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Cheaters and the Baseball Hall of Fame: The Hypocrisy and Arrogance of the Baseball Writers of the BBWAA

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“Cheating is baseball’s oldest profession. No other game is so rich in skullduggery, so suited to it or so proud of it.” Thomas Boswell

I love baseball. Everything about it. The good, the bad and the ugly. It is a game that to me represents the human condition better than any other game. I am amazed by the feats of ballplayers of today and yesterday. I am also a realist and know that like the rest of us, that baseball players are human. I believe that God speaks to me though baseball and there is no other place in the world that I feel more at peace than watching a ballgame in a ballpark. It is an elixir for my soul.

However baseball, despite its perfection as a game is a game played by, written about and watched by a very imperfect cast. Including me. I know a lot of ball players, men who have played in the Majors and Minors and I admire them. I admire their dedication and the sacrifices that they make to be the best. I admire the fact that many toil in the obscurity of the Minor Leagues for years before even getting a chance to play “in the show.” Not many actually get careers in the Majors, and a decided minority have the lifetime performance to even merit being honored in the Hall of Fame.

The Baseball Writers who decide on the election of baseball players into the Baseball Hall of Fame decided that this year, that no players should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was due in part to their interpretation of the rules that allow for the writers to consider issues of character can be considered in the voting process. It was the first time in four decades that no players were elected to the hall.

The vote was seen as the writers judgement on the players of the steroid era, an era that until it became unpopular was heralded by many of the same writers as a time of revival in the sport. The same writers that reveled in the domination of Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the pitchers mound, the great home run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, the massive home runs of Barry Bonds or the stellar performances of so many other players of the era. The cheerleaders became the morality police. Not that the use of PEDs was right by any means but the moral indignation of the writers that chose to use their vote or lack of a vote as a means of punishment seems to me to ooze hypocrisy.

I am sure that is the case.

Not that I am in favor of cheating or cheaters. However that being said, the bar that these players are being held to is higher than that of baseball cheaters of previous generations, of which some are honored in the same Hall of Fame that the writers exclude those of the steroid era. It seems to me to me that the writers are being just a bit hypocritical and cynical concerning the history of the game and the Hall of Fame.

That is easy for them to do because we Americans, possibly more than any other people love to tear down our heroes and those that excel at what they do. We are one of the most moralistic peoples on the face of the earth, and nowhere more does that moralistic tenor show up than in baseball. Football and basketball, cheating is not so bad, but cheating in baseball that is somehow a greater sin than almost anything in our society. Tax cheats, adulterers, academic cheats and plagiarists as well murderers and other stellar members of society, including lawyers and politicians find it easy to damn baseball players for cheating.

However, the Hall of Fame membership includes many of the best in baseball as well as some pretty lousy human beings who just happened to be great baseball players. It is a place of history where the disgraced members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox have a place, though not as members. It is a place that has enshrined admitted cheaters of previous eras. It is a place that has enshrined racists, bullies, wife beaters drunks philanderers adulterers and even an accused murderer.

It is also an institution that for decades excluded some of the best ballplayers who ever played the game because they were black and had to play in the segregated Negro Leagues. It’s greatest snub was to the legendary Negro League, player manager and later Major League Coach and scout Buck O’Neil, who it never admitted.

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Buck O’Neil Out, Ty Cobb in

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Ty Cobb was a violent man and as racist as they come. He once assaulted a fan, a fan with no arms for jeering him. He attacked a black groundskeeper for attempting to shake his hand and then attempted to strangle the man’s wife when she came to his aid. Babe Ruth would show up drunk for games and slept around with any attractive woman of the female persuasion. There are a host of unsavory characters in the Hall of Fame besides the admitted cheaters and suspected cheaters of bygone times. Hell, Hank Aaron and admitted to using amphetamines what were then known as “Greenies” and players testified under oath that Willie Stargell, another first ballot Hall of Famer not only took amphetamines but dispensed them to team mates. They used them to perform better and they were not alone. Thus to me the self-righteous indignation of the writers against the players of the Steroid Era and that of some fans is just that.

The cheaters didn’t just include drug users although the fact that players have been juiced for decades was known in early 1970s. The Mitchell Report on the use of performance enhancing drugs made this comment:

“In 1973, a Congressional subcommittee announced that its staff had completed an “in depth study into the use of illegal and dangerous drugs in sports” including professional baseball. The subcommittee concluded that “the degree of improper drug use – primarily amphetamines and anabolic steroids – can only be described as alarming.”

That was 1973. But cheating hasn’t been limited to performance enhancing drugs. The were men who threw illegal pitches or altered baseballs. Managers and organizations that specialized in stealing the signs of opposing teams, corking bats and many other tricks and sleights of hand designed to help them win games.

When Sammy Sosa was exposed for his use of a corked bat then Chicago Cubs General Manager Andy McPhail said: “There is a culture of deception in this game. It’s been in this game for 100 years. I do not look at this in terms of ethics. It’s the culture of the game.”

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Rogers Hornsby, the amazing Second Baseman of the St Louis Cardinals who batted over .400 three times in his career said “I’ve been in pro baseball since 1914 and I’ve cheated, or watched someone on my team cheat, in practically every game. You’ve got to cheat.”

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Pitcher Gaylord Perry wrote in his autobiography before he was elected to the Hall of Fame “I’d always have it (grease) in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.” Mind you that the “spitball or grease ball” had been illegal for decades when he made his admission.

Yankees great Whitey Ford admitted his cheating. “I didn’t begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive. I didn’t cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don’t want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn’t cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little.”

Hank Greenberg, one of the premier power hitters of his day discussed how the stealing of signs helped him. “I loved that. I was the greatest hitter in the world when I knew what kind of pitch was coming up.”

Hall of Fame managers like Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver, have been quoted, even if they meant it in jest, advocating cheating. Durocher said “Win any way you can as long as you can get away with it.” and Weaver reported told a pitcher “If you know how to cheat, start now.”

To me election to the Hall of Fame should be a place of history where the greatest performers in the game should be enshrined. It should not be a place where writers, many of whom no longer actively cover the game sit as modern Pharisees pointing out the grain of sand in the eye of the accused players while ignoring the logs in their own eyes.

The use of the drugs probably has harmed the health of those that used them. The records set in the era will be debated. But there are so many other things that affect records. The 154 game versus the 162 game season, the Dead Ball Era, the segregated era, the war years where greats like Ted Williams missed their best years because they were serving in the military all affected the game and influenced who was inducted and who was not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In baseball records are also kind of fuzzy because of changes in the game. Additionally characteristics as innocuous as the differences in baseball stadiums, their dimensions, geography, turf and weather conditions on hitting and pitching play a huge part in any players career.

Baseball fans and players will make their own judgements about the character of individual players as well as the historical significance of the Steroid Era. The era was not good for baseball despite the records set because it brought to light a culture that existed for at least a century. A culture that is not just a baseball culture but part of the American culture, a culture that honors liars and cheaters in politics, law, banking and a host of other professions including religion.

Well that is enough for tonight. Let him who is without sin throw out the first ball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Passing of the “Duke of Flatbush”: Duke Snider 1926-2011

Duke Snider (Getty Images)

“He was the true Dodger and represented the Dodgers to the highest degree of class, dignity and character,” Tommy Lasorda

Baseball lost a legend today. Duke Snider the “Duke of Flatbush” who was instrumental in leading the Dodgers to 6 National League Titles in 10 years and a World Series Championship in 1955 was 84 years old.

During his 18 year career of which 16 were spend with the Dodgers, one with the Mets and his final season with the San Francisco Giants he batted .295 with 407 home runs and 1333 RBIs. He still is the all time home run leader for the Dodgers with 389 as well as RBIs. He was an eight time All Star. During his most productive period between 1953 and 1956 he averaged 42 home runs, 124 RBI, 123 runs and a .320 batting average.  During the World Series Championship year of 1955 he hit .309 with 42 home runs and 136 RBIs.

While the Dodgers’ were in Brooklyn Snider was one of a trio of Center Fielders that all reached the Hall of Fame and are considered some of Baseball’s immortals. Snider along with Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays electrified the diamond of Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds and have some baseball historians still arguing just who was the greatest New York Center Fielder of the era. He was consistently for a period of 10 years in the top 10 of votes for MVP finishing second by just 5 points to teammate Roy Campanellain a controversial vote involving a mismarked ballot from a hospitalized sportswriter which had the ballot been marked correctly could have given Snider the MVP.

Snider as well as his Dodgers’ teammates Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges, Clem Labine, Don Newcombe, Ralph Branca, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Pee Wee Reese have been immortalized in Roger Kahn’s classic book The Boys of Summer. It is a book that I have read several times and is part of my usual summer reading program along with David Halberstam’s The Summer of 49, October 1964 and Teammates a Portrait of Friendship.

Snider was released by the Dodgers after the 1962 season after he and Third Base Coach Leo Durocher disagreed with Manager Walter Alston on a recommendation to have Don Drysdale go into the third and deciding game of the 1962 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants. With a 4-2 lead Alston opted for Stan Williams in relief of Eddie Roebuck and the Giants rallied for a 6-4 win. After spending the 1963 season with the Mets and the 1964 season with the Giants he retired at the close of that season.  He would later be the play by play announcer for the Montreal Expos and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. The one blemish on his post baseball life was a conviction for tax evasion for not claiming income earned from the sale of baseball cards and memorabilia.

Despite the conviction Snider is remembered as one of the good guys of baseball respected by his peers and his fans.  He is immortalized with his fellow Center Fielders Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle in the Terry Cashman’s classic baseball ballad (Talkin’ Baseball) Willie, Mickey and the Duke. http://video.yahoo.com/watch/456784/2533611

Hall of Fame Broadcaster Vin Scully said “He had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and Mays and, of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant.”

An ESPN News Story about “The Duke of Flatbush” is here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espntv/espnShow?showIDshowID=SRDA&addata=2009_tscbr_xxx_xxx_xxx_xxxespnShowcomshowIDflv

Here is a clip of Duke Snider in his words. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHQXQC9grAU

I shall treasure my autographed Duke Snider Baseball Card even more.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Woe Woe Woe the O’s Woes Continue to Grow

Earl Weaver like him or not knew how to manage and motivate

“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Well if you are an Orioles fan like me you have got to be wondering what is going on in Birdland.  The Orioles sports fans are losing and are patently not following the advice of their legendary Orioles skipper Earl Weaver. After a perfectly miserable 2009 season the Orioles looked like they had righted the ship and were ready if not to be competing for the AL East title at least to be competitive and playing .500 ball.  Veteran hitters like Miguel Tejada and Garrett Atkins were added to the line-up and last year’s crop of rookies including Catcher Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold were expected to start shining.  Additionally with Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis  and Felix Pie in the lineup the hitting drought of last year was expected to end.  In the pitching department great things were expected as the young arms of the O’s supplemented by veteran Kevin Millwood acquired from the Rangers over the winter were also expected to perform at a higher level than last year.

Matt Wieters is developing well for the O’s

Unfortunately no plan survives first contact with the enemy and it looks like the Orioles who definitely have the talent and potential to be competitive need to find a way to win.  After losing their opener in Tampa they won the second game in that series but haven’t seen a win since. They lost the third game in Tampa and returned home to be swept by both the Blue Jays and the Rays before losing last night in Oakland to the surging Athletics.  With a 1 win and 9 losses the O’s are tied with the Houston Astros for the Marianas Trench of Major League Baseball and as of the moment show no sign of coming out of this crash.

Miguel Tejada brought back for his bat leads the O’s in RBIs but is not hitting well for average…yet

The team batting average is only .232 and the have scored a total of 29 runs in their first ten games and their on base percentage is a mere .309.  Neither are they stealing bases with only 3 stolen so far this year. Felix Pie is leading the team in hitting at .400 with a on base percentage of .455 and slugging percentage of .650.  Miguel Tejada leads the team in RBIs with 7 nearly a quarter of the Orioles total run output.  Matt Wieters is showing signs of maturity at the plate hitting .313 and an OBP of .405.  However some of the bats which are expected to deliver have not woken up yet and maybe it is time to invoke prayers to Jobu to wake them up.  Brian Roberts is now on the 15 day Disabled List and has been replaced at second by Justin Turner called up from the O’s AAA affiliate the Norfolk Tides.

Big Righthander Kam Mickolio was Brought up for injured Mike Gonzales

The pitching staff widely regarded as having some of the best arms and potential in the majors has fared no better with a 4.89 ERA giving up the most hits with 97 hits to their opponents in these ten games and they have allowed 32 walks. In one area the pitching staff is doing well, the can strike out opponents ranking third in the majors with 80.  Kevin Millwood leads the staff with a 2.13 ERA while rookie Brian Matusz has the team’s only win and leads the team with 15 strike outs.  The biggest disappointment has been newly acquired closer Mike Gonzalez.  Gonzales has blown two saves and lost both games and has an 18.0 ERA.  He is on the 15 day DL and the O’s have called up Kam Mickolio from Norfolk as a middle relief man while moving Jim Johnson to the closer role.

Now it is certainly very early in the season but losses in April count just the same as losses in September and losing nine of your first ten games puts you in a very deep hole to start the season.  However at this point one has to start asking what is going on. The O’s are a very talented team and by all rights should be doing much better than their record and statistics suggest.

Orioles Manager Dave Trembley….”Nice guys…finish last?”

At the end of last year I laid the blame on Orioles Manager Dave Trembley.  As I said then:

“The one spot that I think that the team needs a change is the Field Manager Dave Trembley.  Trembley seems to be a good teacher but is not terribly inspirational.  Admittedly he began the year with a weak squad but something is not working and I do like his calm, but I wonder if the teams needs fire rather than calm right now.  My choice would be for the O’s to make a serious offer for Bobby Valentine now that he has returned from Japan.”

From “Oh, Oh, Oh O’s….The Orioles Skid Continues….” September 29th 2009 at  https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/oh-oh-oh-o%e2%80%99s%e2%80%a6-the-orioles-skid-continues-but-there-are-some-bright-spots/

Please do not get me wrong. I think a lot of Dave Trembley, however the team seems to have little life and it is my opinion that a very motivational manager with proven success at all levels of baseball like Bobby Valentine would be an ideal choice to manage the Orioles.  With so much of the season left I do not think anything is gained by keeping Trembley at the helm.  Now is it possible that Tremblay and his managerial style could turn the team around….certainly.  He is popular with the players a gentleman and a very nice person but I’m not so sure that he is the man to make this happen.  In addition to Valentine Clint Hurdle who has managed at Norfolk and led the Rockies to the World Series in 2007 is coaching at Texas and if one wanted a Baltimore connection there is Don Baylor who is currently the hitting coach for the Rockies.  If an interim manager is needed the Orioles could reach down to AAA Norfolk for Tides manager Gary Allenson who has the advantage of having worked with many of the younger O’s for the last four years and managed the Bluefield Orioles of the Appalachian League as well as the Ottawa Lynx before they moved to Norfolk and became the Tides.  He has a long history of managing in the minors and it may be his time to hit the bigs.

Norfolk Tides Manager Gary Allenson might be a good interim manager should the Orioles fire Trembley

Regardless of what course the Orioles take it is imperative that they start winning. Success breads success and as Chuck Tanner said: “I don’t think a manager should be judged by whether he wins the pennant, but by whether he gets the most out of the twenty-five men he’s been given.” Unfortunately I don’t think that Dave Tremblay is getting the most of this very talented young team and even though it is very early in the season it is not too soon to make the change at the top.  As Leo Durocher said “What are we out at the park for, except to win?”

I’m hoping that the Birds will turn it around soon.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Deja Vu all Over Again…Back to the ER

It’s like Yogi Berra once said…”Deja Vu all over again.”  Last night after the previous late night and early morning trip to the ER it seemed like Judy was on the uptick. Her pain had gone down and she was looking to get out today. She got up early and the Vicodin wouldn’t touch the pain.  She tried to get in to her ENT for the follow up but was told since the CT was negative that she should come in tomorrow.  Well the pain got worse, and even worser. So when I came back from work we took the ride back to Bayside.  In the middle  of this we have been trying to deal with what we believe is a fraudulent insurance claim.  Some woman  alleged that Judy backed into her in a parking lot.  in a parking lot. The only problem is that the damage doesn’t match how she says this happened. The woman wouldn’t wait for the police to make a report and then filed the claim.  The body shop says that Judy’s car has no evidence of a recent accident.  Then our insurance company representative was rude to Judy seeming to take the other person’s side. This was  totally unexpected as we have been with the company, which caters exclusively to the military and when we joined 26 years ago officers only.  We have great driving records this upset her when she is worried about her health and pissed me off like a bad called third strike.  As Leo Durocher said “I never questioned the integrity of an umpire but I did question their eyesight.”  I hate even metaphorical bad calls and rain delays. May the Deity Herself preserve us and keep me from doing anything stupid when I deal with these insurance people.

epiglotitisReally Bad Epiglotitis

So anyway, Judy got to ride to Norfolk General ER in an ambulance.  She didn’t get the cool Mercedes that I got to ride in in Germany back in 1984, but an ambulance nonetheless.   The EMT’s were nice enough as were the staff at the Bayside ER.  The ER Attending at Bayside and ER Resident here diagnosed that Judy has epiglotitis.  Epiglotitis  is pretty rare, it’s a kid’s disease except when it happens to adults.  What happens is that the flap on the back of the tongue  gets infected and can cause the airway to close, of course this could be fatal if not treated quickly.  It was for George Washington. The infection can be caused by a number of viral, bacterial or traumatic events.  Before the doctors came in with the diagnosis  I  took the symptoms, googled them and hit on epiglotitis.  I was confused because this is primarily a kids disease but the symptoms matched.  When the doctors came in and said that is was epiglotitis I thought it was pretty cool. So to confirm the diagnosis Judy got  to have a scope put down her nose.   The ENT Resident worked her up for this and I both got to even push the watch and even push the record button.  I’ve seen this done hundreds of times but never on Judy.  It is a little different when it is a family member but still kind of cool.    Dr Ly who is one of my ICU attending physicians tells me that it’s not to late to go to medical school.  Maybe after I retire from the Navy. I’d have to bone up real good on advanced mathematics and all sorts of science class but it could be cool.  Of course I could just stick to being a ICU and Critical Care Chaplain and do Bio-Medical Ethics.  That would work too a whole lot less on the school stuff.

Anyway, the verdict is in.  Judy gets to spend the night getting bunches of IV antibiotics, steriods and pain meds. Maybe some more tests and people to monitor her airway.  So I now have to go pick up her stuff at home and bring it in.  I have duty tomorrow so this should be fun. Hopefully she’ll be out tomorrow with a clean bill of health.

Keep my girl in your prayers,

Peace,

Steve+

Post Script: Got home just before 0200. For Civilians and Air Force types Mickey’s big hand is on the 12 and his little hand on the 2.  It has been long and exhausting.  Trying now to gear down, pet the dog and get ready for bed soon. Have to be up early, oh crap, wait it is already early.

Second Post Script: Got Judy home this afternoon.  She is doing a lot better and the crisis seems to have passed. Over the past couple of days I have been moving fast and flying low. Had a few things happen that I will roll into a post tonight. As Hedley Lamar said: My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.  Now someone say “Ditto,”  Peace, Steve+

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