Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My favorite Brooklyn Dodger

Another in a continuing series looking at my favorite players from every big league team, past and present.

The Brooklyn Dodgers haven't played a game since September 29, 1957, and yet their legacy is still entrenched in baseball's glorious past.

Today's I write about my favorite Brooklyn Dodger of All-Time, Jackie Robinson.

The Dodgers move to the West Coast and Los Angeles left baseball fans in Brooklyn without a big league team to root for, and as the team left, the souls of Brooklyn's fans left to.

Growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I was of course, a Detroit Tigers fan, but I was also a baseball fan in general, and I loved reading about the game's glorious past, and listening to my Uncle talk about the game, and the teams of his youth.

My Uncle would tell about my Grandmothers dislike for the Yankees, and how she would root for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Yanks in the teams epic World Series match ups of the time. I soon started reading books on the Dodgers, and what I found was just terrific. 

Part of the charm of the Brooklyn Dodgers is Ebbets Field, the beloved stadium that the Dodgers called home. 

Built by owner Charlie Ebbets, the ballpark is steeped in baseball lore. It opened in 1913, and stood as the cornerstone of the Dodgers franchise until the team left in 1957.

The Brooklyn Dodgers are my favorite team that no longer exists. Yes, the franchise still plays on in L.A., and I do like the Dodgers, but there is just something special about the team when they played in Brooklyn.

Jackie Robinson is the Greatest Dodger of All-Time!

I just love Jackie Robinson. 

If I were to ever get a Throwback Jersey of any team other than the Tigers, I would buy a Brooklyn Dodgers #42 of Jackie Robinson.
Jackie was as beloved a player as the Dodgers had, even amongst the racial hatred of the time. Dodger fans were soon taken by their great ballplayer, that's what they saw, a ball player, not a black man, a man, and he was a Brooklyn man.

He was a great ballplayer, yes, but he was also a great man, who endured serious racial attacks when he broke baseball's color barrier when he made his debut with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Jackie was exciting!

Look at the old clips of Jackie and you see one of the most exciting players in the history of big league baseball. Jackie was aggressive at the plate, he was aggressive running the bases, stealing bases, he was even exciting in the field, making spectacular plays with his glove, and his arm.

Jackie was a great all around player, who hit for average, for power, who could throw, field, and steal bases.

Before Brooklyn

Robinson came to the Dodgers late for a rookie, he was 28 years old in 1947, and one could only imagine what he could have done had he been able to play earlier.

Before he got to the big league Jackie also played in the Negro Leagues, for the Kansas City Monarchs, in 1945, and then played for the Montreal Royals, in the Dodgers farm system, in 1946.

Jackie Robinson...10 years as a Brooklyn Dodger

The 1947 Major League Rookie of the Year

The 1949 National League Most Valuable Player

Six time All-Star, 1949-50-51-52-53-54

A member of the 1955 World Series Champion Brooklyn Dodgers

Elected into the Baseball Hall of  Fame, 1962

.311 Lifetime batting average
1,518 hits
137 Home Runs
734 RBIs
187 Stolen Bases

Jackie Robinson was honored by Major League Baseball on April 15th, 1997, the 50th Anniversary of Jackie's breaking the baseball color barrier, by retiring his #42 throughout big league baseball.

Every April 15th Major League Baseball celebrates the life of Jackie Robinson. 

This year is the 63rd Anniversary of Jackie's big league debut at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, and his lasting memory is as great as it has ever been, as both a great ballplayer, and a great man.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's time to change the HR Derby, starting with ESPN

Enough is enough is enough.

It's time to change the MLB Home Run Derby.
First, they way the players are chosen.

It's so simple, but maybe that's why baseball doesn't see it. We don't need a vote to decide the roster, all we need are the HR stats.

The top 5 HR hitters at the break should be the contestants, regardless if they've been there before.  

This would've been the A.L. lineup...Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera, Vladamir Guerrero.

This would've been the N.L. lineup...Adam Dunn, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, Mark Reynolds.

OK, I know there's 6 players from the N.L., but that's the beauty. That's 11 players, I know that, but with other changes, it's not a problem.

Using the top HR hitter in each league will create a much better buzz. The format would allow the best long ball hitters every year to face off...look at this year, and what could have been...ex-Angel and current Ranger Vlad Guerrero coming back to his old ballpark, in front of his old fans. Talk about a hometown favorite. 

How about an Adam Dunn-Joey Votto matchup. The ex-Red Dunn challenging his old teams new slugger Votto, the top 2 HR hitter in the N.L. going toe-to-toe.

Second, change the format.

Why do the players get 10 outs before they're done. It takes to long, way to long.

Cut the outs down to 5 per round, that will allow the extra players time to hit.

We don't need to sit there for 3 1/2 hours watching guys taking pitches they don't like, sweating profusely, and taking breaks to get a drink while we fans wait for those 10 outs. It's to long.

Let MLB pitchers throw to the batters

How cool would this be. We don't need batting practice pitchers, bullpen coaches, what the contest needs are real pitchers. Each contestant can bring a teammate to throw to him, but it needs to be an actual big league pitcher.
Get rid of ESPN.
I used to love watching Chris Berman, but the "back-back-back" is old, and needs to go, and we don't need the over whelming play by play of the homers like it's Game 7 of the World Series. 

Last night was horrible. Berman and Joe Morgan talked to various guest's all night long, talking over one another, and ignoring the actual contest. 

The ESPN coverage is awful, plain and simple.

Give the HR Derby to FOX, and use the local FOX affiliate as the co-hosts. This would allow baseball fans to be introduced to a fresh set of voices covering the game each year. I would have loved to have seen Rex Hudler, a former big league player, and current Angels commentator, cover the game on TV. 

Hudler has a great passion for the game, and would, again, introduce non-Angel fans across the country to Hudler, known in his playing days as "Rex the Wonder Dog."

Give baseball back to the fans.

Stop all the ridiculous promotions, we don't care about a new TV show, or a movie that's coming out. We're watching to see baseball players hit baseballs a long way, it's that simple...just give us baseball.

I don't mind seeing all the great players of the past, but showing them taking a picture with someone while a player is taking his cuts during the HR Derby is terrible. 

In the end, it's simple for me. The HR Derby is a great thing for the game of baseball, and it's fans, but the contest needs to be re-tooled, and it all starts with getting rid of ESPN, and giving the game of baseball back to the fans.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Time for the best All-Star Game in sports

Good Monday morning from here in beautiful Jacksonville, Florida.

It's time for the annual break in the big league baseball season, time for the 81st All-Star Game, this year being played in the home of the California, er, Anaheim, uh, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 

I love the big league All-Star Game, it's the best, by far, of all the major sports annual classics. 

The first Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in 1933 @ Comiskey Park in Chicago. The game was created by a famous baseball writer of the time, Arch Ward. Babe Ruth hit the very first HR, and the A.L. beat the N.L., 4-2.

When the American League takes the field tomorrow night, I'll be sitting in front of my TV set to watch the game for the 41st time consecutive year, cheering on the boys from the A.L., after all, I'm a Detroit Tigers fan, and the A.L. is my league, as it has been since that first year, when the Cincinnati Reds Pete Rose bowled over A.L. catcher Ray Fosse of the Cleveland Indians to score the winning run for the National League.

What makes the baseball mid summer classic the best All-Star Game of the four major sports?

Quick, can anyone tell me what happened in the 1977 NBA game? The 1984 NFL Pro Bowl? The 1996 NHL game? Of course not. That's because those games are not played the same way their games are played in the regular season. 

You cannot blitz defensively in the Pro Bowl, and most of the best players refuse to play in it anyway, leaving the game for the back-ups, the NHL game is a wide open scoring showcase, which has nothing to do with the defensive minded way the regular season is played, and the NBA game, well, it's the NBA, a game that is the epitome of self promotion, "hey, look at me."

Baseball fans and the All-Star Game are different. I will always remember the 1970 game, not for the finish, but because it's the one game I got to watch with my Dad, who wasn't a baseball fan. We watched that game while on vacation, one of the few times I ever remember sharing a good time with my dad, who was a work-a-holic. He was a great billiards player, and he loved the Cousy/Russell Boston Celtics. He wasn't at home much, so spending some quality time with him any time I could get it was great.

The following year the All-Star Game came to Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and I was in baseball heaven. My Tigers were hosting the game, I would get to see my hero, Bill Freehan, and the great Al Kaline play in front of the home town fans.

The A.L. and the N.L. combined for a record 10 HR's in the game, and baseball fans will always tell you about Reggie Jackson's mammoth home run off the light tower in deep right center field as one of the great homers ever, regular season or not.

Year after year the big league baseball All-Star Game gives fans the best of the best, from the Montreal Expos Gary Carter wearing white shoes while hitting two HR's and winning the game MVP in 1981, to Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced while pitching in his home, Fenway Park, in 1999.

Baseball fans are also very forgiving when it comes to the annual game, as was the case with the 7-7 tie in 2002 at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Because the teams ran out of pitchers to use after the 11th inning, changes to the game have been made.

The 2003 game was billed as "This time it counts," as baseball awarded the winning team home field advantage in the World Series. Since 2003, the American League has won every All-Star Game, and has won 4 World Series, to 3 for the N.L.

The NFL Pro Bowl, the NBA and NHL All-Star Games, they all have their appeal, they all have their place, but for myself, nothing measures up to the greatness of baseball's grand summer gem.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Three blogs, not enough time

I started writing this blog because I thought it would be a great way for me to follow baseball, the game I've loved for 43+ years...and counting.

Please excuse my absence, it's not on purpose. I've added to my baseball writing by adding two more blogs, both on baseball, both about my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers. I will get to those later on, but I just wanted to take a few moments to thank those of you who follow this blob, I really appreciate it.

I want to make this blog more than just a report on the games and news around baseball, there are lots of place to go for that. I want this blog to be more than that. I want it to be a place to honor the greatest game ever invented by man, the game of baseball.

With that in mind, I've written a series of articles on my favorite players from every big league team, starting with the American League East, and I've written about a young slugger I saw on Opening Day of the Southern League season here in Jacksonville, a young man who slammed 2 HR's that day, now former Sun, and current Florida Marlin Mike Stanton.

I write about what I love, baseball, and, as I mentioned earlier,  that love now includes 2 more blogs. 

The Brennan Boesch Blog is my blog on the Detroit Tigers, focusing on the Tigers 2010 season, and on rookie outfielder Brennan Boesch.

When I first started paying attention to Tigers rookie outfielder Brennan Boesch, I knew this young man was special, there was just something about the way he approached the game, and the way he was hitting the ball, night time, day time, against right handers, against left handers, at home, on the road. It just doesn't seem to matter.

This kid Boesch plays baseball, it's that simple. At 25, he's older than most rookies, a third round pick by the Tigers in the 2006 draft out of the University of California.

As I write this, listening to the Tigers play the Twins, Brennan Boesch is hitting .345, and that's just the beginning of what this rookie has done for the Tigers so far this year. He has been voted the A.L. Rookie of the Month for both May and June, and he's on his way again this month, batting a robust .458 so far in July. 

Check out  The Brennan Boesch Blog

The other blog is about my collection of Detroit Tigers baseball cards.

My Detroit Tigers Baseball Cards

I used to collect cards as a hobby every single day of my life as a young boy growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have every Topps baseball card of every Tigers player from 1968-1980, plus a lot more.

I cannot collect like I used to, but there is a tremendous blog community of card collectors of every era, and for every big league team. They trade together, talk cards together, it's a fantastic thing.

So. if you'd like, check out those other blogs, and remember, if it's been a while since I posted something here, it's probably because I'm a little more focused on the Boesch and Tigers card blog, so, feel free to head over to one of them if you'd like.

Until next time, enjoy the great game of baseball.