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A Moving Farewell to Hank Aaron + No New Inductees In Cooperstown (updated on Feb 2)

For those who missed it, I am glad that mlb.com has put up a link to the very moving Hank Aaron memorial MLBTV broadcast live from Atlanta on Tuesday Jan 26.  So many heartfelt emotions were expressed.  Here's a partial list.

 

"I wanted to be like him, to dream like him," remembered former outfielder Marquis Grissom.

 

"Chipper, I fear no man when I have a bat in my hand," was Aaron's answer to a question posed by Hall of Famer Chipper Jones about tough pitchers he faced. 

 

Dusty Baker told how Hank promised his mother that he would take care of him when he turned down a college athletic scholarship to play for the Braves. Hank followed through, sometimes providing tough love.

 

Fighting back tears, current Braves manager Brian Snitker thanked Aaron for giving him his first managing job in 1982 when Hank was farm director.  He always cared about everyone on the roster, Snitzer said, especially the grinders who didn't have the big bonuses. 

 

John Smoltz told a story that epitomized the competiveness at the heart of the Hall of Famer. In Cooperstown not long ago, Aaron, Joe Morgan, and Frank Robinson were using walkers to get to a function.  Someone playfully shouted, "Down the stretch they come!"

 

With a look in his eye that Smoltz never forgot, Aaron roared from behind to win that race.

 

RIP to those three gallant men and all of the 10 Hall of Famers lost in last 10 months.

Long live Willie Mays who will be 90 on May 6 and is the oldest living Hall of Famer.

 

As expected the Hall of Fame announced on January 26 that the baseball writers have not elected any new members.  Curt Schilling again came closest falling 16 votes short.

 

As a post-season performer, he was excellent, playing big roles in the 2001 Diamondback and 2004 Red Sox world titles.  He also is the only pitcher in history to have over 3000 strikeouts with fewer than 750 walks.  

 

But if the "character" clause means anything - I understand many feel it doesn't belong - Schilling's incendiary right-wing comments have undoubtedly cost him votes. He supported the January 6th insurrection of the Capitol and is known to possess quite a collection of Nazi memorabilia. 

 

He now wants to have his name removed from the next ballot, the last year he and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be eligible.  He says he is "mentally done" and will entrust his immortality to the veterans committees.

 

Interestingly, Marvin Miller, who was elected posthumously last year, also asked numerous times to have his name removed from the ballot.  Jane Forbes Clark, chairperson of the Hall of Fame, refused those requests, but has indicated she may be open to Schilling's wish.

 

Certainly no one in the establishment wants to sit through a possibly explosive tirade from the right by the volatile righthander.  Fear of what Marvin Miller might have said from the left was a definite factor in why he wasn't voted in during his lifetime.

 

I probably won't live to see the day when a functioning majority of those in power realize that a baseball diamond is a wonderful model for good governance. But I hope youngsters take heed:  You can hit an occasional homer down the foul lines but up the middle and into the gaps is the best route to success.    

 

The Hall of Fame's induction ceremony will be held on Sunday July 25th, dependent on sufficient recovery from the pandemic.  Last year's winners will be honored:

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker and the veteran committee selections Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons.

 

The broadcasters enshrined will be last year's winner Ken "Hawk" Harrelson - proving you can go a long way with schtick - and Al Michaels. The writers will be last year's winner the late Nick Cafardo and the estimable Dick Kaegel. This ceremony will likely be held on Saturday Jan 24.  

 

Looking forward to new players on the 2021 ballot, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz are the huge names on the ballot.  Though neither failed any tests for PEDs, rumors circulate widely around them, especially A-Rod.

 

RHP Tim Hudson seems like a possible "clean" candidate.  Had great years with contending Braves and Athletics teams and the W-L record really grabs me: 222-133, 3.49 ERA in a PED time, good BB-K ratio 917/2080.  Only 1-4 in 7 post-seasons but a decent 3.69 ERA and steady 22-53 walk-strikeout ratio.

 

Torii Hunter with 2478 hits, great defense, and definite leadership qualifications will deserve some attention. The .277 BA and .331 on-base percentage will be used against him.

 

Let the arguments begin. But morphing Monty Python, Argument is fine, Abuse is in another room and not in my house. 

 

Looking ahead to February, I still believe that the greatest sentence in the English language is:  "The pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training."  But with the pandemic still sweeping through Arizona, local authorities have urged MLB to push back the opening of the camps until late February.

 

No word yet on whether MLB will respond to this plea.  And no signs that the warring camps of MLB management and an angry MLBPA not interested in any curtailed season and cut pay are any closer to basic rules for 2021 - eg. whether the NL will use the DH - let alone a new Basic Agreement that expires the end of 2021. 

 

Always remember: Take it easy but take it, and always stay positive, test negative!  Got my first vaccine shot relatively easily on Jan 23 with second one slated for Lincoln's birthday (my mothers' 119th) Feb 12.  

 

 

 

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In Memory of Don Sutton + TCM Tips for Late January

On January 19th, on the eve of President Biden's inauguration, baseball lost its ninth Hall of Famer since April when Don Sutton, 75, died of cancer in Rancho Mirage, California.

 
In a 23-year career, Sutton posted a 324-256 won-lost record with a 3.26 ERA.

He threw 178 complete games with 58 shutouts. 

 
His walk-strikeout ratio was solid, 1343:3574. Innings pitched ratio to hits were less impressive, 5282:4692. He won 15 games or more in 15 seasons, including one 20-win season.

 
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 during his fifth year of eligibility.  

There are some remarkable similarities in the careers of Sutton and Gaylord Perry, elected in 1976, and not just because both were accused of doctoring the baseball.  

 
In a 22-year career, culminating in a 1976 enshrinement in Cooperstown, Gaylord went 314-265 with a 3.10 ERA and an impressive BB-K ratio: 1379-3534. Hits-IP not as impressive 5351:4938.  303 CG astounding, 53 shutouts. 

 
Sutton made his post-career mark as an able announcer for the Atlanta Braves.

I once had a nice conversation with him about his pennant-winning victory over Jim Palmer and the Orioles in the final game of the 1982 season. 

 
I told him that I was sitting in the outfield nosebleed sections of Baltimore Memorial Stadium.  I saw him and Palmer and Sutton shake hands before they warmed up in their separate bullpens.  

 
Sutton remembered that handshake and asked if I had a photo of it.  Unfortunately I did not, but I'm happy that the moment formed a baseball memory that has lingered for us both.


Check out "To A Hall of Famer, Pitching Was an 'Easy Job," Tyler Kepner's very moving remembrance of Sutton in the January 21 New York Times. He never forgot how hard his father worked to support the family in the Florida panhandle. 

 
This coming Tuesday January 26th the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of this year's voting for enshrinement in Cooperstown.  It is possible that no new members will be elected to join Derek Jeter and Larry Walker and Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller.  They were voted in last year but the induction was delayed because of the pandemic. 

 

Before I leave, here are some TCM viewing tips, the old movie station that has kept me grounded during the Trump years and I expect will do the same in the future. 

 

Sat January 23 at noon - "Black Legion" 1937 - Humphrey Bogart as a Detroit

auto worker who misses on a promotion and joins a nativist group.  Still relevant for obvious reasons.

 
8p "Out of the Past" 1947 - this week's "Essential", a classic noir with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer directed by Jacques Tourneur.

 

12M - repeated Sun on 10A - "Born to Kill" 1947  Lawrence Tierney who takes Noir savagery to new heights/meaning lows.  Claire Trevor hangs on for dear life. With Walter Slezak as a private detective.

 
Wed Jan 27 145p "Trouble Along the Way" 1953 John Wayne as small town football coach trying to save a church.  With Donna Reed and Charles Coburn. The film where the oft-used phrase actually comes from, "Winning is the only thing".

 
Th Jan 28 8p "The Heiress" 1949 based on a Henry James story with unforgettable performances by Olivia DeHavilland and Montgomery Clift

 
Fr Jan 29 8p "Citizen Kane" 1941 I don't think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread - forgive hoary metaphor - but it certainly was influential.  

 
S Jan 30 8p "The Music Man" 1962 this week's "Essential" with Robert Preston and Paul Ford as the bedraggled Mayor of the town - not longer after his memorable take as Colonel Hall trying to deal with Phil Silvers' Ernie Bilko

 
Su Jan 31 midnight repeated at 10A  "The Killers" 1964 with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, directed by Don Siegel.  Past Noir's heyday but sure looks appealing. 

 
Unifying the country may be impossible and not particularly desirable as long as one minority is armed and dangerous. After the events of January 6th we can't say that with assurance.  

 

Let's just be glad that Trump was a one-term President and that an adult is now in charge or at least tries to make governing for all the people again a possibility,  one of his Biden's and my favorite words. 

 

That's all now.  Always remember: Take it easy but take it! 

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