Saturday’s Den: Some stories, other stuff on a fall Saturday

— Today (Saturday) is the 50th anniversary of my best day ever as a sports fan.

October 22, 1972, a Sunday. I was 12 years old.

Game 7 of the World Series started at 1pm (imagine that now?); A’s beat the Reds when Pete Rose flied to left fielder Joe Rudi to end the game, giving Oakland its first of three straight World Series titles. I was very excited that day.

I became an A’s fan in 1965, after getting a set of baseball cards from my grandparents. One of the cards was a Kansas City A’s rookie card, with four prospects on it. One of the prospects had no minor league record; they misspelt his name on the back of the card.

Went to my dad, showed him the card and told him, “This is my favorite player” He gave me an odd look (that happened a lot when I was a kid) but I was now an A’s fan- they were a bad team back then, but things gradually got better, once they moved to Oakland in 1968.

What are the odds that the player with no minor league record would become a Hall of Famer?

Jim (Catfish) Hunter threw a perfect game in 1968, made six All-Star Games pitching for the A’s, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the ’72 Series, getting eight outs while pitching with one day of rest.

As if winning the World Series wasn’t enough……..

The 4:00 NFL game on local TV was supposed to be Broncos-Raiders, but luckily for me, they showed the Bengals-Rams game instead.

Rams led 10-0 at halftime, blew the lead, but David Ray kicked a field goal at the end, giving the Rams a 15-12 win, and giving me a very excellent day.

Fifty years ago; time flies when you’re having fun.

— Back in the early 80’s, I coached JV high school baseball for a year; talk about someone being in over his head, that was me. Things didn’t go well in terms of wins/losses, but the kids had fun, and a lot of us have remained friends over the years. 

I found out just this week, 38 years later, that the father of one of those guys had played minor league baseball, three years in the Pirates’ organization. Wish I had known back then; would have picked his brain about the experience.

One of his coaches in the minors was Danny Murtaugh, who later won two World Series managing Pittsburgh. One of his teammates in spring training was Mario Cuomo, who later became governor of New York.

Spent some time this week picking my friend Dave’s brain about this; his dad is 97 years old now. I didn’t know him well; he never said a word to me (other than hello) during the season when I coached his son, even though he probably cringed when he watched our team play.

He played three years in the minors, then had to make a life decision. This was 1952; there was no big money in baseball yet, and he was about to get married. He did well in the minors, with a .298 batting average— he led the league in triples one year, but he was about to get married and the Pirates were going to send him to play minor league ball in Hollywood the next year- the Dodgers hadn’t moved to Los Angeles yet.

While pondering his decision, he wrote a letter to Pirates GM Branch Rickey, who responded with a 3.5-page letter, a hugely thoughtful thing to do. Obviously, it was a much different world in 1952; no Internet, hell no cable TV. Branch Rickey had never seen my friend’s dad play, so he could only give general advice based on scouts’ reports.

My friend has this letter; he texted me a copy of it last night. That Branch Rickey took the time to write a 3.5-page, single-spaced letter to someone he had never seen play is remarkable.

My friend’s dad is also in the Ithaca College Hall of Fame, along with Gorilla Monsoon, the pro wrestler. He retired from baseball after three years, went into the insurance business and did very well in it. In today’s world, where players get to the majors a lot faster and the money is a lot bigger, his choice might have been different.

That is what makes life interesting, the choices we have/make. 

— I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell this one story from that season coaching those guys.

We were winning one game by a decent amount, and Dave was pitching. He had a good arm but he was struggling with his curveball, so he was just throwing fastballs, the other team was hitting long fly balls (the field had no fence) and our outfielders were catching them.

But he calls me out to the mound in the 4th inning; I go out there— we hadn’t won a game in a while and I say to him “What could possibly be the problem?” He hands me the ball, says “I never want to pitch again the rest of my life” and walked off the mound.

Seriously, he didn’t want to pitch anymore. We laugh about it now; but I needed to sub in someone to get the last 10 or 11 outs in this game- there weren’t a lot of choices. We held on to win the game, but it says a lot that 38 years later, I have a pretty vivid memory of it.

— One more story for today: guy I know went to the Cleveland-New York playoff game earlier this week, the game that got rained out. They drove down from Albany, 150 miles or so, and got there just before the scheduled first pitch, but there was a rain delay.

Weren’t lot of parking spots available; they tried this one lot where apparently the buses parked, but it was full— the lady running things hinted that she could find them a spot if they threw her a few extra bucks.

So a parking lot that cost $55 to park in wound up costing them $85, to watch a game that was never played. Oy.

— I’m watching the Magic-Hawks’ NBA game as I write this; they’re showing clips of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young riding camels during their recent trip to Abu Dhabi. There is no way on God’s green earth I would ever ride a camel; too damn tall.

— Texas Rangers hired future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy as their manager; brilliant move. Bochy won three World Series managing the Giants, also got San Diego to a World Series.

— Phillies 4, Padres 2
Schwarber hit a home run in first inning.
Phillies’ bullpen threw four scoreless innings.
Philadelphia leads series, 2-1.

— Tulsa 27, Tulane 16
Temple led 10-0 after first quarter.
Deneric Prince had an 84-yard TD run early in 4th quarter to put Tulsa ahead 24-10.
Temple was 4-18 on third down, Tulsa 2-11.
Total yardage: Tulsa 454, Temple 280

— Western Kentucky 20, UAB 17
UAB led 17-7 with 2:00 left in first half.
Hilltoppers had 11 penalties for 86 yards, UAB 4 for 22.
Blazers turned ball over four times (minus-3)

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.