Jackie. Ritchey. DiMaggio & O’Doul. Wagner & Cobb. Bouton.

•September 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Jackie & George.

Jackie Robinson Royals

On April 18th, 1946 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Jackie Robinson made his professional debut in MLB affiliated baseball as a member of the The Montreal Royals of the International League. The Royals opened the season against the Jersey City Giants and blew them out to a score of 14 to 1. On top of breaking the color barrier, Jackie also went 4 for 5 with a home run, scored 4 runs, knocked in 4 RBIs, stole 2 bases and even forced 2 balk calls while on the base paths. In other words, he had one hell of a day.

The most famous moment from that game came after Jackie hit his home run and was greeted by teammate, George Shuba with a handshake. People always talk about Pee Wee Reese supposedly putting his arm around Jackie in Cincinnati in 1947, but this is the moment that should be celebrated, due to the fact it happened over a year before and that there’s photographic evidence proving that it actually took place. Shuba passed away in 2014 and after his death, the New York Times wrote a great article about his life that’s worth reading. (Image Source: Wikipedia)

The Jackie Robinson of the PCL.

john-ritchey-seals
I’ve shared photos of John Ritchey a few times here on 90 Feet of Perfection, but to be honest, there’s not many images out there of him, so when I do find a new one, you can bet I’m going to share it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of him actually playing? In any case, I recently discovered this photo of John Ritchey at Seals Stadium from 1955 and was delighted.

If you’re not familiar with Ritchey, all you’ve got to know is that he was a star baseball player at San Diego State, in the Negro Leagues with the Chicago American Giants and in Pacific Coast League, where he broke the color barrier in 1947 with the PCL San Diego Padres. After signing with San Diego, he made his PCL debut in March of 1948 and finished the season with a .323/.405/.442 batting clip. Ritchey spent a total of 7 seasons in the PCL, also playing for the Portland Beavers, Sacramento Solons and San Francisco Seals.

San Francisco Baseball Legends.

dimaggio-odoul-graves

From the old Pacific Coast League, to the Giants and A’s, baseball runs deep in the Bay Area and this is one of reasons I love the area and continue to live here. With that said, I don’t think someone can live in the Bay Area, and specifically San Francisco and not be aware of the fact that Joe DiMaggio (and his brothers) were from here, and to a lesser extent, Lefty O’Doul.

For years, I’ve been aware that Joe and Lefty are buried just South of the city, in a community called Colma, but I never ventured there to visit their graves until this last weekend. Needless to say, it was both interesting and eerie. DiMaggio is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery and his former mentor/friend/manager/teammate, O’Doul is buried across the street at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park. While DiMaggio’s grave is nice, O’Doul’s is awesome, due to the baseball theme and information.

The 1909 World Series.

1909-world-series

The Pittsburgh Pirates played the Detroit Tigers in the 1909 World Series and this meant it would place two of the greatest hitters in the game against each other, in Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. This photo, which captures the two legends talking shop prior to a game, is easily one of my favorite photos I’ve found in a long time.

The Battered Bastards.

jim-bouton-mavericks

Like everyone else who watched the 2014 Netflix documentary, “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” I absolutely loved it and immediately became fascinated with the legacy of the Portland Mavericks. With the exception of knowing that Kurt Russell played with the team, I knew very little about the Mavericks prior to the film. Hell, I had no idea that Jim Bouton, who’s one of my favorite players of all time, played with the Mavericks. In any case, when I came across this photo of the grizzled vet talking pitching with his young comrades, I fell in love with it and knew I had to share it here. (Image Source: Oregon Historical Society)

Also, if you loved the movie and would like to keep the spirit of the Mavericks alive, you can pick up the authentic reproduction of their cap over at the always amazing, Ebbets Field Flannels. It’s the first cap from the 1970s that they’ve made and they did a great job on it.

Stengel, Mays, Clemente, DiMaggio & Feller.

•May 2, 2016 • 2 Comments

The Old Perfessor.

Casey Stengel Oakland Oaks

Before Casey Stengel‘s success as manager of the New York Yankees, he managed both the Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-1936) and Boston Bees/Braves (1938-1943), before being hired as the skipper of the Oakland Oaks in 1946. Stengel managed the Oaks for three seasons, where he lead the team to the PCL championship series all three years.

After getting beat by the Seals in 1946 and the Angels in 1947, Stengel’s “Nine Old Men” beat the Rainiers in 1948 to win the Pacific Coast League championship. It can be said that Casey’s success in the PCL lead to him getting another shot with managing a major league club, and as they say, the rest was history. The above photo captures Casey during the championship parade in downtown Oakland and is one of my favorite documented moments from the old Pacific Coast League. (Image Source: Baseball Oakland)

The Say Hey Kid.

Willie Mays Millers 1951

Taken just four days before his Major League debut, this photo of Willie Mays, taken on May 21, 1951, captures the young slugger during his time with the Minneapolis Millers. At that time, the Millers were the AAA affiliate of the Giants and in just 35 games with the team, he put up a batting line of .477/.524/.799, with 8 home runs. I think it’s safe to say that he was more than ready for the big leagues.

During the Millers’ existence, many notable players came through Minneapolis on their way to the big leagues. In addition to Mays, alumni such as Ted Williams (1938), Monte Irvin (1955) and Carl Yastrzemski (1960) make the Millers one of the more celebrated minor league teams of yesteryear. (Image Source: Institute for Baseball Studies)

The Great One.

Roberto Clemente 1968

On April 21st, 1968, in a game against the Giants at old Forbes Field, Roberto Clemente hit an inside the park home run against off pitcher, Lindy McDonald. This photo captures Clemento in full stride during the round tripper, and really, it’s absolutely perfect. (Image Source: Stirrups Now!)

The Yankee Clipper.

Joe Dimaggio 1936 World Series

In the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1936 World Series, Joe DiMaggio slid safely into home as Harry Danning of the Giants attempted to lay a tag on the Yankees’ rookie star. The Yankees ended up wining the game 13-5, and subsequently won the 5th World Series in the team’s history.

While everyone knows about DiMaggio and what he accomplished during his career, this photo got me wondering who Harry Danning was and what he accomplished in his baseball career. Turns out Danning had a solid career, spending 10 years in the big leagues, all with the New York Giants. In addition to this, Danning was a four time All-Star and a significant Jewish player in an era when Jewish players did not always have it easy, due to discrimination within the game.

The Heater from Van Meter.

Bob Feller 1940

On Opening Day 1940, the Indians started their season against the White Sox in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Bob Feller faced off against Eddie Smith, and while both pitchers had strong performances, it was Feller’s that went down in the record books. At the end of the day, Feller threw a no-hitter with six strikeouts, and to this day, it’s the only no-hitter pitched on Opening Day.

As much as I love Bob Feller based on what he accomplished on the field, I also love the fact that he wore #19. Regardless of team (or even sport), it always catches my eye when people wear #19 and due to this, I enjoy this Opening Day photo even more. With that said, a few years ago I discovered that Feller actually didn’t wear #19 his entire career, and he wore both #9 and #14 prior to 1939.

Remembering Monte Irvin.

•February 4, 2016 • 5 Comments

Monte Irvin Giants
When Monte Irvin recently passed away, at the age of 96, baseball lost yet another ballplayer from yesteryear. Irvin was more than just another ballplayer though; as he was a Hall of Famer who spent his formative professional years in the Negro Leagues, played in the golden age of the big leagues and wrapped up his career with a short stint in the old Pacific Coast League. As each and every year passes, there are less people around who can say they played in or even witnessed these eras of professional baseball, and this is saddening. If you’re not familiar with Monte Irvin, I strongly suggest doing some reading up on his career in baseball and life in general, as it was interesting and he seemed to pack a lot of living in during his 96 years on this planet. 
Irvin will be missed by all, and as I do with all fallen baseball heroes, I pay respect here, with a collection of related photos that I find interesting and worth sharing. 

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The Newark Eagles.

1947 Monte Irvin & Larry Doby Newark Eagles

Prior to breaking into the major leagues, Irvin spent a decade with the Newark Eagles. He was a star in the Negro Leagues and this time of his career sealed his candidacy into the Hall of Fame, as his big league stats alone wouldn’t of been enough to get him immortalized in Cooperstown.

The above photo features Irvin in 1947, as a member of the Eagles, along with teammate and future major leaguer, Larry Doby. Shortly after this photo was taken, the Cleveland Indians came calling for Doby and signed him, where he broke the American League color barrier and quickly became a star in the big leagues. Unfortunately, Irvin would have to wait until 1949, at the age of 30, for his shot at the big leagues.

After Irvin passed away, it came to my attention that he was the last living member of the Newark Eagles. And with that, he very well could’ve been the last living notable star of the Negro Leagues. Yes, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are both still alive, but they both spent minimal time in the Negro Leagues before getting signed by major league clubs, so the label of “star” is not necessarily applicable. Either way, this is one of the sad aspects of Irvin’s death. (Image Source: The National Pastime Museum)

Almendares.

Monte Irving Almendares
Like many ballplayers from this era, Irvin also ventured to Cuba to play baseball during the winter months. In 1947, Irvin joined the Almendares club in the Cuban Winter League, where he continued to play until 1949. Irvin was no stranger to playing in Latin countries, and prior to the Cuba, he spent time in the Puerto Rican Winter League from 1940-1942 and again from 1945-1946. This is in addition to playing in the Mexican Leagues in 1942, where he won the triple crown.

The Cuban Winter League existed from 1878 to 1961, and countless Negro League and Major League players played in the league. The Cuban Winter League is actually recognized as being the first racially integrated professional league in history, so prior to integration, many Negro League players first played with white Major Leaguers down in Cuba. Unfortunately, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution put a stop to professional baseball in 1961 and quickly replaced the Winter League with the Cuban Baseball League System, which is essentially a national amateur league.

A few years ago, I watched the movie, “The Bases Are Loaded,” which documents Irvin’s return to Cuba after 50 years to visit former teammate, Connie Marrero. It’s a great movie, that gives you incredible insight to baseball and life in Cuba, along with history of both players. Last I checked, you can rent the DVD through Netflix, so watch it if you get the chance. (Image Source: Tom Hawthorn’s Blog)

The New York Giants.

Monte Irvin Swing

After a deal fell apart in which the Brooklyn Dodgers attempted to purchase Irvin from the Eagles, he was picked up by the Giants in 1949, along with pitcher Ford Smith, and therefore became the first black players in the history of the Giants organization.

Even at the age of 30 years old, Irvin still made an impact in the big leagues and had some productive years during his time with the Giants, even earning MVP votes in three consecutive seasons and earning a trip to the All-Star game in 1952. Unfortunately, Irvin did not get a chance to play in the mid-season classic due to an ankle injury. (Image Source: WNYC)

The 1951 World Series.

Monte Irvin Steals Home 1951

Irvin made his post-season debut against the New York Yankees in 1951 and he didn’t waste time in making a impact on the field. In the first inning of Game 1, he singled and then successfully stole home against Allie Reynolds. This very well may be one of my favorite baseball photos, especially due to the fact that Yogi Berra is in it.

Game 1 of the 1951 World Series is also notable because it featured the first all-black outfield in Major League history, which consisted of Irvin, Hank Thompson and a young rookie in centerfield by the name of Willie Mays. (Image Source: The Washington Post)

The Chicago Cubs.

Monte Irvin Cubs

After the 1955 season, the Cubs picked up the soon to be 37 year old veteran via the Rule 5 draft. Slowed by injuries and age, Irvin was still productive and hit at a .271/.346/.460 clip, while knocking in 15 home runs. Unfortunately, it would be his last season in the big leagues.

Irvin did attempt to play in 1957, with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, but only played in 4 games before hanging up his cleats due to a back injury. Still, in those 4 games, Irvin hit at a .300/.364/.600 clip. Obviously, that’s a small sample size, but it shows he could still hit. If Irvin didn’t get hurt, it’s quite possible he would of ended up a Dodger, due to the fact that the Angels were an open class affiliate of Brooklyn at that time. This is something that Giants fans certainly would not have enjoyed seeing. (Image Source: Bleed Cubbie Blue)

The Hall of Fame.

Irvin HOF 1973

In 1973, via the Negro Leagues Committee, Irvin was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He went in the hall with other notable names, such as Warren Spahn and the late Roberto Clemente. I’d say that’s a pretty respectable class, regardless of voting circumstances.

In addition to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Irvin is also a member of the Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican baseball Hall of Fames. I could be wrong, but I assume that he’s the only person who can add all of this to his baseball resume. (Image Source: The Washington Post)

The First Padres Documentary Now Streaming.

•January 12, 2016 • 1 Comment

The First Padres DVD

For those of you who follow 90 Feet of Perfection, you’re likely aware that I’m a fan of the old Pacific Coast League and West Coast baseball as a whole. With that said, I was delighted when I discovered “The First Padres,” a documentary film on the San Diego Padres of the old Pacific Coast League. In fact, I was so excited about the film that I sought out the filmmaker who made the movie and interviewed him here on the blog.

For those of you who have not purchased or viewed the award winning film, it was announced today that The First Padres is currently being streamed for free on KPBS San Diego. I suggest watching it, as there are interviews with many Pacific Coast League players of yesteryear; such as baseball Hall of Famer, Bobby Doerr. Also, there’s a great deal information on Ted Williams; which is an obvious perk for any baseball history fan. While this film is right up my alley, I think it’s an amazing film across the board and anyone who loves the history of the game is sure to appreciate it. If you have some extra time, head on over to The First Padres on KPBS and give it a viewing. You won’t be disappointed.

Hanging Up The Spikes: Pops, The Babe, Satchel, Ted and Dizzy.

•November 30, 2015 • 2 Comments


Willie Stargell Listening to the President

September 6th, 1982. An emotional Willie Stargell speaks to President Ronald Reagan in front of a packed house at Three Rivers Stadium. Stargell had announced that 1982 would be his last season and September 6th was dubbed “Willie Stargell Day.” Stargell was honored prior to the game and had his #8 uniform number retired, which he wore proudly as a Pirate for 21 consecutive seasons.  He went 1 for 1 in the game with a single, as a pinch hitter late in the game. Less than a month later, he collected his last career at-bat, also going 1 for 1 with a single in a game against the Expos. (Image Source: Explore PA History)

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Babe Ruth Final Game

May 30th, 1935. At the age of 40 and now playing for the Boston Braves, Babe Ruth decided to call it quits after an 0 for 1 performance against the Phillies. The Babe pulled himself from the game after making a poor play in the outfield, which resulted in a run scoring. This was a sad and unglamorous end to the most prolific career in the history of the game. It’s almost as if you can see the defeat in Ruth’s face as he sits in the dugout during his last day as a big league ballplayer.

The Babe should’ve hung up his spikes 5 days earlier, after a game with the Pirates where he went 4 for 4, with 3 homeruns. Now that would’ve been fitting and poetic. Ruth ended up finishing his last season in the big leagues with an un-Ruthian .181.359/.431 batting clip, with 6 home runs in 28 games.

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 Satchel Paige Indianapolis Clowns
From what I can piece together, Satchel Paige last pitched in a professional baseball game in 1967, at the age of 60, with the Indianapolis Clowns. At this point, the Clowns were an independent barnstorming team, and (I believe) were the last team hanging on from the Negro Leagues, with the Monarchs disbanding in 1965.

I can’t find any legitimate photos of Paige from 1967, but I found this photo of him with the Clowns from 1966. While his time with the Clowns in 1967 is the last professional baseball that Paige supposedly played, he did pitch in 1, possibly 2 exhibition games for the Braves during his time as a coach in 1969. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen video or photos of him actually pitching with the Braves. (Image Source: Baseball History Daily)

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Ted Williams Last Game

In the history of baseball, I’d say that Ted Williams had one of, if not the most memorable last game of a career. This is due to hitting a home run in his last at-bat, which ended up being number 521 of his incredible career.

This famous moment took place on September 28, 1960 and was well documented, as there are both video and photos capturing his last swing. However, when I came across the above photo of Teddy Ballgame taking the field alongside second basemen, Marlan Coughtry, it resonated with more than his home run. Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen this image? Maybe because it’s not glamorous and shows a more “normal” moment of a ballgame? Either way, I love it and I love Ted Williams. (Image Source: Boston Globe)

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Dizzy Dean Browns 1947

When most people think of Dizzy Dean, they associate him with the Cardinals or maybe even the Cubs. But what about the Browns? It turns out that Ole’ Dizzy’s last hurrah as a player in a the big leagues was with the downtrodden St. Louis Browns, with whom he’d been a broadcaster for since 1941.

On September 28th, 1947, Dizzy left the Browns broadcast booth to play in a game against the White Sox. Dean was supposedly paid only $1 for the game along with a cut of the ticket sales for the day. The last time he had pitched in the big leagues was with the Cubs, so it was safe to say that he was a little rusty. Well, ole’ Dizzy ended up pitching 4 complete innings, where he only allowed 3 hits and no runs. After successfully hitting a single in his first and only at-bat, Dean took himself out of the game after pulling his hamstring. Not bad for a retired 37 year old. (Image Source: Bob Lemke’s Blog)

 
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