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In Memory of Don Sutton + TCM Tips for Late January

On January 19th, on the eve of President Biden's inauguration, baseball lost its ninth Hall of Famer since April when Don Sutton, 75, died of cancer in Rancho Mirage, California.

 
In a 23-year career, Sutton posted a 324-256 won-lost record with a 3.26 ERA.

He threw 178 complete games with 58 shutouts. 

 
His walk-strikeout ratio was solid, 1343:3574. Innings pitched ratio to hits were less impressive, 5282:4692. He won 15 games or more in 15 seasons, including one 20-win season.

 
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 during his fifth year of eligibility.  

There are some remarkable similarities in the careers of Sutton and Gaylord Perry, elected in 1976, and not just because both were accused of doctoring the baseball.  

 
In a 22-year career, culminating in a 1976 enshrinement in Cooperstown, Gaylord went 314-265 with a 3.10 ERA and an impressive BB-K ratio: 1379-3534. Hits-IP not as impressive 5351:4938.  303 CG astounding, 53 shutouts. 

 
Sutton made his post-career mark as an able announcer for the Atlanta Braves.

I once had a nice conversation with him about his pennant-winning victory over Jim Palmer and the Orioles in the final game of the 1982 season. 

 
I told him that I was sitting in the outfield nosebleed sections of Baltimore Memorial Stadium.  I saw him and Palmer and Sutton shake hands before they warmed up in their separate bullpens.  

 
Sutton remembered that handshake and asked if I had a photo of it.  Unfortunately I did not, but I'm happy that the moment formed a baseball memory that has lingered for us both.


Check out "To A Hall of Famer, Pitching Was an 'Easy Job," Tyler Kepner's very moving remembrance of Sutton in the January 21 New York Times. He never forgot how hard his father worked to support the family in the Florida panhandle. 

 
This coming Tuesday January 26th the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of this year's voting for enshrinement in Cooperstown.  It is possible that no new members will be elected to join Derek Jeter and Larry Walker and Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller.  They were voted in last year but the induction was delayed because of the pandemic. 

 

Before I leave, here are some TCM viewing tips, the old movie station that has kept me grounded during the Trump years and I expect will do the same in the future. 

 

Sat January 23 at noon - "Black Legion" 1937 - Humphrey Bogart as a Detroit

auto worker who misses on a promotion and joins a nativist group.  Still relevant for obvious reasons.

 
8p "Out of the Past" 1947 - this week's "Essential", a classic noir with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer directed by Jacques Tourneur.

 

12M - repeated Sun on 10A - "Born to Kill" 1947  Lawrence Tierney who takes Noir savagery to new heights/meaning lows.  Claire Trevor hangs on for dear life. With Walter Slezak as a private detective.

 
Wed Jan 27 145p "Trouble Along the Way" 1953 John Wayne as small town football coach trying to save a church.  With Donna Reed and Charles Coburn. The film where the oft-used phrase actually comes from, "Winning is the only thing".

 
Th Jan 28 8p "The Heiress" 1949 based on a Henry James story with unforgettable performances by Olivia DeHavilland and Montgomery Clift

 
Fr Jan 29 8p "Citizen Kane" 1941 I don't think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread - forgive hoary metaphor - but it certainly was influential.  

 
S Jan 30 8p "The Music Man" 1962 this week's "Essential" with Robert Preston and Paul Ford as the bedraggled Mayor of the town - not longer after his memorable take as Colonel Hall trying to deal with Phil Silvers' Ernie Bilko

 
Su Jan 31 midnight repeated at 10A  "The Killers" 1964 with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, directed by Don Siegel.  Past Noir's heyday but sure looks appealing. 

 
Unifying the country may be impossible and not particularly desirable as long as one minority is armed and dangerous. After the events of January 6th we can't say that with assurance.  

 

Let's just be glad that Trump was a one-term President and that an adult is now in charge or at least tries to make governing for all the people again a possibility,  one of his Biden's and my favorite words. 

 

That's all now.  Always remember: Take it easy but take it! 

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Remembering Tom Seaver (1945-2020)

There is too much cruel coincidence happening in the world these days. On August 28 Jackie Robinson Day turns out to be the day that actor Chadwick Boseman, 43, who played Robinson in the movie "42," died after a long secret battle with colon cancer.  (To keep his memory vividly alive, check out the YouTube video of Boseman's 2018 Howard University commencement speech). 

 

Then, a few days later on Wednesday Sept 2, moments after sitting in on a fascinating Zoom New York Giants Preservation Society interview with Fresno-based baseball writer Dan Taylor, word comes that Fresno native Tom Seaver, 75, had died after a long illness. 

 
It was in Fresno where Seaver grew up. After a nondescript high school baseball career, he enlisted in a six-month program in the Marines where he grew into his powerful body.

 

He enrolled at Fresno City College where his coach Len Bourdet, a veteran of Iwo Jima and still alive at 94, exclaimed, "He went in as a boy and came back as a man." Another Marine, Seaver's first Mets manager Gil Hodges, loomed as another great influence on him. 

 

(Many thanks to Dan Taylor for these insights - his book on the late great baseball scout George Genovese "A Scout's Report" is required reading for anyone who wants to understand baseball.) 

 
I didn't live in New York when Seaver rocketed to fame as the Mets' 24-year-old 25-game winner for the world champion 1969 Mets. But who didn't know about "Tom Terrific"? He was a crossover star writ large.  Even my mother and most non-baseball-loving mothers knew about Seaver.  

 
So I was thrilled in 1983 to get the assignment of working with him on the instructional book "The Art of Pitching".  I appreciate that Tyler Kepner quoted from it in his warm appreciation in the Sept 4 print NY Times (still available on nytimes.com)

 

1983 was the year Seaver came back to the Mets from the Cincinnati Reds where he had been traded in 1977.  Free agency had arrived in baseball after the 1976 season, and Met management didn't want to re-sign Seaver because . . . well, poor decisions by Mets management haven't changed much over the years. 

 
At 38, Seaver knew he was in the latter stages of his career but he still exuded professional pride and cared deeply about playing the game the right way. I also learned quickly that he could also be a world-class needler.  

 
The best example happened on a freezing late April night at Shea Stadium. Seaver was pitching in shirt sleeves - if his uni top were a buttoned variety (and not a grotesque polyester pullover), the top button would have been opened, his longtime homage to Willie Mays. 

 
In the stands behind home plate, yours truly was dressed for the Arctic - heavy winter coat, thick scarf, and knitted cap pulled down over most of my face. 

 
Seaver wound up throwing a three-hit shutout and I congratulated him after the game.  "I saw you," he said. "You looked like Nanook of Israel." Nanook was my nickname from then on.

 
I have another fond early memory from working on the book in spring training.  He rented a lovely beach house on the ocean near St. Petersburg. One afternoon he took me on a drive to a building I must see near Clearwater Beach. "It may be the largest structure in the world," he said.  

 
I was indeed impressed because it was two blocks long and two blocks wide.  Finding out the location of that house has become a kind of Rosebud sled for me.  If anyone knows, please use the contact form on this website. (And BTW I'm interested in who Sweet-Lou is who entered a wonderful comment on my last blog.)

 

Like most baseball fans, I was shocked when the Mets didn't protect him in the professional free agent compensation draft in the winter of 1983. There again Mets management shooting  itself in the leg.  

 
So Seaver wound up with the White Sox where he pitched creditably in 1984 and 1985. Which leads me to my last memorable experience with #41. 

 
I covered Phil Rizzuto Day in August 1985 for WBAI Radio at Yankee Stadium. It turned out to be Tom Seaver's 300th MLB victory - he earned it on his first try, another sign of his greatness under pressure.  

 
After the game I talked briefly to Tom's father, Charles Seaver, a great golfer in his day who also played football and basketball at Stanford. I saw first-hand that the athletic genes and love of competition ran deeply in the Seaver family.  

 
So did the love of art and architecture. Seaver's late brother, also named Charles, was a sculptor. And Tom often went to museums on the road, occasionally corralling a teammate or two to join him.  

 
I just read a wonderful reminiscence on line from a neighbor near the winery in Calistoga where he spent his happiest years after baseball as the proprietor of GTS Vineyards.  To his friends in northern California, he was simply "Tom who used to play baseball."  

 
I am glad that his suffering is over but he will certainly be missed. George Thomas Seaver will certainly not be forgotten. Though he took great pride in these numbers, he was far more than 311-205 .winning percentage .603, and remarkable walk-strikeout ratio 1390-3640.  

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