Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Fastballs

Happy Memorial Day Weekend !

It's the start of a long weekend, with picnics, barbecues, trips to the beach, and of course, baseball games.

Memorial Day is a time for remembrance of those who served our country.

Many big league players have served in the US Armed Forces, especially in World War II.

There is a great blog, Baseball in Wartime that focuses on Wartime Baseball. Check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Thanks to the Blue Jays Jose Bautista, who, even though he didn't hit a home run, did go 1-3, good enough to extend my FOX Sports Baseball Hot Streak to 2 in a row.

Today I've picked the Giants Tim Lincecum, 5+ K's today @the Brewers.

Holiday baseball should give us some memorable home runs this weekend.

What's the longest, or most memorable HR blast you've ever seen, in person, or on TV?
For me, I was at Tiger Stadium in 1972 with a group of fellow school mates sitting up in the deepest part of the right center field bleachers in Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers were getting beat badly by the Oakland A's when outfielder Jim Northrup came to the plate and sent a rocket headed right for us.

The ball landed about 5 rows in front of me, a titanic blast that I will never forget.

That ball had to travel close to 475 feet, or so, as I was sitting so far up in the bleachers I could  see the street below us.

Check out this article on some of the most memorable blasts from the past.

Of course, no one could hit 'em like Roy Hobbs.

Let me know about your most memorable tape measure home runs that you were in attendance for.

Have a great weekend, and please take time out to remember our brave men and women serving our country.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Some thoughts today as I await the start of afternoon baseball as the Detroit Tigers host the Boston Red Sox in the 1st of a 4 game series in the Motor City.

Thanks to the Phillies Roy Halladay for striking out 6 Reds yesterday, making my FOX Baseball Hot Streak  at 1...hey, it's a new start, and today I'm taking the Blue Jays Jose Bautista, who needs to get 1 hit for me.

Speaking of the Phillies, what a remarkable end to last nights win over the Reds.

The 19 inning marathon was given special memory status for Phillies fans as second baseman Wilson Valdez came on to retire the heart of the Reds order in the top of the 19th.

He stated that he hadn't pitched since playing a backyard game in his native Dominican Republic in 2002.

What a terrible injury to the San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in last nights loss to the Florida Marlins.

Poesy has a broken ankle, and according to ESPN's Linda Cohn's message on twitter the Giants are awaiting MRI results that could show torn knee ligaments.

Here's hoping the damage to Posey is minimal, and that he recovers completely.

Speaking of the Giants, here's a great fan web site, 22 for everything you Giants fans need.

The St.Louis Cardinals have the two top hitters in the National League in Lance Berkman, batting .350, and Matt Holliday, who's hitting .349.

After splitting time with the Astros and Yankees last year, Berkman is having one of the best years he's had since 2008 when Berkman hit .312 with 29 home runs and 106 RBIs.

If you like to read about the business of baseball, her's a fantastic web site, The Biz of 

Check out the article on baseball's attendance, and how baseball fans continue to go to the ball parks for big league fun and excitement.

As we head into Memorial Day Weekend tomorrow,  there are currently no big league clubs running away with any of the divisions, and that's great for baseball fans.

Every club's fans can enjoy the start of summer knowing their favorite team is still capable of doing something good and contending for post season play.

Enjoy today's ball games.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Mr. Met

The New York Mets have been around since 1962, their inaugural season in the National League.

They have had some very good, even Hall of Fame players in the clubs 49 year history, including Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Darryl Strawberry, and Doc Gooden.

One of the coolest things about the Mets has always been the teams mascot, Mr. Met.

I have always thought Mr. Met was by far and away the best big league mascot.

The first time I remember watching the Mets play was in the 1973 National League Championship against the Cincinnati Reds.

Bud Harrelson, the Mets shortstop, got into a fight with the Reds Pete Rose as the two tangled up at a play at second base in the 5th inning of Game 3 at Shea Stadium.

In that game my favorite Met player ever, Rust Staub, hit 2 HRs for the Mets.

Staub hit .423, with a home run and 6 RBI in the '73 World Series as the Mets lost to the Oakland A's.

Now, at the time, I didn't know Rusty Staub would become my favorite player to play for the Metropolitans, I was just a baseball fan who loved to watch big league players and the playoffs were always great to watch.

What made Staub the one player I think of when I talk about the Mets starts with Staub's trade to my beloved Detroit Tigers in 1976.
Staub was pretty good in 1976, batting .299 with 15 homers, playing in the All-Star Game, and becoming the 1st player to play all 162 team games as a teams designated hitter.

In his three plus years with Detroit he hit 61 home runs, with 308 RBI.

Those three years with the Tigers were just a small part of Staub's 24 year big league career.

Rusty Staub started his career in the big leagues with the Houston Colt 45's and was traded to the Montreal Expos in 1969, and he became a fan favorite in Montreal, where he received his famous nickname, "Le Grand Orange."

Rusty Staub played for the Mets from 1972-75, and the again from 1981-1985.

As a Met, Staub played in 942 games, 13th most in Mets history, is still 18th in lifetime hits for the Mets, with 709, 22nd with 75 HRs, 11th in RBI with 399, and 17th in total bases, with 1,078.

As you can see, Rusty Staub played for a few teams, so why is he my favorite Mets player?

It's simple.

Staub was traded to the Tigers for Mickey Lolich, the best left handed pitcher the Tigers ever had, and the MVP of the Tigers 1968 World Series Championship.

I was horrified that the Tigers would trade Lolich, and so I started to learn more about Rusty.

Every time he would play on TV as a member of the Mets or the Tigers, the announcers would always comment on what a fine man Staub was, and he just seemed like the kind of player I wanted on my team.

They would show clips of his younger days with the Astros, Expos, and the Mets, and his former teammates always had great things to say about Staub.

In 1979 he was sent back to the Expos, and in 1980 he played for the Texas Rangers.

Staring in 1981, Rusty went back in New York with the Mets, where he was a player/coach, and in 1983 Staub hit a MLB record 8 straight pinch hits, and 25 pinch hit RBIs.

I always had great respect for Rusty Staub, he played hard, got big hits in big games, and for that, as much as anything else, he is my Mr. Met.

Who's your favorite New York Met?

Is it Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, how about Marvelous Marv Throneberry?

Tell me who gets your vote as your fave Mets player.

Wednesday Walks

Last night wasn't a good night for Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who gave up 6 runs in a no-decision against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Verlander struck out only 2 batters, ending my winning streak on FOX Sports Baseball Hot Streak at 3. 

My pick today is the Phillies Roy Halladay, 5+ K's against the Reds,

Another 3 HR last night for a big league ball player, this  time it's the White Sox Carlos Quentin, who smacked three long balls against the Rangers in Arlington.

Quentin's 3rd HR of the night came at 1:19 AM CT after the two teams waited out a rain delay of nearly three hours.

In 12 days five big league players, the Mets Carlos Beltran on May 12th, the MLB HR leader, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays on March 15th, the Rockies Jason Giambi on March 19th, Corey Hart of the Brewers this past Monday, and now Quentin last night.

It was sad to hear today of the passing of former KC Royals pitcher and broadcaster Paul Splittorff

Splittorff, the Royals All-Time leader in wins, was a terrific lefty hurler for the Royals while I was growing up watching baseball in the 1970's, and I remember him being very hard for the Tigers to beat.

Splittorff was the 1st Royals pitcher to win 20 games, in 1973, and he spent all 16 years in the big leagues with KC, winning 166 games, and is also the Royals career leader in starts with 392, and in innings pitched, 2,554 2/3.

If you like day baseball, and who doesn't, there are 8 day games on the big league schedule today, starting with the Red Sox and Indians at high noon in Cleveland.

Barry Bonds, the games All-Time leader in home runs, has reportedly come forward to help the family of Brian Stowe, the Giants fan who was severely beaten by fans at Opening Day in the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

Bonds, who spent time in Stowe's hospital room in Los Angeles has offered to pay for the college education of Stowe's children, according to sources at NBC Bay Area TV.

The recent comments by the New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon degrading his players, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are laughable when you think about how Wilpon and the Mets were swindled by Ponzi scheming Bernie Madoff.

One more sign of the times is the complete game pitched yesterday by the Yankees C.C. Sabathia.

It was the first complete game pitched by a Yankee pitcher since Sabathia blanked the Orioles on May 19th of 2010.

Starters simply don't go the full nine innings any more, weather he's pitching well, or not.

Last Sunday in Pittsburgh Tigers manager Jim Leyland took out starter Rich Porcello after 8 innings of 2 hit, shut out baseball.

Unless the starter is tossing a no-hitter, or the staff bull pen has pitched to much, the odds of a starter completing a 9 inning game won't happen.

Enjoy today's baseball.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Twitter Tuesday

Thanks to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers for striking out 7 Astros last night.

My FOX Baseball Hot Streak is now at 3. My pick today is the Tigers Justin Verlander, 5+ K's.

Today is Twitter Tuesday.

Baseball fans truly show their passion for the National Pastime with each and every one of their tweets. 

Watching a baseball game and watching fans reaction on Twitter is just too much fun.

On Tuesday's I'll be posting some of my thoughts about the people, players, and teams that I come across on My Twitter page, @freehan11. You can also follow my tweets on the right hand side of this blogs homepage.

Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays hit his big league leading 19th home run last night.

You can follow the big league home run hitter on his Twitter account, @JoeyBats19

Happy Birthday today to @BradPenny of the Detroit Tigers, who turns 33 today.

Did You know? Brad Penny's fiance is Karina Smirnoff of "Dancing With the Stars."

One of the most active, and funny baseball players on Twitter is Logan Morrison...@LoMoMarlins of the Florida Marlins.

Morrison loves for baseball fans to interact with him, and he will send you a tweet thanking you for following him.

One of my favorite twitter baseball fans that I follow is Church of Baseball, a baseball fan who will give you  terrific coverage of Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals baseball.

As I mentioned, I love Twitter, and would love to hear from you about the fans and players who you follow, if you do, on Twitter, just post them in the comment section of this post.

Until next time, enjoy today's baseball.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Mop Up

This past weekend we had the first weekend of inter league play, capped off by the Boston Red Sox defeating the Chicago Cubs, 5-1, in the first match up between the two teams in Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series.

I like inter league play, but I think it might be time to tweak the schedule.

While I like the Yankees-Mets, and the Cubs-ChiSox(always rooting for the Cubs), the Brewers-Rockies, and Astros-Blue Jays aren't compelling games.

Speaking of the Jays, Tony Bautista continues to hit home runs, and now leads the big leagues with 18.

Since the start of the 2010 baseball year, Joey Bats has smacked 72 homers, most in the big leagues.

Right on his tale is another unlikely HR hitter, the Yankees Curtis Granderson, who has 16 long balls.

As a Tigers fan, I didn't like the trade of Granderson to the Yanks after the 2009 season, because Granderson was, and still is a terrific player.

The Tigers traded Granderson because they felt they needed a better leadoff guy, and Granderson was striking out to much for their liking. 

As the Tigers offense continues to struggle, Granderson would look very nice at the top of the Tigers line up right now.

The Boston Red Sox are 25-20, winners of 8 of 10 games, and have officially put the rest of the A.L. East on notice that the Red Sox, after a miserable start, are still the team to beat.

The Red Sox have to much talent not to win the East, especially when you look at the Yankees pitching staff. Other than C.C Sabathia, does anyone fear anyone else in that rotation? 

How did the Cleveland Indians get 7 games in front of the pack in the A.L. Central, and the Minnesota Twins get in last place, 14 1/2 games behind them?

Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Rays leads the A.L. in batting, at .355. Another former Detroit Tigers player who the team gave up on to soon.

Chase Utley returns to the Phillies today.

The All-Star 2nd baseman hasn't played this season, and the Phillies are in 1st place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Florida Marlins. 

The Phillies great starting pitching has done it's job, and with the return of one of their best hitters, the Philadelphia is, in my opinion, still the team to beat.

Today is the start of a three game series between the Tigers and the Rays, in Detroit.
It's also the start of three straight games that I will have to watch the worst play by play announcer in baseball, Dewayne Staats.

Because of the MLB blackout policy, I cannot watch the Tigers broadcast on my computer, as the Rays, some 5 hours away from my home in Jacksonville, Florida, are protected.

I will have more about Staats in an up coming article about my favorite, and not so fave, baseball broadcasters.

I need Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers to strike out 5, or more, batters tonight in Houston in my FOX Baseball Hot Streak pick 'em.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harmon Killebrew passes away

One of the great power hitters in big league baseball history, Harmon Killebrew, has passed away from esophageal cancer at the age of 74.

Killebrew, to me, is the face of the Minnesota Twins, of of the most powerful hitters in baseball history.

Growing up as young baseball fans we all knew the home run numbers...744 for Hank Aaron, 714 by Babe Ruth, 660 by Willie Mays, 586 for Frank Robinson, and 573 for Harmon Killebrew.

"Killer"  made his big league debut for the Washington Senators in 1954, at the tender age of 17, the start of a 22 year big league career,

I always remember Killebrew being one of only 4 men to ever hit a ball on the left field roof of Tiger Stadium, along with Frank Howard, Mark McGwire, and Big "Daddy Cecil" Fielder.

His 1972 baseball card was my favorite.

Want to win a FREE book on baseball?

Of course you do!

Over at The Hall of Very Good they have an article with author Dan Epstein who's written a new book about baseball during the 1970's titled...

Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s.

I can't wait to read this book, and relive the decade of cookie cutter stadiums, astro turf, and softball uniforms.

Head over to The Hall of Very Good, read the interview, and comment on the article, and you could win a copy of the book.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What are you reading?

As a reader of this blog you know how much I love baseball, and that includes books written on America's Pastime.
I enjoy reading books on all big league clubs, and cannot pass on a book written about the Detroit Tigers, or players who've played for the team.

I'm currently reading a book about Don Larsen's Perfect Game in Game 6 of the 1956 World Series, by Lew Paper.

It's a fascinating book that looks at the players and coaches that made up Game 6 of the 1956 World Series.

As I read the book, I was wondering what some of you baseball fans out there are reading this spring.

In today's USA Today Sports Section there's an article on George Vecsey's new book on Stan Musial, and it looks like a great book, can't wait to read it.

Comment if you would on what your reading now, or tell me about a book on baseball that you've read in the past that you really liked.

My favorite Marlin... Jeff Conine

Happy Baseball Birthday!  to my favorite Miami Marlins player, Jeff Conine. 

▪▪▪this is an update on a blog post from 2011, "My Favorite Marlin."

I continue writing about my favorite ball players, and I'm  in the N.L. East, with my favorite Florida Marlin, Jeff Conine.

Jeff Conine was just one of those guys, when you saw how he played, you just said there goes a big league ball player.

Conine was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 58th round of the 1987 big league player draft.

Jeff made his big league debut for the Royals on September 16th, 1990.

After playing in 37 games for the Royals, Jeff was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the Expansion Draft of 1993.

Jeff played in all 162 games for the Marlins  in 1993, getting 174 hits, batting .292, with 12 HR, and 79 RBI, placing him 3rd place in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting.

Conine would play for the Marlins through the 1997 season, when he and the Marlins, as a Wild Card, went on to win the teams first World Series Title, over the Cleveland Indians.

In that span, from '93-97, Conine established himself as the Marlins best player, batting .300 twice, hitting 98 home runs, driving in 422 runs, playing in 2 All-Star Games, winning the MVP of the 1995 All-Star Game, coming off the bench as a pinch hitter, and hitting the game winning HR in the 8th inning.

After the '97 World Series, the Marlins sold off and traded most of their team, including Conine, who was sent back to the Royals for the 1998 season.

From 1999-2003 Jeff played in Baltimore, where, as usual, he became a fan favorite, just as he had in Florida.

On the trade deadline in 2003 the Orioles sent Conine back to the Marlins, where Jeff became part of the Marlins 2nd World Series Championship team.

I always enjoyed watching Conine play, and  regardless of the players who have come after him, he is, and always will , be Mr. Marlin,"  the face of the Marlins franchise.

Conine last played for the Marlins in 2005, and yet his name is still high up in the Marlins record book.

Jeff Conine is 2nd in career games played for Florida, with 1,104, 2nd in hits, 1.005, 2nd in RBIs, 553, 3rd in total bases, 1,579, 7th in Marlins HRs, with 120, and 8th in batting average, at .290.

I used to get into arguments with friends about Conine being the Marlins best player in his early years, when Garry Sheffield was a teammate of Conine.

I'll take one Jeff Conine as a player on one of my teams over a hundred Sheffield's.

The stats were all Sheffield's, but the heart, the passion, the ball player, for me, was Jeff Conine.

The annual JEFF CONINE AWARD is presented to the Marlin of the Year by the Miami chapter of the Baseball Writers Associationof America. 

Happy Baseball Birthday!  Jeff Conine, my Favorite Marlin!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Red Wings are done, all baseball the rest of the summer

Sports fans like myself, who grew up in the Midwest, and follow sports all year long, are now down to one sport, baseball.

Well. maybe I'm just speaking for myself, but for the rest of the summer, it's all about the National Pastime, the great game of baseball.

Now, that doesn't mean that I won't look in on the Stanley Cup playoffs, I will, it's just that after my Detroit Red Wings were eliminated, the nightly watching of games until the wee hours of the morning are over.

Today is the start of summer baseball watching, I have no interest in the outcome of the Stanley Cup winner, or the winner of the NBA Finals...although I will say that I am hoping any team other than Miami wins.

Baseball and the summer, they were meant for one another, "The Boys of Summer," as Roger Kahn wrote.

I'm a fan of the Detroit Tigers, who, after winning 5 straight games, are just 4 games behind first place Cleveland, and a 1/2 a game behind the KC Royals, who come to Comerica Park for a weekend series.

Mr. No-No, Justin Verlander, takes the mound for the first time tonight since his 2nd career no-hitter last Saturday in Toronto against the Blue Jays.

It's also that time of year, the time when the baseball media trot out all the superlatives, all the hype that surrounds the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.

All 3 games are on prime time TV, tonight on the MLB Network, Saturday on FOX, and Sunday night, of course, on ESPN.

Tonight it's all about Verlander, and the Tigers of course, but I'll check in on the Yanks-BoSox.

I hope to be posting more starting this weekend, as I've been lax in posting over the past month, due to my health, and general lack of any real reason to write.

I'll be bringing back my articles on my favorite players from all current, and past big league teams.

Look this weekend for my post on my fave Florida Marlin player, "Mr. Marlin," Jeff Conine.

You can check out previous fave player posts by entering "my favorite players from all 30 Big League teams" in the "search box" on the lower left hand side of this blog.

Here is the one on the Tampa Bay Rays Rocco Baldelli

I will also be doing some other posts, re-designing some things on the blog, trying to get back into the groove, so to speak.

Some notes...

Please remember, if you're a fan of the Detroit Tigers, please check out Detroit Tigers Scorecard Blog, written by my friend, Austin Drake.

I do write some things on occasion, but Austin is a fantastic, vibrant young Tiger fan, who's passion for the Motor City's big league team reminds me of myself some 30+ years ago, before the internet, of course.

Follow me here on my Twitter page  or on my Facebook page for my thoughts on baseball and life in general.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read this blog, believe me, it's very much appreciated.

I love the game of baseball, and it's glorious history.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander no-hits the Blue Jays

I just had to call my Uncle Bob.

He remembers Virgil Trucks, a journeyman pitcher in the 1940's and 50's who threw two ho-hitters for the Detroit Tigers in 1952.

Nicknamed "Fire," Virgil Trucks was the only Tiger pitcher to throw 2 no-hitters for the Tigers.

Until today.

Today at Rogers Center in Toronto, right hander Justin Verlander dominated the Blue Jays, tossing his second career no-hitter, as the Tigers beat Toronto, 9-0.

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher the Tigers have had since Jack Morris, and when he's done pitching, he'll simply be the best pitcher the Detroit Tigers have ever had.

Allowing only an 8th inning walk , Verlander faced the minimum, 27 batters, retiring Blue Jays catcher A.J. Arencibia, the recipient of the walk, on a double play.

Justin Verlander no-hits the Blue Jays

The Tigers pounded out 11 hits, including home runs by Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila, in the Tigers 9-0 win.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Who's the best baseball player ever?

I'll make this short, mostly because i don't feel very good today.

It's time for another poll ranking the best baseball players of All-Time.
ESPN has asked baseball fans to pick the greatest baseball players of All-Time.

For me, this is always a tough call.

What do you do with Bonds, A-Rod, Clemens, and the rest of the steroid era players who have, and continue to, erase legendary numbers.

There are always going to be those who say the Cobbs, Ruth's, and Gehrig's of baseball never had to face black and Latin players, and that the quality of pitching is better today.

All I know is the best hitter of All-Time was Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the best pitcher was Cy Young, and the best all around player was Babe Ruth.

Before you all come back with Mays, yes, The Say Hey Kid was great, but he didn't win 94 big league games as a starting pitcher.

It's almost impossible to agree on the best ball players ever, but that's what makes the game so great.

Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Honus Wagner, Joe DiMaggio, Bonds, Greg Maddox, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle.

The list goes on...and on...and on.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Mendoza Line, er, Cinco de Mayo Day!

I really don't pay attention to days like today.

May 5th has always been just another day to me, but it's probably because I don't drink. Never have. 

However, as I've been seeing all day on my Twitter page it's Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican festival/ holiday that celebrates Mexico's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

So, as I was thinking about all the tweets and comments on my Facebook page, I suddenly thought hey, what about some of the best of the best of the Mexican ball players who have come and gone through big league baseball.
132 players, if I counted right, have come to the big leagues from Mexico, including the great Fernando Valenzuela, Ruben Amaro, Bobby Avila, Vinny Castilla, Teddy Higuera, and of course, the infamous Mario Mendoza.

Mario Mendoza's  Baseball page is here.

Mendoza was a good fielding,  light hitting infielder with a lifetime .215 batting average who became part of baseball lore after Kansas City Royals star 3rd baseman George Brett commented about looking through the box scores to see the players hitting below "the Mendoza line," or, under .200.

Other Mexican baseball players who made good in the big league include Sid Monge, Aurelio Lopez..."Senior Smoke" of the 1984 Detroit Tigers, Hector Torres, Oscar Robles, and Mel Almada, who became the 1st ever Mexican to play in the big leagues, when he made his debut on September 8th, 1933.