Tag Archives: Cal Ripken Jr

Craig Biggio Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio was elected to the 2015 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame on his third year of eligibility.

Having missed out on being inducted last year by two votes, Biggio made his third time on the ballot truly a charm.

Joining Biggio in the Hall’s first four person induction class in 60 years are pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz who each were elected on their first year of eligibility.

The selection of Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz marks the first time that a trio of pitchers was inducted in the same Hall of Fame class.

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap. Photo R. Anderson

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap.
Photo R. Anderson

Failing to make the cut this year were a pair of Biggio’s former teammates, Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens.

Biggio received 82.7 percent of the votes (549 ballots cast). Johnson received 97.3 percent, Martinez 97.1 percent and Smoltz received 82.9 percent.

While each of the three pitchers elected to the Hall played on multiple teams during their careers, Biggio spent all of his 20-year Major League Baseball career from 1988 until 2007 with the Houston Astros.

Biggio is the 49th Hall of Famer to have played his entire career with one organization.

The seven-time All-Star will become the first player enshrined in an Astros cap when the induction ceremony is held on July 26, 2015 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It is fitting that the Astros first Hall of Famer was born the same year that the team took on the Astros name since perhaps no other player has been so widely associated with the Astros brand as Biggio.

There are of course other players in the Hall of Fame who have played for the Astros during a portion of their career, including Nolan Ryan, whose last year with the Astros was Biggio’s first season with the team, but each of those players were inducted wearing another team cap on their Hall of Fame bust since the bulk of their success occurred on teams other than the Astros.

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired. Photo R. Anderson

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, fellow 2015 inductee Randy Johnson also briefly played for the Astros as a teammate to Biggio but he will not be enshrined wearing an Astros cap and will most likely have an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his bronze statue since he won the only World Series title of his career in the desert.

Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that Biggio retired.

Whether he was playing catcher, outfield, or second base one consistent component of Biggio’s game was his performance at the plate.

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits.
Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Biggio is fifth all-time in doubles and first among righthanded hitters with 668.

Whenever Biggio would come to the plate, the entire Ballpark would chant B-G-O in unison.

In true remember the glory days fashion, the Astros will honor Biggio with a public celebration at Minute Maid Park on Friday at 5 p.m. and it is likely that the B-G-O chant will once again echo through the rafters as fans pay their respects to a player who gave his all whenever he stepped onto the field.

The Astros will also offer fans a seven-game ticket plan centered on games where Biggio will be honored this season.

No word yet on whether those seven games will fall under the umbrella of dynamic pricing, or if they will be made affordable for the every day fan.

As the Astros continue to rebuild and move forward, there will no doubt be many moments this upcoming season where they look back at what was during the Biggio years.

There were certainly many memories generated during those two decades with the Astros.

I started following the Astros towards the tail end of his career but even in that short time Biggio became on of my favorite players and reminded me of a player I grew up following, Cal Ripken, Jr. Like Biggio, Ripken also played the game the right way while spending his entire career with the same team.

In this era of free agency and trading for prospects, it is entirely likely that Biggio will be the last member of the Astros to spend 20 years with the team.

Such are the economics of baseball where teams trade away their players in the same way that children used to trade baseball cards with their friends.

But once in awhile a team will stick with a proven commodity and the results can truly be Hall of Fame worthy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dust off my Biggio shirt for one more trip to the Ballpark.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Orioles and Royals kick off American League Championship Series Tonight

The American League Championship Series kicks off tonight in Baltimore between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals.

When people were making their predictions at the start of the season I am sure there were very few, if any who saw that particular match up in the cards for the American League Pennant.

While the last few decades have not been kind to the fan base of either franchise, in the mid eighties they were among the teams to beat in the American League led by a pair of Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken, Jr. and George Brett for the Orioles and Royals respectively.

I saw my first live baseball game in 1983 at Memorial Stadium when the Orioles hosted the Milwaukee Brewers.  Memorial Stadium is gone now and the Brewers are in the National League but I can forever say that my first baseball game occurred during a pennant winning season as the Orioles were the 1983 World Series Champions. Photo R. Anderson

I saw my first live baseball game in 1983 at Memorial Stadium when the Orioles hosted the Milwaukee Brewers. Memorial Stadium is gone now and the Brewers are in the National League but I can forever say that my first baseball game occurred during a pennant winning season as the Orioles were the 1983 World Series Champions.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles last went to The World Series in 1983 where they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies.

I saw my first ever in person baseball game in 1983 at Memorial Stadium when the Orioles hosted the Milwaukee Brewers.

Memorial Stadium is gone now and the Brewers moved to the National League, but I can forever say that my first baseball game occurred during a World Series winning season.

While I was fortunate to witness a World Series title come to Baltimore, Orioles fans who were not alive during 1983 have had very little to cheer about.

While the 1997 season showed promise and included a trip to the American League Championship Series, it was the Cleveland Indians who made the trip to the World Series instead of the Orioles.

Starting tonight the fans clad in orange and black filling Oriole Park at Camden Yards will know that the O’s are once again four victories away from the World Series.

Standing in the way of that trip to the World Series are the Kansas City Royals. The Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series and had not made the playoffs since until this season.

The last time I saw the Royals play the Orioles neither team was at their peak. This year, four wins are all that stand in the way of a trip to the World Series. Photo R. Anderson

The last time I saw the Royals play the Orioles neither team was at their peak. This year, four wins are all that stand in the way of a trip to the World Series.
Photo R. Anderson

I last saw the Orioles and Royals play against each other on March 23, 1991 during a Spring Training game in Baseball City, Florida.

The Royals won the game but 1991 was not a good season for either team as most of the mid eighties mojo was already starting to fade.

The Orioles and Royals each finished in sixth place in their divisions in 1991 and both teams fired their managers during the season.

The Orioles have had a couple of more playoff appearances than the Royals over the past 30 years, but both teams are hungry for another World Series title which makes this year’s American League Championship Series much watch television.

Over in the National League Championship Series the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are battling for yet another World Series appearance.

Since that 1985 World Series loss to the Royals, the Cardinals have made five additional trips to the October Classic with a pair of championships to show for it.

Over in San Francisco, the Giants have made four trips to the World Series since 1985 claiming two World Series Championships.

The 1991 season for the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals started with promise in Spring Training and ended with both teams in sixth place in their divisions after firing their managers.  Photo R. Anderson

The 1991 season for the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals started with promise in Spring Training and ended with both teams in sixth place in their divisions after firing their managers.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, since 2010 the National League representative in the World Series has been either the Cardinals or the Giants with each team making a pair of trips. This year’s NLCS winner will take a 3-2 advantage in that ranking.

So with the National League turning into a tale of the same two teams year after year,  the American League Championship series offers a chance for fresh blood to hoist the Pennant.

Only six members of the Baltimore Orioles active roster were alive the last time the team made a World Series appearance.

Of those players only Nelson Cruz, born in 1980, is likely old enough to remember it as the other five players were under a year old.

The Royals offer a slightly older roster and have 11 players who were born before the Royals last went to the World Series.

And if that does not makes one feel old enough consider this, when the Orioles were last in the World Series the top movie at the box was “Return of the Jedi.”

In 1985 when the Royals won it all fans were flocking to see “Back to the Future.”

Of course this time around one does not need the power of the Jedi or a time traveling DeLorean to see the Orioles and the Royals face off in the ALCS. They just need access to the TBS broadcast.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to get ready for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Orioles and Nationals Set for Potential Collision Course to Divide a Region

Yesterday, marked the end of the regular Major League Baseball season which makes today the official start of the postseason.

While Derek Jeter enjoys an early start to his retirement, since the New York Yankees failed to make the postseason for only the third time in his 20-year career, other teams and regions are preparing for what the MLB marketing team calls the Hunt for October.

In the nation’s capitol this means choosing between pulling for the Washington Nationals or the Baltimore Orioles with both teams being the first to clinch their respective divisions and punch their playoff tickets.

After winning their divisions the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are seven victories away from facing each other in the World Series. Photo R. Anderson

After winning their divisions the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are seven victories away from facing each other in the World Series.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles captured their first American League East title since 1997 while the Nationals captured the National League East title in equally dominating fashion.

As noted before I follow both the Orioles and Nationals as part of my stable of teams.

The Orioles were the first team I followed growing up in Maryland and through moves to Florida and Texas they are still considered my home team.

Although the Nationals were known as the Expos when I was born, I started following them when they moved down from Canada long after I had left the region.

Of course there was a time before I was born when the region supported two American League teams in close proximity in the Washington Senators and the Orioles.

With only one team in the region when I was growing up it was easy to pull for the Orioles despite living geographically closer to D.C.

Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they won the American League East Division in 1997. He also managed the Washington Nationals to their first winning record. Photo R. Anderson

Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they won the American League East Division in 1997. He also managed the Washington Nationals to their first winning record.
Photo R. Anderson

While the decision to root for the Orioles was easy for me I was curious to know what it was like for people in the shadow of the Potomac River before I was born when they had to pick which team to follow.

As luck would have it, it turns out that my mom is older than me (funny how it works that way) and was alive when there were two teams to choose from, so I called her up to see which team she pulled for growing up.

As I had suspected my mom was a Senators fan growing up. I had suspected this because long after the Senators had left town she would still where her Senators shirt.

Conversely I had never known her to wear anything Orioles related although she did follow the team and encouraged my love of the Orange and Black.

While the Senators only exist to me through old baseball cards that I rescued from a dusty bin at a card shop, the Orioles are full of vibrant memories that shaped the baseball fan that I am today.

In a world where the Senators did not move to Texas it is possible that I never would have rooted for Cal Ripken, Jr.

In a world where the Senators did not move to Texas it is possible that I never would have rooted for Cal Ripken, Jr.

But had the Senators not headed to Arlington, Texas a few years before I was born to become the Texas Rangers, the odds are I would of had an entirely different childhood when it came to baseball.

In this alternate baseball universe instead of the Cal Ripken, Jr. poster on my bedroom wall it could have been replaced by whoever the big star for the Senators was at the time.

Of course, it is likely that I still would have become a Cal Ripken, Jr. fan much in the same way that there are fans of Derek Jeter who cannot stand the New York Yankees. Certain players just elevate beyond team loyalty.

Each year during Spring Training when I was growing up I tried to catch at least one Orioles game. Once the Nationals came onto the circuit I added games to see them as well further cementing my divided beltway allegiance.

Bryce Harper leads a young core of players who have brought playoff baseball back to Washington, D.C. Photo R. Anderson

Bryce Harper leads a young core of players who have brought playoff baseball back to Washington, D.C.
Photo R. Anderson

This support of two teams in the same market was justified by the fact that the only time they would meet in games that really mattered was if they both made it to the World Series in the same year.

I was not counting interleague series play as a challenge to pulling for both teams. For me the only conflict would come in the World Series since I would be divided on who should be crowned World Champions.

With the Orioles undergoing years of mediocrity at the time the Nationals moved into the neighborhood it seemed a safe bet to pull for both teams since the odds of either team, let alone both teams making the World Series was extremely low.

That all changed this year though when I had a hunch that the stars could align and turn Washington, D.C. into a house divided.

Each Spring Training visit includes a stop to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Photo R. Anderson

Each Spring Training visit includes a stop to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles play.
Photo R. Anderson

While few could predict the dominating manner that the Orioles and Nationals won their divisions few should be surprised that both teams are in the playoffs.

There really is no clear cut line in the sand declaring, “This far, no farther” when it comes to saying where the Nationals Fans live and where the Orioles fans live.

The closer one gets to Baltimore the more intense the fan base for the Orioles becomes. But, the region in between Baltimore and D.C is where the real battle rages.

In fact, the Orioles have a billboard less than seven miles away from the Ballpark that the Nationals call home.

For people like me who were born when there was only one team to pull for in the region it is easier to justify keeping allegiance to the team from our youth and adding a more geographically friendly one as well.

The Washington Nationals are also a must see during Spring Training. Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals are also a must see during Spring Training.
Photo R. Anderson

The generations that follow now will likely have to choose a side, either Red White and Blue, or Orange and Black much like my parent’s generation had to do during the time of the Senators.

With both the Orioles and Nationals full of talent throughout their rosters it seems likely that postseason meetings between the squads could become a regular thing.

As for the Senators of my mom’s youth who made that western journey all those years ago, since moving to Texas I have found myself rooting for the Rangers. In that way I suppose I am a Senators fan as well. They just have a bit more of a twang now than they did back in D.C.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some postseason baseball to prepare for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Time Traveling through Baseball’s Past

For fans of a certain British television show about a guy and his companions who travel around in a bigger on the inside blue police box, today marks the start of a very important week.

The week is important for fans of Doctor Who in that it marks the final countdown to the new season of time traveling adventures Saturday night.

In honor of the countdown to the new season of the show I thought it would be fun to focus on time travel here as well.

In particular the focus this week will be on time travel as it relates to baseball in the past, present and future.

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments. Photo R. Anderson

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments.
Photo R. Anderson

Today we will start our journey through baseball time and space in the past.

Consider if you will, all of the historic moments that have occurred in baseball.

From Babe Ruth, to Shoeless Joe Jackson, to Jackie Robinson, and every player in between, baseball is full of larger than life players who for many baseball fans exist only as black and white news reel images or statistics on a page.

With Babe Ruth having made his professional debut 100 years ago, there are few people still around who were alive then, let alone old enough to have been there to witness it.

Now consider that time travel was possible and you had the means to visit any past moment in baseball history, including the Bambino’s first game. What moments would you visit?

I have often pondered that very question and have come up with some definitive moments that given the chance I would love to see in person.

The moments are divided up into the categories of Ballparks, Ballplayers, and Ballgames.

First let us focus on the Ballparks.

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards? Photo R. Anderson

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards?
Photo R. Anderson

While I have had the pleasure and opportunity to visit many Ballparks, including several that have since been torn down, there are a few of the classic Ballparks that were torn down before I had the chance to see them that I would have loved to catch a game in.

With the ability to travel back to the golden age of baseball and visit any Ballpark I would visit the Polo Grounds, Ebbett’s Field, and the first Yankee Stadium.

While many new Ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards have brought back a piece of that classic Ballpark feel, there would be nothing quite like traveling to see the ones that started it all.

It would also be fun to travel to an era where people dressed up in their Sunday best to catch a game although I could probably go without the grandstands full of cigarette smoke since I am allergic.

While visiting Ballparks from the golden age would be fun, another Ballpark that I would love to visit is technically still standing but no longer hosts baseball, or much of anything else for that matter. That Ballpark is the Astrodome.

Although I covered a high school football game in the Astrodome, by the time I moved to Houston the Astros had moved to Minute Maid Park (technically Enron Field at the time) and the days of baseball in the Dome were done.

Granted the Astrodome begat many carbon copy domed stadiums that hosted baseball in Seattle, Minnesota, and St. Petersburg but there would be something hard to miss about being at the very first indoor baseball game under a dome.

Whenever I find myself at Tropicana Field I often try to picture what a culture shock it most have been for those first Houston fans to see a game without knowing what the weather was like outside or being able to see the sky.

After Ballparks the next item to travel through time to see would be Ballplayers.

I would need to use my time machine to travel to see Babe Ruth play a game along with Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Shoeless Joe Jackson to name a few.

Speaking of Shoeless Joe, an interesting time traveler’s paradox comes into play. Would one warn Shoeless Joe and his Black Sox teammates about being banned for life for the World Series fixing scandal, or just let history go on as predicated.

While time travel in science fiction books and films often show negative results to the future through the butterfly effect whenever the past is changed it does pose an interesting question of what one would do in that situation.

There are of course people who would use time travel to their benefit through betting on games when they know the outcome but for our purposes here let us go with the belief that all who travel back are merely going as fly on the wall observers to soak in the events without altering the outcomes or fattening their wallets.

So with that philosophy of observe, but don’t interfere in mind, the Chicago White Sox would still throw the World Series just as Pete Rose decades later would still be banned from baseball.

As a certain British time traveler would say, some points in history are fixed points in time.

The third area of our journey to baseball’s past would be specific Ballgames.

From the first World Series game, to Lou Gehrig’s luckiest man alive speech, there are countless moments in Ballgames that would be worth traveling to.

For me some of the games I would need to see in person would be when Hank Aaron broke the home run record and when Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. played their first games.

To see the start of the two longest consecutive games played streaks and to see a home run record fall would be truly historic events.

There are of course more Ballparks, Ballplayers and Ballgames that could be revisited given the ability to travel to any point in time. Each historic moment in baseball would be at the time traveler’s disposal to visit time and time again.

While realistically time travel to that degree will remain a mere wish and the stuff of film, television and literature, it is certainly fun to consider the big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for travels through the present.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Gehrig’s Speech is Still Powerful 75 Years Later

There are certain moments in baseball that are timeless and manage to span the generations.

Whether it is a classic call from a broadcaster who has long ago passed away, or the visuals of Hank Aaron rounding third after setting the record for home runs, the visuals and sounds of baseball stick in the memories of fans even if they were not alive when the actual events occurred.

Such is the case with Lou Gehrig’s famous “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech which was given before a game between the New York Yankees and Washington Senators 75 years ago on July 4, 1939.

In the speech Gehrig listed all of the positives of his life despite being diagnosed with a death sentence in the form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.

Friday marked the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's famous speech at Yankee Stadium where he stated that he was, "the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

Friday marked the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous speech at Yankee Stadium where he stated that he was, “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

ALS, now known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. There is no cure for ALS. While advancements in treatment have prolonged patient life, the disease is still considered a fatal diagnosis.

Growing up I had heard the speech as it was part of a greatest moments in baseball VHS tape that I owned. While I had heard the speech for me, as a Cal Ripken, Jr., fan Lou Gehrig was just the final man to pass in the consecutive games streak. I did not really appreciate the full impact of what made the speech so perfect at the time.

Before getting into the speech it is important to look at the man who gave it.

Lou Gehrig played 2,130 games in a row for the New York Yankees until he was physically unable to play anymore. Lou Gehrig was also the first Major League Baseball player to have his number retired.

Lou Gehrig stepped to a Yankee Stadium microphone on July 4, 1939, and told fans he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” despite the fact that he was dying from the inside out.

Throughout the speech, and through eyes welled up with tears, Gehrig thanked teammates, fans, and his family for all of the experiences they had shared together.

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

Nearly two years to the day after giving that speech Lou Gehrig died on June 2, 1941 at the age of 37. His death came almost 16 years to the day after he started his consecutive games streak on June 1, 1925.

It would have been easy for someone like Lou Gehrig to be bitter for being cut down in the prime of his career by such an invasive and painful disease but there is no bitterness in the speech. Many fans at the time probably felt that it was not fair that they were losing their first baseman to an illness that many had likely never heard of.

But instead of being bitter in his circumstances Lou Gehrig found the courage to be at peace with the hand he was dealt and to make the most of the time he had left.

I often wonder how many people when faced with the same circumstances would in the words of Monty Python, “always look on the bright side of life?”

In my own case, I would like to think that I would be able to muster the same positive response as Lou Gehrig but in reality I would likely fall well short of that level of peace in my circumstances.

As for Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, it was finally broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken, Jr. who extended it to 2,632 consecutive games played before finally taking a game off for the first time in his career on September 20, 1998.

Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken, Jr. who extended it to 2,632 consecutive games played before finally taking a game off for the first time in his career on September 20, 1998. Photo R. Anderson

Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken, Jr. who extended it to 2,632 consecutive games played before finally taking a game off for the first time in his career on September 20, 1998.
Photo R. Anderson

It is likely that it is a record that will never be broken.

One the night that Ripken broke the streak he showed that Lou Gehrig was very much there in spirit to share it with him.

“Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig,” Ripken said at the time. “I’m truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath.”

While Gehrig’s career was cut short it is still a career that reaches through the generations as doctors and others work to find a cure for the disease that bears his name.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a speech to listen to.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Derek Jeter Farewell Tour Kicks off at Minute Maid Park

The salute to the retirement of Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off the other night at Minute Maid Park prior to a game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.

In a way it is almost fitting that such a tour would kick off at the site of a former train station.

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston's Union Station. Photo R. Anderson

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston’s Union Station.
Photo R. Anderson

For those who perhaps had not heard Derek Jeter, the long time New York Yankee shortstop, is retiring at the end of the year to pursue whatever it is that a long-time Yankee does after hanging up his bat and glove for the final time.

So much like last year, when Mariano Rivera was having a year-long retirement salute, each of the teams to host Jeter and the Yankees this season will present gifts as a sign of appreciation for what he has done for the game of baseball.

Aside from being the player that they should have drafted way back when, Derek Jeter really does not have any ties to the Astros. There are other stops on the farewell tour where teams have even less of a “connection” to Jeter.

But just like clockwork each stop will feature pregame ceremonies with gifts and “grip and grin” photo ops for the fans of “insert city name here” to pay their last respects to Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway. Photo R. Anderson

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway.
Photo R. Anderson

Gifts given by the Astros to kick off the bon voyage included custom made pinstripe boots, a cowboy hat and some golf clubs.

As far as the Astros go they have the distinction of being the last stop on the Mariano Rivera farewell tour last year and the first stop on the Jeter bye bye bonanza this year.

On the surface I have no trouble with teams saluting players.

In fact, I am going to see two former Astros, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, honored before the game tomorrow night.

While I am sure there will be some gifts given to them it will only be a one ballpark stop and will not feature a prolonged tour through the rest of the Major League Baseball ballparks.

Also, unlike the farewell to Jeter, the Berkman and Oswalt retirements will be occurring in front of the hometown crowd.

Despite being traded from the Astros a few years back, Berkman and Oswalt are scheduled to sign one-day contracts, say a few words and then ride off into the sunset as retired ballplayers for the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkamn along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkman along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd.
Photo R. Anderson

I am a huge fan of the one day contract sign and retire approach as it allows fans to say a final goodbye to long time players while also giving the players closure on their career.

In fact I think the baseball collective bargaining agreement should be written to ensure that all retiring ballplayers are given a one-day contract to retire with the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

I am less of a fan of the season long farewell tours where teams are “strongly encouraged” to honor players who may have spent very little time in that particular visiting ballpark.

Most players do not have a year-long farewell tour as the majority of players do not get to choose when to hang up the cleats.

In Lance Berkman’s case he retired after his body told him in the off season that it could not handle the strain of another season.  In reality it had been a few years since Berkman had played healthy all year so the signs were still.

Oswalt finally called it a career after a few subpar seasons where the “Wizard of Os” didn’t have as much zip on his pitches as he once did.

But aside from getting honored by the team where they played the bulk of their careers tomorrow night there were no gifts showered down from opposing teams to usher in the retirements of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

And there certainly were not Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt jerseys for sale in opposing team’s Ballparks as was the case this week at Minute Maid Park with Jeter merchandise available at the Astros team store.

Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter was a fine ballplayer who never seemed to get caught up in any of the performance enhancing drug scandals or any other issues that would tarnish his reputation or the reputation of the Yankees or Major League Baseabll.

One need only look to Jeter’s former infield partner, Alex Rodriquez, to see a player who seemed to do things the wrong way.

By all accounts Derek Jeter is one of those players for the kids in Little League to look up to and immolate but does that rise to the level of making his jerseys available in every ballpark and bestowing lavish thank gifts on him? I am not sure.

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer. Photo R. Anderson

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer.
Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr. was another player who like Jeter did things the right way on and off the field. Like Jeter, Ripken spent his entire career with the same team which is becoming more and more of a rarity.

But even as much as I like Cal Ripken I still have issues with a season long farewell tour.

That does not mean that you cannot respect the player for being an ambassador for the sport.

Opposing fans should even feel that they can give a little cheer when said player is up to bat but creating an environment where teams are left to one up each other when it comes to bestowing gifts on opposing players is a trend that needs to go.

The Yankees last home game this year will be against the Orioles. In the spirit of season long tributes perhaps Cal Ripken, who spent his entire career with the Orioles, will be on hand in some way to send Jeter off into the sunset.

Barring a playoff run for the Yankees Jeter will end is career at Fenway Park against the Yankees’ bitter rival the Boston Red Sox. I can only imagine the parting gift that they will give him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look for my Berkman jersey for the game tomorrow night.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Tom Hanks was Wrong, Sometimes There is Crying in Baseball

In the 1992 movie a League of Their Own Tom Hanks’ character admonishes one of his female baseball players for crying in the dugout by saying the often quoted phrase, “there’s no crying in baseball.”

On Thursday night in Yankee Stadium there was in fact crying allowed in baseball as New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera said goodbye with class, composure and a few tears on a teammate’s shoulder.

I did not watch the moment when it happened live as the Yankees game against the Tampa Bay Rays was not televised in my market.

But when I woke up Friday morning to check out the game highlights from the night before there was a link to video of the moment Mariano left the mound for the last time.

I figured the video was worth watching since the teaser said that Derek Jeter and Andy Petittie were the ones to take Mariano out of the game which by itself is unusual. I figured it would be nice to see the tribute before heading off to work.

With all apologies to Tom Hanks who famously said that "there is no crying in baseball," I maintain there are times when it is allowed. Photo R. Anderson

With all apologies to Tom Hanks who famously said that “there is no crying in baseball,” I maintain there are times when it is allowed.
Photo R. Anderson

In hindsight I was not prepared for the video.

Once Mariano’s teammates arrived on the mound and it was clear that this was the last time that he would leave the mound in Yankee Stadium the emotions finally erupted and as he buried his head in his teammate’s shoulder the tears began to fall from his eyes.

The television broadcasters did the right thing and did not speak over the moment as broadcasters often try to do since they are taught to fill every moment of dead air.

But in that nearly eight minutes of dead air emotions rang true and the human element of sports was allowed to shine through.

Mariano went through the dugout and hugged each of his teammates before getting pushed out for one last curtain call as the hometown crowd cheered for him one final time.

Of course Mariano was not alone in shedding tears. There were people shedding tears throughout Yankee Stadium as the moment unfolded. And as I was watching the video I found myself shedding tears as well which certainly caught me by surprise.

Like most of baseball I am not a fan of the Yankees. As I have stated before there were certain Yankee players such as Don Mattingly that I rooted for growing up but by and large the Yankees were always the team that stood in the way of my Orioles and Rays reaching the postseason so it was hard to root for them. I also did not care for the free spending of the Yankees who seemed to treat the other 29 teams as their farm teams and cherry picked free agents from other teams year after year to build their super rosters.

But the moment on the mound Thursday night was not about a Yankee player or any other team for that matter. It was about a man who had given his all taking a curtain call and knowing that there would never be another moment like that.

As was the case during this year’s All Star game players from both teams and the entire crowd gave Mariano Rivera a standing ovation and a tip of the cap for a career played free of controversy in an era that needed players to look up to.

So as I watched the video I too was caught up in the emotion of the moment and had some tears flow. I later learned I was not alone in the show of emotions after the fact as the host of one of the sports talk shows I listen to on the radio admitted that he too had been brought to tears by the moment.

The closest baseball comparison to Mariano’s moment that I can think of in my lifetime was when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Cal Ripken, Jr Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr
Photo R. Anderson

The baseball schedule had been arranged so that the record breaking moment would take place at the Orioles home ballpark so that the Oriole nation could share in the celebration.

Much like Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken, Jr. played the game the right way and spent his whole career with the team that drafted him.

I do not think I cried when Ripken broke the record, but I do recall it being a moment of extreme happiness as the player I had followed for as long as I could remember broke what many thought would be an untouchable record.

So like that night so many years before when all eyes were on Cal Ripken, Jr., Thursday night belonged to Mariano Rivera and the fans who wanted to say goodbye.

In the end the Rays won the game 4-0 completing the sweep of the Yankees and keeping a one-game lead for the top spot in the Wildcard.

While the night did not end with Mariano Rivera earning a save, he showed the world that watched it live and those that caught the highlight later online that even grown men can cry now and then on the baseball diamond and that is totally acceptable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson