Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The SF Giant's First Shortstop: Ed Bressoud


Ed Bressoud was a very slick fielding dependable shortstop whose arrival in 1956 allowed the Giants to send Alvin Dark to the Cardinals in a deal for Red Schoendienst. He spent just two of his six Giant seasons as their regular shortstop, but was successful in three years with the Red Sox because he adapted his swing to Fenway's leftfield wall; hitting 20 HR for the Bosox in 1963. Made expendable by Rico Petrocelli's emergence in 1965, Bressoud concluded his career against the Red Sox as a Cardinal utility man in the 1967 World Series.

His one all-star appearance in 1964: “It was a wonderful experience for me. Luis Aparicio couldn’t make it, so I went in his stead. And I didn’t play, which has always irritated me – particularly after seeing that all-star game a few seasons ago when they ran out of players. The experience of that year just brought to mind the pain that I felt in that all-star game, because the manager for the AL, I forget his name – the White Sox manager (Al Lopez) – he played Jim Fregosi through the whole game, which he did with several players. There were a lot of players like me that didn’t get into that particular ball game. But, I think at that time, the American League had been beaten by the National League for something like 12 out of 14 times, and I think the manager decided that he was going to stay with his best lineup and try to win that game. And I think that’s fine, even though it was disheartening that I didn’t get a chance to participate.” (In that game, held at Shea Stadium, The National League won again, 7-4, on a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth by Philadelphia outfielder Johnny Callison.)

Playing in the Polo Grounds with the NY Giants: “With guys like Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Bobby Thomson, Don Mueller, Johnny Antonelli—that club was absolutely loaded with talent. The only problem was that the National League was a powerhouse full of great clubs back then. Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh—those were some good teams. We didn’t play particularly well that year and then in 1958 the team left New York and moved to San Francisco. I remember seeing signs from the fans that said ‘Please Don’t Go.’ I never thought we’d move to the West Coast, but we did. It was kind of sad.”

His relationship with Willie Mays: “Willie and I never had a conversation that lasted more than a minute. Mays has always been kind of a loner, in my opinion and I can understand it, actually. The public is always pulling and tugging at him for one thing or another, and I don’t care who you are—that has to get old after awhile. So, he kind of stayed to himself most of the time. I did get the privilege of playing shortstop in front of him, though, which made my job a lot easier. He played such a shallow centerfield that I didn’t have to worry about going back for short fly balls or pop ups. He also caught a lot of line drives that would have been base hits against other teams. Batters rarely hit it over his head. I think I saw it happen maybe once or twice. He was the best player I ever saw or played with, no doubt about it.”

About contract negotiations and agents: “No one had agents back then. You were offered a contract and you either took it or you walked, basically. We were grateful to just be playing, to be honest. The alternative was a nine-to-five job, so playing a game and getting paid pretty decently for it was pretty favorable in comparison. The first time I heard of any player hiring an agent was when Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax got together and hired an agent and then held out with the Dodgers. I think they wanted something like $125,000 a year, something like that. In 1964, I was seventh in the league in hitting and made the All-Star Game, and I was very happy with the season I had. They paid me $27,000 the previous year and then sent me the same contract for 1965. I sent it back and they sent it back again. It traveled back and forth through the mail several times before they generously agreed to give me a $1,000 raise. But, that’s the way things were back then. The owners were in control and they knew it, so what could you do?”




Sunday, April 27, 2008

Can the Lakers Get By Without Bynum?

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a postseason roll. They look pretty formidable right now, but the question on every Laker’s fan mind is—can this team win it all with out Andrew Bynum? The young center was supposed to be back from injury a month ago, but now it appears as though he might not be returning at all.
It hasn’t hurt them so far in the series against Denver. The Lakers have dominated every aspect of the series and shut down the Nuggets’ two big scorers—Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. But, if and when they have to play teams like Utah, San Antonio or Phoenix, they’re going to have to play a team featuring a big man in the middle, and it will be tough without a large body to put up against a true center.
For those who aren’t familiar with the situation, Bynum injured his knee on January 13th when he landed on a teammate’s foot going for a rebound. He went to a knee specialist in New York on April 17th, but still hasn’t been cleared to practice.
The Lakers won’t comment on Bynum’s status and have been mysteriously quiet about the whole thing.
At this point, it might just be a better idea to leave Bynum out for the remainder of the season. To bring him in at this late date could disturb team chemistry. The Lakers are running on all cylinders right now, and the Lakers might just be able to win the NBA title without him, so why risk injuring a player with an obviously bright future by rushing him into the playoffs?
And then, if he is ready to play, how smart would it be to bring in a young player to go up against guys like Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and/or Tyson Chandler? If he fails, it could be extremely harmful to his psyche. Bringing him back this year might not be fair to the kid.
Or maybe when Bynum’s ready, the Lakers could use him sparingly in the playoffs, for possibly 10-15 minutes per game. If he vastly improves, they could play him more in the NBA Finals. He could just be the Willis Reed of the Finals and provide the Lakers with the missing piece they require to go all the way.
This is what the rampaging Lakers did in Denver yesterday:
Bryant scored 22 points and the Los Angeles Lakers took a 3-0 lead in their first-round series, routing the flustered Nuggets 102-84 on Saturday.
Game 4 is Monday night, and the Nuggets are going to have to get more out of their All-Star duo of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson if they hope to take the series back to the Staples Center.
Anthony and Iverson were miserable from the floor, shooting a combined 10-for-38 and finishing with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Bryant was quiet, too, at least in the first half, when he scored eight points on 3-for-8 shooting.
An air ball slowed Bryant's surge just when it looked like he was going to repeat his 19-point, 4½-minute surge in Game 2, but the Nuggets trailed 69-51 after Lamar Odom's two free throws.
Anthony drew a technical foul -- Denver's seventh in the series -- after he was stripped on his way to the basket, leading to a breakaway by Bryant that stretched the Lakers' lead to 78-61 with 2:33 left in the third.
Los Angeles took an 83-64 lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back.
Luke Walton added 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles, and Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher each scored 14.
By the closing minutes, the Lakers' bench was more interested in a fight in the stands that led to some belligerent fans being taken away by police officers. Even Bryant stuck a peek while teammate Jordan Farmar was shooting free throws at the other end of the court.
On his next touch, Bryant hit a 3-pointer from the right elbow for a 100-78 lead, then took a seat and acknowledged with a thumbs-up his very own cheering section that had drowned out the boo birds during the second half and continued the "MVP!" chants that serenaded him back in California.
The Nuggets, who have lost seven straight playoff games, not only wanted to keep their composure coming back to Colorado, but they also figured they could get to the rim and the foul line more than they had in the first two games in Los Angeles.
Nothing doing.
They limped to the locker room trailing 53-46 at halftime with 'Melo and A.I. a combined 5-for-21, pretty much negating the boost they got from forward Linas Kleiza's start.
Kleiza's insertion into the starting lineup in Game 2 in place of guard Anthony Carter was key to the Nuggets keeping up with the taller Lakers -- until he hyper-extended his right elbow on a hard foul by Gasol and the Lakers pulled away for another double-digit win.
Despite missing practice Friday, Kleiza scored 15 points, but he got little help.
With Denver missing jumpers, layups, committing three-second violations and not drawing any fouls, the Lakers began pulling away after Anthony's basket with 4:29 left in the second quarter had tied it at 42.
Bryant hit a sweet six-foot jumper, Gasol sank a free throw and Vladimir Radmanovic swished a 3-pointer, forcing the Nuggets to call timeout.
It didn't help. Gasol sank two more foul shots to make it 51-42 before Iverson hit four free throws in the final minute. Before that, the Nuggets had shot just four free throws all game.
Denver defensive specialist Kenyon Martin was the only one keeping the Nuggets from getting trampled early on. He hit four of his first six shots while his teammates were a combined 1-for-13 from the floor.
In the third quarter, however, Martin was the victim more often than not as Bryant got hot and starting hitting all kinds of shots over and around him.
(Portions of this article courtesy of www. cbssportsline.com and http://www.sportsonthestreet.blogspot.com/ reporter Matt Levine, Todd Axtell’s Sports Review and the Tom Shine NBA Report)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yo, Meathead!


So Donnie Walsh has come to the New York Knicks. I have a bottle of expensive champagne ready to celebrate the second Isiah Thomas gets fired as Knicks head coach! Will it be tonight? Friday? Even if the organization retains him in some capacity, I can handle that—as long as he is not coach and I don’t have to hear his ridiculous ramblings or statements regarding the team.

Just to underscore how bad it’s become for everyone involved, I had to include this picture. It’s from a November 2007 article in the New York Observer entitled “Life in Knicks Hell.” It’s got writers Mike Lupica of the Daily News and Peter Vescey of the Post as Dant├ęs surrounded by the Knicks in a send-up of the Inferno. I had to laugh when I saw Stephon Marbury ripping out his own guts and Isiah holding his own decapitated head in his hands. What a hilarious cartoon! And just last week, New York magazine ran an article about the Knicks called, “Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports.” Wow! Walsh has a long hard road ahead to even get the franchise to sniff respectability.

Okay, enough ranting about the Knicks. I know I said I’d write about Opening Day at Safeco Field this time, and I still will—but for those of you who will say, “It’s over two weeks since Opening Day!” I know that! But we just got a puppy this week, and trying to find extra time to blog has been tough. Then Ed and I had some technical problems with posting which delayed me a few days. Neither is much of an excuse, anyway, but they’re all I got!

So Opening Day was really cool! This was our first trip to Safeco, so I took the ferry over from Bainbridge Island, and my wife Laurice picked me up. We were a little bit late, which is fine by me—can’t remember the last time I actually went into a baseball game for the first pitch—but since the Safeco parking garage was full, we looked for parking on the street. Unbelievably, lots were charging $40.00 just to park for the game—that’s even more than it cost to park in San Francisco! Not sure if they were just trying to rip people off because it was Opening Day or if prices are always like that—I’ll have to see. Fortunately, we were persistent and found a free spot on the street two blocks from the park.

Speaking of San Francisco, except for having a roof, Safeco reminded us a lot of Pac Bell Park, or AT&T Park, or whatever they’re calling it these days. (Not sure anyone in the Bay Area cares what it’s called now that they are faced with the Barry Bonds-less Giants.) The layout of the corridors and the placement of the concessions seemed very similar, as were the sightlines of the field and the exterior of the park. Anyone out there know if these buildings had the same designer?

Good thing Safeco has a roof, too! Opening Day was pretty chilly, and in addition to rain, sleet and hail fell during the game, which started shortly after 3:30 pm. It was a good game, with Seattle coming from behind to overtake the Rangers and win. Since then, the Mariners have been pretty iffy—we’ll see if they settle down and play well consistently, as many predicted. (Since we all know the standings this early in the season really mean nothing, I’ll let my comments on them go for another week or two!)

Going back to that old debate over whether I should become a Mariners fan or stick with the A’s—my dear, wonderful, awesome wife bought me the Major League Baseball package on our TV system, so now I can watch my original favorites, the Mets, as well as my adopted AL team, the A’s, for every game. Unfortunately for the debate, this gift may have backfired on Laurice’s plan to get me to root for Seattle. Now that I can watch the Mets and A’s, why would I pay too much attention to the Mariners?

By the way, how many of you saw the news that on April 3, while touring Fenway Park, a 13-year-old girl was attacked by a red-tailed hawk? The AP reported, “The hawk was perched on a railing in the upper deck behind home plate while the group toured the stadium. The hawk flew at the girl and swooped with its talons extended, scratching her scalp.” She wasn’t seriously hurt.

The capper? The girl’s name was Alexa Rodriguez. An omen for the Yankees this year? Time will tell!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Artistic Side of This Great Game





It wouldn't be spring without baseball. Nor would it be spring without the annual "Art of Baseball" exhibition at the George Krevsky Gallery. Now in its 11th year, the exhibit opens with a reception on Thursday, May 1st, and will be on view through Saturday, June 7th.
I have been to this exhibition for the last three years and it is amazing. If you’re even a casual baseball fan, you’ll love the art and the stories behind it.
One of my favorite artists, Mark Ulriksen (who I interviewed for BrooWaha last year, see http://sf.broowaha.com/article.php?id=883) will be displaying his work. Many other very well-known local San Francisco and Bay Area artists will have their baseball images in this world-famous exhibition.This year's theme – Building a Team – refers not just to the coach's task of choosing a roster to play the game, but also to the curator's task of bringing together talented artists from all over the country who depict the game that obsesses fans of all ages. For five weeks the gallery's walls will be densely hung with over 40 artworks by more than 25 artists; men and women who interpret Abner Doubleday's invention through an artist's eye."You can observe a lot by watching," Yogi Berra said. You can also learn a lot about our national pastime by looking at the remarkable range of artworks that will be on view -- from hyperrealism to folk art, from commentary on current issues confronting the game to unapologetic doses of pure nostalgia. "Building a Team" will be a visual delight for the baseball lover, the art lover, and the many people who love them both.This year, artists include, Mark Ulriksen, known for his New Yorker covers, and Max Mason, whose pastels can be seen at the Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Paintings by Curtis Wright depict classic PCL players against old-time billboards in the outfield, and Debbie Gallas has created a quilt that chronicles the history of the Athletics franchise. These can be seen together with Carl Aldana's watercolors of the Giant's Seals Stadium, and Arthur K. Miller's paintings of Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax. Building a Team: The Art of BaseballExhibition Dates: May 1 – June 7, 2008Opening Reception: Thursday, May 1st, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
77 Geary St. 2nd FloorSan Francisco, CA 94108 Tel: (415) 397-9748Fax: (415) 397-9749

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Daily Unretirement of Brett Favre

If the Green Bay Packers are ravaged by injuries this season, retired quarterback Brett Favre said that he might consider returning should the NFL team reach out to him.
Is Brett Favre done playing football or not? Even though he announced his retirement last month, no one seems to be buying it. My feeling is that his heart just isn’t into it. Brett retired for some reason (maybe his wife wants him out of the game while his body is still intact), but you can tell that he really wants to get back in the game. The entire affair has reached ludicrous proportions. And the story is far from being over.
Now we have to listen to weekly Favre reports. He’s in. He’s out. He’s undecided. Every time another QB on another team gets hurt or holds out, we’re going to hear Brett Favre rumors. ESPN should just start a Favre Channel, with 24 hour Brett Favre news.
Here’s what you’ll get on a daily basis from the new Favre Channel:
“Brett had breakfast at Waffle House this morning. He ordered scrambled eggs, sausage and grits, but no toast. Does this means he’s coming back?”
Or…
“Brett mowed his front lawn this afternoon but did not trim his bushes. What can we surmise from this latest move?”
The person who is suffering the most here is Green Bay’s backup QB and new starter Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has patiently waited for his turn to start and now is his time. Favre is just making it more difficult for Rodgers to assume a leadership role with his constant waffling.
My advice to Favre is to just step down. You love football. We understand that. Well, then become a coach like your father. Buy an Arena Football team. Get into broadcasting. But, stop all this indecision and speculation. You’re a Hall of Famer. You won a Super Bowl. What more do you have to prove?
If you come back, Brett, you’re risking everything—and for what? Some big defensive end is going to pancake you and break your neck and you’ll regret it. Quit while you’re ahead of the game. Just walk away.
This appeared on http://www.cbssportsline.com/ today:
Will Brett Favre come back if Aaron Rodgers gets injured?
"It would be hard to pass up, I guess," Brett Favre told the Biloxi Sun Herald yesterday. "But three months from now, say that presents itself, I may say, you know what, I'm so glad I made that decision (to retire). I feel very comfortable in what I'm doing and my decision."
But if Favre's replacement Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury?
"Aaron has fallen into a great situation," Favre said. "And if that opportunity presented itself and they did call, it would be tempting. And I very well could be enticed do it."
Favre understands the kind of challenge he would face should he opt to go back to the NFL after ending his record-setting 17-year career. And he made it clear he is not changing his mind at this time.
"But to think that if they called me in October and told me, 'Hey, we need you this week.' That would be hard," Favre said in a story that appeared on the paper's website on Tuesday. "I'm sure mentally, I would be refreshed. I'd be away from it for a long time. But mentally versus physically, the last thing I'd want to do is go up and it's 'Oh this is great' and all that stuff and me be excited and then just flop.
"You just can't show up and play."
There has been a steady flow of speculation that Favre would have a change of heart following the March 4 announcement by the league's only three-time MVP that he was retiring.
Favre said he would not return unless he was in shape.
"It would be hard to go up there at 38. It was hard to stay in shape. I say that, I worked out and I worked out hard," he said. "Week in and week out, I was just drained. Finally, for the first time, I felt, not that 38 is old, but I looked around at practice and these guys are bouncing around. And I practiced every day and all the time people would ask me ... `How do you do it? Inside I'm saying, 'I have no idea.' It's a struggle."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Yo, Meathead!

Wow, here’s something I found in the New York Daily News—more than you ever wanted to know about our national pastime’s unofficial song. Most of this is actually pretty interesting as another baseball season gets underway!

In my next post, I’ll tell ya all about Opening Day at Safeco Field!

‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ turns 100

by David Hinckley
April 4, 2008

Two of baseball’s most memorable 100th anniversaries unfold this summer: the centennial anniversary of the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and the 100th season since Jack Norworth wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“Ball Game” was first sung at actual ball games around 1910 and in modern times it has become the soundtrack of the seventh inning stretch, another baseball tradition. The rendition most famously perpetuated, in an amusing coincidence, by the late Harry Caray, who called games for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“Ball Game” lost a few performances in recent years when some parks started playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch, but that trend seems to have receded and the traditional “Ball Game” is increasingly coming back.

So now let’s take a brief trip back to the last ought-eight and the story of a songwriter who had never seen a baseball game, but while waiting for the subway one day did see an intriguing sign.

Jack Norworth lived for 80 years and made his reputation in about 30 minutes, which is the length of the subway ride on which he composed the lyrics for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a song millions of strangers join to sing hundreds of thousands of times each American baseball season.

To be more precise, those strangers sing the chorus, because not one fan in a million is likely to know either of the actual verses to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Those verses have receded as far into the dusk of history as Ebbets Field, and when they are exhumed, it isn’t hard to understand why they have been forgotten. They sound like something straight out of 1908, which isn’t surprising, because it was exactly 100 baseball seasons ago that Norworth took his magic subway ride.

Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad;
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou Katie blew
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show but Miss Katie said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do… “

Call Katie’s imminent request the shout heard ‘round the nation. It goes something like this:

Take me out to the ballgame
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I never get back
Let me root root root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s a shame
For it’s one two three strikes, you’re out
At the old ballgame.

Jack Norworth, as it happens, wasn’t looking to write the definitive American sport chorus. He had no ambition higher than a quick novelty hit, and baseball was a random potential subject, holding neither more nor less interest to Norworth than, say, a bicycle built for two. Born in Philadelphia in 1879, Norworth was by 1908 an established New York song-and-dance man, successful enough to fancy himself a rival of George M. Cohan. He and his wife, Nora Bayes, one of the most successful pop singers of the early 20th century and herself a vaudeville star and composer, were appearing together in the “Ziegfeld Follies” and singing a song they’d written called “Shine on Harvest Moon.” Then one day that summer, as Norworth told the story, he was taking the subway and spotted a sign: Base Ball Today—Polo Grounds.

Norworth had never seen a “base ball” game. But he happened to have a few sheets of yellow paper with him, and he got the idea for a skit that would use base ball to showcase a pretty girl who was a bigger fan than even the boys.

Thus was born Kitty Casey, who would later become Nelly Kelly, probably because Nelly Kelly sounded, if possible, even more Irish. “Nelly” also would have felt comfortable for Albert Von Tilzer, a composer and friend whom Norworth visited in search of a melody for his new lyrics. Von Tilzer was an old friend of Nelly, too, having composed the big hit “Wait Til the Sun Shines, Nellie.” Von Tilzer also was a soulmate of Norworth when it came to base ball experience. He too had never seen a game.

But he was a master of perky, sing-along melodies, and when the collaboration was finished they took it to impresario Flo Ziegfeld, who liked it well enough to insert it into the next “Follies,” where it was performed with no shortage of melodramatic flourish by Bayes and Norworth.

Soon it had been recorded by Billy Murray, the biggest star in the fledgling phonograph record industry, and by 1910 it was being sung in baseball stadiums, a practice that continues to this day.

Like any successful popular song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” soon spawned enough bad copies to fill a ballpark of its own. To Norworth’s life-long delight, one of the failed imitators was Cohan, who was a great fan and had attended many base ball games, but who swung and missed with “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game,” which included the line, “In the stands it’s so grand / If you’re holding her hand / At the old ball game.”

In any case, Norworth was now a big enough star that Lew Fields stole him and Bayes from Ziegfeld, billing them as “The Happiest Married Couple in Show Business.”

Alas, that proved to be another bit of show biz overstatement. By 1913 they had divorced and Norworth had left both Fields and the country, surfacing in London with the goal of sparking a different kind of musical fad: songs built around tongue-twisters like “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers.”

Things went well for Susie, not so well for Jack. By 1921 he was back in the States and filing for bankruptcy. He drifted to California, where he stayed active in show business thanks to a cushion of royalties and sheet music sales—a songwriter’s major revenue source in those days—from “Harvest Moon” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

After years of trying, he persuaded Hollywood in 1944 to tell the story of “The Happiest Married Couple in Show Business,” with a film titled “Shine on Harvest Moon” that starred Dennis King as Norworth and Ann Sheridan as Bayes.

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was featured, of course, and by then both authors had actually seen the game that had been so berry, berry good to them. Von Tilzer attended a game in 1928, and Norworth went to Ebbets Field in 1942 to watch the Dodgers.

Von Tilzer lived until 1956 and Norworth till 1959, spending his final years running a showbiz novelty shop in Hollywood and still, on request, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which by the time of his death was estimated to be the third–most-performed song in the country, after the national anthem and “Happy Birthday.”