Mark McGwire: The Confession

Mark McGwire confirmed long-held suspicions today, admitting he used steroids during his playing career,  in an interview with the Associated Press.  McGwire had previously denied this publicly.

“I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come,” McGwire said in a statement issue today and posted on ESPN. “It’s time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize.”

McGwire said he first used steroids following the the 1989 season, briefly, and then in earnest beginning in 1993, including his record-setting 70 home run year in 1998.  He said he used off and on for a decade.  A source close to McGwire told ESPN he also used human growth hormone.  McGwire said he used drugs, in part, to recover from injuries.

“You don’t know that you’ll ever have to talk about the skeleton in your closet on a national level,” he told the AP. “I did this for health purposes. There’s no way I did this for any type of strength use.”

McGwire said he decided to come clean after becoming the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Bud Selig and Tony La Russa were among those who praised the move Monday.

“I’m really encouraged that he would step forward,” said La Russa, who McGwire called to apologize to on Monday. “As we go along his explanations will be well received.”

During the 1998 season, McGwire stood silent while an Associated Press reporter, Steve Wilstein, was criticized by the baseball world and other journalists for reporting his use of androstenedione.  At the start of the year, McGwire also lied in a March 23, 1998 Sports Illustrated cover story, written by Tom Verducci.

Verducci wrote:

Many, including opposing players, believe he uses steroids. He denies the charge. Vehemently.

“Never,” says McGwire, though he admits he’ll “take anything that’s legal,” meaning dietary supplements. “It sort of boggles my mind when you hear people trying to discredit someone who’s had success. Because a guy enjoys lifting weights and taking care of himself, why do they think that guy is doing something illegal? Why not say, ‘This guy works really, really hard at what he does, and he’s dedicated to being the best he can be.’ I sure hope that’s the way people look at me.”

Personally, I remember reading that quote when it was new, and it’s bothered me since the andro controversy.  I’m glad McGwire has decided to finally get honest.  It takes guts to man up on a national stage, particularly when he had no reason he had to do so.  Still, this all somehow seems like too little, too late.

Vlade, Texas Ranger

The Texas Rangers scored something of a coup yesterday, signing free agent Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year deal for $5 million, plus incentives, with a $1 million option buyout for a second year.  The 2004 American League Most Valuable Player was let go by the Los Angeles Angels after an injury-riddled season in 2009.  Guerrero now gets a great chance at redemption.

In my book, Guerrero is the bargain of the off-season, and I wish the A’s would have made a move for him.  True, he is about to be 35 in Dominican years, which is like 38 in the U.S. (unless he’s being honest about his age, unlike some of his countrymen, two of whom are referenced in this post.)  Regardless,  Guerrero is a potential Hall of Famer.  Baseball Reference rates him similar, as a batter, to five Cooperstown members, plus Larry Walker, who is likely to be inducted once eligible.  If I could have any outfielder from this generation to build a team around, I’d probably take Guerrero.

Guerrero also has something to prove in 2010, and his numbers suggest he hasn’t tapered off, just that he had a down, injured year in 2009. His .295 batting average marked the first full season in his career he hit below .300.  If that is an off year for him, I can’t wait to see what he does at his new home field, where he has hit .394 lifetime according to the Associated Press.  At $6 million, Guerrero certainly seems like less of a risk than Jason Bay at $66 million or Marlin Byrd at $15 million.

It’s been an interesting off-season, with deals skewing to either extreme.  There have been the overpriced bounties for Byrd and Bay as well as the typical windfall Adrian Beltre seems to get whenever he’s on the market and the staggering $82.5 million contract John Lackey got from the Boston Red Sox. My mom likes to look at houses every weekend with one of her friends; I’m pretty sure either of them could do a more responsible job, financially, as general manager of the Red Sox than Theo Epstein.  Come to think of it, my mom might make a kickass GM.  When I was growing up, she could stretch a dollar farther than anyone I know.  That just isn’t seen in large markets in baseball anymore.

Granted, there have been many bargains among this current free agent crop.  Guerrero wasn’t even the only one the Rangers got on Saturday.  They also picked up Khalil Greene, who finished second in the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year voting.  Greene has struggled with social anxiety in recent years, but at $750,000, is a minimal risk.  A number of other teams have landed veterans with one-year deals under $2 million, including Adam Everett, Troy Glaus, Kelvim Escobar and Scott Podsednik.

Podsednik got $1.75 million from the Kansas City Royals, his reward for hitting .304 in 2009 with the Chicago White Sox, where he made $500,000.  Podsednik is like the young child on a small allowance who goes from getting $0.50 each week to $0.75.  Congratulations, Scotty.  You still don’t have enough to buy the really cool toys.

A number of other quality players remain on the open market, including pitchers like Jon Garland, Erik Bedard and Ben Sheets and position players such as Randy Winn, Miguel Tejada and Hank Blalock.  I look forward to seeing how the winter winds down.

How I spent my Saturday

Today was a good day.

For one thing, my first check from this site arrived today: $147.10, courtesy of a few advertisers.  I’d write here for free, happily, but it’s cool to know I can make a few bucks.  My goal is to eventually pay my Internet bill through proceeds from this site.

I also did some research on Joe Marty, a former player I’m considering writing a book on.  Marty played in the majors from 1937 to 1941, and I have been wondering if any of his former teammates are still alive.  Well, through the magic of Baseball Reference, Baseball Almanac, Wikipedia and the willingness to spend a few hours in front of the computer, I checked the bios of every single one of his teammates and confirmed that four are still alive.  Better, they all have listed phone numbers.  They’re all in their nineties, among the oldest former players still living, but I’m hopeful I can get at least one or two good interviews out of the group.  Old players love to reminisce, I learned early on.  I think it’s one reason many have listed numbers.

Feeling invigorated after getting the first four numbers, I went one step further and checked the biographies of every one of Marty’s teammates from the Pacific Coast League.  He begun with the San Francisco Seals from 1934 to 1936, where he teamed with Joe DiMaggio.  Later, following his career in the big leagues and a few years thereafter serving in World War II, Marty returned to his hometown to play for the Sacramento Solons from 1946 to 1952.  I was unable to confirm if any of his Seals teammates are still alive (the chance of which seems slim), though I found at least 13 former Solon teammates that are still around.  A few of those guys definitely have listed numbers as well.

If possible, I’d like to interview all of Marty’s living teammates.  I’m undecided if this will ultimately be a book or just an awesome post for this site, but I’m hopeful about the road I’m embarking on.

The upshot is that I literally spent nine hours in front of my computer punching in names.  My eyes are weary from the flicker of my laptop.  It was the kind of day where I had something I needed to do in the evening, and I didn’t want to leave my computer and couldn’t wait to return home.  I don’t work this hard at my typical day job.

Matt Holliday is back with the Cardinals, Andre Dawson is in the Hall of Fame and everything is right with the world… I think

A lot’s happened in baseball in the past few days.  The annual Hall of Fame vote was announced, with Andre Dawson being the sole inductee for 2010, and Matt Holliday, the biggest name on the free agent market resigned with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The part of me that likes order and tranquility has been soothed.

I feared Holliday would wind up with the New York Yankees.  I figured St. Louis was the best home for him, but New York seems to be where everyone winds up these days.  Those that can’t become Yankees become Mets.  I was 50-50 that Holliday would have a buttload of money presented before him and that he wouldn’t resist.  I don’t blame professional athletes, necessarily.  I think it’s human to feel guilty walking away from an extra $20 million.  But is there really that much of a difference between $120 million and $140 million?

To his credit, Holliday made the right decision, I think.  His reward?  $120 million over seven years along with the opportunity to hit next to Albert Pujols.  His future Hall of Fame bid just got a lot stronger.

Speaking of Cooperstown, I like the decision to induct Dawson.  His numbers seem Hall-worthy (438 home runs, 314 stolen bases and 2774 hits) and more than that, Dawson seemed like a star of his era.  ESPN is reporting that there is some debate whether Dawson will wear a Montreal Expos or Chicago Cubs hat on his plaque.  The guess here is Cubs, but that’s just a guess.

Dawson should be joined next year by Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, who were each within ten votes of making it.  I’m surprised Barry Larkin only got 51% of the vote but that’s better than what a lot of eventual Hall of Famers got in their first year on the ballot.  Joe DiMaggio, for instance, received 44% of the vote in 1953, the first year after his retirement that he was on the ballot.

Randy Johnson: Best lefthander ever?

I read a story by Carl Steward of the Oakland Tribune about the retirement yesterday of Randy Johnson that included a curious bit. Steward opined:

From an inauspicious start as a gawky 6-foot-10 kid from Livermore who threw the ball hard but didn’t have much clue where it was going, Johnson evolved into one of the eternal legends of the game, certainly one of the top dozen pitchers ever and arguably the best to ever throw from the left side. Certainly, he is right there alongside Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton, Lefty Grove and Warren Spahn.

That got me thinking.  My first instinct was that Steward may have been engaging in some homerism. Urban Dictionary defines this as hometown bias, with an example: “The local newspapers practice homerism, predicting that the hometown teams will win and complaining about the refs when the local teams lose.” Steward was on the 43-minute conference call yesterday where Johnson announced his retirement.  Frankly, I’d be jazzed too if I’d been apart of that.

Granted, looking over the career numbers, there is some cause for debate.  Of the group, Johnson has the highest number of strikeouts and most Cy Young awards, with five, though out of fairness to Spahn and Grove, the award was not given out until 1956.  The others also have the benefit of having some years away to enhance their legacies.  Maybe I’d feel stronger about Johnson if he had pitched in the 1930s, striking fear into Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Then again, Johnson had to face Barry Bonds in his prime and spent much of his career in the Kingdome, which was essentially the baseball equivalent of a pinball machine.

I’d take Johnson for sure over Spahn or Carlton, but I have a harder time when it comes to Koufax or Grove. If a general manager assembling an all-time dream had any of these players in their prime available to pitch Game 1 of the World Series, how could he pass over Koufax for Johnson?  It just doesn’t compute. The last four years Koufax pitched, he was essentially untouchable.  Only a bum arm cut his career short, made him the sole member of this group not to win 300 games and disqualified him, at least in my book, from being the best lefthander ever.  But in terms of sheer talent, I believe he is the best.

For overall career, I’d take Grove over Johnson.  Johnson won three more games lifetime, but Grove got his 300 in an era where hitters ruled supreme.  Consider that Grove is generally acknowledged to have had his best years from 1929 to 1931, when he went 79-15.  The batting average for the American League was .284 in 1929, .288 in 1930 and .278 in 1931.  For context, in 2002 when Johnson went 24-5, the National League batting average was .259.  If Grove pitched today, especially in the NL, the results would be mindblowing.

All this being said, it will be a long time before another player like Johnson comes along.  He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no doubt.

Mark McGwire: Hall of Famer?

With the results of this year’s Hall of Fame vote due to be released tomorrow, I wonder how Mark McGwire will fare.  I don’t expect him to be inducted.  Each of the last three years that McGwire has been on the ballot, he’s gotten around 20% of the vote, far short of the 75% needed.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a few more votes this year.  And down the road, he seems like a decent bet for the Veterans Committee.

Initially, McGwire seemed like the first clear casualty of the Steroid Era.  McGwire appeared before Congress in March 2005, repeatedly refusing to answer if he’d done steroids, stammering he was not there to discuss the past and seeming, as an Associated Press writer put it, like “some fidgety Mafia don.”  From a public relations standpoint, it looked worse than Richard Nixon at the 1960 Presidential Debate.  The effect on McGwire’s legacy and Hall of Fame candidacy was immediate.

“He doesn’t want to talk about the past?  Then I don’t want to consider his past,” said Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, according to the book, Bash Brothers.

Despite having 583 home runs and a higher career on-base percentage than Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Al Kaline, among other Hall of Fame members, McGwire received 23.5% of the vote from the writers in his first year of eligibility, with eighth players on the ballot faring better.  He also finished ninth in 2008 and 2009.  And while others like Jack Morris and Tommy John have begun to climb the ballot in the last three years, McGwire actually got ten fewer votes last year.

Here’s why I think the ice may be thawing and McGwire may have a chance at Cooperstown one day: The media has started to relax toward McGwire, and his Congressional appearance, while poison in terms of PR, actually may endear him to the baseball establishment.

Ken Rosenthal recently wrote on that he voted for nine players this year, but not McGwire. He wrote:

I have yet to vote for McGwire, but I am warmer to the idea than when he first appeared on the ballot in 2007. The more we learn about the Steroid Era, the better we understand just how deeply performance-enhancing drugs were entrenched in the game’s culture. My problem with McGwire is that his candidacy is largely based on power, and there is ample reason to believe that his late-career power surge was fueled by PEDs.

That’s not great but it’s also not the “Never talk to me again, asshole” break-up letter the Baseball Writers Association of America sent McGwire a few years ago with their vote.

As more and more steroid users have been outed, McGwire doesn’t look so sinister.  We’re also quickly approaching having the first juicer in the Hall of Fame.  Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens will all be on the ballot in the next few years.  It will look ridiculous if one of them is not inducted before too long.  When that inevitably happens, it should help ease the way for McGwire.

That being said, aside from steroids, McGwire still faces many hurdles.  He struck out a lot, hit .263 lifetime and had just 1626 career hits.  McGwire also had a relatively short window of dominance, 1996 to 1999.  Granted, those years were astonishing, as he averaged over 60 home runs and 130 runs batted in.  Otherwise though, he wasn’t much more than a high class version of Dave Kingman.

I don’t see McGwire ever getting near the votes he needs from the writers.  But I think he has a shot with the Veterans Committee.  When he appeared before Congress and famously refused to discuss his past, McGwire made it sound like he was doing it, in part, for the sake of the game.

“What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates,” McGwire said in a prepared statement.  “I reitred from baseball four years ago.  I live a quiet life with my wife and children.  I have always been a team player.  I have never been a player who spread rumors or said things about teammates that could hurt them.”

I’m undecided if I buy the display of gravitas, but others might.

The task for the Veterans Committee is to find players seemingly overlooked by the writers.  The committee tends to be conservative, generally favoritive toward baseball-friendly candidates.  McGwire would fit them well.

The best $5 I ever spent

Over the past few years, I have increasingly begun to use, an encyclopedia of players and their career numbers.  With this blog, I now use the website pretty much constantly.  In a pinch, I can, among other things, look up the stats of a player I’m writing about, see who he was similar to and even check what percentage of the Hall of Fame vote he received. I actually find it difficult to write without being able to access the site. I don’t know what sportswriters did without the Internet.

On the site, visitors are allowed to sponsor the page of any player for a nominal sum.  With the sponsorship, one can post a personal message and a link to their site.  The lowest fee to sponsor is $5, though I’ve seen asking prices over $100 for top players.  Most of the game’s immortals are taken, but interestingly, the pages for a number of figures from the Steroid Era are available.  Currently, Roger Clemens’ page is free for $80, Sammy Sosa’s for $75, Rafael Palmeiro’s for $40 and Jose Canseco’s for $56 (though for some reason, Ozzie Canseco is taken.)

That’s all more than I can afford or could justify spending on this sort of thing, though the idea of getting a $5 player has long appealed.  I considered sponsoring Aloysius Travers, after I wrote a post on him back in May and saw his page free for $5.  However, I didn’t jump and kicked myself (not literally) after another sponsor stepped forward. Over this past weekend, however, I finally grabbed another player.

I will preface this by saying that I’ve started thinking I should write a book.  Recently, I read a baseball book by a first-time author and couldn’t help thinking: Man, I am totally as good of a writer as this guy.  The only thing separating him and me is that he put the work in. Fear has held me back in the past, coupled with the idea that I am not a good enough writer, would never finish a book and, even if I did, would get rejected by publishers.

I’ve realized, however, that regardless of the outcome, I enjoy the process of writing and talking to old baseball players.  Also, I’d rather try and fail at something than spend my life wondering what might have been.  If the most that comes out of my effort is a self-published book that few people read, it will still be a baseball book with my name on it, and that’s pretty cool.

The player I might like to do a book on is named Joe Marty, who I wrote about here back in June. Injuries and World War II robbed Marty of a long career, though when he was coming up with the San Francisco Seals in the 1930s, scouts thought him more talented than his teammate Joe DiMaggio.  DiMaggio of course went on to a Hall of Fame career.  Marty opened a bar in Sacramento and became, as an old-timer told me, “his own best customer.”  Thematically, the book seems rife with possibilities, and I also like being able to write about Sacramento, my hometown.

Thus, I plunked down $5 for Marty’s page.  For now, what I put on there is a placeholder.  If I ever do the book, it will be noted.

An interview with Matt Walbeck

I have found work recently as a painter and was in a town here in Northern California called Danville last week, doing interior work on a house.  I got to talking with one of the homeowners, and it turns out she is from Sacramento, like me and went to high school with Matt Walbeck, a future Major League Baseball player. Walbeck broke in with the Chicago Cubs in 1993, as a catcher, played with four other teams in an eleven-year career and is now a minor league coach.

The homeowner said she still knew Walbeck, and after I explained about this site and inquired about interviewing him, she gave me his email address.  I sent Walbeck questions on Thursday, and he got back to me today.

The interview is as follows:

Baseball: Past and Present: You’ve been coaching for six years now.  Do you hope to make it to the majors as a manager?

Matt Walbeck:  I think if I continue to improve as a manager and at developing players I will manage in the majors.

BP&P: Do you think being a catcher prepared you better for coaching than if you’d been, say, a third baseman?

MW:  Having not played any other positions, I can’t compare.  There are a lot of solid managers that have played different positions.  Catchers are closely connected with the pitching coach, manager, umpires, position players and the pitchers.  Understanding pitchers is a big part of managing a baseball team because they make up almost half of the team.  Also seeing the whole field from behind the plate helps too.

BP&P: Have any of the managers that you played for influenced your coaching style?

MW:  They all have, and so did my Dad who coached my little league teams growing up.  My high school coaches Don and Jim Graf were very helpful also.  I gleaned a little bit from each of them, which is how any coach creates his or her own style.

BP&P: What kind of advice do you give young players?

MW:  Take care of yourself, love what you do, play the game one pitch at a time. And do something every day to become a better player.

BP&P: You were an eighth round draft pick out of Sacramento High School in 1987 for the Chicago Cubs.  If you could do it over, would you have gone to play baseball in college and entered the draft later or would you still have signed out of high school?

MW:  I wouldn’t change anything.  I feel that I learned a lot about life when I signed as a 17 year old and learned how to live on my own.  Wytheville, Virginia, the city where I played my first pro season was a small town of about 10,000 people and was like whole new world.  Being away from home made me realize how great the Sacramento area is, and how important family is.

BP&P: says you earned over $4 million in your career.  How far does that sort of money go?

MW:  It will go as far as you let it.  If you spend a lot and don’t save you go broke.  It boils down to your spending habits and investing wisely.

BP&P: Do you think you reached your potential as a player?

MW:  No.  Nobody is perfect and it seems everyone can always improve.

BP&P: How prevalent was the steroid culture in baseball?  Was it rampant or has the media made it out to be something bigger than it was?

MW:  I guess it was pretty prevalent throughout the years that I played.  Fortunately, I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t try it.  The side effects scared me.  So, since I wasn’t interested in it, it wasn’t available.

BP&P: Do you still consider Sacramento home?  Are you still friends with a lot of people you grew up with?

MW:  I grew up in East Sac on 42nd and H and used to hang out at McKinley Park, Sutter Lawn, River Park, etc.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  My wife, three children and I now live in Old Fair Oaks which is near the American River.  There’s lots of outdoor activity and I love to Steelhead fish.  I still have lots of friends in the area, some who I went to high school with and others that I have met in Fair Oaks.

BP&P: Last question: Who is your all-time favorite baseball player from Sacramento?

MW:  Probably Derek Lee.  He’s a true  professional and is a tremendous talent both offensively and at first base.

The All-Decade Team

P- Roy Halladay

I nearly chose Johan Santana, but reconsidered after comparing numbers.  Halladay had slightly more wins, two more All Star appearances, two 20-win seasons to Santana’s one, and, in the statistic that unexpectedly clinched it, five times as many complete games.  Randy Johnson gets third place, mostly for what he did at the beginning of the decade.

C- Ivan Rodriguez

For sheer talent, Joe Mauer wins overwhelmingly.  But I can’t justify naming him the best player in a decade he only had five near-full seasons in.  Rodriguez gets the nod for his defensive wizardy, offensive clout and what he did for the Florida Marlins in 2003.

1B- Albert Pujols

No contest.  The three-time MVP and eight-time All Star may be the decade’s best player.  I’d vote him best second baseman if I had to, since he played three innings there in 2008.

2B- Jeff Kent

Were it a five-year contest, the winner would be Chase Utley.  Were it a three-year contest, the winner would be Dustin Pedroia.  But we’re talking a full decade and for that, future Hall of Fame member Kent is the man.

3B- Alex Rodriguez

In a perfect world, Rodriguez would be the shortstop here.  And in a perfect world, he also wouldn’t have done steroids.  Faults aside, he still trounces the competition.  His 394 home runs are the most over the past nine seasons and he also won three MVP awards in that span.

SS- Derek Jeter

I’d probably give this to Hanley Ramirez if he had a few more seasons under his belt.  That guy’s electric.  But Jeter might still be most deserving.  His credentials include four Gold Gloves and just two seasons without an All Star appearance or a batting average above .300.  This says nothing of his class.

LF- Manny Ramirez

True, Manny won’t win any defensive awards.  But neither did Barry Bonds this decade.  And Manny stayed relevant all 10 years, while Bonds fizzled halfway through.

CF- Andruw Jones

The toughest choice here, especially considering how Jones has looked these past few years.  However, prior to 2008, he won the Gold Glove every year of the decade and was, for the most part, a comparable hitter to Carlos Beltran, the next-best center fielder.  Jim Edmonds is not far behind either man.

RF- Ichiro Suzuki

On the other hand, this is probably the easiest choice, next to Pujols.  Suzuki has won a Gold Glove every year of his career, has hit .350 or better four times and averages 231 hits for 162 games.  Count him as one of the few first-ballot Hall of Famers from this generation.

DH- David Ortiz

It’s a shame news emerged last year that Ortiz flunked a drug test in 2003.  Otherwise, he’s the kind of guy his position is designed for.

RP- Mariano Rivera

Were we, once again, measuring success over a shorter period of time, Jonathan Papelbon would win.  But for the decade, Rivera had an ERA below 2.00 six times, finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three times and, of course, had the most saves.

Manager- Terry Francona

Two World Series titles.  For the Red Sox.  The last man to do this?  Someone named Bill Carrigan.  When Babe Ruth played for the team.  I rest my case.

Baseball, the great equalizer

My friend Chris has been in California, visiting from Washington D.C. recently, and today, we did something that has become a tradition of sorts for us.  We went to visit Helen.

Helen is a 92-year-old woman who used to live next door to Chris’s family when he was in elementary school.  I never knew her as more than the nice lady who always gave back our balls whenever we hit them over the fence into her yard, but Chris’s mom Carinne kept in contact with Helen after they moved.  I first saw Helen again a few years ago when Chris’s family had her over for dinner.  Carinne mentioned ahead of time that Helen had played baseball as a young woman, so we talked about the game at dinner. Everyone at the table was amazed when I knew who’d played in the 1962 World Series, which Helen attended.  I read a 500-page book of baseball trivia when I was eight, and I still know most World Series winners.  And any Giants fan should know of 1962, the year that Bobby Richardson snared Willie McCovey’s line drive and stole a championship for the Yankees.

We went this afternoon to the assisted living facility in downtown Sacramento that Helen lives in now and spent an hour talking with her.  I hope I am as active at 92 as she remains.  The wall of her apartment is plastered with cut-outs from the sports section of the Sacramento Bee, pictures of men like Randy Johnson and Cliff Lee, as well as many of the Sacramento Kings.  We talked baseball, of course.  She knew of the death of Art Savage, the owner of the Sacramento River Cats.  And though Helen was sick over the holidays she also knew of Mark DeRosa’s recent signing with the Giants.  I said I didn’t know if I liked the move but that I thought DeRosa might be good off the bench and that he had a good bat.  She noted he could play several infield positions (a good point, admittedly.  DeRosa is definitely an upgrade over Rich Aurilia.)

For some reason, the 1969 World Series also came up, and Helen wanted to know the name of the player who was at bat when a wild pitch went in the New York Mets dugout, where manager Gil Hodges ordered black shoe polish to be smudged on it to look like the player got hit.  The umpires bought it, the player got on base and the next batter made a critical hit that helped secure the championship for the Mets.  The name of the batter escaped me at first.  I said Donn Clendenon and that didn’t seem right, nor did Tommie Agee. Then I remembered Cleon Jones.  I mentioned this to Helen and also said I had seen a broadcast from that series on YouTube.

I find baseball one of those topics in life that helps allow a connection for people who might not otherwise have much to talk about.  It’s easy, regardless, to take a little time out and visit someone like Helen, and I feel good after doing it.  It’s a nice thing to do, and my mom instilled a respect for seniors in me at a young age.  All the same, I’m glad Helen and I share a love of baseball.  We should watch a game on television at some point.