Piazza DiMaggio

Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s Little Italy is the Piazza DiMaggio. The plaza is a shrine to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. As you can see the centerpiece of the plaza is a statue of Joe finishing his beautiful swing. Why on earth is this shrine located in Chicago you may ask. DiMaggio was born in California, died in Florida, and was buried in California. He spent his entire playing career in New York playing for the Yankees. The closest he came to playing in Chicago was when the Cubs turned down a no risk tryout when Joe was a San Fransisco Seal. Joe really has no ties to Chicago. He did however have ties to the people that lived in and around Taylor Street. I found this gem thanks to the Sporting News book “Roadside Baseball.” It is a great book that shows you some cool baseball sites in each state. Continue reading

Railcats Win a Thriller in the Hometown of Michael Jackson

I was silent on here when Michael Jackson died. I was one of those people who enjoyed his music, but did not agree with some of the choices that he made off of the stage. Today I went to the Railcats game against Joliet in Michael’s hometown of Gary, Indiana. The main reason I went was the fact that the Railcats had on jerseys similar to the 1977 White Sox, and the Jackhammers had on jerseys that looked close to the 1984 Cubs. For the majority of this post I will try and sum up the game using Michael Jackson song titles. This may work out good, or it may work terribly. We will soon see.

This was a back and forth game, a “Thriller” if you will. If you came to the park looking to see some exciting plays then “You Are Not Alone.” The Jackhammers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning with some timely hitting. The Railcats got on the board themselves and took over the lead in the fifth when a “Bad” play by the Jackhammer right fielder turned a RBI triple into a two run hit. Mike Massaro watched a throw go wild of third and decided to “Beat It” home. He made it safely to put Gary up. Massaro proved that he is truly “Dangerous” today. He drove in two, and scored one. The right fielder will have trouble looking at the “Man in the Mirror” tomorrow morning. As the ball sailed out of his hand he was probably thinking “I Want You Back.” Kevin Rios got things going for Joliet in the 8th with a triple “Off the Wall.” He scored when the next batter singled. The second Joliet run in the 8th scored when the pitcher throw wide of first on a routine play. The kind of throw has “Got To Be There.” The crowd in Gary was “Speechless.” The Gary first baseman thought the runner to first was out of the baseline. He walked down towards the home plate ump looking like he “Wanna Be StartinSomethin.” It is just “Human Nature” to want to argue a call like that that could potentially change the game. Every play is not always “Black or White” as far as the ump is concerned. The ump said “Leave Me Alone”, and the inning ended with a strikeout by the next batter. The Railcats came up in the 8th needed one to tie. They got the leadoff man on when he was hit. He scored on a double by the next batter. As Steve Haake was standing on second you could see him eying Jay Pecci who had just scored, and thinking “I Wanna Be Where You Are.” You could feel the tension in the crowd. They seemed to be saying “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Everything seemed to “Come Together” on the next play. Jordan Czarniecki singled in what would be the winning run, and the crowd let out a collective “Scream.” Manager Wally Backman looked at his team and cursed them for “The Way You Make Me Feel.” After a brief rally by the Jackhammers in the ninth Eddie De La Cruz said “You Can’t Win,” and got the save despite most likely having “Butterflies” after coming in a game with inherited runners. Will I end this anytime soon? When I get on a roll “I Can’t Help It.” I think of another song, and I just “Smile.” My next game at this stadium will probably be July 13th when Fergie Jenkins is scheduled to make an appearance. “Will You Be There?” The game starts at 7:00 cst so be sure and “Remember the Time.” As always “Keep the Faith.”
Okay, that was not so bad. Was it? On a serious note I saw one of the most scary sites that I have seen on a ball field during the game. In the bottom of the 8th inning Jay Pecci fouled a ball straight back that hit the home plate umpire in the chest. The umpire crumpled like a ton of bricks to the ground. I was close to the play, but the sound was still very awkward. Emergency crews rushed out to check him out, and he started moving around a bit. He eventually got up, and walk off the field with the help of the emergency crew. He was worked on in the Jackhammer dugout for a long time. He ended up talking with some of the players, and seemed to be fine. I was sitting right next to the dugout, and from what pitching coach Floyd Youmans had to say the ball must have just nailed him in the heart. The way he fell tells me that he was not concious when he went down. That was scary. Both Youmans and Wally Backman were watching intensely from the get go. They have seen a lot of things, and Floyd even said that he had never seen anything like that. After a delay to get the gear on for one of the other umpires the game was restarted. Below are some other pictures from today.
Doing some test pictures to try and eliminate the screen.

The Jackhammers have some weird bats

Pitching coach Floyd Youmans

This pitch is going to get crushed

Breaking up a double play the hard way

Edit 8:50 PM: I just saw online that the winning pitcher from the game Edwin Walker has been sold to the Yankees. When he was told to report to the Charlston RiverDogs their class A team he said “I’ll be There.” Sorry had to get one last one in.

Bob Feller Museum: Van Meter, Iowa


The Feller Museum from the street

I always saw the sign for the Bob Feller museum as we drove through Des Moines on I-80 going west. When I finally moved to Iowa I finally got my chance to visit the museum. The museum is set in the small Iowa town of Van Meter. It is located on the corner of Mill Street and Elm Street. Bob Feller meant so much to this small town that they gathered the funds necessary to build this museum. It started off small, but has grown up in no time. From when I first went in 2004 to the pictures they have online today you can really see the difference. This museum showcases what one man can mean to a town. There is no real allotted parking so you just find a spot on the street around the museum. Follow the steps up into the museum and you are on your way. The admission is only $5 so go and see it if you are in the area.


The museum mural


The famous bat the Babe Ruth held

The museum inside is not very huge, but they pack it full of memorabilia. The museum has the main hall with a north and south wing on each side. One of the highlights for me was to see the bat that Babe Ruth was leaning on when the now famous photo of him was taken in Yankee Stadium. Before I visited Bob’s museum I never knew that the bat in the picture was actually a Feller model. Babe needed something to lean on when he came out, so he grabbed Bob’s bat as he exited the visitor’s dugout. A picture of the display is shown to the left. Before I visited the actual Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this was the closest I had been to anything touched by the Babe. The bat is showcased at the museum, but also makes its way around the country in a travelling exhibit. I was lucky enough to be there on a day it was as well. The rest of the museum is filled with glass cases full of items from Bob’s career in baseball along with other items from his life. A good example is shown to the right. A jersey of Bob’s and some baseball memoribilia is displayed in one case while his Navy Uniform and his wartime acheivements are shown in the case next to it. As a baseball fan I was amazed at some of the items in the museum. Bob Feller had a great relationship with Ted Williams, and some of the other Red Sox players of that day. A lot of their memoribilia can be found in the museum. They have done a great job of collecting items from Bob along with other great players of his time.


Baseball and History collide insdie the museum


Feller signing the White Sox ball for me in 2005

In the short time I was in Iowa I made a few trips to the museum. I was able to meet Vida Blue, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bert Blyleven, and Bob himself during some of the autograph signing days they had. I was also able to get balls autographed by Harmon Killebrew, Bobby Doerr, and Buck O’Neill through the museum. I became a member of the museum so my frequent visits would be free. The photo at the top of the post was taken during a signing day when Bob was present. In front of the museum was the car that took Bob to his first major league game. A signing day is a great day to meet some heroes of the game, but it is too crowded to visit the museum. The picture to the left shows Bob signing a ball for me. Most people just asked for his autograph, but I asked to inscribe the date of his Opening Day no hitter against the White Sox. (I am a Sox fan, and yes I like punishment.) He not only put all that on it he inscribed the score, and wrote “Opening Day No Hitter” on the ball. That baseball is one that will always be at the forefront of my collection. I wish we had something like this close to here so that I could experience this again. They have a great lineup of guests this year, and from the looks of the web site for the museum it will only get better. If you are in the area give the museum a try. It is worth the price of admission.

Meet the Newest Member of the White Sox

The White Sox gave Corky Miller back to the Reds today for center fielder Norris Hopper. I saw Norris play twice this season when he was a member of the Louisville Bats. In the two games I saw him he was 3-10 with four runs batted in and one run scored. This season in 52 games for AAA Louisville he is hitting .280 with 22 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. It looks as if the Sox are still searching for the answer in center field.
Corky Miller despite the humorous name really will not be missed. He never really made a mark on the team in his short stay this year.

This Week’s Promotions (6/29-7/5)

Here we are with another weeks look at the promotions in the area, and anything else that happens to catch my eye. Let’s see what we have in store this week.

Monday June 29th
Yes, we have a Monday promotion thanks to the tireless work over at Bus Leagues Baseball
Wisconsin Woodchucks – Jim Gatner bobblehead (1st 500)

Tuesday June 30th
South Bend Silverhawks – 4th of July Fireworks
Gary South Shore Railcats – Baseball Card Giveaway first 1,000 fans. The Blues Brothers will also be in attendance.
Birmingham Barons – 25 cent hot dog night.

Wednesday July 1st
Great Lakes Loons – Jurassic Ballpark Night. Drink your pop before the dinosaurs spill it.
South Bend Silverhawks – 4th of July fireworks

Thursday July 2nd
South Bend Silverhawks – 4th of July fireworks
Quad City River Bandits – Sgt. Slaughter appearance.
St. Louis Cardinals – 1966 All Star game lapel pin giveaway to the first 20,000 fans

Friday July 3rd
Toledo Mud Hens – Centennial anniversary of Swayne Field
South Bend Silverhawks – 4th of July fireworks
Gary South Shore RailcatsCamo hat giveaway first 1,000 fans
Chicago Cubs – Cubs floppy hat

Saturday July 4th
Let me just say that if your team is at home, they will have fireworks or some other promotion in honor of the fourth. I will leave all of those out.
Toledo Mud Hens – ALS Awareness night. Patriotic jersey auction.
Indianapolis Indians – American Flag to the first 10,000 fans, and a great view of the city of Indianapolis’ fireworks.
Gary South Shore Railcats – Baseball giveaway and Lou Gehrig recognition night.
Nashville Sounds – CMT cooler giveaway to the first 2,000 fans.
Chicago Cubs – Cubs 4th of July hat.
Cincinnati Reds – Jay Bruce bobblehead to the first 30,000 fans. Thanks to The Writer’s Journey for the heads up.
Cleveland Indians – Red, White, and Blue Indians cap to all fans.

Sunday July 5th
Toledo Mud Hens – Red hat day, and autograph Sunday. Players TBD.
Indianapolis Indians – Souvenir card Sunday. First 4,000 fans.
Cleveland Indians – Victor Martinez catchers mitt to all fans 14 and under.

Where Have You Gone Pete Rose?

Visiting Cincinnati this weekend brought back a lot of great memories from my childhood. To the right is the scorecard and the bat from the night that Pete passed Ty Cobb for the most hits in baseball. That moment will always be etched in my memory. The picture to the left of Pete at the peak of his career really shows how much he loved this game. As a kid my father pointed out Pete Rose as a player who I should emulate. Heck he even bought me the book ‘Pete Rose on Hitting’ which I still have on my bookshelf today. His nickname said it all. “Charlie Hustle” played the game hard. Who can forget his headfirst slides into various bases? Or bowling over Ray Fosse to win an All Star game? Pete Rose has more hits than any other player in Major League baseball history (4256). He also made more outs than any other player (10,328). Pete had a profound effect on the game, and was a sure fire lock to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame if their every was one. Pete Rose was a man that played the game the right way. This man knew how to do only one thing. That was to win. He was part of perhaps one of the greatest teams ever. He had the world on a string. What went wrong?

In 1989 the luster started coming off of this man. Rumors started swirling that Pete had bet on baseball. He refuted these rumors to any and all who would ask. When Bart Giamatti became the Commissioner of baseball he kept the pressure on Rose. Sports Illustrated ran the now famous story about Pete later in 1989 that shocked the baseball world. Did Pete bet on baseball? If he did bet on baseball was his own team involved? I was still a young kid, but I did not want to believe any of this. For years I denied it despite the evidence. Pete could not have done such a thing. In August of 1989 Pete accepted a ban from baseball in return for baseball not making a formal finding of his actions. In 1990 he was placed in jail for income tax evasion. In 2004 fifteen years after initially denying betting on baseball he released a book in which he admitted betting for his team every night. By then it was like the recent finding that Sammy Sosa tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. We all knew he did it, we just wanted him to come clean. He did come clean, but so far has not been reinstated. Last year at the Hall of Fame I couldn’t help but look at the class of 1992 and wonder what could have been? He was a first ballot Hall of Famer that has now missed his window entirely. His only chance would be to someday be voted in by the Veteran’s Committee. Before that happens though he would need to be reinstated by Major League Baseball. The Reds cannot retire his number 14 because of that ban either. Well they won’t formally retire it. The only Red to wear that number since Pete left the team was his own son Pete Jr. If Pete wanted to enter the Reds Hall of Fame or Great American Ballpark he would have to pay his way in. It makes me sad to see such a great player fall so hard. The Reds clearly still love Pete by the way he is shown in their Hall of Fame. They would love to honor this man I am sure before he leaves us. His own arrogance though may make that impossible. I would like to think that sometime in my lifetime he will get his just due. He has made some enemies in high places in baseball right now though. It would take something short of a miracle to get him reinstated. Maybe someday down the road Pete will have the public behind him much like ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson does today. Even support like that has not helped Joe get into the Hall. It seems as if this was only the begining of players that I looked up to in baseball that would not gain entry into the Hall despite having the numbers to do so. As the full extent of the steroid issue becomes public knowledge I have a feeling I will lose a lot of faith in many players I loved to watch growing up.