Monthly archives: October 2006
Silas Simmons: 1895-2006
Silas Simmons, who played Negro League baseball from 1912-1929, and was believed to be the oldest professional baseball player ever passed away in Saint Petersburg, Florida at the age of 111.
Simmons stopped playing pro ball the same year my parents were born.
When Jackie Robinson started playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Simmons was 51.
Simmons was born when Grover Cleveland was president.
Simmons's death is even news in Chile, not a hotbed of baseball.
America's loss is Cincinnati's bigger loss
Earlier in the month, the Cincinnati Reds relieved many baseball viewers (especially those in Arizona) of the horror that is listening to Thom Brennaman. "Listen to my voice. It's STENTORIAN! EVERTYHING I SAY IS OF GREAT IMPORT! But now I will go back down to a lower register."
The Reds today announced that they have hired Jeff Brantley from ESPN for their local TV and radio broadcasts. Brantley's mullet was unavailable for comment.
Are any of these men truly free agents?
They've filed for free agency, but in a world like ours is any man truly free.
Cite examples where relevant.
Thanks to bhsporstsguy for the link.
Speaking of agents, I found a part of this NFL-related story odd. It's regarding Drew Brees asking his mother to stop using his image in her campaign commercials running for a spot on the Court of Appeals in Texas.
Drew Brees, who won a state football championship with Westlake High School in suburban Austin, said he got no response from his mother when he first heard about the ads and called her to ask that she stop using them. His agent sent her a letter Oct. 20 threatening legal action, he said.
"Mom, did you line up the endorsement deal with Nike?"
Harold Reynolds tries to get back at ESPN
After the firing, comes the not unexpected wrongful termination lawsuit. I think Reynolds is claiming that ESPN hired Steve Lyons to try to steal his wallet.
Why the Cardinals won (interesting version)
Brian Gunn's article in The Hardball Times discusses the reasons why the St. Louis Cardinals were able to win the World Series.
Gunn does a great job of weaving both analytical and emotional viewpoints of the Cardinals win.
Link spotted at Rich Lederer's Baseball Analysts site.
Free agent filings
A list of players who have filed for free agency is now up on MLB.com.
Thanks to bhsportsguy for the tip.
The Cardinals path to power
Pieced together from MLB.com's transactions from the end of last season until the end of the 2006 regular season:
Hillman to interview with three MLB teams
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman, who piloted his team to its first Japan Series title, in 44 years, will be interviewing with three MLB teams in the coming days: the Rangers, Athletics, and Padres.
Hillman still is under contract with the Fighters and expected to manage them in the Asia Series starting on November 12. The city of Sapporo is planning a parade for the Fighters on November 18. Apparently, victory parades in Japan require a lot of lead time.
Apparently, you can sob, but not cry in baseball in Japan
The Daily Yomiuri has reports on the emotional reactions in Sapporo after the Nippon Ham Fighters Japan Series win. Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Atsunori Inaba, and Satoru Kanemura all cried during press conferences.
David Eckstein wouldn't cry.
Joe Niekro: 1944-2006
In case you missed this among the hubbub of the end of the World Series, but Joe Niekro passed away Friday from an aneurysm in Florida. Joe Niekro was 61.
Awww, he's so cute
Doesn't everybody like David Eckstein?
The last man left standing
Checking back on the Toaster's pre-season predictions, you will see that Ken Arneson is indeed a prophet.
The Tigers hadn't lost a World Series in 66 years!
Game 5.0 WS 2006, Service Pack 1
Bochy leading candidate to become manager in San Francisco
Current Padres manager Bruce Bochy appears to be the leading candidate to take over in San Francisco for Felipe Alou. Bochy has managed the Padres for 12 seasons.
Bochy will also manage the MLB All-Star team on its Japan tour.
World Series Game 4.1 Chat
Today's World Series fact: Christian Doppler, identifier of the Doppler Effect, died in 1853, and never saw Doppler radar in effect.
Latest St. Louis Weather Forecast
Fighters win first Japan Series crown since 1962
With a 4-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters won the franchise's first Japan Series title since 1962, when the team was called the Toei Flyers.
Is Fighters manager Trey Hillman coming to a dugout near you? That is, if you live in Texas.
'Floyd shoulda bunted!'
Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal in his Numbers Guy column is still bemoaning why Willie Randolph didn't order Cliff Floyd to bunt in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS.
But the article's concludes that there may be no definite answer.
Still, it's unlikely that any team managers are crunching such numbers in the dugout. These analyses entail "a level of complexity that works well in theory but is hard to execute in game conditions," Mr. Woolner told me. Armchair managers, however, can track game situations using a win-expectancy calculator at walkoffbalk.com, or by using Mr. Fox's free software application, Big League Pocket Manager.
Game 4 chat, in theory, weather permitting
Fighters one win away from Japan Series title
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at the Sapporo Dome to take a 3-1 lead in the Japan Series.
Game 5 is Thursday (2 am PT and 5 am ET) in Sapporo.
Advice for people wanting to watch Game 4
Meet me in St. Louis, Nate and Chris, World Series Game 3 Chat
Now that was cold
The gametime temperature in Detroit Sunday night was listed at 42 degrees, but back on October 12, 1909 Game 4 of the World Series at Detroit's Bennett Park was recording a gametime temperature of 34 degrees according to the New York Times report of the day.
Apparently, cold weather and the Tigers agree with each other as Detroit won that day 5-0 behind a five-hit shutout by George Mullin, who also struck out 10 Pirates.
It was also the first game in the majors to have four umpires. Bill Klem worked the plate, Billy Evans worked the bases, while Silk O'Laughlin and Jim Johnstone worked the outfield lines. Temporary seating used in Game 2 at Forbes Field had made it difficult for a two-man crew to call fair/foul balls down the lines and it was decided that it was best to use the four umpires available to help out.
The Pirates didn't seem to enjoy the frigid weather much, making six errors.
Game 5 was played in Pittsburgh the next day in weather estimated between 35 and 40 degrees. Pittsburgh won that one 8-4 thanks in part to a 3-run homer by player-manager Fred Clarke that bounced over the fence (which counted as a home run at the time).
Game 6 was back in Detroit one day later and Mullin won again for the Tigers 5-4 in temperatures estimated at 40 degrees.
There was one day off before Game 7 in Detroit to let the Tigers try to sell tickets (the site wasn't determined until after Game 5). It was the first time the World Series had reached its limit (the 1903 series went 8 games, but was best of 9), and the Pirates, behind rookie Babe Adams, shut out the Tigers, 8-0. The thermometer managed to hit 50 for the game, but only 17,562 fans paid to get in to Bennett Park.
A job that is truly cursed
Ken Macha was orignally chosen to manage the MLB All-Star team headed to Japan, but then he got fired. Terry Francona was chosen to replace him, but he can't do it after being hospitalized with an infection in his foot.
Bruce Bochy could be the next person chosen for the job, although he could be switching jobs as he is interviewing in San Francisco.
With Hal McRae playing the part of Emile Zola
But the St. Louis Cardinals team has now gone on record in USA Today saying that Kenny Rogers was both putting pine tar on the baseball Sunday AND scuffing it too.
"It was so blatant," Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae told USA TODAY on Monday. "What was so strange about it was how obvious it was, in the World Series. It's a shame a guy would cheat in a World Series game. It hurts the integrity of the game.
Rogers says he's innocent. No Devil's Island for him.
Fighters take 2-1 Japan Series lead
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters took a 2-1 lead in the Japan Series with a 6-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons at the Sapporo Dome.
Deanna Rubin's report from Seattle Mariners.
Japanball.com's report from the Kyodo News Wire. Game 3 is Wednesday (around 2 am PT and 5 am ET).
What might have been
When you get to the Notre Dame campus for a football game, it's pretty obvious that you are entering a different world of college football fandom.
However, it wasn't just seeing nuns outside the stadium that made it different. It is quite a different atmosphere than this Pac-10 fan is used to.
For the most part, the fans of Notre Dame are exceedingly, if not somewhat creepily polite to visitors. If you wear visiting colors to the game, you are continually greeted by Notre Dame fans saying "Welcome to South Bend, I hope you enjoy the game." For the most part, I think the fans were sincere. There might have been a few people putting on a show, but they were in a definite minority. The ushers at the stadium, who are headed by the estimable Cappy Gagnon to whom I owe many thanks for all his help in arranging tickets and parking for my brother and I, are definitely sincere in their good cheer. If my father had liked football (which he didn't) and lived in the South Bend area, he would have made a perfect usher at Notre Dame Stadium.
Not counting trips to the Coliseum to see USC games, I've only seen UCLA play on the road four times. Once against BYU at the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, twice at Berkeley, and once at Stanford. In general, UCLA fans don't travel anywhere. They don't like to travel to Pasadena for home games. But UCLA sold out its full allotment of 5,000 tickets and there were likely a few more thousand than that squeezed into the 80,000 or so people at Notre Dame Stadium. It was quite a sight. Even the band made the trip.
The weather was supposed to be awful, but it turned out to be an almost perfect day for watching college football with temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s during the game. Prior to the game, the Notre Dame band played the UCLA fight song. Then the pregame festivities started with the PA announcer reciting the Preamble to the Consitution. Of course, being a child of the 1970s, I can only recite that this way. Then we got to hear the opening of the Declaration of Independence. And the band played "America the Beautiful". After that, I put my cap back on and sat down on my bench (which looks like it was sat on by people who watched the Four Horsemen play). Then my brother reminded me that they still were going to play the National Anthem. And after that and a flyover by a very loud jet, it was time to get started.
As for the details of the game, I think we all know what happened. I don't want to rehash it. It didn't feel like a punch in the gut to me. It was more like a bad dream. After all is a dream a lie that doesn't come true or is it something worse? Well, I think know the answer to that question now. It's something worse. (I didn't go down to any river though.)
I actually have much different memories to take back from the game. I remember the two guys sitting behind me who were straight out of a "Saturday Night Live" sketch with their Chicago accents. One guy was a fan of "Da Bears" and the fact that the winning touchdown was scored by Jeff Samardzija just made it a perfect day for them. They operated sort of like a Greek chorus during the game with their comments about the ineptitude of the Notre Dame offense for the first 58 minutes and 58 seconds of the game. At one point in the game, I felt one of the guys rubbing his hand on my back, which I found odd. He told me had spilled popcorn on me. I'm choosing to believe that explanation.
Another thing you don't hear too often over the PA system at a football game is an announcement of when Masses would be celebrated after the game. If you're ever at Notre Dame, remember that the shuttles to the parking lots run UNTIL all the Masses are over. Personally, I believe going to a football game on a Saturday afternoon should satisfy my Sunday Mass obligation, but I was not able to gain a lot of support for that position.
Notre Dame Stadium is supposed to be an intimidating place to play for visitors, but UCLA didn't seem scared at all during the game. Notre Dame does not have a crowd that is particularly loud, although that could have been because Notre Dame played so poorly for much of the game. Also, a few fans bailed out early on the game. Not to the same extent that UCLA fans leave the Rose Bowl early, but a few thousand fans headed out early by my estimate.
Needless to say, the Notre Dame fans who stayed were deliriously happy. And I didn't hear a single Notre Dame fan taunt me on the way out. I could say that if the situations were reversed, that UCLA fans would have been equally magnanimous, but I doubt it. UCLA fans are not exactly known for being gracious in victory. It's just not in our nature. It likely stems from playing second fiddle to USC in football for well, a long time combined with a sense of entitlement after winning 11 basketball championships.
I've been trying to think of slogans to describe the UCLA football experience:
"Underachieving since 1954!"
But maybe I should just imagine a happier ending to last Saturday's game.
Thanks to reader tjshere for that bit of work. And another T.J. is sympathetic.
No Cardinals-Tigers World Series is complete without this
David Davis of SoCal Sports Observed, one of the foremost authorities on National Anthems sung before big sporting events in addition to be a great writer and an acquaintance of mine, recaps the controversy from 1968 when Jose Feliciano sang the National Anthem before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series.
You can listen to an MP3 of Feliciano's rendition at this link.
Neil Diamond and baseball's foreign-born players
The National Foundation for American Policy has issued a relatively long (by internet browsing standards) of foreign-born players in the majors. It's titled "Coming to America". The link is to a pdf file.
Survival of the fittest or just fun to watch?
Major League Baseball has apparently reached a crisis in this year's World Series. The reason: the 83-78, .516 winning percentage, St. Louis Cardinals are playing in the World Series. This doesn't seem to sit well with some people. And I can understand that to some extent. Why doesn't baseball match up the teams with the two best records in each league like it did from 1903 through 1968?
Well, it doesn't. So baseball fans need to learn to live with inequities that arise when a sport that is designed to reward teams that succeed over the long haul only to see the ultimate champion decided by a short series of games.
But here is the problem: do you want a system that is designed to reward the team with the best record in the league (of course the schedules aren't equal) or do you want a system that's exciting? I suppose you could have both, but I haven't seen anything that replaces the current playoff system that's any better. There all variations on the same theme. There's nothing that will keep a team that has a .516 winning percentage out of the World Series unless you go back to a single division in each league and also eliminate interleague play. The lowest winning percentages for league champions prior to 1968 were .564 in the NL (the 1959 Dodgers) and .568 in the AL (the 1967 Red Sox).
Personally, I don't get too worked up over who is "deserving" of being the World Series champion. Baseball to me is a long drama with many characters. The biggest stars (such as Albert Pujols) get the most attention just like in any dramatic production, but occasionally a supporting character (such as Yadier Molina) takes the spotlight. If that's not what you like then you might just want to get ready for the start of the NBA season.
I'll be off wondering who will be the next Brian Doyle or Al Weis.
Sigh, they'll never learn
Headline on ESPN.com
If you read the AP story, they use the correct name of the team, the Fighters.
See for yourself:
Fighters tie Japan Series at 1-1
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters rallied with a pair of runs in the seventh and another pair in the eighth to beat the Chunichi Dragons, 5-2, at Nagoya Dome.
You can again read Deanna Rubin's recap of the game at her Seattle Marinerds site.
The Japan Series resumes Tuesday in Sapporo.
Dragons win Game 1 of Japan Series
The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 4-2 at the Nagoya Dome to win Game 1 of the 2006 Japan Series.
You can read Deanna Rubin's semi-live blogging recap of the game at her site, Seattle Marinerds.
Off to South Bend for me. Light a candle in the Grotto for me. It's going to be a long day for this UCLA fan.
World Series miscellanea
I'm guessing that there will be a fair share of stories in the media about the 1934 World Series and even more about the 1968 World Series. Names you can expect to hear mentioned a lot in the next few days: Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick, Schoolboy Rowe, Hank Greenberg, Leo Durocher, Mayo Smith, Mickey Stanley, Bob Gibson, Ray Oyler, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, Jose Feliciano, Pepper Martin, Don Wert, and Mickey Lolich. And a cast of many more.
The 2006 World Series is going to be burdened a bit by the history of the 1934 and 1968 World Series, two of the most interesting World Series ever played.
But some assorted facts:
Hall of Famers who played in the 1934 World Series:
Hall of Famers who played in the 1968 World Series:
Although 1934 was a much bigger offensive than 1968 (pretty much every year has had more offense than 1968), the 1968 series featured 15 home runs to just 4 in 1934. In 1968 two pitchers hit home runs: Gibson and Lolich. Lolich never hit one during the regular season in his career. The 1934 home runs were a pair from each team: Gehringer and Greenberg for Detroit; Medwick and 22-year old catcher Bill DeLancey.
We will be certain to see newsreel footage of Detroit fans throwing garbage at Medwick toward the end of Game 7, which resulted in Medwick being removed from the game for his own protection in favor of Chick Fullis. The garbage being thrown out at Medwick is almost always described in history books as "overrripe fruit." This leads to the question: did people routinely go to markets and buy fruit that was overripe and then bring it to baseball games on the offchance that they wanted to throw it at somebody? Was none of the fruit ripe? Wouldn't ripe fruit hurt more anyway?
TV viewers can try to guess how often Tim McCarver brings up Bob Gibson on the air. Once every three innings? Once every two innings? Make it a contest.
Scott Spiezio will join father Ed in playing in World Series games against the Tigers. Ed had pinch hit single in the ninth inning of Game 5 in Detroit batting of Dal (0 for 22) Maxvill. They are, I believe from a quick check, the first father-son combination to play in World Series for the Cardinals. Chris Duncan will have a chance to try to better his father Dave's mark in the World Series. Dave Duncan appeared in three games for the 1972 A's during their seven-game win over the Reds.
The Cardinals will be looking for World Series championship #10, which would make them the first National League team to reach double digits. But the Cardinals have lost their last three trips to the World Series (1985, 1987, 2004). The Tigers are looking for title #5 and have not lost in the World Series since 1940. Of course, the Tigers have played in just three World Series since 1940. Of the Tigers four World Series wins, two have come against the Cubs and one against the Padres. The Tigers hold the unique distinction of having a losing record overall against the Cubs in World Series play.
The Tigers were the first American League team to ever win three straight pennants, back from 1907-09, but they lost in the World Series each time, twice to the Cubs and once to the Pirates.
Since the Cardinals were in the World Series just two years ago, they have several players on their roster with previous World Series experience (Looper, Suppan, Weaver, Molina, Eckstein, Pujols, Spiezio, Rolen, Edmonds, Encarnacion, Taguchi), the Tigers have just two (Kenny Rogers and Ivan Rodriguez).
Elden Auker, who started and lost Game 7 of the 1934 World Series for the Tigers, was the last surviving player from that series. He passed away at age 94 on August 4 at age 95. One of his catchers, Ray Hayworth, died in 2002 at the age of 98. Billy Rogell, the Tigers starting shortstop in 1934, passed away in 2003 at age 99.
Among participants in the 1968 World Series, six Tigers have passed on (Norm Cash, Eddie Mathews, Don McMahon, Ray Oyler, Joe Sparma, and Earl Wilson). Six Cardinals have passed away: Nelson Briles, Ron Davis, Joe Hoerner, Curt Flood, Roger Maris, and Ron Willis.
Bochy gets permission to interview in San Francisco
Bruce Bochy, who has managed the Padres since 1995, has received permission to interview with the Giants for their vacant managerial position.
Other candidates include Bud Black, Jerry Manuel, Ron Wotus, and Manny Acta.
Brian Sabean might want to tell Bochy about his bullpen options in San Francisco. "Well, the best guy is Mike Stanton ..."
Less Fox, more Turner in baseball's postseason future
TBS and Major League Baseball agreed to a 7-year contract where TBS will alternate coverage of one of the LCS with Fox. Starting in 2007, TBS will cover the NLCS in odd numbered years through 2013 and the ALCS in 2008, 2010, and 2012. TBS will also show the Division Series games next year, along with TNT.
New coaches popping up all over
The Phillies are adding Art Howe, Davey Lopes, and Jimy Williams to Charlie Manuel's coaching staff.
The Nationals will keep Randy St. Claire, but all the other coaches won't know if they will stay on after a new manager is hired.
The Red Sox have hired John Farrell to be their new pitching coach.
And the weather is bad enough in St. Louis that Game 5 will be played Tuesday.
Live from Narita Airport!
My 8-day sojourn to Japan was capped off Sunday by going to see one of the last regular season games of the year in the Central League over at Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo where the home team Tokyo Yakult Swallows hosted the Yomiuri Giants. It was the last game of the year for the Giants and the next to last for the Swallows.
Normally, a game involving the Giants would be sold out, but this year, after a hot start, the Giants finished in fourth place and came in to the game with a 65-78-2 record. The Swallows were in third at 69-72-3. The Chunichi Dragons of Nagoya had already clinched the pennant as the Central League didn't have any playoffs this year.
It was a cool and breezy night in Tokyo and at Meiji Jingu the wind was blowing straight in from center field at a good clip so I had a feeling that if anyone was going to hit a home run this night, it would have to be someone like Ryan Howard. And Howard wasn't there.
The Swallows ended up winning the game 2-0 although the field was littered with baserunners all game. The Giants stranded 11 runners and the Swallows left 12. The Giants were never retired in order and the Swallows went down in order just once and left the bases loaded twice.
Yakult (probably the only professional sports team in the world with an Esperanto name), scored in the second when first baseman Adam Riggs doubled and came around to score on a single by right field Ryjui Miyade. The Swallows picked up an unearned run in the eighth when a two-out throwing error by Giants shortstop Tomohiro Nioka extended the inning and center fielder Norichika Aoki blooped a single into left to score an insurance run.
Swallows starting pitcher Ryo Kawashima struck out 10 in seven innings of work to get the win and Shohei Tateyama picked up the save.
Yakult's player-manager Astuya Furuta gave a couple of his old stars curtain calls. Veteran second baseman (37 years old) Katsuyuki Dobashi got a start and singled in his third at bat. Furuta sent him out to his position in the top of the sixth and then replaced him to the wild cheers of the Yakult fans. Dobashi broke in with the Swallows back in 1987 and he ended his 20-year career with a hit.
Another big cheer came in the top of the ninth when Futoshi Yamabe came in (along with Furuta) and got a strikeout to start the ninth. Furuta then pulled him in favor of Tateyama and the crowd gave Yamabe a cheer as if they knew he wasn't coming back. He's 35 years old and was the team's #1 pick back in 1994 and is also retiring.
And so here I am in the Northwest Airlines lounge typing away, waiting to wing my way back to the US. No longer will the LCS games come on TV at 9 am. Back to the weird 5:05 starts.
I know that for a lot of people a trip to Japan seems quite intimidating. The language barrier seems impenetrable and the prices are supposed to be astronomical. Well, the language barrier can be passed if you just try to learn to say "please" and "excuse me" and smile and be polite. The average Japanese person will go out of their way to help you find your way to where you're going. And the prices aren't all that outrageous if you know where to go. You can buy meals in Japan for a similar price as you would in the US as long as you go to the right places. Or if you want, you can go to McDonald's. It's basically the same thing as it is in the US although my Filet O' Fish had shrimp in it.
One good thing about Japan is that it is a very safe place to visit (provided the North Koreans don't lob a nuke in.) And by all means you have to go see a baseball game. It's an experience you won't forget. Even a fairly dreary game between two teams playing out the string had a lively crowd. You may see a scoreboard filled with Japanese, but once the game starts, it's baseball. It's still a pitcher versus a hitter. It's the game people in the U.S. know and love and it's the game people in Japan know and love.
And the most unforgettable experience for me on this trip was my good fortune of seeing the Pacific League playoff series. In the two games, there were three complete games by pitchers. No team had an extra base hit in either game. It was almost as if I had stepped back in to the Deadball Era except I was in a domed stadium with artificial turf. And in the final game, the last play still seems to exist now in my memory in slow motion. The grounder up the middle smothered by the second baseman. The throw to the shortstop in a desperate attempt for a force out. The umpire calling safe while the runner on second steamed home and realized that once he touched home, his team had won the pennant. It happened so fast, yet it know seems to be replayed in my head slowly.
I can only hope that there will still be a playoff game in the US that will match what I saw in Sapporo for excitement. I will check in on Monday night.
Plane carrying Alex Rodriguez in mishap, but no one hurt
An airplane carrying Alex Rodriguez and six others overran the runway at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, but no one was hurt in the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
The view from Japan of the NLCS
So Taguchi is a very popular man in Japan right now.
The friends I am staying with asked me why he did not play so much. I said "He can't hit Billy Wagner."
I will say no more.
The ALCS games here are shown on tape delay (the day ones), but you already know who has won.
A graphic on a news program showed the four teams playing in the LCS depicted with an A's logo, a Tigers logo, a Mets logo, and a picture of So Taguchi.
Fighters go to the Japan Series for the first time in 25 years
Hichori Morimoto scored from second on an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Nippon Ham Fighters a thrilling 1-0 win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and win the Pacific League pennant for the first time in 25 years and advance to the Japan Series on October 21. The Fighters, given a one-game advantage to start the series, won it 3-0 in just two games!
Morimoto dashed home from second when the runner on first, Michihiro Ogasawara, was able to just beat a force attempt by second baseman Taadatsu Nakazawa to shortstop Munenori Kawasaki on a grounder by Atsunori Inaba. As the umpire signaled Ogasawara safe, Morimoto was already more than halfway home and scored easily with the game's only run.
Food choices in Sapporo
I'm aware that for many of us this is a somewhat grim day, so please don't think I'm insenstive. I'm just posting a couple photos of my dining choices here in Sapporo
Should I eat a Bobby Valentine Lotte Burger?
Note the size of the burger in Valentine's hand. You can't get too fat on those burgers.
Or should I eat the world's largest crab?
Darvish puts the Fighters one win away
Yu Darvish, a 20-year old righthander who is likely going to be the greatest Japanese-Iranian baseball player ever, tossed a complete game victory as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 3-1 before a sold out crowd at the Sapporo Dome in Game 1 of the 2nd Leg of the Pacific League Playoff. (That's how it was referred to on the scoreboard.)
Darvish needed 138 pitches to complete an 11 strikeout performance that saw him give up seven hits, walk three, and hit two batters. The Hawks stranded 10 men and were retired in order only once. But Darvish didn't appear to be tiring, striking out Naoyuki Omura to end the game.
The Fighters can wrap up the Pacific League pennant with a win Thursday night at home. Kazumi Saito (18-5, 1.75 in the regular season) will pitch for SoftBank and Tomoya Yagi (12-8, 2.48) is scheduled to start for Nippon Ham. The Hawks need to win three games to win the pennant, but the Fighters need just two wins in the series because they were the regular season champs. Games 3 and 4 if necessary would be played Saturday and Sunday in Fukuoka at the Yahoo Dome.
Gearing up for Game 1 of the PL playoffs
In just a few hours, the second round of the Pacific League playoffs will get underway at the Sapporo Dome. Game time is 6 pm local time, or 2 am PT or 5 am ET. The matchup will be between the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and the hometown Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Hawks, skippered by interim manager Koji Moriwaki, will be starting lefthander Toshiya Sugiuchi, who was 7-5 with a 3.53 ERA this season in 22 games for 132 2/3 IP. The Fighters, led by manager Trey Hillman, counter with 20-year old righthander Yu Darvish. Darvish was 12-5 with a 2.89 ERA.
Nippon Ham won 12 of the 20 meetings this year against SoftBank and enter the four-game series with a one-game edge as a reward for finishing first in the Pacific League. Another aspect of this reward is that Hillman will be able to run out his pitchers in the order he wants them. Moriwaki had to use his ace, Kazumi Saito, in Game 1 of the opening series against Seibu. Saito lost a 1-0 decision to Daisuke Matsuzaka, although the Hawks bounced back to win the final two games in convincing fashion.
The Hawks faced the Fighters in two games in the final week and lost both of them at the Sapporo Dome, 8-0 and 4-1. If the Fighters can win the first two games, they could end the series and save everyone (including me) a trip to Fukuoka for the final two games.
Nippon Ham has an edge in runs scored (567 to 553) and home runs (135 to 82). Each time has a power-hitting, free swinging Panamanian slugger. The Hawks have Julio Zuleta, who led the team with 29 home runs, while striking out 112 and drawing just 47 walks. The Fighters have Fernando Seguignol, who hit 26 homers with 119 strikeouts and just 40 walks.
Hillman has wanted his team to emphasize OBP and power hitting as opposed to the sacrifice and other "small ball" tactics that are more popular in Japan. However, the most walks by any Fighters hitter this year is just 73 by Michihiro "Guts" Ogasawara. He also led the Fighters in homers and the Pacific League with 32 homers.
The Walking Man of the Pacific League is on the Hawks. Nobuhiko Matsunaka drew 102 free passes against just 37 strikeouts.
Other former MLB players who might play include Jolbert Cabrera for the Hawks and Jose Macias, Micheal Nakamura, and Tsyuyoshi Shinjo. Shinjo (who is listed on the scoreboard always as SHINJO) has announced his retirement at the end of this season.
If you're reading this as I post, you must live on the East Coast
TOKYO - My watch, which has two times listed on it, says it's pushing 4 am on the West Coast of the U.S., but it's just shy of 8 pm here in Tokyo. I'm ensconsed in a hotel which is right next to Haneda Airport in Tokyo where I will board a flight tomorrow for Sapporo to go see the first two games of the Pacific League playoffs.
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters will send their young ace, Yu Darvish, out to the hill in Game 1. Darvish was 12-5 with a 2.89 ERA with 115 Ks in 149 IP. The Softbank Hawks of Fukuoka haven't named their starter yet (or they may have and I just can't read it.) If the Hawks get a win in either of the two games in Sapporo, then I get to make the long journey down to Fukuoka, which is on the opposite end of the country from Sapporo (consult your local atlas).
Because of the time my flight was scheduled to land, I was not allowed to be booked on to a connecting flight to Sapporo tonight and I have to wait till morning. Of course, since I was isn't in a hurry, I went through immigration, baggage claim, and customs in a record pace. And the flight was 30 minutes early.
But I kick back and hope to stay awake until the end of the Chunichi Dragons-Yomiuri Giants game that's on right now. It's tied 3-3 after 7 innings. If the Dragons win, they clinch the Central League title.
As for tomorrow night's game, I've been told that U.S. residents should be able to watch the game online through Yahoo Japan. If you want try this link. The game will start Wednesday night at 6 pm, which would be 2 am PT, or 5 am ET.
Or you can wait until you get up and I should have something written for you.
UPDATE - The Chunichi Dragons scored six runs in the 12th inning at the Tokyo Dome to beat the Giants 9-3 and wrap up the Central League pennant. They last won in 2004. Tyrone Woods homered twice and drove in seven runs, including a grand slam in the 12th.
Hawks move on to second round of PL playoffs
Julio Zuleta cracked a three-run homer in the eighth to break a 1-1 and give the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks a 6-1 win over the Seibu Lions at the Invoice Seibu Dome. The win propelled Softbank into the second round of the PL playoffs against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The second round is a four game series. The Fighters need to win twice while the Hawks need three wins.
10/11 - Hawks at Fighters
Hawks force a decisive Game 3
The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks forced a Game 3 in the opening round of the Pacific League playoffs with an 11-5 win over the Seibu Lions at the Invoice Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa.
After a taut 1-0 win for Seibu in Game 1, this game featured a lot of offense. Softbank second Tadaatsu Nakazawa had a 3-run double in the fourth and in the ninth, a 3-run homer by Nobuhiko Matsunaka and a solo shot from Julio Zuleta, broke game open.
Game 3 is Monday afternoon at 1 pm in Tokorozawa. That's 9 pm Sunday night on the West Coast. The Hawks will be starting Hayato Terahara, who was 3-7 with a 4.23 ERA, while Seibu will start Fumiya Nishiguchi, who was 9-9 with a 3.55 ERA.
The winner moves on to face the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Tuesday evening (6 pm) at the Sapporo Dome.
The end of Torre?
The links about him appear to have reached a critical mass, so you can take a look at the MLB.com story about a New York Daily News report that states that Joe Torre will be out as Yankees manager if he doesn't resign first. Lou Piniella would be the replacement. Apparently such orders come from on high and CANNOT BE COUNTERMANDED!
In this story in the New York Times this passage seemed interesting to me.
At 76, Steinbrenner is more of a shadowy presence than a looming threat. His son-in-law, the general partner Steve Swindal, is considered more rational than Steinbrenner, a calming presence who has a strong relationship with Torre.
Sounds like something Jim Phelps would be listening to on a tape at the beginning of "Mission: Impossible."
"Jim, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to save Torre's job by discrediting Steinbrenner and replace him with Swindal."
Cut to a scene in Jim Phelps apartment.
"Barney, have you prepared the mechanical Steinbrenner?"
Where were you in 1972?
Hoping not to steal Catfish's Stew thunder, but the ALCS matchup this year of Detroit and Oakland is a repeat of 1972.
Oakland had won the AL West for the second straight season, 5 1/2 games better than second place Chicago. The Tigers won the AL East by 1/2 game over Boston. Because of a players strike, the first two weeks of the season were cancelled and the games were never made up. So Detroit won the AL East because it got to play one more game than Boston.
In these olden times, the LCS were best of five affairs. The first two games would be played at Oakland and the last three in Detroit. And all the games would be day games as well. And the pitchers would be batting too. Billy Martin was managing Detroit and Dick Williams was at the helm of Oakland.
Game 1 in Oakland drew a crowd of just 29,356. It was a matchup between Mickey Lolich and Catfish Hunter. The Tigers got a run in the second on a home run by Norm Cash. The A's tied it in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly from Joe Rudi to score Bert Campaneris. Then there were a bunch of zeroes and in to extra innings. The Tigers got runners on first and third with nobody out in the ninth, but Rollie Fingers worked out of the jam, getting Gates Brown to pop out and Jim Northrup (who had failed to execute a squeeze play) to hit into a double play.
In the eleventh inning, Al Kaline homered to put the Tigers up 2-1. Lolich came out for the eleventh (men were men back in 1972) and gave up singles to Sal Bando (Blue Moon Odom pinch ran) and Mike Epstein singled Odom over to second. Chuck Seelbach came in to relieve. Gene Tenace tried to bunt the runners over, but Tigers third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez got to it quickly and threw to shortstop Eddie Brinkman at third for a force. Gonzalo Marquez then came off the bench to pinch hit for second baseman Dal Maxvill (Williams hated his second basemen in 1972 and almost always pinch hit for them). Marquez singled to right to score pinch runner Mike Hegan. Kaline tried to throw out Tenace at third and his throw skipped past Rodriguez and Seelbach wasn't backing up the base and Tenace came around to score the winning run. Oakland won 3-2 and took a 1-0 lead. It was the first playoff game ever won by an AL West team. The Twins and A's had gone 0-9 in the first three LCS.
Game 2 saw Odom match up against Woody Fryman. The A's struck first when Campaneris led off the first with a single and then stole second and third. Rudi cashed him in with a single. In the fifth, pinch hitter George Hendrick singled to start a four run rally for Oakland. Reggie Jackson drove in two runs with a double.
In the seventh, Detroit rookie reliever Lerrin LaGrow hit Campaneris with a pitch at his ankles. Campaneris reacted to this by hurling his bat at LaGrow and the benches emptied. Campaneris was ejected and LaGrow left the game as well. Oakland won 5-0 and had a 2-0 lead heading to Detroit.
However, AL President Joe Cronin suspended Campaneris for the balance of the ALCS. Williams countered by saying that Campaneris's ankle was too sore for him to play and it didn't matter. And besides, Williams asserted, Oakland had a veteran replacement in Maxvill. Maxvill had 9 hits in 36 at bats after joining Oakland in 1972. One was a double. He had struck out 11 times. Martin didn't feel bad because he was going to be without his shortstop, Brinkman, for the rest of the series. In 1972, Brinkman had batted .203 in 156 games. But he slugged .279! Brinkman would also finish 9th in the AL MVP voting in 1972.
Back to Game 3. It was up to Joe Coleman to save the Detroit season. He was up against Ken Holtzman. Coleman came through with a 14 strikeout performance that led to a 3-0 win for the Tigers. First baseman Ike Brown doubled in two runs and Bill Freehan homered for Detroit.
Game 4 was a Hunter-Lolich rematch. Detroit led first after a Dick McAuliffe, who had moved over from second to replace Brinkman, homered in the third inning. Epstein homered in the seventh to tie the game for Oakland. And like Game 1, there would be extra innings.
Seelbach started the 10th for Detroit. With one out, Marquez punched out his second pinch hit for the series, batting for reliever Vida Blue. Matty Alou doubled home Marquez and went to third on the throw home. Ted Kubiak singled home Alou to make it 3-1.
With just three outs to go in their season, the Tigers got to work against Bob Locker. McAuliffe and Kaline had consecutive singles. Williams brought in Joe Horlen. Horlen threw a wild pitch to advance the runners and then walked pinch-hitter Gates Brown. Freehan grounded to Bando who threw home for a force, but Tenace couldn't handle it and everyone was safe and it was 3-2. Now Williams called on Dave Hamilton. (If you're wondering about Fingers, he had already been used.) Hamilton walked the first batter he faced, Cash, to force in the tying run and Northrup followed with a single to score the winning run. For the first time in the ALCS, there would be a decisive Game 5.
Game 5 would be like Game 2, a matchup of Odom and Fryman. The Tigers got an unearned run in the first due to a passed ball by Tenace that put McAuliffe on third, who scored on a Freehan ground out.
Oakland tied it up in the second. Jackson walked and stole second and then went to third on a fly out by Bando. Epstein got hit by a pitch and Tenace struck out. Then Williams had Epstein try to steal second and while Freehan threw down to second, Jackson broke for home and scored the tying run. However, Jackson pulled a hamstring on the play and had to leave the game. Hendrick replaced him.
The fourth inning proved to be crucial. Hendrick led off with a grounder to McAuliffe at short. The throw appeared to beat Hendrick, but umpire John Rice ruled that Cash came off the bag. The Tigers were livid. Cash argued that he may have cheated a bit to get off the base to avoid being spiked by Hendrick, but that was just by a fraction of a second. Tigers first base coach Frank Howard argued that such a call was "automatic." Howard was ejected from the game when he continued the argument the next inning when Detroit batted. But all the arguing in the world wasn't going to change the call and Hendrick was safe. Bando sacrificed Hendrick to second. Epstein struck out, but Tenace singled to score Hendrick with a run that would give Oakland a 2-1 lead.
In the sixth, Williams turned to Vida Blue, who had struggled most of the year after a long holdout, and he pitched the final four innings, giving up just three hits with three strikeouts and no walks to save the game and send the Athletics to their first World Series since 1931.
And the A's would win the World Series in seven games over Cincinnati, their first of three straight. The Tigers would not make it to the postseason again until 1984.
Buck O'Neil, 1911-2006
The ambassador of the Negro Leagues, Buck O'Neil passed away tonight at age 94 at a Kansas City hospital.
Alex Belth of Bronx Banter had an interview with O'Neil.
The linked obituary tells you a lot about the rich life of one John Jordan O'Neil.
From his New York Times obituary.
For O'Neil, baseball represented a lifelong joy. "Nowadays, whenever us Negro leaguers put on the old uniforms for autograph-signings and such, you can just see the years peel away," he wrote in his memoirs. "I've seen men lose 50 years in just a few hours. Baseball is better than sex. It is better than music, although I do believe jazz comes in a close second. It does fill you up."
May he rest in peace.
Lions win Game 1 of PL playoffs
Behind a complete game shutout by Daisuke Matsuzaka with 13 strikeouts and just six hits allowed, the Seibu Lions won Game 1 of the best of three first leg of the Pacific League playoffs, 1-0, against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at the Invoice Seibu Dome Saturday afternoon (Friday night for some of us.)
Kazumi Saito of Softbank gave up just four hits and struck out nine, but took the loss when Kazuhiro Wada doubled home Hiroyuki Nakajima in the seventh.
Seibu can wrap up the series with a win at home Sunday afternoon (Saturday night in the U.S.).
Pacific League playoffs preview
They start tonight. Or tomorrow. Depends where you are.
The first leg of Japan's Pacific League playoffs start today in Tokorozawa at the Invoice Seibu Dome as the second place Seibu Lions will host the third place Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at 1 pm Japan time Saturday. That is 9 pm PT and midnight ET.
Stephen Elsesser of the Japan Times has a preview. Seibu will start its ace, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who finished the season 18-5 with 200 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA. The Hawks starter, Kazumi Saito, has been as good or as better than Matsuzaka. Saito was 18-5 with a 1.75 ERA and 205 Ks. Matsuzaka threw 186 1/3 innings while Saito worked in 201 innings.
Softbank had a team ERA of 3.13 and Seibu had an ERA of 3.64. The Pacific League does use the DH. Softbank scored 553 runs (4.10 per game) while Seibu scored 645 (4.80 per game). The Lions outhomered the Hawks by a margin of 131-82. Seibu has edges in batting average (.275 to .259), slugging (.421 to .373) and OBP (.342 to .324). Seibu's offensive star is slugger Alex Cabrera who hit 31 home runs and batted .315. Softbank's star is first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka who batted .324, slugged .528, and had an OBP of .453 thanks to 102 walks with just 37 Ks.
An even more important edge in this best of three series is homefield. All three games (if necessary) will be played at the Invoice Seibu Dome, Saturday through Monday at 1 pm. Monday is a holiday in Japan. As you can see in one of the photos here, the Seibu Dome isn't enclosed. The wind and rain can blow through the openings in the sides of the stadium. During the regular season, the Lions beat the Hawks 10 times, the Hawks won 9 times and there was one tie. The teams split 10 games at the Invoice Seibu Dome.
The winner of this series will face the first place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the second league of playoff starting on October 11 at the Sapporo Dome. That will be a four game series with the Fighters getting a one victory advantage. The final two games (if necessary) would be at either the Invoice Seibu Dome or the Yahoo Fukuoka Dome.
My postseason viewing so far
With five playoff games in the books, I have seen 2 1/2 innings on TV so far. I saw two innings of Game 1 of the Oakland-Minnesota series and the bottom of the ninth of the Yankees-Tigers Game 1.
What have I learned? I think what I've learned from doing this blog is that in the last few months, I might not be as much of a partisan as I used to. I've grown up as a Dodgers fan, but the results of today's game just didn't seem to affect me. Maybe the games will as the series goes on, but right now, I have this feeling that whatever happens, happens. I may be happy. I may be sad. But I doubt I will be at an extreme. This could be a factor of not seeing the Dodgers winning a postseason series since 1988. I just don't expect a whole lot.
But for some reason, I seem to get fired up over the regular season more. Even though the point of the regular season, isn't to be fired up. The regular season is a day-to-day affair. You want to maintain an even keel. It's a story that unfolds over several months. But the postseason is a series of short and intense bursts of action. I need to adjust to that mentally. I may not get a chance to see a full game until Thursday unless the rain lets up in New York tonight. (The tarp is coming off the field as I write this.) I'm sure once I get a game or two under my belt, I'll feel differently.
Or maybe I will get into the swing of things once I get to Japan. Maybe some rhythmic clapping and chants of gattobase! will put me in the mood.
What I really want is a good storyline. Preferably a storyline that doesn't revolve around a big star. The postseason is a time for George Rohe, , Gonzalo Marquez, Brian Doyle, Billy Bates and Geoff Blum. Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and the like will be with us for a long time, but I really like the story of the guy who gets to be in the right place at the right time and do the right thing and become a hero.
Coming up on the Griddle this week ...
I won't be around a computer a lot this week. And I need a little respite as I think I've watched too much baseball. I have had a recurring dream where I get phone calls from Ron Fairly telling me to tell particular Seattle Mariner players that he thought they were good players. Really. I have had that dream. That can't be good. I'll post a few things in the evening possibly.
But this week, there are the Division Series to keep people busy and three of the four series are covered by a Toaster representative. Only the Padres-Cardinals series doesn't have a Toaster patron.
Then I will leave for vacation on October 9 and I will be back reporting from Sapporo, Japan where, despite the absence of a ticket, I hope to see Games 1 and 2 of the Pacific League Championship Series on October 11 and 12. And Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) from either Tokorozawa or Fukuoka. Probably the former.
After that back home for a couple of days and then out to scenic Western Michigan and then a trip down to South Bend with my brother to see UCLA play some large unnamed Catholic university. And I do have tickets already for that one.
Saturday Oct. 7, Sports Day in L.A.
Your spectator sports agenda:
12:30 pm PT - Washington vs. USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Expected crowd: 92,000
Fortunately, the two MLS teams: the Galaxy and Chivas USA are on the road that day.
I have tickets to the UCLA football game. Does anybody have a bicycle I can borrow?
MacPhail out in Chicago
Cubs president Andy MacPhail resigned Sunday.
From the Chicago Tribune
MacPhail said he met in July with Crane Kenney, Tribune Co. senior vice-president and general counsel, and offered to resign. He said he has always worked with a handshake agreement rather than a contract.
Toaster Preaseason Predictions Report
Back before the season started, we made predictions on how each division would turn out.
So how'd we come out.
First of all, how to evaluate it. My method was to sum the squares of the differences in the standings from what someone picked and what the actual standings were. If someone picked the Cubs to finish third, you would be three off, and that would be squared and you would be charged nine points. Low score wins.
The NL West had two sets of ties, both for first and for fourth. So what I did was give people credit for picking either team in first or second (Padres and Dodgers) or fourth or fifth (DBacks and Rockies). For misses in that division, I gave everyone the benefit of a lower score. I was going to subtract 10 points for people who correctly tabbed the wild card team, but nobody picked either one (Detroit and Los Angeles).
And the winner was ...
Now it's time for the postseason.
I'm not going to win that as I picked Cleveland beating St. Louis in the World Series.
And to end the season, a ha'no-hitter
Devern Hansack of the Boston Red Sox closed out the 2006 regular season with a 5-inning no-hitter over the Baltimore Orioles. The game, delayed at the start by rain for over 3 1/2 hours, was stopped after five innings with the Red Sox ahead 9-0. Hansack faced just 15 batters, walking Fernando Tatis, who was erased on a DP by Chris Gomez.
Going by time, the last out of the regular season though was the last out of Arizona's 7-6 loss at home to San Diego that gave the Padres the NL West title.
The Houston Astros were eliminated from playoff contention after a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves Sunday afternoon.
Houston Astros 2006 Playoff Hopes
Born: April 3, 2006
The defending NL champion Astros started out fast, then faded, then signed Roger Clemens, then faded again, then staged an improbable run as the Cardinals stumbled, only for the Astros to run out of miracles to pull out of ... somewhere.
The team is survived by Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. And some fairly good relief pitchers.
There will be no visitation. In lieu of flowers, the Houston Astros ask that you donate money to the Gene Mauch 1964 Monument Fund.
8 in, all in
It's a Division Championship
The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central championship since 2005 after Houston lost in Atlanta 3-1.
Justice of the Peace Tony LaRussa officiated at the shotgun wedding ceremony. The Cardinals plan to begin their postseason honeymoon somewhere in Southern California.
A place where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure, but he has to keep his watch on Pacific Time.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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