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35 Years Ago: Yankees Lose Captain in Shocking Accident 6

Posted on August 02, 2014 by Dean Hybl
It was 35 years ago that New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson died in a plane accident.

It was 35 years ago that New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson died in a plane accident.

While current New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter has spent much of this season saying good bye to baseball fans across the country, it was 35 years ago that another Yankees captain left the game in a sudden and tragic manner.

On August 2, 1979, the two-time defending World Series Champion New York Yankees were struggling to stay in contention in the American League East. Despite having completed a must-needed three game sweep the day before with a 9-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees stood in fourth place in the division 14 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles.

A much needed off day, it would prove to be one of the toughest in team history.

After the three game series in Chicago, Yankee captain and veteran catcher Thurman Munson chose to spend the off-day in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, rather than travel back to New York.

An 11-year veteran, Munson had been the fourth pick of the 1968 MLB Draft and in 1970 was named the American League Rookie of the Year. Over the next decade, Munson was considered the “heart and soul” of the Yankees as they looked to regain the glory of past decades.

In April of 1976, a season that would end with the first World Series appearance for the Yankees in a dozen years, Munson became the first New York player to be designated as team captain since the retirement of Lou Gehrig in 1939.

Munson was a seven-time All-Star and in 1976 was named the American League MVP. He posted three straight seasons of 100+ RBIs from 1975-77 and had five seasons with a .300 or higher batting average. Read the rest of this entry →

75 Years Ago: The Iron Horse Says Goodbye 2

Posted on July 03, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Lou Gehrig said goodbye to his fans on July 4, 1939.

Lou Gehrig said goodbye to his fans on July 4, 1939.

Imagine if one of the most iconic athletes of the current era suddenly retired, announced he had an incurable disease and within two years was dead. That is exactly what happened in 1939 when iconic New York Yankees star Lou Gehrig pulled himself out of the lineup after 2,130 consecutive games and then 75 years ago, on July 4, 1939, said goodbye to New York fans with his famous “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.

For 13 years, Gehrig was baseball’s most durable player as he famously was in the lineup every day. But durability wasn’t his only strength, he was also the best first baseman of his generation and was a run-producing machine.

Only Gehrig could push the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, into the number three spot in the batting order. He drove in 140 or more runs nine times during his career, including 185 RBI during the 1931 season. In 1934 he claimed the triple crown as he hit .363 with 49 home runs and 166 RBI.

Interestingly, likely because the Yankees did not reach the World Series that season, he finished only fifth in the MVP voting as Mickey Cochrane earned the award. Read the rest of this entry →

2014 Major League Baseball Preview: Is Money the Answer? 10

Posted on March 30, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Several major league baseball teams spent the winter spending money like a drunken sailor in hopes of moving to the top of the league. Yet, as we prepare for the 2014 season the teams expected by many to contend are a combination of big money and middle payroll teams.

For now, the Los Angeles Dodgers have surpassed the New York Yankees as the team with baseball’s highest payroll. However, that doesn’t mean the team in the Bronx is suddenly being frugal. The suspension of Alex Rodriguez hacked a large salary off their payroll, but the Yankees made up for that by signing Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka and high money free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

While several teams in recent years have been able to make the playoffs without high payrolls, once the playoffs begin the higher payrolls have generally had an advantage. That was quite obvious last season in the two playoff series that went to a decisive game. The higher payroll Cardinals and Tigers each started a seasoned veteran in the fifth game of their division round playoff series (Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander, respectively). Their opponents, the Pirates and A’s, each started a rookie who wasn’t even in the major leagues when the 2013 season started.

Having a high payroll is no guarantee that a team will make the playoffs, but big off-season spending has certainly put several teams in a position to contend.

Below are a few thoughts heading into the 2014 season:

Baseball’s Most Underrated Player
In the last two seasons Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis has hit 86 home runs, driven in 223 runs and scored 178 runs, yet ESPN’s recent player rankings didn’t have him listed among the top 25 players in the game. The Sybermetrics disciples have become so enamored with WAR and other made-up stats that they have forgotten that driving in and scoring runs is the name of the game. As a team, the Orioles have been generally dismissed despite having two consecutive solid seasons, but they have a very potent offensive and if David has another strong season the O’s could again be in contention throughout the season.
Read the rest of this entry →

Actor Peter Scolari Turns In His Red Sox For Yankees’ Pinstripes In “Bronx Bombers” On Broadway 10

Posted on February 06, 2014 by Joe Gill

hk6T8NG49bGkaEPb8IvRO10OivKBOfWs2I6-l7Ctiu4Most people know Peter Scolari from some of his older work on TV shows like “Bosom Buddies,” or that old New England favorite “Newhart,” or younger people know him as the dad in HBO’s popular series “Girls.” Theater goers may know him from his recent role in “Lucky Guy” with longtime colleague Tom Hanks.  However sports fans, even those in Boston, may know him for the crack Red Auerbach  role he played in “Magic/Bird,” and now as gasp, a Yankee, playing Yogi Berra in the new play that opens in New York this week, “Bronx Bombers.”

 Why would those around Boston flock to New York to see a play about the Yankees?
We asked Scolari, who has some surprising answers that may be of interest.

 

The new play is about the Yankees, why would those fans in Boston be interested?

 

PS: Well, the first act actually takes place in a Boston hotel, the day after the famous 1977 game where Billy Martin pulled Reggie Jackson out of the game. Yogi Berra, my character, summons the parties together to try and solve what’s wrong with the team, and as you can imagine it is quite chaotic, so some Red Sox fans should revel in that memory.

 

You grew up a Yankees fan but did follow the Red Sox for quite a while correct?

 

PS: That is right. During my teen years and into my early ‘20’s the Yankees were not what they were later on, and I loved the Red Sox of the late 1960’s’ Yaz and Tony Conigliaro and Jim Lonborg had such a great run, they were so much fun to watch I was really taken by them and followed them religiously.

 

Your dad actually had some pretty strong baseball ties as well?

 

PS: yes that how I really came to love baseball. He was an accomplished player when he was young, an All-American shortstop at Drew University in New Jersey, and then he became an attorney and represented several athletes, including Rocky Graziano and Elston Howard, in some business dealings, so I always had a love for the game. It’s also ironic because Elston is one of the players who comes back to life in the second act of the play to help Yogi fix the Yankees.

 

7moNzlj64kvf714bfUGep-eZxqRerOAUMYXe41OkLPUDid you get to meet Yogi?

 

Yes, actually during the World Series, he and I and my wife, who plays Carmen Berra (Tracy Shayne), sat and watched one of the Red Sox-Cardinals games together and talked about his time with the team and where the game is today. It was quite an amazing evening and a great help in forming the character.

 

How is the role of Yogi different or similar to that of playing Red Auerbach?

 

PS: I loved playing Red, and some of that yelling he was famous for comes out in my Yogi portrayal, as he was not always the quiet guy that most people see; he has a very strong personality  and that comes across in the play. They were both strong leaders, and had the respect of everyone around them and were very, very driven to win and were highly successful. I think that is probably the trait that comes across in both.

 

It’s a Yankees play, but is it for other fans as well?

 

PS: I think so, because it shows how teams and personalities can help lift us to new heights. By the way Babe Ruth is also in the play, and we know where he started as well, so there is another tie to Boston, albeit probably not a great one for red Sox fans, and Derek Jeter is in the play, who I believe has the respect of Red Sox Nation as well. The story is really about the beauty of the game and its personalities more than wins and losses, and it has great lessons for fans of all ages, so I think people can relate to it no matter who they root for. It’s not as much a Yankees play as it is a play about overcoming obstacles and dealing with life’s curveballs.

 

Any plans on maybe a hockey play down the line for you?

 

Hey maybe I can play Don Cherry somewhere…right now we are hoping for a long run with “Bronx Bombers,” and I will continue the work with “Girls,” that’s good for me right now.

 

Bronx Bombers opens February 6 at Circle in the Square in New York. For all the details visit http://www.bronxbombersplay.com/

Alex Rodriguez Disaster Takes Focus Off The Field 9

Posted on August 10, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Alex Rodriguez has struggled in his return to the field.

Alex Rodriguez has struggled in his return to the field.

For all who simply want to talk more sports, the Alex Rodriguez debacle has not been good. Since the one-time sure Hall of Famer has become the latest poster child for the PED era in baseball, performance on the field of play has been overshadowed by the growing circus off the diamond.

It is hard to believe that just five years ago Rodriguez was seen as the savior who would save the baseball world from the “tainted” star who “stole” the home run record from Hank Aaron.

Now, Rodriguez is quickly replacing Barry Bonds and former pitcher Roger Clemens as the face of the steroids era.

Where once he was pointed out as the prototype for the 21st Century baseball star, there now seems to be enough doubt to wonder if Rodriguez was instead the 21st Century version of a test tube star. In recent weeks some have wondered if even the young Alex Rodriguez who emerged as a star at the age of 20 with the Seattle Mariners could have been enhanced through artificial means.

In hindsight, it could be considered a little fishy that Rodriguez hit .232 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 149 at bats in 1995 and then the following year won the AL batting title with a .358 average, 36 home runs and 125 RBI.

The following season he hit .300 with 23 home runs and 84 RBI, but starting in 1998 Rodriguez hit at least 30 home runs and drove in at least 100 runs every year for the next 13 seasons. During that time, he blasted at least 40 home runs eight times with three seasons of more than 50 homers. He also hit .300 or better seven times and never had a season with an average below .285. Read the rest of this entry →

30 Years Ago: George Brett Erupts During “Pine Tar Game” (VIDEO) 6

Posted on July 24, 2013 by Dean Hybl
After having his home run reversed, George Brett had to be physically restrained from umpire Tim McClelland.

After having his home run reversed, George Brett had to be physically restrained from umpire Tim McClelland.


It is hard to believe that it was 30 years ago, July 24, 1983, when New York Yankees manager Billy Martin set off “Volcano Brett” after Kansas City Royals star George Brett launched what appeared to be a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning of the final game of a four-game series between the two teams at Yankee Stadium.

The scene of a totally unhinged Brett erupting out of the dugout and having to be restrained from home plate umpire Tim McClelland by the other umpires and his teammates is a familiar one that has been replayed extensively over the last three decades.

However, the entire incident is an amazingly interesting time capsule for baseball from an era before steroids, corked bats and other unlawful tricks to get an edge completely changed the game of baseball.

In re-watching the video, it is almost comical to think anyone would take Martin’s argument seriously and legitimately consider that having a little pine tar more than 18 inches up the handle of the bat would play any role in Brett’s home run off Goose Gossage.

However, after Martin spent time pointing out the indiscretion to McClelland and the other umpires, they actually measured the bat against the plate and then McClelland famously signaled that Brett was out, thus launching one of the most famous tirades in baseball history.

Of course while the Yankees technically “won” the game on that afternoon with Brett being the third out, the victory was overruled by American League President Lee MacPhail. He ordered the game to continue following the Brett home run with the Royals now leading 5-4.
Read the rest of this entry →

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