Double the fun: Doubleheaders Were Yogi Berra’s Thing; He Caught Both Ends 117 Times

On May 15, 1948, the Philadelphia Athletics took on the New York Yankees in a doubleheader. What’s significant is not that the A’s, who finished a surprising fourth in the American League, swept the Yankees in New York, 3-1 and 8-6. After all, the Yankees were in a down year and finished in third place.

On that Saturday afternoon before 69, 416 fans, Yogi Berra caught both ends of the double dip for the first of what would eventually be 117 times. Berra had an atypical offensive day. He went hitless in 9 trips.

Since doubleheaders are now rarely played and today’s conventional wisdom would keep the first game’s catcher out of the second game, Berra’s record will stand forever.

In a 1956 interview with Sports Illustrated, Berra explained how he gets tapped for so much double duty. Said Berra: “I don’t know how to say ‘no’”

In 1947, Berra’s first season save for 22 at bats the previous year, Yogi played a little left field and occasionally spelled catchers Ralph Houk, Aaron Robinson or Sherman Lollar. But by 1948, the catching job belonged to Berra. Before he retired in 1965, Berra played 1,699 games behind the plate.

For all the millions of words that have been written about which of the great New York centerfielders Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider were the best during baseball’s Golden Era, the more compelling debate among  the scribes at the time was who was better, Berra or his Dodger counterpart Roy Campanella?

In his Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James ranks Berra first and Campanella second with Johnny Bench sandwiched between them. While Campanella never played a position other than catcher, Berra during 19 seasons had stints in left and right field as well as at first and third base.

Choosing between them is a toss-up. Here are their managers’ evaluations.

Walter Alston:

They’re two great guys and they can do everything. They’re both great hitters and receivers and their arms compare favorably, one with the other…I’d say Campy is the best at blocking the low pitch. It’s hard to pick between those two guys.”

Casey Stengel:

Berra is an amazing players and a splendid hitter. Although he’s not built as a track athlete, he’s a very fast player. Campanella is more graceful behind the plate, more adept in handling his glove. But while Berra isn’t as graceful, he has so many points. He’s younger than Campanella and may become greater.

I give a slight edge to Berra, the more durable of the two (2,120 games to 1,215), a better hitter for both average and power (.285 to .276/358 HR to 242).

Except when they went head-to-head in the World Series, Berra and Campanella were each other’s biggest fans.


“Double the fun” is a Friday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader in baseball history each week.

Any player/Any era: Bobby Veach

What he did: One of my favorite forgotten greats of yesteryear, Bobby Veach might have been a Hall of Famer in another era. In a 14-season career that spanned 1912 through 1925, Veach hit.310 lifetime with 2,063 hits, and he may be known most for being one of Ty Cobb’s supporting bats on the Detroit Tigers of the ’10s and early ’20s. Playing the majority of his best years in the Deadball Era, Veach hit just 64 home runs in his career, though his three American League RBI titles hint what he could have done in a time where home run hitters ruled baseball.

Era he might have thrived in: Veach was a diminutive left-handed batter standing just 5’11” at 160 pounds, though his SABR bio notes he “swung the bat like a powerful slugger, down at the end of the handle, and with similar results.” Mel Ott was a similarly built lefty, and like Ott, perhaps Veach could have excelled in a ballpark with a short right field fence during the offensive heyday of the 1930s. This leaves the Polo Grounds in New York or the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. In either place, I’m guessing Veach’s career high of 16 home runs in 1921 might be double if not triple.

Why: Some eras and ballparks make Hall of Famers, others make it more difficult. Veach didn’t have an impossible task in his own time, as fellow Deadball outfielder Tris Speaker successfully transitioned to the Live Ball Era. And I suppose one could argue the best possible role for Veach was being Cobb’s teammate. Still, I can’t help but wonder how much better Veach’s stats would be if his career had started even 10 years later.

New York in the 1930s was a veritable factory of future Hall of Famers, both for the offensive juggernaut in the Polo Grounds and the fact that decades later, former Giant Frankie Frisch pushed for the enshrinement of many of his former teammates while he ran the Veterans Committee. The Baker Bowl meanwhile produced at least one player who wouldn’t have been a Hall of Famer elsewhere, Chuck Klein who hit .395 lifetime there and maybe .280 away. Then there’s Lefty O’Doul who doesn’t have a spot in Cooperstown but put up gaudy numbers in both parks (as well as another hitter’s cove, Ebbets Field) and almost hit .400 in Philly.

Granted, even with loftier statistics, I’ll concede Veach might have been operating with the same skill set. After all, looking at the numbers of the 1999 Colorado Rockies doesn’t lead me to believe Dante Bichette is anything more than a mediocre hitter with a dream job. A different era wouldn’t make Veach a better player, per se. But then the Veterans Committee has been notorious historically for not dealing in context, and sometimes, better stats regardless of their era have been enough for a plaque. It’s one reason guys like High Pockets Kelly are in Cooperstown and others like Bill Dahlen, another Deadball great, are not.

As it stands, Veach received exactly one vote in 1937, died in 1945, and I’m guessing that except among the baseball research community, he’s long since forgotten.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film), Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays

10 baseball players who could have done more

I was reading through a collection of interviews with old sportswriters the other day, No Cheering in the Press Box when I came across a passage from a former Philadelphia scribe named Al Horwits. He made an assertion that struck me, saying Jimmie Foxx could have been greater if he’d taken better care of himself. Horwits said:

It would have meant a lot to [Foxx] if he had broken Ruth’s record. But there wasn’t much stress put on statistics in those days. And then the drinking affected his batting. He started getting a little heavy in the chest. This is where it affects sluggers. They can’t get the bat around fast enough on the baseball. That’s what happened to him.

It seems a little harsh to say that a man with a .325 lifetime batting average, 534 home runs, and a reputation as one of the best sluggers in baseball history could have done more. But Foxx was effectively done in his mid-30s, able to play through World War II since he was past draft age, though he struggled to hold a spot in the majors even then. With better care, he might have come close to Ruth’s 714 career bombs.

Truth is, baseball history is filled with men who could have done more if they’d drank less, taken better care of themselves, etc. Some of these players are prominent, others little more at this point than historical footnotes. Here are 10 of these men:

1. Mickey Mantle: Maybe the most famous example of this in baseball history, the Commerce Comet was touted as the potential greatest player ever when he debuted. He wound up with more than 500 home runs lifetime, though drinking and carousing might have cost him a couple hundred more.

2. Denny McLain: McLain had two Cy Youngs by the time he was 25, but was out of the majors by 30, plagued by a massive weight gain and ties to gamblers.

3. Hal Chase: Longtime sportswriter Fred Lieb devoted a chapter to Deadball Era first baseman Chase, saying he might have been an all-time great but that “he had a screwball brain.”

4. [Tie] Dwight Gooden/Darryl Strawberry: Cocaine.

6. Rube Waddell: Drank himself out of the big leagues, though he did enough to make the Hall of Fame.

7. Don Newcombe: Ditto, minus the Hall of Fame.

8. Albert Belle: The temperamental slugger quit in his early 30s due to injuries, though I wonder if a lessened will to compete drove Belle from the game early and helped him fall short of Cooperstown. In his prime, he may have been one of the best power hitters of the 1990s, though he looked a shadow of his self toward the end.

9. Mysterious Walker: Walker was a big league pitcher who had to flee his team in 1910 after being accused of a crime. He resurfaced in the Pacific Coast League, pitching under a pseudonym and refusing to even allow his picture to be taken. He reportedly said he’d forgo a salary if he didn’t win two-thirds of his games; the fact Walker went 6-4 that year for the San Francisco Seals makes me wonder if he had to go without.

10. Steve Howe: Bright relief pitcher and 1981 National League Rookie of the Year for the Los Angeles Dodgers who battled drug problems much of his career and was at one point handed a lifetime ban before being reinstated.

1954 All Star Game: Al Rosen Plays With Broken Finger, Slams Key Homer

Editor’s note: In honor of tonight’s All Star game, Joe Guzzardi’s usual Wednesday post will run one day early this week.


During baseball’s Golden Era, players didn’t have hammies, quads, obliques or menisci. What they had instead was a deeply ingrained desire to play baseball and a respect for the honor of being chosen, in those years chosen by the fans, to represent their team and league in the Mid-Summer Classic.

For the umpteenth year in a row, I didn’t watch either the game or the horrible Home Run Derby. I heard this morning that derby winner Robinson Cano’s father Jose pitched to him. Maybe next year his mother, Claribel Mercedes, can lob the ball into him.

I can’t turn on ESPN without a deep dread that Wendy Nix might start to scream baseball inanities at me. Nix’s credentials seem to be that she was, depending on which Internet version of her personal life you trust, either married to or once married to a Boston Red Sox assistant general manager. Regardless of her marital status, I’d bet lots of money Nix could not answer most baseball questions without a prompter in front of her.

I’ll spare you rehashing which of the “All Stars” thumbed their noses at the fans and why they didn’t show up. You probably already know. If you don’t, chronicling their lame excuses would be too depressing for me to write and for you to read.

Let’s go back in time to a great All Star game, maybe one of the best ever: the July 13, 1954 slugfest at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium won by the American League, 11-9. Sixteen future Hall of Famers played.

The game started as a pitcher’s duel between the Philadelphia Phillies’ Robin Roberts and the New York Yankees’ Whitey Ford. Roberts was the first pitcher to start four consecutive games, 1950-1954. Casey Stengel’s selection of Ford was a surprise, however. The lefty had pitched three innings of relief at Washington on the Sunday before the game (!).

The American League jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third on Al Rosen’s home run blast off Roberts. Another four-bagger by the next batter Ray Boone upped the score to 4-0.

Interesting sidebar about Rosen, especially in light of the 2011’s namby-pambys.

In 1953, Rosen was the American League Most Valuable Player and in the All Star balloting garnered the second most votes behind only Stan Musial. Rosen was playing a new position, first base, to which he agreed so that the Indians could make room for rookie third baseman Rudy Regalado.

On May 25, Rosen fractured his index finger and fell into a deep slump. By All Star game time, Rosen approached Stengel and offered to withdraw. But Stengel, after consulting with Commissioner Ford Frick, left the final decision to Rosen who elected to play.

Said Rosen: “With the bum finger and being in a slump, I was scared to death about being the All Star Game goat. But that strike out [in his first at bat] made me mad and I forgot about my finger.”

Rosen’s line, which included a second home run in the fifth inning that earned him All Star MVP honors: AB 4; R 2; H 3; RBI 5

Another 1954 oddity. The winning pitcher, Washington Senators’ 23-year- old rookie Dean Stone, sent in to face Duke Snider in the top of the eighth, didn’t retire a batter. With the count 1-1, Red Schoendienst broke for home from third. Stone easily threw him out in a play that National League manager Leo Durocher insisted was a balk.

My Weekend in Toronto or How I Learned to Love Jose Bautista

I hadn’t been to a major league baseball game in almost two years and so with Blue Jay tickets in hand and the chance to see Roy Halladay in person, I hopped on the train and made the four and one half hour trip to the Rogers Center.

The weather was perfect, (July1-3), the crowds were loud and noisy and the games certainly didn’t disappoint.  Either team could have swept all three but the Philadelphia Phillies won two.  Their only loss was on the Sunday after Cliff Lee uncharacteristically fell apart late in the game and surrendered three homeruns in the eighth inning.

Apart from the welcome home Roy Halladay celebrations, (even when Halladay beat the Jays the home crowd still gave him another standing ovation at the conclusion of the game much to the chagrin of the local media), the real and continuing story was/is the impossible if I didn’t see it myself season and one half of top American League all-star vote getter Jose Bautista.

This past offseason I was one of those writers who wrote off his amazing 2010 season as a steroid induced fluke.  I chastised the Toronto management for signing Bautista to a multiyear big money deal.

Couldn’t they see that 2010 was a fluke on the level of Brady Anderson?

Won’t these GMs ever learn?  Players such as Bautista always come crashing back down to earth.  Pitchers will figure them out and without steroids they will go quietly back to the mediocrity of seasons past.

I was wrong. Jose Bautista is the real deal.  Whether playing right field or third base, his defense is superb and his attitude is one of team first, second and third.   When asked to move back to third base he did so without hesitation.  He is the team leader.

But it’s his bat.

It impressed, amazed and astonished me and it wasn’t simply a player having one of those hot weekends where everything goes better than perfect.  Even his outs were very hard hit balls which the fielders looked reluctant to get in front of. He seemed at times to be toying with the opposing pitcher. He went deep and quick against Halladay and Cliff Lee.  He seemed to seek out the big situations, the game on the line situations.  He delivered time after time with a big homerun to tie the game or put his team ahead. The sound of the ball off of his bat was one that few players can produce.  The ball exploded. The ball was gone over the fence, almost too quickly and too far, almost impossible to follow.

There was electricity in the park when he stepped onto the on deck circle. I had to stop whatever else I was thinking of doing (beer, hot dog, chatting with the fans beside me), and an incredible anticipatory hardly dare to breath silence fell on the park when he stepped into the batter’s box.  We knew something big was about to happen.  The ballpark was waiting to explode.  When it did, we stood there and shook our heads, Blue Jay and Phillies fans alike.  How could a player do this again and again and again?

I’ve heard rumors that Bautista changed his stance and approach at the plate a couple of years ago.  I’ve heard that all he needed was regular playing time. I’ve heard that some players mature later in their careers. I really have no idea if any or all of these stories are true but I do know what I saw even if I still can’t quite believe it.

Bautista has claimed in interviews that his development of a leg kick was the key.  It vastly improved his timing and allowed him to start his swing earlier but keep his body back allowing the bat to explode into the zone when he swings. He also claims that this allows him to see the ball much better.

This season the incredible power has remained and his batting average has climbed some 60 points.  He has learned to take what they give him or do what the situation asks for.  If the pitches are not there, a two run single will do just fine.  Of course, he is beginning to be pitched around or simply walked at a greater frequency as more and more opposing pitchers and managers are coming to realize what I did on that weekend.

Bautista is no fluke.  He is the most powerful hitter in baseball. Count me in.

Double the fun: Pirates Cliff Chambers Pitches No Hitter, Gets Traded!

The 1951 Pittsburgh Pirates were one of a long string of bad Bucco teams that, because of poor hitting, pitching and fielding, consistently finished at the bottom of the National League standings. From 1949 through 1957, the post-World War ll Pirates had only one winning season.

But from time to time, the Pirates’ rose to glory even though their best games were often flawed. Consider the no-hitter thrown by Bucco left hander Cliff Chambers on May 6, 1951 at Boston’s Braves Field.

Chambers had notched an Opening Day win in Cincinnati against the Reds and followed up with another road win against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Then, Chambers took the mound that cold spring afternoon to pitch the second game of a double header. In the first game, future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn shut the Buccos out 6-0.

When Chambers walked the first Braves’ batter, he set the tone for rest of his outing. By the time the Pirates racked up his 3-0 victory in a tidy 2:00 hours, Chambers had issued eight free passes to Braves batters, an incredible five of them to the leadoff hitter.

Chambers’ wife June at the family’s Pittsburgh home listening to Rosey Rowswell and Bob Prince call the game on radio. As she told Pittsburgh Press sports editor Les Bierderman, “In the ninth inning when Cliff needed only three more outs to make his no hitter, I gathered my two little girls around me and we said a prayer. I hope it helped.”

Chambers’ no-hitter was only the second in Pirates’ history. In 1907 at Exposition Park, rookie Nick Maddox became the first Bucco to throw a no-hitter and also at age 20, the youngest player in major league baseball history to accomplish the feat. In the Pirates’ 125 year history, only four other pitchers have tossed no hitters—none of them at Forbes Field.

Curiously, Chambers’ no-hitter was his last win for the Pirates. Four consecutive losses and five weeks later, the Pirates traded the popular Chambers to the St. Louis Cardinals for Joe Garagiola.

Chambers, a Portland native who grew up in Washington and graduated from Washington State University, is 89.


“Double the fun” is a Friday series here that looks at one famous doubleheader each week.

Any player/Any era: Major League (1989 film)

What it was: A friend suggested choosing a baseball film for one of these columns and exploring how it might play out today. I could think of no finer subject than one of my all-time favorites, Major League, the 1989 hit about a lovable loser Cleveland Indians team that starts to win after learning it has been assembled expressly to finish last. The film’s been in the news recently, between Charlie Sheen’s admission he used steroids to portray pitcher Rick Vaughn and his desire to make a fourth movie in the series. After two lackluster sequels, the franchise could use a kick-start.

How it might work today: Part of the appeal in the first film may have been that it featured a bunch of otherwise ordinary men who happened to find themselves on a Major League Baseball team, playing light years beyond expectations (as a bonus, the film also included some hilarious, R-rated comedy.) I watch that kind of movie and think, “Hey, I can do that,” and while I concede it’s a little grandiose and delusional, I’m guessing I wasn’t the only person with these thoughts. Good movies have that power.

It wasn’t as easy to relate with the 1994 sequel or the follow-up to that in 1998, which relied more on goofy gimmicks and gave viewers little to care about. In a sense, maybe some things about the original film can’t be replicated. It’s been a long time since the Indians played to empty, decrepit parks or fielded teams bad enough to inspire talk of relocation. I suppose a new film could be set with a current moribund franchise like the Royals, Pirates, or Marlins, though I don’t know if there’s anything fresh or compelling about that. If the series is to be rebooted, I think it’s time to once again take it in a new direction and get it back to its everyman roots.

The premise for the new Major League film, I’ve heard, is to have Vaughn attempting a comeback. Perhaps he could go to the independent leagues where big name ballplayers down on their luck sometimes find themselves. It seems to be a haven in particular for pitchers, with former All Stars like Armando Benitez and Keith Foulke among the many hurlers who’ve gone independent in the past decade. I occasionally wonder why sputtering clubs don’t stock their bullpens with all the recognizable names on the Long Island Ducks or Newark Bears at any given time. Vaughn could be one of these guys, albeit with better odds of returning to the show thanks to the magic of a screenplay.

Beyond this, the independent leagues are  a circuit where Vaughn’s veteran teammates from the majors could be coaches (and have an excuse to be in the movie), equivalent Tommy Johns or Gary Carters. Vaughn’s laid back catcher, Jake Taylor, for one, seems like a bush league manager waiting to happen. It’s worth noting, too, that Vaughn’s 40-something age wouldn’t be an issue in these parts, considering 47-year-old Jose Canseco is holding down a player-manager gig in Yuma, Arizona at the moment. In a perfect world, Canseco gets a part in the film, too, perhaps as the source of Vaughn’s juice.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays

Baseball movie truths

Editor’s note: Joe Guzzardi is on vacation until July 8.


I was struck to see recently that Charlie Sheen acknowledged using steroids in his preparations to portray power pitcher Rick Vaughn in the 1989 film, Major League. “Let’s just say that I was enhancing my performance a little bit,” Sheen told Sports Illustrated for a July 4 retrospective on the movie. “It was the only time I ever did steroids. I did them for like six or eight weeks. You can print this, I don’t give a f—. My fastball went from 79 to like 85.”

Major League was and remains one of my favorite baseball films. I’ve seen it 15 or 20 times dating back to elementary school, and I doubt Sheen’s revelation will effect my desire to dig out my worn, VHS copy again at the start of next baseball season. Frankly, I may watch the film closer now. That being said, I’m reminded of the sometimes less-than-glamorous realities of my favorite baseball movies. The following are a few that come to mind. Feel free to add to the list:

Shoeless Joe hit from the wrong side of the plate in Field of Dreams: I love this movie, another one I’ve seen at least a dozen times, and I’ve liked Ray Liotta in his other work from Goodfellas to Narc to Observe & Report. Still, I do not understand why the makers of Field of Dreams could not find a decent, left-handed hitting actor instead. Shoeless Joe had a swing famous enough to be copied by Babe Ruth. It deserved better onscreen tribute.

Crash Davis doesn’t really set the minor league home run record in Bull Durham: He was about 200 home runs off.

Roy Hobbs’ character in the book for The Natural is bad news: I interviewed Joe Posnanski last September, and he told me in a bit I didn’t use for my post that The Natural is his favorite baseball movie. Sure, there’s some magic in the film as Robert Redford’s character Roy Hobbs returns from a long hiatus from baseball and heroically leads his team to dramatic triumph via thrilling home run. Bernard Malamud’s book is vastly different, though: dark, satirical, and about Hobbs’ corruption, ending with him embroiled in a Shoeless Joe-esque gambling scandal. I prefer it to the film.

The aforementioned Major League featured the Cleveland Indians but was filmed in Milwaukee: No great “Aha!” moment here, just something to note.

Ruth was frustrated he couldn’t get William Bendix to swing convincingly in The Babe Ruth Story: I’ve never seen this movie, which made an appearance in a book I used to have on the worst films of all-time, though I know Ruth didn’t care much for it, walking out on a screening of it near the end of his life. On a side note, Cubs pitcher Charlie Root also refused to recreate for the film the supposed called shot Ruth had in the 1932 World Series. Why? It never happened.

On this day in baseball history: July 5, 1936

Nothing special happened in major league play 75 years ago today, at least nothing that was especially noteworthy at the time. The Philadelphia Athletics suffered their 12th straight loss, facing the Boston Red Sox and Jimmie Foxx, the final star of Connie Mack’s disassembled dynasty. Wes Ferrell, Mel Harder, and Jimmie DeShong each won their 11th games of the season, on their way to 53 wins collectively, though no man had an ERA under 4.00. Meanwhile in Washington D.C., an old baseball player I doubt many people had heard of died.

I can’t find any record on the death of Phil Wisner, who was not quite 67 when he passed. Nor is there much information on the Web about his career, though what I saw intrigues me. Wisner got in exactly one game, August 30, 1895 for the Washington Senators. Playing shortstop, the 25-year-old had no plate appearances, and of his four chances in the field, he committed three errors. He did manage an assist, but otherwise, that was the end of it for him in baseball, especially bleak considering Washington went 43-85 and seemingly could have used a young, left-handed hitting shortstop.

I love baseball for its history, for the fact that more than 17,000 men have played in the majors in over a century with more than 17,000 stories accordingly. I’m of the belief that everyone has a story, everyone, and I’m curious what it was for Wisner. I wonder what it’s like to make the show at 25, play one game, and live 40 more years. Does it make for an interesting life story, something to tell the dinner party guests or is it an excruciating case of what might have been, something to obsess on? Depends on the person, I suppose.

In the book Shoeless Joe, which became Field of Dreams, there’s the part where Ray Kinsella tracks down Moonlight Graham, who played one game for the New York Giants. “I think I came here because your time was so short,” Kinsella tells Graham in the book. “I wanted to know how it affected your life. But I can see you’ve done well. It would have killed some men to get so close. They’d never do anything else but talk about how close they were.” Graham replies, “If I’d only got to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy. You have to keep things in perspective. I mean, I love the game, but it’s only that, a game.”

Would if everyone could have such humility. I will say I’ve heard expressions of it talking to baseball folk. I started research about a year and a half ago on a book on Joe Marty, who came up in the Pacific Coast League with Joe DiMaggio and was once thought to be the better prospect. Of course, the rest is history, and the crux of my research is about determining what effect this had on Marty’s life. I interviewed one of his close friends about a year ago, and his take was that Marty never even thought about it.

Maybe some people don’t place too much stock in the times they fall short in life, learning what they can and moving on. Whether Phil Wisner falls into this rank, I don’t know, though if anyone out there has more info, please feel free to email me.

“On this day in baseball history” is an occasional feature here.

If you had everything, where would you put it?

Comedian Steven Wright would probably never claim to foresee the future but this musing graphically illustrates the number one problem with our western society and a problem which has become all too apparent in Major League baseball.

Baseball boss Bud Selig continually claims that Major League baseball is in tremendous financial shape while raking in record profits. More Selig smoke and mirrors?

19 teams are apparently over their debt percentage allowance as set down by baseball, (I’m not an economist or a mathematician so I’m loosely quoting several articles) and two of baseballs’ storied franchises are in deep financial trouble.

The ownerships of the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers are different situations and perhaps call for different solutions. This is my take based on what I have heard and read over the past few months.

The New York Met ownership are in financial trouble and were forced to sell off a minority of the team in order to meet financial obligations in the wake of a lawsuit against them for $1 billion. The lawsuit contends that the Met owners should have noticed that their investments were part of a massive investment scam and are therefore partially responsible for the losses incurred by certain investors victimized by convicted financial advisor Bernie Madof.  Major League baseball and the commissioners office couldn’t have foreseen this situation and I believe acted in a responsible manner by demanding that owner Fred Wilpon sell some of his assets to cover his baseball obligations.  There seemed to be an implied threat that the choices Mr. Wilpon had were selling all or part of the team, selling off some of his multi million dollar real estate holdings to cover any costs, or allowing MLB to takeover the team.  Wilpon reluctantly sold off some of the team to meet his obligations although he retained majority ownership. His friend Bud is happy…for now.

The situation in Los Angeles seems far different and far more unstable.  Potential owners are put through a thorough financial and personal evaluation. Except perhaps when they are good friends with the current commissioner, (see Expos, Twins, Red Sox, Nationals-don’t get me started.)

Frank McCourt was allowed to purchase the Dodgers even though he had neither the cash or investments of his own which would allow him to do so.  McCourt was allowed, after his purchase, to “borrow” money to support his and his wife’s lavish and extravagant lifestyle (lives of the rich and shameless?) from the team and its various holding companies with little or no protest from the league office. Continually painting the front door while the foundation was cracking and borrowing from Peter to pay Paul allowed the McCourts to project the image that all was well in Dodger land.  That is until the McCourts were no more.

Now Bud Selig is deciding to play hardball with the Dodgers and with the recent Chapter 11 filing, the stage is set for a messy and long term battle between McCourt et al and baseball.  Selig may not simply be able to takeover the Dodgers and sell it to whomever he deems fit.

Bankruptcy courts may have the final say and the McCourt/Selig divorce may be even messier than the McCourt/McCourt.  Jamie McCourt’s contention that 50% of the assets includes 50% of the Dodgers may hold some water.

While we poor working stiffs must scrimp and save for any luxuries and are not allowed to live beyond our means with creditors knocking on our door the second a payment is late, the McCourts and Wilpons of this world are allowed to keep all of their toys no matter if their means don’t justify their ends and no matter how much they owe.

Bud Selig’s implied contention that Major League baseball needs stable and responsible ownership is correct.  However, his actions of denial to non friends, (Mark Cuban), and look the other way for his rich friends should not be part of that equation.   If you can’t afford the toys you have, sell them or get out of the playground.  That rule should apply equally to all the kids in the playground.