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A Special Sendoff to WFAN's Steve Somers, A Deserved Honor for Scout Billy Blitzer, and In Memory of Royals Scout Art Stewart

To those outside the range of WFAN's 660 AM or 101.9 FM's frequency, Steve Somers' 

name may not ring a bell. 

But to those in the New York City area and those with access to the audacy.com streaming link, Somers was renowned as the last of the original on-air voices of the nation's first 24-hour sports radio station. 


The outpouring of praise and love for him as his 34-year WFAN career came to an

end in mid-November was genuine.  Media columnist Andrew Marchand in the New York Post put it very well when he noted the irony that it took a fellow from San Francisco to give the station its first true New York voice. 


Starting as the overnight host "under the covers, talking S-P-O-R-T-S," Somers became the utility player extraordinaire in the later years of his career.  Working many different shifts, I'd call him the Kike Hernandez/Chris Taylor of NY sports radio.  


Somers' well-written opening monologues were informative and humorous, qualities very rare in a medium too often drowned out by shouting and superficial statistics from both hosts and callers.  Somers' persona was genuinely caring and compassionate.


How fitting that his last special one-hour afternoon show began with a call from Jerry Seinfeld, his longtime fan, and ended with Bernie Williams calling in to say that as a Yankee player he always felt the fairness and insightfulness of Somers' commentaries. 


Always nice to see class and professionalism applauded.  And somewhere in the burgeoning world of new media I am hoping we'll hear again before too long that original and thoughtful Somers' voice.    


I'm happy to report that for the first time in the long history of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), a baseball scout will be honored.  Billy Blitzer, recently retired after a 40-year career with the Chicago Cubs, will receive recognition at the BBWAA annual dinner at New York's Hilton Hotel on Sa January 29. 


Among Blitzer's noteworthy signees were shortstop Shawon Dunston, the first pick in the nation in 1982, and southpaw Jamie Moyer, a sixth round pick in 1984 who like too many of Chicago signees went on to greater success elsewhere.  Moyer wound up winning 269 games, only 28 for the Cubs.  


On a sadder scouting note, Art Stewart, the Chicago-born Kansas City Royals scout who initally worked for the Yankees, passed away on November 11 at the age of 94. 


Among his many accomplishments, Stewart was instrumental in guiding Hall of Famer George Brett and Bo Jackson from the amateur ranks to the majors. He always gave full credit to area scouts and the solid organization built by the late Kansas City owner pharmaceutical magnate Ewing Kauffman.


His book "The Art of Scouting" is a worthy contribution to understanding the most essential and often misunderstood business of player evaluation and development. 


There will be more stories about Blitzer and Stewart and many other scouts in my own work-in-progress tentatively entitled "Homage to An Endangered Species."   


In the meantime always remember:  Take it easy but take it!  And stay positive and test negative.    

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It's Only Early September But American League Wild Card Race Getting Wilder and Wilder + Two Good Causes

The innovations of the second wild card and mainly divisional play in September have made for amazingly exciting American League races. Blasé folks will say, “It’s only mediocre teams fighting for the right for an early playoff elimination.”

They may be right, but for an Orioles fan the sudden re-emergence of Baltimore to the fringe of the wild card race has been very welcome. They only split four games with the cellar-dwelling Toronto Blue Jays this weekend, but their two extra-inning wins kept hopes alive for even more meaningful games later in September.

Both wins went to rookie right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, a thirteenth round draft choice out of St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia, a school known more for basketball than baseball with the major exception of southpaw Jamie Moyer.

Yacabonis hails from Matawan, New Jersey, and has a grandfather who played pro ball in Cuba. It’s always rewarding to see kids from the Northeast, where weather conditions are always capricious, make a mark in the Show.

A tip of the cap to the Blue Jays who are not a bad team and are coming off two straight playoff appearances. But I knew they would struggle this year when they decided not to re-sign powerful Edwin Encarnacion who took his wares to Cleveland.

They have also lost key pitchers to injury, but they played the Orioles very tough this weekend. A 21-year-old middle infielder Richard Urena had a memorable first MLB at-bat in Friday night’s Orioles nail-biting 1-0 13-inning win. He fought off 10 pitches from reliever Brad Brach before delivering a ringing double to left field.

It was a sign of improved Bird pitching that Urena was stranded. The double shutout lasted until Jonathan Schoop doubled home Manny Machado with the winning run in the bottom of the 13th.

It was Schoop who got the leadoff double in Sunday’s 5-4 extra-winning win that came around to score on Mark Trumbo’s double. (It helped that Toronto walked the struggling Chris Davis to get to Trumbo.)

Schoop has not only been clearly the Orioles’ MVP in 2017, but if he keeps up his clutch hitting and sturdy defensive play he’ll get into the league MVP consideration. He’s driven in over 100 runs for the first time and is closing in on league RBI leader former Oriole Nelson Cruz.

These close games are always draining for the fans. At least they players get to play and try to forge their own destiny. For now I’m just savoring the narrow series split and taking some deep breaths before the Yankees come to Baltimore on Labor Day for a three-game series.

Dylan Bundy takes the ball on Labor Day, and I hope he realizes he cannot match his his last performance, a complete game one-hitter over the Mariners. I think he is mature and talented to stay within himself and give the Birds a good chance to win.

To give you an idea of how wild the AL wild card race is, the Orioles swept Seattle and knocked them under .500. They went home to sweep the A’s and are now only one game behind Baltimore.

The Yankees and Twins still lead the race for the two wild cards but as long as you are over .500 and within three games of the second WC, you have a chance. So take heart Rangers, Royals, and even Rays fans too.

1. Bernie Williams, the classiest of all the Yankees' great turn-of-20th-century teams, has become a key spokesman for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. His father, Bernabe Williams, Sr., died of the disease. Google PFF for more information.

On a Labor Day weekend Yankee broadcast, Williams didn't take the bait of a question about his favorite Yankees World Series-winning team.

But he did say that the 2001 team, that lost in the 9th inning of the 7th game, was very special because it came after 9/11. How the country and not just New York City rallied behind them remains an indelible moment.

Bernie's new career as an accomplished guitarist is going well. He even applied a musical twist to a question about why he isn't considered a member of the Core Four with Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Mariano Rivera. "I like the sound of the Core Four Plus Bernie," he quipped.

2. Here is word on a special organization founded by Chicago White Sox John Tumminia. Baseball Miracles that brings the joy of baseball to underprivileged youngsters all over the world.

They've been to Kenya and Native American communities in the Dakotas and many other stops. Next up this fall is a trip to Argentina. For more information about how to donate equipment and make contributions, check out: http://www.baseballmiracles.org

That's all for now, butalways remember: Take it easy but take it!
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