Archive for the ‘North Shore UU’ Category

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.


“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.


1) SABR bio.


3)  YouTube

HAIKU 5*7*5* FACEBOOK “friends.”

January 21, 2020 1 comment

Sometimes a life ends

Digital eternity

Still are FACEBOOK “friends”

BASEBALL: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OFF SEASON: Wayne Garrett, The Young & Mismanaged. (Or how a constellation of errors revolved around a 3rd. baseman who was too good to be good enough).

November 27, 2019 3 comments


would be on my mind if I were were 12 at this time of year.

Indeed, the annual revolving door regarding the Mets 3rd. base situation was a true sign of highlights of the off season as surely as a Joe Namath injury.

At 61 baseball is once again occupying  my mind during this off season.

This has transpired during the 50th, !?!?!, anniversary of the Miracle Mets triumphant ascent to their 1969 World Series victory.

We Mets fans have an affinity, perhaps even a predisposition, to bipolar fandom.  2019 has given us the good; Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Jake deGrom,  the bad; relievers Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being worse than the BoSox arson brigade and the ugly 1st. half of  Amed Rosario and the better than O.K.ish 2nd. half of Amed Rosario.

Wayne Garret’s career personifies the essence of the binge and purge nature of the Mets history.

Wayne Garret was one of the Mets of my years’ ages 9 through 20 in Port Washington, Long Island, New York.

Wayne Garrett was not destined for the National Baseball Hall of Fame(NBHOF) and in this case a round-about determinism, deliberate, yet unintentional, prevented him from being the pretty good player that he pretty much usually was.

Ronald Wayne Garrett was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Braves following his brothers James and Adrian, who played for the Cubs among others in a 163 game career spread over 8 years, in the 6th. round of the very first 1965 amateur draft.  Wayne hailed from Sarasota, FL and attended the high school of the same name.  After 4 years in the Braves system he was selected by the Mets via the Rule V draft for the princely sum of $25,000 in the only minor league transaction of the Mets prior to the 1969 season.>bioproject

Biography by Ron Masterson

Wayne Garrett’s rookie year at age 21 found Garrett being the left handed side of a  3rd. base platoon along with the 36 year-old Ed “the Glider” Charles.  Garrett was primarily a 3rd. baseman but also saw some time at 2nd. and shortstop as Mets manager Gil Hodges juggled the Vietnam era National Guard commitments of second sacker Ken Boswell and shortstop Bud Harrelson.

Wayne’s 1/39/.218/.290/.268 slash line hardly excited  anyone, least of all Strat-O-Matic’s Harold Richman, but as a 21 year-old rookie winning a World Series on the the very first winning season in the Mets history one would think that he had dibs on the job.

Wayne hit a HR off the Braves’ Pat Jarvis in Game 3, the NLDS being best-of-5 in 1969, which was the first playoff victory by a Mets team.

One would think…but the Mets didn’t… bringing in Joe Foy from the Kansas City Royals after having been dispatched to expansionville from Boston and putting up a semi-bounce-back season. 

Foy was acquired for Amos Otis and Bob Johnson and was thrust into the starting lineup but was ineffective and developed what would now be called “issues.”

(Otis went on to be the Royals’ CFer for more than a decade but that is another story… which I might tell.  Stay tuned).

Wayne Garrett was back in the starting lineup on a full-time basis after the 1970 All Star break.  In spite of only playing 114 games Wayne exceeded all expectations, including mine, with a 12/45/.254/.390/.421 HR/RBI/BA/OBA/SLG slash line.  Of course, this was a time in which walks were often overlooked but a .390 OBA should have given someone a heads up.  While these numbers didn’t threaten the status of Ron Santo as the N.L’s top 3rd. baseman they are substantial in the light of the Mets team slash line of 120/640/.249/.333/.370.

About this time WOR 9’s Bob Murphy began to regularly refer to Wayne as “the Mets Huck Finn” for his red hair.  Upon visiting Shea to see the Expos, Carl Morton pitched, with my folks and brother Peter I remember looking at Garrett from the box seats my father had bribed an usher $5 for and thinking he looked like a high school kid.  Wayne Garrett was 22 and had taken a huge leap forward to where he looked to be a regular at a position that had been a perennial problem for the Mets.

The Mets had other ideas… none of them very good.  They went out and acquired Brooklyn born Bob Aspromonte from the Houston Astros, the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the big leagues.  Aspromonte had been an All-Star but his better days were in the past and Garrett was reinserted into the hot corner.

Being jerked around didn’t suit Garrett well; he regressed in power but retained his batting eye.  However the Mets, and most of their fans, focused on Garrett’s low BA and loss of power.  Garrett didn’t seem to be the man for 3B.

In 1972 Jim Fregosi was acquired from the California Angels a a classic ‘highlight of the off season’ trade in exchange for future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and perennial prospect Leroy Stanton.

Fregosi had 6 All Star seasons behind him and about 6 weeks as a Met regular in front of him.  I vividly remember seeing Fregosi’s pot belly cascading over his belt on a Mets WOR-9 telecast and wondering why Fregosi looked to have the physique of one of the guys manning the deli counter at Bohack rather than that of a professional athlete.

Once again Wayne Garrett stepped into the void and while a 5/29/.232/.374/.315 slash line hardly inspired euphoria it was the production of a player with a future rather than that of a player with a past. 

Fregosi was sent on his way early into the 1973 season.

“You Gotta Believe” was the Tug McGraw inspired rallying cry of the 1973 Mets.  And while the 83 win Mets did not scale the Olympian heights of the 1969 Miracle Mets they provided almost as many thrills. 

At 15 years of age I was embarrassed by being a MLB fan.  I was  past the age of where being a Mets fan was cool and my shoulder blade length hair, fondness for Steely Dan and hitchhiking the local bi-ways concealed a heart that still bled orange and blue.

1973 saw a pennant race described by Bill at the Sherwin Williams  store at ‘4 one-legged men in a ass kicking contest’ as the Mets outlasted the Pirates, Cubs and the newly ascendant Expos to weasel out 83 wins.

The Ya Gotta believe Mets featured the highlights of Garrett’s career.

In September Garrett clubbed 6 homers of his 16 round trippers while compiling a  16/58/.256/.348/.403 season which proved to be his career pinnacle.

Garrett also turned 36 double plays, second only to the 39 DPs of the Dodgers Ron Cey.

The playoff against the Reds had Cincy 3rd. sacker Dan Driessen, playing out of his usual 1st base role, tagging the base rather than a hustling Garret speeding into 3rd. on Felix Millan’s sacrifice bunt.  Cleon Jones’ double plated Garrett with what proved to be the winning run as the Mets vaulted to the World Series to face the defending champion A’s,

shock the Reds in the N.L. playoffs and give the A’s all they could handle in the World Series before losing in 7 games.

Garrett contributed 2 home runs in the 1973 World Series with the first coming in the 3rd. inning of Game 2 off Vida Blue.

However, Garret’s homer would be overshadowed by the 10-7 12 inning contest which is best remembered for Oakland A’s owner Charlie O. Finley’s attempt to force A second sacker to claim to be injured following his 2 crucial errors in Game 2.

Game 3 saw Garret tag Catfish Hunter with a 1st. inning from the leadoff slot as the Shea faithful roared their approval and I watched from the Sherwin Williams store.  Unfortunately, the A’s won, 3-2, but once again Garrett had  shone in the October spotlight.

Ultimately, the Mets lost to the A’s in 7 games and there are still Mets fans posting on Ultimate Mets Database that manager Yogi Berra should have started George Stone in Game 6 and saved Seaver for Game 7 but that is another story…

1974 finally gave us Wayne Garrett as a full-time player.  Garrett played in 151 games and posted a 13/53/.224/.337/.337 slash line.  Defensively a Range Factor per 9 of 3.12 was a tad above the N.L. average of 3.04, although the extreme flyball tendencies of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Tug McGraw may have forced Garrett’s numbers down a touch.

However, 1974 also gave us Mike Schmidt and Ron Cey maturing into prominent  N.L. third basemen and the slender statistics of Garrett surely looked less than the competent contribution that they were.

1975 saw another retreat on Wayne Garrett’s career trajectory as the Mets had acquired Brooklyn born Joe Torre to man the hot corner.  Torre wound up starting 76 games but his 6/35/.247/.317/.357 resembled that of Garrett’s all too much while demanding that Wayne  fill in as a late inning defensive replacement.

1975 saw a diminishing of my interest in baseball as Steely Dan and shoulder blade length hair had changed my vision.

However, I still perused the NEWSDAY box scores on a daily basis, which I would never admit to my friends at the North Shore Unitarian Universalist congregation, with slack-jawed incomprehension as the Mets diddled away what was left of Garrett’s potential while investing in the 34 year-old Torre…but, of course, Torre was a Brooklyn born name player.

1976 saw a revival of my baseball interest as my long delayed pubescence was near completion and I felt free to return to my boyish passion for baseball.

1976 proved to be the last full season that Garrett spent in Willets Point.  His 4/26/.223/.359/.311 slash line offered some redemption with a more than decent OBA but 58 starts were all that manager Joe Frazier saw fit to offer the now 28 year old Garrett as the “promising” Roy Staiger was the primary player at the hot corner.

In October of 1975 principal owner Joan Payson passed, plunging the Mets into an abyss from 1977 to 1983, although 1976 was an 86 win team. 

The Yankees, under the ownership of George Steinbrenner returned to Yankee Stadium after having spent 1974 and 1975 sharing Shea with the Mets, and with the Jets AND Giants of the NFL in 1974.

1976 also saw the Yankees return to the World Series, and although vanquished by the Reds, the Yanks had claimed the title of “New York’s baseball team.”

Garrett was traded July 21st 1976, along with Del Unser, to the Montreal Expos for Jim Dwyer and Pepe Mangual.

Garrett became a utility infielder in The Great White North, starting 44 games at 2nd. base and only 1 at the hot corner.

1977 saw a further diminishing of Garrett’s role as the Expos had obtained former Philly All-Star Dave Cash for 2nd. base and manager Dick Williams was committed to the potential of Larry Parrish at 3rd.

A sore shoulder and a strained knee ligament contributed to a lack of playing time

By this time I rarely though of Garrett as anything other than ‘a guy who used to play for us’.

Garrett’s trade, oddly enough on the very same July 21st. that sent him to the Expos, to the Cardinals confirmed his utility status even as he hit .333 in 39 games.

Facing professional extinction Wayne Garrett accepted a 2 year contract with the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball.

By the time the 1978 season ended I lived here in Boston and upon reading of Garrett’s plan to play in Japan all I could do was sigh.

“If I could have played well, run, and thrown normally, that would have been different. I went to Japan, took the money, and did as well as I could. I earned my salary there. It wasn’t the same. It was just to make a few bucks. It wasn’t a lot of fun,” he told Maury Allen, After the Miracle: The 1969 Mets Twenty Years Later (London: Franklin Watts, 1989).>bioproject

Mets fans still have considerable affection for a Met who played in 2 World Series.  Indeed, fans reminiscences on

praise Wayne Garrett as a friendly, approachable man to the many of us for whom the Miracle Mets were one of childhood’s great events.

The 1973 Mets who fell just short of triumph represented the high tide of Garrett’s career and my fond memories of watching the ‘Ya Gotta Believe Mets’ in the Sherwin-Williams paint store on Main Street of Port Washington, N.Y are always highlights of the off season.

A great player?  Hardly.  An All Star…well…he wasn’t; but he certainly made a contribution more than any of the “real” 3rd basemen who the Mets went through like the used hot dog wrappers that swirled above the Shea Stadium field.

Wayne Garrett was too good to be good enough.


PASSING: Jim Bouton 1939-2019

July 16, 2019 1 comment

Jim Bouton the author of BALL FOUR, among other books, passed away on July 10, 2019 from complications of vascular dementia.

Mr. Bouton pitched for the N.Y. Yankees, Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros during an MLB career that lasted from 1962 until 1970.  Mr. Bouton also made a brief comeback in 1978 with the Atlanta Braves.

BALL FOUR was a seminal event in my evolution as a fan.  By 1970 I was 12 years old and in my 3rd. summer of playing baseball of all types; self-hitting with a rubber-covered hardball, pitching to a brick wall with a Franklin practice ball, stickball, tennis racket baseball and “real” baseball at Camp Pinnacle in Lyme, New Hampshire.

I was old enough and just good enough to get picked to play and my fascination with the AM radio music of 77 WABC had not yet mutated into adolescent rebellion.

BALL FOUR ignited a storm of controversy from the get go what with its descriptions of MLB players being peeping toms, “beaver shooting,” taking Dexedrine, “greenies”, and dalliances with ‘Baseball Annies.”  MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called Bouton on the carpet to discuss the inappropriateness of Bouton breaking the clubhouse code of, “What you see hear, what you say here, let it stay here when you leave here.”

N.Y. Post writer Dick Young called Bouton, and co-author Leonard Schecter “social lepers.”

Perhaps best of all there was a lot of “f…” and “s…” when those words were rarely heard and never printed.  At the age of 12 the thrill of “dirty words” held a significant allure.

I was intrigued and convinced Mom to buy me the book at Raimos’s 5 & 10 on Main St. of Port Washington, N.Y.

I wound up reading the book in 2 days flat, a feat made possible by smuggling a flashlight into my bedroom and reading under the covers.

BALL FOUR was justly known for the shenanigans of players but had real substance.  During the 1969 MLB season memorialized Bouton pitched for the Seattle Pilots, was sent down to the AAA Vancouver Mounties for a spell and then traded to the Houston Astros. MLB had had a diarist before in Jim Brosnan who wrote THE LONG SEASON about the 1960 Cubs in 1961 and PENNANT RACE about the 1961 Reds in 1962. Brosnan’s career as an author precipitated the end of his career as a pitcher as Brosnan refused to sign a contract stipulating that he would write no more. Green Bay Packer guard Jerry Kramer’s INSTANT REPLAY had been a best seller, but the degree of intimacy with the day to day travels and travails of a team were unique to BALL FOUR.

A fringe player, Bouton had won 20 games in 1963 with the Yankees and 18 in 1964 with 2 World Series wins in 1964 before tearing the brachialis tendon in his right forearm which ended his career as a fastball pitcher and prompted his conversion to a knuckleballer.

Bouton pitched for 3 teams in the summer of 1969, which along with being a long distance Dad to an adopted son, made for an episodic summer to say the least.

Bouton’s account of trying to get the Seattle Pilots to compensate him for his moving expenses, as required by MLB, would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

Bouton was pitching for minimum wage and Bouton’s recounting of the early days of the MLBPA, dating back to his time as player representative while with the Yankees, hold real historic interest as a look at MLB during the pre free agent era.

The Seattle Pilots drew a mere 677,944

fans in their only season in Seattle before decamping and becoming the A.L. Milwaukee Brewers and Bouton’s commentary on being employed by a failing business still resonates with me from my experiences working for failing enterprises.

Baseball as it is really played is one of the educational benefits of BALL FOUR.  The strategic maneuvers of manger Joe Schultz, whose favorite phrases, “f…s…” and “s…f…” dot the commentary, and pitching coach Sal Maglie’s stratagems are endlessly debated with Bouton alternately biting his tongue and attempting to argue his point.

I learned about MLB as it really played and those lessons continue to scroll though my mind as a 61 year old fan.

Most of all the personalities of the players, fringe players hastily thrown together 90 days prior to Opening Day, shine through.  The foibles of Jim Pagliaroni, Steve Hovely, Mike Marshall, and the front office are spotlighted as folks trying to make the best of a marginal situation which most fans had only a trifling awareness of 50 years ago.

Indeed, the frequent references to Dexedrine use among the players is a comment on players trying desperately to hang on to “big league” status.

Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Joe Pepitone of the N.Y. Yankees get quite a bit of attention from Bouton’s time as a Yankee.  Indeed Bouton’s description of Mickey Mantle leading a “beaver shooting” expedition on the roof of the Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. captured my imagination to the point of loud laughter even though I was only vaguely aware of what exactly the players were looking for.

Although it is certainly valid to criticize Bouton for breaking the “code of silence” Bouton’s affection for his teammates shines through.

Pointed, yes.  Mean, never.

BALL FOUR was a seminal event in my intellectual evolution,  At the tail end of 1970 SPORT magazine, the most intellectual of the sports media of that era printed an article called “You Can’t Go Home Again,” detailing the effect that BALL FOUR had on Bouton’s career.  Quoting Thomas Wolfe’s novel of the same name inspired me to find out who exactly Thomas Wolfe was.

Dirty words lead me to begin reading the VILLAGE VOICE only to discover a guide that would shape my cultural and political consciousness well into adulthood.

Likewise for the journalism of a Hunter S. Thompson, the fiction of William Burroughs, the religious education of the North Shore Unitarian Universal congregation and the music of the Ramones, who never cursed but whose gleeful abrasiveness was Boutonesque to be sure.

Who would have thought that the 1969 Pilots could inspire so much?

In 1970 Bouton put out I’M GLAD YOU DIDN’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY, which recapped the aftereffects of BALL FOUR and Bouton’s persona non grata in MLB.

At about that time Bouton resurfaced doing the sports segment, remember those?, for ABC’S Eyewitness News 7.  Bouton had a real knack for witticisms such as “The Nets didn’t play tonight.  Rick Barry scored 30 points.”

After his sojourn at Eyewitness News Bouton moved to a similar role at Channel 2 and then fell off my radar except for a 4 game comeback with Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves.

I still had my copy of BALL FOUR and it provided laughs and a bit of continuity for my life here in Boston.

BALL FOUR was named one of the ‘Books of the Century by the New York Public Library in 1999.

Indeed, BALL FOUR’s comments on black and white players rooming together, a ‘thing’ in 1969, Vietnam, emerging feminism and urban decay, not just from Bouton but from a bunch of guys chucking the bull together in a very marginal enterprise.

BALL FOUR is every bit as telling of its time as Hunter Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL is.

1992 was a year in which I was never employed on a full-time basis.  Fortunately, I had enough know how to keep my spirit strong by visiting the Copley branch of the Boston Public Library and reading the sports books of my youth.

BALL FOUR: FINAL PITCH claimed my eye.  I gave it a thumb through and happened upon the chapter dealing with the death of his daughter which was ‘the only thing in life that was worse than I thought it could be.’  (My redaction).

I borrowed the book and could not put it down.  Bouton reconciles with former Yankee teammate Mel Stottlemyre as Mr. Stottlemyre had lost his 11 year old son Jason to leukemia in 1981.

The joy of Bouton’s 2nd. marriage is recounted in a form that evidences Bouton’s very real literary skill.

Clete Boyer apologizes to Bouton regarding Bouton’s departure from the Yankees and Bouton admits to being very wrong regarding Roger Maris not running hard.

Not to put too fine a point on it but the story of BALL FOUR: FINAL PITCH is of a man entering old age and attempting to come to terms with all of his younger selves.

BALL FOUR: FINAL PITCH’s mix of compassion and competition buoyed my spirit through a long job search.

Finally, BALL FOUR has my favorite ending line of any non-fiction book.

“You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

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.”


PEARL HARBOR, December 7 & 8, 1941 and today.

December 8, 2016 Leave a comment

75 years ago, Sunday, December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The very next day, December 8, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war characterizing December 7 as a “day that will live in infamy.”

3 hours later both houses of Congress voted to wage war on Japan and on Germany as well and all of their allies.

When I was a child some 50 years ago December 7th. and 8th, 1941 were well known as the folks, my father among them, who fought in WWII, were alive.

Nowadays only my 91 year-old aunt, actually my Mom’s first cousin, Thelma Allera is still of this world.

As late as my days at Nassau Community College, 1976-78, these dates were mentioned by teachers.  Ofttimes they would speak on what they were doing and where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked and listening to President Roosevelt’s radio address.

On occasion this would spark a discussion of the atomic bomb(s) used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At our congregation of the North Shore Unitarian Universalists in Plandome, N.Y, F.D.R’s formal declaration of war was often contrasted with U.S. policy in Vietnam, and prior to that Korea; where formal declarations of war were deemed needless or overly divisive.

Suffice to say that the U.S. hasn’t declared war since December 8, 1941 although our armed forces have been engaged in conflicts too complex and numerous to delve into here.

President Obama declared today National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day but it seems to have flown under the radar of many folks.  Being 58 my generation’s parents fought in that war so it remains my touchstone.

Indeed, it is difficult for me to conceive of any President making a formal Constitutional declaration of war.

Today my thoughts are of the adults who surrounded me in my early years.

Follow this YouTube link for a film of President Roosevelt asking Congress to declare war on December 8, 1941.

Merry Christmas 2019: Santana ABRAXAS, Version 6.0

December 23, 2013 4 comments

Steve Gallanter’s Blog:

is a modest enterprise.  I usually sent out about 40 or so Facebook copies and another 20 email copies of my brain candy with the occasional response from a friend being more than welcome as were the pass alongs which on 2 occasions reconnected me with folks from the past.

(On one occasion I was connected with someone who felt it “necessary” to comment on my real and perceived personal and professional shortcomings for 1200 words).

In April 2014 I began tweeting and my number of views exploded to about 200 altogether.

Oh joy!

However my Christmas 2013 blog was passed along quite a bit; long enough to break into the Top 5 of my Google page.

More gratifying were several comments along the lines of “Thank you for this acknowledgement of a personal Christmas tradition, as I too have one.”

I responded to all of these comments gladly.  I was pleasantly taken aback at the number and intensity of these very private traditions and their importance to their adherents.

One gentleman took the time to send a message about his private tradition of chewing Trident spearmint gum after Christmas dinner as his now gone father had.

The last 7 years have brought thoughts of other Christmases to mind as my memory bank is thankfully  still accepting deposits.  Indeed, this blog has precipitated thoughts of Christmases past to the extent that an addition is appropriate.

In that spirit I am once again sending:

Merry Christmas: Santana ABRAXAS

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is a time when we, even those of us who do not share in the religious meaning of the holiday, each have our own meaning for this day.

Santana’s ABRAXAS LP signifies Christmas for me. 

I bought it for my Mom for Christmas 1970.  Mom, Peter and I had seen WOODSTOCK and Mom was mightily impressed with Mike Shrieve’s epic drum solo on “Soul Sacrifice”.  While Mom always tried a little too hard to like what I liked her enthusiasm was more than sincere.

I saved my .75 a week allowance, pestered my Dad for money and raked some leaves to conjure up the $3.49 to buy the LP at Port Chemists.

(I gave Dad innumerable promotional packs of aftershave and Borkum Riff pipe tobacco.  My brother Peter got Johnny Lightning 500 while I received several slot cars and Joe Paterno’s FOOTBALL MY WAY from Dad, a Penn. State grad.

It was my first “adult” gift-giving.

In 1970 I was 12.  It was to be my last boyhood Christmas.

Turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, (my Mom never served that jellied, canned… stuff), and visits from neighborhood kids fulfilled every expectation.

Mom was surprised and delighted with ABRAXAS even with its “dirty”, actually racist, cover.  It played endlessly on the turntable of the Gallanter household’s Harman-Kardon Turntable, AM-FM Stereo with Recording Cassette Compact Stereo.

(Dad was quick to nudge me as a way of reminding me that he had purchased the stereo and had paid me to rake leaves.  On this Christmas I actually found this habit of his endearing).

Christmas 1970 was to be the last Christmas of our family as a unit although neither Mom, Dad, Peter or myself knew so at the time.

1971’s Christmas crystallized the cataclysmic changes, voluntary AND involuntary, familial AND cultural, well-intended AND malicious that would sweep through the lives of Mom, Dad, Peter and myself.

Christmas 1971 couldn’t have all of us in the same room for any length of time. I brought ABRAXAS to our North Shore Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s Jr. High room where I played ABRAXAS very loudly to the puzzlement of many.

By 1972 headphones were clamped over my head as the congas of  “Oye Como Va” reverberated.  Hostility was assumed to be my motivation, and not one completely inaccurate, but astral projection back to 1970 was the guiding star.  It was still my Mom’s LP but she was caught up in her own affairs and didn’t notice it missing.  Dad lived in Forest Hills, Queens as the divorce was now final.

(I remember looking at a snapshot of Christmas 1962 in our home at 86 Henry St, Merrick, Long Island.  There is a tower of blocks in front of me wearing a devilish grin with my Mom kneeling beside me with a bemused expression.  I remember kicking the blocks over.  1962 is my earliest Christmas memory).

For several years I continued to play ABRAXAS at Christmas.  Most memorably in 1975 when my Mom returned home from a hospitalization and I wanted to comfort her.  ABRAXAS proved to be more curative than the turkey I attempted to cook with tomato soup flavored stuffing).

By 1973 I was not speaking to my Dad, an estrangement that lasted more than 3 years.  ABRAXAS’ “Oye Como Va” reminded me of the photo of Mom and Dad celebrating their 1st.anniversary with a grinning Tito Puente, the author of the original “Oye Como Va,” at the Palladium in Manhattan, where my paternal grandfather worked.

ABRAXAS signified Dad as well as Mom and the paternal grandparents who posed with me on their laps but who I have no memories of.

The summers of 1974,1975 and 1976 found me at  Rowe Unitarian Universalist Camp and Conference Center.  ABRAXAS was in the ‘Radio Rowe’ LP pile for the public address system that broadcast on a sporadic basis throughout the camp. Santana was very popular with my brother and sister campers although they would have been taken aback, to say the least, at the talisman it was to me.

Boston gained me as a resident in 1978.  I left ABRAXAS with Mom.  I played it upon my early Christmas sojourns to the ancestral home.

In 1981 a group of we Port Washingtonians had a Christmas celebration at the New York, New York discotheque in Manhattan.  Mom remarked that the percussion of much disco reminded her of ABRAXAS.  The next day I played the now battered LP.  Upon hitching back to Boston I purchased a used copy at Looney Tunes Used Records.

1982 brought the realization that college graduation was beyond my capability.  At home in Port Washington I put on ABRAXAS to please Mom before disappointing her.

By 1984 my Dad had passed.  Yes, “Oye Como Va” reminded me that once upon a time Dad and Mom were deeply in love and Peter and I were fortunate to be the offspring of their union.  I have no recollection of my grandparents on either side but ABRAXAS is a talisman of their lives causing mine.

10 years pass. ABRAXAS PLAYS annually on my Panasonic Plus Cassette-to-Cassette AM/FM boom box.

1995 found my brother Peter and I at odds to the extent that I spent Christmas in Boston brooding ambivalently although I did send presents to Peter, his wife Aida and Mom.

I consoled myself with ABRAXAS “Hope You’re Feeling Better”s theme of ambivalence powered by congas and Carlos Santana’s wah-wah guitar pyrotechnics.

Being well into my 30’s in 1995 I had made my own Christmas tradition of surprising someone that I liked with a gift that spoke to an affection that had not been fully expressed.  Being single, childless and employed in an industry that throws folks together and throws them away with equal speed I had learned that small blessings are sometimes the only blessings one can receive but that can be a good thing.

…I was sitting on the living room floor of 24 Haviland St, Apt. 28 at about 9 P.M. 2 days before Christmas wrapping up 2 gifts while ABRAXAS played through the open door of my bedroom.  My roommate was out of the country for the holidays so I felt little compunction about playing my music a tad louder than I might have otherwise.

I was wrapping 2 gifts for a former co-worker.  Patricia was a beautiful woman who had tended bar at the same venue as I.   Although it had been a brief and occasional job for her the chit-chat of the time when I was an afternoon employee at that venue had crossed over to more chit-chat when we briefly worked the same bar.

Patricia was in the midst of several transitions in her life and I was taken aback, although pleased, when she asked me to call her.

Over the course of more than a year these calls became more frequent and more intimate and I found myself listening as much as I spoke.  Certainly, I was flattered to be trusted but more than that I trusted her with the pure aspects of my heart that had become very distant.

Pure and impure thoughts mingled, as Patricia was a beauty.

I was thinking about how to finesse a meeting with Patricia so as to give her both of her gifts.  One was a sardonic look at the recent past while the other was a light unto what was to come.

The phone rang, landlines had only begun too cede their domain to pagers, and it was Patricia.

“…Steve, I am at the bar. I have a present for you.  Where do you live?”

“I have 2 presents for you. I live 25 yards away I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” I replied.  My heart did a full-gainer and my hands began to shake.  Steeling myself I managed to wind some Scotch tape around my gifts and jetted out the door to the bar.

Patricia was by the pay phone smiling.

I ordered drinks, we took a booth and we spoke briefly of the joy and relief of having finished Christmas shopping.

“What did you get me,” she asked with the slightly turned head that moved my eyes and heart.

I gave her the 1st. package and she ripped off the wrapping with an urgency that was enthralling.  Laughing out loud she proclaimed, “I don’t know what I would ever use this for!”

“I know, that’s why I got it for you!”

I slid the other gift over the booth’s table when the owner of the bar came by to shake my hand and wish me a Merry Christmas.

I thanked him and introduced Patricia who also wished him a Merry Christmas.

“You know him?”

“I’ve been coming here since 1979,” I offered while wondering what Patricia might think of my recreational habits.

Patricia unwrapped the second gift and plugged it into a socket. She smiled a closed mouthed gesture of gratitude while nodding slowly in a way that signaled that all was right in the world if for only this moment.

“C’mon open your present.”

I opened Patricia’s package to find a mustard colored turtleneck that would undoubtedly be a good fit underneath a leather jacket for Boston’s winters.

I blinked involuntarily and held her hands briefly.

“Hey, do you think that the Prudential Mall is still open?”

“If there is any night of the year when it would be open late tonight would be that night.”

“Let’s go, we can leave the stuff in my car.”

My mind was pondering whether this meeting was a gesture of sympathy for being estranged from my family, gratitude for being a shoulder to cry on or just because Patricia was a good kid…or something more.

We walked the 200 or so yards to the Prudential Mall and after determining that indeed the stores had closed at 9, walked back to the car and I removed my gift.

We hugged.

Patricia got into her car.

I returned to my apartment…

1997 found Mom in a nursing home for the final phase of her life.  I bought her a new Walkman with ABRAXAS poised to play.  She was delighted.

1999 found Mom receiving a Discman.  The first CD…?  Yes, she remembered.

2004 brought the end of Mom’s life.  On that Christmas I played ABRAXAS at 2 AM in the living room of 42 North Bayles Ave, Port Washington on my Discman in a private memorial to Mom.

2013 found my now gone friend Steve Boisson offering that he had “never thought of Santana as Christmas music” while offering blues artist Charles Brown as his own eccentric Yuletide troubadour.

2019 has brought the passage from this world and from my life of several folks and places…Looney Tunes records has been gone since 2012 and record stores are right up there or down there with trilobites as fossils.

ABRAXAS keeps record stores and Christmas alive at one and the same time as this mind contemplates Christmas 2019.

To all those folks both present and absent I offer,

“Oye Como Va.”

ABAXAS signifies Christmas with its calling to heart folks who have passed, friends who are missed, places that are gone and the phases of the Christmases past, present and future.

ABRAXAS is a talisman as real as a rock, in LP, cassette,  CD and YouTube formats that holds in its notes the presents, love, tears and hopes of Christmas every time I so much as touch it.

I am listening to it right now.

Oye Como Va

Merry Christmas

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