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Greetings of the Season! Remembering Bill Shannon, Saluting Bill White & Thoughts on Dodgers Free-Agent Spending Spree

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.



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Reflections on Baseball's Upcoming Winter Meetings + A Few TCM Tips

I have never sought a job in MLB or MiLB but have been to a few winter meetings, which are slightly mislabeled because they always occur before the

official start of winter on Dec. 21. I was in San Diego in 1984 not long after Calvin Griffith sold the Minnesota Twins to banker Carl Pohlad.


No longer was the franchise in his family that had owned the original Washington Senators since 1919 (patriarch Clark Griffith after managing the New York Highlanders before they became the Yankees, actually arrived in DC as manager in 1912.). In 1984, Calvin, his adopted nephew, looked very relaxed, not worrying about losing his star players to free agency - that had started 8 years earlier - or worrying about extending them and finding their productivity decline.


I commended Griffith on the good work of his franchise's scouts over the years, finding future Hall of Famers like Walter Johnson and Harmon Killebrew and developing other less heralded but genuine major leaguers. He explained one of his secrets of scouting: "We always look in a boy's mouth. If he doesn't take care of his teeth, how will he take care of his arm?" 


In 1992, I was in Louisville when former Pirates president Carl Barger was preparing to take on a similar role in the expansion Florida (now Miami) Marlins. Speaking at an executive session of owners, Barger, who helped keep his home town team in Pittsburgh after the death of longtime owner John K. Galbreath in 1985, warned his colleagues about the rising salaries in baseball.


As reported later, Barger pleaded with them to stop their reckless spending and to consider the needs of the smaller markets. Taking a break from the session, Barger stepped out into a hallway and collapsed from an aneurysm and was dead before he arrived in a hospital.  He was only 58. 

The plight of the smaller markets and also the presence of many owners who do not want to spend money for proven players remains obviously a big issue in baseball. 


Until the end of the twentieth century, the winter meetings were actually organized by the National Association, the minor leagues' ruling body. There was a far more collegial spirit then - the annual award of King of Baseball honored such revered figures as Roland Hemond and Paul Snyder, the lifelong Braves player, developer and scout who passed away on November 30 at the age of 88.    


The Covid pandemic hastened the end of the National Association and now all control is located in MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's office.  There is still lip service given to the importance of player development in every organization, but the win-now pressure from the 24/7/365 media and newbie owners and their analytic-drenched staffs is very hard to resist.


Which brings me to the future of my Orioles. I'm all for building good farm systems and growing the core of your team from within.  Yet I'm holding my breath that the Orioles don't really think that their amorphous title of "Best Minor League System in MLB" leads them to ditch more vital veterans.


It was no surprise that Kyle Gibson, who turned 36 on October 23, will be wearing the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2024. Though his numbers did not impress the analytic crowd, his ability to change speeds led to his throwing 25 double play grounders, one of the highest rates in the majors. As I wrote here this summer, his understanding of the art of pitching was as good as it gets. 


I repeat it again via my paraphrase.  You have to know when (a) you don't have anything working and find a way to get through a game; or (b) when you have to choose correctly between the pitches that are working on a day when only a couple of them are going well; and perhaps most interestingly, is the almost zen-like or gallows humor-like, (c) you have to know not to blow it when all your pitches are working on that rare day. 


Now there is talk that Baltimore brass are thinking of trading Anthony Santander, their valuable switch-hitting DH and competent right fielder, because he might get as much $13 million through arbitration and will be a free agent at the end of 2024 season. Sure, there are talented Oriole prospects on the doorstep of the majors, including Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser - both of them who got a taste of MLB in 2023. There is also Kyle Stowers who showed some promise in 2022 but 2023 was consumed by injuries. 


I am not the only one in Oriole fandom who would rue the day that "Midnight Tony" (a nicknamed bestowed early in his career as a Rule 5 pickup from Cleveland because he wore sunglasses night and day) is no longer an Oriole. I would buy out at least one of his free agent years coming up after his coming last year of arbitration.  He turned 29 on October 18 so he should be entering his prime years. 


Maybe I'm being too pessimistic (there remains a Masochist Mel alter ego lurking in my marrow!).  Am crossing fingers that general manager Mike Elias makes the right decisions because it seems likely that owner John Angelos doesn't want to invest in his stars. 


I think it is far too early to think about longterm signings of blossoming young stars Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman.  But something more than a one-year commitment to Santander makes a lot of sense to me. 


Be patient, dear readers.  Days will start getting longer around Dec 21 and by Valentine's Day the trucks with baseball equipmentds will have arrived in Florida and Arizona.


Before I close, here are a few TCM movie tips for the first half of December.


The only baseball film of note the first half of this month is Su DEC 10 1130A "Pride of the Yankees" (1942) - preceded oddly by Noir Alley's

    "I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes" (1948) with Regis Toomey/Elyse Knox


**Every Friday in December will be Cary Grant Night. 

DEC 8  features 4p "Once Upon Hollywood" (1942) Directed by Leo McCarey with Ginger Rogers, Walter Slezak 

  6p "Dream Wife" (1953  dir. Sidney Sheldon - before he became a best-selling novelist - with Deborah Kerr/Walter Pidgeon

  10p "Holiday" (1938) based on Phillip Barry's Broadway play, with Katherine Hepburn


DEC 15-actually early morning Sa Dec 16 two Hitchcock classics 

  2a "Suspicion" (1941) with Joan Fontaine

  4a "North By Northwest" (1959) with Eva Marie Saint/James Masons

 (unfortunately no "Notorious" with Ingrid Bergman all month) 


W DEC 6 is the first of two gifted writer Paddy Chayevsky Nights

  8p the classic "Marty" (1955) with Betsy Blair/Ernest Borgnine

  2a "Middle of the Night" (1959) with Fredric March/Kim Novak


W DEC 13 how about this back-to-back-to-back trio of Chayevsky!

  8p "Network" (1976) with Faye Dunaway/Peter Finch/William Holden

  1015p "The Hospital" (1971) Chayevsky's Oscar with George C. Scott/Diana Rigg/many others

  1215a "Americanization of Emily" (1964) with Julie Andrews/James Coburn/James Garner/Melvyn Douglas

  Set before D-Day, with the wonderful Johnny Mandel song "Emily" - sadly, itt didn't qualify for a Best Song Oscar because

  it was never completely performed in film, but an immortal song and a wonderful if biting movie. 


That's all for now - take it easy but take it! 













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