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

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.

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.

MLB’s Second Half Gets Under Way

On Friday night, after a 4 day hiatus for the All-Star break, MLB started the second half of their season. If the second half is anything like the first, we are in a for a wild ride.

When Friday began, the Rangers, Yankees, and White Sox were in first places in the American League, while Washington, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles headed up their respective divisions in the National League.

Keep in mind, that for the first time, there will be 2 wild card teams from each league. As of right now, there only  a few teams that you could say are out of the race for the playoffs.

Many surprises in the first half, including the aforementioned Nationals and Pirates playing great baseball. On the other end of the spectrum, the Phillies, decimated by injuries, are 14 games out.

Texas Rookie Pitcher Yu Darvish

The battle tested Yankees & Rangers are taking care of business as was expected. The White Sox & Angels are also both playing very well.

Individually, we’ve seen the emergence of Bryce Harper in Washington, as well as a 10 win first half from Yu Darvish. Matt Kemp of the Dodgers was off to a sizzling start before being injured. Josh Hamilton of Texas slugged 4 home runs in a game. There were 4 no hitters tossed, including 2 perfect games. Knuckleballer RJ Dickey led baseball with 12 wins.

I had the opportunity to see 7 games in the first half, including witnessing Norwell’s Jarrod Parker come close to tossing a no-no against Texas.

Baseball. America’s Pastime. Get on the bandwagon, as the best is yet to come.


The “Dog Days” of Baseball Summer

Can the Texas Rangers Win Their 3rd Straight Pennant?

During the past week, as Major League baseball was grinding its way past the mid-point of the regular season,the 2-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers suffered their longest losing streak of the season, as they lost five straight. They still lead their division, but that lead is tenuous as the hard charging LA Angels are nipping at their heels.

Baseball takes its annual “All-Star” break next week, and the Rangers, along with numerous other teams, will come out of the break with hard decisions to make.  Do you become a buyer, or seller, or just play the hand that you have?

Two years ago, Texas was able to acquire Cliff Lee before the trading deadline, and the move helped them to their first American League pennant. Last year, they bolstered their bullpen, the main deal being to get Mike Adams from San Diego. That move helped in getting them to within 1 strike of winning the World Series.

This year, they picked up veteran Roy Oswalt a few weeks back, but they are still looking for more pitching.

The question always is, how much of the future do you give up to win now? Texas is a veteran laden team, built for today. After the season, position players Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, & Mike Napoli, as well as starting pitcher Colby Lewis are all free agents.

I’m not saying that this year is must win, or do or die, but the Rangers window of opportunity isn’t open forever.

With the rumored availability of Cole Hamels from Philadelphia, or Zach Greinke from Milwaukee, I wouldn’t be too surprised if General Manager Jon Daniels is actively pursuing one of these pitchers, or even more probable, going after someone who we don’t even know is available.

The Rangers, as well as the Angels, have taken their place right along side of the Yankees & Red Sox as movers & shakers as far as making deals at the trade deadline.

Look for a deal or two in the not too distant future.

Chicago, My Kind of Town

Frank Sinatra, God rest his soul, sang the words in one of his numerous hit songs, “Chicago, my kind of town Chicago is.”

On Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of enjoying baseball on the 4th of July in Chicago, at U.S. Cellular field as 2 first place American League teams hooked up, the Texas Rangers, and the host Chicago White Sox.

Members of US Military Take Their “Positions” Before the Game

In addition to what promised to be a great baseball game, the festivities included a number of activities before, during, and after the game that focused on American military personnel, both past & present. The after game festivities were capped off by a dazzling fireworks display that was simply top-notch.

Before the game, I was put in my “baseball nostalgic” mode, as my son Ethan & I walked over to the parking lot next to the field where old Comiskey Park used to reside, and took in, even though I had only been there once before, a favorite baseball sight of mine.

Bernie in the Old Left-handed Batters Box

In the parking lot, there is a spot that is marked off where the old home plate area used to be. You can stand in the exact spot where the batting boxes were, and just relish in the thought of all of the great players, and historical baseball events that happened right there.

Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, etc., etc., just to name a few, all took their stances there, dug in, and simply hit away. A World Championship was won by a team that played there in 1917. One of the darkest hours of major league baseball also occurred on that spot, the “Black Sox Scandal” of 1919, when the Sox “threw” the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

As you would expect on a night like this, it was a great game. It was a game where 9 innings wasn’t enough. It was a game that featured  excellent defense, good pitching, and timely hitting.

Thousands of Baseball Greats Have Stood on this Very Spot

The Rangers jumped on top by 3 in the first inning, the Sox came back for 4 in the second. A  Josh Hamilton home run (his 26th), tied it in the third. It stayed that way until the 10th, when newly acquired Kevin Youkilis won it for the home team with a single to left. Youkilis also added a couple of sparkling defensive gems.

All in all, a great night for baseball. Chicago, my kind of town.

Bob Feller – A True American Hero

There was a lot of news splashed across the sports pages last week about the “lying to congress” trial of Roger Clemens. In one of the articles that I read, it said that Clemens might be the greatest right-handed pitcher in all of the history of baseball.

With no due respect, because in my opinion he doesn’t deserve any, Clemens can’t even be compared to the GREAT Bob Feller. Not as a pitcher, not as a hero, and not as a true ambassador to the game of baseball.

Bernie with Bob Feller, Spring Training 2009

Feller burst upon the scene of major league ball back in 1936, straight off of the farm in Van Meter, Iowa. He was 17 years old when he made his major league debut. Young in years, but not young in baseball acumen. And boy, could he bring the heat. When he first came up to the “bigs,” only the legendary Walter Johnson was compared to Feller in the speed in which he could bring the fastball. Throughout the ensuing years, maybe only Nolan Ryan could throw as hard.

Bob Feller’s career spanned the years of 1936-1956, all pitching for the Cleveland Indians. He had a career record of 266 wins, and 162 losses. Good, but not great you say?

If you are somewhat familiar with American History, you know that the worst armed conflict in the history of the WORLD started in 1941 for the United States. That conflict would be World War II.

When the 1941 baseball season ended, a season in which Feller won 25 games and threw 343 innings, he was one of the first Major League players to enlist in the armed forces. He became part of the United States Navy. He didn’t ask for any special treatment, like quite a few athletes and entertainers would do. He went straight to serving his time on battleships that were in the thick of battle mostly in the Pacific. He served his time honorably.

When the war finally ended in 1945, Feller had missed all of the 1942, 1943, 1944 seasons, and most of the 1945 season. These were prime years of his baseball career. Believe me when I tell you, he never once regretted how he had spent those years defending his country. I’m not going too much out on a limb when I say that he would have won 100 more games if he had not missed those years.

Back in Spring Training of 2009, my friend Bruce Frazier and I had the opportunity to attend a game between the Indians and the Texas Rangers out in Arizona. About the second inning, we noticed someone sitting over at a table on the concourse along the third base side. He was signing autographs. We went over to investigate.

It was the great Bob Feller.

I’m even choked up now as I write this as to how honored I was to meet him. We all chatted for a bit, and had our pictures taken with him. We ended up going home, and I had the pictures printed out. Bruce went back a few weeks later, while Mr. Feller was still signing, and had our pictures signed. I proudly display the picture in my home.

Unfortunately, though Mr. Feller was in pretty good health when we met him, later in 2010 his health deteriorated quickly, and he passed away in December of that year. He was 92 years old.

Bob Feller, baseball history, American history, baseball hero, and a true American hero. Rest in peace Bob.