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It is appropriate to set aside this journal’s customary business now and then to pay tribute to class and loss away from baseball. If you think that boxing is a profession, if not necessarily a sport, to which class is an unwelcome intruder, you may not have known Joe Frazier, who died of liver cancer at 67 on Monday. Or, at least, you may not really think that class was beaten out of the profession once and for all by the third and last of his showdowns with Muhammad Ali.
* Bernie Miklasz (St. Louis Post Dispatch) remembers Bob Forsch—who died at 61, a week after he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game Seven of the World Series—as a straight shooter who was an underrated pitcher . . . and maybe one of the few Cardinals who went out like a professional when the rest of the team was too busy imploding in Game Seven of the 1985 Series . . .
If it seemed at times as though Andy Rooney was old enough to have been—God help us!—the Father of His Country, well, you can be forgiven for that. He seemed at least to have been old enough to have been the father of CBS, if William S. Paley hadn’t already done the job. For a decent amount of time, he may have been America’s favourite grouse. For an indecent amount of time, he may have seemed just like a grouse with an air-tight contract. For once upon a time, he might have been the model for a certain one among the Seven Dwarfs.
In 1962, when the embryonic New York Mets hosted the expatriate Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time, a group of fans still angered over the Dodgers’ departure from Brooklyn lined up against the rim of the Polo Grounds’ upper deck and, in perfect synchronisation, dropped lampshades one after the other spelling out:
O M A L L E Y
G O H O M E
That was then in New York; this is now in Los Angeles. With Frank McCourt agreeing at last to sell the team his financial pecadilloes had turned into a compromised mess, an awful lot of Angelenos, and no few baseball citizens elsewhere, are crying out:
Golden Era, my foot. That’s what they’re calling the era from 1947-72. Actually, the era didn’t start getting “golden” until 1965. Unless you want to say to yourself that it really was the good old days when a) players were still chattel; b) a team from New York was invariably in or winning the World Series, with the occasional freak exception, until 1965; and, c) it was a big slugging/modest pitching/little else era for the most part.
But let’s not quibble about such details for now. The Hall of Fame Veterans Committe is considering ten men from that era as prospective Hall of Famers.
How delicious is this?
One of Theo Epstein’s first acts as the Chicago Cubs’ president of baseball operations was to pink manager Mike Quade. That was after he informed Ryne Sandberg—whom he once tried to hire to manage the Boston Red Sox’s Pawtucket minor league affiliate—that he wasn’t going to be in the running for the Cubs’ job.
Meanwhile, Sandberg, now managing the Philadelphia Phillies’ Lehigh Valley (AAA) affiliate, could be a candidate to manage . . . the Cubs’ most bitter National League Central rival, against whom Sandberg became famous in the first place.
You’re not seeing things.
Frank McCourt’s reign of error is coming to its overdue end. Wish though he might have otherwise, it was never truly a question of if but, rather, when, his grip on the Los Angeles Dodgers, his use, misuse, and abuse of the franchise, would be finished. On Tuesday night, it was. McCourt finally, at long enough last, agreed to a court-supervised process of selling the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium (which the franchise still owns), and surrounding real estate still owned by the team.
It’s almost the way you might imagine people to have felt when Casey Stengel retired, except that Stengel went out not with a bang but with a medical whimper. In his fourth season managing the comic-opera toddlerhood of the New York Mets, Stengel fell from a car, broke his hip, and faced a long recuperation. The greatest manager of his generation, and maybe of all baseball to that point—ten pennants and seven World Series titles in twelve seasons, including a staggering five consecutive World Series titles in his first five seasons managing the ancient dyanstic Yankees.