Presidents and Baseball are as American as the Fourth of July

Today is President’s Day, or Washington’s birthday as it is also known,  which was set aside as a way to honor the first person who held that job .

The holiday was first thought of as a way to recognize the two presidents with birthdays in February, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, but it has grown to include a time to honor all of the people, who have served in the nation’s highest office.

Monday we celebrate Abraham Lincoln's Birthday along with honoring every other person to occupy the Oval Office. Photo R. Anderson

Monday we celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday along with honoring every other person to occupy the Oval Office.

Through the years President’s Day has also become a time to buy furniture, appliances and cars at unheard of savings as many companies have sought to capitalize on the fact that many people have the day off of work.

While the founding fathers wanted us to enjoy various freedoms, I doubt they had no interest financing on washers and dryers in mind when they spoke of “self-evident truths.” Then again maybe they did.

So for our purposes let us not focus on the retail aspects of the holiday. Instead let us try to focus on the office of the President and what that entails.

To date, 44 men have served as President of the United States.

Later this year the United States will elect the 45th person to hold the office of President.

I was fortunate enough to come face to face with two of the men who would go on to become president although I was only old enough to remember one of them

I have been told by my mother that my first encounter with a future President was during a rally for Jimmy Carter.

Of course at the time of that rally I would have been perhaps just turning 1 so needless to say I do not recall meeting him but I am sure it was a lovely time for all.

As for the encounter with a Commander in Chief that I do recall, in 1992 I met Bill Clinton at a campaign event in Orlando, FL. While the election was still months away, and Governor Clinton had not yet become President Clinton, there was still something cool about meeting someone on the campaign trail.

Years later, meeting candidate Clinton is still one of the more memorable moments of my journalistic career. I am sure that reporters that cover the Presidents on a daily basis lose some of the wow factor at some point but there always needs to be a respect for the office at some level.

The other day I also came face to face with a Presidential motorcade as the 41’st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, had stopped for lunch at a local Italian restaurant near me.

Although other Ballparks have been used for Presidential pitches, the home Ballparks of the Washington Senators and now the Washington Nationals hold the distinction of hosting the most presidents due to the proximity to the White House. Photo R. Anderson

Although other Ballparks have been used for Presidential pitches, the home Ballparks of the Washington Senators and now the Washington Nationals hold the distinction of hosting the most presidents due to the proximity to the White House.
Photo R. Anderson

Beyond getting to close down a restaurant so you can eat pasta in private, there are many other perks that come with residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C.

One of those perks is throwing the ceremonial first pitch each year on Opening Day.

President William Howard Taft started the ceremonial first pitch tradition in 1910 linking the Commander in Chief with the National Pastime ever since.

While the first pitch did not occur until 1910 the link between Presidents and baseball actually goes back to post Civil War America when Andrew Johnson invited the first team of professional ballplayers to the White House.

The first presidential first pitch occurred on April 14, 1910, at National Park in Washington, DC. during a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics with Taft connecting on the pitch to Walter Johnson.

The Senators moved to Minnesota to become the Twins and the Athletics packed up and headed west to Oakland but the one constant for over a century has been presidents and baseball.

From 1910 to 1971 the President traveled to the home ballpark of the Washington Senators to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day.

To put that streak into perspective it stretched from Taft to Richard Nixon.

While Presidents had thrown out first pitches at the World Series as well President Nixon became the first president to throw out an Opening Day pitch outside of Washington D.C. in 1972 when he threw out the pitch in Anaheim, California since there was no longer a team in Washington.

Before becoming the 41st President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush was a baseball player at Yale University. Photo R. Anderson

Before becoming the 41st President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush was a baseball player at Yale University.
Photo R. Anderson

Various other ballparks were used for Opening Day after 1972 but Baltimore and Washington D.C. were the most widely used due to proximity to the White House.

For around 70 years the first pitch was thrown from the stands. Bill Clinton became the first president to throw from the mound and each president since has also toed the rubber on their pitch.

The Presidential links to baseball are not limited to first pitches alone however. Both President Bush 41 and President Bush 43 also have deep baseball roots.

George H.W. Bush was a baseball player in college at Yale and can often be seen behind home plate at Houston Astros games, when he is not having lunch at local Italian restaurants that is.

Before becoming governor of Texas en route to the White House, George W. Bush served as the owner of the Texas Rangers who relocated from Washington D.C. in 1971. Photo R. Anderson

Before becoming governor of Texas en route to the White House, George W. Bush served as the owner of the Texas Rangers who relocated from Washington D.C. in 1971.
Photo R. Anderson

It is also a given that if both President Bush and his wife, Barbara, are seated together they will end up on the Ballpark’s kiss cam.

George W. Bush also has a baseball pedigree. Before becoming governor of Texas en route to the White House, the younger President Bush served as the owner of the Texas Rangers who, as one may or not know were once the expansion team that replaced the first version of the Washington Senators who left town to become the Minnesota Twins. It is sort of a neat bow to tie it all together.

So during this time that we honor our Presidents, let us not forget that soon it will once again be Opening Day and when the President steps onto the mound to throw that first pitch he will be continuing a long standing tradition that honors both the past, present and future of both the Oval Office and the game of baseball itself.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think I need to practice my pitching just in case I am ever called on to throw out a first pitch. After all, no one wants to be the person who inadvertently hits the mascot during the opening pitch a la Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh of Bull Durham fame.

Copyright 2016 R. Anderson

Superstitious Day for Some, Just Another Day for Others

Today is Friday, November 13, 2015.

For some people this means nothing more than the fact that yesterday was the 12th and tomorrow is the 14th.

For the superstitious among us today means all of the things above in addition to it being an unlucky day all the way around.

As we do every Friday the 13th it is time to state the facts about the origins of the day and uncover why some people just really do not like it.

While many may think that the Friday the 13th craze started with a certain movie character named Freddy, the roots of Friday the 13th actually run much deeper than late 20th Century cinema.

For many people a black cat crossing their paths is a sign of bad luck. Photo R. Anderson

For many people a black cat crossing their paths is a sign of bad luck.
Photo R. Anderson

Since the 19th Century Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day in Western and Eastern superstition.

Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky by some on their own so it was only logical that both occurring at the same time would be even unluckier.

In fact fear of Friday the 13th even has a name; friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named in English and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen).

Personally I have never feared Friday the 13th and am among the people who consider it just another day.

But the arrival of Friday the 13th is another opportunity to think about sports and the superstitious rituals that many athletes seem to follow.

Bull Durham

The movie Bull Durham did a very good job showing the superstitious side of baseball through chants over bats, breathing through one’s eyelids, chicken, and of course a garter belt where the rose goes in the front. Photo R. Anderson

There are players who will eat the same pregame meal because they feel that to eat anything else would risk certain disaster on the field.

Hitters on a hot streak in baseball are notorious for continuing whatever “routine” it is that they feel is behind their streak since they feel any deviation will likely mean the end to the streak.

The movie Bull Durham did a very good job showing the superstitious side of baseball through chants over bats, breathing through one’s eyelids, chicken, and of course a garter belt where the rose goes in the front.

Baseball is not the only sport with superstitions. Across all levels of sports there are athletes who have a lucky shirt, or other article of clothing that they can’t go onto the field of battle without.

The link between superstitions and sports can start at a very early age.

Back in high school I did a feature article on the goalie of my school’s woman’s soccer team, who attributed her on-field success to a lucky argyle sock that she wore during every game.

Although he could be moody and liked to bite my nose to wake me up each morning, my dearly departed black cat, Lucky, was mostly a sweetheart and was certainly nothing to be superstitious of. Photo R. Anderson

Although he could be moody and liked to bite my nose to wake me up each morning, my dearly departed black cat, Lucky, was mostly a sweetheart and was certainly nothing to be superstitious of.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted it was not a pair of socks but one single sock that took over when her “magic shoes” fell ill.

Throughout my career I have been around many other superstitious athletes, and I am sure I will meet many more.

To date though a single “lucky” Argyle sock has been the most memorable athlete superstition I have encountered.

So on this Friday the 13th beware of those around you who are extra cautious of their surroundings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to see if I can find a black cat while walking under a ladder and holding a broken mirror while stepping on all of the sidewalk cracks I can find.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

Today is Set Aside to Honor Those Who Have Served, Sacrificed

Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, also known as November 11th, is set aside as Veteran’s Day in America.

The holiday got its start on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War.

Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning in 1919, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, and became a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

So while this has long been a day set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the armed forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy, the way to honor those troops has changed in many ways through the years.

Americans still put out their flags on this holiday. Some towns still hold parades and the banks and post office are still closed.

The honoring of veterans has moved into the nation’s sporting events as well allowing thousands of people to celebrate and remember in mass.

Large American Flags have long beena tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute let a sour taste however. Photo R. Anderson

Large American Flags have long been a tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute left a sour taste however.
Photo R. Anderson

Watch almost any sporting event over the past weekend and there were displays of patriotism and honoring of the troops as far as the eye could see.

As troops have not always received warm welcomes on the home front it was especially nice to see how the men and women of the armed services are respected and appreciated for their sacrifice.

Had the honoring of the troops stopped at the pregame ceremonies it would have been the perfect way to say thanks. Unfortunately many teams and in some cases leagues took things a tad too far for my taste.

Many teams added camouflage flourishes to their uniforms as an homage to the troops. These flourishes in many cases included camouflage wristbands and towels as well as camo windbreakers and caps for the coaches.

The camouflagication of the sidelines even went so far as putting a camo pattern on the headphones the coaches used to communicate.

While I agree that honoring the troops on Veteran’s Day is a good thing I often cringe when I see people wearing camouflage without “earning it.”

Now, I know this is hunting season in most of the country, or at least down in Texas. So to be clear I am not trying to take away anyone’s right to wear camouflage and a bright orange vest while channeling their inner Elmer Fudd by going hunting for wabbits, deer, or ducks for that matter.

What I am saying is that over the past few years I have become more and more sensitive to people wearing the current style of military camouflage when they are out and about in their daily lives.

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy's Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much. Photo R. Anderson

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much.
Photo R. Anderson

I have no issues with people wearing old school green camo since that can usually be determined not to be current issue and looks nothing like what the troops are currently wearing.

I even have a pair of camouflage cargo pants that are extremely comfortable but I made sure that I did not buy the “official” pattern when I got them.

So this weekend when I saw the various players with camouflage towels, and coaches with camouflage hats and headphones, I questioned once again if that was really the best way to honor the veterans.

By comparison when sports teams honor police and fire fighters they do not don S.W.A.T. patterns or simulate a firefighter’s bunker gear proving that one can honor our vets and first responders without dressing like them.

For years baseball players have worn camouflage uniforms a couple times a year to honor the troops so the trend is certainly not limited to football.

I certainly can be in the minority opinion here but to me the camouflage the troops wear is earned through the sacrifice of making it through basic training and then further tested through battle.

Using a camouflage towel to wipe up sweat between plays on the field just seems wrong to me.

In one of the games I was watching one of the camouflage towels fell to the turf and was stomped on as the players moved to that area of the field.

I know that the towel was not dropped intentionally, but seeing the image of that fallen towel had the same reaction for me as if I was seeing an American flag on the ground.

I guess I look at the camouflage that the troops wear as an extension of the flag that they are sworn to protect.

It would be deemed highly inappropriate for a football player to have a sweat towel that looked like the American flag on the field so in the same way the camouflage towels just seem equally inappropriate to the point of being offensive.

Again, I know that the intent of the teams and league is completely honorable and meant to pay tribute to the troops but the execution just strikes me as wrong.

Honor the troops with the 100-yard flags that are rolled out for the National Anthem and held by real soldiers in uniform.

Honor the troops by having people stand and cheer when a vet is on Jumbotron screen.

Honor the troops by thanking a veteran for their service.

These are perfectly fine ways to honor the troops without trivializing the uniform.

Again, I may be completely out on a limb here and perhaps the masses see no issues with the camouflage being used by athletes and coaches.

But to me it screams out like a cheap gesture and also a way to make money as the camouflage caps are often available for purchase by fans.

I have never served in the military and do not pretend to be able to speak for the troops.

To do that a few years back I asked an Army reservist their thoughts on the uniform pattern being worn by non-soldiers  and they said, “Camo is a uniform worn by the military and should be given the proper respect. Too many have died with the uniform on for it to be the latest fashion trend.”

And again before I get angry replies from hunters neither I, nor the soldier quoted above, are referring to the camouflage cap you can get at Walmart with your hunting camouflage pattern and favorite team’s logo on it.

I am talking about the use of the current military camouflage pattern and nothing else.

So, on this Veteran’s Day if you see a soldier, make sure you thank them for their service which makes your freedom possible. For that matter thank a veteran any time you happen to cross paths with them since thanks should not be limited to a single day of the year.

And if you see an athlete wearing camouflage know that their heart is likely in the right place. But try not to go out and buy the same camouflage cap they are wearing since there was a price paid and a sacrifice made every day by thousands of Americans in that pattern and wearing that comes with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to place on the patio

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Passing of Yogi Berra Leads to Deja Vu at Triple B

Editor’s Note: In honor of Yogi Berra, who passed away at the age of 90, it is deja vu all other again as we take a look back at a column from June 14, 2014 pertaining to the D Day invasion that Yogi Berra and so many other members of the Greatest Generation took part in.  Despite long odds and adversity Yogi Berra, and the other men who stormed those beaches, proved that it is not over, until it is over. Thanks for all of the quotable memories Yogi and for your great service to America through both the Military and as an ambassador for generations of baseball fans. You truly were one of a kind.

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, which is the name given to the World War II battle involving over 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region in one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history.

Led by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied forces stormed beaches at Normandy code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha.

The storming of the beaches was met by German machine gunners and artillery who tried to hold back the invasion force, almost succeeding at Omaha costing the Allies more than two thousand casualties in the opening hours.

For an idea of just how gruesome this type of frontal beach assault is one need only watch the opening of Saving Private Ryan. It is easy to forget in this era of drone attacks and smart bombs that war was once much more hand to hand leading to much higher casualty rates among its participants.

The guns on the USS Texas provided cover for the troops storming the beaches during D-Day. The flag that flew on the ship during the battle will be on public display starting today. Photo R. Anderson

The guns on the USS Texas provided cover for the troops storming the beaches during D-Day. The flag that flew on the ship during the battle will be on public display starting today.
Photo R. Anderson

In total, the Battle of Normandy lasted from June 1944 to August 1944 resulting in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control and has been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

During the D-Day invasion all scheduled baseball games were canceled on June 6, 1944 which marked only the second time in history that games were cancelled league wide.

The first cancellation of baseball games happened on the day U.S. president Warren Harding died in 1923, and the third time was when Commissioner Bud Selig stopped play for six days from Sept. 11-16, 2001, following the terrorist attacks.

While baseball games were cancelled stateside on D-Day, two future Hall of Famers, Yogi Berra and Leon Day, were participating in the battle.

Shortly after being drafted by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was drafted by Uncle Sam. Berra witnessed D-Day 70 years ago today as a member of the U.S. Navy. Photo R. Anderson

Shortly after being drafted by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was drafted by Uncle Sam. Berra witnessed D-Day 70 years ago today as a member of the U.S. Navy.
Photo R. Anderson

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 35 Hall of Fame members and more than 500 Major League players served in World War II.

Many celebrations are planned today to mark the anniversary. In France various heads of state are visiting Normandy and closer to home the people of Houston, and the surrounding areas, will have their own chance to see a piece of D-Day history starting today.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will give the public an opportunity to see the 17-by-9 foot battle flag that was waving on the USS Texas during D-Day.

Although the USS Texas itself has been on static display for many years, the exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science marks the first time since World War II that the flag has been on public display.

Whether one travels to see the beaches of Normandy, or the Stars and Stripes, it is important to remember the sacrifice of all of those veterans who stormed those beaches to help ensure the freedom that is enjoyed to this day.

After serving in World War I the USS Texas was called into action on D-Day. Seventy years after that battle the ship remains as a monument to the people who fought and died to help bring the freedoms we know and love. Photo R. Anderson

After serving in World War I the USS Texas was called into action on D-Day. Seventy years after that battle the ship remains as a monument to the people who fought and died to help bring the freedoms we know and love.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately the time to thank a World War II veteran in person is vanishing rapidly.

The United States Veteran’s Administration estimates that a World War II veteran dies around every two minutes. That translates to a rate of approximately 555 veterans dying each day.

By the year 2036, the VA estimates, there will no longer be any living World War II veterans.

For comparison purposes the last World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died in February 2011.

A reminder of the rapid passing of World War II veterans occurred Wednesday when, Chester Nez, died at age 93.

Nez was the last living member of the original 29 citizens of the Navajo Nation who were recruited by the Marine Corps to develop the legendary “unbreakable” code based on the Navajo language that was used for vital communications during battle.

Just as the sacrifice made on the beaches of Normandy saved countless lives by hastening the end of the war in Europe, the Code Talkers helped end the war on the Pacific front with their sacrifice.

There are countless other stories of bravery and sacrifice from the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” who served during World War II and each story goes towards the patchwork on which the nation is built.

It is likely, and hopeful, that the world will not see another war of the scale of World War II. While there will always be a need for a certain amount of boots on the ground advancements in technology have greatly reduced the number of boots required to conduct modern warfare.

But while the number of soldiers needed to protect freedom will continue to decline in the coming years that does not minimize the level of sacrifice made by each of the soldiers who wear the uniform.

So take some time before the start of the hustle and bustle of the weekend to remember the sacrifice and reflect on the high cost of freedom paid by each generation that has gone before.

And by all means if you happen to see a World War II veteran, or any other veteran for that matter, be sure to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to visit.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Milo Hamilton’s Passing Leaves a Void

It has been said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes with each leaving a void in both wallets and hearts.

Yesterday the world of baseball grew a little dimmer and hearts grew a little heavier with the passing of Hall of Fame Broadcaster Milo Hamilton whose calls of “Holy Toledo” echoed from a record 59 Major League Baseball Ballparks during a 60-year career.

As one of the last of the golden era of announcers, Milo Hamilton, who was 88 when he died, worked for the St. Louis Browns (1953), St. Louis Cardinals (1954), Chicago Cubs (1956-57, 1980-84), Chicago White Sox (1962-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-75), Pittsburgh Pirates (1976-79) and the Houston Astros (1985-2012).

One of Milo Hamilton's final appearances at Minute Maid Park occurred om April 18, 2015 when he honored the 50th Anniversary of the Astros partnering with NASA. Photo R. Anderson

One of Milo Hamilton’s final appearances at Minute Maid Park occurred om April 18, 2015 when he honored the 50th Anniversary of the Astros partnering with NASA.
Photo R. Anderson

Milo’s 60 years broadcasting Major League Baseball games is second only to Los Angeles Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully who has 66 years in the booth.

Although retiring from full time broadcasting work in 2012 Milo remained a special ambassador for the Astros and made several on field appearances up until June of this year.

Milo received the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

While Milo’s career encompassed half of the 20th Century I did not discover him until 2000 when I moved to Houston and listened to him regularly until his last broadcast in 2012.

Those 12 seasons of listening to Milo helped me feel a connection to a forgotten era of broadcasting.

Although I read many books on Red Barber, Vin Scully and other great broadcasters of the Golden Age of Baseball, until listening to Milo I never had the opportunity to hear one of them call a game live.

After retiring from the broadcast booth in 2012, Milo Hamilton served as the master of ceremonies for the 2013 Opening Day that marked the American League debut of the Houston Astros. Photo R. Anderson

After retiring from the broadcast booth in 2012, Milo Hamilton served as the master of ceremonies for the 2013 Opening Day that marked the American League debut of the Houston Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

Milo had a relaxed style that captured the action on the field with a conversational ease that few broadcasters can get right.

Milo understood that the action on the field was what people were listening to catch as opposed to many of today’s announcers who seem to forget that a game is going on.

With his Blue Star light shining whenever a player did something spectacular Milo was Houston’s version of Vin Scully, an announcer who had seen decades of changes within the game of baseball from behind his microphone and had entertained generation upon generation of fans with his Midwestern style.

One of those long time fans was former President George H.W. Bush who issued a statement on the passing of his friend.

“Barbara and I mourn the loss of Milo Hamilton, a genuine baseball icon, a Hall of Fame sportscaster — and, happily for us, a good friend,” Bush said in a statement. “In time, Milo was so endeared he became his own Houston institution, and the countless good causes he helped made him one of the brightest Points of Light we knew. It was hard for him, and indeed all Astros fans, when he stepped away from the booth in 2012 after his legendary career, but from this day forward we can take comfort that he will always have the best seat in the house. Holy Toledo, what a good man he was — and we were fortunate to know him.”

While Milo Hamilton was known by generations of fans in Houston, one of his most famous calls took place in Atlanta. That memorable moment, which is forever housed in the Baseball Hall of Fame archives, is the radio call of Henry “Hank” Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in 1974.

Milo Hamilton signs an autograph during the 2014 Astros Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Milo Hamilton signs an autograph during the 2014 Astros Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

“Here’s the pitch by Downing. Swinging. There’s a drive into left-center field. That ball is going to be … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all-time! And it’s Henry Aaron!”

Ironically Milo Hamilton was behind the microphone capturing history in Houston when Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron’s record in 2001.

Other memorable calls made by Milo Hamilton included calling 11 no hitters as well as being on the call for Nolan Ryan’s 4,000th strike out in 1985.

Milo Hamilton was also there to cover the only trip the Houston Astros made to the World Series in 2005.

Milo Hamilton spent more years with the Astros than with any other team and was honored with a street outside of Minute Maid Park being named in his honor as Milo Hamilton Way.

Milo Hamilton spent more years with the Astros than with any other team and was honored with a street outside of Minute Maid Park being named in his honor as Milo Hamilton Way. Photo R. Anderson

Milo Hamilton spent more years with the Astros than with any other team and was honored with a street outside of Minute Maid Park being named in his honor as Milo Hamilton Way.
Photo R. Anderson

With the death of Milo Hamilton and the pending retirement of Vin Scully next season the world of baseball is losing more and more of the connections to the past.

Milo Hamilton’s autobiography Making Airwaves is highly recommend for anyone who is fascinated by the way announcing used to be.

I have had the chance to listen to Vin Scully call a few games over the past couple of years and know that there will likely never be a pair of announcers like them again.

It is inevitable that the game of baseball continues to move on but it is also important to take time to remember those shoulders that the game is built upon.

Although he is gone, Milo Hamilton, shown in bobblehead form will live on in the memories of generations of fans and in the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo R. Anderson

Although he is gone, Milo Hamilton, shown in bobblehead form will live on in the memories of generations of fans and in the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Photo R. Anderson

A decade after their last trip to the postseason the Astros are once again a playoff caliber team, although they recently saw the Texas Rangers take over the top spot in the division.

While only time will tell if this is the year that the Astros return to the World Series one can be assured that whenever they do return to the October Classic there will be a blue star shining in the heavens for them that can be seen all the way in Toledo.

Thanks for the memories Milo.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel like listening to some historic Milo Hamilton calls.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

Triple B Flashback: The Curious Case of Scott Kazmir

Editor’s Note: In honor of Scott Kazmir being traded From the Oakland Athletics to the Houston Astros we take a look back at the curious rise and fall of the Houston native who rebuilt his career and became an All-Star when many thought he had nothing left in the tank in a column that originally appeared last July.

Hollywood, and the world of sports, both love a good comeback story of redemption.

Whether it is the story of a loveable group of misfits banding together and claiming a title, or a washed out boxer making one more trip into the ring, the Hollywood movie machine churns out film after film that tugs at the heart strings of movie goers and helps them believe in the underdog.

Of course occasionally the world of fact trumps the world of fiction when it comes to tales of redemption and making the most out of second chances.

For a real life story of redemption, that very well could have the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, let us consider the curious case of Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir who was named to his third career All-Star team over the weekend, and first since 2008.

Kazmir was drafted by the New York Mets in the first-round in 2002 and was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization two years later. Kazmir helped lead the Rays to the World Series in 2008.

Scott Kazmir made is Major League Baseball debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his Atlantic League debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Scott Kazmir made is Major League Baseball debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his Atlantic League debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

Following the World Series run the Rays traded Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim midway through the 2009 season.

Following the trade Kazmir’s “True Hollywood Story” included some mighty struggles.

Although many players struggle to adapt to their new surroundings following a trade, the struggles of Kazmir were epic in nature.

After two extremely rough seasons in Southern California Kazmir was released by the Angels on June 15, 2011 despite having $14.5 million remaining on his guaranteed contract.

Kazmir failed to get picked up by another Major League club following his release from the Angels and his career seemed all but over despite being less than three years removed from appearances in both the All-Star Game and World Series.

History is full of players who seem to suddenly lose their stuff for no apparent reason. While injuries can often be blamed for declines in performance sometimes a player, such as Kazmir, just starts to see their performance fade without suffering the type of career ending injury experienced by many.

Of course sometimes the mental aspect of the game can be just as debilitating as an injury and players often have to struggle to overcome doubt and other mental factors to return to the top of their game.

Kazmir was out of Major League Baseball for two seasons as he continued to struggle with his mechanics and other factors that had rendered the once dominant hard to hit pitcher as easy to hit off of as a pitching machine.

The true rock bottom for Kazmir likely came when he signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League on July 7, 2012.

While the Skeeters represented a chance for Kazmir to play baseball near his home town it was likely a huge shot to the ego to be playing on a team that had no Major League affiliation.

While the Skeeters offer a competitive atmosphere, and the Atlantic League often has players who sign Minor League contracts with Major League ball clubs, the adjustment period for Kazmir likely was difficult as very few players on independent league rosters have World Series starts on their resumes.

Kazmir started 14 games for the Skeeters during the 2012 season and finished with a 3-6 record and a 5.34 ERA.

Following the end of the Skeeters’ season Kazmir signed with Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League posting a 4.37 ERA while striking out 27 batters in 23 innings.

The time with the Skeeters and the Gigantes had gotten some attention and the performances earned Kazmir an invite to the Cleveland Indians Spring Training in 2013.

It is fitting in a way that it was the Indians that invited him as the Major League movie franchise focuses on the Indians being a place where players that seem to be washed out can find second chances.

Our Hollywood story could easily have ended right there with Kazmir getting a chance for one more Major League Spring Training before calling it a career after failing to crack the starting rotation of the Indians as a non-roster invitee.

But Kazmir did crack the rotation for Cleveland out of Spring Training and excelled with the Indians to the point that the Oakland Athletics signed him to a two-year $22 million contract prior to the start of this season.

In year one of the deal Kazmir has been the Athletics most consistent starter and earned a place on the All-Star Team.

With the Athletics currently holding the top spot in the American League West standings it is entirely possible that Kazmir will pitch in the postseason once again six years after tasting the postseason for the first time with the Rays.

It is even within the realm of probability that the Athletics could make it all the way to the World Series.

While the Scott Kazmir story of second chances is certainly still being written, a very strong footnote would be to have him hoisting a World Series trophy in October.

Yes, sometimes reality does trump fiction when it comes to the magical Hollywood ending and after several seasons in the valley, that featured stops through the Atlantic League and Puerto Rico, Scott Kazmir appears to be making the most of his second chances.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to practice my pitching in case Hollywood needs a southpaw to portray Kazmir in the movie of his life.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: In the Beginning

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 1 on our countdown is a column from January 25, 2013.

It has been said, rightly so, that every story has a beginning.

One need only look at literature to see some opening lines that have definitely stood the test of time.

From Charles Dickens declaring in A Tale of Two Cities that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” to Herman Melville inviting the readers of Moby Dick to “Call me Ishmael,” history is full of great opening lines and beginnings of stories.

These classic openers have grabbed the reader’s attention hook line, and in Moby Dick‘s case very large sinker for generations.

While beginnings are important one cannot and should not stop there.

By stopping at the beginning line of A Tale of Two Cities one would know nothing more than that times were both good and bad.

The same can be true of Moby Dick where the hunt for the white whale consumes Captain Ahab and his crew and becomes far more than just knowing to call a guy Ishmael.

So it is with all of us, while we are not classic literature we also have our origin stories and events that shape who we are and what pursuits we follow.

Don’t worry, this is not a back in the day when little Ryan was born kind of story.

Although, it is safe to say if we weren’t all born, none of us would be here.

No, this is a tale of when my love of baseball took root. And much like Dickens the tale of my first baseball game experience was the both the best of times and the worst of times.

Memorial Stadium 2

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore circa 1983.
Photo by R. Anderson

As I have mentioned previously, I grew up as a Baltimore Orioles fan who bled Orange and Black pretty much from the time I can remember.

I followed football as well but baseball was also the sport that drew me in just a little bit more.

As such, I tried to catch all the games that I could on the radio and television. I could recite lineups and stats that would make even the most avid statistician take notice.

So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that I was going to get to go to Memorial Stadium to see the Orioles play in person in September of 1983.

Aside from the thrill of going to the game for me, 1983 was a very pivotal year for the Orioles as they were in the first year under new manager Joe Altobelli following retirement number one of Earl Weaver and spoiler alert they went on to win the World Series that year over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Of course I am getting ahead of myself since no one knew for sure in September what October would hold but needless to say there was a buzz throughout Birdland on the anticipation of what could be.

Speaking of anticipation, like most young boys gong to their first baseball game I had high hopes and higher expectations that I was going to catch a home run ball hit by Cal Ripken, Jr. and get all kinds of player autographs before the game.

I was joined in my traveling party by my mom, a family friend and his nephew. The sky was the limit and I was ready to make the most of the ballpark experience.

We all loaded into the car and headed up to Baltimore (or Balmer if you are from there) which was about a 30 minute drive from where we lived.

Throughout the drive we excitedly talked about who we would see first and which inning we wanted to catch the home run ball in since it would be greedy to want to catch all of the home run balls that were hit our way.

Orioles Program

The 1983 Baltimore Orioles game program.

We arrived in plenty of time having pledged to arrive early and see the sights to avoid the traffic.

After walking around the Inner Harbor area it was time to head to the stadium.

It was at this moment that the realization occurred that the tickets that would gain us entrance into the hallowed walls of Memorial Stadium were not with us in Baltimore but were in fact back in Gaithersburg which was 30 minutes away and at this time even further away in traffic.

Looking back now with 29 years or so of hindsight I want to say that I handled the news of the ticket situation with dignity and grace and the cool assurance that comes from knowing that things like this happen and that the world goes on but the key is to keep calm.

The reality of course is that 8-year-old me did not take the news well at all. And who can blame young me?

I was at the cusp of seeing my heroes, of eating hot dogs until I was blue in the face and of course catching that pivotal home run and getting all of those autographs. Now, all of that was in jeopardy and I was not pleased and was far from calm.

In the end, we made it to the game around the fifth inning, found our seats and watched the Orioles play the Milwaukee Brewers who had not yet moved to the National League at this time. (Why the Brewers did not move back to the American League instead of the Astros for 2013 is another story for another day, but is no less puzzling).

I did not catch that home run ball. I did not get any autographs. I did eat a hot dog and I most definitely discovered that baseball is so much better in person.

There is a buzz around ballparks that really can’t be duplicated even with the most high definition of televisions with Dolby surround sound and the freshest of popcorn smells being pumped into the media room. To truly experience baseball is to experience it in person.

Since moving to Texas I have adopted the Astros into my stable of teams that I follow and try to attend as many games as I can each year in Minute Maid Park in addition to traveling the country and going to ballparks both small and large.

I have also since caught my share of balls despite striking out in my first attempt in 1983.

No matter the ballpark size I still get the same feeling walking in as I did as that 8-year-old boy experiencing it for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of crowds so the push and shove on the escalators and concourses can get tiring but once I am in my seat the magic begins all over again and it is like I am seeing it all for the first time through the eyes of younger me.

For those few hours in the Ballpark, I don’t worry about the stress of life or any of the outside world it is just the game and me; well and thousands of my closest friends.

So while that September night in 1983 did not go completely to plan it was indeed the best of times and the worst of times and introduced me to the white whale that I have chased across state lines ever since.

It also taught me to always check and double check that I have the tickets before leaving for the ballpark.

Now if you will excuse me I think I need to catch up on some Dickens.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Orioles Rout White Sox and No One is There to Hear

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 2 on our countdown is a column from April 29, 2015.

Earlier today The Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox tested the baseball equivalent of the old adage about what happens when a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it.

Instead of a forest though the two teams were in the nearly empty Oriole Pak at Camden Yards for a Major League Baseball game in which the Orioles defeated the White Sox 8-2.

The National Anthem was still played, and a stretch was still made in the seventh inning complete with the John Denver song that has entertained Birdland for the better part of four decades but something was definitely missing.

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team to host a game with locked out fans. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team to host a game with locked out fans.
Photo R. Anderson

With only players, team officials, some scouts and members of the media allowed inside the Ballpark the game marked the first time in MLB history that fans were locked out of the Ballpark when a game was going on.

While there were fans who gathered to watch the game from outside the gates no ticketed fans were allowed through the turnstiles.

With no fans inside the Ballpark home run balls and foul balls went uncaught and parts of the Ballpark were so silent one could likely hear a pin drop.

Orioles Skipper Buck Showalter noted after the game that it was so quiet that he could hear the bullpen phone ringing from the other end.

As strange as playing in an empty Ballpark is today’s game was merely one of many things to occur during a strange week for the Orioles who briefly told fans that they could not leave the Ballpark on Saturday night and then saw games on Monday and Tuesday completely cancelled.

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and his teammates played a game in an empty Orioles Park at Camden Yards after MLB officials deemed it was unsafe to allow fans to attend. Photo R. Anderson

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and his teammates played a game in an empty Orioles Park at Camden Yards after MLB officials deemed it was unsafe to allow fans to attend.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles will also fly south this weekend for a “home” series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays voiced concerns about visiting Baltimore for the scheduled series between division rivals.

The reason for all of the juggling of the schedule is protests that are occurring in the neighborhoods surrounding the Ballpark which have led to the city of Baltimore imposing a 10 p.m. curfew.

Even with all of the efforts to shorten the pace of play a regular MLB game could not be finished in time for fans to all get home before 10. Ironically though the game in the empty Ballpark was finished in just a little over two hours which might lead some to believe that the ultimate way to shorten the game is to lock the fans out all the time.

With police and National Guard troops trying to restore order within Baltimore to prevent future acts of violence and looting, the Ballpark will stay silent until it is deemed safe to once again play ball.

Part of the freedom Americans have is free speech and the ability to show displeasure with things in a way that very few other countries have.

The Orioles will fly south this weekend for a "home" series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays voiced concerns about visiting Baltimore for the scheduled series between division rivals. Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles will fly south this weekend for a “home” series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays voiced concerns about visiting Baltimore for the scheduled series between division rivals.
Photo R. Anderson

But there are limits to the protection of free speech. Just as it is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire it is also illegal to burn buildings and other property as a form of protest.

The violence and destruction over the past few days takes away from those members of society who are trying to peacefully demonstrate and have their voices heard.

As is almost always the case a small minority of protestors escalated things to the level of violence so any generalizations about the behavior of all of the protestors would be false. Sadly, the actions of the few far out shadow any peaceful message that the many may have been trying to share.

And while a baseball game being played in an empty Ballpark is likely something that will be forever mentioned as part of Baseball lore and may even warrant a small exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is those few individuals who turned to violent protests that caused the community of Baltimore to lose the economic benefit from at least six baseball games.

Granted two of the cancelled games will be made up as a doubleheader later in the season but the fact remains the protests took money out of people’s pockets.

Bars and restaurants near the Ballpark did not benefit from the game day crowds and the various vendors who sell peanuts and Cracker Jacks missed out on income from the games as well.

Hopefully the Orioles are able to come home to roost by the time of their next schedule home game, however, Major League Baseball has made it very clear that fans will not be allowed inside the Ballpark while protests are still actively occurring.

While it is certainly unfortunate that games are being played without fans and Camden Yards, the safety of the thousands of fans had to be taken into account so while it was a difficult decision to move out of Baltimore it was likely the only decision MLB felt they could make.

When the dust settles it is the images of the burning police cars and looting that most people will remember more than any peaceful demonstration that may have occurred.

In previous times of despair, such as the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, baseball has served as a way to unite the community and help heal wounds.

Hopefully baseball in Baltimore can once again unite the community to focus on being one Baltimore cheering together for the men wearing the orange and black.

That is not to say that Esskay hot dogs, and crab cakes can solve all of societies problems nor is diminishing the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful demonstrations to stand up when they feel they are being wronged.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was one of two players to hit a home run with no fans there to catch it. Photo R. Anderson

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was one of two players to hit a home run with no fans there to catch it.
Photo R. Anderson

Regardless of whether one agrees with the protesters or not one should agree that they have the right to demonstrate within the boundaries of the law.

It is when those protests fall outside the boundaries of the law that action, even the difficult action of looking fans out of a Ballpark, must be taken to ensure that innocent people are not harmed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see what sporting event will be aired next without any fans.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Triple B Flashback: With Great Fame Comes Great Responsibility; or Does It?

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 3 on our countdown is a column from February 6, 2013.

We are a society that enjoys placing people on pedestals.

Whether it is actors, athletes, or any number of other categories, people who possess certain skills are often elevated above the rest.

As long as the elevated people behave in the manner that the masses below expect there are no issues.

But, once they start to slip, the lofty spot gets a little wobbly ahead of the inevitable crash back down to earth.

As a youngster I had a few role models/heroes from the Baltimore Orioles. I would watch these players and coaches on the television each night and all I knew of them was the persona that was projected through the broadcast.

These were the pre internet years and still part of the time when the media didn’t feel the need to report every aspect of a person’s private life.

So the elements that were broadcast were largely related to actual performance on the field. If a player happened to go home with someone other than his wife after a game, or went to a bar until it closed, it was not blasted across the sports section the next day.

The media considered it their job to cover the game between the lines and anything else was considered a personal matter between the player and his family and not something to be broadcast across the wire for the world to see.

This relationship tended to bond the players and the media together as did the countless hours that the media spent traveling with the players. It was not that the reporters were withholding information from the public, it was that they respected that the athletes were flawed people like the rest of us and there was no need to air dirty laundry that was not related to their jobs.

Sadly by the time I entered the profession the 24-hour news cycle was already in place and the players lost some of their privacy forcing reporters to dig deeper into stories that were not really stories leading to a tabloidization of the sports section.

I would love to think that we would grow tired of trash journalism and return to a more noble way to handle things. Sadly, that genie has been out of the bottle for far too long to go back now.

Adding to the difficulty of returning to simpler times is the fact that we have generations of people who don’t know any other way to do things.

Frank Robinson at Tinker Field 1986

Frank Robinson at Tinker Field in Orlando, Fl. in 1986
Photo S. Quandt

A few years back, okay a decade or two back, my mother picked me up from school to go see a Spring Training game for my birthday.

This particular game featured the Baltimore Orioles and the Minnesota Twins.

We arrived early at the ballpark and as we were reaching our seats Hall of Famer Frank Robinson came out to the wall where people were signing autographs. I took my game program over and waited to get his signature.

Instead of moving through the line of children that were waiting Mr. Robinson proceeded to flirt with a pair of women and totally ignored the waiting children.

And while this event happened over 25 years ago the memory is still as fresh today as it was then.

While Frank Robinson had every right to not sign the autographs, the manner in which he left me and the other kids waiting left a lot to be desired.

He could have just said, “sorry kids, I don’t sign autographs” and we would have gone back to our seats but for this “role model” to totally ignore his fans was not the best way to handle things.

Actress Natalie Portman has famously said on numerous occasions that she is not a role model and that her celebrity alone for doing her job does not make her feel any additional pressure or responsibility to all of the people who look up to her.

While Natalie is right, what is it that makes people look up to celebrities and athletes and consider them role models?

For me, I consider a ball player who plays the game the right way and doesn’t get caught up in scandal a person I can respect.

Of course it is getting harder and harder to know who to respect as there are almost daily reports of players who were caught or suspected of using steroids and other banned substances to get an advantage over the competition.

Often times it is a no brainer to catch the cheaters. There was never any doubt in my mind that Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez had a slight advantage that perhaps was pharmaceutical based when they were posting their monster numbers and crashing through the record books like a runaway train.

While certain players make it easy to determine guilt or innocence through failed drug tests and other means the line between guilty or not guilty of Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PED use is a little murkier for some.

Another player caught up in the web of suspicion of using PED’s was Roger Clemens.

While only “The Rocket” knows for sure what he did and didn’t take, I, and a federal jury, do not believe that he took anything that was illegal to gain an advantage.

Do I think that he is a good role model? Not really based on some of his off field activities.

Despite not considering Roger Clemens a role model, I do respect the way he played the game and the dominance that he showed for decades.

Despite being cleared by a jury in a perjury trial Roger Clemens will face an uphill climb in his bid to gain entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Logic says that based on his career numbers and the legal victory he should be a lock for Cooperstown.

But after failing to gain entry on the first ballot it appears the voters have a different take on the matter and the guilty by association tag will follow him for years to come.

Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr. at Baseball City Stadium in 1991.
Photo R. Anderson

One player that I followed that always seemed to play the game the right way, and never got into any controversy was Cal Ripken, Jr.

Cal was the longtime shortstop and third baseman for the Orioles.

Cal played all of his 21 seasons with the Orioles and became known as “The Iron Man” for breaking Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record of 2,130 consecutive games in 1995 and playing in 2,632 consecutive games overall before missing a game for the first time in 1998.

To put things in proper perspective from 1981 to 1998 Cal Ripken, Jr. did not miss a single day of work. Granted, work consisted of playing baseball from April to September so one could argue he had around half of the year off.

Still, I am not sure there are many people in any profession that can say that they have gone that long without missing work for vacation or sick days, etc.

So I looked up to him for the way he played the game and the quiet manner in which he approached things while amassing some huge numbers for his position. Cal Ripken, Jr. has also written several books on how to play the game and in his retirement is active in placing ballparks in underprivileged areas to ensure that everyone has access to quality baseball fields.

So do players and other celebrities bare a responsibility to be role models?

It is hard to say.

Is Natalie Portman correct in her assessment that she just does a job and people need to leave her alone or should ballplayers and other celebrities be expected to be more like Cal Ripken, Jr. and continue to give back after their playing days are done?

I like to think that players would want to be someone that is worth looking up to but I also know it is the media and the public’s responsibility to identify people who are worth emulating, and those who have behavior traits that should be ignored.

Do I realistically think that this approach will ever come to pass? I like to think that I am optimistic about most things but must admit a large dose of pessimism on that regard.

It seems we have now entered a phase where pedestals are built to be broken and while we tend to honor people who build themselves back up after the fall it also seems like many people are knocked down just for sport and the people who just go about their business without drawing excessive attention to themselves are ignored.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think younger me needs to come to terms with Frank Robinson giving him the brush off.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Impacts of a Brave First Step Still Being Felt

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 4 on our countdown is a column from April 17, 2013.

We are a country that enjoys commemorating achievements in all shapes and sizes. Some call it the American spirit while others might call it an attempt to ensure that the sacrifices of those that have gone before us are remembered long after they are no longer walking amongst us.

This past Monday was set aside by Major League Baseball to pay homage to an achievement of courage and determination as part of the annual Jackie Robinson Day.

Each year on April 15 Major League Baseball teams stop to remember Jackie Robinson. Photo R. Anderson

Each year on April 15 Major League Baseball teams stop to remember Jackie Robinson.
Photo R. Anderson

On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African American to step foot on a Major League Baseball field when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The world of baseball for Jackie Robinson, and many other players like him, was far different from the world of baseball today.

I am not referring to jumbo trons and jumbo hot dogs or any of the other things that have found their way into the modern game. I am not even talking about the designated hitter.

Prior to 1947 there were no minority players in the highest level of professional baseball. It took an owner willing to do what others wouldn’t in Branch Rickey and a player willing to withstand insults from on the field and in the stands in Jackie Robinson to pave the way for those that came behind them.

For people of a certain age, like me, it is nearly impossible to picture a segregated baseball diamond. From my earliest recollections there were people of all shapes and sizes and races on the field.

Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park.  Photo R. Anderson

Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Look at the rosters of the 30 MLB teams today and one will find players from six continents.

None of that would have been possible without someone taking the first step to desegregate the diamond.

So it is fitting to take time to honor Jackie Robinson’s sacrifice and to ensure that generations who were not alive back in 1947 can learn the story and know that without the sacrifices of people like Jackie Robinson the world would be an entirely different place.

One of my favorite quotes is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It was first stated in the early 20th century by George Santayana, but the phrase is still as true today as it was when first spoken. Society must continue to learn from history so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros celebrates Jackie Robinson Day in 2011. Photo R. Anderson

Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros celebrates Jackie Robinson Day in 2011.
Photo R. Anderson

As another outlet to learn from the mistakes of the past this week also marks the release of the movie 42 which provides a big screen treatment of the momentous event and allows generations who were not alive in Jackie Robinson’s time to see what it was like.

As part of Jackie Robinson Day each player on every team wears the number 42 as a show of respect and solidarity. Of course one player still wears the number 42 every game but more on that in a bit.

While each team celebrated the moment in their own way the main celebration occurred in Los Angeles, CA where Jackie’s widow was in attendance at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

During the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson there are always a select few who will state in various outlets that the inclusion of Jackie Robinson in the Baseball Hall of Fame was based solely on him being first to break the color barrier and is not reflective of his playing ability.

Of course, a quick look at his career statistics show that based on the merits of his play alone Jackie Robinson is every bit of a Hall of Fame caliber player and is included as much for what he did as a player as well as what he did as a trailblazer.

In 1997 all 30 MLB teams were told to retire the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. Photo R. Anderson

In 1997 all 30 MLB teams were told to retire the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Photo R. Anderson

In 1997 Major League Baseball retired the number 42 on all teams in honor of Jackie Robinson. As part of the retirement players who were still wearing the number were grandfathered in and allowed to keep wearing it for the remainder of their careers.

Currently Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is the only active player still wearing the number 42. Rivera is expected to retire at the end of this season so the number 42 will be officially retired 15 years after the announcement to retire it was made.

This means that starting in 2014, no player will ever again wear the number 42 in Major League Baseball. It is likely that the Yankees will retire Rivera’s number as well based on his impressive body of work. That will lead to the hanging of two 42 banners in Yankee Stadium with one for Robinson and one for Rivera. Then again the Yankees always did like to be a little different.

Of course this years celebration of Jackie Robinson Day was marred by the cowardly act of the Boston Marathon bomber.

At the time of the bombing only one MLB game had been completed with the Boston Red Sox and the visiting Tampa Bay Rays wrapping things up shortly before the first bomb was detonated.

The remaining MLB games Monday featured moments of silence for the victims of the attack. Acts like the bombing of innocent bystanders at the Boston Marathon show that the world is still as full of hate today as it was on that April day in 1947.

But just as was the case in 1947, there are still people willing to rise above the hatred and do what is right. And that is something worth remembering every day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to catch a screening of 42, perhaps I will see you there.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson