A Tribute to Those We’ve Lost in 2014.

•January 20, 2015 • 1 Comment

Regularly updating 90 Feet of Perfection often took a backseat to other things such as my professional life and actually playing baseball in 2014. With that said, I’ve always paid tributes to those from the baseball world who have passed, but with the exceptions of my tributes to Jerry Coleman and Tony Gwynn, I was not able to keep this up this in 2014. I feel there’s no better time to pay tribute to those we’ve lost the year than now, and by doing so, I start by sharing a quote from the book “Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul,” which I feel is quite applicable to this post.

“Baseball is not life and death. But in life and in death, we remember the game, and we remember those who shared the game with us.”

Tony Gwynn & Jerry Coleman

2001-DSC_0012 (CH)

As mentioned above, the only memorial posts I did in 2014 were in honor of two of my personal baseball heroes in Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman. I’d rather not spend more time on their deaths as the posts (Coleman’s & Gwynn’s) were quite in depth, but to reiterate, I grew up with these legends and I’ll always associate my love of the game with both of them. It still bothers me that they passed away and as a fan of the San Diego Padres, I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the worst years in organizational history.

Don Zimmer

Don Zimmer Brooklyn Dodgers

Don Zimmer literally spent his entire adult life in baseball. In 1949, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 18 years old, spent parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues, 1 year in Japan and spent the rest of his life in coaching, managerial and front office positions with various teams. When he died in June at the age of 83, he was still working with the Tampa Bay Rays and still quite involved with the game of baseball. My favorite thing about Zimmer is how’d he proudly proclaim that he “Never drew a paycheck outside of baseball.” He was a lifer and will be missed.

Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner Pittsburgh Pirates

When Ralph Kiner passed away back in February, it made me think of Jerry Coleman. Jerry died the month before and was from the same era of baseball. In addition to this, both men made impacts via the broadcast booth with teams other than who they were associated with during their playing careers. Kiner will be remembered as both a Pirate and a Met and fan bases of both teams, along with the world of baseball heavily mourned the day the 91 year old Hall of Famer passed away.

Unrelated to his passing, what I often think of in regards to Kiner is his early retirement from playing the game. Due to a back injury, he was forced into early retirement at the age of 32 after only 10 years in the big leagues. During his shortened career, he hit 369 home runs and accumulated almost 1500 hits. If he managed to play another 5 or 10 years while being somewhat healthy and productive, I think it’s safe to say that he would be known as one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history. With that said, when Kiner did hang up his spikes, he was 6th on the all-time home run list.

Bob Welch

Bob Welch Oakland A's

The death of Bob Welch was a shock to many and much like Tony Gwynn, who would pass away one week later, he also left this world much too young. Anytime I think of the name “Bob Welch,” I think of the 1990 season, his 27 wins, his forkball and his Cy Young Award. I loved that era of Oakland A’s baseball as it had a big impact on me during my early years as a fan of the game. Bob Welch will forever have a place in the heart of A’s and Dodgers fans and for me, he was one of my favorite pitchers from my childhood.

Frank Torre

Frank Torre Braves

Frank Torre may just be known as Joe Torre’s brother to many, but the guy had some solid years in the big leagues as a first baseman for both the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. I’m fascinated with brothers in baseball, especially when the baseball gods provide the opportunity for them to become teammates. The Torre brothers played together with the Braves for a period of time in 1960 and I assume that had to be one of their high points in their professional baseball careers.

Frank’s health problems were well documented as he famously had a heart transplant in 1996 while his brother was managing the Yankees in the World Series; so his death may not have been a surprise to many to due to this and his advanced age. Still, it sent a ripple through the baseball world, especially in the city of Milwaukee and with the Braves organization.

Jim Fregosi

Jim Fregosi Phillies Manager

When Jim Fregosi died in February, the baseball world lost a man who lived and breathed baseball. He was a player who spent 18 years in the big leagues, was a manager for 15 years and worked in the front office of various other teams after his managerial days were over. Even though he was 71 at the time of his death (which caught me off guard as I thought he was a bit younger), I always assumed we’d see Fregosi pop back up as a Manager again. Unfortunately, this was not in the cards.

Like many people my age, I associate Fregosi with the Phillies due to him being the Manager of the 1993 World Series team. He pulled off that Phillies red & white so well and he LOOKED like a Manager is “supposed” to look like- grizzled and a bit on the angry size.

Connie Marrero

Connie Marreero Washington Senators

Connie Marrero died in April at the age of 102 and at the time of his death, he was the oldest living former Major League baseball player. Marrero was a Cuban junk ball pitcher who didn’t make his Major League debut until the age of 39. He played all 5 years of his career with the Washington Senators, where he was an All-Star in 1951. As someone who is fascinated with Cuban baseball of yesteryear, I’ve always loved reading about Marrero and his accomplishments on the field in Cuba, where he was well-known star. Quickly reading over Marrero’s SABR or wiki pages gives a glimpse into his interesting, and I would say amazing life in baseball.

Oscar Taveras

Oscar Taveras HR

When Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic back in October, it shook the baseball world to its core. A young man with potential for an incredibly bright future lost his life, and he demonstrated this potential with unforgettable home runs in both his professional debut and in Game 2 of the NLCS. I feel the pain of the Cardinals organization and fanbase as I remember when the Padres lost Mike Darr back in 2001. The one thing I’m always going to remember about Taveras is that wild follow-through swing of his, especially when connecting with a home run. I’d say it was it was a thing of beauty and it’s unfortunate that we will not get to experience it again.

The 5 Most Memorable Games I’ve Attended.

•December 5, 2014 • 2 Comments

For some time now, I’ve been trying to decide on the five most memorable professional baseball games I’ve attended. I live in Giants and A’s territory here in the Bay Area and I’ve gone to countless Padres games over the years, so I feel that I have a good variety of games to pick from. I’m sure as the years go by, some of these picks will be transitioned out of my top five, but I’ll certainly never forget these games as they’ve made an impact on me. So without further waiting, here are my top five games I’ve been to, in no particular order.

 

Atlanta Braves vs. Richmond Braves (1985/1986?)

Richmond Braves Logo2

This is a a game I remember very little of due to the fact that I was incredibly young; I’m thinking I was probably no older than six years old. Still, what makes this memorable to me is that it was the first baseball game I remember attending. I lived in Richmond, Virginia for a number of years during my childhood and at that time the Braves AAA affiliate was the Richmond Braves and they played at a park called The Diamond, which featured a HUGE fiberglass sculpture of a Native American outside of the park named “Connecticut.” This surely would not fly today as it would be deemed racist, but as a kid I thought it was creepy, intimidating and cool all at the same time.

I seem to remember it being late in spring training and that the big league team came to town to play an exhibition game against Richmond. I have no recollection of who won the game or even who played for the teams at the time, but I do remember being fascinated by the size of the stadium, the bright green grass and having a great time with my Dad and brother. It was my first introduction to the game of baseball and it’s a memory that I’ll cherish for life. Too bad I can’t figure out much about the game.

 

Oakland A’s vs. Texas Rangers in 2012 (“Game 162″)


October 3rd, 2012 is a day that I’ll never forget. Besides the fact that it was my birthday, I rolled out to the Oakland Coliseum with friends to see the A’s battle the Rangers for the division on the last day of the season. It was a warm and sunny day, which is very typical for the Bay Area in October and there was so much electricity in the air due to the fact that Oakland could potentially lock up a division championship for the first time in over half a decade. In a nutshell, it was a perfect day for baseball.

By the third inning, the Rangers were up 5-1 and the normally loud and ecstatic Oakland crowd were now quiet with thoughts now shifting to winning the wildcard game to get into the ALDS. This all changed in the 4th inning when Oakland put up 6 runs, with 2 coming in after Josh Hamilton dropped a ball in centerfield. I’ll remember that moment forever as it seemed so unreal. After that, momentum shifted in Oakland’s favor and they easily won the game with a final score of 12-5. I got to admit, as someone who’s a big fan of the A’s, that was one hell of a birthday.

 

Padres vs. Rockies in 1993 (Tony Gwynn’s 2000th hit)


Anyone that knows me or reads this blog is well aware that my baseball hero is Tony Gwynn. I absolutely worshipped the guy and followed his career as close as humanly possible for the majority of my childhood. With that said, my family left San Diego while I was young and we spent minimal time there after that, usually for random trips during the holidays and summertime. In 1993 I ended up spending a summer in San Diego and I finally got to see Tony Gwynn play in person.

On August 6th, the Padres played the Rockies in a doubleheader and Tony started the day 4 hits away from reaching the career hit 2000. For most players, you can’t count on them getting 4 hits in a doubleheader, but with Tony Gwynn it was pretty much assumed due to his unbelievable hitting ability and the fact that he said he was going to do it. In game 1, he reached base 5 times with 3 hits and 2 walks, which left him at 1999 hits. When game 2 started and 1 hit away from reaching 2000, and those in attendance were ready to see their hometown hero reach the hitting milestone. The inevitable happened in the 6th inning when Tony hit a ball right up the middle against Bruce Ruffin and Jack Murphy Stadium went crazy. By the crowd’s response and the game delay that took place, you’d think it was hit number 3000. This reflects just how much the people of San Diego adored Tony Gwynn. Oh yeah, in typical Gwynn fashion, he was not finished as he knocked in yet another hit after that.

A fun fact about this night is that Tony hit number 3000 exactly 6 years to the day after this, which also happens to be his Mother’s birthday.

 

San Rafael Pacifics vs. Maui Na Koa Ikaika in 2012 (Bill Lee game)

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is one of my baseball heroes. He may be the complete opposite of someone like Tony Gwynn, but I’ve always loved the guy for his unorthodox approach to the game (and life), what he accomplished on the baseball diamond during his major league career and what he continues to accomplish well into his 60’s. He’s a modern day Satchel Paige and I draw inspiration from him in the sense that I’d love to continue to play baseball into my senior years as well.

When I heard that the Spaceman was going to pitch for the San Rafael Pacifics, a Bay Area minor league independent baseball team in the North American League, I knew I HAD to be there. The day of the game, a few teammates and myself made the 45 minute drive to Albert Park, the home of the Pacifics to watch what turned out to be one hell of a spectacle. There was a buzz in the air and the game was over capacity with ESPN, MLB, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and various other media outlets present to witness the hometown hero attempt to break the record as the oldest man to win a professional baseball game.

What Lee proceeded to do that night still amazes me as he pitched a complete game victory at the age of 65 against guys in their 20’s and 30’s. This is in addition to going 1 for 4 while knocking in the first run of the game for the Pacifics. I filmed the final out (video above) and I’d say it’s worth watching just to see him drop to his knees and kiss the grass while walking off the field.

 

A’s vs. Tigers in 2013 (Game 2 of ALDS)

After going to Game 1 of the ALDS the night before and seeing Max Scherzer and the Tigers narrowly beating my A’s to a final score of 3-2, my expectations were low for Game 2 as Oakland were set to once again battle their postseason nemesis in Justin Verlander. What ended up taking place was an absolute pitchers duel for the ages between Verlander and rookie sensation Sonny Gray.

After the scoreless game was handed to the bullpens, the stand-off continued into the 9th inning. This changed when perennial underdog and my favorite current player in MLB, Stephen Vogt came through with a game-winning RBI single against Detroit reliever Rick Porcello. The Coliseum exploded and Vogt won the hearts of A’s fans for eternity. I remember waking up the next day and my ears were ringing due to how loud the past two nights were. Unfortunately for A’s fans, they eventually lost the series against Detroit in 5 games for second straight year. In retrospect, Game 2 was somewhat bittersweet due to losing the series, but I’ll always remember it due to how unbelievable it was.

30 Teams. 30 Posts: Kansas City Royals

•November 18, 2014 • 2 Comments

royals logo

I have no ties to the city of Kansas City and have spent minimal time there, but I’ve always liked the Royals organization. Like most kids my age this was based solely on the fact that the man that captured the imagination of an entire generation played for them. I’m talking about the one and only Bo Jackson. I feel that within my circle of friends, the fact that Bo was on the Royals made them a “cool” team to like and follow. However, one of my favorite players growing up was also a Royal and his name is George Brett. He (and Ken Caminiti) literally made third base look scary to me. I LOVED watching Bo and Brett play back then, unfortunately there were not a lot of nationally broadcasted Royals games in those years, so I often had to settle for the nightly highlights from ESPN Baseball Tonight.

Until this postseason, I never saw the Royals attain any kind of notable success in my lifetime. I was too young to remember the 1985 World Series as I was still a few years away from becoming a fan of the game and even when they have managed to played .500 ball, they’ve always played in the shadow of other teams within their division. Like many people who enjoy seeing small and mid market teams go deep in the postseason, I was delighted to see their 29 year postseason drought end in 2014. While I was a rooting for a Kansas City win, I can’t be unhappy with the end result of the World Series. In all honesty, it was probably the best World Series I’ve personally watched in many years.

So with that said, I’ll wrap this up with how I do all my 30 Teams. 30 Posts; with a handful of images and memories that I enjoy and would like to share. Here’s to the winners of the 2014 American League pennant- The Kansas City Royals.

Buck O’Neil

buck oneil royals

Like many people, I instantly fell in love with Buck O’Neil after watching the Ken Burns baseball documentary back in 1994. I’d never heard of Buck prior to this but I quickly became obsessed with his story, his kindheartedness and his position as an ambassador for the Negro Leagues and for the game as a whole. I feel as he was one of the greatest baseball storytellers of all time. I never really had a grandfather, but I’ve imagined that he’s what a grandfather would be like. I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has had this thought. I remember the day he passed away and while he was 94 years old, I still remember being slightly shocked and upset by it.

I’ll always associate Buck with the city of Kansas City due to his years spent with the Monarchs and while he never played or coached them, his time spent as a scout for the Royals. Here’s to Buck O’Neil, a true Kansas City legend and one of the few people I’ve ever considered a hero.

George Brett

George Brett Blue uniform

George Brett was one of the guys that sparked my interest in the game strictly through his photos on baseball cards I collected as a kid. I loved the baby blue Royals uniforms he wore, his thick eye black, his lack of batting gloves, his tilted left handed stance and while I cringe while typing this, I loved the big chaw that always seemed to be lodged in his cheek. He exuded intensity and LOOKED like a baseball player in every sense. As I got a little older and paid attention to stats, I realized there was much more to love about the guy as he was an absolute stud. It also helped that he converted to first base (my favorite position) and spent his entire career in the same uniform, which is something I’ll forever admire with any player.

Seeing the former Royals superstar still working in the organization in recent years as a batting coach and now in the front office is amazing. He bleeds Royal blue and white and I think it’s safe to say that he’s the greatest Royal ever.

Mike Sweeney

Mike Sweeney Royals

Mike Sweeney is the only modern Royals player I’m mentioning here, and when I say modern I mean not from my childhood. After not paying great attention to baseball for a few years in high school after diving a tad too deep into the world of music and skateboarding, I found a new generation of players that I admired and loved watching. Mike Sweeney was one of these guys.

I saw Sweeney as a George Brett-esque type of player due to the fact that it looked like he was going to spend his entire career with the Royals and he carried himself in a way that not many players do. He was even named team captain in 2003, much like Brett did many years earlier. During his peak years, he was dependable and fun to watch play baseball. I’ll always think it’s unfortunate that back issues robbed him of good baseball years and that he bounced around various teams other than the Royals before hanging up his spikes in 2010.

My favorite moment during Sweeney’s career happened during a game against the Tigers in 2001, when he attacked Jeff Weaver and started a bench clearing brawl. It may not be a baseball accomplishment and in the end it was something he was ashamed of, but I love a good baseball brawl. Plus it helps that Sweeney was the least likely guy you’d ever expect to go after someone, but then again everyone’s got a breaking point.

Dan Quisenberry

dan-quisenberry

Dan Quisinberry is one of my favorite characters in baseball history. He was one of those guys that you couldn’t help but root for as he was an all-star relief pitcher with a quirky anti-jock personality, which laid the foundation for many of his great quotes over his career. Oh yeah, I can’t leave out the fact that he had one of the greatest submarine pitching styles in the history of the game.

Two things about “Quiz” that everyone should know is that 1) He was a poet and released an excellent book of poetry entitled “On Days Like This” and 2) His life was tragically cut short in 1998 from brain cancer. He was only 45 years old.

Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson Royals

As I mentioned above, Bo Jackson captured an entire generation’s imagination with his athleticism. In my mind, there were athletes and then there were the guys who reached almost superhero status. Along with Michael Jordan and Tony Gwynn, Bo Jackson was one of these guys for me. He played baseball AND football and was a marketed by Nike in a way that bordered Jordan status. He was one of the guys that you HAD to watch when he came to bat, even when there was always a chance he was going to strikeout on a curveball.

Bo’s story is one of the biggest “what-ifs” in sports history and I doubt anyone like him will ever come around again. Honestly, I’d prefer for it to stay that way though. Bo brought unparalleled attention to the Royals during his peak years and I’d be curious to see Kansas City merch sales from that time. I’d put money down that his merch outsold George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Frank White and every other Royal combined. know I wanted a Royals cap because of him, and I lived on the West Coast.

Like many people, my favorite Bo Jackson moment was the 1989 All-Star Game. Still so awesome after all these years.

Frank White

Frank White and Willie Randolph

In a nutshell, Frank White was a mainstay in Kansas City for almost as long as George Brett. He came up in 1973 and retired after the 1990 season. That’s 18 seasons all spent with the Royals. White was no slouch and he racked up a fair amount of All-Star game selections and Gold Glove awards for his steady play in the field. Add that to his ALCS MVP award in 1980 and the fact that he was on the 1985 World Series team, and I’d say that White long ago established himself as a Kansas City baseball legend and his #20 number is retired for good reason.

I just wish I was able to watch him play more as my baseball memories of him are a little fuzzy due to the fact that he was past his peak years by the time I started regularly following the game. But hey, that’s what YouTube is for and THIS Frank White moment is quite awesome.

Baseball Quotes.

•October 27, 2014 • 1 Comment

Ted Williams

Ted Williams bats

“I’m always nice enough in the spring, until I read what those shitheads write about me.” – Ted Williams on the Boston media

Dick Allen

Dick Allen Oakland

“Compared to National League, the American League is the pussy league of baseball.”Dick Allen

Bob Costas

Bob Costas Baseball

“Baseball is a human enterprise. Therefore, by definition, it’s imperfect, it’s flawed, it doesn’t embody perfectly everything that’s worthwhile about our country or about our culture. But it comes closer than most things in American life.”Bob Costas

Josh Gibson

Josh Gibson Homestead Grays pose

“Man, when I come to the plate, I’m in scoring position.”Josh Gibson

Tony Gwynn

Tony Gween Brown Uniform

“You can’t live on what you did yesterday, you have to go out and prove yourself every day.”Tony Gwynn

Maris. Clemente. Rudi. Rickey. The Senators.

•October 15, 2014 • 1 Comment

Roger Maris

Roger Maris Indiapolis Indians

In 1956, Roger Maris played for the Cleveland Indians AAA affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. He hit .293/.356/.494 in 131 games, while slugging 17 home runs. I was excited to come across this photo of the future single season home run king. Also, is it me or does the young Maris physically resemble Mike Trout, if Trout he a left-handed batter?

Something that often crosses my mind in regards to Maris is that he retired at 33 years old after only 12 years in the big leagues. This leaves me wondering what else he could have accomplished during his career? I’m aware that he was often injured during his career and it’s well documented that the stress of playing in New York often took a toll on him, so I assume these factors come into play when looking at his shortened career?

Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente vs Astros

This photo features a birds-eye view of a Roberto Clemente at-bat against the Houston Astros and I’m in love with it. I love that it’s in color, I love that it features Clemente in all his glory and for some reason, I love how the batters box is pretty much non-existent. You still see the chalked lines of the box become quite messy in a game, but nothing close to this. It’s interesting to me how little things change over the years in baseball, especially those that don’t make a big difference in the big picture of the game.

Joe Rudi

Joe Rudi 1972 WS

Joe Rudi‘s game saving catch in Game 2 of the 1972 World Series is still as amazing as it was all those years ago and remains one of my favorite catches in baseball history. I can watch the catch over and over again as I enjoy and admire it so much.

Rickey Henderson

Rickey Henderson Stealing against Orioles

A great action shot of Rickey Henderson taking off for second base against the Baltimore Orioles while Eddie Murray unsuccessfully attempts to hold him on. I dig this photo like crazy as it captures great uniforms from the late 70s/early 80s, two future Hall of Fame members and the Oakland Coliseum during it’s glory years.

Washington Senators

1925 Washington Nationals

May 1, 1925, The Washington Nationals, fresh off their World Series victory the season before, raise the 1924 American League Pennant at old Griffith Stadium. Such amazing uniforms; Walter Johnson basically looks like a god amongst men.

 
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