Alfred Hitchcock Presents The Finer Points of Baseball: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of March 29, 2015
In case you haven’t noticed, racism is unfortunately alive and well in the United States. The number of higher-profile incidents only seems to be increasing recently, and no corner of society has been spared, including the realm of baseball.
It was recently reported that Curt Ford, a former backup outfielder and pinch hitter for some of the great St. Louis Cardinals teams of the 1980s, was allegedly assaulted at a St. Louis-area gas station in an incident that also included racial epitaphs and references to the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
It‘s beyond sad to see such things and consider racism’s horrible impact. Helping bring about its demise is something that will require the collective efforts of everybody. Baseball is a game embraced by so many from myriad backgrounds and origins, so it has the potential of being a powerful medium in hopefully helping to effect change.
Now, on to the notes for the week…
*Former pitcher and song writer Bill Slayback has died at the age of 67. The right-hander appeared in a total of 42 games (17 starts) with the Detroit Tigers between 1972-74, going a combined 6-9 with a 3.84 ERA. His best performance was a 5-hit shutout of the Kansas City Royals as a rookie. He later co-wrote the baseball song “Move Over Babe, Here Comes Hank” with legendary Detroit broadcaster Ernie Harwell.
*It was also recently announced that Steven Shea, another former right-handed pitcher, had passed away at the age of 72. After seven seasons in the minors, he finally debuted in the majors in 1968 with the Houston Astros, and appeared briefly the following year with the Montreal Expos. In 40 total big league relief appearances, he was a combined 4-4 with a 3.22 ERA and 6 saves. Following his playing days, he had a banking career and was a dedicated family man.
*Pete Reiser was one of the best players in baseball during his 10-year major league career between 1940-1952. Gaining his greatest success with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the left-handed hitting outfielder batted a combined .295 and led the National League in a number of categories. Unfortunately, his career was derailed by a series of injuries caused by his hardnosed play, which is detailed in this fantastic excerpt from a 1958 issue of True Magazine.
*The Seattle Mariners play their home games in swanky Safeco Field. However, before they got such fancy digs they occupied the decidedly more pedestrian Kingdome. Check out the footage from 15 years ago of the old ballpark getting demolished with explosives to make way for its shinier replacement.
*Of all the baseball movies that have ever been made, it’s hard to find many that are better than the iconic The Sandlot. Although you can’t beat the original, a number of players on the New York Yankees recently recreated one of the more memorable scenes. It’s a fun watch even if it’s unlikely there are any Oscars on the horizon for the boys in pinstripes.
*A recent spring training game between the Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies may have made baseball history. With Paul Molitor and Ryne Sandberg skippering the teams, it was believed to be the first time a game has been played with both managers being active members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
*Sandy Koufax is on the short list of the greatest left-handed pitchers in the history of baseball. Although he terrified major league hitters during his career, he was not always such a known commodity. This story tells how he walked on to the University of Cincinnati varsity team in 1955. After making the team and striking out 34 in his first two games, he was launched on the path that would lead to baseball immortality.
*Baseball fans come in all shapes, sizes and manner of backgrounds. Famed film director Alfred Hitchcock is likely someone most have not associated with the game but he had this monologue from an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Although he is explaining some of the finer points, it remains unclear of his actual personal interest.
*The Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz has been one of the most prominent players in baseball during his time in the Hub. His gaudy numbers and his reported inclusion on a 2003 list of players that failed tests for performance enhancers created an aura of suspicion that has never quite gone away. The slugger recently addressed those allegations in a piece he penned for the Player’s Tribune. Although he denies culpability, there are still some like Subway Squawkers’ Lisa Swan who don’t believe his version of events add up.
*Are you looking for a new book to read now that the weather is about to turn for the better? No worries, Esquire.com has you covered. They recently rolled out their list of the 20 best baseball books ever written. There are definitely some gems to consider, and seemingly new candidates being released by publishers every day.
*Speedy outfielder Lou Brock spent the final 16 years of his 19-year Hall-of-Fame career with the Cardinals. Upon retiring, he held the all-time record for stolen bases with 938. Even after his playing days ended, he remained connected to the team, and this 1980 commercial urging fans to attend Opening Day is a great example. It appears he read teleprompters as well as he did pitcher windups…