Don Zimmer, the baseball lifer, Popeye-lookalike, baseball lifer died at the age of 83 on Wednesday in Dunedin, FL. Zimmer was famously married on a baseball diamond as a bonus baby in the minor leagues in 1951.There is a famous picture of Zim and his wife at home plate under a canopy of crossed bats held by his teammates.
He was was signed out of high school as a shortstop by the Dodgers’ organization in 1949. Later he was Pee Wee Reese’s backup at shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only World Series championship team. He survived not one but two horrific beanings in the pre-batting helmet era.
In the summer of 1953, Zimmer was playing for St. Paul in the American Association and was a top prospect as a shortstop with both speed and power. But he nearly lost his life when he was beaned in a game in Columbus, Ohio. He sustained a fractured skull and fell into a coma for almost two weeks. Doctors drilled holes in the sides of his head to relieve pressure on his brain saving his life.
Amazingly, Zimmer came back and made his major league debut in 1954. He hit 15 home runs in 88 games for the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship team, but he endured a second severe beaning in 1956 against the Cincinnati Reds. It left his cheekbone shattered and his eyesight permanently damaged.
Zimmer returned to baseball and remained with the Dodgers through their 1959 World Series championship season in Los Angeles, played two seasons for the Cubs, even making an All-Star appearance in 1961, and then joined the expansion Mets as their third baseman in 1962. He retired after the 1965 season with a .235 career batting average and 91 homers.
Zimmer managed the San Diego Padres (1972-73), the Red Sox (1976-80), the Texas Rangers (1981-82) and the Cubs (1988-91). He was Yankees manager Joe Torre’s bench coach from 1996 to 2003, and then quit, maintaining he had been treated abusively by the Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner. He joined Tampa Bay the next season, providing tips to players and doing community-relations work in his advisory capacity until just recently when health reasons limited him severely.
Zimmer is best known in New England for having managed the 1978 Boston Red Sox, who were overtaken by the Yankees for a division title on Bucky BLEEPING Dent’s home run in a one game playoff. The Red Sox blew a fourteen game lead that summer highlighted by a sweep still known as the “Boston Massacre”. An injury to right fielder Dwight Evans, playing Butch Hobson at third base (49 errors!), pitching staff issues (the bane of Zimmer’s career as a manager was handling the pitching staff), and a hot Yankees team did in the Sox that year, but few remember that Zimmer managed to rouse the Red Sox from a deficit the last week of the season to win eight straight and tie the Yankees and force the one game playoff.
In Boston, his run-ins with the pitching staff were legendary. Red Sox pitcher Bill “the Spaceman” Lee likened Zimmer to a gerbil for his bulging cheeks. Zimmer and Lee had a number of clashes over the years. Lee and his gang of pitchers called themselves the Buffalo Heads and made their main goal to be making Zimmer--the straight-laced image of 1950s baseball--the butt of their long-haired 1970s radicals of baseball.
In the midwest, Zimmer will be remembered as the National League’s manager of the year in 1989 when he led the Chicago Cubs to a surprising division championship. Of course, the Cubbies found a way to lose in the playoffs that year. That team had Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, and Andre Dawson on offense and young Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe leading the rotation with Mitch “wild thing” Williams in the bullpen. In an upset, they lost to an inferior San Francisco Giants team in five games in the NLCS.
The other Zimmer low-light while in New York was as a Yankees coach in the ALCS in October 2003, at age 72, he charged Boston’s star pitcher Pedro Martinez during an on-field melee. Zimmer swung and missed, and then was thrown to the Fenway Park turf by Martinez. Probably one of the most embarrassing moments of Zim’s career, he immediately and tearfully apologized for sullying the game.
The final Zim moment in the spotlight was in the 1999 playoffs. He was struck in the face by a ball fouled into the Yankees’ dugout by Chuck Knoblauch. The next game, he wore an Army helmet.
For me, I remember Don Zimmer as the manager of the Red Sox when I fell head over heels in love with baseball. Don Zimmer was the manager of the Red Sox in 1979 and 1980 when I was five and six years old, and he became my favorite. Not Jim Rice. Not Yaz. Not the Eck. Not Freddy Lynn. Not Carlton Fisk. Not Dick “the Dragon” Draco (OK, maybe he was my second favorite player...the Dragon, c’mon how cool is that to a five year old!). Not Bob Stanley or Bill Campbell. Not Tom Burgmeier (second or third favorite for sure). Not Tony Perez. Not Steve Renko. Not Win Remmerswaal (Dutch pitcher...I remember my Dad told me he wore wooden shoes and I would sit as close to the television as possible to see if his shoes were really made of wood).
Nope, my favorite player on my favorite team in my favorite sport was the manager with the grumpy look and giant jowls. I know it was a source of amusement for the family (I have a cousin who I remember greeted me many years later with “How’s your pal Zimmer doing?”), but I was rooting for the manager. (Yeah, guess I was an odd kid).
Anyway, I remember being six years old and DEVASTATED that the Red Sox fired Zim. I could not comprehend it. It was wrong, WRONG, W-R-O-N-G!!! (to my six year old mind).So the team didn’t do well, fire the players!
I remember my Dad telling me how Zimmer was hired by the Texas Rangers and I was ecstatic. I pulled out my Baseball Digest that had the addresses of all the baseball teams, a green crayon, and penned a congratulatory letter to Zim c / o the Texas Rangers. Humoring me, my parents actually stuck a stamp on the letter and mailed it.
Not long afterwards, an envelope arrived with the Texas Rangers logo on the return address. Someone in the Rangers offices must have received my letter and obliged to take an autographed Don Zimmer picture and mail it back to me. Of course, at the time I believed Zim had read my green crayon penned prose and was struck speechless by the support for him back in Boston. Unable to find the words to respond, he could only write his name in return.
Zim didn’t last long in Texas, but Ialways kept an eye on his continued career. Other sports, life, the universe, puberty and girls soon interfered with my love affair with baseball and my Don Zimmer infatuation, but in many ways I was still that goofy six year old pasting the picture of Zim and the envelope in a scrapbook at sixteen, at twenty-six, thirty-six, and today. That personal connection, even if it wasn’t personal (no, I never wrote and asked Zim if he ever saw my letter...it would be too crushing to my inner six year old), is what has me glued to the TV, shelling out cash, pounding the keyboard, rummaging around the internet, and just immersed into sports in such an unhealthy way to this day.
In 2004 Zimmer relented to writing a biography with Bill Madden titled the “The Zen of Zim”. A great quote (which was published the other day in the New York Times feature on Zim after his passing) sums him up perfectly: “All I’ve ever been is a simple baseball man, but it’s never ceased to amaze me how so many far more accomplished people I’ve met in this life wanted to be one, too. What a game, this baseball!”
Sometimes you forget why you love baseball and then the passing of a baseball legend like Don Zimmer happens and it all comes pouring back. For me, Don Zimmer is a large part of my love affair with baseball. I may not have been more accomplished than Zim, but damn he hit the nail on the head with the hammer there: I sure would have loved to be a simple baseball man.
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. I have been slammed at work and have been doing a bit of traveling to look at JUCO baseball opportunities for my son. I have not been too busy to enjoy the great weather we have had this month. I can't recall a May that has been as pleasant as it is has been in Austin this year. Of course we have had a few humid days in the 90s, but more in the 80s with cool evenings. If we can just get a bit of rain in the hill country, it will be perfect.
I caught a bit of sports radio on Tuesday and found myself nodding my head as I drove along. The guys were talking about the perception that the Spurs were an old team that played the game at a slow pace. If you caught any of the OKC vs San Antonio game this week, you were probably surprised how efficiently that the Spurs deposed of the Thunder. The Thunder tried every combination imaginable and it simply did not matter. The talking heads commented that the Spurs motion offense looked very similar to the offense that the Harlem Globetrotters used to run. That is a bit of a stretch, but his point was valid. San Antonio executes their offense and at times it does look like they are playing the Washington Generals. The beautiful thing about watching the Spurs is the lack of selfish play. There is no ego or look at me in this team…it truly is basketball played the way it was meant to be played. A comparison to the NFL’s Patriots would not be far off. They have it figured out in San Antonio; it is just a shame that more do not appreciate the greatness of this team. Oh well…maybe history will shine a brighter light on the Spurs than we currently see. Of course, I get the feeling that the Spurs really don’t care what everyone else thinks. They play for themselves and Pop…which is really pretty cool. Here is a very good tribute to the Spurs…it takes a few minutes, but is worth it.
I read that Mike Tyson made an appearance at the Albuquerque Isotopes game on Tuesday night. Okay, it was not Mike Tyson, but only a Tyson imitator. Apparently hot shot Cuban prospect Alex Guerrero said something to Miguel Olivo that Olivo took offense to. A brief skirmish began at the mound as pitchers were being changed. This was quickly broken up, but evidently cross words were continued in the dugout. Word is that Olivo took a huge bite out of Guerrero’s ear. This was not a small nibble, but a man sized chunk. Guerrero was to undergo plastic surgery late Tuesday. I wonder how the Dodger brass will resolve this. My money is on Guerrero. Olivo is a 35 year old journeyman catcher, while Guerrero signed a multi-million dollar deal in the offseason. Whatever the outcome, it is tough to imagine any circumstance where biting off an ear is acceptable. Reports are that police are investigating. No word if Olivo will be quarantined for 10 days…
So much for Tony LaRussa’s retirement from baseball…it was announced this week that LaRussa would take a position with the Arizona DBacks as Chief Baseball Officer. That may be his title today; but I doubt that Kevin Towers (GM) and Kurt Gibson (Mgr) are very comfortable with LaRussa looking over their shoulder. I am really surprised that Arizona has played so poorly this year. There is no doubt that injuries have had a play in their poor beginning, but with the payroll they have…I guess it figures that something had to change. It only seemed to be yesterday that Arizona was a team loaded with young talent. My guess is that it won’t take long for LaRussa to make his presence known. Any bets that he finishes the season on the field?
Word out of the NFL today is that former players have filed suit against the NFL claiming that the NFL gave them drugs to keep them on the field. Broken bones were allegedly kept from players. One player had elevated levels of protein in his urine that the team doctors “overlooked” when doing his yearly physical. When asked about the law suit, Roger Goodell said, ''Our attorneys have not seen the lawsuit and obviously I have been in meetings all day.'' Obviously Roger…
Some time back, I wrote about the magnificent football stadium that was built in Allen Texas. The stadium was state of the art…huge jumbotron with seating for 18,000. The total bill to build was $60 million. The Allen Eagles opened the stadium in August of 2012. This year, they will be playing their home games in Plano, Texas. The grand stadium has been closed due to deteriorating concrete that has been deemed unsafe for the public. The architect (PBK Architects) and construction company (Pogue Construction) have pledged to repair the stadium at no cost to the Allen School District. Of course, there is that small weekly amount of $5300 per game to rent the Plano field. I guess that $60 million just does not buy what it used to...
Carl Spackler reminded me recently of an old Johnny Monkey blog. Since the bad ass monkey has been MIA, I thought that it would be fun to remind us of our furry friend...wherever he is.
Hello my Gab friends. It has been awhile since I stopped by and I thought it was time to treat you to a few of my thoughts. Johnny Monkey has been compared to another and Johnny Monkey felt that it was time to "differentiate" an interesting man and a bad ass monkey. Here are a few items that you may find, "interesting"...
When Johnny Monkey eats at a restaurant, the waiters tip him.
Traffic lights turn green whenever he approaches the light.
Mimes can’t shut up around Johnny Monkey.
When there is a real emergency, 911 calls Johnny Monkey.
Wherever Johnny Monkey lives, the locals learn to speak his language.
When Johnny Monkey goes fishing, he does not need bait…the fish simply jump in his boat.
Johnny Monkey once made a bad man kick his own ass.
Life gives Johnny Monkey lemonade, never lemons.
Wilt Chamberlain read Johnny Monkey’s book about women.
After the most interesting man in the world left The Virgin Islands, it was just called The Islands. After Johnny Monkey left, they were called The Satisfied Islands.
At birth, Johnny Monkey slapped the doctor.
Pilots allow Johnny Monkey to talk on his cell phone.
Johnny Monkey is friends with Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster.
Johnny Monkey can french in any language.
Rubik’s cube was a gift to Rubik from Johnny Monkey.
When Johnny Monkey met an alien, the alien asked Johnny Monkey to probe him…
Don't forget to keep eating your vegetables...
Since this is graduation season, I wanted to finish this week's blog with a tribute to graduates and veterans. At the University of Texas graduation on May 17th Naval Adm.Wiliam H. McRaven was invited to address the graduates. I will post this video for your viewing and I hope you take a moment to listen. The words he laid on this graduating class are invaluable. McRaven's speaks about his Navy Seals training and how important it was in shaping his life. He brings new meaning to making lemonade when life hands you lemons. It is my hope that on this week leading to our Memorial Day holiday that you can take a moment to hear McRaven's word...they are powerful. Also, if you know a veteran...thank him for his service. It is because of the brave men and women that serve that we are able to enjoy the freedom we have.
I happened to see a video and follow up fun of the Lance Stephenson flop. SportsNation asked fans to put the "sleeping" Stephenson in different places. This is really funny, but the NBA was not as amused. Stephenson was fined $5000 for flopping. No word if he was fined for "sleeping" on the job!
Here is the live "flop" and nap...
Now that...is funny. Hope you enjoy as well!
That’s all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…
"Don't ever get your speedometer confused with your clock, like I did once, because the faster you go the later you think you are."
It makes me mad when people say I turned and ran like a scared rabbit. Maybe it was like an angry rabbit, who was going to fight in another fight, away from the first fight.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. Last Friday, we made our last trip to Edinburg to watch some Bronc baseball. One of the cool things about this season is watching my Mom and Dad connect with college baseball. It was a treat to have them join us for the Mother Day weekend series. Although we have been sorely lacking in rain; we managed to find the one of those dramatic thunderstorms that the southwest is famous for. Booming thunder with a spectacular lightening display rode with us the last 3 hours of our rides unbeaten string on Saturday in a game 3 to 1. The trio of Sam Street, Blake English and Alex Henson have a weekend ERA of 2.27, which is best in the WAC, second best in Texas and ninth best in the country. Blake English started the second game on Saturday and finished with a 2 to 0 complete game win. Alex Henson started the Sunday game, but gave way in the 5th inning for a procession of senior relief pitchers. It was 0 to 0 in the bottom of the 9th when senior Andy Fotuna hit his first career HR to send the crowd home happy.
The Broncs have one weekend series left at Northern Colorado next weekend…but my interest will no longer be what it once was. Last week, Blake told the coaches that he did not plan to come back to Pan Am next year. He assumed that he would be fulfilling his obligation this year before he moved on, but that is not how the coaches wanted to move forward. Since school is officially over, Sunday was Blake’s last game in a Pan Am uniform. I was proud to watch him support his teammates, even though he did not get any playing time. This year was a blast for Julie and I and I believe that this year was a valuable year for Blake’s maturity. Given the lack of depth at catcher, it was rather odd that Blake will not be traveling to Arizona for the conference tournament…but that decision was not his to make. Things work out for a reason and it is time to look to the future. Several JUCO coaches have been in touch with Blake about next year, so we will see what happens. It is great to have him home for a few weeks before he heads out to California for a summer of baseball.
Did you happen to see the bat flip that Puig had against Tim Hudson? I loved Hudson’s response when asked about the bat flip...: "He hit the piss out of it, so I probably would've flipped it too." I suppose that the bat flip is here to stay, so hopefully more pitchers will take Hudson’s stance about the flipping of the bat. Here is a guy in Japan that has taken the bat flip to a new level…
Most of you know that I love to watch the MLB channel. One of the analysts that I enjoy is Mitch Williams. After reading about Mitch’s antics while coaching a group of 12 year olds at the Ripken complex, I wonder if perhaps Mitch might be better off leaving coaching to someone with a more “professional” approach. Getting in an umps grill might be okay in the big leagues, it is not okay when coaching kids. I love you Mitch, but this is bad form…
Sports Illustrated used to do a section called "The Apocalypse" is upon us...(maybe they still do). This story sort of reminds me of that section. A former OU football player (Gabe Ikard) and his girlfriend enjoy attending the Oklahoma Thunder games using tickets that his girlfriend provides. The OU compliance office wanted to make sure that she was taking him to the game because she loved him the "right" way. The couple actually had to sign an autograph that they were dating for love and not because Ikard was a football player. To top it off, Ikard actually signed a professional contract with the Titans and is no longer an amateur player. It really is time for this nonsense to stop...
That’s all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…
"If you're a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it's real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you. "
"You know what's probably a good thing to hang on your porch in the summertime, to keep mosquitos away from you and your guests? Just a big bag full of blood."
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own.
Had the opportunity this week thanks to the lovely Mrs. B. to revisit an old friend: the Fenway Park bleachers. As an early Father’s Day/late 40th Birthday present I was given two tickets to head out on Tuesday night to see the Red Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. My best buddy, G., and I were off to our old teenage stomping grounds on a Tuesday night (Oh my gosh, a work night...I can’t be out and about town in my advanced age!).
We retraced our old steps, driving up to the Quincy Adams train station to catch the Red Line train. Parking was a bit more costly than when we made the trek 22 years ago, but it was the same urine-stink parking garage of the days of yore. Riding the Red Line train through Quincy and into the city brought back memories of the hundreds of times I had done so before: the summer of construction on the line and getting out and riding the bus for three stops; the time my wife’s sister left her pocketbook on the train and we had to take a post-game trip to the end of the Green Line to pick it up and rush to get back on the last train out (and amazingly got it back with all the money, ID, and cards inside); all the silly conversations; the people watching; and even the time we took the boy to Fenway at nine months old (over a decade ago now) and he reached out from the carriage to grab the poor nice lady’s ass.
A quick switch to the Green Line at Park Street and we were on our way to Kenmore. A quick walk, crossing across the bridge over the Mass Pike, and we were passing the Cask’n’Flagon (too many other “real” bars in the area to grab a drink and not be in a tourist trap). A few steps more and we entered history. Suddenly we were strolling behind the Green Monster to reach Gate C in centerfield across the street from the music clubs. Of course, I had to stop off and enjoy one of these:
From there we were chomping away and then inside. From one quick stop for a couple of beers ($7.75 for a can of Miller Lite...now that is price gouging) and suddenly we emerged from the steel and concrete of the city to this:
It had been far too many years since the costs of the Larry Lucchino-John Henry-Tom Werner regime drove the little folks like me and G. from our home away from home in the Baseball Oasis.
A good deal of conversation took place through the warm-ups (starting pitcher John Lackey):
and through the first three innings. Let me add, it was cloudy, misting, and cold. It said the temperature was 42 degrees, but it had a cold wind blowing in from behind us in centerfield and the wind chill was no more than 30 degrees. Sitting in the cold was numbing. I felt bad for the kids in attendance as I had sat through my share of games in bad weather. My second trip to Fenway was a two and a half hour rain delay in 1985 (I only remember that lefty first baseman Mike Easler ripped a home run down the right field line around the Pesky Pole).
By the fourth inning (the place was half empty and slowly emptying) we were up and moving (too much beer to sit too long anyway!) and we began our trek around the stadium. We had to check out the improvements, the changes, the new food stands, the revamped areas and the extra seats crammed in.
We ended up here:
and just about everywhere in and out of the stadium. What we did not catch on the field we caught on the monitors. It was still cold but moving around kept us warm. We got to see the horrible drunk singing and dancing of the “Sweet Caroline” crowd. Of course, the end of game was inexorably slow as we were treated to the longest inning in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Red Sox had been locked in a one-one game through six innings before finally breaking out with the bottom of the order chipping in. With the Sox shut down by Erik Bedard (seriously!) it was nice to see rookie centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and young third baseman Will Middlebrooks contribute to the win. But former Cardinals closer Edward Mujica for the Red Sox and long-time set-up man Joel Peralta dragged the end of the game out as neither could find the plate.
Mujica struggled so much that closer Koji Uehara had to come in for a three pitch strikeout to close the game and grab a save. The final was seven to four, but Boston had the game in hand at the end. It was the dragging out of the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth stretched the game to four hours, but by that point I was ready for extra innings. Get my money’s worth! Not to be with Koji shutting it down, but he certainly got the sparse crowd excited. Great energy from the closer.
Afterwards, it was a trek down to the Green Line (and another sausage on the way out!) and missing the underground stairs in the middle of the sidewalk of old. Another Green Line to Red Line to Quincy Adams and we were back on the road home. A great night of baseball and friendship...a great gift from the Lovely Mrs. B. Yeah, I was grumpy at work and I pity the fools that got in my way at work on Wednesday, but it was worth it.
To be back at Fenway was fun and magical. Great memories of the past and a look at the place today. Yeah, it is way over commercialized and expensive, but it is still Fenway Park. I was there and the ghosts of Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Lefty Grove, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Tony Conigliaro were all there as well with me. It was baseball on a cold, raw April night, but it was a great night I will treasure for a long time.
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. This week marks two very significant events. Tuesday was Jackie Robinson day and the anniversary of the bombing at last year’s Boston Marathon. MLB does a great job each year of recognizing Robinson by having each MLB player wear #42. While this is a great tribute, I have a question. On Jackie Robinson day, shouldn’t the Dodgers be playing at home? It really does seem like a slap in the face to me to not only have the Dodgers on the road…but playing at San Francisco. I am really scratching my head over this. I am also trying to understand why someone would leave two dummy backpacks at the Boston Marathon finish line. It is acts like this that make me wonder about the direction of our country. Sick…
BOB mentioned yesterday in his blog about Aldon Smith’s latest screw up. Telling TSA agents that you have a bomb is not very bright. This does not strike me as the act of a mentally stable person, but maybe he is just an idiot. Either way, I think BOB is right, Sheriff Goodell will ask Smith to take the year off. This is really a bad deal for the 49ers as their defense is not the same without him. But, I figure that this is out of the team’s hands at this point. It will be interesting to see if they cut him loose or save a spot for him.
I caught the movie Draft Day last weekend. If you like football, you will definitely like this movie. It was like a big spoonful of football. I would not say it is Costner’s best work, but it is definitely worth watching. It was interesting watching the behind the scene conversations. Given the timing of the approaching draft, it makes the current headlines rather intriguing. I saw on Tuesday that an “anonymous” NFL executive thinks that Clowney is “spoiled” and “lazy”. Teams are looking for any reason to cause a player to drop. Is this truly what this executive believes or is he trying to allow Clowney to fall into their lap? Johnny Manziel is slammed because he scores too high on the Wonderlic test. It is whispered that he may be too smart to be coachable. Vince Young was slammed because he scored too low on the test…maybe he is not smart enough to learn the playbook. It really is a game of chess. The media sucks up the words like a Hoover on steroids. I am not even sure that they realize that they are being played by the teams…either way, they are pawns. There was a time that we could believe what we read in the paper, but those times are long gone.
I have been reading an old book about baseball stories. I found the book at an antique store and figured for a few bucks it would be interesting to read. The stories are an assortment of short stories, poems…each one is different. There was the original story that I suppose the Field of Dreams was based upon. One very short story was about a guy that walked into a bar. A baseball game was on the small TV in the corner. An older guy sitting next to him started talking about baseball and complaining about the way games today (probably 40 years ago) are described. Lanz commented on BOB’s blog yesterday how Vin Scully used words to paint a picture of the game. That is exactly what this old guy was complaining about in this story. He missed listening to a baseball game on the radio; because those play by play guys painted that picture for their listeners…they had to. TV guys have gotten lazy. Most do not understand what it is to do a play by play. They use words like velocity instead of bringing the heat or throwing gas and location instead of nibbling around the corners. As I read this story, I realized that the old man was exactly right. I have spent those summer nights lying in my bed with my eyes closed…seeing the game through the words. I watch the game now, and don’t really listen as much to the words of the broadcast. Often, I think that I see as much or more than the guys doing the broadcast. Baseball is great today and I love being able to watch so many game on TV. But, there will always be something special about listening to a baseball game on the radio.
I think we have all noticed how many pitchers are MIA this year. The dreaded phrase “Tommy John” surgery has been spoken 20 times this year. I started looking around trying to find some answers. One theory is that the MLB strike zone is so tight that pitchers have given up throwing slower breaking balls and now throw a cut fastball, slider and split finger fastball. Hitters spend hours watching video now. They are much more patient at the plate because they know that the tight strike zones favor hitters. There is some potential truth to this. Fastballs are thrown with the shoulder. Curveballs are thrown with the shoulder and wrist. The harder breaking balls all stress the elbow. I can see this, but I don’t think it tells the entire story. So I went to the expert on the matter…Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews believes that there are several factors that are causing the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) to fray and eventually fail. Kids are bigger and stronger and the UCL is just not able to keep pace with how hard the young pitchers are throwing. Also, baseball has become a year round sport in many parts of the country. He believes that young pitchers are not getting a break like they used to. Instead of putting away the baseball glove and picking up a football or basketball, they simply play on. A comment on the article about Dr. Andrews was spot on. He remembers listening to 2 visiting hockey coaches from Finland. They said if you want to be one of the best 12 year old players around then play year round. But if you want to still be a good player when you are 16 or 17 then drop the game when your season is over and play other sports that interest you because eventually water seeks its level and others will catch up or your zeal for the game will be greatly diminished.
My son began playing tournament baseball when he was 11. But, we limited the amount of games that the kids played. But there are others that do not. I am a firm believer that playing all sports is of great benefit for young athletes. Focusing on one sport at a young age often burns kids out. It also can lead to overuse of a pitchers arm…which is what we are beginning to see at the professional level. There is really nothing that the MLB can do to change this, except perhaps offer direction. Baseball should spend time preparing messages to younger players and their parents. Most kids will never play professional baseball, but the facts should be known. Throwing a baseball is not a natural action. Throwing a baseball hard puts stress on the shoulder and elbow.
Based on this information, it does not appear that anything will change soon. For the record, of those 20 pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery only one is from outside the US. It is clear that this problem is something that is homegrown. Hopefully, it will be something that we can soon begin to change.
Last weekend was the Masters. The big news leading up to this great tournament was that Tiger Woods would not be healthy enough to participate in this year’s Masters. I have been a big fan of Tiger Wood's golfing. I have watched him perform at a level that few have ever approached. I cheered Tiger on in his pursuit of the major championship record. But, in the back of my mind, I had a nagging feeling like I had forgotten something. This week, I was reminded what I had forgotten. For all of those wins, Tiger Woods will never have something…he will never be the King of golf. There has only ever been one man in golf that completely grabbed the fancy of the country and that was Arnold Palmer. Although, Jack Nicklaus will wear the crown of best player, it is Arnold Palmer that captivated our nation and brought attention to the game of golf. Men wanted to be Palmer and women just wanted him. Class, charisma and charm were characteristics of Arnold Palmer. When Palmer began to make a move up the leader board, he would hitch his pants and eagerly charge toward the next shot. The adoring crowds were called “Arnie’s Army” and they would announce a great shot with a surge of cheers. Seriously, there was no doubt when Palmer sank a long putt or hit a great shot. ..You just knew. He did not so much play golf, as attack the course. As a small kid, I remember thinking that there was something different about this man.
Through all of his professional successes, Palmer remained a hero to every man. You cannot find anyone that will say something bad about Palmer. He has been a gentleman from the beginning. He always had time for a smile and a handshake. Athletes of today would do well to examine the manner that this giant of another generation has handled his business.
Here are a few facts about Arnold Palmer:
Hale Irwin said that he learned from Arnold that the most important part of being a professional golfer was what you did outside the ropes.
Palmer said that his father told him…You don’t need to tell anyone how good you are, you show them how good you are.
You can have a discussion over who is the best golfer of all time, but there is no question that Arnold Palmer has been the most important golfer of all time.
Johnny Bench named his son Justin Palmer Bench. Now, that is impressive.
Palmer represents the values of what America used to be. He is an American icon.
Arnold Palmer loved to add lemonade to his glass of iced tea…now that drink is called an Arnold Palmer.
There is so much more about Palmer to discuss. He beat prostate cancer in 1999, but has never quit his fight to beat the disease. He has donated money and been very outspoken to help raise awareness for fighting cancer. He built a Children’s hospital in Florida that remains one of the most impressive hospitals in the country for children.
Arnold Palmer brought attention and money to the PGA tour. He helped create the Senior Tour and the Golf Channel. He defined how to create a brand, by living his life doing good things. He began flying his own plane in the 1950s. In watching the golf channel story, it detailed how Palmer decided that at 80 years of age that he should leave the flying to someone else. On his last flight from the west coast to Orlando…he got the red carpet treatment from each airport that he was in communication with. Apparently, all of the airports across the country cleared the way for his flight. I am not a pilot, but supposedly, this is just not done. He did not have to wait for anything…which speaks to the respect that the air traffic guys had for Palmer as a pilot. From his humble beginnings, Palmer has created a huge place in American history…and he has done it the right way.
Tiger Woods has been a student of golf and has focused his attention to try to eclipse these records. It is a shame that Tiger does not understand that golf is only a small part of the legacy he will leave behind. It is sad, but I sort of see Tiger Woods as I do Barry Bonds. Both were great players that never realized the true meaning of being a champion. Arnold Palmer is 85 and won’t be with us much longer. It is time we took a moment to acknowledge just how special his life has been.
I think that everyone is ready for the snow to stop...
This is a picture of the Utah Valley University baseball field. The UTPA Broncs headed to Orem Utah to take on the Wolverines last weekend. They took 2 out of 3, but could not close out the sweep on Sunday. Watching the games online, I could not help but admire the beautiful venue...at least until the weather turned bad on Sunday. Blake and his guys managed to just beat the snow out of town. Next week is a home series against Bakersfield. Hopefully, they can just keep winning 2 out of three. Taking a series the rest of the way will allow the Broncs to make the conference tournament in May.
That is all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey...
"Too bad you can't buy a voodoo globe so that you could make the earth spin real fast and freak everybody out."
"If you're a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it's real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you. "
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own...