Guest Columnist Jon Kahane: A Celebration of the Game of Baseball

By JON KAHANE The Red Sox are therefore participating in the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs this year, contrary to expectations. ...



By JON KAHANE

The Red Sox are therefore participating in the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs this year, contrary to expectations. When you stop to think about it, a team really has to go out there these days to be left out of the extravagance. Last year, 16 of 30 teams were “good enough” to make the playoffs. This year it has gone back to “only” 10.

The game isn’t what it used to be: when you had to play two full nine-set matches in a double header – and you could see both with just one ticket; when a pitcher had to deliver all four balls to intentionally make a batter walk – and there was the option of watching Willy Mays go into a pitch just a little too close to the plate and he picked third place – or watching Jackie Robinson will steal second if the ball was thrown a little too slowly or too wildly.

Don’t get me started on this problem.

No, this column will be a celebration of the game of baseball in order to praise the accomplishment of the Red Sox. I will cite a few (but I could go on and on) of my favorite events from the game’s past. I will try to pick out a few that are not well known, but you may have heard a couple of them. – or maybe all. Even so, if you are a baseball fan, I hope you enjoy hearing them all over again. My children roll their eyes when I start with, “Did you hear this one?” “Yes daddy, a hundred times.”

I was a Jewish kid raised in the Bronx in the 1950s and 1960s and baseball reigned supreme. Football, basketball and hockey filled the sports pages. I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan – because my dad was a Yankees fan. In our neighborhood, you were referred to as a Dodgers fan, Giants fan, or Yankees fan, rather than Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. It was a different story in MLB though. Below are two examples.

From 1951 to 1953, Charlie Dressen, an outspoken anti-Semite, was the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and one of its managers was a Jew named Cal Abrams. Dressen relegated him to the bench. One day, “The Bums” had a double bill planned with the St. Louis Cardinals, and they were managed by Eddie Stanky. Dressen told Abrams that if he cursed and taunted Stanky throughout the first game, he would play him in a nightcap. Abrams wanted to play and followed Dressen’s orders relentlessly. At the end of the first game, Dressen approached Abrams and said, “Pack your bags. You’ve just been traded to the Cardinals.

The following episode is about how my mom finally became a baseball fan when she turned 40. The Dodgers had moved to LA (thanks to villainous Walter O’Malley). Arguably one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Sandy Koufax, had been a rookie in Brooklyn and moved to Tinseltown with the team. In 1965, the Dodgers were in the World Series and the first game was scheduled for Yom Kippur. Koufax would not pitch that day. The word “mensch” was spoken freely throughout the city. He went on to win Game 5 and then the World Series in Game 7, after two days off.

Here are a few more stories from Dodger. Jackie Robinson, widely recognized as the first African American to play in MLB (Google Moses Fleetwood Walker), was hired by Branch Rickey, general manager of the Dodgers, because he was a great player. Rickey thought it was high time to stop the prejudices in the game. There was one condition. Rickey told Robinson that he would be subjected to a relentless barrage of epithets and hateful actions from fans and players, but Robinson couldn’t fight back for two years. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Robinson agreed and complied.

During this span, in a game where Jackie was playing at first base, Enos Slaughter hit a Grounder at Robinson who lined him up cleanly and walked first for the out. As Slaughter passed the base, he deliberately pointed Robinson at the leg, causing a bloody wound. Robinson just turned to Slaughter and said, “I’ll remember that.”

Years later, Robinson was playing at second base and Slaughter hit a right field liner. He tried to stretch it into a double. Robinson took the throw and instead of putting the tag on his leg, he slapped the glove with the ball inside into Slaughter’s mouth, dislodging six teeth. Robinson just said, “I told you I would remember it.

Sal Maglie, a Giants pitcher was traded to the Dodgers in 1956. He was known as “The Barber” because of the high, tight pitches he threw to intimidate hitters. It worked. One day the batter on the bridge was timing Maglie’s throws in the circle. Maglie proceeded to wind up and pitch the next pitch to the batter’s head on the bridge.

Another great Dodgers pitcher, Don Drysdale, was practicing when he saw the opposing pitcher pitching at his teammates. Drysdale yelled from the canoe, “For every batter you hit, I’ll hit two” – hence the nickname, “2 for 1 Drysdale.” It also worked.

Pistol Pete Reiser patrolled the outfield for the Dodgers in the 1940s and was an eternal star. His problem was that he was constantly bumping into the wall while chasing flying bullets. He’s been blown off the field 11 times in his career and has fractured his skull once. During a season when “The Bums” was doing surprisingly well, a reporter approached Reiser and asked him where he thought he would be at the end of the regular season. He replied, “In the hospital.

Here are two quick quips from Dodger that tickle my funny bone every time I hear them:

First, who’s the only person to have played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Knicks and New York Rangers? ”The answer: Gladys Gooding, the organist.

Second, Joe nudges Frank who had dozed off in the stands at Ebbets Field and said, “Wake up. ‘The bums’ have three men on base.” Frank replied, “Oh yeah, what basis? “

I’ll close with some non-Dodger gems. Bob Feller was a pitcher known for his blazing fastball. He was throwing at Lefty Gomez, who struck out three straight balls. After the third strike called, Gomez turned to the referee and said, “The latter was ringing low.”

Lefty Grove was another fireballer and sports reporter Arthur Baer described him as someone who “could throw a lamb chop in front of a wolf”.

Charlie Lau was a famous batting player and coach for several major league teams. He’s been asked how to hit a knuckleball before. He said, “There are two theories. None of them work.

Tug McGraw, who pitched for the Phillies and Mets, has already been asked how he likes the artificial turf at the Houston Astrodome. He replied, “I don’t know. I haven’t smoked it yet.”

As I said at the beginning, I could go on and on, but it would not be fair to end an essay like this without citing one of Yogi Berra’s “Yogisms”. I tried to choose one that is not often cited. Yogi became a spokesperson for the Yoohoo chocolate drink, which is still on the market. He was asked if “Yoohoo” was a hyphen. He replied, “No, it’s not even carbonated.”

Come on Sox. “We are sitting in the seat of the catbird.” – Red barber

Jon Kahane lives in Westhampton.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest Columnist Jon Kahane: A Celebration of the Game of Baseball
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