Triple B Flashback: Orlando’s Historic Tinker Field Felled by Progress

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 5 on our countdown is a column from May 6, 2015.

After receiving a one year stay of execution, the appeals process for a historic ballpark in Orlando, FL. ran out last week and the grandstands of Tinker Field began to crumble in the name of progress.

Think of almost any baseball player from the 20th Century and odds are pretty good that they stepped foot on the infield grass of Tinker Field at one time or another.

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field. Photo R. Anderson

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field.
Photo R. Anderson

From Spring Training for Major League Baseball, to full seasons of Minor League Baseball, the quaint little ballpark in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl was a unique venue where a who’s who of baseball players played from 1923 to 1999.

The last professional affiliated baseball at Tinker Field occurred in 1999 with the Orlando Rays who were the Double-A farm team for the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Orlando Rays were the last of the Southern League teams to call Tinker Field home, they certainly weren’t the only ones.

The Orlando Twins, Orlando Cubs and Orlando Sun Rays were among the many teams to call Tinker Field home.

The Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) even spent a season playing on the hallowed field in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl.

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout. Photo R. Anderson

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout.
Photo R. Anderson

Eventually it was the shadowy neighbor looming over right field that signed Tinker Field’s death warrant.

While time and neglect certainly played a role in the demise of the nearly century old facility, it was a massive expansion of the Citrus Bowl that hastened the demise of Tinker Field.

The expansion of concourses crept into right field to the point that Tinker Field could no longer function as a professional baseball field due to an outfield depth that would make a Little Leaguer feel like Barry Bonds sending everything he hits over the fence.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.  Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

So, despite being declared a national historic site, the demolition of Tinker Field is in full swing with the goal of removing every trace of grandstand, bleacher and dugout before a June Rolling Stones concert takes place at the Citrus Bowl.

Of course, while I can’t get no satisfaction in the fact that the stands where I spent summer nights of my youth will soon be reduced to dust, I can take some solace in the fact that the actual playing field will be saved as a small nod to the history that occurred there.

There is also some solace in the fact that many of the seats from Tinker Field were removed and will be sold to fans for use in their dens and Florida rooms.

Still despite saving some seats and the clay and grass part of Tinker Field, it will not really be Tinker Field anymore without the stands which once echoed with the sounds of the crack of the bats, cheering fans, and the Caribbean accented shouts of a peanut vendor who looked an awful lot like O.J. Simpson.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida. Of the three lost Ballparks the loss of Tinker Field hits the hardest as it is the one where I made the most baseball memories.

Tinker Field was where I first was able to see a live Spring Training baseball game on my birthday which is a tradition I still try to maintain each year.

Tinker Field was where I met and spoke with the late Earl Weaver on the third base line.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field was also where I saw the Clown Prince of Baseball himself, Max Patkin, perform his shtick on a sunny Florida day.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.

During our trips to Tinker Field my mom and I were often joined for a few innings by team president, Pat Williams, who was also the General Manager of the Orlando Magic at the time, and I used to think how cool it would be to be a team executive getting paid to watch baseball.

I have yet to fully realize that dream of spending all of my summer nights as a Minor League Baseball employee but I may yet before all is said and done and when I do it will be because of those nights at Tinker Field.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World and it was easier to sell everything at a discount instead of moving it to the new facility.

I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap. To this day I am amazed that the employee correctly guessed my hat size just by looking at me. I am also amazed that in the years since my head has grown to the point where I can no longer comfortably wear the fitted wool cap.

I don’t know what happened to that vendor but I like to think he lived out his remaining years comfortably after his days at the ballpark were over randomly telling people on the street how big their heads were.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World.  I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day. Photo R. Anderson

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World. I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orlando Rays’ time at Walt Disney World was short lived and the team moved to Montgomery, Alabama and became known as the Biscuits.

To this day there are still no Minor League Baseball teams in Orlando making the decision to tear down Tinker Field an easier pill to swallow for some.

Others point to the peeling paint and overworked plumbing as reasons that it is best to raze the ballpark instead of spending money to preserve it and bring it up to current code.

In Houston people are dealing with a similar potential loss of a treasured sports fixture as the pending demolition of the Astrodome seems all but certain.

Recently fans were allowed inside the Astrodome as part of its 50th birthday celebration. The long term fate of the so called “eighth wonder of the world” is unknown. Like Tinker Field the Astrodome last hosted professional baseball in 1999.

With each year that passes it seems more and more likely that the Astrodome will also fall victim to a wrecking ball despite its historical significance.

The loss of the physical building, while difficult, does not take away the memories that occurred in those facilities.

Just as I am sure that there are people with fond memories of whichever Ballpark they grew up with, I can close my eyes and still picture Tinker Field the way I remember it right down to the tennis ball throwing peanut vendor, and the sounds of the rattling ceiling fans that tried their best to cool fans on those humid Florida nights.

I prefer to think of Tinker Field like it was, and not like the neglected facility it became.

The wheel of progress is always turning and sometimes it brings a bulldozer with it to raze the buildings of our youth.

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down. Photo R. Anderson

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories, are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess the morale of the story is to treasure your brick and mortar Ballparks while you can while building up memories that can last long after the Ballparks are gone.

Or as Simon and Garfunkel would say, “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Ballpark memories to preserve.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: The Beaches of Bond, James Bond

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 6 on our countdown is a column from February 11, 2013.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s master spy James Bond’s debut on the silver screen. As part of the celebration there have been countless ceremonies and other specials to commemorate the event.

From Daniel Craig “parachuting” into the London Olympic Games with the Queen, to the planned tribute later this month at the Academy Awards, it is hard to argue that this is the year of Bond, James Bond.

With all of these activities and the DVD release of Skyfall tomorrow it seemed like a perfect time to focus on 007.

Some of the 23 James Bond movies. Photo by R. Anderson

Some of the 23 James Bond movies.
Photo by R. Anderson

Now, it would be easy to try and rank the men who have played James Bond on film.

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and everyone in between, most people when asked have a favorite.

One common theory of Bond relativity is that a person’s favorite portrayal tends to coincide with whoever was Bond the first time that they watched. For me, my first exposure to Bond occurred during the Roger Moore era.

Looking back now the Roger Moore movies were some of the campiest in the franchise. That is in no way speaking ill of them and in fact Sir Roger Moore himself as stated that he was in on the joke and wanted to play Bond in a campy manner with a wink and a nod to the audience.

In many ways Sean Connery and Daniel Craig portray a Bond that is truer to the source material than the Roger Moore installment.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Connery’s and Craig’s portrayals, but for whatever reason I still tend to picture Bond as Roger Moore. I do not hold the same affinity for Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton. I enjoy other films that Brosnan and Dalton are in but just do not care for them as Bond.

Timothy Dalton seemed to be trying too hard and Pierce Brosnan seemed like he wasn’t trying hard enough during their stints in the tuxedo.

The final of the six men to play Bond, George Lazenby, gets an incomplete grade. I thought that his turn as Bond was pleasant enough but it is hard to say with only one movie to go by.

After the list of favorite Bond actor is decided the next logical step that fans are likely to take is picking their favorite Bond girl. In the early films one knew that there would be two Bond girls; the one that was the first to fall into the arms of Bond and the second more complex one.

It was a well known fact that, much like the person wearing the red shirt on the away team for the original Star Trek, the first Bond girl in each film would surely meet her demise in some cruel fashion shortly after exclaiming the phrase, “oh, James.”

The second Bond girl could be a baddy that was turned good by the power of Bond persuasion or someone else that we were led to believe won the heart of of James and would be seen in some sort of embrace as the credits rolled.

So, debate amongst yourselves and pick your favorite Bond girl. For me, that title goes to Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green in 2006’s Casino Royale.

One could also set up a list of best cars, gadgets, or villains. There really is no end to the amount of debate that one can give to the subject. This is one of the many reasons for the lasting appeal of James Bond.

But for our purposes let us focus on the beaches of Bond. The mood for the appeal of the sea and the role exotic locations would play in the franchise was set early on in 1962’s Dr. No. Ask anyone who has seen the movie and odds are they will recall Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in her white bikini with a dagger strapped to her hip as the waves rushed onto the shore.

So pivotal was that moment in the franchise years later the producers tried to recreate it with Halle Berry in Die Another Day. And since this is a new era for Bond the fans were given the chance to see Daniel Craig emerge from the surf in much the same way in Casino Royale.

Part of the recurrence of beaches in Bond movies goes back to the source material and Ian Fleming himself. When Fleming was writing the novels that would inspire the film franchise he had a vacation home called Goldeneye in Jamaica.

This proximity to the tropical environment came through as three of Fleming’s thirteen James Bond novels, “Live and Let Die”, “Doctor No” and “The Man with the Golden Gun” have Jamaican settings.

Some of Ian Fleming's books. Photo R. Anderson

Some of Ian Fleming’s books.
Photo R. Anderson

Other beaches would follow in the films after Dr. No‘s Jamaican holiday. In no particular order are several memorable beaches of bond. Khao Phing Kan, Thailand in The Man With the Golden Gun, Holywell Bay, Cornwall, England, in Die Another Day, Praia do Guincho, near Cascais, Portugal, from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and One and Only Ocean Club, Bahamas from Casino Royale.

While the movies allowed the viewer to see the beaches the books allowed one to picture the beaches in their mind as they read along. Arguments can be made either way regarding which is better as the debate over books versus films has raged on for decades if not longer.

For me I tend to prefer picturing things in my mind first and seeing them second. But few can argue that the beaches of the films are truly spectacular and add to the visual story that is trying to be told.

And back to that first beach from Dr. No; you know the one that started it all. It has of course been renamed James Bond Beach. No word on whether the sand is best shaken or stirred when it gets stuck in one’s swim trunks.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to update the passport and fly out to see some of these beaches in person.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: The Little Train Museum That Could

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 7 on our countdown is a column from July 29, 2013.

I suppose if we are really honest with ourselves, all of us at one time or another have been fascinated by trains.

Of course, that fascination tends to turn to cursing when one is running late to work while stuck at a railroad crossing watching a slow moving hundred plus car train lumber by at a speed slower than most people can walk. But for the most part, there is a little train engineer in all of us if we really stop to think about it.

One of the steam powered locomotives on display at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Exhibits cover all eras of train travel. Photo R. Anderson

One of the steam powered locomotives on display at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Exhibits cover all eras of train travel.
Photo R. Anderson

While some people dream of riding the rails like a hobo without a care in the world, others tend to picture themselves as a suave international super spy crisscrossing the globe by rail one shaken, not stirred vodka martini at a time.

This past weekend I took my inner train engineer to the Galveston Railroad Museum.

I had wanted to go to the museum for years but just never seemed to find the time and then a Hurricane named Ike flooded the museum with nine feet of water leading to a lengthy closure and repair process that made going to the museum impossible.

So with Ike a distant memory, and the museum reopened it was finally time to make the trip down to Galveston to see the museum and all of its railroad themed splendor.

One of the newest exhibitis at the Galveston Railroad Museum is a pair of locomotives painted in the colors of Santa Fe rail lines. Photo R. Anderson

One of the newest exhibits at the Galveston Railroad Museum is a pair of locomotives painted in the colors of Santa Fe rail lines.
Photo R. Anderson

My first experience with a train museum was the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD which is on the register of historic places and is considered by many to be the quintessential train museum in the country.

I have also taken several “tourist” train rides in multiple countries so I knew a thing or two about trains heading to the museum.

I also enjoy when old train stations are re-purposed into modern uses while maintaining a bit of the history of the railroad past. Examples of this I enjoy are Minute Maid Park which is housed in Houston’s old Union Station and still maintains a bit of train culture with the presence of a locomotive above the outfield and the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Indianapolis’ Union Station that includes Pullman train cars that were converted into guest rooms.

So I knew that the museum would have a tall order to fill in order to grab my attention when compared to my previous railway history.

I can definitely say that the Galveston Railroad Museum did not disappoint and will probably be a regular stop of mine as they continue to bring exhibits back to life following the damage done by Ike.

Several of the train cars at the Galveston Railroad Museum still have signs of being under nine feet of water during Hurricane Ike. Photo R. Anderson

Several of the train cars at the Galveston Railroad Museum still have signs of being under nine feet of water during Hurricane Ike.
Photo R. Anderson

With an admission price of $7 for adults plus an optional $4 for a short train ride along the cruise terminal area, one would be hard pressed to find a better bargain on the museum circuit.

Housed in the former Galveston Train Depot the museum features trains from steam power to diesel power and all manners of locomotion in between.

There are examples of dining cars, mail cars, sleeper cars, box cars, etc. There is even a room with a model train set as well as a room dedicated to china and silverware from dining cars through the ages.

And while not all of the cars have been restored yet several were open for a closer hands on inspection.

A ride along Harborside Drive on a transfer caboose can make anyone feel like the railway version of the "king of the world". Photo R. Anderson

A ride along Harborside Drive on a transfer caboose can make anyone feel like the railway version of the “king of the world”.
Photo R. Anderson

Walking through some of the cars gave me a complete out of Bond experience where I felt like I was inside one of Ian Fleming’s novels.

There was also a certain Murder on the Orient Express feel as examples of the way train travel used to be propelled me back to that era in time.

Or at least what I think the era was like since I was not alive during the golden age of railroads.

But the train cars were definitely as I had pictured them to be although on a hot and humid Texas afternoon some pumped in air conditioning in the cars definitely would have been nice.

The interior of a mail car at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Photo R. Anderson

The interior of a mail car at the Galveston Railroad Museum.
Photo R. Anderson

And one cannot really speak about railroads without thinking of all of those people who toiled to build the Transcontinental Railroad and open up the country from coast to coast.

While planes soon replaced trains as the way to get from coast to coast one can’t help but feel some nostalgia for a cross country train ride.

Traveling from one end of the country to the other on a train is certainly on my to do list. Of course odds are it will be a one-way trip since I am sure I will have had my fill of the motion of the train swaying back and forth after a week on the rails.

The lobby of the old Galveston Train Depot includes several "ghosts of riders past" in various examples of the hustle and bustle that train travel once had. Photo R. Anderson

The lobby of the old Galveston Train Depot includes several “ghosts of riders past” in various examples of the hustle and bustle that train travel once had.
Photo R. Anderson

The last passenger train left Galveston in 1967 and while there are rumblings now and then about returning a Houston to Galveston rail line they seem to be far from reality at the moment.

Most of the trains that run through now are hauling freight from the ports and the refineries and not people.

And they are also the trains that like to stop along the way to load and unload their cargo while blocking many a railroad crossing in the process.

Light rail and bullet trains are the current buzz words and there is plenty of Federal funding being thrown around to connect cities by rail as a means to free up congestion on the highways.

It seems fitting to have a picture of a caboose at the end of a column about trains since they once marked the end of the train. Photo R. Anderson

It seems fitting to have a picture of a caboose at the end of a column about trains since they once marked the end of the train.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately while the concept of train travel in the northeast is part of the daily vocabulary other regions seem hesitant to give up the freedom that comes from driving their own cars and clogging up those aforementioned highways.

So for now the dream of commuting by rail will remain just that until a time comes where trains become as popular as cars and other means of traveling from home to work and back again.

But for those who want to see what a commuter train system might look like they need only travel to the Galveston Railroad Museum and take a look at the trains and “ghosts of passengers past” exhibits to see what was, and what could be again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, as the late Johnny Cash would say “I hear the train a comin.”

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Paging Mr. Willis

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 8 on our countdown is a column from April 22, 2013.

A few weeks back the Presidential budget was released.

This is a mostly symbolic gesture as the initial budget release is rarely the same as the budget that is agreed to and approved by Congress.

The Space Shuttle Launch Pad being torn down to make room for future vehicles that may land on an asteroid. Photo R. Anderson

The Space Shuttle Launch Pad being torn down to make room for future vehicles that may land on an asteroid.
Photo R. Anderson

While I did not have the time to read the budget in its entirety, one particular item caught my attention, and not in a good way.

Under the budget portion for NASA a plan to “lasso” an asteroid and bring it closer to earth was presented as a goal to be completed by 2025.

The justification for the asteroid lassoing mission being that it will provide a good opportunity to study asteroids up close and help guide future manned missions beyond low earth orbit.

Now, let me stop for a minute and point out that I am a huge fan of the space program and believe that exploration of space is good. I have also had many family members who have worked on various space programs, so the issue of space exploration is near and dear to my heart.

Mission Control in Houston could some day talk to astronauts walking on an asteroid under the current budget. Photo R. Anderson

Mission Control in Houston could some day talk to astronauts walking on an asteroid under the current budget.
Photo R. Anderson

Still, with all that said, I really cannot get behind the goal to bring an asteroid closer to Earth for study.

After all, if movies with Bruce Willis as a oil-drilling roughneck, and Morgan Freeman as the President have taught me anything it is that asteroids being close to earth is almost always a bad thing.

In both Deep Impact and Armageddon the Earth was threatened by an asteroid and actions had to be taken as a result. In some way I am sure that the mission to the asteroid would be made to show options to divert the Earth killing rocks from attacking but still why would you bring a potentially earth damaging rock closer?

While some want asteroids to be the future the past included talking to men on the moon from this room. Photo R. Anderson

While some want asteroids to be the future the past included talking to men on the moon from this room.
Photo R. Anderson

Ok, so the “baby asteroid” that they want to study would not be big enough to destroy the earth but it could certainly cause havoc in other ways that would need to be fully understood before such a mission could occur.

Also, in the words of the late George Hamilton, “it’s going to take a whole lot of spending money to do it right.”

Of course if history of funding the space program is any indication, the asteroid mission and related vision could very well be changed or scrapped altogether by the next President’s administration.

At the height of the Apollo Program, and with three rockets left to launch, President Nixon decided funds would be better spent on the Space Shuttle Program. So we had Skylab circling waiting for a boost from the Space Shuttle that never came and the three Saturn V moon rockets left on Earth became museum pieces.

A head on view of the Saturn V engines that helped the Apollo astronauts reach the moon. Photo R. Anderson

A head on view of the Saturn V engines that helped the Apollo astronauts reach the moon.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, having the full size rockets on the ground for people to see is not entirely bad. If you have never had the chance to stand next to the Saturn V rocket I highly recommend it as something like it will likely never be built again.

When one considers that the amount of computing strength to complete the moon missions was less than the equivalent of what is in most dollar store calculators today it makes the feat even more impressive.

And to you conspiracy theorists who still believe that we never went to the moon and it was all just an elaborate hoax on a Hollywood sound stage I say that it is time to remove the foil hat and face reality.

The Moon Landing locations. Photo R. Anderson

The Moon Landing locations.
Photo R. Anderson

So, the moon program beget the Space Shuttle Program which did many things while circling the earth. Satellites were launched, experiments were conducted and the International Space Station was built.

While the Space Shuttle accomplished many wonderful achievements, there was also a dark side to the Program with the loss of 14 astronauts. Seven died during launch on Challenger and seven more were killed upon reentry of Columbia.

It was after the loss of Columbia that President George W. Bush decided to cancel the Shuttle Program in favor of the Orion Project which would return to a Apollo like capsule design and return man to the moon by 2017.

In an odd coincidence, much like with the retirement of Apollo there were three remaining launch vehicles that became museum pieces. While technically there would be four if one counts Enterprise I am merely counting the flown vehicles for the purpose of the analogy.

Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad. Photo R. Anderson

Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad.
Photo R. Anderson

I have had the opportunity to stand under the Space Shuttle and will also suggest that anyone who has the chance do the same in order to fully grasp the scale of the vehicles that flew so many missions over their 30 years in service.

Unfortunately a funny thing happened on the way to the moon and the Shuttle’s trip to museum life. President Obama decided to cancel the lunar program and set sites on commercial delivery of crew and cargo to the space station and the recently unveiled asteroid mission.

In the meantime with the Shuttle retired, the once great United States Space Program has to depend on rides that it purchase from Russia to get their crew up to the International Space Station.

I get that some people think we have already gone to the moon so why go back when there is more to discover else where in space but for me I don’t think we even scratched the surface of what the moon can teach us.

Space Shuttle Endeavour en route to retirement in California. Photo R. Anderson

Space Shuttle Endeavour en route to retirement in California.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course I am also of the generation that thought we would have flying cars, moon bases and kelp farms under the oceans by now. And where is my personnel jet pack?

So maybe the asteroid mission is supposed to inspire another generation of scientists to explore new worlds and new areas in space. I just think there are better ways to do that.

And if the asteroids do come and someone that looks like Bruce Willis is having to stay behind to save us all, I will definitely not watch as he says goodbye to his daughter. I still cannot watch that scene in Armageddon without getting a little watery eyed. It is amazing how the dust bunnies know to attack my eyes at just that moment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call and see if the place that I got my robot attack insurance carries asteroid insurance as well.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Mount Rushmore of Managers Gets Hall Invite

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 9 on our countdown is a column from December 11, 2013.

The other day it was announced that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the career list of Major League Baseball managerial victories, were elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the expansion-era committee.

La Russa, Cox and Torre combined for 7,558 wins and eight World Series championships. Individually each of them surpassed 2,000 wins. No manager with at least 2000 wins has ever been excluded from admittance to Cooperstown.

Until this week Earl Weaver stood alone on my Mount Rushmore of Hall of Fame managers. Bobbie Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will soon join the late Earl of Baltimore.

Until this week Earl Weaver stood alone on my Mount Rushmore of Hall of Fame managers. Bobbie Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will soon join the late Earl of Baltimore.

With their election to the Hall of Fame each of the three managers earn a place on my personal Mount Rushmore of managers joining former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who until now had been a floating head of granite awaiting the arrival of some companions in the mountain of my mind.

Granted placing imaginary heads of granite on a mythical “Mount Rushmore” is a purely subjective exercise. A case could be made for many other worthy managers to be included.

Arguments can be made about the various eras of baseball and how to weigh the accomplishments of managers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the managers of the modern era.

Even the actual Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which features larger than life busts of presidents Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, is occasionally the subject of revisionist desire.

There was a time when people thought the “Gipper” himself Ronald Reagan deserved to be forever etched in stone on the side of a mountain.

Some folks even went so far as to say that the “Roughrider” himself Teddy Roosevelt could be surgically altered and transformed into the face of Ronald Reagan.

In the end Mount Rushmore was left as is and an airport and other things were named after President Regan instead.

So with the understanding firmly established that the Mount Rushmore of managers is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the eye of the writer, I will make my case as to why I feel Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre deserve to be on my Mount Rushmore.

For starters it should be noted that until 2011 all three men were managers during my awareness of baseball.

Granted there were a few years where I was alive and they weren’t managing but from my earliest baseball memories to my earliest baseball cards all three men were in the dugout guiding their teams.

In fact each of the three men began their careers as managers within two years of each other, between 1977 and ’79, and concluded their stay between 2010 and 2011.

It has seemed odd the last few years without having at least one of them managing. The absence of Lou Pinella in a Major League Baseball dugout is also taking some getting used to as he was another manager that just always seemed to be there along with Jim Leyland.

Adding to the granite worthiness of Cox, La Russa and Torre is the fact that each of them managed in both the National and American Leagues showing adaptability to the nuances of the two styles of play.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Under Cox the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 and one World Series title in 1995. Cox also led the Toronto Blue Jays to their first AL East title in 1985.

As I have mentioned before my grandmother is a huge Atlanta Braves fan so whenever I would visit we would watch the Bobby Cox led Braves play. I also had the opportunity to see Cox and the Braves in person a few times at Minute Maid Park when they came to town to play the Houston Astros.

I also was able to see Tony La Russa on many occasions at Minute Maid Park when he was manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. In total La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League.

In total Tony La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson is the only other manager to win World Series in both leagues.

In total Tony La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson is the only other manager to win World Series in both leagues.

La Russa seized the opportunity to go out on top when he retired shortly after guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to their second World Series title under his watch in 2011. In addition to his two titles with St. Louis La Russa also won the World Series in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics and joined Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson as the only managers to win World Series in both leagues.

Of course one could also say that Sparky deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of managers based on his stellar career as well but let us not muddy the waters before getting to the last candidate for granite infamy.

Joe Torre managed 17 seasons in the National League and 12 with the Yankees in the American League. Like Cox Torre managed the Atlanta Braves, and like La Russa Torre managed the St. Louis Cardinals.

Although Torre’s success with the Braves and Cardinals was nowhere near the level that Cox and La Russa had with those organizations he did eventually find a favorable situation in New York.

Joe Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees. During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Joe Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees. During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees.

During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Although I was never able to see Torre in person when he was with the Yankees I did get to see his team in action when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he won two NL West crowns before retiring after the 2010 season.

So there you have it, three newly minted Hall of Famers and three former managers who careers are worthy of carving into stone.

Let the arguments continue over the Mount Rushmore of managers. For me my mountain is set. One might go so far as say it is written in stone.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning the next group of people that should be etched into granite. Quint, we’re going to need a bigger mountain.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Hit the Bull, WIn a Steak

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 10 on our countdown is a column from June 14, 2013 where we took a look at the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham.

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the release of a movie about the ins and outs of Minor League Baseball.

The movie that is causing all of the hoopla is of course Bull Durham, or as I like to call it the base of the Kevin Costner baseball movie triangle that also includes Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. While Bull Durham enjoyed modest success during its theatrical run, it gained wider popularity in the years following to the point that celebrating the quarter century mark since it was released is kind of a big deal.

Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham and people have been quoting lines from it ever since. Photo R. Anderson

Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham and people have been quoting lines from it ever since.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the sides of the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle are good in their own ways I have always identified more with the comedy infused Durham.

I still watch both Bull Durham and Field of Dreams each year at the start of the baseball season and both still make me laugh and cry in various ways so many years later.

I suppose Bull Durham resonates with me so well because while I was never a Minor League Baseball player I was very much a Minor League Baseball fan and was attending games around the same time that the movie came out.

So the movie showed me the parts of Minor League life that I didn’t see from my view in the stands.

The movie also provided several concepts that I use even today as part of my daily life.

The concept of creating your own rain delay when the grind gets to tough and you just need a day to catch your breath is a theme that I have embraced from the movie. While I have never turned on the sprinklers in the office I have certainly found ways to give everyone a rain day here and there.

The movie also provided many timeless quotes with some of them being appropriate for repeating and some best left to the professionals.

In that respect, the current members of the Durham Bulls, the real-life team that inspired the team in the movie, made a hilarious video reenacting some of the crazier lines from the film. What makes the video of the players recreating the lines so funny, and perhaps makes the rest of us feel a little old, is the fact that many of the players were not alive when the movie first came out.

There is something for everyone in the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle.  Photo R. Anderson

There is something for everyone in the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle.
Photo R. Anderson

Another interesting aspect of the real life Durham Bulls is that they serve as the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays who were 10 years away from existing at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of trivia the Bulls were a Single-A affiliate at the time the movie was made and were owned by one of the filmmakers.

But enough about things that weren’t around when the movie came out. It is time to focus on something highlighted in the movie that is no longer around.

In the movie and in real life, Max Patkin was the Clown Prince of Baseball. For over 50 years Patkin went to Minor League ballparks across the country and Canada performing his baseball clown act.

I was fortunate enough to see Patkin perform during an Orlando Sun Rays game at Tinker Field. Patkin’s act was shown in several scenes and Patkin himself got a dance to himself later in the movie.

While it was clear that Patkin was closer to the end of his performing career than the beginning by the time Bull Durham came out it, to this day when I watch his performance scenes it is like I am right there watching him in person and trying to avoid getting sprayed by his water trick.

Although he died in 1999 Patkin will forever live on in his scenes from Bull Durham. That is both a testament to the man himself and to the filmmakers for recognizing the important role he played in conveying the essence of Minor League Baseball.

Another staple of both the movie and Minor League Baseball in general is road trips on a bus. Unlike the Major League players who travel in first class chartered planes, the Minor League players arrive by bus for all of their road trips.

Not much has changed with the Durham Bulls logo since Bull Durham came out. It is still one of the more iconic and recognized looks in the Minor Leagues. Photo R. Anderson

Not much has changed with the Durham Bulls logo since Bull Durham came out. It is still one of the more iconic and recognized looks in the Minor Leagues.
Photo R. Anderson

When Michael Jordan tried to make it as a baseball player in the late 80’s he bought a luxury bus for the Birmingham Barons to use. Still despite the “luxury” bus features it is hard to picture Air Jordan traveling through the cities of the Southern League in a bus.

As for the bus that was used in the movie, that was purchased by a man named Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is someone who knows a thing or two about motorized vehicles.

While Bull Durham has stood the test of time for 25 years, every once in a while a rumor surfaces about a potential sequel being made. Sequels can certainly be tricky business as few ever really are as good as the first or meet the lofty expectations set for them.

But, even with all of that being said I would still watch a sequel to Bull Durham. Do I think it could ever be as good as the first movie? Probably not. But, it does not have to be as good as the first movie. It just needs to help show where the characters ended up some 25 years after we left them on the porch and field.

I have my own ideas about what happened to the characters so if a sequel is never made I will still carry on my version of the story in my head. But it would be nice to see the cast get back together for one more trip around the bases.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to swing for the fences and see if I can hit the bull to win a steak. And remember “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fate of Tal’s Hill at Minute Maid Park Decided by Astros

After threatening to bulldoze over a unique feature of Minute Maid Park for the past few years, the Houston Astros made their threats official yesterday when they signed the death warrant for the quirky little incline in center field known as Tal’s Hill.

Tal’s Hill, named for former Astros executive Tal Smith, and a feature of Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be leveled at the end of the 2015 season and replaced by a $15 million redesign that will be ready in time for Opening Day 2016.

Highlights of the redesign that were announced by the Astros include, field level seats in center field, a new section of seats atop the field-level boxes, an observation tower with a winding staircase as well as a see-through elevator equipped with LED lights with the Astros’ name and logo, and adding a smaller, self-contained section of mezzanine seats to replace three sections of current seats that will be removed as part of the redesign.

Tal's Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas. Photo R. Anderson

Tal’s Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas.
Photo R. Anderson

Additionally, as part of the makeover the Astros will move the center field fence in from 436 feet, the deepest in Major League Baseball, to 409 feet while reducing seating capacity by about a hundred seats.

From the ashes of Tal’s Hill’s 30-degree, 27-foot-long incline will arise more space to entertain fans at premium prices.

While not coming right out and saying it, it is pretty obvious that as long as the are corporate sponsors and business willing to pay for premium seating areas teams will continue to build them while reducing the number of seats for the working class fan.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members. Photo R. Anderson

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.
Photo R. Anderson

So now where the press box once stood is a super exclusive seating area where tickets likely are $600 to $1000 a game, if not more.

So if even a press box is not sacred why let a unique feature such as Tal’s Hill get in the way of revenue generating opportunities?

After all, much to the chagrin of team officials while it was popular with the fans for 15 years all Tal’s Hill did was sit there and grow grass.

Marcel Braithwaite, the Astros’ senior vice president of baseball operations was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying that, “Communal areas like this are what the fans want. They want to watch the games with their friends and family, they want to see what other game are going on. We are looking to create destination areas, gathering places that enable you to enjoy the game with a good vantage point while enjoying some good food and drink and spending time together.”

It very well may be a generation gap thing but I have always felt that the main reason to go to a baseball game is to see the game on the field and take in the sights and sounds of a Ballpark experience while snacking on hot dogs and other baseball concession staples at my seat.

Through all of my years attending games in both a professional and strictly fan scenario I have never thought that I want to sit in a lounge or sports bar atmosphere at the Ballpark while a game goes on in the background.

Unfortunately the new trend in Ballpark design is creating immersive environments and mini bars where one can stay an entire game without actually seeing the action on the field.

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal's Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal’s Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course these areas need to include Wi-Fi hotspots as well to cater to the constantly plugged in fan of the 21st Century.

It seems to me that is someone is wanting to watch the game on a big screen television and eat pub food with their friends there are cheaper ways to do that then paying for a ticket to the ballgame if one has little desire to watch much of the ballgame.

Of course in this social media fueled Millennial madness I suppose they feel it is better to tag their Instagram posts with pictures from inside the Ballpark when they take a chance to remember that they are at a baseball game.

So like the press box before it Tal’s Hill will go to make room for yet another revenue stream in the form of gathering places and towers of light.

At least the outfield is not covered by large billboards that block the architectural elements of the Ballpark.  Oh wait, never mind.

Besides making room for more revenue streams, another reason given for the demolition of Tal’s Hill was concerns for the safety of players. In the 15 years that the hill has been there to my knowledge there have not been any major injuries.

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different. Photo R. Anderso

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different.
Photo R. Anderson

Or to put it another way, I can worry about 99 ways for a player to get injured, but a hill with a pitch ain’t one.

The removal of Tal’s Hill is unfortunate and I think that it is a mistake. It is not the first mistake that the Astros have made and it will not be the last.

Unfortunately each mistake adds fuel to the fire of me questioning how many more times I will visit Minute Maid Park.

I have already greatly reduced the number of games that I attend each year as I do not find the Ballpark experience as exciting as it used to be. That is not to say that I will no longer support the Astros if I stop going to see them in person.

I have never been the type of person who believes that the biggest fans of a team are determined by being the biggest spenders or the ones who attend the most games.

There are diehard fans in every sport who have never had the opportunity to see their teams play in person either through financial or geographic limitations.

That does not make them any less of a fan. In fact in some ways it might make them a bigger fan since they actually pay attention to the team more than an amenity such as a revenue generating lounge.

The Astros are winning more so that will bring in a new crop of fans so in the grand scheme of things I am sure they will not miss the hundreds of dollars that I used to spend in their facility.

With Tal's Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating oprion up there on the tracks with the train out of the way. Photo R. Anderson

With Tal’s Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating option up there on the tracks with the train out of the way.
Photo R. Anderson

The locomotive of baseball continues to chug along and people get on and off of the train at various stops along the way.

Speaking of trains I suppose the next unique feature that the Astros will want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run.

After all, it is not like the site of the Ballpark is built on the grounds of the old Union Station railroad yard where it would make sense to have a locomotive as a tie to the past. Oh wait, never mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to mourn the loss of a pile of dirt.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts Today

Today, June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

I realize for many people not living near the coast this fact does not hold much water.

But, for those people near the shore today marks the start of a six-month period of keeping their eyes on the skies and hoping for another year free from the devastation that a direct hit by a hurricane can cause.

When I lived in Florida I rode out many hurricanes from about 30 miles inland. That central location meant that by the time the storm reached me it was normally just a wind and rain maker.

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

The highlight of those storms being a water spout that picked up a school of catfish and deposited them in my parents’ yard.

I can still picture my mom running around trying to save all of the fish that were very much out of water.

Since leaving Florida I have had a few vacations cut short due to the pending arrival of storms that I have had to outrun in my car to reach the safety of home and avoid getting stuck. To that end I try to avoid travel during the peak of hurricane season now to minimize the chances of having a trip washed out.

Upon moving to Texas I came a little closer to the shore through my proximity to Galveston Bay. While still around 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico the Bay acts as a direct line for storm surge as demonstrated during Hurricane Ike.

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

In the little over a decade that I have lived in Texas I have evacuated ahead of the storm twice.

The first time included a 17 hour drive to Irving (a drive that normally would take five hours when not ensnared in bumper to bumper traffic) and a more reasonable seven hour drive to Gulfport, Mississippi during the aforementioned Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike marked the closet I ever came to losing everything to a hurricane. Ike made landfall right at the mouth of the Bay which allowed the floodwater and storm surge to push well inland. When I returned back home I realized that the damaging floodwater stopped a mere two miles from my house.

While waiting out the storm in Gulfport I was glued to the television set watching the coverage of the pending storm. Ironically by evacuating east for the storm I actually experienced some of the outer bands of Ike in Gulfport before it made landfall in Texas.

Returning back home was like driving through a foreign land. There were still familiar sites but the parts of buildings strewn everywhere made it clear just how powerful the storm was.

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

One particular comment from the reporters on the seen was the proclamation that the Galveston Hooter’s restaurant was gone.

Truth be told, the Hooter’s was one of many buildings perched on stilts above the water that were picked up and tossed onto the seawall like Tinker Toys.

But for whatever reason the reporter on the scene felt that the most prudent way to help the viewers at home understand the scope of the damage was to focus on the loss of the Hooter’s. The singling out of the Hooter’s made me laugh for some reason which may have just been a coping mechanism since I did not know what I would be coming home to.

To this day when I am driving along the seawall I will stop at the spot where the Hooter’s once stood and in my best Anderson Cooper voice will proclaim that the Hooter’s is gone.

Much like the Hooter's restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter's has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore. Photo R. Anderson

Much like the Hooter’s restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter’s has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

After Ike the area around me rebuilt and for the most part there are few signs of the furry of the storm.

There are still pockets that have not come back and individuals still dealing with the loss but by and large a first time visitor to Galveston would not really be able to tell that a storm had flooded so much of the island.

The same is true in other places that have had storms hit. After the water recedes the cleanup begins and lives are slowly put back together.

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier. Photo R. Anderson

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier.
Photo R. Anderson

With the exception of Super Storm Sandy it has been a few years since a storm of the major category has made landfall in the United States.

Here’s to hoping for another year where the big storms stay away.

But if a storm does head this way this year I think I will most likely ride it out. It is not that I am being brave or foolish for that matter it is just that after seeing the worst that a storm can do from afar I would rather be up close and relatively safe than battling the thousands of people on the road heading north.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to check my hurricane supplies.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Remembering the Sacrifices this Memorial Day

One of my favorite quotes is, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” by Winston Churchill.

There are variations of this quote that have been attributed to many other people through the years, but they all share the common thread that we are to remember and learn from the past.

To this end we set up memorials as a tool to help us remember, lest we forget and be doomed to make the same mistakes again and again.

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day. Photo R. Anderson

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day.
Photo R. Anderson

In Washington D.C. for example there are over 130 memorials honoring everything from the founding fathers, to fallen soldiers to help ensure that the sacrifices of those who have come before us are always remembered.

While the concentration of memorials in D.C. works out to roughly one memorial every two miles, there are memorials spread throughout the world honoring sacrifice of all shapes and sizes.

In fact, today is Memorial Day which is a Federal Holiday that we set aside for memorials and remembrance each year on the final Monday of May.

It is a day of remembrance and a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the United States Civil War to honor soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who lost their lives in battle.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom. Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom.
Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day was expanded in the last century to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

While dating back to the war between the states, in recent years Memorial Day has also marked the start of the summer vacation season with Labor Day acting as the second bookend in September to signal the end of the summer season.

Over the course of the past weekend families traveled all over to enjoy time in the sun and surf as they officially left winter behind and embraced the feeling of summer.

As part of the holiday weekend, numerous television networks used the time to air marathons of their most popular shows to capture the attention of those viewers who were not out in the sun catching waves or barbecuing as their way of celebrating the weekend.

Major League Baseball honored those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by wearing camouflage on their hats and uniforms during their games today.

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year. Photo R. Anderson

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year.
Photo R. Anderson

For those people who do not want to celebrate the weekend at the beach or Ballpark, Memorial Day weekend also features three of the biggest auto races on the yearly calendar in the forms of the Grand Prix of Monaco, Indianapolis 500, and the soda company sponsored 600 mile NASCAR race in Charlotte.

Of course, not every Memorial Day tribute includes direct commercial time-ins.

Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off Memorial Day with a win in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo R. Anderson

Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off Memorial Day eve with a win in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Photo R. Anderson

There is one Memorial Day tradition that still tends to get me choked up and seems to honor the fallen in the way the holiday was intended if not with a bit of a 21st Century feel.

I am referring to the Memorial Day Weekend NASCAR race. Each year the pre-race show includes a strong military presence, bagpipers, and Taps being played.

NASCAR is arguably the most commercialized of the major American sports with advertisements seeming to cover every spare square inch of both driver and car. But, when it comes to pausing to honor the troops they tend to get it right year after year.

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race. Photo R. Anderson

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race.
Photo R. Anderson

It is hard not to feel the sacrifice that was being made when watching the pre-race ceremony and hearing those bag pipes and lone bugle mournfully wail.

Of course the part where they roll out the extremely large American flag, a staple of most sporting events these days, is another nice touch.

Americans owe their freedom to the sacrifice made by countless soldiers and I am glad that we have holidays, and pre-race ceremonies where we can be reminded of that.

Unfortunately, I fear that in the coming years the commercial aspects of holidays like Memorial Day will overtake the true meanings behind them.

Instead of being a time where Americans all pause to remember the sacrifices made by those that came before them, I fear that the holiday will complete its transformation into a holiday where travelers merely focus on the cars before them as they rush to their weekend getaways, or catch up on those projects that the extra day off from work allows them to finally tackle.

So while you are enjoying that extra day off of work, or grilling some meat on the grill, or even grilling your flesh on the sand today, take some time to think of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers.

It is often said that freedom isn’t free and that it comes at a great cost. Days like Memorial Day allow us to remember that cost and appreciate the freedom a little more.

If you happen to come across a member of the Armed Forces today in your travels to and from the beach or that store with the huge sale on mattresses take a moment to tell them thanks for doing their part to keep us free to enjoy those sandy shores and have the means to purchase that mattress with 90 days same as cash financing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to cook something on an open flame and see if I can find a solider to thank for my right to make that burger extra crispy.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Hinchcliffe Wreck Shows Risk of Injuries are Part of Everyday Life for Athletes

Every day life is full of risks if one really stops to think about it.

There is the risk of stubbing one’s toe while fumbling in the dark all the way to the risk that someone will run into the back of your car while you are stopped at a light.

For professional athletes there are the every day toe stubbing risks that the average person faces along with the risk that in some cases they might be seriously injured or even die at work due to the inherent risks associated with what they do for a living.

James Hinchcliffe (shown in Winner's Circle after the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston) recently reminded people that driving Indy Cars is risky business. Photo R. Anderson

James Hinchcliffe (shown in Winner’s Circle during the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston) recently reminded people that driving Indy Cars is risky business.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military are among the many professions who also put their life’s at risk so in no way do I want to come across as saying that athletes are the only ones with risky professions.

There are countless men and women working tirelessly at dangerous jobs every day who deserve our thanks for keeping us protected.

Usually their jobs do not have them in arenas full of screaming fans while they perform the risky work though. In that way professional athletes really are in a league of their own when it comes to performing risky behavior in front of the masses.

One of those athletes who does risky work in front of the masses, Indy Car driver James Hinchcliffe, is in the Intensive Care Unit of an Indiana hospital following a violent crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500 Monday.

Hinchcliffe, or Hinch as he is known to many of his fans, suffered a puncture to the left upper thigh after a piece of the car’s suspension assembly pierced the driver cockpit, or tub, and went through his leg causing severe soft tissue damage and rupturing arteries.

According to some published reports after his car’s right front suspension failed, Hinchcliffe hit the wall with a force of 125 Gs and was likely traveling more than 220 mph when he hit the wall. It should be noted that G forces above 100, even in short bursts, can be fatal in some cases.

Unlike in other sports the same safety team travels to all Indy Car races. It is the quick work of that team that is being credited with saving the life of James Hinchcliffe following a wreck Monday. Photo R. Anderson

Unlike in other sports the same safety team travels to all Indy Car races. It is the quick work of that team that is being credited with saving the life of James Hinchcliffe following a wreck Monday.
Photo R. Anderson

Were it not for the fast action of the safety crew it is entirely possible that Hinch could have died from his injuries due to the blood loss associated with a ruptured artery.

While Hinch is alive thanks in part to enhanced safety features and procedures to handle injuries like his, it is likely that there will be new safety features added to the Indy Cars after the cause of the latest crash are revealed.

However Indy Cars will never be 100 percent safe any more than athletes in other sports can be 100 percent protected from the risks of getting seriously injured in their chosen fields.

Recent lawsuits from former NFL players show that injuries from playing sports can sometimes take years to manifest themselves as is the case with players stating that they are suffering from the effects of head trauma long after their playing careers have ended.

In response the NFL has new concussion protocols in place to try to lessen the risk of injury to current players from head trauma.

In baseball there has been a rash of injuries the last few years with batters and pitchers getting injured after having their heads and jaws make contact with a baseball traveling at high velocity.

Former Houston Astros pitcher J.A. Happ was lucky and evaded serious injury in 2013 when he was hit by  a ball on the mound while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ's hit and others like it have led Major League Baseball to look at ways to better protect the players. Photo R Anderson

Former Houston Astros pitcher J.A. Happ was lucky and evaded serious injury in 2013 when he was hit by a ball on the mound while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ’s hit and others like it have led Major League Baseball to look at ways to better protect the players.
Photo R Anderson

In response to the increase in head injuries Major League Baseball is developing new protective head gear that can be worn by both batters and pitchers to help lessen the impact of a ball to the head.

The actions by the NFL and MLB to protect their players is certainly to be commended but no system can totally prevent injury when it comes to sports.

This is not to say that all motorsports and contact sports such as football should be deemed unsafe and banned any more than I should have to bubble wrap my home to avoid injury from bumping into things in the dark.

The trick is to make things as safe as humanly possible for the athletes involved so that they can live to play, or in Hinchcliffe’s case, drive, another day.

Sports are much safer today than they were 10 years ago and 10 years from now they will be even safer. Innovations will continue to evolve in the world of sports as well as other fields.

As long as people learn and improve from each accident and injury than they serve a purpose in helping the industry as a whole become safer. Failure to learn from the issues would be a far more devastating scenario.

In time the Mayor of Hinch Town will again be spraying the bubbly of victory after he heals from his injuries. Photo R. Anderson

In time the Mayor of Hinch Town will again be spraying the bubbly of victory after he heals from his injuries.
Photo R. Anderson

I had the opportunity to meet Hinch when I worked with the Grand Prix of Houston. While platitudes are certainly thrown around a lot, I can say that James Hinchcliffe is one of the most easy going athletes I have encountered in any sport and is one of those athletes who seems to really enjoy what they are doing and understands that it is a privilege to get to do what they do for a living.

The road back to driving an Indy Car will not be an easy one but Hinch has shown time and time again that he has an ability to handle those turns with the greatest of ease. I would not count the Mayor of Hinch Town out just yet.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to move a few things so that I do not bump into them tonight.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson