitcher where and where not to pitch me for everyone to hear.
  • A few years later, same brother and brother-in-law were now coaching my team. Jay, my in-law, kicked off his bachelor party with our game. All of his and my sister’s friends, joined by the team parents – tailgated before and during the game (apparently Roseville had very loose restriction on beer around youth sports). The fans basically partied and this youth game between Roseville and Mahtomedi served the backdrop, like a game on the tube at the bar. Game came down to the last at-bat, and I hit a walk-off single. The 50 fans (a big turnout for a 13 year-old regular season game) went bonkers. I now wonder what the Mahtomedi parents thought. Also, $5 says one of the Mahtomedi dads mosied on over to the tailgate for a cold one. 

The ultimate is actually a double-header in college. We needed to sweep University of Omaha in a 4-game weekend series to make the North Central Conference tournament. Can’t remember how, but we won both games on Friday. And then Kevin Wiessner – the tall lefty with the red moon boots mentioned yesterday – hit not one, but two walk-off home runs on Saturday. First game was a walk-off grand slam. The second was a walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the 12th inning. We had an awesome kegger that night at The Moontower. Here’s the writeup about Wiessner’s heroics from UNO.

TOB: I can’t stop laughing about your brother shouting your scouting report for all to hear. But I’ve got bigger questions here. I read the link about Kevin’s two walk off dingers and I have thoughts.

One: THIS is a baseball coach.

Two, from the article:

In the first game, Nebraska-Omaha held a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning until Augustana loaded the bases with a walk, a hit batsman and a base hit. Wiessner then connected for a grand slam to give the Vikings a 7-4 victory.

Excuse me, the seventh inning? Did you guys play 7 innings? Is this beer league softball? What’s the story here?

PAL: Double-headers were 7-inning affairs in NCC play. Single games were 9 innings. Damn you, TOB.


Lockdown Dailies Overview

A distraction – I sure as hell need one. I can’t go down the pandemic wormhole every day. There are no sporting events to argue over or to celebrate. We need to do it ourselves. We’ll tentatively call in Lockdown Dailies. Don’t care how goofy the topic, and I’m asking our readers to join the conversation. We’re going to do our best to post a fun topic every day or so. We’ll see how all of this goes. 

Possible topics to include (readers, please email us at 123sportslist@gmail.com or hit us up on the socials to add your suggestions or request from the current list)

  • Your process for selecting the perfect baseball glove
  • What is the earliest level of baseball can coaches wear full uniform w/o ridicule?
  • Sport you wished you hadn’t quit (or had quit earlier)
  • Sport you never played but think you could’ve been pretty good at
  • Greatest game you ever played in
  • Greatest spectating memories
  • Ever been ejected? Do tell. 
  • Worst mistake you ever made in competition
  • Analyzing TOB’s LL stats from Tahoe (altitude)
  • Best youth field you ever played on
  • Best youth althlete you ever competed against/with (not how they turned out,but at the time)
  • Cal – how do we make them not suck?
  • Why Augustana should not go D1…but if they do can I claim D1 status (asking for a friend)?

Readers – Share your topics…and this story with your friends.

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com