For all the beauty and history of Wrigley Field … it really has a lot in common with the much-maligned Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Wrigley always looks like a the Midwest’s biggest beer garden when you see the shirtless fans basking in the bleacher sun. But when you look at other parts of the ballpark you can usually find people shivering. At Wrigley you can always identify the veteran fans. They’re the ones that dress in layers … and bring a blanket.
Maybe I’m the last of a dying breed, but I still love the sound of an organ at the ballpark. I hope the organ never gets phased out completely. Would that make me a Vital Organist? I had a chance to chat with Gary Pressey the long-time organist at Wrigley and all he wanted to talk about was Dodger organist Nancy Bea and what a treasure she is. Agreed.
I asked former Cub Juan Pierre if he ever took the EL train to and from Wrigley. He laughed and said the only way you would ever consider riding the train after a game is if you went 4-4 and the Cubs won … and were on an 8-game winning streak. Other than that, Cub fans would make it a long ride. For a team that hasn’t won the World Series in over 100 years their fans always have lofty expectations.
Chalk this one up to crazy things you learn at the ballpark. Friday the origin of former Brooklyn Dodger player and manager Casey Stengel’s name came up in a pre-game conversation. I had no idea. Charles Dillon Stengel was born in Kansas City, MO. Thus the nickname KC…that eventually morphed into Casey. Who knew?
Speaking of former managers and names, many-time Yankee manager Billy Martin was born Alfred Manuel Martin, but his Italian mother always called him “Bello”, handsome in Italian … and that’s how he became Billy.
And speaking of former Yankees, for years Joe Dimaggio insisted that he be introduced as “the greatest living ballplayer”. I always thought that was odd (and not accurate). Anyway, with Joe D. and Ted Williams (arguably the greatest hitter ever) both passing away in the last ten years … no one has been anointed as the new “greatest living player”. My guess is that you’d have to give the nod to either Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. But the real question is, who is next in line? Hopefully Mays and Aaron live forever … but if they don’t … of the next generation … who will inherit the title of “greatest living player”?
With virtually all of the recent generation of players under the Steroid Cloud (fairly or unfairly) that brings some interesting names into the discussion. Does Sandy Koufax get some votes? What about 70’s stars like Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench or Reggie Jackson? It’s an arbitrary title … but an interesting debate nonetheless.
While looking up Joe DiMaggio’s numbers on Baseball-reference.com … the closest career comparables that the web-site lists to DiMaggio’s production are Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker. In the top eight are Moises Alou and Ellis Burks. I realize that DiMaggio missed three years in his prime to military service, but its still surprising to see those names in the same conversation.
That’s it for today. How about another winning streak for the Dodgers?
As good as Clayton Kershaw was on Sunday in Miami, Joe Torre had to be sweating bullets. How do you take out your prized 21-year-old when he has a no-hitter going? Kershaw throwing 108 pitches in the first seven innings …. An average of 15 pitches an inning. If he keeps his no-hitter alive … do you keep Kershaw in for could have been a 138-pitch complete game?
Going back to the 2006 Draft …. Kershaw right now is clearly the third best player from that draft class in the big leagues. Evan Longoria (3rd overall pick) and Tim Lincecum (10th) are ahead of Kershaw. Maybe you can make the argument that Joba Chamberlain (41st) is in the conversation. But that’s it. The big difference? The Dodgers drafted Kershaw out of Highland Park HS in Dallas while Longoria, Lincecum and Chamberlain were drafted after college careers. As you probably know, high school picks are always a riskier proposition than college players with at least three years more playing experience. The Dodgers did their due diligence, took a chance and right now, things looking great.
Just asking, but is there another team in baseball that has two young pitchers (25 and younger) that have higher ceilings than Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw?
It’s really early … exceedingly early. But could Kershaw and Billingsley be a “poor man’s” version of Koufax and Drysdale? Kershaw and Koufax … electric lefties with big fastballs and dynamic curves. Billingsley and Drysdale … bulldog righties with moving fastballs and championship-level stamina.
On a side note, I just polished off Jon Weisman’s 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. If there is a more erudite fan than Weisman I’d love to meet them. I think Weisman is in Manny Mota territory as a unique Dodger treasure.
The Marlins are moving into a new retractable-roof stadium in 2012. I hope that solves their attendance problems. I’m not sold that it will.
And yes, I’m the one who spent 20 minutes of my life researching how many Eric’s have played for the Dodgers (Eric Milton makes 9). But it was Dodger PR maven Josh Rawitch who came up with the number of Juan’s in Dodger history (5) Forty percent of the Juan’s (Pierre and Castro) in the line-up Sunday.
Too bad there haven’t been 10 Eric’s. Eric Stuckenschneider, a Dodger farmhand in the 90’s. If he had made it to the big leagues he would’ve had the longest name in MLB history. Stuckenschneider and his 16 letters stalling at Triple-A Albuquerque in 1998. He would’ve put Jarrod Saltalamacchia to shame.
And finally, shake hands with Juan Pierre at your own risk. He’s scalding hot. Eight hits in the last 22 innings that the Dodgers played in Miami. Good for him and good for the Dodgers.
Handing the reins back to the greatest that ever lived. Thanks for reading.
— Eric Collins