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Random Awesomeness (part 2019.5)

Random Awesomeness

What I’m Reading Right Now: Firefight: The Reckoners, Book Two by Brandon Sanderson. (Yes, still working on it.)


Purchase Feral Roots from Rival Sons!
(Greta Van Fleet is great, no doubt, but Rival Sons rocks harder for my money.)

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Today is Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie

Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. It is impossible for us to realize the amount of pressure he was under that day, or that season. He persevered throughout his ten-year career, starting in five All-Star Games and helping the Dodgers to six World Series.

Huge baseball memorabilia auction happening online tomorrow

The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Auction Event, is on November 14 at 11am EST online with Invaluable.com and in person at the museum and factory in Louisville, Kentucky. The auction features memorabilia like signed or used pieces by some of the biggest names in baseball. There are pieces from legendary players like Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and more. Here are a few of the noteworthy auction items available:

Lot 289: Fine Lou Gehrig professional model baseball bat c. 1930-31 (PSA/DNA graded “GU 8”)
Estimated Price:
$75,000 – $100,000
The bat originates from a primary source descendant of a former Washington area bat boy whom is believed to have spent time with several teams inclusive of the Washington Senators. According to family history, the young bat boy had the occasion to meet several notable individuals during yankees copythis period and one particularly special encounter was with Lou Gehrig. The 1930-31 time period was particularly productive for Gehrig who turned in numbers that would have been career years for nearly any other player conceivable. A fresh to market Gehrig game bat is always noteworthy and an example with strong provenance and usage characteristics is an exceedingly rare find.

Lot 376: Jackie Robinson professional model baseball bat with uniform #42 on knob c. 1952
Estimated Price:
$50,000 – $100,000
This particular bat was obtained in the 1950s by a Brooklyn area youth, Edward Guidi, whose father was well acquainted with a Brooklyn Dodgers clubhouse employee. On one of the occasions which the boy and his father attended a Dodgers game the team employee brought the offered bat to the man and gave it to his son indicating that, He’d like him to have the bat since he did not have any kids and to enjoy it. The bat has since resided in the collection of the original recipient until its current offering. This particular Jackie Robinson bat ranks among the very finest of its type to have been offered with direct primary source provenance and extremely rare #42 player indicator on knob end.

Lot 293: Fine 1931 New York Yankees team signed baseball
Estimated Price:
$10,000 – $15,000
Red and blue stitched Reach W.Harridge Official American League baseball has been signed by (25) incl. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, George Pipgras, Cy Perkins, Herb Pennock, Sam Byrd, and others. Joe Sewell and Dusty Cooke are clubhouse signed. All are done in period fountain pen rating 7-8 out of 10. Ball displays some mild toning and light evident usage wear with faded but well defined stampings. A choice example dating to this highly desirable period.

Rickey & Robinson by Roger Kahn (2014)

Jackie Robinson Branch Rickey Roger Kahn

Rickey & Robinson
by Roger Kahn
Rodale Books, 2014
320 pages

The story of baseball’s integration has been told time and again, and the latest release from legendary sportswriter Roger Kahn adds even more to the narrative in Rickey & Robinson: The True, Untold Story of the Integration of Baseball. While much in the book is old news, and several of the passages and quotes were even seen in the 2013 movie 42, Kahn also reveals intimate stories about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey that had not yet been made public. He explains the support Robinson received from Jewish sportswriters like himself, hoping that his success would also lessen the discrimination in the press box against Jews and other minorities.

Some of the best parts of Rickey & Robinsons are the reproduction of past articles, including “The Branch Rickey They Don’t Write About” from a 1953 issue of Our Sports, a magazine Kahn and Robinson developed together. There was also a threat of a strike by National League clubs, including the St. Louis Cardinals, that was reported by that New York Herald Tribune writer Stanley Woodward, and prevented by NL president Ford C. Frick. Kahn also reprinted an article by Jimmy Cannon that appeared in the New York Post titled, “Lynch Mobs Don’t Always Wear Hoods.” Add those other voices to Kahn’s own insightful writing, and baseball fans have an in depth report of not only the happenings of the mid-1940s, but some of the attitudes and opinions that accompanied those events.

You may have read a lot about Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, but there is certainly more that can be learned from Roger Kahn. Baseball fans owe it to themselves to become acquainted with this story once again.

Learn more about Rodale Books.

Purchase Rickey & Robinson by Roger Kahn.

Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson On Life After Baseball edited by Michael G. Long (2013)

Jackie Robinson book review

Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson On Life After Baseball
edited by Michael G. Long
Syracuse University Press, 2013
156 pages

Despite his short career, Jackie Robinson remains one of the most well-known baseball players in history. Robinson was, of course, the man who broke the color barrier, the first black baseball player in the twentieth century. The recent Hollywood production 42 is a wonderful tribute to the man and gives us a glimpse of the pain and prejudice he faced when he courageously took his position on the baseball diamond in 1947.

After his playing career ended, Robinson took the fight for equality to pen and paper. Writing columns for the New York Post, New York Amsterdam News, and other publications, Robinson discussed a number of issues that caused division between white and black people. He wrote about his time in baseball, fondly remembering Branch Rickey and Pee Wee Reese. He expressed his disdain toward the racism that still existed in the Boston Red Sox organization at the time and in the lack of African Americans in front office and managerial positions. He touched on the Hall of Fame, at first bracing himself for the possibility that he would not be admitted and then, after learning of his election, writing, “I consider this honor the greatest which could have come to me.”

His columns were not limited to the subject of baseball, however. Robinson also wrote about racism in the PGA and in politics. He devoted ink to his family—his mother, his siblings, his wife, his children. And his readers were well aware of civil rights, from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Editor Michael G. Long does a wonderful job collecting these articles into this anthology, Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson On Life After Baseball. These writings shed some light on Robinson’s opinions and activities after he left the baseball diamond. Long writes, “If there is any theme that unites many of the topics that Robinson addressed in his columns, it is this: first-class citizenship for all US citizens, especially African Americans who had long been denied the fundamental rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Learn more about Syracuse University Press.

Purchase Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson On Life After Baseball edited by Michael G. Long.

Jackie Robinson in 1946

Jackie Robinson with the Montreal Royals

Everyone knows that Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers…but where was he before that went down? Branch Rickey signed him in October, 1945, after one season with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs; Jackie played in 1946 with the International League Montréal Royals before taking the field with the Dodgers on April 15, 1947. In 124 games for the Royals, Jackie batted .349 with three home runs and 66 RBI.

The Twitter account @Royals_46season follows Robinson’s 1946 with Montréal, beginning February 27. “Follow in real time the 1946 season of the Montréal Royals, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball.”

Only a handful of Twitter users are following @Royals_46season. It is an interesting look at #42’s first season under the Dodgers control, though he hadn’t yet worn a Brooklyn uniform. Nearly everyone focuses on Robinson’s rookie year in 1947, or his MVP season in 1949, or his contributions during the Dodgers’ six World Series appearances from 1947-1956. It’s nice to see some attention given to a different storyline, one that laid the foundation for his later success.

See also: The Infinite Baseball Card Set’s tribute to Robinson’s 1945 season with the Kansas City Monarchs.

Who is the greatest second baseman of all-time?

Robinson

Keep in mind that we are only considering major league baseball when I say this: Jackie Robinson is not in the top ten. Also remember that we are not including the unquantifiable “athletic ability,” else Robinson would no doubt leap into the discussion. No, since we are only talking about statistics and awards, Robinson’s short career works against him. Now that we have established that, let’s look at the top ten second basemen in history.

Hornsby

The top spot goes to Rogers Hornsby (289.45), and it’s a clear victory for Rajah, scoring nearly 40 points more than Eddie Collins (250.98). Big Red Machiner Joe Morgan (247.92) is next on the list, followed by Charlie Gehringer (244.05), Nap Lajoie (236.45), Frankie Frisch (231.98), Ryne Sandberg (228.87), Rod Carew (226.78), Jeff Kent (222.25), and Roberto Alomar (219.56) rounding out the top ten.

Morgan

Kent is the only non-Hall of Famer in the top ten, but he hasn’t appeared on the ballot yet. He may have to wait a few years considering how crowded the ballot will be over the next few years, but he should eventually be allowed entrance into Cooperstown. Overall, it seems the voters have done a pretty good job with this position, but that impression fades a bit when we continue down the list.

Sandberg

Craig Biggio was denied his reward last year, despite being a 3000-hit club member and scoring 215.79 in this project to give him the #11 spot among all second basemen. But the #12 guy is an even bigger omission. Lou Whitaker, scoring 208.57, was summarily dismissed from the ballot in his first year with only 2.9% support. When removing the awards and All-Star seasons from my project, Whitaker jumps up to #10 on the list above Alomar and Carew (Biggio also moves up the list to #8).

Carew

Jackie & Me by Dan Gutman (1999)

Jackie & Me
by Dan Gutman
HarperCollins, 1999
160 pages

I love baseball cards, and I love stories about time travel. Write a book about a kid who can travel through time using baseball cards, and you’ve got me hooked.

Joe Stoshack is a mostly regular kid living in modern-day Louisville, Kentucky, but when he touches a baseball card he can travel through time to the year the card was made. Dan Gutman has written about several of Joe’s adventures, including meetings with Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, and Babe Ruth. In this book, Gutman’s second in the “Baseball Card Adventures” series, Joe travels back to 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Not only that, Joe often changes his appearance in his travels. In this particular instance, he wakes up to find that he has transformed into a black kid in 1947! Gutman tinkers with a few historical facts and changes the order of some events to fit the story. For instance, he describes Dixie Walker passing around a petition on the first day of the season to be traded if Robinson is allowed to play for the Dodgers. That actually happened, but not on opening day; Walker circulated his petition in spring training.

Joe learns a valuable lesson, not only about the racism that Robinson faced, but about Robinson’s character in his response to that hatred. Of course, he applies that lesson in his own life when he returns to Louisville.

While written for children (recommended for ten years and older), these are entertaining books even for adult baseball fans. They are light reads and shouldn’t take more than a few sittings to finish–if you can even put it down.

Click here to learn about the play adaptation by Steve Dietz.

Click here to learn more about Dan Gutman.

Purchase Jackie & Me by Dan Gutman.

Retired Numbers: #41 & #42

Everyone knows that #42 is retired league-wide for Robinson, and will probably be retired by the Yankees when Mariano Rivera hangs it up, but there is another who wore #42.


Bruce Sutter, St. Louis Cardinals

I’ve never been shy about my disdain toward the relief pitcher position, but my angst is directed more at the middle reliever than the closer. A legitimate position that deserves to be recognized by the Hall of Fame voters, and perhaps no one epitomized the role of the dominant closer more than Sutter in the 1970s and 80s. Though his career was relatively short (12 seasons), he was able to compile 300 saves while being named to six All-Star squads. He won the Cy Young Award in 1979 with the Cubs, and received votes in four other seasons. If it weren’t for relievers like Sutter, we might not have guys like Rivera today.


Eddie Mathews, Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves


Tom Seaver, New York Mets


Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers

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