These, I thought to myself, were the kind of home runs I saw Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Dave Kingman and Mike Schmidt hit. Not just home runs but conversation pieces. Not just an unimpeded trip around the bases but anything from a potential flight onto the number 4 el tracks to a broken window behind a ballpark.
Three decades ago, when Boys of Summer author Roger Kahn bought the minor league Utica Blue Sox, one of the first people he told was “my cherished Brooklyn Dodgers friend” Carl Furillo. “You? An owner?” Furillo replied in amazement. “You’ll be lucky if you don’t have two ulcers by Opening Day.”
Kahn sold the team after a year. But he was (and is) a writer. Players turning owners is almost as rare. The latest possibility may be Derek Jeter, who’s reported to be interested in becoming a major player in any push to buy the Miami Marlins.
Opening Day in all fairness isn’t the complete, final measure of the season to come. The Yankees are probably thanking the spirits of Yankees past for that after the beat down Evan Longoria the Rays inflicted upon them Sunday afternoon.
But they’re probably also saying thanks to whomever aligned their bullpen to open. The pen showed the moxie the lineup lacked after the Rays piled up what proved the 7-3 final. Shame they couldn’t stop Longoria from hitting the season’s first bomb.
Dallas Green, who died today at 82, once told his players he was the toughest sonofabitch for whom they’d ever play. Whether leading the Phillies to their first World Series title or surviving the furies of George Steinbrenner with the 1989 Yankees or the planned obsolescence of the early-to-mid 1990s Mets, Green’s kind of tough let him survive the kind of times that could break the toughest of birds at a moment’s notice.
If the excerpt I have just read from Jason Turnbow’s Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swinging A’s is any indication, it promises to be maybe the single best study of one of baseball’s most memorably controversial teams. The early-to-mid-1970s Oakland Athletics were many things. Dull wasn’t one of them.
You remember: the Mustache Gang who ruled baseball (three straight World Series rings, a feat not achieved since) while they played and were owned almost as though there were no rules beyond the caprices of themselves (if ever any team adhered to the old maxim that boys will be boys, the early 70s A’s were it), and, particularly, their Mad Hatter-like owner.
The next time the world champion Cubs see Aroldis Chapman will be either in regular season interleague play or in the World Series, assuming the Cubs return within the next five years and face the Yankees. Not that they’re complaining about dealing for Wade Davis, but you suspect in their hearts of hearts the Cubs knew Chapman was a second-half rental.
Thirty years ago, the Mets and the Red Sox locked in mortal baseball combat, in a World Series. It ended with the Mets on top of a baseball world that didn’t necessarily love that edition of the team, and the Red Sox having been kicked to the rocks below after having gotten close enough, yet again, to a Promised Land determined never to let them set foot upon it again, or so it seemed.
How Tuesday ended with one National League club all but eliminated from the postseason, another contender setting some home run records, a third contender showing a couple of vulnerabilities that might prove fateful come postseason time, and a couple of crazy (and heretofore unlikely) American League wild card sharps getting a little crazier . . .
A one-time legend among New York columnists, Frank Graham, observed about a suddenly-accessible player at the end of his career, “He learned to say hello when it was time to say goodbye.” Paraphrasing, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote Sunday that Alex Rodriguez learned to say hello while he was essentially saying goodbye over the past two years.
Last month began speculation that the Yankees approaching a serious rebuilding period were thinking the once unthinkable, deliberating among themselves whether to think about releasing Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. On Friday, what began as unnamed sources saying so became the horse’s mouth himself saying it: Teixeira saw and raised the earlier speculation, announcing he’d retire at season’s end.