At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Posts Tagged ‘Pete Rose’

Big Red Machine : Back to 1975 with an A+ book

Posted by athomeatfenway on January 24, 2010

16 degree surface temperatures and school delays signify the long wait until some little kid from Somerville will shout Play Ball at the Fenway opener.

I have sunk into a winter of reading in my warm New England home.  It has been a good one so far, coming off Sweet Spot, the official history of Louisville Slugger, and Michael Sokolove’s book about Darryl Strawberry and his Crenshaw H.S. team mates.

I wasn’t expecting to be transported back to my parents’ living room  in front of their 19” Magnavox color TV in 1975, watching Pete Rose whip around the bases with the gait of a muscle bound cowboy, smirking as he crossed home plate.

In the early 70’s, there were arguably more talented players than Pete Rose, but none were tougher, more clutch, or bigger winners.

Joe Posnanski, in his new book, recreates a player & team so compellingly it almost makes me re-think Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame.

The Machine.  A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series:  The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds.    By Joe Posnanski.  Published by William Moorow, 2009.  302 p.

Baseball books that chronicle a season interspersed with quips are a tried & true form.

Some are a grind.  Not so with The Machine.

Being an AL fan for life, I’ve missed many of the back stories of NL players.  It was gratifying to learn how Gary Nolan came up.

GARY NOLAN REBORN

The timeline is set at March 13, 1975.  The Reds and Twins will meet in a Tampa exhibition.  Gary Nolan, a 26 years old veteran of 7 seasons, cannot understand why he has butterflies.  He was always so good at pitching that he has never been nervous doing it.

It has been almost two years since he has pitched.

Nolan, who would start iconic Game 6 in the 1975 World Series, grew up as a legend in Oroville, CA.  He contracted Baseball fever at age 10 by listening to Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons broadcast the exploits of Willie Mays, Hank Sauer and Orlando Cepeda, just 150 miles down the road in San Francisco.

“Tell it bye-bye, baby !”, was how Hodges peppered his HR calls.

Nolan had a dazzling fastball that brought 70 scouts to his H.S. games.  He dominated them in Sioux Falls in ’66, and at the age of 19, he made his major league debut for the Reds against the Houston Astros. He K’d his first batter, Sonny Jackson, who only K’d in 8% of his career AB’s.   He then struck out the 5x gold glove outfielder, veteran Jim Landis.

Later that season, Gary struck out Willie Mays four times in a game.  Nobody had ever done that before.  But here was this 19-year-old kid with a live fastball K’ing his personal hero like he owned him.  As Nolan ran off the field, Mays whistled to him and said, “Son, I was overmatched.”.

Nolan struck out 206 batters that season.  No 19 year old had whiffed that many since Bob Feller.  Gary went 14-8 with a 2.58 ERA.  He finished 3rd for ROY behind Seaver and Dick Hughes.  He posted fair numbers in ’68 and ’69, and then was untouchable in 1970.  As his rookie Manager, Dave Bristol said in ‘67, “He aint got no ceiling.”.

By 1972, he was still pitching great, but his arm throbbed constantly.  And it all came to a crashing halt.

In 1973, he could pitch just 10.1 innings.  In 1974, he did not play in the Majors, and but for 6 IP’s with AAA Indianapolis he did not pitch that year.

By 1975, he was a 26-year-old long shot, trying to impress a crowd of cynics and win back a position in the Red rotation.

He was no longer 19, commanding, and bullet proof.

+++++++++++++++++

Posnanski recounts briefly and colorfully how Nolan became a different kind of pitcher in 1975, when he won the Hutch Award for honor, courage and dedication as he posted a 15-9 W-L record with a 3.16 ERA

Posnanski gives us a brilliant back story on almost every Red.

What makes this book great is that the author has a way of defining the characters that is succinct, insightful and entertaining.

A Baseball season has 182 days in it.  That’s a loooong and sloooow season.   Some  season histories are painfully slow.  Like Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan’s dreadful, “Faithful”, about the 2004 Red Sox

Clearly, “The Machine” is one of the best season chronicles of the decade.

I’m putting Posnanski, with much hope, along side archetypal story tellers Leigh Montville and Tom Adelman.

+++++++++++++++++

The Reds 1975 odyssey got off to a rocky start but reached magnificent heights.  Just a .500 club after 24 games, Sparky Anderson shook up the team by giving his starting 3rd bagger, John Vukovich a demotion and riskily placing Rose at the hot corner.

Then Joe Morgan shook up the team on a day when a hung-over Bench said he could not play.  Morgan, who had 50 stitches in his leg, declared he was ready to play and screamed at Bench and the team for being soft.  Their bats soon came alive.  Morgan had an MVP season.  They became a .600 team.

Within weeks, Sparky Anderson became an instant genius when his favorite starter, Don Gullet, went down.   Sparky ceased to allow any of his starters to pitch a complete game.  The Reds staff registered 22 complete games all year.  (The 1975 Red Sox staff recorded 62.)  Captain Hook worked his bullpen like a magician. He ran relievers in and out of games at a rate that Joe Torre would mirror 25 years later.

Anderson’s decision angered his starters, but it paid off.  The Reds hitting exploded.  The pitchers held down the rest of the league.   The Reds finished with a record of 108 – 54.  They won their Division by 20 games.  They won 90 of their last 125 games, an absurd 72%.

Posnanski makes us recall how certain we were in 1975 that the Big Red Machine was u-n-s-t-o-p-p-a-b-l-e.

CLUBHOUSE NUGGETS

Sparky explained when the season began that there were 4 Superstars on the team and everyone else was a TURD.  Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Doggie (Tony Perez) were the stars.  Ken Griffey, Dave Concepcion, Cesar Geronimo and George Foster were TURDS.  So was anyone else on team.

And it was indeed the 4 stars that set the tone on the team with a daily, never ending ball busting.

Here’s the clubhouse exchange after the Ali-Wepner fight, in which the black Superman failed to quickly put away the white guy.  The fight went 15 rounds and Wepner actually knocked down the far superior Ali once before the Champ got a late knock out.

Morgan and Rose argued.

“He got knocked out !”, said Morgan.

“Did anybody think this guy could last until there were 19 seconds left ?”, Rose yelled back.  “Everybody thought he would get knocked out in the first round….Hell, the white guy even knocked Ali down.”

“Would you two shut up ?”, Bench yelled across the clubhouse.

“It was a slip.”, said Morgan.

“Yeah, like you slipped when you swung at that pitch in the dirt yesterday,” Perez shouted.

“You do know that Ali let the bum hang around, “Morgan said, “You are smart enough to realize that, right ?”

Rose smiled, “All I know,” he said, “is that the white guy went 15 rounds with the champ.  We’re athletes too, Joe !  We’re athletes too!”.

THE ALL TIME HIT KING

Whether or not you are ready to forgive Pete Rose, this book will remind you of what is at stake in your decision.

Rose was/is a singular character with singular drive who loved & loves the game.

“Some players needed to win.  But Pete really had no choice.  He had to hit .300 or fell like less of a man.  He had to get 200 hits every year or he felt time slipping away.  He had to win because his old man, Harry Rose, told him so.

“People often asked Pete if he regretted smashing into Fosse — hell, it was just an All Star Game.  It didn’t count in the standings.  Pete’s response was telling.  He did not even understand the question.  They were playing baseball.  His was the winning run.  Fosse was blocking the plate.  Pete had no choice.

Posnanski shares how Rose currently spends his days signing autographs as card shows, a lonely man burdened with the knowledge that he made himself an All Time Great and an All Time Loser.

And that is what is at the heart of your decision to accept Pete Rose or block him from the complete and legitimate community of Baseball.  No one can deny that he played with fury and has 4,256 Hits.  And no one can pretend that he broke the one rule that all know results in excommunication.

It is all so terribly sad.

++++++++

Whatever else you do this winter, make time for this book.  Among many strengths, it covers the 1975 World Series with a wonderful summary.  Be brief.  Be bright.  Be gone.

You can read more of Joe Posnanski at:  http://joeposnanski.com/

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Pete Rose would have paid for hitting Jerry Moses

Posted by athomeatfenway on November 2, 2009

GerryMosespic

This guy was not afraid to get hurt.

Athomeatfenway.com had the opportunity to do a Q & A with Jerry Moses, Red Sox catcher from 1968 to 1970.

Some remember Jerry as the Yazoo City, MS gridiron star who chose Baseball over Football but was sidetracked by injuries.  Others recall Jerry as the 1970 All Star who had a ringside seat on the collision between Pete Rose & Ray Fosse.

When you meet him today, he is a friendly, soft spoken man with a kind countenance that hides his toughness.

He trained with Ted, cheered for Mantle and ran with the Hawk & Frank Howard.

You were a big bonus baby.  How did injuries effect your career ?

Three times I broke my middle finger, I did it even though I put my hand behind the glove.  Anytime the ball went below my glove I flipped it and the hand automatically opened up.  I couldn’t stop it.  I was out 6 to 8 weeks each time I broke it.  The one that really got me was in 1970 when Bert Campaneris was batting in Oakland, and he came around on his swing and hit my glove hand, crushing the network of nerves in my hand.  I tried to play about two weeks with it being that way, but finally the manager said what’s wrong with you ? I said “Nothing’, and he said, ‘Well, you’re not even swinging the bat.”  I said, “I can’t”.  I was bunting for base hits.  I was trying to get walks.  The injury  caught up with me.  I didn’t play the rest of the year.  I got traded the next year. 

The 1970 All Star Game:  Pete Rose & Ray Fosse

I think Ray Fosse and I should have been the only two catchers on the team.  But it didn’t work that way.  Bill Frehan was hitting around .240, but all the fans voting decided Bill should be there, even though Fosse and I were hitting about .310 a piece.  I didn’t get in the game.  When Fosse got in, there was no shot for me because they have to keep somebody as a backup if someone gets hurt.  So, when the collision happened, I was in an open area where the pitchers were getting ready.  We’re in Cinncinati and it’s the 14th inning, and here comes Rose around 3rd.   Ray tried to block the plate without having the ball.  Rose came in shoulder first, and Fosse didn’t know Rose was going to hit him like that.  He came in full bore.  That’s the way Rose played.  He played hard.  I don’t think he had to do that.  I don’t think he should have.  And I don’t think Fosse should have tried to do what he did because that game didn’t mean anything at the time like it does now.  But I will say this, and I’ve said it my whole life:  I had a football mentality, not necessarily a baseball one, and I don’t believe he would have ever gotten to the plate and run over me like he ran over Fosse.  If he did, he would have felt it.  I played a lot of football and I didn’t mind getting hurt.

What do you recall about Gibson and Satriano – the late 60’s Sox catchers ?

In 1970, Satriano was the back up.  He got to catch some because Sonny Siebert and I didn’t see eye-to-eye. Siebert nibbled too much and he didn’t want to challenge the batters. Satriano ended up catching Siebert every time.  The other catcher was Russ Gibson.  Gibby had come up in ’67, playing that year with Elston Howard and Mike Ryan.  In ’68, Gibby caught a good bit of the games and Elston was only there a little that year.  Then in ’69, Gibby was the starting catcher and I was his back up.  In 1970, Eddie Kasko named me as his starting catcher, and Gibby ended up going to the Giants.

Did you recall Hawk Harrelson’s famous psychedelic wardrobe, Nehru jackets, racks of designer shoes and boots?

I loved Hawk.  He was a character.  He swung the bat pretty darn good.   He was unique in so many ways.  I loved him.    He may not have had all the tools, but he had enough.  I saw his Nehru clothing and his cowboy hat and boots, and that was just him.  I was with him a few times on the road, we’d go out to dinner and have a few drinks together, if we were in Washington, he and Frank Howard and a bunch of us would get together and go night clubbing.  These were high profile guys and I was just getting to the majors, so I enjoyed it.  Hawk took me along.  He was somewhat older than me, he had his own group, but he was good to me.

What was Frank Howard like to spend time with ?

The best.  Everytime he came up to bat, the first thing he would do was to greet the catcher, “How you doin’ ?”.  I’m doing fine, how you doin’?”  He was the nicest guy.

He was a guy we listened to.  We were playing Washington at Fenway one day, when Siebert, Reggie Smith and a Senator ended up in an exchange with somebody hitting somebody else, and all of a sudden we started fighting.  And Howard ran in from left field and gets in the middle of it, and says, “Boys, cut this out.”.  And we did.  We listened to him. No one could hit a ball as far he did.

Did you spend time with Ted Williams ?

Yes, actually.  7 years with Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams, both as hitting instructors.  Ted worked a lot with me.  I was a bonus kid that came out early.  This was pre-draft.  I guess they babied me through my time coming in.  It was really an awful situation in that you had two great hitters, great players, great HOF’ers, and what they did they did well, but they had two different ideas of how you should hit.  Doerr wanted you to hit on top of the ball, not necessarily swing down on the ball, but swing close to it.  And Williams wanted you to swing up…and I heard that difference of opinion year after year after year.

There was this wonderful video that Bobby did with Ted, and Bobby gave it to me because he knew I loved both of them.

Bobby was so neat…and Ted was John Wayne, you know, that’s what they called him.

It hurt my hitting to work with both of them.  The first year I hit 13 HR’s in 8 weeks in single-A ball.  I had no problem getting the ball out of the park.  Hitting HR’s was one of the reasons that the Red Sox outbid everyone else for me.  And then once I got into the organization, I tried to do what Ted told me and what Bobby told me.  Before you knew it I became a line drive hitter.  Hitting line drives isn’t a bad thing, but I never hit more than 7 HR’s a year.

Did you find Ted the hitting instructor to be overly technical ?  Mantle once said that Ted confused him.

Ted expected everybody to be as good as him.  And nobody was.

Mantle was my idol, as a kid growing up.  Down in Missisippi, the only guys we could see were the Yankees on Saturdays.

Anyway, I apologized for not being as good as Ted Williams wanted me to be.

Favorite guy to catch ?

Oh, I loved Lonborg.  I didn’t get to catch him as much as I wanted to.  Lonborg and Ray Culp were great. I think Ken Brett would have been a HOF’er had he not hurt his shoulder.

I caught Gaylord Perry with the spitball.  He was a master, a pro’s pro, a tough guy, not always gentle with guys he did not think were hustling.

Favorite pitcher to hit ?

I hit Nolan Ryan pretty good…I went 1 for 3…He K’d me once, I popped out once, and in the third at bat I bailed out on a curveball and broke my bat with the ball going over the shortstop’s head for a single.  God, Ryan could throw the ball.  I didn’t have to face him often.  You didn’t have a chance to tell if there was a tail on the ball because it was coming so quick.

I thought Rollie Fingers was one of the toughest guys coming out of the bullpen.  He had a ball that would sink and a slider that would go the other way.  If you didn’t guess right you weren’t going to come close to it.

It seemed like I hit the better pitchers better than I hit the guys who didn’t pitch so good.  I’m not bragging about any of it.  I hit fairly good off Bert Blyleven, and Jim Palmer, but not so well against the two Baltimore lefthanders, Cuellar and McNally.

I didn’t hit Catfish Hunter well, a guy who never let anybody hit a HR when there were men on base.   He’d wear you out inside and then come outside, and then with the slider.  I faced Hunter 30 or 40 times and always wanted to bat against him because I thought I could hit him, but I never got a hit…..

The good pitchers all pitched inside.  I knew a lot of guys who wouldn’t throw inside because they were afraid of giving up a home run.  You have to have the confidence.

The pitcher is going to pitch whatever he wants to pitch.  The catcher just makes the signs.  But if you have that chemistry, they won’t shake you off more than 3 or 4 times a game.  That’s what made guys like Bill Lee so good.  He’d pitch to you inside.   Bill didn’t throw the ball over 90 or 91 mph, but he would throw strikes….he was a little crazy, but he could pitch.

+++++++++++++

Gerry Moses came straight out of Baseball into the Food business where he has stayed for 40 years.  Among other successful ventures, he is the founder of Ann’s Boston Brownie Company.

He is in good health, is still working and having fun.  He works out and makes it a habit to eat healthfully.  He credits his wife of 41 years, Carolyn, for keeping him in line.  “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I’d have done; she’s the strength of our house.

Gerry says the present BoSox owners “have been fabulous.  They embraced us and involve us…they seem to understand marketing better than most…..they get us (retired players) into Fenway despite the sell outs…I am lucky and proud to still be in the Red Sox family.”

Moses also added that the Sox he played with were multi-talented.  “We thought after ’67 we were going to have a good run there, but Lonborg got hurt, Santiago got hurt, Mike Andrews got hurt.

Those are the BoSox I remember so well.  Moses, Yaz, Reggie, Harper, Andrews, Rico, Boomer, both Conigliaro’s, Peters, Nagy, Romo, Lee, Lyle, Culp, Siebert and John Kennedy, the super sub.

That pre-Rice era of BoSox played its heart out and won more than it lost.

Gerry Moses fit right in.

Rose Fosse

Fosse's shoulder injury may have cancelled his ticket to stardom.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, RED SOX | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »