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

Posts Tagged ‘Rickey Henderson’

Lou Brock to Ellsbury : Be A Panther !

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 10, 2010

Impossible to stop.

STEALING IS MY GAME by Franz Schulze and Lou Brock.  206 pages   1976, Prentice-Hall.

I remember Lou Brock as the daring wheelman of the ’67 Cardinals that bashed my Red Sox in the Series.

In the 80’s and 90’s, Rickey Henderson could burn rubber. Today, Jacoby Ellsbury can get after it.  But Lou Brock was a swift motorman, effortlessly changing from total relaxation to furious energy in a split second.

Here is how the author, Franz Schulze describes Brock’s acceleration:

“Movement now, a flashing of red and white on the baseline between first and second.  I would like to say Brock took off like a shot, but that is not the right metaphor.  One moment he was almost loafing.  The next he was driving down to second, legs pounding like pistons, but if the transition was quick, it was nevertheless too smooth, if you can believe that, for the start of his run to be called explosive.  Catcher Ed Hermann reacted alertly and threw accurately to second.  The fly swatter came down, but the fly makes decisions and moves in just about the same fraction of a second it took Brock to beat the throw.  (Wilbur) Wood looked on helplessly.”

Brock’s base stealing was a skill set and a weapon.  He had the physical gifts and a analytic tendency that enabled him to use visuals, habits and probabilities to deceive and beat enemy moundsmen.

He did the unthinkable in 1974.

As a prelude, Maury Wills surpassed Ty Cobb’s record of 98 steals in a season in 1962 with 104.

At the time, that was considered unbreakable.   Cobb’s record had stood for 50 years.

104 loomed large in the record books until 1974 when Brock shattered it with 118.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

Some of the wonderful things this book shares are Brock’s corollaries for base stealing.

Without further delay:

  • Get On Base.

  • Once on 1st Base, DISDAIN 1st Base.  1st Base is nowhere.

  • When on 1st  Base, develop the look of a dozing malingerer.   This appearance helps foment the element of shock.

  • Look like you are not paying attention, but keep your eyes wide open.

  • Be a Panther.  A Panther is slow & easy at the same time  —  except for those moments where it is very necessary to be very fast.  Be a Panther.

  • Stealing bases is theoretically improbable.  If the pitcher, catcher and runner execute their respective   responsibilities perfectly, the runner will be out.

  • The runner can outmaneuver the pitcher.  And vice-versa.

  • Take a modest lead and stand motionless.  When the Pitcher goes home, he will telegraph a great deal of information.  The Pitcher has 2 things on his mind:  You and the batter.   You have just one thing on your mind:  the Pitcher.   Disconcerting the opponent is marvelously complex.

  • As a lefty hitter with dominant left pushing foot, I can’t afford a big lead.  Being Lefty helps when  pushing to 2nd base, but it’s disadvantageous when scampering back to 1st base.  So, no big leads.

  • The only thing the Pitcher doesn’t know about me is the precise moment when I will go.

  • I am fishing in a very clear pool where I can see the fish I’m after and lead him gently and patiently to the bait.

  • Knowing when to go is intuitive.  It’s like knowing what an intimate friend is going to say a split second before they say it.

  • Empathize with the Pitcher.  Empathize with his moves and thoughts.  At one point, he has to commit himself.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

This book about Hall of Famer Lou Brock was written 2 years after Brock set that single season SB record in ’74.  At the time of publication, Lou was 37 years old and  88 SB’s short of Cobb’s career record.  He was also 500 hits short of 3,000 hits, a club with only 11 members at the time

We learn of Lou’s upbringing in poop-poor Collinston, Louisiana, fatherless, with 8 siblings .  We see him emerge from poverty with athletic skills and that analytic nature.  He earns and loses a scholarship at Southern University, and accepts up a $30,000 signing bonus in the Cubs organization.  After batting .361 at St. Cloud, Lou hits the majors and never looks back.  But he doesn’t thrive under the Cubs College of Coaches experiment.

First week:  “Brock, pull the ball !”

Two weeks later:  “Brock, why are you pulling it ? Hit to the opposite field !”

Two weeks later: “ Brock, stop going the other way !  You need to bunt, bunt, bunt ! “

Even after the College of Coaches was replaced with a traditional manager, Brock’s mind was in a knot.  He wasn’t a match for the Cubs system of concentrating on personal weaknesses, rather than emphasizing what one does well.

And then in 1964, after 3.5  Cub years, the Northsiders gave up on Lou.  Stan Musial was retiring and the Cardinals needed an outfielder.  The Cubs needed pitching.

The trade essentially was Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio.

Ernie was a very good pitcher.  But his best was behind him.  After a poor 1965 and 1966, he was out of baseball as a player.

Brock went on to star with St. Louis, where he got the green light to run from the get go, for the next 14 seasons.

Funny thing about that 1964 season.  Brock’s average jumped from .251 with Chicago to .348 in St. Louis.  Brock was a sparkplug for the Cards as they won the Pennant on the last weekend and defeated the Yankees 4 games to 3 in the Series.

Xxxxxxx

This great little book takes us through Brock’s background and career, with emphasis on the World Series of 1964, 1967 and 1968.

It’s a keeper.

That said, author Franz Schulze strains my attention.  He’s more poet than prose man.  He inverts sentence structure more than Yoda. (”Right Fielder Mike Shannon it was who attracted the most attention”), and at times assumes we all speak French (“Regardez, L.A.”)

Schulze is an alternatively good and strange read.

But I’ve got to give him props over the summary he offers of the 1960’s.  To paraphrase:

“…even conservative old Baseball, like every other walk of life in America of the 1960’s, was an arena of violent shock and change.  I will simply remind you of Vietnam, the Assassinations, the Counterculture, the Pill, Pop Art and the rise of a new national religion known as Pro Football…..Within Baseball itself Eckert was hired so the owners would have someone they could boss around……There was also the Houston Astrodome, a glass roofed super stadium where they thought of using colored baseballs….Mayor McKeldin of Baltimore urged the taverns of his city to let Negroes watch the 1966 World Series on TV…..Judges argued over whether the Braves belonged to Atlanta or Milwaukee until after everyone who was not a party to it was stupefied with boredom….See the Athletics try to decide whether they should stay in Kansas City or move to Louisville.  See them neatly resolve this by moving to Oakland…….Juan Marichal takes a bat to the head of John Roseboro right in the middle of a game and gets off with and a $1750 fine and an 8 game suspension……Koufax and Drysdale threaten to give up Baseball for the movies….”

This book resonates with the rebellious  60’s and 70’s. It is of that chaotic and experimental time.   One wonders if weed and wine were handy at the keyboard.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As much as I like and respect Lou Brock, I won’t try to hold him up as a greater thief than Rickey Henderson, who played 5 years later in life than Lou and amassed more SB’s.

But it is tempting to do so.

Henderson stole 1406 bases and was caught stealing 335 times.    That is an .808 success rate.  He played his last game at age 45.

Brock stole 938 bases and was caught stealing 307 times.  That’s a .753 success rate.  He played his last game at age 40.

Rickey played in the steroid era but has never been mentioned or connected.

Brock had to face terrific defensive catchers like Bench and Grote, where Rickey simply did not.

Brock played through pain and injury.  He played through a broken shoulder blade that Koufax fractured.  Not to mention numerous incidents in which he ran into an outfield wall.

Rickey had 2,111 more plate appearances playing in an age of uber expansion & weakened competition.

As tempting as it is to make a case for Brock, I believe it is best to simply appreciate the remarkable talents of both men.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Tasty Nuggets

  • Koufax was known for NOT retaliating against hot doggers or batsmen who raked him, but in May 1965, Lou was batting .370 when he was hit by Koufax and suffered a broken shoulder blade.  Lou’s average sunk to .220 before he turned it around to finish at .288.

  • Jose Santiago was the first Puerto Rican to start a World Series game.  (Game 1, 1967,for Boston).  Although Jose lost to Bob Gibson by 2-1 as Brock went 4-for-4, he also became the first Puerto Rican to homer in a World Series game since Luis Omos tagged Joe Page in the 1949 World Series, and Jose Pagan went yard in ’62  against Ralph Terry.

  • Shulze writes one of the best summaries of the 1967 World Series in just 6 pages.  He says it matched one team that won the Pennant by 10.5 games versus one that won its Pennant “by the grace of God, some glue, spit, and a tire patch kit.”

  • The running game is a head game.  It is nettling, worrisome, exploitative, corrosive and havoc wreaking.

  • Before Brock stole 118 bases in 1974, he stole 30 bases in the last 30 games of 1973 to lead a Cardinal offense that had seriously waned.

  • Wonderful stories and insights about and on Bob Veale, Stave Dalkowski, and Dick Allen.

Xxxxxx

Don’t miss this book, baseball historians.  Check ebay, check the web for it, this entertaining history of an all time great.

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Posted in BASEBALL, BASEBALL BOOKS, Jacoby Ellsbury | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hall of Fame greets Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Joe Gordon…and Dorkus White

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 28, 2009

It was a paradise for Fans

It was a paradise for Fans

Long after we sat down in our folding chairs facing the induction stage and jumbotron, Dorkus White of Bennington, Vermont bared his spooky grin.  “Mind if we pull up next to you ?”

I nodded affirmatively.  A light aroma of body odor wafted in the air.  He plunked into his seat.  “You don’t mind since I’m not wearing any of that YANKEE SHIT !”, he snarled.

Then…he spat.

Wow.

I am no Yankee fan for sure, but my hackles were up.

I am too old to fight.  I am too smart to fight.  But I cannot tolerate those who begin a conversation by disrespecting the traditions of other fans.  I was pissed.

My anxiety level was up from spending 4 hours in a car with nothing but prunes, coffee and peanuts in my belly.

I was ornery.

I clenched my left hand into a fist and drew it back, positioned to thwock this boob and lead with my wedding ring.

Then  I thought about the resultant civil suit and relaxed, so as to preserve my home, my 401K and all other small assets so that they may be picked over by my children, and their future generations to come.

XXXXXXXX

We met all kinds this day, Sun., Sept. 26, 2009 in Cooperstown.  Without even trying, we spoke with 30-odd fans who flew in from the Oakland area, others from St. Louis, Kansas, Virginia, Staten Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland.  As expected, Baltimoreans made their presence felt during the national anthem by Shouting “O !”  instead of “Oh, say can you see?”

These were baseball loving people from all over the States.  They treated each other well, and showed their loyalty is expected and curious ways.

The streets of Cooperstown were populated with young and old, trim and fat, Black, White, Hispanic and Asian.

They were decked out in mustard green, baby blue, Redbird red, road greys, home whites and the multi-colored Houston horizon.

We were at The United Nations of Baseball.  20,000 of us sat comfortably in our lawn chairs on a great field.

A delegate from Alexandria testified on the greatness of Stan Musial, he with 3,630 hits – exactly half of them on the road.  A delegate from St. Louis railed against the unbearably high cost of All Star Game tickets.  A delegate from Mississippi invoked State birth rights and claimed ownership of one Jonathan Papelbon, who currently resides in Boston.

Secret languages were being spoken.  Everyone understood every word of it.  Those who confessed to ignorance became learned.

On this field and in the village, 20,000 hard-wired Baseball fans, age 2 to 92 walked, sprinted, sat and leisurely strolled through Cooperstown, engaged in conversation.

The talk was unrelenting.

20,000 pilgrims expressed a baseball thought every 15 seconds for 10 hours, resulting in 480,000,000 baseball opinions.

Not one positive thing was said about Bud Selig.

XXXXXXXXXXXX

Dorkus was a sinner.  This runt of a man was given to excess.  Excess eating, and by his smell, excessive sweating.  5 ft., 5 inches tall and 260 lbs., he wore non-matching green cargo shorts and a yellow-and-white checkered shirt from the mark down table at Ocean State Job Lot.  His gnarly toe nails stared up at me from a pair of open toed flip flops.

As he skootched his chair so close to me that our armrests interlocked, I swear I heard him fart.

He pushed back his oily hair with one hand, then followed it with the other, snugging a Red Sox cap, a 1946 Cooperstown Collectible repro, above his greasy brow.

This pig of a man……like me…..was a Red Sox fan.

Dorkus White, on a one-day parole from his trailer park, scanned the crowd of 20,000, observing the stage and Baseball circus before us.

He smiled broadly.

XXXXXXXXXX.

Judy Gordon is a lean, lion-maned, energetic woman who conjures the intellect and grace of a PBS historian.  She stood up for her family and accepted the HOF plaque for her Father, Joe Gordon.

Gordon, a second bagger, clouted 253 HR’s, a remarkable total for a keystoner.  He batted .278, beat Ted Williams for the 1942 MVP, played the field acrobatically.  He won FIVE World Championships with the Yankees and Indians in an 11-year war-interrupted career.

Judy was the first speaker to draw emotions.  Although the day was marked by lusty cheering and standing ovations from fans of Rickey & Jim, it was Joe Gordon’s girl who compelled thousands to choke up.

As Judy Gordon closed her summary of Joe Gordon’s life and career, she explained how personal humility stopped him from allowing a funeral to be conducted.

There had been no service for Joe Gordon upon his death in 1978, Judy said.

Her voice shut down with emotion.  She breathed silently, trying to gather herself.

In that instant, all realized that Gordon had passed from this Earth without a celebration of  his life.  No gathering.  No chit chat about his exploits and loves.  No public recognition of the impact he had on others.

Until today.

Judy explained that on this day, July 26, 2009, the family considered this induction ceremony to be Joe Gordon’s funeral celebration, and his eternal resting place to be the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Tears flowed.

XXXXXX.

Jim Ed Rice is many things.  Put your arm around the “Boston Strong Man” and feel the shoulder muscles that writhe like a barrel of snakes.  Stick a microphone in front of him and hear him elaborate like an Emerson graduate.  Take him off camera and hear him talk about the importance of family, love, and teamwork.

Rice’s speech dragged a finger across the arc of human life.  Youthful days enjoyed.  Finding the love of your life.  Earning what you own.  Bringing children into the world.  Experiencing many, many pleasures, and then knowing the confounding joy of grandchildren.

The man who once allegedly deposited a reporter upside down in a locker room garbage can made his induction speech about family, love, marriage, teammates.

He honored Johnny Pesky, his personal batting coach and BP pitcher in Jim’s rookie season.  He honored Celcil Cooper, his roommate.

He did not back away from his denial that war with the media had hurt him.  Instead, he pointed out the irony that he had become one of them.

Jim Rice.  Ed Rice.  Poppa.  Uncle Jim.  Jim the Friend Who Never Calls You Back.

Jim Ed said that he is all of the above.

He said he is also Jim the Grateful.

Though massive talents and achievements prevented Jim’s words from resonating with humility this day, the cocky confidence that marbled his words was not unbecoming.

He knows what is important.  And he knows he belongs in Cooperstown.

XXXXXXXXXX.

The High School Baseball Coach brought ice cream to Rickey’s home to recruit him.

His Mom told him to stop with the Football, and concentrate on the diamond.

A teacher offered him 25 cents for every hit, run and stolen base he made.  He made cash money.

Rickey’s life has turned on small things.

As the entire baseball world waited for Rickey to float into a eubonic-plagued “Rickey-says-this and Rickey-says-that” soliloquy, Rickey Henderson instead carefully enunciated a well constructed speech of gratitude.

He recognized Billy Martin as a great manager.  He pointed to his best friend, Dave Stewart.  He allowed that his wife of 30 years, Pamela, has supported him in all that he has done.

Rickey hit every consonant.  (And a few that do not normally get hit.)

He spoke carefully, making every syllable heard.

He had prepared his ass off.

What else would you expect from the man who scored more runs than anyone (2,295), stole more bases than anyone (1,406), and led off more games with a HR than anyone (81)?

As Bill James once said, he’s so good you could split him in half and get two HOF’ers.

Rickey was not going to be embarrassed at his celebration.

And, oh the numerous A’s fans did rejoice.  They played banjo, danced, shouted and screamed.  They let out their Rickey Love, their A’s Ardor.  They represented the Bay Area impressively.

They may have outshined Red Sox Nation, which interrupted Rice with a loud “Let’s Go Red Sox” chant just as he started, and earlier gave Yaz a long and loving ovation.

You just had to tip your hat to the many from Oakland who traveled 3,000 miles.  Decked in splendor, elephants on their sleeves, mustard on their jerseys, they soared on the achievements of a player the likes of which we will never see again.

XXXXXXX

Dorkus White of Bennington, Vt. had impressed me.

There were his loathsome characteristics, sure.  But his heart seemed to be in the right place.

Dorkus had jumped to his feet and cheered 92-year-old patriot, Bob Feller.  He had hollered for Yaz, Yogi, Koufax and Reggie.  He had applauded Rickey when the speedy one paid respect to Roberto Clemente.

I had observed that a small, yet warm, heart was radiating from his unwashed and ill-clad breast.

Still, I didn’t want to get too close to Dorkus as the wife and I pulled up stakes.  I moved silently and avoided eye contact.

Then the filfthy, decent little Dorkus reached out to me with a friendly shake and a warm goodbye.

I realized that Dorkus White, Red Sox fan of Bennington, Vt., had had a pretty good day.

He is overall, it seems, a pretty damn good baseball fan.

Like Rickey, A's fans were untoppable this day.

Like Rickey, A's fans were untoppable this day.

Posted in Boston Red Sox, Hall of Fame, Jim Rice, Oakland A's, RED SOX, Rickey Henderson | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »