We are trying a couple of new things at the Baseball Legends site. One of them is to profile players that were great in their time, but not a candidate for the Hall of Fame. When I heard of that criteria one name immediately came to mind: Vincent Edward ‘Bo Jackson.’ Bo burst onto the scene and never looked back. He was one of my (and countless other kids) favorite players as a child. I was thrilled when he became a member of the White Sox in 1991 even though he was hurt. He was a Heisman Trophy winner as well as the only person to be selected to the Major League and NFL All Star teams. He did not get to play in the Pro Bowl though because of injury. Bo was a great player that played the game right. He also played it at a level that not many other people could.
One of my greatest memories of a Sox player is Bo hitting a home run in his first at bat back after his hip replacement. He came up to the plate and sent the first pitch of Neal Heaton into the stands. He promised his mother who he was very close to that he would make it back. She died before he saw action, and he dedicated that home run to her. I still remember where I was when I heard the call on the radio. He was a man who could do anything. His “Bo Knows” ads were the talk of the country. He was also a legend in Tecmo Bowl. How many young kids wanted to play as the Raiders so that they could run with Bo Jackson. One popular YouTube video shows one man running out an entire quarter with Bo. You just could not bring him down. He was a great athlete, and I think worthy of the first forgotten legend spot on the site.
Ted Williams was an American hero at a time where we needed some heroes. He was a great baseball player that made an impact on his team from his first day in the Major Leagues. He won two MVP awards and two Triple Crowns. He was also the last man to bat over .400. I think he was the greatest hitter to play the game, but I always have wondered what his numbers would have looked like if he had not lost almost 5 years to military service. He was a combat pilot/trainer in World War II and the Korean War. His legendary eyesight helped him set gunnery records while training. He was a great ballplayer that also served his country when he was asked to. I used to love to listen to the man talk about hitting whenever he was on TV. He was an encyclopedia of hitting. I found out that he died during the pre-game of a Sox-Indians game. It was amazing to see the reaction of White Sox fans when told of his passing. He was a national treasure that is still missed today. It is sad that the new generation of fans only know him for having his head cryogenicly frozen.
Read my article on Williams at Baseball Legends.
Today another article of mine posted on the Baseball Legends site. I chose to write about Brooks Robinson because of the things that I read about him as a child. I used to buy any sports book that was part of the Scholastic Reader that they used to pass around. You remember that thin two page pamphlet with all kinds of kids books in it? Brooks seemed to be in many of those books that I bought. It may be due to the fact that he had just been inducted into the Hall of Fame, or just because he was that great. I bought the World Series Greatest Moments book to read about Carlton Fisk, and found out that Robinson had a great 1970 World Series. From that day on I have sought out info on Brooks. He was a great defensive player, and it is good to see that offensive statistics are not the only thing that people look at when they are voting someone into the Hall. He had decent numbers, but make no mistake about it, his mitt bought him his ticket into the Hall.
I never thought that I could like a Yankee as much as I like Mickey Mantle. From an early age my father would tell me about the exploits of ‘the Mick.’ He explained how he was a power hitter, but would also bunt his way on. He used him as an example of a player that could have been so much more. If not for injuries and his partying he could have been the greatest to ever play the game. He still was one of the greatest. Part of my journey this summer to Yankee stadium will be to visit the place that both he and ‘the Babe’ suited up at. It will be an honor to walk in monument park. Then I will spend the rest of the day rooting against the Yankees.
The circumstances surrounding his death have also made him a hero. He came out in the press stating that his lifestyle may have led to his early demise. He said that he was not a role model, and that we should not be like him. He then went on a crusade for the rest of his short life trying to bring awareness to organ donation. He turned a negative into a huge positive.
To see my article on the Mick go to the Baseball Legends website.
George Brett was a fiery player that gave his all every day on the field. I am probably like most people that have the image of Brett storming out of the dugout after being called out during the “pine tar incident” ingrained in my mind. That one incident gave him the reputation of a hot head. He just did not like losing anything. I am one person that can relate to that. I read a quote of his online while researching the article that I completely agree with. He said, “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.”
The picture to the left was taken in 2005 of the Brett statue at Kaufmann Stadium. I was there to see the Sox take on the Royals, but still took some time to honor Brett. That same year I met Steve Garvey at the Bob Feller museum, and had him sign my little league bat which was a Garvey model. The handle of the bat had split, and Garvey asked me what happened to it. I told him that I was pretending to be George Brett that day. That sparked a small conversation that upset some of the other people in line. I have always admired Brett for his will to win.
As you can tell by the amount of posts the last couple of days I have not been feeling very well. I must have caught whatever is going around lately. That along with the sub par weather has given me time to write a little. Why don’t you go visit the Baseball Legends site? Are you going to deny a sick man his request? Visit the site already.
I have yet to write about a lasting member of the White Sox for the Baseball Legends site. I have just concentrated on some players that had a cup of coffee with the team. Steve Carlton is another one of those pitchers. In 1986 the Sox realized that they had traded an over the hill pitcher in Seaver so they picked up another one in Steve Carlton. Both pitchers were great, but well past their prime when they joined the Sox. Steve did go on to pitch with the Twins the next two seasons, and even got another World Series ring for his troubles. I never really was able to see him pitch in his prime, but it was great to see him pitch for my team. He was 4-3 in the ten games that he appeared in for the Sox. He will never lead the club in wins, but he used up his best stuff in a Phillie uniform.
Why haven’t you gone to the Baseball Legends site and registered yet? Don’t you know what you are missing? Well it is never to late to sign up.
For some reason I really have been fixated on the Negro League players that never got a chance to show their ability in the Major Leagues in my first set of articles for the Baseball Legends site. Today is no exception. John Henry Pop” Lloyd was one of the greatest Negro League players ever. He may have been one of the greatest baseball players ever. He is however lost in the obscurity of the Negro Leagues. Most people don’t even care about the records, or if they do they don’t know how accurate they are. I really .10wish that we could have seen past skin color and let the best men play together. The entire history of the sport would be different today. Could you imagine the matchups? Ruth v. Paige, Lloyd and Cobb grinding it out on opposite sides of the field. Lloyd did get to face the Tigers in exhibition games when he played in Cuba. He outhit Cobb by over .170 points in the series. Cobb’s Tigers won the series though. How many great matchups were we deprived of because of segregation?
As always please visit the Baseball Legends site. Take a few seconds and sign up to vote.
Bobby Doerr was a great second basemen that quit playing at the age of 33 because of a bad back. I always knew who Bobby was, but never really knew that much about him until I read the book ‘The Teammates’ by David Halberstam. It told the story about the friendship between Doerr, Ted Williams, Dom Dimaggio, and Johnny Pesky. I loved the story and the players so much that I also read the book ‘Summer of ’49′ also by Halberstam. My look at that book can be found here. Doerr was a great player that does not get his due because of his short career. The Veteran’s Committee righted a wrong in 1986 when they put Bobby in the Hall of Fame.
As always check out Baseball Legends, and please sign up to at least vote in the upcoming election. The sign up process does not take that long, and you will be able to help some of the other players like Doerr that have not gotten their due.
Today another post has gone up on the Baseball Legends site. Josh Gibson may have been the greatest home run hitter in baseball history. Then again he may have just been a great home run hitter. His greatness is not in question. What is in question is how many home runs did he hit? His plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame says that he hit over 800 home runs in his career. A number come up with by the Negro League Museum puts him at 962 home runs for his career. He may have hit that many, but what home runs do we count. Back in his day the Negro Leagues played a short season in order to make more money barnstorming around the country playing local teams. His home run total may have been inflated in these games. Should they count? Do we even know how many to count? The records are scarce. Just prior to the special Hall of Fame election in 2006 official statistics for the Negro Leagues were gathered. They have Josh at 270 home runs against top caliber competition. Unfortunately the barnstorming records are incomplete. No matter what the numbers say Josh was a great athlete.
In 2006 I read the book The Power and the Darkness about the life of Josh Gibson. I became intrigued about some of these players when I visited the Negro Leagues Museum in 2005. I found the book at a bargain store, and decided to read it. I really loved seeing how the Negro Leagues worked, and how Josh fit into those times. It also went into the dark side of Josh Gibson. He liked his alcohol and his drugs as well as baseball.
Part of the mystique of the Negro Leagues are the stories that have come out of them. One of the best involves Josh. While playing a game in Pittsburgh Josh hit a home run that left the ballpark, and sailed out of sight. The next day while playing a game in Philadelphia a ball came down out of the sky and landed in an outfielder’s glove. The umpire turned to Josh and said, “You’re out… yesterday in Pittsburgh!” It is stories like these that keep me interested in the ‘other’ league playing baseball.
I have been trying to do a post a day for the Baseball Legends site. I will eventually slow down I guess as the weather gets better. Yesterday I picked Larry Doby to write about. I have to admit that as a child the first time that I heard of Doby was when I picked up the card that is shown to the left. I traded some cards for it and a Jimmy Piersall card from ’57 as well. I loved the cards because they were so old to me at the time. 1957 was ancient history. They were almost thirty years old. Nothing could be that old. Well now I am over thirty, and can understand the pain the cards must have been going through at 30. I went home and showed the cards to my dad. I knew that Piersall had played for the White Sox even though he was listed on the card as a member of the White Sox. My dad told me about the home run that he hit then ran around the bases backwards. I then asked him who the guy was on the card with the Sox uniform on. He told me that it was Doby, and that he was important because he was the second black baseball player in the Major Leagues. He was the first in the American League. This was news to me. Black players were not allowed to play in the Major Leagues? All my life I had watched colored players play baseball. Heck one of the best White Sox players was black. my dad explained that they were not allowed to play, and that men like Doby and Robinson paved the way for men like Baines. That is how I will always think of it. Every year we rightly celebrate the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson. We should also every now and then talk about some of the others who helped pave the way like Doby.