It is hard to believe that it is over 13 years since the passing of Bill Shannon, 69, a bulwark on the NYC sportswriting/official scoring scene. At this time of year, I really miss the sound of Shannon's basso profoundo voice booming out "Greetings of the Season!"
I met Bill Shannon when we were both Columbia College undergraduates in the early 1960s. My sports involvement was limited to three years as a Columbia men's basketball manager. I think my love for oranges came from slicing them up for the team at halftime.
Bill Shannon was already on his way to his wonderfully diverse sports career. We reconnected in the early 1980s when I started doing sports radio in the unlikely hyper-left-political hotbed at WBAI-Pacifica in NYC. No one wil ever forget Bill's post-game recitations of the line scores for pitchers - they were works of vocal art and then repeated in double time.
Bill was also an author of a book on baseball stadiums and advocate for a New York Sports Museum. It never quite came to fruition but at least a lot of the Museum's capsule summaries of notable athletic personages are stored at the New York Historical Society on Central Park West at 76th Street.
Another good memory about another Bill, who happily is still with us, has come back to me at this reflective time of year. Early in December Bill White missed by two votes election to the Hall of Fame. The 16-man Contemporary Baseball Era committee did elect manager Jim Leyland but Lou Piniella fell short by one vote.
As far as I am concerned, Bill White remains a true champion. He enjoyed a 15-year career as a fine NL first baseman, coming up in 1956 to offer a little hope to my New York Giants. He played well for the SF Giants until Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey's arrival led to his trade to the Cardinals where he became a four-time All-Star and winner of the 1964 World Series.
He finished his career with solid numbers: 1706 hits, .286 BA, .353 OBP (on-base percentage), .456 SA (slugging percentage), but numbers can't ever truly explain genuine leadership. He became a broadcaster for Cardinals-Phillies-Yankees, then National League president, and in his retirement author of a memoir "Uppity". The no-nonsense title of the book reflects the bracing hard-hitting experience the reader can expect.
I hold close a memory of my first encounter with White in the Yankee clubhouse. He was demonstrating a football running back's "straight arm," chortling, "They don't do that much any more, do they?" When I decided by the late 1980s that I had enough of WBAI's hyper-left-political hotbed, Bill gave me the names of more commercial radio people to contact. I decided that teaching and writing better fitted my talents and temperament but I will never forget his thoughtfulness.
When Bill took over the NL Presidency after Bart Giamatti became commissioner, I interviewed him for the City Sun, a Brooklyn-based black weekly.
I wrote a piece, "White on Black Progress," and sent him a copy. He actually called me up to thank me for its accuracy.
Like many of the black athletes in the post-Jackie Robinson generation, White didn't ask that jobs should be given because of race, but he insisted that qualified black candidates be brought into and kept in the pipeline. William DeKova White turns 90 on January 28, 2024. Here's a warm happy birthday wish to him.
Leaving memory lane for a while, what can I say about the baseball off-season so far? The "big ticket" free agents have found a home.
What shouldn't have been a surprise to anybody, Shohei Ohtani left the LA Angels of Anaheim and moved north to the LA Dodgers signing a massive long-term deal with the perennial NL West champions who perennially flame out in the playoffs.
Ohtani underwent his second Tommy John operation late this past season and he won't pitch until 2025. Pitchers don't usually recover very well from
a second TJ surgery. Ohtani is a very likable personality and very thoughtful about the luxury tax penalty LAD would pay if he took his mammoth salary up front.
So Ohtani is actually accepting only $2 million salary for at least this season. Since it seems the commissioner of baseball doesn't seem to care about the violation of the luxury tax - nor do the other owners and the players - this will go through.
Although Ohtani's DH bat will certainly lengthen the LA Dodger lineup, the team needs more durable pitching. So they went out and signed Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a Japanese import, to another huge long-term deal. He will be 26 when the 2024 season starts - Ohtani will be over 30.
Shohei is clearly a winning personality - competitive and yet vulnerable. We don't know yet about Yamamoto. He has thrown a lot of stressful pitches in his young career. He is listed at 5' 10" which may be an exaggeration.
The Dodgers may still need bullpen help. It wouldn't be a surprise if they went after Josh Hader, the best reliever still on the market. Whether all this
spending is good for baseball is subject to debate. It is good for the agents, that is for sure. It is good for the endless coverage by the MLB network. Whether it is good for the teams that cannot afford these mammoth contracts is far less clear. I didn't even mention that the Dodgers also traded for the talented oft-injured righthander Tyler Glasnow.
Baseball remains a team game and like many people I root for the underdog. With the Oakland A's seemingly headed to Las Vegas sometime later this decade, here's a good word for the Oakland B's, an indepedent league team that will be play in the Bay area in 2024. They will be managed by the long time coach and instructor Don Wakamatsu.
I guess if I want to give a left-handed compliment (boy, is that hoary metaphor a dig on my southpaw friends!), at least baseball doesn't have a transfer portal that has created havoc in the NCAA.
At least baseball had nothing to do with Sports Illustrated, a shadow of its distinguished self now thtat is primarily online, naming Deion Sanders as
Sportsman of the Year after coaching the Colorado Buffaloes to a 4-8 record.
Before I go, deep RIP wishes to the superlative scout Paul Snyder, who spent his entire career with the Braves, who passed away on Nov 30 at age of 88.
Frank Howard, aka Hondo and from his years in as a Washington Senator, the Capital Punisher, who passed away earlier on October 30 at age 87.
I'm getting upset at inconsistent schedule listings by TCM. No sports-related movies that I've detected for the remainder of December but for those who maybe wisely stay home on New Years Eve, at 8p Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" (1987), then no listing until 1130p "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984).
And here are a couple of Columbia basketball listings. The men off to a good start at 8-3 - though schedule has been softened with Div III cupcakes -
play Fordham on Rose Hill in the Bronx Dec 30 1p. It is the Tom Konchalski Classic in honor of the late basketball scout. More on that in next post.
Speaking of my favorite subject of scouting, the New York Pro Scouts Association has its annual banquet on Fri night Jan 19 at Leonard's of Great Neck on Northern Boulevard. It's truly the start of the new season.
Tickets are $100 and are available through Jan 12. No tickets will be sold at the door. Longtime scout Billy Blitzer is the main conduit at 3759 Nautilus Ave, Brooklyn NY 11224 or reachable at. BBSCOUT1@aol.com
David Cone is the scheduled guest speaker and the Yankees longtime area scout Matt Hyde has been voted by his peers the Scout of the Year.
Sat Jan 6 2p on Morningside Heights Levien Gym, 120th St/Broadway Columbia women, off to 7-4 start against excellent opposition, open defense of Ivy League co-title against Penn.
That's all for now - always remember: take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative. I'm on the mend myself which is very good news.