30 Teams. 30 Posts: Toronto Blue Jays

•April 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Toronto Blue Jays Logo
In the newest installment of my “30 Teams. 30 Posts” project, I decided to cover a team that I’ve always followed on some level or another. I’ve never lived in Toronto or even been there, nor do I have any family connections to the city. The only real reason I ever took a liking to the Blue Jays was due to my brother. See, when I first discovered Baseball as a young boy around 1987/1988, my brother did as well. While everyone in my family is from San Diego and life-long fans of the San Diego Padres, my brother took an instant liking to the Blue Jays as well. He had to be in kindergarten or first grade at the time and his reasons for liking the Jays were simple enough as he based them on the Baseball cards in our collections. He liked the Blue Jays’ logo and he took an instant liking to slugger, George Bell. I could get behind this and fully supported my brother’s (somewhat odd) fandom. So by association, I ended up following the Blue Jays a lot growing up and always enjoyed watching them play.

While I liked George Bell too, I took a particular liking to players such as Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, John Olerud and Fred McGriff as well. It definitely helped that a number of notable future and ex-Padres were on the team during those years as this affected my childhood rooting interests. The World Series teams of 1992 and 1993 were easy to pull for as they were filled with many great and likable players. With that said, I’ll always remember the ’92 team beating the A’s in the ALCS on their way to winning the pennant. I was actually not all that tore up about it.

Now days, I casually pay attention to the Blue Jays. My American League East allegiance tends to be with the Rays, but I always try and pay attention to what’s going on with the Blue Jays. I always tune in when R.A. Dickey is pitching and I root for many of the current players on the team such as Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle and Munenori Kawasaki. Even though I’m not necessarily a “fan” of the team, I’ll always have an affinity for them as they trigger many memories from my childhood.

So without further hesitation, I give you some Toronto Blue Jays images and memories that I enjoy and would like to share. Oh yeah, after typing up this post, it got me thinking that I’m going to have to splurge and buy one of the old blue & white Blue Jays throwback caps in the near future.

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George Bell

As I mentioned above, my brother’s favorite player growing up was the short tempered and power hitting, George Bell. In turn, I became a big fan of him as well and made it a point to root for him and collect as many Baseball cards that featured him. With that said, my brother and me always had an understanding that when we got any George Bell or Tony Gwynn (my favorite player) cards, that we would willingly trade them to each other. He always had priority on Bell cards before me and I was OK with this.

I always thought it was unfortunate that Bell left Toronto prior to their World Series victories in ’92 and ’93 as he had spent almost a decade with the team prior to this without any real post-season success. He had some monster seasons with the team during his tenure there, including his 1987 campaign in which he won AL MVP with 47 home runs. Last I heard, Bell was working in the Blue Jays system as a roving hitting instructor or something along those lines, so it’s good to know he’s still involved in the game and with the Blue Jays.

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Joe Carter Mitch Williams

I’m sure that anyone from my generation would agree with me when I say that the 1993 World Series captivated my imagination in a way that only a scripted movie could. I must admit though, I was somewhat indifferent as to who I wanted to win due to the fact that Toronto won the year the before. I remember thinking that it would be cool if the Phillies got a ring too as I had never seen them win before. This is still a frame of mind I usually have when rooting for teams in the post-season. In any case, I was not disappointed whatsoever when Toronto won. It was pure Baseball magic and that is admirable.

I remember watching Game 6 with my family and actually walking out of front door when Joe Carter’s now famous at-bat occurred. I was being silly and said it was too much stress to watch, so I decided to step outside. I heard the cheering on the TV and popped back in after Carter hit the homerun that would forever define his legacy in the game. Bad timing on my part, but I think the amount of times that I’ve re-watched that at-bat since more than makes up for this poor choice on my part. I swear that every time I watch Carter’s at-bat, it always manages to crack a smile. I doubt this will ever change.

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Roberto-Alomar Blue jays

In the late 80s, the San Diego Padres (my favorite team) had some incredible talent coming up through their system. Two of those players coming up were the Alomar brothers. I remember my Dad being a huge fan of the duo and often talking to me about them. Well, the Padres had a terrible ownership group who managed to destroy much of their young talent during a period of 4 years or so with a series of lopsided trades and then followed them up with a mind-blowing fire sale. Future Hall of Famer, Roberto Alomar was one of the Padres young stars let go as he was traded to the Blue Jays. As they say, the rest was history.

Alomar spent the next half decade as a fixture in Toronto while earning All-Star and Gold Glove awards every year he was in the Blue Jays uniform. Without a doubt, Alomar was my favorite second basemen growing up and I was delighted to see him go into the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay. Still, I’ll always wonder what could have been if he (and others) stayed in San Diego during the early ’90s.

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R.A. Dickey

Like many others, I’m fascinated with the knuckleball. As a kid, I loved trying to throw it and from time to time, I still attempt to do so. I loved using it while playing the video game RBI Baseball as it was a sure way to strike out anyone. I also remember wanting to get my hands on the Baseball cards of anyone who threw it. This meant the Niekro brothers, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti and even a young Tim Wakefield. I’m telling you, for a period of time during my childhood, I was obsessed with the knuckleball.

This leads me to Blue Jays pitcher, R.A. Dickey. Everything about the pitch is unorthodox and as he says, “You’ve got to live and die with the pitch.” Dickey is not just one of my favorite pitchers in baseball, but one of my favorite overall players in the game. His story and attitude is great and I’m not lying when I say that I try and tune into every game he pitches. This leads to me watching more than your average amount of Blue Jays games from someone who doesn’t “follow” the team. As far as Dickey is concerned, do yourself a favor and read his book or watch the documentary “Knuckleball!” If you’re not a fan of Dickey after that, I seriously question your love of the game.

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Dave Stieb Blue Jays
I don’t think it’s a crazy statement to suggest that Dave Stieb very well may be the most admired and recognized pitcher in the history of the Blue Jays. Yes, Roy Halladay was better and is probably a Hall of Famer, but Stieb was a Blue Jay during the early years of the franchise and although injured a large part of the season and released prior to the post season, he was still a part of the ’92 World Series team (he was given a ring by the organization for his contributions to the team). When I think of the Blue Jays of the 1980s, I think of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb. During his peak years, Steib was solid as it comes and his Baseball cards were highly sought after by both my brother and myself.

My favorite part of Stieb’s career was his relationship with the elusive no-hitter. You see, during his career, Dave Stieb blew four no-hitters in the 9th inning of a game. That’s right, FOUR. To add insult to injury, two of them came in consecutive starts in 1988. If you ask me, that is some heartbreaking stuff. Well, in 1990 Stieb finally attained Baseball immortality when he accomplished what he previously could not do when he no-hit the Cleveland Indians. Click HERE to watch footage from some of the blown no-hitters and his now famous no-hitter. The Baseball gods sure do work in funny ways.

Ted Williams…again.

•March 18, 2014 • 1 Comment

It seems as if every year or so, I whip up a post consisting of only Ted Williams content. Well, today would be one of those days due to the fact that I’m currently reading The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, and this has lead to me being on a bigger Williams kick than usual. As far as the book goes, so far it seems to be the most complete and authentic take on the life of Ted Williams. I’ve read more than a few books on Ted Williams and this one stands out among its predecessors due to its thorough and unbiased content from every period of his life; this is in addition to many untold stories which I find incredibly fascinating. It’s a book definitely worth reading and I’m already suggesting it to everyone and I’m only half way through it. In any case, here are some great Ted Williams photos that I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

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Ted Wiliams Navy Baseball
Ted Williams served in the Navy in both World War II and the Korean War. While many, if not most players in the military played on service teams during wartime, Williams played very little and took the military quite seriously. I can’t quite explain why, but there’s something I really like about this photo.

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1938 Minneapolis Millers (Ted Williams)
After spending the 1936 and 1937 seasons with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, Williams was traded to the Red Sox for $35,000 and four players. He spent the 1938 season with the Minneapolis Millers, the AA affiliate for Boston and proceeded to hit .366 with 43 home runs and won the league’s triple crown. It’s safe to say that from early on, it was obvious that Ted was destined for greatness.

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Ted Williams pitching BP
According to every book I’ve read on Ted, he grew up pitching and into high school. He supposedly visualized himself as a pitcher and a good one at that. Once he started playing pro ball in the PCL, he was given opportunities by the Padres to pitch in blowouts and when arms needed to be preserved. Unfortunately, he was never all that effective on the mound during this time. In the big leagues, Boston gave him a chance to pitch in 1940 during a blowout against the Tigers in which he faced 9 batters over 2 innings and gave up three hits, one run and managed to strike out one batter.

By the looks of the photo above of him tossing BP, it seems as if Ted never completely got pitching out of his system.

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Ted Williams PCL Padres Swing
The man who’d one day be known as the Splendid Splinter takes a swing for a photographer during his time with the San Diego Padres of the old PCL.

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Ty Cobb and Ted WIlliams
Ty Cobb and Ted Williams. When most people debate who the greatest hitter of all time is, these two are usually are at the top of the list. I wish I could have listened to these hitting legends talk hitting.

I’ll Never Stop Sharing Baseball Quotes.

•January 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Bill Lee Montreal Expos
“Father time takes us all. It took Satchel Paige and it’ll take me.”Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee
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Dallas Braden Perfect Game
“There is nothing left in there, it’s just a shredded mess. I left my arm on the mound at the Coliseum, and I’m okay with that.”
Dallas Braden
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Dennis Boyd
“I pitched in a ballgame once in Montreal, and for five straight innings I threw a straight change-up every pitch.”
Dennis ‘Oil Can’ Boyd
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adrian cardenas cubs
“Baseball is visceral, tragic, and absurd, with only fleeting moments of happiness; it may be the best representation of life.”
Adrian Cardenas (from Why I Quit Major League Baseball)
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Craig Breslow Oakland
“I can no longer denounce the relevance of Twitter. It broke the story of my trade…to me.”
Craig Breslow

Satchel Paige. The Pacific Coast League. Willie Davis. Homestead Grays.

•January 22, 2014 • 2 Comments

Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige Coco Cola
Satchel Paige liked to make money, so him endorsing Coca-Cola in the early 1950′s as a member of the St. Louis Browns is no surprise to me.

Speaking of Ole’ Satch, I recently came across THIS article on USA Today Sports calling for a biopic on Paige’s life. I’ve been saying this for years. If 42 was a successful movie, I’d have to think that this would be as well. Make this happen, Hollywood!

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Dom Dallessandro

PCL Padres 1939 Dom Dellessandro
I came across this old Pacific Coast League photo recently and was quite delighted. I don’t know all the details of this photo, but do know that it’s from 1939 and that’s Dom Dallessandro from the San Diego Padres making his way down the first base line. I believe it was taken at Lane Field and the Padres were playing the Oakland Oaks?

Dallessandro had one hell of a season in 1939 by knocking in 199 hits with a .368 batting average. This undoubtedly helped him return to the big leagues, where he played for parts of the next 7 seasons with the Cubs before returning to the PCL in 1948 to play for the Angels.

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Willie Davis

Willie Davis Slide (Neil Leifer)
April 25th, 1965. Los Angeles Dodger’s center fielder Willie Davis prepares to slide into second base. According to the description, photographer Neil Leifer grabbed this gem by remotely taking a photo with a camera that was placed underneath the base. This easily has to be one of my favorite action shots of all time.

If you are interested in purchasing a print of this, or checking out any other amazing photos taken by Leifer, visit the official site HERE.

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Homestead Grays

1913 Homestead Grays
The 1913 Homestead Grays in their second year in existence. Third from the left, on the second row is Cumberland Posey. If you’re not aware of Posey’s significance to the Homestead Grays and the Negro Leagues, I suggest reading up on him as he was one of the most important people in black baseball due to the fact that he played with, managed, and owned the Grays during his career.

In 2006, Posey was recognized for these contributions and voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Too bad it was 60 years after his untimely death in 1946 of cancer.

Click on the photo for a high-def scan version. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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Artie Wilson

Artie Wilson Seattle Rainers
Another great Pacific Coast League photo, this time we have Artie Wilson of the Seattle Rainiers running through first base in a game against the Hollywood Stars. Wilson is one of my favorite players of yesteryear due to his Baseball resume, which consists of time played in the Major Leagues, Pacific Coast League, and Negro Leagues. I recently discovered that he also spent time playing in the Puerto Rican Baseball League. I think it’s safe to say that he had one hell of a career in Baseball that spanned from the early 1940s to the 1960s.

Besides Wilson’s longevity and various leagues he played in, he’s also known for batting .402 in 1948 with the Birmingham Black Barons, playing in 4 Negro League All-Star games and winning 4 PCL batting titles. I wish more people knew about the guy, he definitely deserves the recognition.

Goodbye, Jerry Coleman.

•January 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

Jerry Coleman Tribute Image

Last Sunday afternoon, I received a text message from a friend in San Diego that simply said “The Colonel died.” Nothing more, nothing less. Immediately, I had to google it to see if this was indeed true and when I saw the reports slowly start to pour in, my heart sank. Someone I’ve admired, looked up to and who has captured my imagination on many levels for the majority of my life had passed away. It may seem silly saying this, but in a way, it felt like I’d lost a family member. This feeling of loss has only grown since I’ve had time to reflect on my memories of Jerry Coleman.

I often take issue with the word “hero” but I look at Jerry Coleman and that’s the only word I can use to describe him. Looking at just his life in Baseball, which lasted over 70 years, I think it’s safe to say that he had one of the most impressive resumes imaginable. I certainly don’t want this post to be a stat and accomplishment driven tribute, but these are the facts and they paint a picture of how relevant Jerry Coleman was to the world of Baseball. If you were to add his military accomplishments, which lead to him being the only Major League player to see combat in 2 wars and resulted in his playing career getting put on hold both times, this list would be much longer:

-In 1939, he was a bat-boy for the San Francisco Seals of the old Pacific Coast League.
-From 1942 to 1957, he spent his entire playing career in the Yankees organization, where he played on 6 World Series teams.
-Placed 3rd in the 1949 Rookie of the Year voting.
-In 1950, he was voted to the All-Star Game and won the World Series MVP award.
-From 1958 to 1960, he worked in the Yankees front office.
-In 1960, he began his broadcasting career, where he did the CBS MLB game of the week.
-In 1963, he began his 7 year tenure as part of the Yankees broadcast team.
-In 1970, became part of the California Angels broadcast team.
-In 1972, became the voice of the San Diego Padres, which lasted over 40 years.
-In 1980, left the broadcast booth to manage the Padres for 1 season.
-In 2005, was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
-In 2007, was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
-In 2007, was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.
-In 2012, in honor of “Jerry Coleman Day” in San Diego, a statue was built and unveiled in his honor at Petco Park.

Jerry Coleman passed away at the age of 89, yet as anyone familiar with the Colonel knew, he had to be the youngest 89 year old around as he was still quite active in both the booth and Padres organization. He had the youthful exuberance of a man much younger than him. He was still physically able, sharp, funny, and it was apparent to anyone who listened that he was still very much in love with the game of Baseball. An irrational side of myself honestly thought that Jerry would be around forever due to these reasons. He did not seem like a man approaching 90 years old and that’s a hard pill to swallow due to the fact that Jerry Coleman’s death was a result of a fall he had in December. Not due to age, disease, or whatever mother nature has in store for most people in their golden years. Due to this, I’ll always wonder how long we could have had Jerry Coleman? I’m convinced that some great years were stolen from us.

I associate Jerry Coleman with my love of the game. I’ve watched and listened to Padres games since I was a kid and Jerry Coleman has always been the one constant in that organization through my entire life. Along with Tony Gwynn, there’s not a person involved in the game of Baseball that’s meant as much to my family and myself and that’s the honest truth. I’ll always associate family with Jerry Coleman and to this day, my dad still quotes Jerry’s trademark “Oh Doctor, You can hang a star on that baby!” If I ever have children, I know that I’ll continue this tradition and while telling them of great (and not so great) Padres of the past, much like my parents and Grandmother did with me. Rest assured, Jerry Coleman will be at the top of that list.

To some, Baseball may be just another corporate sport filled with millionaire athletes and this may be true on a level. However, there’s more to Baseball below this surface and that’s why the game is special. Jerry represented this as he reminded me of the raw and genuine love of the game that many of us discover as children. He played in the Golden Age of Baseball and was one of the last remaining people left from that era who was still involved and relevant. I don’t like to generalize and disregard other generations, but the players from the Golden Age brought something to the table not found in generations since.

While watching and reading tributes to Jerry this last week, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t shed a tear a couple times. When spring training games start up again late next month, I won’t be surprised if this happens again. Baseball lost someone very special last Sunday and I feel as if I lost someone special as well. Jerry Coleman, you were a good one and will be missed by many.

In typical 90 Feet of Perfection fashion, I pay tribute to Jerry Coleman with some photos I both enjoy and find interesting. I hope you do as well.

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Jerry Coleman Billy Martin
Jerry and Billy Martin relax at second base during a 1950′s spring training. Coleman and Martin are two of my favorite players in Baseball history for various reasons and the fact that they both came from the Bay area certainly contributes to this. Although Coleman was almost 4 years older than Martin and they came from different sides of the Bay, I’ve often wondered if they knew of each other or crossed paths prior to playing with the Yankees?

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Jerry Coleman Padres Manager'
In 1980, Coleman left the confines of the broadcasting booth to manage the team. Legend has it that Coleman took the job after the Padres promised that he could return to his job in the booth after his tenure was over. The Friars only went 73-89 that season, but up to that point it was the best record the club had accomplished in it’s 11 year existence.

In my opinion, the Padres should retire his #2 that he wore that season solely based on his significance to the team. Everth Cabrera currently wears the number for the team.

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Jerry Coleman HOF
July 31st, 2005. Jerry Coleman during what he described as one of the greatest days of his life. He ended his acceptance speech with the line “On this golden day here in Cooperstown, a journey that started 63 years ago, I feel that finally, finally, I’ve come home. Thank you.” I will always remember this fondly due to the fact that I felt like one of “my” guys made it to Cooperstown.

Dave Winfield may have went into Cooperstown as a Padre but not without some controversy and Tony Gwynn was still a couple years away. Coleman may have played for the Yankees, but he was Padre through and through and it was quite special to see him honored with the Ford C. Frick Award . To watch video of his induction speech, click HERE.

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Jerry Coleman double play

“The best second baseman I ever saw on the double play.”Casey Stengel on Jerry Coleman

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Jerry Coleman in Booth
I’ll never hear Jerry call a Padres game again and this is saddening. Yes, he didn’t do as many games as he used to, but the fact that I always knew he was there and still calling games, regardless of how often, was comforting.

I came across THIS video of Coleman’s last game in the booth and it made me both happy and sad. Andy Masur shared the booth with Jerry for what was the final home game of this last season, which resulted in the Padres beating the Diamondbacks on a walk-off single in the 11th inning by Alexi Amarista. Jerry finished the game by piping in with an ecstatic “What a finish!” This captured his childlike enthusiasm for the game of Baseball in a very heartwarming way.

 
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