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Appreciating Shohei Ohtani (with correction) and Pete Sampras, Remembering Jim "Mudcat" Grant, Updating Team Israel, & TCM Noir Tips


The hot streak of Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels right-handed pitcher and DH, has been amazing to watch.  He is the first player in MLB history to be named to the AllStarGame roster as both pitcher and hitter.


The 27-year-old Japanese import already has 32 home runs, surpassing the record held by former Yankee Hideki Matsui. Hideki was very gracious praising Ohtani for breaking his record.


Thanks to our Japanese correspondent Jun Ogawa, I have learned that the former Red Sox hurler Daisuke Matsusaka recently announced his retirement effective at the end of the season.


Koji Uehara, former Oriole, Ranger, and Red Sox reliever, was effusive in his praise for Matsusaka who though a younger man was a role model when Koji came to America.  


When visiting the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI during my birthday weekend last week, I did find a good example of one American athlete's grace in retirement.  


Pete Sampras's 2007 induction speech into the tennis shrine was filled with humility and dignity.  Unlike Andy Roddick who was wearing a summer fedora with a Rolex brand on the brim, Sampras was dressed without adornment.


He admitted being nervous at the occasion and wished he were playing instead of talking. Fighting back tears throughout his brief speech, he concluded: "I'm a tennis player, nothing more, nothing less.  It's been more than enough for me."  


In an age where we ask far too much of our celebrity-athletes and too many cannot handle the exposure, Sampras's words should be remembered. 


The tennis Hall of Fame is housed in the Newport Casino. It was completed in the early 1880s, the first work of the famed architectural trio, McKim, Mead, and (Stanford) White.  It is definitely worth visiting. 


IN addition to videos of all the inductees, there are some memorable highlights from the careers of such forgotten greats as Maureen Connolly, "Little Mo," who won the Grand Slam of women's tennis while still a teenager.  


Also nicknamed "The Babe Ruthless," her career ended before she was 20 because of a horseback accident.  She became a good commentator and journalist, but so sadly died from ovarian cancer at the age of 35 in 1969. 


Speaking of athletes deserving remembrance, Jim "Mudcat" Grant died on June 12 at the age of 85. He was more than just an outstanding pitcher, 145-119, 3.63 career ERA. Except for Sandy Koufax's heroics, Grant was the most outstanding pitcher in the 1965 World Series won by the Dodgers in seven games over the Twins.  


Grant was also the author of a book on AfricanAmerican pitchers, "The Black Aces," an entertainer who performed nationally and internationally, and an effective spokesperson for racial equality.


I had a memorable encounter with him in December 2005. I had just finished taping an interview for the documentary about Larry Doby, "Pride Against Prejudice," based on Montclair State Professor Joseph Thomas Moore's book of the same name. 


I met Grant on his way into the studio.  I asked him who signed him for the Cleveland Indians back in the 1950s.  "You won't believe this," he told me. "Fred Merkle." 


Please check out the documentary, the last work produced by Bud Greenspan who became famous for his films about the Olympics.  Grant talks very movingly about how Doby was a mentor who led him before games to the bleachers to greet the Black fans who came to root for them.   


For those of a younger age, Fred Merkle was the young NY Giants first baseman who commited the famous "boner" late in the 1908 season - not touching second base from first on a supposed game-winning single to center field.  It led to the game being ruled a tie and the Cubs won a playoff and the World Series.


They wouldn't repeat that victory for the next 108 years. It was as much the curse of Fred Merkle as anything.  Because many games had been decided by a baserunner not touching second base to avoid hordes of fans invading the field. 


Here's hoping that no boners influence the rest of what looks like an exciting second half of the season.  Ohtani's Angels are now slightly over .500 and they've gotten hot with Mike Trout on the injury list.


He should be back after the AllStar game.  If the Angels get some consistent pitching and third baseman Anothony Rendon heals from his latest injury, they could at least make a run at the American League wild card. 


I am not the biggest fan of the Olympics, especially this year with covid rampant in Japan.  But I am a fan of Team israel, one of the six teams scheduled to play in late July as baseball and softball return as Olympic sports.


Second baseman Ian Kinsler is the biggest name on the scrappy Israeli team. They will be playing an exhibition at Maimonides Park (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones on Coney Island) on Sun July 11 at 4p.  Their opponent will be a team from the NY Fire Department. 


After playing against independent league teams in Rockland County, Hartford, Connecticut, and Aberdeen, Maryland, their last exhibition game will be on Tues July 20 at 630p against the NY Police Department team at the Long Island Ducks stadium in Central Islip, LI. 


Then on to Japan where they will face Team USA on July 29-30. The American team includes former Yankee reliever David Robertson, former Met third baseman Todd Frazier from the Jersey Shore, and the well-traveled pitcher Edwin Jackson.    


Before I close, here are some TCM tips for the upcoming weeks in July.


Every Friday in July is Neo-Noir night hosted by Eddie Muller and Ben Mankiewicz. Here are some of the highlights:


F July 9 8p "Get Carter" (1971) w/Michael Caine/Britt Eklund

10p "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" (1973) w. Mitchum/Peter Boyle


F July 16 630p "Baby Face" (1933) with Stanwyck using her looks to rise to the top - disappointed suitors include young John Wayne 

and Douglass Dumbrille who shortly will emerge as a wonderful bad guy in Marx Brothers and Frank Capra films.


8p "Pulp" (1972) w M. Caine as pulp writer trying to overcome that job - w. Mickey Rooney and Lionel Stander (back from blacklist)


945p "Body Heat" (1981) remake of "Double Indemnity" (1944) the film that many say started the original noir movement - w. Kathleen Turner/William Hurt


Sa July 23 

8p "Blood Simple" (1984) first Coen Brothers film

10p "Night Moves" (1975) Arthur Penn directs Gene Hackman/Susan Clark

12M "To Live and Die In LA" - Wm. Friedkin directs Willem Defoe/John Turturro


Here's the Noir Alley schedule.  N.B. Sat night screening now starts at 1230A not midnight, and often, not always repeated Su at 10AM 


Su July 11 "The Bribe" (1949) with Charles Laughton/Ava Gardner/Vincent Price/Robert Taylor


Su July 18 "Los Tallos Amargos" (1956) so rare that nothing about it on tcm.com/schedule  Never hurts though to re-check it


Su July 25 "Cause for Alarm" (1949)


Su August 1 "Hollow Triumph" (1948)  Paul Henried as a crook turned psychiatrist.  This one not repeated at 10AM


That's all for now - always remember:  Take it easy but take it.



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"Good and Crazy": Kaz Uehara's Nice Summation of the Red Sox Victory

Good and Crazy: Kaz Uehara’s Nice Summation of the Red Sox Triumph

There will be no Halloween Night climax to the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
The Red Sox scotched my fantasy last night with an efficient dispatching of the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, to win the World Series four games to two. Two three-run outbursts in the 3rd and 4th inning took all the drama out of the game as John Lackey pitched craftily until two out in the 7th inning.

Junichi Tazawa then induced a bases-loaded ground out from the heroic Allen Craig who came back from a serious foot injury to try to bring St. Louis another world title. Craig will be remembered forever for his base-running adventures in the 9th inning of Game 3 that led to the Cardinals winning the first World Series game ever on obstruction of a baserunner.

Revealingly, the Red Sox had such depth in their roster that the two Bosox victims on that play, catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia who threw off-line to third baseman Will Middlebrooks who became entangled with Craig leading to obstruction, never played again in the Series. The light-hitting but better defensive catcher David Ross replaced Saltamacchia and the 21-year-old Aruban phenom Xander Bogaerts replaced Middlebrooks and the Red Sox swept the next three games. Ross even belted the game-running RBI double in Game 5.

The late great Orioles skipper Earl Weaver used to laud his team's "deep depth". Clearly the 2013 Red Sox demonstrated that vital trait time and again. They won Games 4 and 5 without sparkplug Shane Victorino who returned to belt the bases-clearing double that cemented the Game 6 Series clincher.

As all of you must know by now, it was the first Fenway Park clinching of the World Series since 1918 and also marked Boston’s third World Series triumph in the last ten years. The Bosox turned around a dismal 2012 of 93 losses into a 97-win best record in the American League. Though behind by one game in both the League Championship Series and the World Series, they showed the resiliency of champions to win the last two playoffs in six games.

Not enough can be said about Boston closer Koji Uehara (whose name thanks to David Waldstein in the New York Times should be pronounced “Way-Ee-Hara”). I’ve noted before the amusing irony of the 38-year-old Uehara shaving his goatee and fearsome muttonchops before the Boston beards grew all around him. He might now look half his age but he was a star in Japan before the Orioles signed him.

The Birds must rue his not returning to Baltimore when he wanted to return after 2012 when the Texas Rangers let him go. We Oriole fans should remain thankful that when he was traded to Texas, we did receive in return the new home run king Chris Davis and useful power pitcher Tommy Hunter. So in the spirit of gratitude without being greedy, all hail to Koji for putting the finishing touches on the Red Sox triumphant 2013.

Uehara won the MVP in the ALCS for winning one game and saving the other three.
David Ortiz won the Series MVP for an astounding performance, 11 hits in 14 ABs and a mountain of intentional walks, making his presence in the lineup a constant worry to the overmatched Cardinals.

The best and simplest words to describe the 2013 Series experience came from Kaz Uehara, Koji’s little boy who when asked by Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews how he felt after the Series victory said simply, “Good.” And what would the celebration be like afterwards? “Crazy.”

Good and Crazy. Not bad words to sum up the season and the Series.

And now winter has come metaphorically and soon actually. Yet in approximately 105 days spring training begins!

Keep that consoling thought in mind while I remind you as always: Take it easy but take it!
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