The Case for Fred McGriff

In my last post I gave a little hint about who was my favorite ballplayer of all time. The hint was that this player starred in the longest running commercial in cable television history. If any of you out there ever watched ESPN in the last night, possibly watching SportsCenter to see if the outcome of a random Dodgers/Giants game, odds are you seen the Tom Emasnsky commercial.

I haven’t seen the commercial in a while, but I would wager I’ve seen it at least a few hundered times. The commercial is for a series of baseball instructional videos aimed for youngsters. The highlight of the video is undoubtedly the endorsement of “Baseball Superstar” Fred McGriff. The most memorable part of his pitch is the ridiculous hat he wears. I mean, look at the thing…..

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It isn’t so much the color or style of the hat, it’s the way he wears it. Why is it so high up on his head? It wasn’t just this commercial, Crime Dog always wore his caps like this….

His endorsement was was one line, “This is the baseball instructional video that gets results.”

According to a rather old ESPN article, the commercial started airing in 1991, and I think it’s still on periodicallly. The article goes on about how the commercial got started, and how Fred doesn’t get much coin for his endorsement, and includes some commentary on some of Fred’s former teammates making jest about his hat.

I didn’t write this blog to poke fun at Fred McGriff, nay, this blog is here to praise the Crime Dog, because, like I said before, he remains my favorite.

I really don’t know why I gravitated towards Fred McGriff. I grew up in Chicago, a die-hard White Sox fan. McGriff never played for the Sox, in fact, he spent a year and a half with the hated Cubbies. I guess I always gravitated towards the under-rated guys, and no one was more under-rated than the Crime Dog.

McGriff was drafted in 9th round of the 1981 amateur draft by the New York Yankees. A little over a year later, he was traded to the Blue Jays. I can’t imagine how different his career would have turned out if he remained in the Yankee organization.  With that short porch in right and the New York spotlight, I think he would have been a mega-star. You can’t blame the Yankees for trading him, they had a decent 1B at the time:

Regardless, Freddy ended up in Toronto. He became the starting 1B for the Jays in 1988, and hit 34 homers, in 1989 he led in AL with 36 (really! 36 led the league!) I think this is about the time I started becoming a fan of his. I was 10 in 1989, and I needed someone to root for. The White Sox were terrible at the time. I remeber the A’s being popular with all my friends at school, but I just had a hard time following that team. Canseco and McGwire were great ans all, but didn’t seem….real. They reminded me more like WWF wrestlers than baseball players.

McGriff, however, was all real. The way he slowly walked up to the dish, they way he would put a hand on his back and stretch it out a little, the way he stood as far away from the plate as you could, for some reason it just struck a chord with me.

The best part of a McGriff at-bat, however, was the follow through. I don’t know how he hit 493 career home runs with the swing, but it was frickin’ awesome. Only his right hand would be holding the bat, and it would be straight up in the air. When he hit a homer, he would quickly jog around the bases, never showing the pitcher up, never doing a crazy celebration, even if that home run won the game, which he did 6 times during his career.

The Crime Dog made a name for himself and being one of the most consistent producers in the game. Every year, you could almost guarantee 30-37 homers, no more, no less.

I assume the reason he never became a huge superstar was the fact that he played for six teams during his career. He was involved in a blockbuster trade that sent both him and Tony Fernandez to San Diego in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. A few years later, the Jays would be winning back-to-back World Series titles, the second of which was one on a Joe Carter homer.

Then before he could make a name for himself with the Padres, he was traded to Atlanta during the 1993 season. McGriff basically carried the Braves on his back that year, overtaking the Giants on the last day of the season to win the NL East.

He has a World Series ring, won in 1995 with the Braves. He performed in the post-season as well, hitting .303 with 10 homers in 50 postseason games.

Then he went to Tampa, becoming the face of a very,very bad franchise, went to the Cubs for a year and a half, then finally spent his final year mostly injured for the Dodgers.

He finished with 493 home runs, just 7 shy. I was hoping he would come back for one more season, just to reach the 500 mark, but I guess injury and declining skill were just too much to overcome.

McGriff is eligible for the Hall of Fame next year. I know he doesn’t have much of a chance of going in next year, but I wonder if he ever will? I like to think so, but 493 home runs isn’t the same as it once was. But maybe do the steroid backlash Hall voters have recently will be of help to him.

If he ever does get in (I certainly hope so), I wonder what cap will be on his plaque? Maybe he throw a curveball and wear the Tom Emansky hat, way up high. After all, he’s probably more famous for that commercial then for anything else.

Thanks for reading…till next time!!!!

PS- This just came to my attention as I was browsing Fred McGriff’s wikipedia page that there was a failed telvision pilot based on Fred McGriff’s life!!!!!!!Apparently the show was about a baseball player who moonlighted as crime-fighter. And it starred the guy who played in the Blade TV series!!!! THIS SOUNDS AWESOME!!!! Apparently there is one surviving copy of the tape, and it is in McGriff’s possesion., given to him by David Wells of all people.

Ladies and gentlemen of the MLB blogosphere, I am making this my goal in life. I MUST WATCH THAT TAPE BEFORE I DIE!!!!!!!!!!! If anyone reading this has any clout with MLB that can get in touch with Fred McGriff, or anyone in the Tampa area, call in to Fred’s radio show. Anything that can help me in this quest, I beg you, PLEASE!!!!!!!

 

 

Fantasy Baseball

Wow, it’s been a while since I last posted. I guess I’ve been busy. Not really. But I have been preoccupied lately with a few things, chief among them being my fantasy baseball team.

 

I love fantasy baseball. I love all fantasy sports, actually. I regularly play fantasy football, basketball, hockey, even fantasy NASCAR (and I really can’t stand watching NASCAR)

 

But fantasy baseball trumps all the other ones. I guess that makes sense because baseball is, by far, my favorite sport. Last Saturday, my fantasy league held its draft at a local tavern. The draft is my favorite part of the fantasy season. It’s a chance to get together with the other owners in your league and have good time with some other baseball fans. As much as the internet has revolutionized fantasy sports, I think an on-line draft stinks. I believe draft day should be a social event shared with friends.

 

This is my first year playing in this league. It is a keeper league that has been running for a few years. I inherited a team from a guy who dropped out. The rules for the keeper league are pretty simple, you can keep any 2 players you wish, but you lose the draft pick of what round they were picked the previous year. For example, if you picked CC Sabathia in the 5th round last year, you lose your 5th round pick this year if you decide to keep him.

 

I studied the roster of my new team to see what 2 players I was going to keep. The first choice was simple.

player

 Nate McClouth, OF Pittsburgh Pirates.

The previous owner picked up McClouth via waivers. Meaning, to keep him I had to give up my 30th round pick. Pretty easy decision, I think.

My second keeper was a little more difficult. I know starting pitching isn’t as important as good offense in fantasy baseball. But I wanted a chance to get a top-tier stud starter. Tim Lincecum and CC Sabathia were off the board, as they were being kept by their respective owners. Because of that, I decided on keeping:

player

Johan Santana, SP, New York Mets

I lose my second round pick by keeping Johan, but I think it will be worth it. I think Johan is the best pitcher in baseball, hands down. And I think with the additions of K-Rod and JJ Putz in the bullpen will result in more W’s for the Mets Ace.

I think that’s a pretty good foundation for a good team. With the keepers out of the way, we continue on with a normal snake-order draft. I was fortunate enough to get the second pick. Here’s how I did. (Remember, many fantasy stud were already off the board before the draft began.)

ROUND       PLAYER

  1. Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland
  2. NONE due to keeping Johan Santana
  3. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Boston
  4. Fransisco Rodriguez, RP, Mets
  5. James Shields, SP, Tampa
  6. Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B, Colorado
  7. Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets
  8. Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia
  9. Ryan Doumit, C, Pittsburgh
  10. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Cleveland
  11. Jose Lopez, 2B, Seattle
  12. Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto
  13. Kevin Slowey, SP, Minnesota
  14. Torii Hunter, OF, LA Angels
  15. Chien-Ming Wang, SP, Yankees
  16. Melvin Mora, 3B, Baltimore
  17. Yunel Escobar, SS, Atlanta
  18. Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs
  19. Brett Myers, SP, Philadelphia
  20. Matt Capps, RP, Pittsburgh
  21. Coco Crisp, OF, Kansas City
  22. Alexi Casilla, 2B Minnesota
  23. Jered Weaver, SP, LA Angels
  24. Fred Lewis, OF, San Fransisco
  25. Bronson Arroya, SP, Cincy
  26. Daniel Murphy, OF, Mets
  27. AJ Pierzynski, C, White Sox
  28. Joe Blanton, SP, Philadelphia
  29. Troy Percival, RP, Tampa
  30. NONE due to keeping Nate McClouth

I’m pretty happy with the results. I already made a tiny change, dropping Joe Blanton to pick up Marco Scutaro, jack-of-all-trades infielder from Toronto. I think I have a good mix of power and speed on offense and some good pitching.

That being said, I’m sure I’ll finish in last place.

Drop me a line if you think I royally screwed up, and tomorrow I’ll be writing a tribute to my all time favorite player, and he never played for the White Sox.

 

HINT: He has starred the longest-running commercial in cable television history.

Till next time!!!!!!

General Musings-3/24/09

Some random thoughts I’d like to share.

 

  • Curt Schilling announced his retirement early Monday morning, putting an end to his 20 year major league career. In the upcoming days, (weeks, months, years) they will be debate about whether Curt should be enshrined in Cooperstown. His career numbers (216 W, 3.46 ERA) are impressive, but some feel aren’t enough to warrant Hall of Fame honors. But consider this, was there a better big game pitcher in this generation? I can’t think of one.
  • Japan won the WBC again, now we have to wait 4 more years before we don’t care about the next WBC.
  • And speaking of the WBC, how many players are returning to their respective teams injured?
  • The Marlins are finally getting a ballpark to call their own. Maybe this will be the shot in for Marlins ownership to actually spend money on the team?
  • Is anyone else worried about Cole Hamels? The Phillies say he’ll be ready to start April 10th, but elbow problems are always scary.
  • I think Manny Ramirez is going to put up ridiculous numbers this season.
  • Hey Orioles!!! Bring Matt Wieters up to the big club already!!!!!
  • As a die-hard White Sox fan, seeing Joe Crede in a Twins uniform almost made me vomit.
  • I loved the Tim Lincecum video game commercial the first 100 times I saw it, now it’s getting old.
  • And for the Dustin Pedroria one, see above.
  • I love the MLB network. It’s good to see Harold Reynolds again.
  • Speaking of the MLB network, I love the 30 clubs in 30 days program.
  • Speaking of 30 clubs in 30 days, they put Wilbur Wood has the best starter in White Sox history? Over Billy Pierce, or Ted Lyons, or Red Faber, or Ed Walsh?

 

12 days until Opeining Day, so here’s a random obscure #12 from White Sox history:

 

 

 

 

steve-lyons.jpg 

“Psycho” Steve lyons wore the #12 while playing for the South Siders in the late 80’s early 90’s. Steve has enjoyed a successful post-baseball career as a baseball anaylist and radio show host, but, sadly, is probably most remembered for having his pants fall down during a game.

 

 

Till next time!

My Official (Unofficial) AL Picks for 2009.

 

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t prognosticate on the upcoming season? Here we go:

 

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EAST

 

  1. New York
  2. Boston*
  3. Tampa Bay
  4. Toronto
  5. Baltimore

     The Yankees have too much talent not to return to the post-season this year. With a rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Chamberlain, and Pettittte; I don’t see them going on any prolonged losing streak. The additions of Teixeria and Swisher bolster their already potent line-up, made even more important now the A-Rod is starting the season on the DL.

    With New York winning the division, I pencil the Red Sox in for the Wild Card. Sorry, Devil Ray fans, I just think both the Yankees and BoSox are just too deep to overtake. If it’s any consolation, however, I think it will be a 3 team race down to the wire.

    Poor Toronto is just in the wrong division. They have a bunch of good players, but just not enough to compete, and I think Roy Halladay, hands down, is the best pitcher in the game today. And then there’s Baltimore.

 

     CENTRAL

 

  1. Chicago
  2. Kansas City
  3. Cleveland
  4. Detroit
  5. Minnesota

 

     Here’s where I go a little nutty. This may be the toughest division to pick of all of them. I truly believe that any of these teams are fully capable of winning the division. The White Sox get my pick for two reasons, Ozzie Guillen and their starting rotation. I think Ozzie should have won the AL Manager of the Year award last year for leading a team full of holes and injuries to the playoffs. He may come off as a nutjob, but he gets the most out of his players. And the rotation has a good mix of smart veterans (Buehrle, Contreras, Colon) and young studs (Danks, Floyd). And the lineup can still mash.

     Kansas City? Yeah, I LOVE the Royals this year. A lot of good, young talent, and I think they will be the surprise team of 09.

     Cleveland is going to compete all year, I think. Cliff Lee is NOT a fluke, and although I don’t think his numbers will quite as good as last year, he’s still a stud. The Indians made two solid pick-ups this year in Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa. I honestly think that DeRosa was the MVP of the Cubs last year. The guy can play almost anywhere, and play it well.

     Detroit looks good on paper, but they’re getting old. And I’m not sold on the pitching staff.

     I’m sure the Twins will prove me wrong (they always do), but I don’t think they will be there in the end. Mauer looks like he’ll start the year on the DL, and I’m not sure about the rotation,

 

 

WEST

 

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Texas
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle

 

     I think the Angels will win the West again; however; I think it will be MUCH closer this year.Texas may have the best offense in either league, and their pitching staff improved.

     Oakland made some nice moves in the off-season, bringing back Jason Giambi and signing Orlando Cabrera.  But I don’t think the talent is there this season.

 

POSTSEASON AWARDS

  • MVP-Josh Hamilton, Texas
  • Cy Young- CC Sabathia, Yankees
  • ROY-Matt Wieters, Baltimore
  • Manager of the Year-Trey Hillman, Kansas City

 

So the playoffs will look like this:

ALDS

  1. Yankees over Angels
  2. Red Sox over White Sox

ALCS

  1. Yankees over Red Sox

 

So the Yankees in the World Series, to face the NL champions. I’ll give my picks for the Senior Circuit later this week.

Thanks for reading, comments welcome!

A Final Look- Comiskey Park

Today I thought I would take a good, final look at the ballpark I grew up with, The Baseball Palace of the World, Comiskey Park.

Old_comiskey_park.jpg

 

Built in 1910 on the site of a former Chicago city dump, Here’s a picture during construction, circa 1909-1910.

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It originally sat 29,000 fans. A record at the time. It cost $750,000 to construct, another record.

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s a picture of the first Opening Day on July 1, 1910.

 

Comiskey was the home to 4 World Series. In 1917, the White Sox won the first, last, and only championship while playing at the original Comiskey.

In 1918, when the cross-town Cubs won the NL pennant, they borrowed Comiskey Park as their home field. They ended up losing to the Boston Red Sox, which would be Boston’s last title for 86 years.

The 1919 Series was the infamous “Black Sox” series, where 8 White Sox were later banned from baseball for life.

Here’s a shot of opening day, 1920. The Black Sox Scandal was not public knowledge at the time, as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the other 7 conspirators played well into the season before their punishment was exacted

1920.jpg 

After the banishment of 8 of their stars, and the dark stigma that surrounded the club, the White Sox went from American League elite to American League laughing-stocks. The 20’s and 30’s were dark times for the club. There were some bright spots, however.

1930's.jpg

In 1933, Chicago hosted the World’s Fair. Baseball decided to hold the first All-Star Game at Comiskey to coincide with the fair. The American league won, due in part to the great Babe Ruth(who else?) hitting the first home run in All-Star Game history.

1933as.jpgA look at the American League dugout during the 1933 All-Star Game. In the center you can see Yankee teammates Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

negro.jpgComiskey Park would be the annual home to the Negro League All-Star Game as well. It hosted the game a dozen times during the 30’s and 40’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 40’s were lean years for the White Sox. The team didn’t have much money, few fans, and lost many players to World War II.

Here’s a picture of the park in 1940. Lights were installed in 1939.

1940's.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The main concession stand behind home plate was remodeled during the 40’s. It would remain this way until the ballpark’s demoltion.

 

 

 

 

 

Comiskey Park during the 1959 World Series. It was the White Sox’s first pennant in 40 years. They lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 2.1959 ws.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comiskey as it looked in the early 70’s. For some reason, ownership decided to install an artifical turf infield while leaving the outfield natural grass. It lasted from 1969-1973.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The infamous Disco Demolition night on July 12, 1979. Taking place between games of a double-header between the Sox and the Detroit Tigers. During the event, rowdy fans stormed onto the field and nearly caused a riot. The Sox were forced to forfeit the game to the Tigers. Sox owner Bill Veeck lost a lot of credibility for this fiasco. He would sell the team to current owner Jerry Reinsdorf in 1981, who would undertake an ambitious renovation of the old park.

Reinsdorf4.jpg 

 

Comiskey park during the 1983 season, where the “Winning Ugly” Sox won 99 games and an AL West title.

The 50th anniversary of the All-Star Game was held at Comiskey in 1983. The American
League would win due to Fred Lynn’s grand slam, the first in All-Star history.Reinsdorf1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

comiskey35.jpgPlayers actually had to walk the concourse to get from the clubhouse to the indoor batting cages. Here rookie Frank Thomas makes the journey, walking right by some fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyone who watched a game at Old Comiskey remembers these awful posts that obstructed the view in the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

comiskey52.jpgThe famous exploding scoreboard, probably what the old park is most famous for. The fireworks after a Sox home run is a tradition still used at the new park today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

scoreboard5.jpg

 

The last time the scoreboard lit up, after a homer by Frank Thomas, on September 26, 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The destruction of the stadium, circa 1991. A parking lot now stands where Old Comiskey once was.

parkinglot1.jpg

The only monument of a ballpark that was here for 80 years is this replica of the old home plate now in a parking lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for walking with me down memory lane! Till next time!

Historical Musings- Jim Creighton: Baseball’s First Superstar

When one thinks about the pioneers of professional baseball, a few names quickly come to mind. The myth of Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown; Alexander Cartwright and Knickerbocker Base Ball Club; Albert Spalding and his global baseball tour; and many others. One name that has mostly been forgotten to history was Jim Creighton.

Who?

Jim Creighton was baseball’s first superstar,possibly its first professional; its first controversey, and its first martyr. Details on his life are pretty sketchy, but here’s some info I found out via Baseball-Fever.com.

Born in 1841, little is known about Creighton’s early life. He spent much time in his youth playing cricket, becoming an expert by age 16. In 1857, he joined the amateur baseball club the Brooklyn Niagras, and played second base. The Niagras were losing badly to the Brooklyn Stars in a game in 1859 when Creighton came in to pitch. 

At this point, it should be noted that the art of pitching in 1859 was drastically different from today. First, pitchers had to throw the ball underhand and stiff-armed, and the ball had to placed where the batter wished. 

Everything changed forever when Creighton came in to pitch.

Using a deceptive “wrist-snap” delivery, Creighton was unlike anything batters had ever seen before. The ball was considerbly faster than a normal delivery, and rose as it got near the batter. When some batters learned to time the pitch, Creighton changed speeds, basically inventing the change-up. 

Creighton was soon playing for the Brooklyn Excelsiors, who were considered the champions of base ball at the time. He was apparently paid a fee by the club, thereby becoming baseball’s first professional. 

In 1860, the Excelsiors went on a national tour down the eastern coast of the United States, with Creighton as their star attraction. He became so popular that many youth teams in the areas they played called themselves the Creighton’s in his honor.

Not only was Creighton a pitching sensation, he was a tremendous hitter as well. In 1862, he was said to never have made an out at the plate, and only four times overall. (It should be noted that, at the time, the runners on the basepaths were charged with the out, not the batter as it is today.)

During a game in October 1862, after a particularly hard swing by Creighton at the plate, he suffered an internal injury, a  ruptured inguinal hernia, and died four days later.

A remarkable life, even more remarkable when you think that Creighton died when he was only 21 years old.

Till next time!

Introduction

Hi everybody! Thanks for checking out my blog. The purpose of this blog is quite simple…..to talk baseball. But rather then blog about a specific team or player, I thought it might be interesting to look at all aspects of the National Pastime, throughout its long and (mostly)  glorious history.

Some musing posts will include:

A First Look- These posts will look at young player, such as a prospect or college athlete.

A Closer Look- Just what it says, these posts will look in depth at a player’s career, whether playing currently or retired.

A Final Look- (Beginning to see a pattern yet?) These posts, as you may have guessed, will look back at the careers of baseball heroes of yore.

Historical Musings- Pretty self-explanitory, musings on baseball’s past.

General Musings- The namesake of the entire blog! I plan on these to be the majority of  my posts. 

I will attempt to update this thing at least a few times a week, so check in from time to time and tell me what you think!

 

 

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