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Reflections on Jackie Robinson Day + Thoughts on the Early 2023 Season (slightly expanded edition)

Major League Baseball has been celebrating April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day since 1997,  the year that was the 50th anniversary of Opening Day at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's 20th century color line by starting at first base for the Dodgers.


Thanks to a suggestion by future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., every player now wears the number 42 on April 15.  (I'm glad I'm not an inexperienced official scorer on that day.)


This year I decided shortly before Apr 15 to visit the newly opened Jackie Robinson Museum on 75 Varick Street in downtown Manhattan at the corner of Canal Street not far from the Holland Tunnel. (Varick is the extension of 7th Avenue South).   


The modern 20,000 square foot museum is well-equipped with all kinds of devices that bring to life the story of Robinson's event-filled 53 years as ballplayer and civil rights pioneer. They should especially appeal to the youngsters who may have just heard the name of Robinson in a book. 


Robinson received many letters from admirers who were awed by his courage. Among the more traditional exhibits was a letter to "dearest Jackie" that came from a sophomore in a segregated high school in Johnson City, Tennessee. He wrote his hero that he was following his every move, he was playing first base, and hoped to one day follow in his footsteps at UCLA. (Of course, Robinson only

played first base in 1947 and then moved to second and later third base.) 


A museum visitor can also click a button and watch such notable people as pitcher Carl Erskine  - who at 95 is the oldest of Robinson's surviving teammates - tell the story of how Jackie "literally changed the face of America." He calls it "a piece of history I was glad to see." 


(For more on Carl Erskine's remarkable life story, check out "The Best We've Got," Indianapolis film maker Ted Green's full-length documentary now available on DVD. It is narrated by Long Island native Charlie Steiner, LA Dodgers broadcaster and former Yankees broadcaster.)


As a Branch Rickey biographer, I was glad that letters from Rickey and Robinson are exhibited that show the genuine paternal relationship that existed between the two Type-A personalities who changed the face of baseball and this country. 


The Jackie Robinson Museum is open Thursday through Sundays from 11-6 PM. I highly recommend a visit.



As for the first few weeks of the 2023 baseball-history-in-the-making, the old adage remains very true.  You can't win a pennant in April, but you sure can lose one this early even during a time when 12 of 30 teams make the post-season.   


I have been increasingly concerned about the disparity between haves and have-nots in today's MLB.  2022 was the first year in MLB history that four teams finished with 100 or more wins AND four finished with 100 or more losses.  


I have doubts that there will be that many 100 game winners in 2023, but the outlook sure looks grim for Royals, Nats, Rockies, and especially A's who seem destined for Las Vegas. It's one thing to support the short season of football and a longer but not baseball-long hockey season. That MLB will be

successful in Las Vegas is hardly a slam dunk. 


As an Oriole fan, I am happy that before games on Friday Apr 21, we are four games over .500 which is where we finished 2022.  It will all come down to pitching and defense and just enough offense for Baltimore and all teams.


I will have more to say about 2023 developments in MLB and on the college baseball front in the

next post. Also I'll share some highlights from the round of interviews I've been doing for my new book on scouting. You can order BASEBALL'S ENDANGERED SPECIES on the main page of this blog. 


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and these days especially remember:

Stay positive, test negative.  









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Reflections on The Joys of Late March 2023: MLB Season About To Begin and My Favorite College Cagers, Columbia Lion women and Wisconsin Badger men, Have Made Their NIT Final Fours

I spent the week of March 13 in and near Sarasota, Florida. I saw my Orioles win a couple of games but I'm don't get carried away by victories in exhibition games because no manager makes moves to win those games.  Usually late inning pitchers are prospects (or suspects) just getting some exposure. 


I am looking forward to the first full season of switch-hitting catcher Adley Rutschman, the top prospect from Oregon State U. who in his mid-twenties may be emerging as a team leader.  After a slow start this spring due to a minor wrist injury, young Gunnar Henderson, another top prospect signed after high school in Alabama, looked like he was finding his batting stroke.  He seems ticketed for third base but can also play a good shortstop.


I'm rooting for RHP Dean Kremer, the last player in the organization from the Manny Machado trade a few seasons ago.  Kremer is the first dual Israeli-American in MLB history.  He pitched well for Israel in the World Baseball Classic and is proud of his long hair that occasionally becomes a man-bun. 


I am prouder of his desire to pitch deep into games. At least into the sixth or seventh inning to not only save the bullpen from over-usage, but also to defy the analytic shibboleth that pitchers cannot deal with a lineup a third time through. Puhleeze, let's get more pitchers wanting to extend themselves, learning to pitch while a little tired. 


Kremer becomes more important - as does another RHP Kyle Bradish who came over from the Angels some years ago in a trade for faded prospect Dylan Bunday - became word just came that DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, two projected top starters, will need more seasoning at Triple A Norfolk. 


Sarasota and nearby Bradenton have wonderful spring training baseball history.  Sarasota also has some great museums. If you have a chance, the Tiffany exhibit at the Selby Gardens near downtown Sarasota runs through Su Jun 25.  Charles Tiffany loved exploring nature as well as working with glass and Selby's mainly outdoor exhibit does great honor to his memory. 


A less well-known Sarasota attraction is the Marietta (Lee) Museum of Art and Whimsy open only three afternoons a week, Th thru Sat from 1-4p.  Located less than two miles south of the famous Ringling Museum, it features an astonishing array of offbeat paintings and sculptures that extend into the bathrooms. 


There is also a piano that anyone can sit down and play.  Somehow my romantic realist self managed to render an at-least melodically correct version of the Jimmy Van Heusen-Johnny Burke 1940s classic "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." 


I didn't see the Yankees and Mets play, but kudos to the Yankees for giving young Anthony Volpe, a Jersey guy, the shortstop job, at least in the early going.  Nothing like young blood to push and invigorate the veterans. 


On the other hand, the Mets have sent back to the minors their top prospects, third baseman Brett Baty  and catcher Francisco Alvarez.  One of manager Buck Showalter's fortes has always been developing youngsters.


He made Bernie Williams feel comfortable as a young Yankee center fielder and did the same in Baltimore for infielders Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. One wonders if these decisions were

truly approved by him. 


The baseball season is so loooooong! I wish it were shorter but nobody listens to me on the macro

issues.  So let me conclude this post with paeans to how well the Columbia women cagers and surprisingly the Wisconsin men are playing.  


Columbia's women under 7th-year coach Megan Griffith narrowly missed the NCAA tournament.

Selfishly, I was glad because I could see the games at increasingly rocking Levien Gym, now

easily accessible at Broadway and 120th Street.  (No longer does one have to negotiate a lot of

steps on the campus.) 


"Creating a winning culture" is one of the great cliches of today's sports, but it is ever hard to achieve. 

Coach Griffith, an especially youthful 37, played for so-so Columbia teams under 4 different coaches. She became a 1000-point scorer in her career. 


After pro ball in Finland, she started a coaching career in the USA, spending several years at Princeton where she learned a lot about winning.  She is never afraid to talk about the W word.


So much of any winning philosophy comes from realizing that there are no such things as "small things".  Big things don't happen unless the small things are executed.  


Two examples from Columbia's recent NIT run have stood out.  First, when senior Duke transfer Jaida

Patrick fouled out of a stirring comeback 88-82 win over Syracuse - a rare occurrence by the

way because Columbia players know how to play in foul trouble - I noticed Jaida taking a clipboard on the bench and helping out with stats. 


My second observation came just before the second half of Sunday Mar 26's quarter-final win over Harvard, the 3rd Columbia W over a big Ivy rival in 4 games this season.  I noticed junior sharpshooter Abby Hsu and senior forward Kaitlin Davis quietly talking to each other as they slowly headed to the bench.  


Normally consistent scorers, they were out of sync in the first half, maybe not surprising because when you play a team four times, there are no secrets.  I had the sense though that they knew what to do in the second half.  Sure enough, Columbia opened up a 20-point lead and then held on to beat the Crimson 77-71. 


On Wed Mar 29 at 6p EDT, Columbia squares off against the Bowling Green Falcons on their home court in Ohio. The game will be televised on the extra-pay ESPN3 channel. A matchup between 27-5 Lions and 31-6 Palcons should be a doozy. 


The winner will face the winner of the Washington at Kansas game. We won't know definitely until after the Wed games where the final will be held but that game will be televised at 530p Sa April 1 on CBSSN which is channel 315 on Spectrum.


It has been a great joy to watch Griffith's five over the last few seasons, slowly but surely getting near the pinnacle of a championship.  It had to be a special treat for her to coach two more member of the 1000-point club, senior forwards Kaitlyn Davis and Sienna Durr. 


As for the Wisconsin Badgers' surprise run to the NIT Final Four, they are playing N. Texas State in Las Vegas at 7p Tu Mar 28 on ESPN.  The winner will face either Ohio Valley or UAB (U of Alabama Birmingham) at 940p on Th Mar 31 on ESPN.  


It took a disappointing year and only the second failure to make the Big Dance since 1998 for the

Badgers to re-awaken.  With Michigan State's loss to Kansas State in the Elite Eight at Madison

Square Garden, Wisconsin is the last Big Ten team standing even if it is "just" the NIT.


The emergence of junior transfer Max Klesmit as a clutch scorer as well as a gritty defender has given Wisconsin a huge boost.  So has the occasional offensive eruptions of junior 7-foot center

Steven Crowl.   Enigmatic sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn doesn't have to be the only

big game shooter now. First year guard Connor Essegian has a shooting touch reminiscent of Columbia's Abby Hsu and maybe the ankle of versatile veteran Tyler Wahl has finally healed. 


That's all for now.  Next time more on the short but intense college basseball season in the NYC

area with such solid teams as Columbia, Fordham, Rutgers, and St. John's are in regular action.

Of special interest to me is the rare visit of UConn to Columbia on Tu aft Apr 4 at 330P.


Always remember - Take it easy but take it, and these days, stay positive, test negative. 











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