How beloved and respected was Gil Hodges during his playing career? Enough that when he sank into a ferocious batting slump crossing the end of the 1952 season and the beginning of the 1953 season, the entire borough of Brooklyn, if not all New York City, took up prayers for him. A devout Roman Catholic, Hodges was genuinely touched that even non-Catholic churches joined the prayer chain.
There are plenty of great pitchers who weren’t quite Hall of Fame great and didn’t get in. There are more than a few Hall of Fame pitchers who got in despite not quite being truly Hall of Fame great. Jack Morris, who’s been elected to the Hall by the Modern Baseball Era Committee with his longtime teammate Alan Trammell, belongs to the latter category.
Morris was as tenacious a competitor as I ever saw pitch, and that’s without remembering a certain World Series-winning game. But the Modern Era Committee just wasn’t right to elect him to Cooperstown, and there’s no disgrace in being a great pitcher who falls just short of Hall of Fame greatness.
It may have been as simple as one thing. Of all the major league teams with which he dealt, Shohei Otani felt the closest bond-in-the-making with the Angels.
“While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone, or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels,” his agent Nez Balelo said in a formal statement. “He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals. More than ever, I believe this is not only a special talent but a man of special character, and like everyone else I’m excited to see him in major league baseball.”
The first thing that comes to mind with the Yankees about to deal for Giancarlo Stanton is: Nationals fans can relax. Bryce Harper isn’t going to be in Yankee pinstripes next year or for the foreseeable future. Dealing for Stanton means the Yankees have likely priced themselves out of next year’s free agency market.
Stanton spurned opportunities to go to his native West Coast when he rejected a deal to the Giants. Those who’ve reported on Stanton’s thinking have said he wants to go to a provable contender, but with the Giants not looking much like one anymore that took care of that.
The surrealistic sweepstakes is over, apparently, never mind how enough baseball watchers seemed exhausted by it. Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani has agreed, apparently, to sign with the Angels. In Japan, he pitched like Juan Marichal and hit like Babe Ruth. If he’s going to do likewise in the United States, the American League made only too much sense.
On the fiftieth anniversary of throwing the pitch Roger Maris smashed for his 61st home run of 1961, I couldn’t resist writing of Tracy Stallard. I led off by saying that if we weren’t a society that tends to think of defeat as a six-letter euphemism for mortal sin, Stallard would wear a T-shirt saying Maris had to hit a record breaker to hit him at all.
There’s a new line of underwear out there called Tommy John. Unfortunately for baseball fans, it isn’t the creation of the former pitcher, which is kind of a shame. There go your opportunities for beefing up John’s Hall of Fame case by observing, “Jim Palmer only posed in his underwear; Tommy John up and created his.”
Long before he became a baseball player whose perfectionism on the field or in his person gave him something of a reputation as a phony, Steve Garvey was given too much, too soon. Not accolades but responsibilities.
He was an only child who was forced by two working parents to come home from school and clean house, get dinner on the stove, and look out for his invalid grandmother (partially paralyzed in a freak accident), even having to help her go to the bathroom regularly.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, himself the institution’s vice chairman now, has raised quite a hoopla with his epistle urging one and all among Hall voters to resist, reject, and repel those candidates suspected or using actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances during their careers.
Writing specifically, though, Morgan—perhaps inadvertently—dropped a banana peel in front of himself, when his plea nearly concluded by citing “the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of.”
Here come the rest of the newcomers to the Hall of Fame ballot. Unless there are sentimental reasons or particular individual perversities at play, I can think of only one or two, maybe three, who aren’t likely to be one-and-done ballot entrants, even if they’ll never be Hall of Famers.