The World Series – The Apex of the Baseball Season

The World Series of professional baseball begins tonight in San Francisco where the Giants are hosting the Detroit Tigers for bragging rights as to who is “world champions.”

Justin Verlander and Barry Zito will be on the hill as each team tries to get the upper hand in game one. It should be a great series between 2 teams that I truly like & respect.

Some of the Family at a Texas-Cleveland Game From Earlier This Year

It is somewhat bittersweet though, as my beloved Texas Rangers will be watching from home after 2 straight appearances in the “Fall classic.” After being what was considered the best team in baseball for the better part of this past season, Texas faltered during the final couple of weeks, and were eliminated in the wild card play-in game.

I’ve been a baseball fan for all of my life, and getting the chance to go to the World Series in both of the past 2 seasons was something I will treasure forever. It not only was exciting, and had a certain “magic aura” to it, but having the chance to do this with family members made it very special.

Even though the Rangers lost the series both years, with last year’s being especially excruciating, being able to experience that whole atmosphere with Maureen, Brandon, Ethan, Krista, and our oldest son Joey, who works for the Rangers, made it truly memorable for me.

Good luck to both teams this year. It should be a memorable series in its own right, hopefully without any controversy. I’ll sit back and enjoy watching, and may the best team win!

A Visit to Michigan & Trumbull: The Site of Old Tiger Stadium

Bernie In the Batters Box at the Site of Old Tiger Stadium

I was on business in Detroit last week. When my meeting was finished around noon, I decided to take a ride over to where the old Tiger Stadium used to be located. To fans of the Tigers, especially the one’s who remember the heyday of this famous ball yard, all you had to say was “the corner of Michigan & Trumbull,” and they knew immediately what you were referring to.

My 2 older sons, Brandon & Joey, and I had the opportunity to be at Tiger Stadium the last weekend that games were played there back in 1999. It was a weekend series against the Kansas City Royals, and we were there for the Saturday game. We had media passes for the game, so we had the chance to be down on the field before the game taking some video, and doing some coverage of the festivities. It was a great time, but a nostalgic time. My only regret was that I didn’t get the chance to talk with Ernie Harwell, the legendary Tigers radio announcer.

Fast forward to last week, and as I approached the area, I really didn’t know what to expect. As I drove around the block 3-4 times, just looking & observing, you notice right away that the entire structure of the ball park is gone.

There is a group of people who now do take care of the field area. The infield area is in nice condition. It is laid out exactly over where home plate and the batters boxes, as well as where the pitchers mound and base paths used to be. There are also small benches on each side, in the approximate location of where the dugouts were located.

Even though there is fencing all the way around, the section of original gateway along the first baseline is still intact, and you can enter the area through the gate there. It was open and unlocked. Next to the gate is a small sign that simply reads “Ernie Harwell Field.”

For an old baseball fan like myself who truly enjoys the history of the game, walking around the field area was truly a rare treat. I enjoyed standing in the batters boxes where many of the greats of the game plied their trade. To me, it was almost breathtaking knowing that who I consider the greatest of them all, Ty Cobb, hit from that very spot thousands of times. Also Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and countless other “hall of famers,” did the very same.

I loved walking around the outfield area, taking in the ambiance of it all, and just picturing 50-60 thousand people cheering your every move.

I also recalled the 1971 all-star game, when Reggie Jackson hit one of the longest home runs ever hit there. It would have went completely out of the stadium if not for some construction that was going on atop the roof in right field.

If you love the history of the game, and are in the area, make the trip to “Michigan & Trumbull.” As I like to say, you won’t be disappointed

Rhodes Reviews 2012 Baseball Season

Coach Chris Rhodes & Son Easton

A few days ago, I had the chance to interview Dekalb Baron baseball coach Chris Rhodes. I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with Chris over the Summer, so we thought it would be a good time to talk a little baseball. To add to the festivities, Chris was able to bring his son Easton along to listen in.

This past Spring, Coach Rhodes finished up his 15th season leading the Barons. Dekalb was eliminated in the sectional semi-finals by Columbia City. With that loss, the Barons lost a number of seniors. Three of those players are going on to play college baseball. Ty Rottger is playing at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Bayley Coleman is playing at Indiana Tech, and Nick McDonald is playing at Bethel.

Coach Rhodes told me he does with his incoming squad as the new school has gotten underway. A number of years ago, he started “open fields” in the Fall. The Barons will go until the weather doesn’t cooperate any more. Then it’s on to weights, and indoor conditioning, and before you know it, it is time to get going in the Spring once again.

I then switched gears with him to talk some pro ball, and he told me he has been a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan. His favorite player growing up was Pete Rose. He likes “Charley Hustle” because of the way he approached and played the game. His favorite players he likes to watch now are Joey Votto & Josh Hamilton.

We talked some about the division races and the possible wild card teams. Even though Oakland has been scorching hot, he still thinks the LA Angels are going to make a run.

I asked him his prediction on a world series match up. He said as much as he likes the Reds, he thinks that the San Francisco Giants pitching is going to make the difference in the National League. Then he said that the Texas Rangers lineup is pretty powerful up & down. And that their pitching was pretty good as well. So it was Rangers vs Giants in world series. We didn’t pick a winner, but I’m going with the Rangers as the third time will be the charm.

We discussed the current state of the Auburn area youth baseball situation. He said it is in the hands of some very good people, and that a number of future Barons are well on their way to becoming part of “Dekalb Baseball.”

Tremendous Fireworks Display Cap Off Evening in Cleveland

I had the opportunity last week to “go on the road” and take in a baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians over at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

One of the Many Fireworks

If you read the stories that I post, you know how much I enjoy watching baseball. Watching the game though, was only one of a few reasons that made the night special.

My oldest son Joey, who has worked for the Rangers for a number of years,has always had a great sense of family, and family values. Since we grew up in Akron,Ohio, and have a number of family members who still live in that area, he invited many family members to come to the game(s) over the weekend so we could spend some time together. For that reason alone, it was pretty special.

We had attended a game in Chicago on the fourth of July, and the folks there put on a dazzling fireworks display. I thought that one was one of the best I had ever witnessed.

O-H-I-O, performed by Krista, Michael, Ethan, & Joey

But after last Saturday’s nights game, I saw, bar none, the absolute best fireworks show I have ever watched. It was Labor Day weekend, so the show promised to be special. The show was a non-stop, 40 minutes of “grand finale” fireworks the entire time. It had laser lights interspersed while the fireworks were going off, and the best was, the show was synchronized to Beatles music.

While the music was playing, which included a wide array of Fab Four songs, Beatles video was playing on the “jumbotron” to make it even more enjoyable.

I’ve always loved the Beatles music, so I was in entertainment heaven while the show was going on. I was totally mesmerized. It was fantastic!

Family, baseball, fireworks, Beatles music. A great time was had by all.

Major League Baseball Races Going Right Down to the Wire

As the calendar is close to turning to the month of September, it is obvious that if you follow major league baseball, most of the division races, as well as the wild card spots, are still highly up for grabs.

It has been a great Summer for baseball, and as we now head into the final 35-40 games, it looks like just about anything can happen.

Bernie at the Ballpark in Arlington Earlier this Season

As I was reviewing things this morning, the thing that really stands out to me is that for the second year in a row, the Tampa Bay Rays are making the late hard push for a playoff berth by playing their best ball of the year. Their pitching is great, and the return of Evan Longoria hasn’t hurt. Looking at the standings, Tampa is only 3 games behind the NY Yankees.

For all of you “southsiders” from Chicago, the White Sox just swept the Yankees in Chicago for the first time since 1991. The Sox are trying (and succeeding) of keeping the Detroit Tigers at bay in the American League Central.

Out West in the AL, my beloved Texas Rangers have been able to hold onto first place almost the entire season. They are 5 up on the very surprising Oakland “moneyball” Athletics. The disappointing LA Angels are 8 1/2 back. The manager’s chair in LA can’t be real comfortable right about now.

Besides the teams in first place, teams with a realistic chance of garnering those 2 wild card slots could still be the aforementioned Tampa, Detroit, Oakland, as well as the Baltimore Orioles.

In the National League, the Cincinnati Reds are playing wonderful baseball, and with the return of Joey Votto, they look to be the team to beat in the NL.

The Washington Nationals are solid in the East. But with the status of Stephen Strasburg up in the air as to when he will be shut down, they are still a question mark as to how far they may advance.

In the West, as has happened numerous times throughout baseball history, the Dodgers & Giants are battling it out for West coast supremacy. Right now, the Giants with the better pitching, seem to be in control. With Tim Lincecum pitching better as of late, this only solidifies the Giants standing.

Wild card possibilities would be Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or LA.

If you get the opportunity, try to get out to see some games. I realize football is right around the corner. But in my mind, baseball is still “America’s Pasttime,” and we are in for another wild ride to the finish line.

The Knightstown Gym – A Wonderful Place to Visit

In the state of Indiana, there are numerous places to see and visit with a sports related theme, that don’t cost an arm and a leg,and are just a whole lot of fun.

The Team poses in Front of the Knightstown Gym

I had the opportunity to visit just such a place a few years back with my Summer league baseball team.

If you grew up in Indiana, what is one of the biggest things that we are known for? Well, besides corn, it is the game of basketball. Even though it was invented on the East coast, it was here that high school and college basketball was nurtured and grew into what it is today.

Saying that, what is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Indiana high school basketball? For me, it is the movie “Hoosiers.” Released in 1986, it starred Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, and Barbara Hershey.

The scenes in the movie that take place in the “Hickory Husker” gym, were filmed in a small gym in Knightstown, Indiana, which is about 20 miles or so East of Indianapoolis, a little ways off of I-70.

Many great scenes from the movie take place there. One of my favorites is when Coach Norman Dale (Hackman), refuses to let one of his players back in the game for not following instructions. He then has to play with only 4 players. According to that player, who is named Rade Butcher in the movie, and is played by Steve Hollar, it took 4 days to shoot that game & that sequence.

Our Baseball Team in the Very Locker Room Where Coach Dale Talked With the Team

Another of my favorite scenes is when the coach “talks from the heart” to his team in the lockerroom after that first game.

When you get to the Knightstown gym, which is now used as a community center, you would never know that this is the famous gym. It seems so small. But once you get inside, it is still almost identical to how it was in the movie.

You are allowed to play hoops, go into the lockerroom, recreate some of the famous scenes from the movie, and all in all, just have a lot of fun.

If you are ever in the area, don’t miss out on a golden opportunity to visit a true “mecca” for basketball fans, the Knightstown gym.

As a sidenote, our family visited the Knightstown gym about a year or so after our baseball team did, and my 3 sons and I played a seven game series of two-on-two. We had the whole gym to ourselves for over 2 hours.

Was It the Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played at Dekalb High School?

A week or so ago, my son Ethan’s Summer league baseball team was sitting around in the dugout before a game, when I heard the subject change to talk about a tremendous high school baseball game that took place at DHS in May of 2010.

It was a game between Dekalb & Carroll with a share of the NHC conference championship on the line.

Ethan Prebynski’s Solo Home Run in the 5th was the Baron’s only Run for 12 innings.

This years Summer league team has a number of players who participated in that game. Jeremy Shelmedine, Steve Remesnik, Gavin Downs, and Zach Vanlandingham from Carroll. While ex-Baron players are Ethan Prebynski, Zach Pfafman, Casey Weaver, & Logan Sparkman.

The thing about that game that people don’t realize is, Dekalb played Prairie Hts. in a seven inning makeup game before the Carroll game on a Wednesday evening “school night.”

Skyler Rottger started on the hill for the Barons, while Remesnik toed the bump for the Chargers.

Both pitchers would be on their games from the get-go. Rottger had his only trouble of the night in the second inning when Carroll sent 6 men to the plate, and scored a lone tally. You didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the only run the Chargers would score in the game.

Skyler would end up throwing 10 innings on the night, would not walk a batter, gave up only 4 hits, and amazingly, only faced 35 batters in those 10 innings of work.

Remesnik was almost as sharp. The only run he gave in his 6 plus innings of work was when junior second basemen Ethan Prebynski blasted a home run deep over the wall in left leading off the fifth inning. Besides that HR, Ethan also had 10 assists from his second base position.

Senior Curtis Wise came on in relief for Carroll in the seventh inning, and he would go the rest of the way, which was into the 13th inning.

After those 10 innings of work, junior Zach Vance came in for Dekalb, and he would go the final 3 innings. he also did not walk a batter. 13 innings of work by Baron hurlers, and NO free passes!

You could honestly feel the tension in the air as that fateful 13th inning rolled around. In the top of the inning, with 2 outs and a runner on second, a Carroll batter drove a pitch to deep left field. Junior outfielder Chris Harpenau made a fantastic running catch to end the inning, and keep the game tied.

In the bottom of the frame, Casey Weaver led off with his second hit, a single to left. Catcher Shea Parrish laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt that got Casey to second. Then, in a way you would never expect, junior Jarrod Forrest hit a soft “tweener” that eluded the first baseman, the second baseman, and even the right fielder who was frantically charging on the play. Weaver raced home from second, and the Barons won 2-1, and shared the NHC regular season crown.

It was certainly a game for the ages, but the epilog is this. It would be Carroll’s last defeat of the season. They would go on to win back to back state championships. Unfortunately for Dekalb, as good as they were during those few seasons, Carroll was always standing in the way come tournament time.

Great Individual Seasons in Dekalb High School Baseball History

In the history of Dekalb Baron baseball, who had the greatest individual season at the plate, according to their respective statistics?

Nick Phillips, Todd Cobbs, & Bob Squires Were All Part of 1980 Team

If you are are a student of the game of baseball, you know that baseball is based on statistics, and the bottom line is, stats don’t lie.

I was going through the DHS baseball record book, and I decided that I would list what I considered the best overall years ever by an individual player according to the numbers.

I’ll start by saying that special kudos must go out to the only 2 players who hit at least .500 with a minimum of 50 at bats. In 2003, Troy Krider hit .544 to set the all-time Dekalb record. In 2001, Travis Coleman compiled a .517 average.

These accomplishments were quite noteworthy, but I wanted to recognize special seasons where DHS players dominated every facet of the stat sheet.

If you go back to what some people consider the “glory days” of Baron baseball, Dekalb had  players in the years of 1979, 1980, & 1981 who would all qualify. In 1979, Ty Cobbs put up a .463 BA while collecting 38 hits, 17 doubles, 6 HR, 41 RBI, and scoring 31 runs.

In 1980, the year Dekalb won the state championship, Nick Phillips posted a .442 BA, had a Baron record 57 hits, had 11 doubles, 9 HR, 27 RBI, and scored 46 runs.

The following year, in 1981, Todd Cobbs batted .495, had 49 hits, 11 doubles, 7 HR, 36 RBI, and scored 30 runs.

In 1983, Bob Squires, who as a freshman, had  the winning hit in the 1980 state championship game, compiled a .471 average, had 49 hits, 12 doubles, 14 HR, 49 RBI, and scored 37 runs.

In 1993, Todd Likens hit .490, had 49 hits, 7 doubles, 4 triples, 6 HR, 48 RBI, and scored 28 runs.

Zach Pfafman Helped Lead DHS to a Conference Title

In what was probably the best “back to back” seasons by a Baron player happened in 1994 & 1995. Brad Weber, who would be named “Mr. Baseball” after the 1995 season, accomplished the following. In 1994, he hit .485, had 48 hits, 14 doubles, 6 home runs, 35 RBI, and scored 30 runs. He followed that up in 1995 with a .486 average, 51 hits, 16 doubles, 11 HR, 44 RBI, and scored 45 runs.

In 1996, Jeremy Sassanella put up the following numbers. A .462 BA, 48 hits, 10 doubles, 9 HR, 34 RBI, and 33 runs scored.

Jimmy Long had a tremendous season in 1998 leading Dekalb to the semi-state championship game. He hit .475, had 56 hits, 9 doubles, 4 triples, 11 HR, 43 RBI, and 51 runs scored.

Most recently, in 2009, Zach Pfafman put a season for the ages. Zach hit .490, had 48 hits, 14 doubles, 7 HR, scored 30 runs, and had a whopping 51 RBI, a record that will not soon be broken.

Who’s season was the greatest? I’ll leave that for you to decide!

47 Years Ago Today, My First Big League Game

I mentioned in a story a while back about experiencing my first Major League baseball game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium back in 1965 when I was 10 years old.

Well, today is the anniversary of attending that game 47 years ago. Over the course of time, details become blurred as to what happened, and what might have happened.

Box Score From My First Major League Game Back in 1965

If you love baseball, check out the web site, and you will be hooked on spending inordinate amounts of time reading about just about anything that concerns professional baseball. This is the web site that I referenced when looking up details about that first game that I attended. It is where you can find the box scores from any game, which was my modus operandi.

I do know that I attended the game with my Dad and two brothers. I do remember that it was part of a promotion called “Grandstand Managers Night.” This was a promotion where a few weeks before the game, you could answer some baseball questions in the local newspaper, and it would enable you to get discounted seats. If I recall, we ended up with great seats in the area behind home plate, just up a little ways.

The anticipation was killing us as we counted down the days before the game. Finally, July 24th arrived, it was a Saturday evening game, and we were on our way.

Our team, the Cleveland Indians, were having a good year. They were 54-39 at the time, and in third place. They were playing the defending American League champion New York Yankees. The Yankees were beginning their 12 year decline, as they stood at 47-50, and in 6th place.

Here are some facts from that game. There were 48,777 people in attendance, which was huge for Cleveland at that time. The Indians starting lineup featured Larry Brown at short, Max Alvis at third, Leon Wagner in left, Rocky Colavito in right, Fred Whitfield at first, Chuck Hinton in center, Joe Azcue behind the plate, Pedro Gonzalez at second, and my hero, “Sudden” Sam Mcdowell on the hill. Not all household names, but they were our heroes none the less.

The Yankees featured the great Mickey Mantle. As well as Tommy Tresh, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard, Joe Pepitone, and Clete Boyer.

The Indians won 3-0, behind McDowells 5 hit shutout. He notched 10 strikeouts, including Mantle 3 times. Cleveland had RBI’s from Brown, Alvis, and Wagner. “Daddywags” RBI was a long home run over the center field fence in the third inning.

The game lasted 2 hours and 33 minutes, and it was 90 degrees at game time.

Funny thing is, I never noticed the time that elapsed, or how hot it was. It was that much of a magical time with my Dad & brothers.

Still Treasures After All These Years

A few weeks back, it was reported that a family in Defiance, Ohio, had stumbled upon a treasure trove of baseball cards in the attic of an old home they were clearing out.

A Page of My Favorites

These cards were in pristine condition, and they dated back to around 1910 or so. They included Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and of course, the great Ty Cobb just to name a few.

They were from a very rare set, of which there were a limited amount that ever went to print. The experts say that chances are, there will never be a find like this ever again. The cards are valued at around 3 million dollars.

This brought to mind all of the card collecting that I did when I was young. I started collecting around the mid 1960’s, and by the time I had reached my late teens, I had amassed quite a collection. My brothers and I, along with friends from that time, spent hours discussing, buying, and of course trading these treasured pieces of paper.

Back then, Topps pretty much controlled the card market. Today, there are countless companies that put out “the next best thing” in the collecting industry.

After I pretty much had quit collecting, my sons took over, and they amassed quite a collection themselves.

I spent a good portion of time over the past year or so getting the cards that I had, as well as my boys cards organized into albums. They are now neatly arranged alphabetically into “books,” and they are there for easy viewing. They include cards that go all the way back to the 1950’s.

I certainly doubt that the collection that I have would ever approach 7 figures, but to me and my sons, they are priceless.