Ralph Kiner’s death at 91 Thursday, a day before pitchers and catchers were due in to start spring training, provokes a pool full of thoughts, considering my experience with him has been as a New York Mets fan since the day they were born. Kiner was one of the original Mets broadcast trio (Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, both of whom preceded him in death, were the others) but the longest-serving, even if Bell’s palsy finally wore him down to periodic appearances the Mets never begrudged him.
Maybe the one thing absolutely guaranteed about 2012 was that Mike Trout would nail the American League’s Rookie of the Year honours, which was made official with Monday night’s announcement. It wasn’t even close.
Trout landed every last first place vote possible as the unanimous pick. Nobody else in the running—not Yoenis Cespedes, not Yu Darvish, not Wei-Yin Chen, not Jarrod Parker—got any higher than 45 percent of a share of the voting. Bryce Harper landed the National League’s Rookie of the Year honours in a slightly tighter competition, with five more votes than runner-up Wade Miley and 70 percent of a share to Miley’s 66. The remaining National League contenders—Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario, Norichika Aoki, Yonder Alonso (now, that’d be a name, if he had more than a little long ball power), Matt Carpenter, Jordan Pacheco—fell well behind Harper and Miley.
The Walking Man has walked home at 86.
Eddie Yost as a player could hit a little bit, sometimes with power, usually early in the order, but had one of the most remarkable facilities for wringing first base on the house out of opposing pitchers. At his death Tuesday he sat number eleven on the all-time pass list, having led his league in walks six times, and having averaged 124 walks per 162 games in his eighteen-season playing career.
“Late success,” Sandy Koufax once mused, “is quieter.” I’m not entirely convinced it’s true in Homer Bailey’s case, since he’s gone from a seventh-overall 2004 draft pick to a shaky major league beginning despite the ballyhoo to standing on top of the world, or at least the PNC Park mound with his Cincinnati Reds owning the National League Central, and himself proving, at long enough last, he belonged in any serious Reds rotation plans.
Says Tracy Ringolsby, Hall of Fame baseball writer ruminating over baseball’s long enough history of ownership troubles: “There’s been troubled ownership in baseball since at least the days of Babe Ruth, who in 1919 was sold by Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee to the New York Yankees for $125,000 because Frazee needed money to fund his Broadway musical No, No, Nannette.”
Say I: Aw, jeez, not this crap again.
In Billy Crystal’s engaging if inaccuracy-flecked 61*, which he made to re-tell the tale of the original hunt for ruthsrecord (so help me God, that’s how they decribed the single-season home run record in those years), Barry Pepper as the tortured Roger Maris finally lamented, “Couldn’t they have room for two heroes?” Meaning that he had no intention, then or ever, of trying to usurp Mickey Mantle’s place in a Yankee fan’s heart, even though he might (might) end up busting ruthsrecord when too much was said and too much undone.
If we weren’t a society that, even now, tends to think of defeat as a six-letter euphemism for mortal sin, for assorted perverse reasons, Tracy Stallard would be wearing a sweat shirt emblazoned thus: He had to hit a record breaker to hit me at all!!
Come 23 September, the New York Yankees plan a golden anniversary celebration for the record nobody really wanted to see Roger Maris break. Poetically enough, the Yankees are scheduled to play the team against whom Maris achieved it, the Boston Red Sox. A postseason trip could still be on the line with that series, the diametric opposite of where the two teams stood on the afternoon Maris launched his record-breaker.