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Appreciating Miguel Cabrera (with corrections), Ken Singleton, & Other Musings on Cusp of Autumn + Late September TCM Tips

On Su August 22, Miguel Cabrera became the 28th member of the very exclusive 500 home run club when he homered to right field in Toronto off the former Met southpaw Steven Matz  (Not to worry about Matz who has had a fine year with double-digit wins for the Blue Jays.)

 

After the day game of Tu Sep 21, Cabrera is just 21 hits shy of 3,000 that when it makes it, probably early in 2022 season, he will be only the 7th member of that even more exclusive club. Albert Pujols was the last member to join, preceded (alphabetically) by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, and Alex Rodriguez. 

 

Cabrera, a native of Maracay, Venezuela, rocketed on the scene as a 20-year-old on the 2003 World Series-winning Florida Marlins.  A Detroit Tiger since 2008, Cabrera's presence as a first baseman/DH has been an important factor in Detroit's return to respectability. 

 

The Tigers are ending the season winning series from all contenders. Though September results are usually suspect, Detroit has been playing over-.500 baseball since early summer. They may well have established themselves as a future contender in a wide-open AL Central. 

 

I recently heard MLB commentators John Smoltz and Carlos Pena rave about Miggy's preparation.  They said he goes to spring training with the goal of having experienced every kind of uncomfortable at-bat he will face once the regular season begins. 

 

Eg., a broken bat, a pitch on the hands, a pitch hit at the end of the bat, everything that will prepare him for the grind ahead. If you want to know why he is so calm at the plate on a two-strike count, he is prepared for everything.  No wonder he will finish his career with the very-rare-these-days batting average of over .300.

 

Here's another tribute -- to former Oriole (and earlier Met and Expo) outfielder Ken Singleton who since his retirement after the 1984 season has become an excellent color

commentator. 

 

On the Yankees' visit to Baltimore last week, Singleton probably delivered his last Yankee broadcast on the YES Network.  He almost retired after last season but was coaxed back with a shorter schedule in 2021. 

 

In an age of increasing happy talk in the booth, not often about baseball, Singleton was always an exception.  As a fan of the Orioles for over a half-century, I always ate up Singleton's stories about playing for irascible, savvy manager Earl Weaver. 

 

One year when he was barely hitting .200 on Memorial Day, Earl called Ken into his office.   "Are you sick?" Weaver demanded.

"No," Singleton replied.  

"Are you tired?"  

Same answer from Ken.  

"Well, I'm sick and tired of watching you at the plate," Weaver fumed.

 

Last week Singleton told two more beauties about teammates.  

 

One day when Nolan Ryan was scheduled to pitch, second baseman Bobby Grich phoned in sick. The day after, he returned ready to play.  Singleton said Grich's teammates dubbed his illness a case of 24-hour Ryanitis. 

 

Another time when the Orioles were mired in a losing streak, fiery catcher Rick Dempsey stormed into the clubhouse fuming about the team's lack of passion. 

"We're acting like this is a country club," he bellowed, throwing his glove into his locker. When it landed, Singleton chuckled, a bunch of golf clubs fell out of Dempsey's cubicle. 

 

I'm gonna miss Singleton's knowledge of the game and his stories and his refreshing lack of the entitlement that seems to be part of the Yankee DNA on all levels. 

 

The dog days of summer are over and the sprint to the wire on closing day Sunday October 3 is at hand.  The Cardinals in the NL have seized the wild-card lead by three games.  

 

Although they are playing the Milwaukee Brewers in six of their remaining games, they already won the first one on Mon night Sept 20 at Milwaukee.  They seem to have the momentum with veteran starting pitching led by veteran Adam Wainwright.  

 

The 3-2-5 double play that Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and Nolan Arenado turned against the Mets in a tied game in the bottom of the 9th during the Redbirds

recent sweep of the New Yorkers on the road was a thing of beauty.  

 

I don't think either the Dodgers or the Giants want to face Wainwright in a one-game wild card playoff but it looks like that might well happen.

 

Meanwhile another bird team is in flight in the AL.  Not my Orioles, who have been

swept EIGHTEEN times this year on their way to their third 100-loss season in a row, but the Toronto Blue Jays.  

 

If Toronto gets effective pitching, they could keep their current razor-thin one game edge to host the wild-card game against either the Red Sox or the Yankees.  I think the A's and the surprising Mariners have too much ground to make up. They still have to play each other five more times, perhaps knocking each other out. 

 

The winner of the AL wild card will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS best-of-five.

The other series is pretty much set - the slumping injury-riddled yet potentially dangerous White Sox face the Houston Astros with third baseman Alex Bregman recovered from injury and in the lineup and manager Dusty Baker vying for his first World Series championship ring.

 

In the NL, the wild card winner will face the NL West winner, either the Dodgers, who have to be favored now with Clayton Kershaw back on the mound and a fairly healthy Mookie

Betts back in the lineup. Maybe the Giants, who NOBODY picked to contend in 2021, can still work their amazing magic with its enticing mixture of veterans and youngsters.

 

In the other matchup, the likely NL East-winning Atlanta Braves should go up against the Milwaukee Brewers who coasted to the NL Central title.  

 

Meanwhile perhaps there is perhaps a glimmer of hope in the Orioles future.  We'll take any flicker these days.  The Double A Bowie Bay Sox knocked the Yankees' Somerset Patriots out of the playoffs by beating the Pirates' Altoona Curve.

 

Starting Tu Sep 21, the Baysox will now face the conquerors of Somerset, Cleveland's Akron Rubber Decks in a best-of-five series.   And in low Single A, the O's Delmarva Shorebirds destroyed the Salem (Virginia) Red Sox's playoff hopes though not making the dance itself. 

 

"Never grow accustomed to the emotions of continuous defeat" was a plea that Branch Rickey often invoked to keep the losing teams he shepherded at the beginning and end of his career.   So I'm glad that at least at the minor league level, there has been some winning going on as the Baltimore organization tries to arise from its sinkhole of ineptitude. 

 

Here's a quick reminder that on Th Sept 23 TCM shows the 1970s fantasy "Rollerball" at 8P  and "Kansas City Bomber" at 1015P.  

 

Sunday Sept 26 at 1130A "Easy Living" (1949) with Victor Mature as a LA Ram with a heart condition who cardiologist Jim Backus (!) urges to give up the game.  There is an excellent cast including Lucille Ball, Lloyd Nolan, Jack Paar, Lisabeth Scott, Sonny Tufts, and Kenny Washington playing himself  (Don't blame me for the last scene, puhleeze!) 

 

It precedes Noir Alley's "Hell Bound" at 10A, a 1957 72 minute feature aka "Cargo X" and "Dope Ship".

 

Tu Sep 28 at 8A Burt Lancaster as "Jim Thorpe All American" followed by a classic 1947 noir set in prison, "Brute Force" directed by Jules Dassin starring Burt Lancaster. 

 

Later that night at 630p there is the silent film classic "The Freshman" as Harold Lloyd tries his hand at football. 

 

That's all for now - always remember:  Stay positive test negative, and take it easy but take it!

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Winter Has Come But Only About 100 Days to Spring Training! (updated with corrections)

I had a premonition that Game 7 of this gripping World Series might be anti-climactic. But thought it might go the other way in favor of the home team Dodgers.

After all, they had beaten future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander in Game 6, not that they pummeled him. A game-tying bloop 6th inning double down the right field line by center fielder Chris Taylor had been the big hit followed by a sacrifice fly by shortstop Corey Seager.

Behind two solid 8th and 9th innings by closer Kenley Jansen, Dodgers won 3-1. Jansen blew the Game 2 save and lost the Game 5 classic on Alex Bregman’s single, but confidently bounced back in Game 6.

“Little ball” decided that game and as it turned out, so it did Game 7. Deserved World Series MVP George Springer led off the game with a ringing double. Then two ground balls to the right side helped by a throwing error by first baseman Cody Bellinger led to two quick runs.

In the next inning, another ground ball to right side by pitcher Lance McCullers plated the third run. Before manager Dave Roberts could move to replace Yu Darvish, ineffective for second time in this WS, Springer homered to give Astros a 5-0 lead.

After leaving the bases loaded in the first inning and Logan Forsythe unforgivably getting doubled off second on a line drive to shortstop to end 2nd inning, Dodgers hardly threatened again.

I say “unforgivably” because baseball savant Paul Richards always said that the only time a runner is blameless for being doubled up is when he is on first base and the ball is hit directly to first baseman.

So in the end the World Series was decided by Baseball 101 - hitting behind runners and protecting your position while on base. It will, of course, be remembered for the
unexpected momentum swings in every other game, especially the classic Game 2 & Game 5.

I’m happy for the city of Houston after the trauma of Hurricane Harvey and its past failures on the national baseball stage. I’m not happy that the Astros organization let go of eight veteran baseball scouts two weeks before the end of the season.

The reliance on statistical/analytical studies instead of scouts with two eyes and two ears on the field is an industry-wide trend that is unfortunate. But life is always more complicated than I’d like it to be.

The bottom line is that 2017 Houston Astros rose to the occasion in every way.
All hail to them!

[Update on George Springer III: He is a wonderful story that the New York Times has covered with distinction. Sportswriter James Wagner informed us on Nov 3 that Springer has made great progress dealing with a stuttering issue and has become a spokesman and fund-raiser for The Stuttering Association for the Young.

Vivian Lee informed us in the main A section of the Nov 2 Times that Springer hails from New Britain CT, the home town of "The Father of College Football" Walter Camp and Paul Manafort. There is even a Paul Manafort Drive that curves around the Central Connecticut State Univ. campus, named after Manafort's father who was a New Britain Republican Mayor.

Isn't America an amazing bundle of contradictions?!
A few years ago I heard Springer's father George Springer Jr. deliver an inspirational speech at the annual New York Pro Scouts Hot Stove League dinner. He is a lawyer who played in the Little League World Series and football at the U. of Connecticut.

Springer Jr. spoke like a preacher that night accepting the Herb Stein Future Star award from the scouts. I normally don't like the term "giving 110 per cent" but he made me a believer when he accepted the award for his son who was unable to attend.]

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:
The absence of daily baseball is never easy to endure, but I do have my college football and basketball teams to follow. Columbia tasted defeat for the first time in 2017 when Yale thoroughly outplayed them in New Haven last Saturday Oct 24 on their way to a 23-6 victory.

Five bus loads of Columbia alumni and students enjoyed a wonderful pre-game tailgate but the vibrancy of our gathering was dimmed by the performance of the impressive Bulldog eleven.

If you’ve never been to the Yale Bowl, it should be on your bucket list. Football tradition exudes all over place. After all, it was Walter Camp in the 1880s who created the line of scrimmage and the concept of four downs to separate American football from rugby. The Walter Camp "fence," where players have posed for decades, is just outside the stadium.

Football history at Yale even predates Camp. There is the number 145 painted on the sidelines at the Yale Bowl. It stands for 145 years football has been played at the storied Ivy institution and counting.

I don’t know if there is a changing of the guard in the Ivy League but upstarts Columbia and Cornell are tied for first with Yale at 3-1 with three games left to play.
Perennial contender Harvard at 2-2 visits Columbia this Saturday Nov 4 and we’ll
see if the Lions can get back on the winning path.

In closing, I want to pay homage to a great Columbia man, writer-author-editor Ray Robinson who died on November 1st. He would have been 97 on Dec 4.
In his later years Ray became an acclaimed biographer of Columbia man Lou Gehrig and Bucknell’s Christy Mathewson.

Ray grew up near the Columbia campus and remembered Columbia’s infrequent gridiron triumphs very well. In our last conversation he reminded me that Columbia had not only beaten Stanford 7-0 in the 1934 Rose Bowl but had been undefeated in two other games against the Pacific Coast powerhouse.

Until next time, always remember: Take it easy but take it
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