April 30, 2017

The Sunday Notes: Leftovers Edition

December 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

At some point over the last couple days, chances are you rummaged to find a snack in the refrigerator to find the leftover cranberry sauce sprouting some new life form. Yes, the leftovers time forgot is the theme for this edition of the Sunday notes.

Whether writers grabbed some badly needed time away or I was extra choosy with what I wanted to share, here are two weeks of goodness rolled into one column, hold the cranberry mayo and Aunt Gertie’s oyster stuffing.

–Speaking of Thanksgiving, before the Hudson Department Store people convinced the Detroit Lions to play a game on the holiday, MLB Cut Four’s Mike Bertha tells us about how baseball was played in late November during the 19th century. As early as 1855, teams gathered around New York City to play a tournament and, as late as 1887, how the Polo Grounds hosted baseball.

Weather and the popularity of football make Thanksgiving baseball nothing more than a novelty now, but if you thought mixing sports with holidays and a shameless way to grab people into stores was new, you would be wrong.

(For the record, I fired up my baseball simulator of choice and got one in before company arrived.)

–As we head towards Christmas, a show of hands if you knew Willie Mays was partially responsible for one of the most beloved holiday specials ever.

The Sporting News’ Justin McGuire shares how a special done on Mays in 1963 led to Charles Schultz timeless “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airing on CBS for the first time in 1965. The link, as McGuire explains, is Lee Mendelson.

In short, the Mendelson-produced Mays special aired on NBC the same time an extravagant special featuring Elizabeth Taylor in London on another channel. Watching NBC that night, not worrying about what the violet-eyed actress wore, was Schultz. Impressed with the show, the two hooked up for a failed documentary that led to the first full-length Peanuts cartoon special.

Although Taylor’s million-dollar production aired on CBS, the first to hit seven figures, to good numbers and mixed reviews, Charlie Brown and the gang still grace our screens every year.

If you catch it again, grab a package of Dolly Madison Raspberry Zingers and think of Willie Mays.

–The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is proud to announce the works of photographer Charles Conlon have been restored and preserved, allowing those of us in this century to see those who played the game early in the last.

Conlon, whose work was featured in The Sporting News and the New York Telegram, captured over 8,000 portraits of players prior to World War II. His snapshots were originally modified to whatever the Sporting News needed for publication, a very common practice, while the full picture was altered. Around 1990, as Matt Kelly writes, the bulk of Conlon’s negatives were discovered by the paper and saved.

With techniques described in the article, the negatives as Conlon shot them are in the process of restoration for us to enjoy and remember the heroes from our grand and great-grandparent’s era.

The results are striking. Thanks to our friend Andrew Martin for passing this one on.

–Before a few words on the actual news of the last couple weeks, here is an incredible tale from Rob Neyer about he was able to track down a championship ring for a player in Independent baseball thirty-seven years after the fact.

When the 1978 Grey Harbor Loggers won the Northwest League Championship, every player but Rickey Hill received a ring. Neyer, writing about the team and Hill before, had tried to track down the ring for a length of time before successfully uniting the player and his trophy.

The lengths everyone involved went to pull this off is worthy of a movie. From chance encounters to train accidents, the end of this story is right off a Hollywood producer’s word processor.

Hill, whose career was cut short due to injuries, not only is rewarded with a ring, but will be remembered by countless others thanks to Neyer and his efforts.

–Shortly before Thanksgiving, Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin told the world about Rod Carew’s recent brush with death.

Suffering a major heart attack on a local golf course in September, Carew was revived on the clubhouse floor before surviving another stoppage in the emergency room. Now 70, a private Carew shares his emotions with Rushin and us.

Because he played the majority of his career on a bad Minnesota Twins team buried in Bloomington, Carew’s feats are not as well-known as those playing on both coasts in the 1970’s. He chased .400 for most of 1977, making the cover of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated during the season, finishing the year hitting .388. Traded to the California Angels in 1979, he would remain there until retiring after the 1985 season. In the end, a nineteen-year career saw him hit .328, stroke 3053 hits and win seven batting titles.

Now, with an implant keeping his diseased heart pumping, Carew needs a transplant to survive.

You could never root against Carew, no matter who you rooted for, when he played and it’s impossible now.

–For those of you still amazed by the big contracts signed this week by David Price and Zack Greinke, here is a good piece by Forbes.com’s Tom Van Riper that goes into great detail how pitchers over the age of thirty handle long-term big-money deals.

The short answer? Not well.

As you wrap your head around the $423 million combined the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks handed these players, keep a couple things in mind. Ace starting pitching was something these two teams needed. They identified their target and paid what the market could afford. If you think how could $34.3 million be fair market value for Greinke, remember Major League Baseball took in $9.5 BILLION in revenue this year. If revenues remain level over the length of Price’s contract, that adds up to almost $60 billion over the next seven years. Not bad for a sport on death’s doorstep.

Also with two wild cards now, teams who would have sat on money in the past are now spending. The change worked. Look at the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals. Teams need that ace to win championships. Boston and Arizona paid the entry fee.

On the other hand, no team in over 150 years has ever won a championship in December.

–One of the best ever to grace a minor league ballfield is calling it a day.

Mike Hessman, the all-time home run leader swatting 454 dingers over twenty professional seasons, decided to hang the cleats up at age 37.

Spending the last seven years in Toledo with the Triple-A Mud Hens, Hessman earned the home run record in August at 433 breaking the mark set by Buzz Arlett. As CBS Sports’ David Brown writes, Hessman deeply loved the game, playing everywhere from Venezuela to the Majors, swatting 14 big league homers.

Although he will coach next year for Toledo, the grind got to Hessman and his young family. The love of baseball, however, remains strong.

Here is hoping someday his experience leads to a job on a big club soon.

–Lastly this time, here is a sweet story from Mary O. Esparza of the Altus Times on how the City of Altus, Oklahoma honored Eddie Fisher by giving the reliever his own day.

Now 79, Fisher pitched fifteen seasons in the bigs, mostly for the Chicago White Sox. With the White Sox in 1965, Fisher finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting as he posted an ERA of 2.40 throwing 165.1 innings out of the bullpen. In 82 games, he saved 24 and won 15. His WHIP of 0.974 led the American League.

A graduate of Friendship High School in Altus, it is very nice to see a city take time to honor one of their own who made it big. For the family, a moment to be cherished.

–Next week, a look at the rich baseball history of Olean, New York.

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