Archive for December, 2017

Curses, the Rangers, and Golden Corral

December 27, 2017

Best Buffet in the USA (by their own admission)

We spent the last holiday with my sister-in-law. She’s a nice enough lady, but she hates to cook. So she decided she’d treat us to a dinner out. She picked the local Golden Corral for the big event.

Now I have no idea if you’re familiar with Golden Corral, but it’s a national buffet chain. You enter, pay some money, and are met with a long set of food choices that go on for several feet. There are meats, desserts, breads, veggies, salad items, and drinks (soft, coffee, tea, and water). The deviled eggs are great and if you’re picking out the deviled eggs for mention it should tell you something about the quality of the food. It actually ranges from pretty good to pretty wretched depending on the dish and the establishment.

It’s also usually crowded. The tables are close together so if you’re eating instead of gabbing it’s pretty easy to hear the conversation of the people at the next table, which is about three feet away. The table just to my left contained two men who looked to be in their mid-thirties who were deep in conversation.

“They’ve been cursed by God. I swear it’s a curse from God.”

Well, that got my attention. Not wanting to be in the line of fire if a curse from God is on the menu I decided I’d better make sure who (or what) was cursed. So I grew a long set of ears and heard the following conversation (which is only vaguely paraphrased):

“Can’t be a curse. God wouldn’t curse the Rangers.”

“Sure he would. Look at what happened when they got rid of him.” This from the first guy.

“Yeah, they started losing but I don’t know that was a curse. Maybe it was just getting rid of Ron Washington.”

At this point I knew the curse was on the Texas Rangers and as a Dodgers fan I figured I was safe and could go back to eating.

“Nope. God’s gotta be a Ryan fan and so help me he cursed the Rangers when they cut him loose.” OK, it was too much and I had to start listening again.

“Well, they were winning when he was there.”

“Damned straight. Nolan Ryan was the Rangers and they let him go. Where’d he go? Houston. And look what happened to them.”

As a Dodgers fan I was well aware of what happened to the Astros. Maybe there was something to this conversation.

“You tell me that’s not a curse on the Rangers.”

“OK, they lost. But a curse? From God?”

“Look what God did to Houston with that damned flood. You think he’s a big Houston fan? Hell, maybe getting Ryan saved them from worse problems.”

For the first time I realized that Nolan Ryan had a direct line to God that most of us lacked.

“I’m just saying the Rangers ain’t gonna win again until they get Ryan back in Arlington. God’ll see to that.”

I think the other guy was starting to agree with him, but about that time my wife got back to the table and insisted I talk with her and her sister. I don’t know how the conversation turned out but the guy who believed in the curse was winning.



RIP Dick Enberg

December 22, 2017

Dick Enberg at the Hall of Fame

Just saw that Dick Enberg died. He was the winner of the Frick Award in 2015 for his broadcasting career. That gives him a picture in the Hall of Fame.

During his career he broadcast a number of different sports including tennis, football, and basketball. For the purposes of this site he did radio work for the Angels, television work for the Padres, and broadcast the World Series. He was 82.

RIP, Dick Enberg.

“Betty the Bum” and the Belles

December 19, 2017

Racine Belles

When I was a kid in the Texas Panhandle we didn’t have “bag ladies,” primarily because the term hadn’t gotten that far west yet. The city fathers (and mothers) would tell you that the kind of riff raff that became “bag ladies” were simply “bums” and our town didn’t like them or want them around. Despite pronouncements like that, we had one. Ours was called “Betty the Bum.”

The last couple of years before I graduated from high school, I worked in the evenings in the tallest building in town (it had six floors). One of the companies in town controlled the top couple of floors in the building and hired high school kids (all boys) to serve as evening janitors. It was fairly typical janitorial work, sweeping floors, emptying trash, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming the rooms that had carpets. All the corner offices were carpeted so I learned that “corner offices” were where the bigwigs hung out.

Betty hung out in the first floor lobby. It was a big open space with a pair of elevators, a barber shop, and a pharmacy. There was a set of stairs that ran up to the top floors, but most people took the elevators. Betty came in about 4pm and sat down on the floor opposite the elevators and just away from the pharmacy entrance. She stayed there overnight because it was warm in the winter and cool in the 100 degree West Texas summers. She didn’t actually beg, but simply sat there for the comfort of being out of the elements. Occasionally someone would flip her a quarter.

She was probably in her 40s, but looked 60. The hair was gray by this point. There was no makeup and the face was dirty. So were the hands and the fingernails were way too long. She tended to wear the same outfit for a few months, then wander into the local main street mission for a shower and a change of clothing. My folks knew the minister at the big Methodist church in town. There were about four Methodist churches in town and I never knew the differences (I don’t do theology), but the biggest ran the mission. He told them that Betty was a semi-regular who showed up for a meal, a cot, and a change of clothes every so often, but he knew nothing about her. He had no idea about her life story (and neither did I). He did say that she seemed nice.

Most of us working the janitorial shift agreed. She’d smile at us (for some reason she still had all her teeth) when we came down and we’d occasionally talk with her for a few minutes. We got paid twice a month and on payday we’d head over to the pharmacy (which was open until 10pm) to cash our checks. There was this good-looking girl who ran the cash register and most of us just wanted to see her and cashing the check there made that possible. Generally someone would buy a candy bar and hand it to Betty on the way out. She’d say thanks and start on it right away.

Sometimes we’d actually have something like a conversation. Generally they were simple things like the weather or sports. And then one day she told us she’d played professional baseball. Well, we all figured she was making that up. Heck, everybody knew girls didn’t play baseball, especially professional baseball. She’d even got specific, she’d played for something called the Racine Belles. We figured that had to be a softball team of some sort and none of us knew where Racine was. I found an encyclopedia and told the guys that Racine was in Wisconsin, but there was nothing about a baseball team, especially a baseball team for girls. Not a one of us had ever heard of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The Belles were really good. Formed in 1943 they lasted through the 1950 season before moving to Battle Creek. In 1943 they won the first ever AAGPBL championship and won again in 1946. In 1948 they won the Western Division championship, losing a first round playoff to the team from South Bend, Indiana (the Rockford, Illinois Peaches won the title in ’48). If she played for them at all, she played for a good team.

Betty was pretty non-specific about when she’d played or what position but she was adamant she had played. There were no long stories about what she’d done or who she’d played with. And she never mentioned a pennant. So adding that to the fact that we all just knew for sure that there were no girls in the big leagues we basically blew it off as some bum telling a tall tale.

I more or less dismissed Betty from my mind after I left to join the Army. I don’t recall ever seeing her again and I don’t know what happened to her. I’m not even sure “Betty” was her name, it was just what we called her. (It was good alliteration, but I’m not certain I knew what that was.) She would answer to it, but I’m not sure she wouldn’t have answered to about anything. I looked up the Belles roster and found one Elizabeth and two Bettys. All three are well enough attested that I’m certain they never were a “bag lady” in the Texas Panhandle. So I don’t know if she told the truth or not, but it was a good story that I hoped was true.


Hope for Hall of Fame Pitchers

December 14, 2017

Ferguson Jenkins

There are two relatively new trends occurring in Hall of Fame voting (both BBWAA and the various Veteran’s Committees) that bear watching closely. Both may, and I stress “may,” lead to new candidates getting a better shot at election, and “Old Timers” getting a better second look. To me, they are hopeful signs.

In 1991 Ferguson Jenkins made the Hall of Fame. In 1992 the Veteran’s Committee of the day elected Hal Newhouser. In 1996 the Vets again elected a pitcher, Jim Bunning. Then it took all the way to 2011 to elect Bert Blyleven. Other than those four (and a number of relievers and Negro League pitchers, both of which are different from starters) the Hall elected only 300 game winners. It seemed that the key to getting your ticket stamped for Cooperstown as a starter was to win 300 games. Then came 2015 and John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and now Jack Morris. None won 300 games (none got overly close–Morris had 254). I think that’s a hopeful sign that the reliance on 300 wins as the metric for election is going away. I suppose there are a number of reasons why (like all the 300 winners are already in and you still want to put in a starter or two now and then just because you can) but to me it’s most important not for the reasons why but because it opens up the possibility of other non-300 game winners reaching Cooperstown. I’m one of those that believes Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina ought to be enshrined and neither got near 300 wins. So the new willingness to add in pitchers with lower win totals makes that much more possible.

Whatever you think of Morris making the Hall of Fame, he has one positive for pitchers still waiting, an enormous ERA. His 3.90 ERA is well above what you normally see in a Hall of Fame pitcher. There are a lot of Deadball guys with ERAs under three and several later starters with ERA’s in the mid-threes, but Morris is an outlier and that to me is a hopeful sign also. Because now it becomes more difficult to dismiss a pitcher simply because he has a high ERA. Andy Pettitte with his high ERA is on the horizon (and I mention him here without reference to steroid issues). Wes Ferrell, an excellent pitcher from the 1930s with an ERA over four suddenly has a better chance for Cooperstown (without reference to his bat, which I believe few voters will consider). There is also Mel Harder and George Earnshaw (neither of which I’m convinced are Hall of Fame quality, but ought to get another look) and a number of others like Eddie Rommel (whose ERA is near Mussina’s) and Bill Sherdel deserve another look (and again I’m not convinced either is up to Hall standards).

It is sometimes very difficult to be hopeful when discussing the Hall of Fame voting. But these are good signs moving forward. It will be interesting to see if either is maintained.




Modern Era Committee Speaks

December 11, 2017

The first of the two Hall of Fame votes for this season is done. The Modern Era Committee, one of the four current versions of the Veteran’s Committee just announced their picks for addition to Cooperstown: Alan Trammell and Jack Morris.


Trammell was new to the ballot, having just fallen off the BBWAA ballot short of election. He played shortstop for Detroit during his entire career. I’m not sure who the top 10 all time shortstops are (Honus Wagner and nine other guys is a good bet) but Trammell legitimately belongs in the argument.

Morris with Minnesota

For a while Morris was a teammate of Trammell’s. They won the 1984 World Series together. Later Morris moved on to Minnesota where he won another World Series (and was Series MVP), then headed to Toronto for two more championships.

I have no problem with either man making the Hall of Fame. I’ll admit to being more pleased with Trammell than with Morris, but I’m not opposed to either being there. I’m very surprised to see Marvin Miller fail election again. MLB’s website says he got 7 votes (of 16 possible). Ted Simmons I feel a little sorry for. Needing 12 votes to get elected (of 16) Simmons got 11. That’s kind of a shame, but it also surprises me and gives me hope for Simmons in the future.. And BTW the same site says Trammell got 14 votes and Morris 13.

The Morris election is, to me, a hopeful sign for other players. Traditionally high ERA’s have been a disqualifier to election for the Hall of Fame. With Morris now in with an ERA just south of four it may open up the Hall for other pitchers like Mel Harder and Wes Ferrell, as well as current nominee Mike Mussina (who’s ERA would be high for the Hall). We’ll see if that works (and none of this is meant to indicate whether I indorse Ferrell and/or Harder for the Hall or not).

So congratulations to both on their election. Now we get to see (in January) what the other vote does.


2017 Hall of Fame Ballot

December 5, 2017


Chipper Jones

I’ve spent the last while waxing wonderful (I do that, you know) about the Modern Era Veteran’s Committee’s upcoming vote, that I’ve basically set the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot on the back burner. As I can pretty much only do one thing at a time anymore (doing two things at once is now doing three too many), that was the right thing for me. But now it’s time to weigh in on the players who will be announced in January.

The rules allow for 10 picks and as I believe in voting as many times as they’ll let me I’m picking 10 guys again this year. Some years because of a weak ballot, that’s not the best idea in the world, but this year there are a lot of really worthy candidates for the Hall so I’ve actually had to eliminate some I might otherwise at least consider. Normally I write-up short blurbs attempting to justify my choice of a particular player for the Hall of Fame. Well, I’m tired, I’ve done it a gazillion times, so this year I’m going to skip it for most of my list. Because most of the list consists of holdovers from 2016. So seven of my picks are seven players I’ve chosen before: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Shilling, and Larry Walker. If you want to know my reasons for each, find the post about this time last year when I wrote about each. Having written all that, there are still three spots on the 10 man ballot. All are new guys and all deserve a comment, in alphabetical order.

Chipper Jones: During my lifetime baseball has produced an inordinate number of truly great third basemen, Brook Robinson, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, George Brett (in no particular order). Chipper Jones deserves recognition as a member of that group. He has an MVP award which maybe he shouldn’t, but there is nothing wrong with his statistics with either the bat or the glove. As “first ballot Hall of Famer” has become a thing, I think he probably deserves to be one of them.

Scott Rolen: Hear me out before you yelp. Rolen doesn’t have the big offensive numbers that guys like Jones, Mathews, and Schmidt have, but he was an excellent hitter. His OPS+ is 122, his offensive WAR is 52.1. That’s good enough for consideration. But he was an amazing defensive player. His defensive WAR is 20.6, he’s 11th in career assists, is top 20 in both double plays turned, and fielding percentage. He has a Rookie of the Year award (which he probably deserved). He’s going to have trouble making the Hall because he followed Schmidt at Philadelphia and he wasn’t Schmidt (but then neither was anyone else) and he’s up against Jones who was always more well known, played for a more popular team, and was flashier. I just want him to get enough votes so he’ll hang on the list. Then maybe voters will take time to look over his career and move him up the ballot and ultimately into the Hall.

Jim Thome: You get 600 home runs without a whiff of steroids in the steroid era you should automatically get consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s Jim Thome. But he also has 1699 RBIs (what? He couldn’t stay around for one more?), an OPS of .956 with an OPS+ of 147, and 77.1 WAR. But then he struck out a lot, you say. Yeah, he did, but he also walked a lot, leading his league in both three times. And of course he got bigger as time went on (so did I, but I’m not talking about around the waist) and that surely will lead someone to go “Ah ha, steroids.” We’ll see how well he does. I expect him to stay on the list, if not be elected.

So there’s my list. I’m sticking with seven previous picks and adding three new ones. Good luck to all of them.