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CORONAVIRUS 5.0 Quarantine Stella Uno

August 10, 2020 1 comment

“Social distancing?  I’ve been practicing social distancing since 9th. grade.”

PASSING: Al Kaline 1934-2020

April 16, 2020 1 comment

Al Kaline passed away on Monday, April 6, 2020, of undisclosed causes.

Al Kaline was the very first inductee into my own personal Baseball Hall of Fame.

My very fist baseball bat, bought by my Dad for my 8th. birthday, was an Al Kaline Little League Louisville Slugger model.

My Al Kaline bat met its sad demise when Kieran McLeod threw it into the asphalt of North Bayles Ave. after popping up to Ricky Lapera during one of the innumerable self-hitting baseball games of my boyhood.

The knob, and my heart, broke.

My next bat was a Steve Whitaker model, a perennial prospect of the Yankees. 

Such is life.

I had just learned the basics of baseball even as I had begun collecting baseball cards at 5 years of age.

Mom took the time to cut out the baseball cards from the backs of Post Cereals boxes so I could impress my 1st. grade classmates in Mrs. Ristori’s 1st. grade glass in the Merrick Ave. school in Merrick, Long Island.

(“They’re the wrong cards!” I whined as Mom didn’t know that Topps cards were the medium of exchange.  The Post cards are now quite valuable.  I still have the Tony Taylor card from Taylor’s first stint with the Phillies).

As a rotund boy in Merrick kickball was my only ball sport even as I filled Keds sneaker boxes with baseball cards.  Moving to Port Washington’s 42 North Bayles Ave’s dead end street enabled what little athleticism I had and my year at Sands Point Academy in Sands Point had Coach Mayerson’s considerable patience being rewarded by my elevation to “shoot it out to play” status. 

Dad’s purchase of an Al Kaline Little league Louisville Slugger bat and Ray Culp MacGregor mitt became my favorite possessions.

Al Kaline was born into a working class Baltimore family.  His father, Nicholas (1), was a former semi-pro baseball player who worked in a broom factory.

His mother, Naomi,(1), scrubbed floors.   Al Kaline aimed for a career in MLB from grade school and his parents did everything to enable their son.

Al Kaline was born within a year of Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito, so 1934 was a good year for right fielders.   Hmmm…(2)

The Detroit Tigers signed Al Kaline from Baltimore’s Southern High School the day after high school graduation.(1)

Mr. Kaline was in the major leagues a week later without playing even  a day of minor league baseball, let alone college ball.(1)

Kaline lead the American League in hitting in 1955 with a .340 mark at 20 years of age.  66 seasons later Mr. Kaline is still the youngest batting champ in MLB history.(2)

Kaline, like Mickey Mantle, suffered from osteomyelitis which resulted in a brittle bone structure and necessitated the removal of a diseased bone from his foot long before Kaline’s debut with the Detroit Tigers.(1)

In 1962 Kaline broke his foot and his foot speed diminished.  Never again would Kaline reach double figures in stolen bases or hit more than 5 triples. (2).

Indeed, Kaline’s career was defined by injuries.  1965 saw foot surgery, 1967 had Kaline breaking a pinky jamming a bat back into its rack and most famously having his left forearm broken by an errant pitch delivered by Lew Krausse of the Oakland A’s in 1968.(3).

Mr. Kaline played 2384 games over 22 seasons.  Given his talent it is reasonable to guess that Kaline missed about 500 games with bone-related maladies.

From 1963-1968, in what my old customer Dave called the “ERA era,”  runs scored in both leagues plummeted as the number of night games increased annually and  Little League trained hurlers threw from 15” mounds at a strike zone expanded in 1963.

Along with Kaline’s various injuries this produced a dampening effect on hitting stats.  Indeed quite a few players; Kaline’s Tiger teammate, 1960-1963,  Rocky Colavito comes to mind, saw their careers shortened by this phenomena of  my baseball boyhood.

Indeed, Kaline’s 399 HRs stand as a talisman of the Hall of Very Good(HOVG).(2)

So, how good was Kaline anyway?

Unlike Henry Aaron, Kaline is not an all-time great.  Kaline never scaled the Olympian heights of Frank Robinson or Roger Maris.  While Rocky Colavito wasn’t a high BA guy and not nearly Kaline’s equal in the field Colavito did hit 40+ HRs 3 times(2) while Kaline’s apex was his 29 HRs in his 100 game 1962.(2)

Yin/Yang was a concept I learned of while attending Jr. High Religious Education at North Shore Unitarian Universalist(NSUU) in Plandome, Long Island.

Yin/Yang applies very well to the cosmic baseball duality of Al Kaline and Roberto Clemente.

Roberto Clemente was my brother’s first favorite professional athlete in any sport and indeed may very well still be.

Kaline was great early, then an All Star, and pretty good at the end.

Clemente was pretty good early, then an All Star and great at the end.

Kaline’s greatness came when he had conquered his initial physical challenge and before their chronic nature had worn him down.

Clemente had a variety of woes; among them the after effects of malaria and misaligned back discs.  Clemente’s greatness came during these episodes.

Kaline’s greatness occurred prior to the increase in the size of the strike zone in 1963 and at a time when the American league was significantly less talented than the National League.

Clemente’s greatness came when the strike zone was expanded and the National league was significantly more talented than the American League.

Kaline hit for significantly more power, even though both Kaline and Clemente topped out with 29 HR; with Kaline’s in his 100 game 1962 season and Clemente with 29 in his MVP 1966 season.(2)

Kaline ran well prior to 1963 but was never as fast as Clemente.

Clemente retained his speed and added power as he aged.

Kaline lead AL RFers in Put Outs 5 times, 3 times in Assists , 5 times in Fielding Percentage and won 10 Gold Gloves.(2)

Clemente lead NL Rfers in Put Outs twice, 12 times in Assists; leading all of MLB 5 times, and won 12 Gold Gloves.(2) 

Clemente also lead NL RFers 6 times in errors!(2)

Kaline fielded grounders on 1 knee and flashed his glove to true his throw to the cut-off man.

YouTube(3) video of Kaline show him warming up before the World Series with his old school fundamentals.(3)

YouTube video of Clemente shows a wayward rush to pick up the ball on the move and javelin the ball to the infield.(3)

Mr. Kaline hit 399 HRs and amassed 3007 hits along with 15 All Star nods.(2)

Mr. Clemente had 240 Hrs and amassed 3000 hits along with 12 All Star nods.(2)

Kaline won 1 batting title with his .340 in 1955.(2)

While Clemente won in 1961, 1964, 1965 and 1967.(2)

Kaline was the 12th. player to garner 3000 hits.(1)

Clemente was the 11th. player to garner 3000 hits.(1)

Kaline had a greater career by the virtue of his power and .376 OBP, both of which are greater than Clemente’s .359 OBP.(2)

Clemente’s peak was greater and he played in a significantly better league.

The first winner of the Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award in 1973 was…Al Kaline!(1)

Al Kaline played with a talented Tiger cast from 1961-1968.  Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Jim Bunning, Dick McAuliffe, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito all garnered All Star nods.(2)

Yet, Mr. Kaline won only the 1968 World Series trophy.  As mentioned Mr. Kaline missed a good deal of the 1968 season after having his forearm fractured.

Kaline returned at the end of the season and was playing well as Tiger manager Mayo Smith juggled Jim Northrup. Mickey Stanley and Kaline in a 3-guys-for-2 positions roulette.

With shortstop Ray Oyler having “hit” a lusty .135 Mayo Smith threw the dice and inserted CFer Mickey Stanley at shortstop.

It worked and the Tigers won the only World Series of Kaline’s career.

Kaline hit .379 for the 7 game triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals.(2) 

Mr. Kaline’s singular greatest accomplishment may have been his 2 run go-ahead single off Joe Hoerner in Game 5 held in Tiger Stadium to power Mickey Lolich to the 2nd. of the 3 wins Lolich would notch in the 1968 world Series.(3)

My 6th. Grade teacher Mrs. Mendenhall had been a Phys. Ed. teacher and brought out the TV so that we could watch the World Series which began at 1 P.M.  Mrs. Mendenhall was enough of a fan to let us boys watch until 3:30; even when the school day had ended at 2:45.

The Tigers rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Bob Gibson in Game 7.  Jim Northrup hit a grand slam in Game 2 and the Game 7 go-ahead hit on a triple that slid past Curt Flood on a rain-slicked field.  Mickey Stanley played O.K. at short.

The 1968 World Series was the fist time I bet on a sporting event.  I had $5 committed in wagers which was quite the princely sum for an 10 year old with a .75  allowance.  Collecting $1 from my 6th. Grade teacher Mrs. Mendenhall and $1 from Mr. Heinz, our Phys Ed. teacher at Flower Hill in Port Washington, Long Island remains one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced and that is true to this very day…

…Mr. Heinz walked out of the back of Flower Hill school into the asphalt “field” formed by the nexus of the Carrie Palmer Weber Junior High School and the football stands for  Paul D. Schreiber High School where I was flinging my rubber-covered hardball against a brick wall emblazoned with handball dimensions and a chalked strike zone

My goal was to be better than the 7th. guy picked for the 4 on 4 “4 ball” self hitting games always springing up on the front lawn of Flower Hill and Weber.  If I could only be picked 6th. then…

“Practice makes perfect,” said Coach Heinz before flashing the tight closed-mouth smile that punctuated all he did.

I shrugged sheepishly, loath to acknowledge the importance of this achievement to a pudgy 10 year old.

“Let me see that again,” he said with a chin nod that preempted any anxiety that performing in front of “Coach” may have produced.

I cranked up and threw as hard as I could achieving considerable velocity only to be crestfallen as I had missed the chalk strike zone by several feet.

Coach Heinz was a nice man who lived to make his students better.

“I see you have an Al Kaline bat.  Kaline throws very well.   Now have your front shoulder at about 1 o-clock,” he said wheeling his shoulders into place.

“Put the ball behind your neck and point your front elbow at the strike zone,” he said, demonstrating as he spoke.  Without any apparent effort the ball flew to the strike zone hitting the brick wall with a profound PLOCK! and 1-hopping to my glove.

“Nice stab, Steve.  So your front shoulder is at 1, the ball is behind your neck, your elbow is pointed at the zone, so just go straight over the top and the ball will go where your elbow points,” he continued.

I began to get the sense that Coach Heinz had done this instructional before so I wheeled my shoulders, pointed my elbow and fired.  The ball was within a foot of the strike zone.

“Pretty good, but I know you can do better,” said Coach with the very same tight lipped smile.

“Now when you grip the ball,” taking the Spalding rubber-covered hardball from my Ray Culp MacGregor glove, “Have your fingers across the seams and that will true the ball.  Take your time, no one is keeping score.”

I nodded hurriedly,  gripped the ball across the seams, wheeled my shoulders, pointed my elbow and fired.

Miraculously the ball hit the strike zone with a resounding PLOCK!

“Good one,” exclaimed Coach.

“Now do it again.”

Muscle memory was a foreign concept to this chubby 10 year old but wanting to be picked better than 7th. was very close to my heart.

I repeated the form and there was another strike!  My heart was racing.

Coach rewarded me with a closed mouth smile once again.

“Hey, is that really your bat?” Coach inquired, spying my bat leaning against the connective hall between Flower Hill and Weber.

“Yes.”

“Ha, an Al KalineAlways one of my favorite players.  He does things right!  Here take the bat, and hold it right by the tape and pinwheel it 25 times.  Then take the bat and twirl it backwards 25 times.  Take a tad off to catch your breath and then repeat 3 more times.  Does this every day and you’re throwing 100 times.  By the summer you should have a strong arm.”

Taking the bat I pinwheeled it 25 times forward and 25 times back. Sweat was bursting from my brow.

I was rewarded with the same closed mouth smile.

“Good form.  Keep practicing,” said Coach Heinz as he began strolling to his car.

I pinwheeled and twirled my Al Kaline bat at every opportunity through the Winter although I never counted what would now be known as “reps”.

I became the 6th. picked in 4-on-4 “4 Ball,” a self-hitting baseball game indigenous to Port Washington.

(I have been tempted to put that achievement on my resume’).

For the 6th. Grade Track and Field Day at Flower Hill I competed in the baseball throw; finishing in 2nd. place; ahead of Ernie Jenkins, and just behind Ted Kramer.

For this Coach Heinz presented me with a blue 2nd Place ribbon.

That blue ribbon remained affixed to my bedroom wall at 42 North Bayles Ave from 1969 to my last day of residence in 1978.

2nd. place in the Flower Hill 6th. Grade Track & Field day is my proudest athletic achievement.

(I have been tempted to put that achievement on my resume’).

Al Kaline made me an athlete.

1972 proved to be the last triumph of Kaline’s career as his 21-41 streak in the last 10 games of the season brought Billy Martin’s Bengals to the AL East title clinching the division with the Woody Fryman vs. Luis Tiant of the Red Sox in the match-up of come-backing veterans, before succumbing to the eventual World Champion Oakland A’s.(2)

I was happy for Al Kaline even as I was embarrassed to indulge in my boyhood enthusiasm for the game I no longer played.

In 1974 my brain was occupied by Joni Mitchell’s COURT AND SPARK LP, the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, the LAPD novels of Joseph Wambaugh and the North Shore Unitarians’ Senior Seminar Religious Education social circle.

I didn’t follow baseball, as it was “too 6th. Grade.”

Al Kaline retired in 1974; DHing and playing some 1st. 

I never mentioned to anyone that I was sad.

1984 found me in Michigan attending to the details of Dad’s passing.  One redeeming factor was watching George Kell and Al Kaline provide the TV commentary for the “Bless You Boys” 1984 World Series Champion Tigers.(3)

To watch Mr. Kaline’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech is to hear virtues which once seemed corny and almost dishonest, uttered with complete sincerity and evident effect.(3)

There is no other way to put it than other that the white, blue collar players of my youth, reared during WW II, had a certain modest charm that resides only in the memories of those who are nearing or beyond 60.

My current home contains a bedspread of multiple hues of blue that Al Kaline’s passing has brought to mind.  It was on my bed in 269 Lincoln Blvd. where I first collected baseball cards and was gifted with Al Kaline’s bat. 

Al Kaline is exactly at this very minute as much a part of my life in 2020 as he was in 1966, 6th. Grade, 1974 and 1984 in Michigan.

Al Kaline’s spirit calls to me, right now.

Al Kaline is the ultimate Hall of Famer.

SOURCES

1) SABR bio.

2) Baseball-reference.com

3)  YouTube

CHANGE: 2019 remix, 10 signs of aging

June 13, 2019 1 comment

1)  You are 427 in dog years.

2)  ‘Great uncle’ is a phase and phrase you are looking forward to.

3)  You see your co-workers glued to their phones and  marvel at the changes in socializing.

4)  You hear your co-workers discussing the sensual appeal of their roommate’s ex-supervisor and marvel at the lack of changes in socializing.

5)  You take pride in walking faster than folks half of one’s own age.

6)  You have worked close to 7400 bar shifts.

7)  You receive a birthday gift about the 1969 Miracle Mets, realizing that the 50 years that have passed make this the equivalent of talking about Babe Ruth…in 1969.

8)  You are not a ‘dog person’ but now wonder if perhaps you have missed out on something.

9)  Japan?  Ireland?  Ghana?  Bucket list destination trips?

10)  You wonder if maybe ‘it’s just me,’ or is it that women over 50 are looking better as of late? 

Hmmm…

THE MULE and…the Senior Discount

January 4, 2019 1 comment

“1 for THE MULE.”

 

“That’ll be $14.19.”

“From $20..”

 

“Were you born before 1959?”

 

“Uh…yeah.”

 

“That’ll be $12.56 with the Senior Discount.”

 

“From $20.”

 

“Theater 7, enjoy the show.”

 

CHANGE 2018 remix: 10 signs of age

June 13, 2018 1 comment

1)  You are 420 years of age in dog years.

2)  Hello to Mom and Dad.

3)  First MLB players were younger than oneself,

Then MLB players were younger than oneself,

Now MLB stadiums are younger. (Boston’s own Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field are still older).

4)  You “left home” 40 years ago.

5)  Most of your former employers are out of business.

6)  One’s brain has been re-tooled to digital but the thoughts are still analog and that is a good thing.

7)  One’s threshold of pain has increased significantly in the last few years enabling work and exercise unimaginable 5 years ago.

8)  Deaths of friends who have been friends for 30+ years makes one realize that 30+ years of friendship are highly unlikely among current compatriots.

9)  Lifelong regret regarding M.S. and J.M.  Some things can’t be and shouldn’t be forgiven.

10)  39 years a vegetarian!

 

CHANGE 2017 remix: 10 signs of age

June 14, 2017 1 comment

1)  Your age is 413 in dog years

2)  Bad hair decade

3)  Coffee runs through you faster than Usain Bolt

4)  Your nieces have graduated from college

5)  You’ve lived through disco 5 times

6)  90s’ nostalgia

7) “Lifelong regrets” regarding M.S. and J.M. continue unabated and you know it is your fault

8)  Jacoby Ellsbury’s being on a “day-to-day” reminds oneself that we all are

9)  AARP sending emails and hard copy is surely a sign of something or other

10)  “Well do ya punk…go ahead, make my day…get off my lawn.”

 

CHANGE 2016 remix: 10 signs of age

1)  Your age is 406 in dog years.

2)  Once you had bald spots, now you have hair spots.

3) “Lifelong best friend” turned out to mean her “lifelong”.

4)  You’ve lived through disco 4 times.

5)  ‘#’ went from meaning ‘number’ to meaning ‘pound’ to meaning ‘hashtag’ since you have aged out of middle age.

6)  “Lifelong regrets”regarding J.M. and M.S. means your “lifelong” and deservedly so.  Some wrongs do not go away nor should they.

7)  “You look good for your age,” is finally a real compliment.

8)  You have outlived your father.

9)  1958=58!

10)  “Deserves’ got nothing to do with it.”

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