Monday, April 25, 2016

New York Yankees by the Numbers: 11-15 By Dr. Harvey Frommer

New York Yankees by the Numbers: 11-15
By Dr. Harvey Frommer

All kinds of amazing, unusual, milestone numbers have been put up by the Yankees of New York. Some of the numbers spark memories, others controversy, others surprise. Herewith for you reading pleasure the newest edition. Enjoy – and pass on other numbers to your loyal scribe.

Record set for most RBI’s in consecutive games, Babe Ruth 1931
Most walks in one inning, the third,Yankees versus Senators, September 11, 1949
Most at bats one game, Bobby Richardson, June 24, 1962, game against Detroit went 22 innings.
Pitcher Ron Guidry was the eleventh Yankee Captain from March 4, 1986 to July 12, 1989.

Babe Ruth career home run rate per at bat.
"I could have had a lifetime .600 average, but I would have had to hit them singles. The people were paying to see me hit home runs." Babe Ruth

The number of ballparks Babe Ruth hit at least one home run in.
The number of times Babe Ruth led the American League in homers.
Billy Martin's rookie uniform number. First baseman Don Mattingly was the 12th Yankee Captain from February 28, 1991 to October 8, 1995.

Home plate was moved 13 feet forward in 1924, eliminating the "bloody angle" in the right field corner of Yankee Stadium.
Bill Dickey holds record catching over 100 games 13 consecutive seasons.
Number of seasons Joe DiMaggio played for the Yankees.
Derek Jeter was the 13th Captain in Yankee history from September 3, 2003 to season’s end 2014.
"This is a great honor. Captain of the Yankees is not a title that is thrown around lightly. It is a huge responsibility and one that I take very seriously. I thank Mr. Steinbrenner for having such confidence in me." - Derek Jeter

The number of players Yankees lost in the 1918 season to military service.
Team record for runs scored in an inning: fifth inning against Washington, July 6, 1920. Yogi Berra stayed away from Yankee Stadium for 14 years after George Steinbrenner fired him through an emissary 16 games into the 1985.

In 1927, Babe Ruth blasted 14% of all the home runs recorded in the American League.

Babe Ruth three times homered 15 times in one month; DiMaggio and Maris accomplished that feat once. Lou Gehrig, career steals of home
The number of consecutive seasons Yogi Berra was a member of the American League All Star team. He actually made 18 teams in all.
July 18, 1999 -- David Cone's perfect game against the Montreal Expos was the 15th regular season perfect game.

$15.00 Bob Sheppard's per game earning in 1951 when he began working for the Yankees, allowing for inflation this is approximately $138 in today’s dollars.
Thurman Munson retired uniform number
Babe Ruth, total World Series home runs, second place all time. Most runs allowed by Yankees in post-season competition, Game 6, 2001 World Series.

Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl was published last fall.
His Frommer Baseball Classic – Remembering Yankee Stadium (Second Edition) is his newest sports effort.A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at:
The prolific author is at work on THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK (2017)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Remembering Jackie Robinson - Dr. Harvey Frommer on Sports

Remembering Jackie Robinson -
Dr. Harvey Frommer on Sports

Through the years I have had the opportunity to write three books with Jackie Robinson content and dozens of articles. He has always been one of my greatest sports heroes.
Lest we forget. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on the last day of January in 1919 and died on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut. Robinson attended UCLA, where he won letters in three sports.

He was in the Army during World War II and then played briefly in the Negro Leagues when the war ended. He was signed to a minor league contract with the Montreal Royals in 1946 by Branch Rickey, and the following year came up to the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's age-old color line on April 15, 1947.
He played in the major leagues for a decade. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he helped the Dodgers win six pennants and one world championship.
Despite all the pressure he played under, he was still able to record a lifetime batting average of .311. His base-stealing ability and hustle won many games for the Dodgers. He set several records for fielding for second basemen.
His influence on sports is immeasurable. His breaking of baseball's color line against the greatest of odds is still one of the most dramatic stories in all of sports history. And there are those who still have special memories of the man and the legend.
So for your reading pleasure, a tasting menu.
         One of the perks I have experienced in writing sports books and articles has been the interesting characters I have met, the friendships I have made.

          One such person was Irving Rudd, a Damon Runyan type character who for a time was the publicity director of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.
          Irving became a good friend of mine and my wife Myrna. His words enrich my book Rickey and Robinson: the Men Who Broke Baseball’s Color Line. His words over and over again enriched the five oral histories the Frommer have written.
          Jackie Robinson and Irving Rudd had a special relationship. What follows is an insight into the black pioneer from our book It Happened in the Catskills. It comes to you in the voice of Irving Rudd
       Recalling a winter weekend in 1954. Irving and his wife and Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel went up to the famed Grossinger's Hotel for some relaxation.
          IRVING RUDD: "You skate?" Jackie Robinson asked.
           "Not very well." I answered.
            "C'mon, Irv; let's go skating anyway."
          I said, "Okay," and we all went to the icehouse. We put skates on. The wives go to the rail to watch. Jackie goes out on the ice and proceeds to lose his balance and falls flat on his back. Geez! The image of Walter O'Malley, the owner of the Dodgers, came into my head. I just blew my job. Jackie Robinson just fractured something - why didn't I stop him from skating?
          Then Robinson gets up and brushes himself off. 
          "C'mon, Irv, let's race!" He gives me that big smile.
          So the two of us like two drunks go around the rink of Grossinger's. He's flopping on his knees. I'm sliding on my can. We get up and keep going and flopping and going and flopping and going. And he beats me by five yards.
          "Let's do it again," he says.
         Around we go. This time he beats me by about 20 yards.
          "One more time," he says.
          By now, he's really skating. He is such a natural, gifted athlete. He's skating like a guy who has been at it for weeks. It's no contest. He's almost lapped the field on me.
          Now there's a crowd that's gathered and they're cheering. He puts his arms around me, and he wasn't a demonstrative man.     "Irv," he says, "am I glad you were here this weekend with me. I just had to beat someone before I went home."
          That story give true insight into Jack Roosevelt Robinson and what he went through in his time as a Brooklyn Dodger.  And what a time it was: He played in the major leagues for a decade. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he helped the Dodgers win six pennants and one world championship. Despite all the pressure he played under, Jackie Robinson was still able to record a lifetime batting average of .311.
          From my point of view there is no event in sports history as significant as the breaking of baseball's color Line. It changed the national pastime forever. It ushered in a whole new era in baseball and in all sports.  All these long years after Robinson's death at the age of only 53 in 1972  - more athletes, not just the black ones, would be well served to remember the debt owed Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey.
         Here is how I described what it was like at the very start in my book Rickey and Robinson.
          With the blue number 42 on the back of his Brooklyn Dodger home uniform, Jackie Robinson took his place at first base at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. It was 32 years to the day since Jack Johnson had become the first black heavyweight champion of the world.
          Many of the 26,633 at that tiny ballpark on that chilly spring day were not even baseball fans, but had come out to see "the one" who would break the sport's age-old color line. Robinson's wife, Rachel, was there along with the infant Jackie, Jr. Many in the crowd wore "I'm for Jackie" buttons and badges, and screamed each time the black pioneer came to bat or touched the ball.
           Jackie Robinson grounded out to short his first time up. He was retired on a fly ball to left field in his second at bat. He grounded into a rally-killing double play in his final at bat of the day.
           The Dodgers won the game, 5-3, nipping Johnny Sain and the Boston Braves. For Robinson it was a muted performance, but the first of his 1,382 major league games was in the record books - and he had broken baseball's color line forever.
          "I was nervous on my first day in my first game at Ebbets Field," Robinson told reporters afterward. "But nothing has bothered me since."
          On April 18, 1947, at the Polo Grounds, in the shadow of the largest black community in the country, Jackie Robinson smashed his first major league home run as the Dodgers defeated the Giants, 10-4.
           Writer James Baldwin had noted: "Back in the thirties and forties, Joe Louis was the only hero that we ever had. When he won a fight, everybody in Harlem was up in heaven. On that April day the large contingent of blacks in the crowd of nearly 40, 000 had another hero to be "up in heaven" about, another hero to stand beside Joe Louis."
          Part sociological phenomenon, part entertainment spectacle, part revolution, part media event - the Jackie Robinson story played out its poignant, dramatic and historic scenes through that 1947 season.
          Toward the end of the season, a Jackie Robinson Day was staged at Ebbets Field. Robinson was now a major drawing card rivaling Bob Feller and Ted Williams in the American League.
           `"I thank you all." Robinson said over the microphone in that high-pitched voice. He acknowledged the gifts he'd received, which included a new car, a television and radio set and an electric broiler.
           The famed and great dancer “Bill “Bojangles” Robinson stood next to Jackie Robinson."I am 69 years old," Bill Robinson said. "But I never thought I would live to see the day when I would stand face to face with Ty Cobb in Technicolor."
          The motivations of Brooklyn Dodger general Manager Branch Rickey have always been questioned. Why did he sign Jackie Robinson? How much of what he did came from a moral conviction that the color line must go, and how much came from a desire to make money and field a winning team?
          Monte Irvin, who wrote the foreword to my book  who came up to star for the New York Giants in 1949, suggests that what Rickey did is far more important than why he did it.

          "Regardless of the motives," Irvin observes, "Rickey had the conviction to pursue and to follow through."
          Breaking baseball's color line enabled Rickey to tap into a gold mine, but he elected not to monopolize the rich lode of talent in the Negro Leagues.
          Monte Irvin cold have been a Brooklyn Dodger, as well as other Negro League greats like Larry DobySam Jethroe, Satchel Paige. But Rickey had Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Joe Black. He was very much in favor of the other teams integrating, too.
          Bigoted major league club owners who had called Rickey complaining, "You're gonna kill baseball bringing that nigger in now," were now asking, "Branch, do you know where I can get a couple of colored boys as good as Jackie and Campy and Newk?"
          Branch Rickey invented the baseball farm system when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals and presided over their famous Gashouse gang. He was an incredibly brilliant baseball man. He ran the Dodgers with a calm efficiency. Part of that calm efficiency translated to advising Robinson well. Reacting to the taunts and threats, and fighting back against the bigots could win a battle. But too much protesting could lose the war.
          Jackie Robinson took the abuse: the cut signs by players near their throats, the verbal curses, the spiking attempts, the cold shouldering, the death threats that came in the mail.        
          By 1949, Jackie Robinson was in his third season as a Brooklyn Dodger and was no longer the lone black man on the baseball diamond - he could now let it all hang out. Branch Rickey who had kept the man Dodger fans called "Robby" under wraps was elated.
          "I sat back happily," Rickey recalled, "knowing that with the restraints removed, Robinson was going to show the National League a thing or two."
          Jackie's wife Rachel Robinson told me: "It was hard for a man as assertive as Jack to contain his own rage, yet he felt that the end goal was so critical that there was no question that he would do it. And he knew he could do it even better if he could ventilate, express himself, use his own style."
          And what a style it was!
           At times the style seemed to be a case of trick photography. He was an illusionist in a baseball uniform, a magician on the base paths. The walking leads, the football-like slides, the change of pace runs all were part of Robinson’s approach to the game.

          Today Jackie Robinson remains the stuff of dreams, the striving for potential, the substance of accomplishment. Today he remains a powerful, driving symbol of a person with limitless athletic ability, the weight of his people on his soul, raging against a world he didn't make.
          Jack Roosevelt Robinson played for the Dodgers of Brooklyn for a decade, and then he was done. Not many remember that he was actually traded to the New York Giants in 1956 - -but he refused to go. The owner of the  Giants Horace Stoneham presented Robinson with a blank check –“Fill in the amount…”           
       Jackie refused. “I came in as a Dodger and that’s how I go out,”he said. “Thanks anyway.”
          The thanks is due the man they called “Robby” for  what he accomplished in breaking the color line in baseball will last through all eternity. He blazed a path for many to follow, and they have enriched the game of baseball with their talent, verve, drive, and commitment.  It has become a better game.
      I had the good fortune to interview Jack’s brother Mack Robinson in Pasadena, California. I was a bit shocked that he taped me taping him. He was that suspicious of writers. But that is another story.
     “From time to time, Mack told me, “I’m watching sporting events and I look at the TV screen and I see Jackie Robinson. I look at the whole spectrum of black America’s life from 1900 to 1947. We’re no longer the butlers, the servants, the maid. We’re senators and congressmen. We’re baseball managers. I trace it back to my brother and Branch Rickey breaking the color line and creating a social revolution in a white man’s world. Blacks have excelled in all areas because Jackie Robinson showed the world we could.?
          The last words in my Rickey and Robinson also belong to Irving Rudd:
           "I always used to think of who I would like going down a dark alley with me. I can think of a lot of great fighters, gangsters I was raised with in Brownsville, strong men like Gil Hodges. But for sheer courage, I would pick Jackie (Robinson). He didn't back up."
         Finally, a story that appears in It Happened in Brooklyn, the oral history I wrote along with my wife Myrna Katz Frommer.
          The speaker is identified as MAX WECHSLER:
          When school was out, I sometimes went with my father in his taxi. One summer morning, we were driving in East Flatbush down Snyder Avenue when he pointed out a dark red brick house with a high porch.
          “I think Jackie Robinson lives there," he said. He parked across the street, and we got out of the cab, stood on the sidewalk, and looked at it.
          Suddenly the front door opened. A black man in a short-sleeved shirt stepped out. I didn’t believe it. Here we were on a quiet street on a summer morning. No one else was around. This man was not wearing the baggy, ice-cream-white uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated his blackness. He was dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a regular house in a regular Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone else, going for a newspaper and a bottle of milk.
          Then incredibly, he crossed the street and came right towards me. Seeing that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the shoulders and hips I had seen so many times on the baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.
          “Hi Jackie, I’m one of your biggest fans," I said self-consciously. “Do you think the Dodgers are gonna win the pennant this year?”

         His handsome face looked sternly down at me. “We’ll try our best,”he said.
          “Good luck,” said.
          “Thanks.” He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands, and I felt the strength and firmness of his grip.
          I was a nervy kid, but I didn’t ask for an autograph or think to prolong the conversation. I just watched as he walked away down the street.
          At last the truth can be told. I am blowing my own cover. That kid, was me.    

Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl was published last fall.

His Frommer Baseball Classic – Remembering Yankee Stadium (Second Edition) is his newest sports effort. Autographed copies at the ready of this and his other books..
The prolific author is at work on THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK (2017)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (Part 1) - by Harvey Frommer

Harvey Frommer Archives
Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (Part 1)
The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year - generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a history, a story.
A brief sampler follows with more to come . . .
AMAZIN' METS The first run they ever scored came in on a balk. They lost the first nine games they ever played. They finished last their first four seasons. Once they were losing a game, 12-1, and there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. A fan held up a sign that said "PRAY!" There was a walk, and ever hopeful, thousands of voices chanted, "Let's go Mets." They were 100-l underdogs to win the pennant in 1969 and incredibly came on to finish the year as World Champions. They picked the name of the best pitcher in their history (Tom Seaver) out of a hat on April Fools' Day. They were supposed to be the replacement for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. They could have been the New York Continentals or Burros or Skyliners or Skyscrapers or Bees or Rebels or NYB's or Avengers or even Jets (all runner-up names in a contest to tab the National League New York team that began playing ball in 1962). They've never been anything to their fans but amazing-the Amazin' New York Mets.
BIG POISON and LITTLE POISON Paul Waner's rookie year with the Pittsburgh Pirates was 1926, when he batted .336 and led the league in triples. In one game he cracked out six hits using six different bats. In 1927 the second Waner arrived, brother Lloyd. For 14 years, the Waners formed a potent brother combination in the Pittsburgh lineup. Paul was 5'8l/2'' and weighed 153 pounds. Lloyd was 5'9" and weighed 150 pounds.
Paul was dubbed Big Poison even though he was smaller than Lloyd, who was called Little Poison. An older brother even then had privileges. But both players were pure poison for National League pitchers. Slashing left-handed line-drive hitters, the Waners collected 5,611 hits between them. Paul's lifetime batting average was .333, and he recorded three batting titles. Lloyd posted a career average of .316. They played a combined total of 38 years in the major leagues.
BONEHEAD MERKLE The phrase "pulling a bonehead play," or "pulling a boner," is not only part of the language of baseball, but of all sports and in fact, of the language in general. Its most dramatic derivation goes back to September 9, 1908. Frederick Charles Merkle, a.k.a. George Merkle, was playing his first full game at first base for the New York Giants. It was his second season in the majors; the year before, he had appeared in 15 games. The Giants were in first place and the Cubs were challenging them. The two teams were tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs, the Giants' Moose McCormick was on third base and Merkle was on first. Al Bridwell slashed a single to center field, and McCormick crossed the plate with what was apparently the winning run. Merkle, eager to avoid the Polo Grounds crowd that surged onto the playing field, raced directly to the clubhouse instead of following through on the play and touching second base. Amid the pandemonium, Johnny Evers of the Cubs screamed for the baseball, obtained it somehow, stepped on second base, and claimed a forceout on Merkle. When things subsided, umpire Hank O'Day agreed with Evers. The National League upheld O'Day, Evers and the Cubs, so the run was nullified and the game not counted. Both teams played out their schedules and completed the season tied for first place with 98 wins and 55 losses. A replay of the game was scheduled, and Christy Mathewson, seeking his 38th victory of the season, lost, 4-2, to Three-Finger Brown (q.v.). The Cubs won the pennant. Although Merkle played 16 years in the majors and had a lifetime batting average of .273, he will forever be rooted in sports lore as the man who made the "bonehead" play that lost the 1908 pennant for the Giants, for had he touched second base there would have been no replayed game and the Giants would have won the pennant by one game.
"BOO" Name for a day in 1979 of Giants shortstop Johnnie LeMaster, who heard the boo-birds in San Fran. He took his field position wearing "Boo" on his back. LeMaster switches back to his regular jersey after one game.
"CHILI" When he was about 12 years old, Charles Davis was given a not too attractive haircut which led to his getting the nickname "Chili Bowl," later shortened to "Chili" as the boy became the man and the baseball player "Chili" Davis.
GIANTS One sultry summer's day in 1885, Jim Mutrie, the
saber-mustached manager of the New York Gothams, was enjoying himself watching his team winning an important game. Mutrie screamed out with affection, "My big fellows, my giants." Many of his players were big fellows, and they came to be Giants. For that was how the nickname Giants came to be. And when the New York team left for San Francisco in 1958, Giants, Mutrie's endearing nickname, went along with it.
SPLENDID SPLINTER He was also nicknamed the Thumper, because of the power with which he hit the ball, and the Kid, because of his tempestuous attitude-but his main nickname was perhaps the most appropriate. Ted Williams was one of the most splendid players who ever lived, and he could really "splinter" the ball. The handsome slugger compiled a lifetime batting average of .344 and a slugging percentage of .634.
Williams blasted 521 career home runs, scored nearly 1,800 runs, and drove in over 1,800 runs. So keen was his batting eye that he walked over 2,000 times while striking out only 709 times. In 1941 he batted .406 - the last time any player hit .400 or better. One of the most celebrated moments in the career of the Boston Red Sox slugger took place in the 1946 All-Star Game. Williams came to bat against Rip Sewell and his celebrated "eephus" (blooper) pitch. Williams had already walked in the game and hit a home run. Sewell's pitch came to the plate in a high arc, and Williams actually trotted out to the pitch, bashing it into the right-field bullpen for a home run. "That was the first homer ever hit off the pitch," Sewell said later.
"The ball came to the plate in a twenty-foot arc," recalled Williams. "I didn't know whether I'd be able to get enough power into that kind of a pitch for a home run." There was no kind of pitch Williams couldn't hit for a home run.
Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (Part 2)
The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year - generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a history, a story.
For those of you who liked Part I and wrote in to offer suggestions and ask for more - here is more - Part II. As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome.
BAT DAY In 1951 Bill Veeck ("as in wreck") owned the St. Louis Browns, a team that was not the greatest gate attraction in the world. (It's rumored that one day a fan called up Veeck and asked, "What time does the game start?" Veeck's alleged reply was, " What time can you get here?") Veeck was offered six thousand bats at a nominal fee by a company that was going bankrupt. He took the bats and announced that a free bat would be given to each youngster attending a game accompanied by an adult. That was the beginning of Bat Day. Veeck followed this promotion with Ball Day and Jacket Day and other giveaways. Bat Day, Ball Day, and Jacket Day have all become virtually standard major league baseball promotions.
"CAN'T ANYBODY HERE PLAY THIS GAME?" In 1960 Casey Stengel managed the New York Yankees to a first-place finish, on the strength of a .630 percentage compiled by winning 97 games and losing 57. By 1962 he was the manager of the New York Mets, a team that finished tenth in a ten-team league. They finished 601/: games out of first place, losing more games ( 120) than any other team in the 20th century. Richie Ashburn, who batted .306 for the Mets that season and then retired, remembers those days: "It was the only time I went to a ball park in the major leagues and nobody expected you to win."
A bumbling collection of castoffs, not-quite-ready for-prime-time major league ball players, paycheck collectors, and callow youth, the Mets underwhelmed the opposition. They had Jay Hook, who could talk for hours about why a curve ball curved (he had a Masters degree in engineering) but couldn't throw one consistently. They had" Choo-Choo" Coleman, an excellent low-ball catcher, but the team had very few low-ball pitchers. They had "Marvelous Marv" Throneberry, a Mickey Mantle look-a-like in the batter's box-and that's where the resemblance ended. Stengel had been spoiled with the likes of Mantle, Maris, Ford, Berra, etc. Day after day he would watch the Mets and be amazed at how they could find newer and more original ways to beat themselves. In desperation-some declare it was on the day he witnessed pitcher A1 Jackson go 15 innings yielding but three hits, only to lose the game on two errors committed by Marvelous Marv-Casey bellowed out his plaintive query, "Can't anybody here play this game?"
DUGOUT An area on each side of home plate where players stay while their team is at bat. There is a visitor's dugout and a home-team dugout. They were originally dug out trenches at the first and third base lines allowing players and coaches to be at field level and not blocking the view of the choice seats behind them.
JUNK MAN, THE Eddie Lopat was the premier left-handed pitcher for the New York Yankees in the late 1940's and through most of the 1950's. He recalls how he obtained his nickname: "Ben Epstein was a writer for the New York Daily Mirror and a friend of mine from my Little Rock minor league baseball days. He told me in 1948 that he wanted to give me a name that would stay with me forever. 'I want to see what you think of it-the junk man?' In those days the writers had more consideration. They checked with players before they called them names. I told him I didn't care what they called me just as long as I could get the batters out and get paid for it." Epstein then wrote an article called "The Junkman Cometh," and as Lopat says, "The rest was history." The nickname derived from Lopat's ability to be a successful pitcher by tantalizing the hitters with an assortment of offspeed pitches. This writer and thousands of other baseball fans who saw Lopat pitch bragged more than once that if given a chance, they could hit the "junk" he threw.
ONE-ARMED PETE GRAY Born Peter J. Wyshner (a.k.a. Pete Gray) on March 6, 1917, Gray was a longtime New York City semipro star who played in 77 games for the St. Louis Browns in 1945. He actually had only one arm and played center field with an unpadded glove. He had an intricate and well developed routine for catching the ball, removing the ball from his glove, and throwing the ball to the infield.
POLO GROUNDS During the 1880's, the National League baseball team was known as the New Yorkers. There was another team in town, the New York Metropolitans of the fledgling American Association. Both teams played their season-opening games on a field across from Central Park's northeastern corner at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. The land on which they played was owned by New York Herald Tribune publisher James Gordon Bennett. Bennett and his society friends had played polo on that field and that's how the baseball field came to be known as the Polo Grounds. In 1889 the New York National League team moved its games to a new location at 157th Street and Eighth Avenue. The site was dubbed the new Polo Grounds and eventually was simply called the Polo Grounds. Polo was never played there.
Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (Part 3)
A few of you have been clamoring for the next installment of "Baseball Names." Clamor no more. Here it is - -hot off the press. And if you have other terms, names, definitions . . . you want to submit - we can turn this whole enterprise into a cottage industry. Enjoy. And as always - reactions are most welcome.
"BABE RUTH'S LEGS" Sammy Byrd, used as a pinch runner for Ruth.
BARBER THE Sal Maglie had the unique distinction of pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Yankees and the New York Giants in the 1950's. A curveballing clutch pitcher, his nickname came from two sources. A swarthy 6'2" right-hander who always seemed to need a shave, he was a master at "shaving" or" barbering" the plate. His pitches would nick the corner, and he wasn't too shy about nicking a batter if the occasion demanded it.
"BERRA-ISMS" Yogi Berra always had a way with words, herewith, a sampler:
"Congratulations on breaking my record last night. I always thought the record would stand until it was broken." -to Johnny Bench who broke his record for career home runs by a catcher.
"I didn't say the things I said "
"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
"If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"He must have made that before he died." --on a Steve McQueen movie, 1982
"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."
"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
"The future ain't what it used to be."
"A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it's home or on the road."
"I take a two hour nap between 1PM and 3PM."
"90% of the putts that are short don't go in."
"Baseball is 90-percent mental. The other half is physical."
"You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn't enough, in the second half, you have to give what is left."
"Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded."
"It gets late out there early," referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium.
"He is a big clog in their machine."
"I've been with the Yankees 17 years, watching games and learning. You can see a lot by observing."
"Baseball is the champ of them all. Like somebody said, the pay is good and the hours are short."
"All pitchers are liars and crybabies."
"Bill Dickey learned me all his experience."
"I want to thank you for making this day necessary." -- to fans in hometown St. Louis for giving him a day in 1947 at Sportsmen's Park.
"I've known this guy so long. Can't he spell my name right?" -- after receiving a check that said "Pay to the order of Bearer"
"I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house."
"If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them."
"Pair off in threes."
"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win." -- as Yankee manager
"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."
"We have very deep depth!"
"It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much."
When asked what time it is -- "Do you mean now?"
When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars - "If the guy was poor, I'd give it back"
When asked by a waitress how many pieces she should cut his pizza into -- "Four. I don't think I could eat eight."
When asked why the Yankees lost the 1960 series to Pittsburgh--
"We made too many wrong mistakes."
When told by Yankee manager Bucky Harris to think about what was being pitched to him -- "Think? How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"
When told Ernest Hemmingway was a great writer -- "Yeah, for what paper?"
When asked what his cap size was at the beginning of spring training -- "I don't know, I'm not in shape.""
"It's deja vu all over again."
"It ain't over until it's over."
BRONX CHEER Another term for booing or razzing or raspberry, this sound allegedly originated in the Bronx in the 1920's. (The Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City, gets its name from the Dane Jonas Bronck, the man who first settled the area in 1641 for the Dutch West India Company.) The contemptuous sound sarcastically referred to as a"cheer" was made by vibrating the tongue between the lips.
BROOKLYN DODGER SYM-PHONY From 1938 to 1957 a group of unlikely musicians serenaded Dodger fans at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Sometimes they sat in seats 1-8, row 1, section 8. Sometimes they sauntered up and down the aisles, tooting and rooting on their beloved Bums. Sometimes they climbed up on top of the Dodger dugout and played their original form of jazz through the long summer days and nights. A special feature of the group was a tune they performed known as the "Army Duff." Fans referred to the song as "The Worms Crawl In." The little band would razz a visiting-team strikeout victim back to his bench with this song. As the player would sit down on his bench, the Sym-phony would accentuate the touch-down of his derriere with a blasting beat of the bass drum. There were many games of cat-and-mouse between the Sym-phony and strikeout victims who would feign seating themselves to avoid the last, razzing bass-drum beat. The Sym-phony always managed to time the touch-down and accentuate it musically to the delight of Dodger fans and to the dismay of the visiting players. Brooklyn broadcaster Red Barber originated the nickname for the group.
Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (Part 4)
The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year - generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a history, a story. Now with the 2006 baseball season almost with us -some more language of baseball to savor, to enjoy.
For those of you who liked Part I, Part II and Part III and wrote in to offer suggestions and ask for more - here is more - Part IV. As always, reactions and suggestions always welcome.
THE BABE George Herman Ruth probably leads the list for most nick-names acquired. First called "Babe" by teammates on the Baltimore Orioles, his first professional team because of his youth, G.H.Ruth was also called "Jidge" by Yankee teammates, short for George. They also called him "Tarzan." He called most players "Kid," because he couldn't remember names, even of his closest friends. Opponents called him "The Big "Monk" and "Monkey."
Many of Babe Ruth's nick-names came from over-reaching sports writers who attempted to pay tribute to his slugging prowess:" The Bambino", "the Wali of Wallop", "the Rajah of Rap", "the Caliph of Clout", "the Wazir of Wham", and "the Sultan of Swat", The Colossus of Clout, Maharajah of Mash, The Behemoth of Bust, "The King of Clout."
His main nickname was rooted in President Grover Cleveland's Baby Ruth. Perhaps the greatest slugger of all time and also one of baseball's most colorful characters, Ruth set some 50 records in his 22 years as a player. His accomplishments, his personality, his nickname-all combined to rocket major league baseball firmly into the nation's psyche.
"Babe" and "Ruth" In spring training 1927, Babe Ruth bet pitcher Wilcy Moore $l00 that he would not get more than three hits all season. A notoriously weak hitter, Moore somehow managed to get six hits in 75 at bats. Ruth paid off his debt and Moore purchased two mules for his farm. He named them "Babe" and "Ruth "for Ruth
CHIEF BENDER Charles Albert Bender won 210 games and compiled a 2.45 lifetime earned-run average in 16 years of pitching. He was admitted to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1953. His nickname came from the fact that he was a Chippewa Indian.
CLOWN PRINCE OF BASEBALL Al Schacht performed for only three seasons as a member of the Washington Senators (1919-21), but he still was able to make a mighty reputation on the baseball field. Schacht was a comic and his routines centered on the foibles and eccentricities of the National Pastime. It was said that nobody did it better, and that's why Schacht was dubbed the Clown Prince.
DAFFINESS BOYS Also known as Dem Brooklyn Bums, the 1926 Brooklyn Dodgers wrought havoc on friend and foe alike. The hotshot of the team was freeswinging, slump-shouldered Babe Herman, dubbed the Incredible Hoiman, who bragged that among his stupendous feats was stealing second base with the bases loaded. Once Herman was one of a troika of Dodger base runners who found themselves all on third base at the same time. A Dodger rookie turned to Brooklyn manager "Uncle" Wilbert Robinson on the bench. "You call that playing baseball?" "Uncle" Robbie responded, "Leave them alone. That's the first time they've been together all year."
"DON'T LOOK BACK. SOMETHING MIGHT BE GAINING ON YOU" This line of homespun wisdom formed the sixth rule of a recipe attributed to former baseball pitching great Leroy "Satchel" Paige. The other five rules were (1) avoid fried meats which angry up the blood; (2) if your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts; (3) keep your juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move; (4) go very gently on the vices, such as carrying on in society-the social ramble ain't restful; (5) avoid running at all times. It seems that most of us have managed to break all of Mr. Paige's rules more than once. As for rule 5-don't tell it to your neighborhood jogger.
DOUBLE NO HITTER It's almost a baseball cliché. A no-hitter is tossed. And the next time that pitcher takes the mound, there is all the talk and speculation about the possibility of a second straight no-no taking place. And always what Johnny Vander Meer did 62 years ago today comes back into the public consciousness.
On June 11, 1938, the Cincinnati hurler no-hit the Boston Bees, 3-0. Four nights later, he was tabbed to start against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the first night game ever in the New York City metropolitan area. To that point in time, only two pitchers had ever recorded two career no-hitters. No one had ever posted two no-hitters in a season. No one had probably even contemplated back-to-back no-hitters.
More than 40,000 (Fire Department rules notwithstanding) jammed into Ebbets Field to see the first night game in that tiny ball park's history and also bear witness to Vander Meer questing after his second straight no-hitter. Utilizing a one-two-three-four pitching rhythm that saw him cock his right leg in the air before he delivered the ball to the plate, "Vandy" featured a fast ball that was always moving and a curve ball that broke ever so sharply. Inning after inning, the Dodgers went down hitless. In the seventh inning, Vander Meer walked two batters. But the fans of "Dem Bums" cheered the Cincinnati pitcher on, sensing they were witnessing baseball history. The ninth inning began with Cincinnati holding a 6-0 lead. Buddy Hasset was retired on a grounder. Then suddenly, Vander Meer lost control of the situation. He loaded the bases on walks. Reds manager Bill McKechnie came out to the mound to talk to his beleaguered pitcher.
"Take it easy, Johnny," he said, "but get the no-hitter." Vander Meer got Ernie Koy to hit a grounder to infielder Lou Riggs, who conservatively elected to go to the plate for the force-out for the second out. The bases were still loaded, though. Leo "Lippy" Durocher, the Dodger player-manager and a veteran of many wars, stepped into the batter's box.
Only the "Lip" stood between Vander Meer and the double no-hitter. Durocher took a lunging swing and smashed the ball down the right-field line. But it went foul into the upper deck. Bedlam and tension intermingled at Ebbets Field as Vander Meer's left arm came around and delivered the pitch to Durocher, who swung and popped up the ball into short center field. Harry Craft clutched the ball. Johnny Vander Meer had made baseball history.
Fans leaped out onto the playing field, but Vander Meer's Cincinnati teammates had formed a protective shield around the exhausted hurler as he scurried into the relative calm of the dugout. His mother and father, who had come to see their son pitch with about 500 others from their hometown, were not as lucky. Swarms of well wishers and autograph-hunters milled about Vandy's parents. It took about half an hour before they could be extricated from the mob of admirers. The event remains in memory as the miracle of 1938, consecutive no-hitters spun by John Samuel Vander Meer, the man they called the "Dutch Master." President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent congratulations. Newspapers and magazines featured every detail of the event for months. For Vander Meer, the double no-hitters were especially sweet coming against Boston and Brooklyn - teams he tried out for and been rejected by.
Vander Meer performed for 13 big-league seasons, winning 119 games and losing 121. He perhaps would be remembered as a southpaw pitcher who never totally fulfilled his promise if it had not been for the epic moments of June 11 and June 15, 1938.
HITLESS WONDERS The 1906 Chicago White Sox had a team batting average of .230, the most anemic of all the clubs in baseball that year. The team's pitching, however, more than made up for its lack of hitting. The White Sox staff recorded shutouts in 32 of the team's 93 victories. The "Hitless Wonders" copped the American League pennant and faced the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. The Cubs of 1906 are regarded as one of the greatest baseball teams of all time; they won 116 games that year, setting the all-time major league mark for victories in a season and for winning percentage. The White Sox continued their winning ways in the World Series, however, trimming their cross town rivals in six games.
"hitting for the cycle" Hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game, not necessarily in that order.
HORSE COLLAR Describes a situation when a player gets no hits in a game.
KLU Ted Kluszewski played 15 years in the major leagues. He pounded out 279 homers, recorded a lifetime slugging average of nearly .500 and a career batting average of nearly . 300. He was a favorite of the Cincinnati fans; at 6'2" and 225 pounds, his bulging biceps were too huge to be contained by ordinary shirt-sleeves. Kluszewski cut off the sleeves and started a new fashion in baseball uniforms-just as fans and sportswriters cut off part of his name to make for a nickname more easily pronounced and printed.
LONSOME GEORGE Former legendary Yankee General Manager George Weiss, for his aloof ways.
MAHATMA Branch Rickey (1881-1965) was one of baseball's most influential personalities. Inventor of the farm system, the force responsible for Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color line, the master builder of the St. Louis Cardinal and Brooklyn Dodger organizations, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. Sportswriter Tom Meany coined Rickey's nickname. Meany got the idea from John Gunther's phrase describing Mohandas K. Gandhi as a" combination of God, your own father, and Tammany Hall."
NICKEL SERIES Refers to old days when New York City teams played against each other and the tariff was a five cents subway ride.
NUMBER l/8 On August 19, 1951, Eddie Gaedel, wearing number l/8, came to bat for the St. Louis Browns against the Detroit Tigers. Gaedel, who was signed by Browns owner Bill Veeck, walked on four straight pitches and was then replaced by a pinch runner. The next day the American League banned Gaedel, despite Veeck's protests. Gaedel was a midget, only three feet, seven inches tall.
Baseball Names - and How They Got That Way! (Part 5)
The words and phrases are spoken and written day after day, year after year - generally without any wonderment as to how they became part of the language. All have a history, a story. And since so many of you asked for another installment - here it is. More to come
OLD ACHES AND PAINS Luke Appling performed for two decades with the Chicago White Sox. A .310 lifetime batting average was just one of the reasons he was admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1964. His nickname stemmed from the numerous real and imagined illnesses he picked up playing in 2,422 games, while averaging better than a hit a game. Appling was born April 2, 1907, and in 1950 was still playing major league baseball, aches, pains, and all.
OLD RELIABLE Tommy Henrich played for the New Yo* Yankees from 1937 to 1950. His lifetime batting average was only .282, but the value of Henrich to the Yankees was in his clutch hitting. Time after time he would come up in a key situation and deliver. His nickname had its roots in his ability to function under pressure and to perform reliably with distinction.
OLE PERFESSOR Hall of Famer Charles Dillon Stengel was an original. Born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri, he played in the majors for 14 years and managed for 25 more-with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boston Braves, the New York Yankees (10 pennants), and the New York Mets (four tenth-place finishes). He had seen it all, and in one of his more coherent statements, he said, "This here team won't win anything until we spread enough of our players around the league and make the others [teams] horseshit, too." The statement underscored the ineptitude of the early Mets. Loquacious, dynamic, vital, Casey could lecture on baseball and life for hours and hours, and that was just part of the reason for his nickname. Actually, in 1914 Stengel held the title of professor at the University of Mississippi, for he spent that year's spring-training coaching baseball at that institution. That's how he really came by his nickname.
$100,000 INFIELD That was the price tag and the nickname given to Eddie Collins, "Home Run" Baker, Stuffy McInnis, and Hack Barry, the players who composed the infield for Connie Mack's 1914 Philadelphia Athletics.
"WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR" A plantive refrain echoed annually by the fans of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, this phrase was an expression of eternal optimism and faith in the ability of their beloved bums to make up for all the failures and inadequacies of years gone by. It especially applied to the World Series. In 1941, for example, the Dodgers won the pennant but lost the World Series in five games to the New York Yankees. In 1947 the Dodgers won the pennant and lost again in the World Series, this time in seven games, to the New York Yankees. They lost in the 1949 World Series to the Yankees; they bowed in the 1952 World Series to the Yankees; they were defeated in the 1953 World Series by the Yankees-but 1955 was "next year." The series went seven games, and the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees and became World Champions at long last.
WALKING MAN, THE Eddie Yost played nearly two decades in the major leagues. His lifetime batting average was only .254, but that didn't keep him off the bases. Yost coaxed pitchers into yielding I,614 walks to him-almost a walk a game through his long career.
WEE WILLIE He was born March 3, 1872, in Brooklyn, New York. He died on January 1, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York. His name was William Henry Keeler. A lefty all the way, he weighed only 140 pounds and was a shade over 5'4". His tiny physical stature earned him his nickname, but pound for pound he was one of the greatest hitters baseball ever produced. Keeler played for 19 years and recorded a lifetime batting average of .345, fifth on the all-time list. He collected 2,962 hits in 2,124 games, spraying the ball to all fields. Wee Willie's greatest year was 1897, a season in which he batted .432, recorded 243 hits and 64 stolen bases, and scored 145 runs. He swung a bat that weighed only 30 ounces, but as he said, he "hit 'em where they ain't" -and that was more than good enough to gain Keeler entry into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1939.
Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl was published last fall.

His Frommer Baseball Classic – Remembering Yankee Stadium (Second Edition) is his newest sports effort. Autographed copies at the ready of this and his other books..
The prolific author is at work on THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK (2017)