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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, June 30, 2008

"Put me in Coach, I'm ready to play ..."

Like it or not, baseball is in my blood. I fancy myself an artist. Whether it be culinary, my writing, my glass work or music, I try to bring a finesse and personal touch unlike anyone else to my endeavors. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Yes there are those out there that are more talented, but I do what I do and it works.

I am fortunate to have immersed myself in a like minded community of artists and musicians who lead me to believe what I am doing has substance and worth. Perhaps people compare my work to Josh Simpson's because he is the only famous glass artist they know. Either that or they are uncomfortable trying to pronounce Chihuly (Shh-HOO-lee). Either way it is a compliment and I will take it. At the end of the day, whether or not I have been to the studio, done any writing or played my guitar, one thing will be there, the one component which will always bond my family - baseball.

Last week, my parents, my brother and his family, my daughter and myself, all piled into a rented 13 passenger van and headed west. Our destination was Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

My father, Garry Brown, is a sportswriter. He has been doing it for about 56 years. A major portion of those years have been spent covering the Boston Red Sox. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the Baseball Writers Association of America. The latter membership means he votes on who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

One of the great treats of being so close to some one who has such an intimate look into baseball are the stories and memories which have accumulated over the course of the years.

Yaz in 1975

One of my favorite baseball memories was the time that Carl Yastrzemski was miffed about the way the umpire was calling balls and strikes. After striking out, in protest, Capt. Carl squatted down at the plate. Looking like a little kid who was playing in the sand at the beach, he grabbed a couple of good handfuls of dirt and covered home plate, obscuring it from view. I guess since the umpire was not using the plate as a guideline for how he was assessing the pitches, there was no need for the plate to be visible. Yaz was promptly ejected from the game, to the delight of the crowd.

Golden Brown next to Capt. Carl

Another Fenway memory involved the on field altercation between Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson. It was June 18, 1977. Rather than charge a fly ball, which was the product of a Jim Rice checked swing, right fielder, Jackson, let the ball drop for a base hit. He then made a bad judgment call by sending the ball back to the pitcher's mound, allowing Rice an easy, and undeserved double. Martin went out onto the field and pulled his star player for "not hustling." In the dugout, Martin had to be restrained from belting Jackson by Yogi Berra.

Another memory was from the 1975 World Series. The image of Pete Rose barreling around second base like a freight train and diving safely, head first into third will forever be etched into my brain. I saw one of Pete Rose's uniforms in the Hall of Fame. I can not recall seeing such an awesome player who approached the game with such fervor and reckless abandon. Sadly, his uniform's presence at the Hall of Fame will be as close as he will get to induction.

As I was carousing the plaques of those players immortalized in the Hall., I came across that of Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown. I guess he really did have three fingers, but this name was always a source of amusement, for me, as Red Sox hurler, Bill Lee would refer to his contemporary and gold glove winner, Sixto Lezcano as "Mordecai Six Toes Lezcano" What else would you expect from a pitcher who won a World Series game after downing a bottle of Robitussin.

Anyway, I was checking the plaques and I overheard a guy, clearly a Red Sox fan, telling his children the story of Eddie Gaedel. Eddie Gaedel was the only midget ever to appear in a major league baseball game.

Bill Veeck, the owner of the St. Louis Browns, was a marketing mastermind. In 1951, the season his team would go on to lose 102 games, Veeck employed the services of a midget - a local actor and showman named Eddie Gaedel to perpetrate the ultimate publicity stunt in baseball history.

On August 19, 1951, Gaedel signed a contract with Veeck for $100 per game. This contract was wired to the commisioner's office for approval, after the end of the day's business.

The crowd of 18,369 in attendance for the double-header against the Detroit Tigers was there more for the celebration of the 50th Anniversaries of both the American League and the Falstaff Brewery. The festivities included free beer and cake.

During the festivities, between games, Gaedel made his first appearance by jumping out of a cake suited up in a St Louis Browns uniform numbered 1/8.

In the following game, Frank Saucier, a Browns slugger was due up but had injured his shoulder earlier in the game. Gaedel was put in as a pinch hitter. The decision to play Gaedel was opposed by Detroit coach Red Rolfe but was finally approved by umpire, and Holyoke, MA native, Ed Hurley, as he surveyed a valid contract.

Detroit pitcher, Bob Cain was laughing uproariously as Gaedel crouched into his stance offering Cain a 1.5 inch strike zone. Cain, described as "almost falling off the mound with laughter" threw four balls - all high and Eddie Gaedel advanced to first base. Seeing as it took him almost a minute to reach first base, a few tips of the hat and some bows included, he was replaced by a pinch runner.

The baseball is bigger than the strike zone!

It was the only game Gaedel would play, as the following Monday, the Baseball commissioner voided Gaedel's contract and set new regulations pertaining to a minimum height for the start of the strike zone.

On a side note, Ed Hurley, the umpire officiating that game was talking to "a reporter" at Fenway Park toward the end of his career. He had been officiating baseball games at Fenway for over two decades. Beyond the grandstand, there was an advertisement painted on the side of a building for "Buck Printing."

Why an umpire, would ever admit such a thing is beyond me, but he leaned into the reporter and said, "All these years I thought that sign said Buick Printing."

Such is the world of baseball.

Now ... time to finish watching the Red Sox win 18-5, that is 18 runs folks, not games.

As Always you will find me ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

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