Saturday, October 10, 2020

Whitey Ford, 'Chairman of the Board,' dies - By Mark Feinsand


Whitey Ford, the Yankees’ all-time wins leader, Hall of Famer and six-time World Series champion, has died at the age of 91.

The Yankees announced Ford's passing on Friday, 12 days shy of what would have been Ford's birthday. They said he died on Thursday night, surrounded by family while watching the Yankees' Division Series game against the Rays.

“Today all of Major League Baseball mourns the loss of Whitey Ford, a New York City native who became a legend for his hometown team," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Whitey earned his status as the ace of some of the most memorable teams in our sport’s rich history. Beyond the Chairman of the Board’s excellence on the mound, he was a distinguished ambassador for our National Pastime throughout his life. I extend my deepest condolences to Whitey’s family, his friends and admirers throughout our game, and all fans of the Yankees.”

• When it came to winning, Ford led the way

“Whitey’s name and accomplishments are forever stitched into the fabric of baseball’s rich history," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "He was a treasure, and one of the greatest of Yankees to ever wear the pinstripes. Beyond the accolades that earned him his rightful spot within the walls of the Hall of Fame, in so many ways he encapsulated the spirit of the Yankees teams he played for and represented for nearly two decades.

“Whitey was New York tough. When you couple that with his dedicated service to our country, a deep love for the only team he ever played for, six World Championships, and a genuine personality and charisma that showed throughout his life, it’s no wonder he endeared himself as a legend to generations of Yankees fans everywhere.

“While there is comfort knowing Whitey was surrounded by his family at the time of his passing while watching his favorite team compete, this is a tremendous loss to the Yankees and the baseball community. We have lost our ‘Chairman of the Board,’ and we extend our deepest condolences to the entire Ford family.”

The left-hander -- nicknamed “The Chairman of the Board” by batterymate Elston Howard -- went 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA during his 16 years with New York, winning his only Cy Young Award in 1961. Ford, whose .690 winning percentage is the highest of any pitcher with at least 150 victories in the Modern Era, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

“I grew up on Long Island, not too far from Yankee Stadium,” Ford said during his Hall of Fame induction. “I was a Yankee fan since I was five or six years old. To think when I was 21 years old I’d be playing with [Joe] DiMaggio and [Yogi] Berra against guys like Stan Musial and Roy Campanella, it’s just something I can’t fathom. It’s just been great.”

Born on Oct. 21, 1928, in New York City, Edward Charles Ford attended a tryout camp with the Yankees as a first baseman in 1946. A Yankees scout noticed his arm, suggested he try pitching and taught him how to throw a curveball. That led to Ford signing with the Yankees as an amateur for $7,000 before the 1947 season.

The blond-haired Ford was given the nickname “Whitey” by Lefty Gomez, the legendary Yankees southpaw who managed him in Binghamton in the Class A Eastern League.

Ford spent three seasons in the Minor Leagues before debuting as a reliever for New York on July 1, 1950. Ford would go 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 20 games (12 starts) during his rookie season, winning The Sporting News' Rookie of the Year honors while finishing second to Red Sox first baseman Walt Dropo in the American League Rookie of the Year vote by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Pitching behind fellow starters Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat, Ford went on to win the clinching game in the World Series that October, allowing two unearned runs in 8 2/3 innings against the Phillies in Game 4.

“That was my first big thrill in baseball,” Ford told YES Network during an interview for its “Yankeeography” series.

• Whitey could laugh even at his own passing

Ford missed the next two seasons while serving in the Army during the Korean War, though he was never sent overseas. He returned to the Yankees in 1953, winning 18 games in the regular season before helping the team to another World Series championship, the club’s fifth straight title.

“He wasn’t a power pitcher; he was just maybe the smartest pitcher that ever lived,” long-time teammate Jerry Coleman told YES. “With about 17 different pitches, he really had an array of pitches that was remarkable.”

In 1954, Ford was selected to the first of his 10 All-Star Games and won 16 games. Despite 103 victories that season, the Yankees’ championship streak came to an end at the hands of the 111-win Indians, who won the pennant. Ford would help his team play in each of the next four World Series, averaging 16 wins and a 2.41 ERA from 1955-58, with the Yankees winning championships in ’56 and ’58.

In Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, Ford was on the mound when Jackie Robinson stole home in the eighth inning. Robinson was called safe by home-plate umpire Bill Summers, though catcher Yogi Berra argued loudly that he had tagged him out.

“I’ve seen the films of that play maybe 50 times, and Robinson is out every time,” Ford wrote in this autobiography.

Ford won that game, as well as Game 6, but the Dodgers beat the Yankees for the title in Game 7.

Ford pitched in 11 World Series during his 16 seasons, winning six rings. His 10 World Series victories remain the most of any pitcher in history.

“I don’t care what the situation was, how high the stakes were,” Mickey Mantle once said of his close friend. “The bases could be loaded and the pennant riding on every pitch, it never bothered Whitey. He pitched his game. Cool. Crafty. Nerves of steel.”

Although Ford never pitched a no-hitter during his career, he tossed one-hit shutouts in consecutive starts in 1955, only the fifth time in Major League history a pitcher had accomplished that feat, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

“He was outsmarting most of the hitters,” Hall of Famer Bob Feller once said of Ford. “He was a very tough competitor.”

The 1961 season proved to be notable for several reasons, beginning with a change in the manager’s office. While Casey Stengel had routinely started Ford no more than once every five days (sometimes even six or seven), new skipper Ralph Houk decided to hand the lefty the ball every fourth day. After starting 29 games in each of the three previous seasons, Ford started 39 times in 1961, throwing a league-high (and career-high) 283 innings.

Ford went 25-4 with a 3.21 ERA that season, beating out Milwaukee’s Warren Spahn for the Cy Young Award, which was given to only one big league pitcher per year until 1967. Overshadowed all season by the Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris home-run race, the 5-foor-10 lefty capped his memorable year by leading the Yankees to another championship. Ford went 2-0 in two starts against the Reds, throwing 14 scoreless innings to take home World Series MVP honors.

“I really enjoyed that season because the writers were so busy with Maris and Mantle with their home-run derby that they didn’t bother me,” Ford told YES. “It was the best year I ever had.”

The Yankees won again in 1962, Ford’s sixth and final World Series title. They would return to the Fall Classic in 1963 and ’64, though Ford went 0-3 in those two series as the Yankees fell to the Dodgers and Cardinals. He left Game 1 in 1964 with an arm injury and never pitched in another World Series.

Ford finished 10-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 22 career World Series starts. In addition to holding the World Series records for career wins and starts, he also has the mark for strikeouts (94) and innings pitched (146).

Between 1960-62, Ford threw a record 33 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 29 2/3. The mark still stands.

“If the World Series was on the line and I could pick one pitcher to pitch the game,” Mantle said. “I’d choose Whitey Ford every time.”

Ford passed Red Ruffing as the Yankees’ all-time wins leader in 1965 with his 232nd victory, and he won only four more games over the next two seasons as he battled circulatory issues. Ford retired in May 1967, having been limited to only seven starts due to bone spurs in his elbow.

“Sooner or later the arm goes bad. It has to,” Ford said late in his career. “The arm wasn’t meant to stand the strain pitching imposes on it. It’s unnatural. Sooner or later you have to start pitching in pain.”

Ford made his retirement official on May 30, 1967, in a ceremony at Yankee Stadium.

Following his playing career, Ford served as Houk’s first-base coach in 1968, then returned to the Yankees in 1974 as the club’s pitching coach. He came back as pitching coach in 1975 before health issues prompted him to end his coaching career. Ford continued to serve as a Spring Training instructor, but never worked as a coach again. He did give broadcasting a try, serving as a color analyst for the Blue Jays in 1977.

Ford became the first Yankees pitcher to have his number retired when his No. 16 was hung up in Monument Park in August 1974, the same summer in which he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside Mantle, his good friend.

During his induction into Cooperstown, which came in his second year of eligibility, Ford thanked his teammates, including “fellas like Mickey and Maris and Berra for scoring all those runs.”

In August 1987, Ford was honored with a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

During the 1999 World Series, Ford was named as a member of MLB’s All-Century Team.

In 2000, the Yankees honored the legendary hurler with “Whitey Ford Day,” 50 years after he debuted for the club. Ford fought back tears as some of his former teammates, including Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto, talked about his career during the ceremonies at Yankee Stadium, showing an emotion he rarely displayed during his playing career.

“It’s different when you’re pitching,” Ford told reporters that day, according to the New York Post. “You’re moving your whole body, but when you’re just sitting there watching all these ex-teammates, it was tough. It was a great day.”

Ford also threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

Ford had been the second-oldest living Hall of Famer since Red Schoendienst died in June 2018. Tommy Lasorda, 93, is the oldest among living Hall of Famers.

He is survived by Joan, his wife of 69 years, and two of their three children, Sally Ann and Eddie, as well as eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Their third child, Tommy, died in 1999.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined as a reporter in 2001.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Experts’ Advice For Baseball Daily Fantasy Sports A Newbie Should Know


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Experts’ Advice For Baseball Daily Fantasy Sports A Newbie Should Know

If you are an avid fan of baseball and have even played several matches in the past, the rules are pretty simple if you get the gist of it. The hitter would just hit the ball and get to the bases until he gets a home run. Pretty simple, right?

However, it might seem simple, but the strategies that players incorporate in their plays are complicated and involve many factors. Same as betting on fantasy baseball. It would be best if you consider all the factors to predict things that would happen in the game and, ultimately, accurately guess the winner of the match. 

That said, doing your research, finding resources, and correctly assessing all the factors that come into the game is essential if you want to win bets. There are many things a beginner should learn, but here are five starting tips every newbie should learn to get those wins.

Assess Your Starting Pitcher

Arguably, the most critical aspect of an entire team is its starting pitcher. 

Many people will say it is the hitter, but a good hitter will only get a chance to bat probably 4-5 times during a game. Some people will also say it's the defenders, but every defender would only get to catch a ball ten times if they don't get swapped out. 

However, if you look at the starting pitcher, he would be playing and can potentially dominate the other team during the beginning of a match, which is crucial to have a point. Always remember, a good pitcher stops good hitting. Even if the opposing team has a killer lineup, a pitching ace on the other team can dominate them, leaving them no chance to even hit the ball. 

If you base your logic into betting a dominant team that is dominant in the entire season over an inferior team, you may lose. However, you are not betting on which team will be winning the season. You will bet on which team will win a game. That said, even if the other team is superior and is most likely to win, they can lose to a weaker team with a pitching ace. 

Some factors to see in a pitcher:

  • Strikeout to walk ratio

  • Home run rates

  • Ground ball rates

  • Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP

Take Advantage of Underdog Players

To make money off betting in fantasy baseball, the bettor should have a win percentage of 52.4%. If MLB bettors consistently make teams with underdogs consistently, they can leave with positive numbers above the break-even point.

Taking advantage of underdogs means you will be a contrarian. Think of it like this: the average bettor bases his bets on how a player performed last game. If a player performs more significantly than the opposing counterpart, then the average bettor will bet on the greater player. By going against the tide, you will discover a lot of sleepers that you can use in your future games.

Take Note of Pitching Splits

Like mentioned earlier, the pitchers on your MLB DFS picks, especially the starting pitchers, are the essential person on a baseball team. Even the best lineup can be brought down to its knees if the opposing team has a pitching ace. That said, assessing a pitcher's performance is vital if you want to predict the outcome of the game. 

ERAs, win-loss records, and WHIPs are the vital stats you need to know about a pitcher. However, they don't take other factors into account. Don't just look at how the pitcher performs on their team. You should also look at outside variables, like weather conditions during the game and the mound the stadium is using.

For example, the home/road splits. Pitching mound varies by texture and firmness. Some pitchers prefer firm mounds to have a more powerful pitch that gives them an excellent opportunity to give the batter a strike. Also, some pitchers relish on the challenge of pitching on enemy territory, making them pitch better than usual. Thus, you have to assess the home/road splits of a pitcher.

Another split you should take into consideration is the day/night split. This split determines how a pitcher performs during certain parts of the day. Some pitchers ignore other factors, but the part of the day they are playing can have a massive effect on their pitch.


Many experts assess the pitcher's performance since they are the people who can make or break the game. Also, they tend to be the factor that can turn them into the dominant team even if they are underdogs. That said, you should assess the superior team and look at how the underdog performs. Not to mention that winning a bet on the underdogs will make you rake in a lot of cash. By following the advice above, you’ll surely find your MLB DFS a worthwhile experience.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Yanks Struggling, Cole’s Streak Ends

Yanks Struggling, Cole’s Streak Ends

Bombers Reeling

The Yankees had just gotten beat up in a three-game sweep by their divisional rivals from Tampa Bay when they turned their lonely eyes to their $324 million ace, Gerrit Cole, to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, their prized free-agent acquisition was not up to the task and had an uncharacteristically poor outing. When the dust settled, Cole had worked five full innings and surrendered five earned runs on five hits, three of which were home run shots, and the Yankees dropped a 5-1 decision to the Braves, their   fourth consecutive loss.

“I just sort of liked to have pitched better,” said Cole, whose 20-game winning streak, dating to last May, came to a close. “It seemed to be a little bit feast-or-famine in terms of good command for a period of time and some bad command in some bad spots.”

“Times when I thought that they were going to be aggressive, they were patient. And times when I thought maybe I could grab some more of the zone in some situations, I made a poor pitch and they were being aggressive. It just didn't match up and they stayed about one step ahead of me too many times.”

New York is now 1 ½ games behind the Rays in the AL East standings and is a sub .500 road team as of this writing. While their performances at Yankee Stadium have reaped stellar results, they are not a serious championship contender unless they can win on the highway. Despite a somewhat disappointing first half to this truncated season,   they are certainly not considered MLB underdogs by any stretch of the imagination as their roster is loaded with talent and many believe it’s only a matter of time before this 2020 Yankees edition puts it all together. 

Happ Not Happy

J.A. Happ has 17 million reasons to be unhappy about the way he has been used by manager Aaron Boone this season. You see, the 37-year-old hurler has a $17 million vesting option for next season if he makes either 27 starts or pitches 165 innings, which is prorated to 10 starts or 61 ¹/₃ innings in this abbreviated season. MLB rules prohibit purposefully manipulating a player’s usage to keep said player from his vesting option.

Happ is coming off of his best outing of the season when he held the Red Sox to one run over five-plus innings in a   4-2 Yankees victory on August 16th. But he has yet to get a start over the last 10 days and believes there might be a conspiracy afloat.

“I know I’m healthy and have been healthy and ready to pitch since what would have been [the beginning of] the regular season and since summer camp and the start of the abbreviated season,’’ Happ said. “I’ve been ready to go in all those cases with no issues.”

While ace Gerrit Cole, leads the team in starts with seven on the young season, Happ has only three starts on his 2020 resume and he’s not shy about showing his dismay. When asked about the brewing controversy, Happ stated, “You guys [in the media] are pretty smart. It doesn’t take too much to figure out, sort of, what could be going on.”

But Boone rebutted that contention when he explained, “After a four-day break, we reshuffled to prioritize getting Gerrit going and [Tanaka] after him, then the off day and then [Montgomery] and J.A. There’s a chance we even pitch Gerrit and [Tanaka] on the sixth day out of this. … With only four starters right now, you’re gonna need to make up those slots.”

In fairness to Boone, Happ has not been setting the world on fire and could be pitching himself right out of the rotation. After three starts he has logged only 12.2 innings of work and has 10 walks to six strikeouts with a bloated 6.39 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. Probably not the best time to start complaining as a member of a championship-caliber team. 

Happ was posed with the question about the situation becoming a distraction for him on and off the field, “It’s hard to quantify an answer for that. It weighs on me to some extent, but when I come in here, I try to continue to be a good teammate and prepare to be ready and be professional and that stuff. But when I’m away [from the park], it certainly can creep in and has taken a lot of thought. … At this point, I need to leave that on the back burner and let that play out how it might.”

Sunday, June 28, 2020


PLAY IN 2020

* 60-Game Season
* Spring Training Camp to be held at Yankee Stadium
* Players Report July 1
* Opening Day is July 23
* Yankees Open Season at Nationals Park
* 10 Games Each Againts Division Foes Blue Jays,
Orioles, Rays, and Red Sox
* 20 Games -vs- Braves, Phillies, Nationals,
Mets, and the Marlins
* Opening Rosters will be 30 players, which
will be reduced over time to 26.
* Many obstacles still to overcome and
questions to be answered about safety!!!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Babe Ruth’s best performances from 1920

Babe Ruth’s best performances from 1920
It’s been 100 years since Ruth’s first season as a Yankee, so let’s look back at what he did in his first go around in New York.
by: Matt Ferenchick - January 2, 2020 - 
The 2020 season will mark exactly 100 years since Babe Ruth first doned the pinstripes to play for the Yankees. It was January 6, 1920 when the sale that brought Ruth from the Red Sox was officially announced.
You probably don’t need much of a refresher on what happened next, but here goes: Ruth went on to set countless records, establishing himself as the greatest player of all time. He helped lead the Yankees to seven World Series titles. That set the tone for the franchise going forward, as they’ve won a further 20 championships and become the most famous brand in the sport.
Before all that, Ruth was still in the midst of making his transition from pitcher to full-time outfielder when the Yankees acquired him. However once he made the move, it became clear pretty quickly just how good he was.
Ruth’s 1920 season was among his best in a career that isn’t short of options for that honor. He put up his career highs in slugging percentage and OBP. His home runs and fWAR are the third highest totals for any season. It would take one more year for him to lead the Yankees to a World Series appearance, but his 1920 was truly incredible.
One hundred years on from Babe Ruth’s first season as a Yankee, let’s look back at some of his best performances from that year as he began his transformation into baseball legend.
Despite how incredibly good his 1920 was, Ruth actually really struggled in his first month with the Yankees. His .508 OPS in April 1920 was the worst he put up in any month in his Yankee career. It was likely due to injury more than anything else, and it didn’t take long for him to get past it.
Everything started to change with his performance on May 1st. In a fairly straight-forward 6-0 win over the Red Sox, Ruth recorded his eighth and ninth hits of the season. One of which was a home run, his first as a Yankee, and the other was a double. They were just his second and third extra-base hits of the season.
He went into this game hitting just .226/.250/.258. By the end of May, he had already shot those numbers up to .299/.409/.729.
The Yankees beat the White Sox 6-5, and Ruth was not solely responsible, but he was pretty close. He went 3-for-3 with a walk in the win. Two of his hits were home runs, and the other was a triple. He finished with four RBI and three runs scored. Considering that the Yankees won by just one run, if he did something just slightly less good in any of his bats, it’s entirely possible the Yankees lose that day.
Considering some of this other statlines on this list, the St. Louis Browns holding Ruth to just one hit in nine innings isn’t terrible. However, this game did not end after nine innings. St. Louis rallied in the top of the ninth, scoring a run to make the score 10-10 and eventually send it to extra innings. After a scoreless tenth, Ruth came up with two on in the bottom of the 11th. He proceeded to hit a walk-off three-run home run. It was his 29th of the season, tying the single-season record that he had just set the season before. Again, it was July 15th.
Towards the end of a season where he had crushed them up to the tune of a .318/.545/.879 triple slash line and 26 RBI in 22 games, the Tigers probably decided to be a little bit more careful with Ruth on September 12th. So, they ended up walking him. Four times. It worked in the sense that he didn’t pick up a hit in either of his non-walk PAs, but the Yankees still won 13-6.

Ruth’s season high in hits came in this game against the Senators. He recorded four hits with one RBI in the Yankees’ 2-1 win. The RBI came on a home run, while he picked up one other extra-base hit on a double. The Yankees got their win on a walk-off hit by Del Pratt. Who did it score? Babe Ruth, of course. In total, Ruth was responsible for four of the seven hits, one of the two RBI, and both of the runs scored put up by the Yankees that day. He could’ve ended up doing even more, but was caught stealing twice.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Announcing the 2019 Fielding Bible Awards

Baseball Info Solutions Announces the 2019 Fielding Bible Awards
Contact:Mark Simon
 Baseball Info Solutions
 Phone: (610) 261-2370

Friday, November 01, 2019

Announcing the 2019 Fielding Bible Awards

The 14th Season That BIS Has Honored the Best Defensive Players in MLB

2019 Fielding Bible Awards 

October 31, 2019
For Immediate Release
Contact: Mark Simon  (610) 261-2370
Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Fielding Bible Awards. This marks the 14th season that BIS has honored the best defensive players in MLB. The awards are voted on by a panel of experts. 
This year’s winners are:
Matt Olson
Kolten Wong
Nick Ahmed
Matt Chapman
David Peralta
Lorenzo Cain
Cody Bellinger
Roberto Pérez
Zack Greinke
Cody Bellinger
Matt Olson was a unanimous pick at first base. He won for the second straight year. He led all first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved. Over the last two seasons, Olson has 67 Good Fielding Plays for throw handling. No other first baseman has more than 60.
Kolten Wong was also a unanimous winner at second base, winning the award for the second straight year. He led all second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved. Wong made 38 plays in which he sprinted to field a ground ball or pop up, the most of any second baseman.
Nick Ahmed ended Andrelton Simmons’ six-year reign as a Fielding Bible Award winner at shortstop. He led all shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved after tying with Simmons in that stat a season ago.
Matt Chapman won the award for the second straight year at third base. Chapman led all third basemen in Defensive Runs Saved and had the fewest Misplays & Errors on a per-inning basis of any third baseman. Chapman has 66 Defensive Runs Saved the last three seasons, twice as many as Nolan Arenado, who ranks second with 33.
David Peralta won the award in left field for the first time. Peralta tied Michael Brantley of the Astros in voting but won via our tiebreaker (first place votes). He finished tied with Brantley and Mike Tauchman of the Yankees for the MLB lead in Defensive Runs Saved in left field.
Lorenzo Cain became the first center fielder to win the award in consecutive seasons since the award was introduced in 2006. Cain finished second among center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved. His five home run robberies tied for the most since BIS began tracking them in 2004 (Carlos Gomez had five in 2013, Josh Reddick matched Cain this season). He’s won three Fielding Bible Awards in his career, including one for Multi-Position excellence in 2014.
Cody Bellinger became the first player to win two Fielding Bible Awards in the same season. His 19 Defensive Runs Saved matched Aaron Judge for most by a right fielder. He’s the first Dodgers outfielder to win a Fielding Bible Award. Bellinger’s strong play at both center field and first base helped him win the voting for top Multi-Position player as well.
Roberto Pérez won his first Fielding Bible Award. He led all catchers with 29 Defensive Runs Saved, one shy of the most in a season by a catcher since BIS began tracking the stat in 2003. Pérez ranked second in pitch framing (Strike Zone Runs Saved), second in Catcher Block Rate (blocking potential wild pitches) and was above average in base-stealing deterrence.
Zack Greinke won his second straight Fielding Bible Award by keeping busy. His 68 chances were the most in the majors by a pitcher. He led the majors in putouts, tied for the lead in assists, and was the runaway leader in double plays converted with 12 (no one else had more than five).
“Once again, our panel has done an outstanding job utilizing all available resources to pick the best defensive players in baseball,” said Baseball Info Solutions owner John Dewan. “The performance of these players represents a combination of preparation, skill, and athleticism that is highly admirable for its excellence.”
The awards are determined by a panel of 12 baseball experts, who rank the top 10 players at each defensive position (including the multi-position players left out of Gold Glove voting) on a scale from 1 to 10. A first-place vote gets 10 points, second place gets nine points, third place gets eight points, etc. Total up the points for each player, and the player with the most points wins the award. A perfect score is 120 points.
A complete list of ballots and the history of the Fielding Bible Awards (which began in 2006) can be found online at and in the 2020 Bill James Handbook, which is available at and wherever you buy your books. 
About Baseball Info Solutions
Baseball Info Solutions (also known as Sports Info Solutions) is committed to providing the most accurate, in-depth, and timely professional baseball and football data, including cutting-edge research and analysis, striving to educate professional teams and the public about sports analytics.

Monday, August 5, 2019

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, major league baseball stood still

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, major league baseball stood still

Players and fans observe a moment of silent prayer July 20, 1969, at Yankee Stadium after the scoreboard flashed the news that astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong had safely landed on the moon. (Harry Harris/AP)

At 4:17 p.m. Eastern time on July 20, 1969, Mike Epstein stood 90 feet from home plate and some 238,000 miles from the moon.
With the Washington Senators and New York Yankees tied at 2 in the eighth inning of their series finale at Yankee Stadium, Epstein, a Bronx native, had one thing on his mind. It wasn’t Apollo 11′s lunar descent.
“I wasn’t concerned with it,” Epstein, now 76, said from his home outside Denver last month. “I was concerned about scoring a run.”

An estimated 650 million watched Neil Armstrong take man’s first step on the moon more than six hours later, but during the lunar landing, 32,933 were in the stands at Yankee Stadium on the Sunday before the all-star break. Ken McMullen dug in against Jack Aker with Epstein on third, a man on first and no outs. Most scheduled sports programs were preempted by coverage of Apollo 11′s progress, but Washington’s WWDC Radio carried the Senators-Yankees game with short reports on the moon mission.
“The 1-1 pitch to McMullen, swung on, hit foul down the third base side,” intoned WWDC play-by-play man Rex Barney, the former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher. “One ball, two strikes now.”
As the umpires, according to prior arrangements, waved their arms and stopped play, an urgent voice came over the radio: “Here is a bulletin from WWDC News, Apollo 11 is 100 feet from the surface of the moon. We now switch live to the manned spacecraft center.”
Similar interruptions took place on radio stations and at stadiums across major league baseball as the sport paused to direct everyone’s attention toward the moon. At Montreal’s Jarry Park, the Mets and Expos took an extended break between games of their doubleheader so the 27,356 in attendance could listen to coverage of the landing over the stadium’s public address system. In Chicago, Comiskey Park’s exploding scoreboard shot sparks when the lunar module touched down, which happened to coincide with Walt Williams’s infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. And the Yankees-Senators game was stopped for four minutes to celebrate the accomplishment.
Barney was reading out-of-town scores when WWDC returned to coverage from Yankee Stadium, where public address announcer Bob Sheppard was sharing the historic news with the crowd.
“Ladies and gentleman, your attention please,” Sheppard said. “You will be happy to know that the Apollo 11 has landed safely on the moon."
The cheers from the crowd drowned out the final two words of Sheppard’s announcement, but the message displayed on the scoreboard in right-center field was loud and clear: “THEYRE ON THE MOON.”
“I’m sure you heard it in the background,” Barney said. “The announcement and the game being paused, Apollo 11 has landed safely on the moon. That’s what the cheering and applause was for. They’re on the moon right now. And it’s a standing ovation, very inspiring, and I’ll tell you one thing, sitting here and broadcasting this game, and watching the players, I think there’s only one thing going through everyone’s mind. . . . As I sit here and I have been all weekend long, really, and I think my thoughts along with everyone else has just been of those people that are on the moon. They’re there, right now."
The cheering at Yankee Stadium continued for about 45 seconds, according to the New York Times, as thousands of children waved the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Louisville Sluggers they received on bat day.
“On the field, the players seemed confused, or impatient,” Leonard Koppett wrote in the Times. “Most did not turn toward the scoreboard. Finally, the announcer could be understood, and he asked the crowd for a moment of silent prayer for the safe return of the astronauts.”
After a few seconds of silence, a recording of “America the Beautiful” played over the Yankee Stadium loudspeaker. The crowd sang and then cheered some more.
“I guess it’s tough, I know it is for everyone — ballplayers and fans alike — to keep their mind on what’s going on,” Barney said.
“To be honest, it wasn’t a big deal for me,” Epstein said in a phone interview. “ . . . I remember I did look up toward right field and I said, ‘Wow, that’s really neat.' Outside of that, I was a baseball player, and my intent was to score that run from third base.”
Aker, then a 29-year-old reliever for the Yankees, was more focused on the goings-on on Earth, too.
“It was something strange,” Aker, 79, recalled in a phone interview. “We’d never done something like that before. I just walked off the mound and stood around. I didn’t go to the dugout or anything. I stayed on the field. I wasn’t that interested in it. When you’re pitching and you’re concentrating on that inning, you don’t want anything that cuts into your concentration.”
If the ballplayers weren’t concerned, the reaction to the historic moment was far different in the stands.
Like many kids fascinated by the Space Age, 13-year-old Mark Polansky had followed Apollo 11′s mission with great interest since it launched from Kennedy Space Center four days earlier. Polansky, who grew up in New Jersey, spent parts of most summers living in Manhattan and going to Yankees and Mets games with his grandmother and two aunts, all of them rabid sports fans.
“I don’t remember a darn thing about the game,” Polansky said in a phone interview. “I would’ve had to have looked to see who the Yankees played that day, let alone who was on the team, but I do remember where we sat. We sat on the mezzanine, behind home plate, somewhere in that area.”
Polansky also remembers Sheppard’s distinctive voice interrupting play in the eighth, and the crowd singing “America the Beautiful.” It was an inspiring moment for a man who, 32 years later in February 2001, piloted space shuttle Atlantis for mission STS-98.
“I couldn’t tell you if there were 5,000 or 50,000 people there, but whoever was there, they went wild,” Polansky said. “It was the proverbial everyone being united for a moment and sharing a common thing. And then the game went back to being played.”
After the roughly four-minute stoppage, McMullen hit a grounder to third baseman Bobby Cox, who threw home to nail Epstein for the first out. Aker hit Hank Allen with a pitch to load the bases before getting Ed Brinkman to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Yankees walked off the Senators an hour later on Gene Michael’s RBI single to score Roy White in the 11th inning. Aker, who pitched four scoreless innings in relief, earned the win in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory.
Epstein has fond memories of childhood trips to Yankee Stadium with his uncle Irving, of being mesmerized by the green grass amid a concrete jungle. He hit his first major league home run there June 5, 1967, in his first game with Washington after being traded from the Orioles. That, he said, was a bigger moment in his career than standing on third base when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
“It was in the newspapers every day, but it wasn’t something to me that was going to impact my life,” said Epstein, who hit a career-high 30 home runs for the Senators in 1969 and played five more seasons in the big leagues with the A’s, Rangers and Angels. After receiving a letter of endorsement from his former manager in Washington — Hall of Famer Ted Williams — while working as a roving instructor in the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system, Epstein founded a hitting school that his son, Jake, still operates.
“The more time that went by, the bigger deal it became for the players,” Aker said. “We probably talked more about it a week later than we did on the day it happened. It’s something that I certainly remember now, especially when I see replays of TV and books and such."
Polansky went back to his grandmother’s house after the game.
“Like everybody else in the entire world, we watched them actually come down the ladder and step on the moon that night,” he said. “I do remember after we walked on the moon saying, ‘Gosh, I really want to do this and I want to be the first guy that lands on Mars,’ because I loved exploration, and this just cemented the deal."
Aker watched Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon that night, too, but his memories of another historic moment during his playing career are much more vivid. On April 8, 1974, Aker was standing in the home bullpen at Atlanta’s Fulton-County Stadium when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record.
“Before that game, we had decided instead of fighting over the ball, we would each spread out and take a portion of the bullpen,” Aker recalled. “We spread out before he hit, but when the ball was on the way to the bullpen, Tommy House broke our little rule. He left his area and came over to where the ball was coming down, and he grabbed the ball.”
Polansky was finishing his senior year of high school when Aaron hit his 715th career home run. That fall, he enrolled at Purdue University and met Gene Cernan, who, two years earlier, became the last person to set foot on the moon. Polansky said his encounter with Cernan — as part of a small, informal gathering — convinced him that he wanted to become an astronaut.
After his maiden space flight aboard Atlantis, Polansky made two more trips out of Earth’s atmosphere as commander of STS-116 Discovery in December 2006 and of STS-127 Endeavour in July 2009.
“My running joke is this month we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of my last flight,” he said.
The Yankees will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing Saturday. Polansky, who lives in Houston, said the team invited him to participate in a pregame ceremony, but he will be on a previously planned European vacation with his wife and children.
Fellow former astronaut Mike Massimino will throw the ceremonial first pitch to Aker, who didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the event when he stood on the mound exactly 50 years ago.
“It wasn’t until the next day when the papers came out that I realized, ‘Holy cow, this is a real moment in history,’ ” Aker said. “I didn’t enjoy it the way I should have.”

The YouTube Video clip from Yankee Stadium can be found here: