It started with Marvell Wynne.
It was the 1986 Pennant Chase, and it’s right around this point that my first baseball memories were developing. I remember the likes of Alejandro Pena, Alex Trevino, Bill Madlock accompanying the Dodgers’ ‘stars’ like Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero.
The Dodgers were involved in the Pennant Chase and I keenly recall Marvell Freakin’ Wynne hitting a bases clearing triple to win a late season game for the Padres, inching them closer to the division title that would eventually be the Dodgers’. Regardless, those fake pinstripes and ugly colors bothered me even then - I mean, you’re NOT the Yankees, lose the pinstripes. Even though my family had a fondess for and cousin residing in the city, it irked me that they wanted to be included under the SoCal umbrella. True, they were SoCal geographically but SoCal is Los Angeles. NOT Orange County, NOT Riverside, and certainly NOT the sleepy beach town that had somehow grown into a moribund metropolis.
Regardless, I ended up meeting Dale Murphy on a family vacation in San Diego the following year, and then in 1988 – as fate would have it – my first ‘real’ little league team, in Mission Hills Major Division, happened to be those ugly-pinstriped Friars. For three stinkin’ years I was a Padre, and for three years we’d come up short. The Braves, the Astros, the Cardinals - these were real teams, real organizations! - would edge us out one way or the other. Realistically, it was because they had more talent and better coaching. I knew better, though – it was because we were the Padres, the franchise that would torment Los Angeles so subtly but so consistently that I grew to out-hate by innate Bay Area rival Giants. This was a true antipathy for the Pads.
From 1990 – 1995, the Pads were a non-factor, never finishing higher than 3rd. They still pestered my beloved Dodgers, however, and Gary Sheffield’s angry bat waving and blistering bat speed might have single-handedly banished the Dodgers to 99 losses in 1993. At least in my own mind. I mean Steve Finley, Brad Ausmus – guys who would become Dodgers – were at the time some of my least favorite players. They just annoyed me, and that’s my whole point here: everything about San Diego is annoying. At least to true Angelenos. And as my adolescence progressed, I became more loyal - fiercely loyal – to mi ciudad. San Diego was a Ken Caminiti throw across the diamond from Tijuana, but the franchise seemed so antiseptic, this quasi-Disney world of self-imposed, sun-enamored isolation. I mean Tony Gwynn was a GREAT ballplayer, a really dynamic player on all levels, but he was a singles hitter. And that’s perfect Padre baseball. Even their all-time greatest legend’s best skill was getting to first base.
The 1998 World Series was particularly annoying, but being that I was in college – the rivalry to the southerly neighbors was an afterthought, and they were swept by the Yankees anyway. Take that, you fake pinstripers. No matter anyway, as the Padres reclaimed their rightful place in the N.L. West gutter for three of the subsequent five seasons.
The arrival of Bruce Bochy and his massive cabeza spawned a renaissance of Padre hatred for me in my early adult years. A pragmatic manager with mediocrity seemingly ingrained in his demeanor, he guided the club through those comfortable years at the bottom of the division. Then all of a sudden the emergence of Jake Peavy somehow thrusts this barely-over-.500 team to the Division Title. With an offense featuring Brian Giles & Ryan Klesko, they were rightfully swept in the playoffs and on their merry way. But with the Dodgers in perennial turmoil (read: Fox, McCourt), the Padres were somehow a better franchise. The Pads, especially after their Adrian Gonzalez-led division repeat in 2006, were literally a superior organization than my beloved Dodgers. Even with the most overrated closer in the game’s history in Trevor Hoffman - hey guys, try to hit my 83mph changeup, because I know you can smoke my 89mph fastball - the Padres were piling up wins faster than my team. And this annoyance was waxing again. It became evident that the Padres would be the perennial thorn in my side, at least vis-a-vis my Dodgers feelings.
Which brings us to last night. And Carlos Quentin. Carlos Quentin, who by the way, attended Stanford University, the “Ivy League of the West Coast.” Carlos Quentin, who has been hit 98 times by pitch since 2008, by far the major league leader, decided that Zack Greinke, he of the anxiety disorders, the social awkwardness, the i’d-rather-be-anywhere-than-in-the-spotlight, would intentionally throw at him in a one-run ballgame, with a full count. Based on the reactions of Greinke (kicked the dirt, turned his head), A.J. Ellis (casually pulled off his mask) and everybody in the stadium aside from Carlos Quentin, one could reasonably assess that Zack Greinke did NOT hit Quentin intentionally. Quentin thought otherwise and the ensuing brouhaha left everybody so aghast that Matt Kemp, the centerfielder, was ejected six minutes after the brawl stopped. Jerry Hairston was also ejected, and he wasn’t even playing. Hanley Ramirez made his first on-field cameo in 2013, and Josh Beckett was the peacemaker.
I was flipping back-and-forth between Vin Scully’s poetic blow-by-blow and MLB Network’s live look-in with Greg Amsinger, Mitch Williams & Dan Plesac, and the former ballplayers were downright angry. “Matt Kemp is so angry because he knows Carlos Quentin doesn’t know baseball!” Williams exclaimed. “You don’t hit a guy intentionally in that situation.” Plesac also defended Greinke, “You can tell by everybody’s reaction this wasn’t intentional. When a catcher and pitcher know that you’re throwing at a guy, the catcher will immediately place himself between the batter and pitcher after the pitch.”
Which brings us back to Carlos Quentin, and back to San Diego. It’s a city that is so engulfed in itself that it doesn’t perceive the obvious. You’re nice, you’re relaxing, but nobody really likes you. That applies to real SoCal natives and it certainly is germane to the National League West. I need to just stop concerning myself with this psuedo-rival and worry about the team that’s up north and has earned the moniker of rival through a century of playing on a level ballfield. I mean, Marvell Wynne? Really?
So my pops and I attended the Dodger game tonight, and in the course of conversation, the Hall of Fame arose. . .we thought about which modern-day (post-roid) ballplayers are locks for the Hall. This Excludes young dynamos such as Kemp, Cain, Trout (!), etc, that are sub-30 years old. . .accordingly, we came up with a grand total of. . .
four of whom play for the Yankees:
the non-Yankees include:
Notable ‘perhaps soon’ names included:
But that’s IT. Two points here: 1) any omissions? 2) this list is conspicuously light on players that started their career between ’95-’04, eg Roid Era players. I mean has there been a ten year span with only SEVEN players that started their careers entering the Hall? Hmmm . . .
After an inspirational 4-for-5 last night (3 doubles, one mammoth HR and a damn inspirational, “next year, we’re definitely going to make the playoffs” quote, Matt Kemp is putting together one of the greatest seasons in L.A. Dodgers history:
. . .and within THREE points and ONE homerun of the Triple Crown with six games to play. Outlandish? Of course, but the man is simply a force, and in an ironic, paradoxical finish to an otherwise toxic season in Chavez Ravine, he might join Clayton Kershaw as dual Dodger award winners come November.
Check out the leaderboard (thank you ESPN):
|NL BATTING AVERAGE||AVG|
|1. Ryan Braun, MIL||.330|
|2. Jose Reyes, NYM||.329|
3. Matt Kemp, LAD
|4. Joey Votto, CIN||.313|
|5. Hunter Pence, HOU/PHI||.313|
|NL HOME RUNS||HR|
|1. Albert Pujols, STL||37|
2. Matt Kemp, LAD
|3. Dan Uggla, ATL||35|
|4. Prince Fielder, MIL||34|
|5. Mike Stanton, FLA||34|
|NL RUNS BATTED IN||RBI|
1. Matt Kemp, LAD
|2. Ryan Howard, PHI||113|
|3. Prince Fielder, MIL||112|
|4. Troy Tulowitzki, COL||105|
|5. Ryan Braun, MIL||104|
One of my dearest friends is called Mayniak. That is the sobriquet earned through years of roughshod, irrational, outrageous behavior; it’s also a play on his last name. Derived from activities in his college years, he’s calmed quite a bit into adulthood (home-owner, successful businessman, great family person). That said, I still refer to him as Mayniak, or perhaps more relevantly The Mayniak, since he is truly sui generis.
The Mayniak is the type of person that would bust a porcelain toilet in a Del Taco, cause a flood, sweet talk the manager and leave with a bag of tacos & del scorcho sauce; The Mayniak is the proverbial guy who would punch you in the gut then laugh with you over a beer; The Mayniak is the person that moves across the country to open a half dozen pawn shops and take the riches to Vegas, spend a weekend in the Wynn Presidential Suite with his closest friends and women, get a $10k marker and leave with his dignity and wallet intact.
The Mayniak, however, is NOT the type of person that will set foot in Dodger Stadium EVER AGAIN.
Though he is a Giants fan (family is SF native), he and I attended a handful of Dodger games in the 90′s, and his avid baseball fansmanship enabled him to root both for and against the Dodgers, dependent on that days pitching matchup and betting line. That said, for the past handful of years, he’s been telling me that he was “deathly afraid” of Chavez Ravine, the crowd and the vitriol spilled at opposing fans.
As a die-hard Dodger fan, I poo-pooed The Mayniak, referring to him as The Fraidy-yak just to get under his skin (a very difficult task, mind you). This was until last week’s “Annual Parking Lot Beatdown.”
Initially, I sort of brushed off the controversy. “Typical Giants fan,” I thought, “probably had too much to drink and was instigating the irascible hometown crowd.” Not to say I condoned the behavior, but let’s just say I chalked it up to a bit of ‘American Hooliganism.’
“It happens,” you know, just like it happened last year.
One time might just “happen,” two times might be a coincidence, but three years running is a Clear and Present Danger. And while at this point it only seems to affect opposing fans (Go Dodgers!), T.J. Simers makes a concise, lucid statement about the avowed leeriness of attending games, even for hometown supporters.
Personally, I’m wearing my Dodger hat and root-root-rooting for the home team whenever I step in the Stadium, so I’m not threatened. It’s still a bastion of peace, boyish joy and harmony for me – but the cliche of “would you be comfortable taking your daughter/mom/grandma to a game” is now, for the first time, causing me pause.
My wife & I attended 10+ games per season from 2003 – 2009, but 2010 was the first year that the overall stadium milieu – this “edge” in the Stadium – caused us to attend only a handful of games. This year, when my Dad offered to share some of his season tickets to us (he’s old school and hardcore), we only asked for three games. . .and even those I will probably have to really work on convincing her to attend with me.
This is not a fear-mongering perspective – that has been addressed ad nauseum in the past week, since the beating – but the standpoint of pure embarrassment as not only a Dodger fan, but a Los Angeles native/resident. The sad extraction of this story is not solely the outcome for the 42-year old paramedic who’s life will “never be the same” after he was jumped, but the fact that this incident is magnifying & exacerbating the ongoing racial undertones that have enveloped Los Angeles from the Watts Riots to the Rodney King riots/Daryl Gates through current times.
Is race factor in the Stadium beatings/safety/perception? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. That said, it’s an inescapable element of life as an Angeleno. People are fearful of addressing this issue, and it’s extremely sensitive, especially in a city where Hispanics are now the majority and the elected Mayor is Mexican-American. Dylan Hernandez recently wrote a sensational piece for the L.A. Times about the Hispanic superstar, and the paradox arose between the traditionally ‘white’ fans who were now supporting a person from the very race that was unceremoniously discarded from their homes to build the Stadium. Read the piece – now read the comments. It’s clear that whatever this is, it’s a VERY complex issues, and the beatings are neither symptomatic nor indicative of any resulting actions from this issue.
The ultimate nadir of realization comes upon searching for a solution – there is not a solution. More security? More restrictions on alcohol? Higher ticket prices? Extending neighborhood watch to the Stadium? All of those issues have been addressed by the organization yet here we are, waiting and wondering when the next tragedy will occur. The bottom line is that Dodger Stadium really is NOT a safe place anymore, and though race isn’t the only factor, it’s a representative & collective issue that defines L.A. in the eyes of the world. There is no causation and no correlation but to keep the topic under wraps in these collective discussions is certainly not going to solve any problems. Because the vitriol will just continue. . .
Maybe The Mayniak is right – if you are going to take in a Dodger game, do it from the comfort – and safety – of your own home. I mean, at least you get to listen to Vin Scully, right? What could beat that – besides a couple of Dodger fans, that is.
I tried not to include the corny or cliche, but this IS baseball so it is inherent. That said, here’s a quick ‘guided’ tour to our pictures from our visit to Cooperstown, NY, Baseball Hall of Fame, November 4 – 5, 2010:
Yes this really is a “VILLAGE” – population 2,032
1950 or 2010?
Our wonderful domicile, the Tunnicliff Inn- Established 1802. Seriously
We walk in – first exhibit, “House of David” a band of roving Jewish ballplayers. Sweet.
The Hall suggests you begin the visit with a trip to the Grandstand Theater.
The original rules of the game, as established in 1845 by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.
Yes, they played versions of baseball in medieval Spain.
Come see the Babe in Fresno, CA (1934)
. . .or just check out Babe Ruth‘s actual Yankee locker.
I was underwhelmed by the Negro Leagues exhibit, but we asked one of the museum docents why there wasn’t much in the way of memorabilia – “the players were underpaid and oftentimes sold equipment, jerseys. . .the demand is extremely high because there really aren’t too many artifacts remaining.”
Did NOT realize that the Yankees were one of the last teams to integrate. . .
Brooklyn Dodgers, baby! Note the sad clown icon. I had a pennant handed down to me as a child from my Dad’s brother that featured that ‘logo.’
Stan the (literal) MAN’s locker. Check out his numbers – easily one of the top five players ever and seriously underrated nonetheless.
Uniforms from the women’s game. . .
A copy of the New York Times from when lefty female Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe & Lou at Yankee Stadium.
This was sweet – Ted WIlliams hitting zone based on his timeless The Science of Hittting.
Really unexpected, deserved and spectacular – Viva Baseball, celebrating baseball in Latin America throughout the history of the game. Really nice exhibits on Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, etc. Also, did you know Ted Williams was Mexican?
This was the one controversial exhibit in my eyes; baseball lore says that Fidel Castro had a tryout with the Pirates sometime around 1947, yet the placard at the HoF states that “research now confirms that he was never a pro prospect.” Interesting. . .except reading the bilingual Spanish translation, the placard says “Las investigaciones confirman ahora que Castro nunca fue un asipirante a profesional.” Translation: “The investigations confirm that Castro never aspired to be a professional.” Semantic, yes – but a HUGE differentiation. Which is it, Hall of Fame?!?!? We want answers!!!
Viva al beisbol de Mexico!
Yes, that is an Anaheim Angels (California Angels?) sombrero. Think it’d look mighty nice on Mike Scioscia. . .
Jamie Jarrin gives both the Spanish and English ‘tour’ at the Hall.
You remember Fernandomania, right? Did you remember that there were hit records dedicated to the hearthrob?!?!
Stuff like this is what gives me chills. The original scouting card for Roberto Clemente. Filled out by Al Campanis, nonetheless – “a real good looking prospect!”
The Count in front of the Dodgers display.
Yes that IS Sandy Koufax‘s glove and jersey.
I believe Pete Rose was the only player – ironically – that had two jerseys represented in the Hall.
Rickey Henderson‘s cleats.
Yep, rocking the Puckett shirt in the Hall.
Baseball cards. . .wow, wow, wow. The Hall has quite a collection, as you can imagine. Enough so that I was inspired enough to pick up Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson – check it out if you like cards, baseball, nostalgia or all of the above. ps – if you’re not a card nerd, you might want to scroll a bit – this is where I get nuts-o about the game. Baseball cards really sucked me in during the 1980′s.
This sign was noted in at least three places in the Hall. Very interesting and well-intentioned approach to the PED controversy.
This is the closest you’re going to get to seeing The Count worshipping.
The Mariners locker featured Ichiro, who’s going to be in here personally in about 12 years. . .
The Aaron Boone bat.
The base from Armando Galarraga‘s not-so-perfect game.
The bat/guitar & lyrics from John Fogerty‘s Centerfield.
The Mangus and designstILes gave a great effort, but after a couple hours, they had to head back to the Village.
A really great wing of the Hall was dedicated to Henry “Hank” Aaron. Some really good detail from his childhood and early struggles in the Negro Leagues, on through the racial attacks he experienced while chasing down the Babe. Class act, and truly deserving of his own Ruthian section.
Honestly, did you know Jamie Moyer is the active leader in strikeouts?!?!?
The hats from each of Nolan Ryan‘s seven no-hitters.
Again, I’m a sucker for these things – a scouting report on Nolan from High School. Wow.
The Dodgers 1988 World Series Ring, along with the Pennant Pendants.
Orel Hershiser‘s World Series clinching jersey.
The hilarious and classic Abbott & Costello routine is on constant rotation in the HoF.
The members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. . .
. . .and those that served their country.
And now a look at a few of the Plaques:
(above: Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams, Josh Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tommy Lasorda, Kirby Puckett)
“The First Class” in the Hall.
The announcer/writer’s wing was a bit smallish for my taste, but certainly represented the legends well, as Vin Scully was part of the six-announcer rotation of all-time greats.
Best. Movie. Ever.
And a trip to Cooperstown could not be complete without a visit to Doubleday Field, the first ‘official’ ballfield of the Game of Baseball. Talk about evoking the ghosts. . .
Thanks to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. Daily News yet again for putting us on to TUESDAY’s documentary/ESPN/30 for 30 feature.
Really good article, see the link here or copy below. Can’t wait to see this – not just as a Dodger fan, but as a spouse of a Mexican who’s family immigrated from Mexico, this will have a double importance – note the emphasis on the Mexican families being evicted from Chavez Ravine to make room for the Stadium; a particularly juicy irony for those that celebrated FernandoMania.
Why we’re all still part of ‘Fernando Nation’
The working title that Cruz Angeles had for his quickly-recruited ESPN “30 for 30″ project was “The Bull and the Sleeping Giant.”
Fernando Valenzuela was the former. Fernando, “El Toro.” The other was the Mexican-American population of L.A.
But that hardly conveyed what he wanted to do: Tell the story of Valenzuela, but also revisit and rejoice in “Fernandomania” one more time, in the way he brought a somewhat fragmented city under one magical umbrella.
Angeles, a Brooklyn-based movie maker who grew up in South Central L.A. continues to stress a bit even today that his documentary, “Fernando National,” which debuts Tuesday at 5 p.m. on ESPN (it repeats at 8 pm. on ESPN2 and at 9 p.m. on ESPN Classic), could have had more about how Valenzuela was taught the screwball (from teammate Bobby Castillo, after it was originally suggested by scout Mike Brito that he learn the split-finger fastball). Or why Fernando looked to the sky before delivering his pitch (“he said it was because he was in kind of a trance for a second, visualizing his target,” said Angeles).
Those can be seen as major exclusions. So is the fact that, after a 50-day player strike, baseball needed so much to get in the fans’ good graces that when it started the second half of the season with the postponed All-Star game, Fernando, still just a rookie, was named the National League’s starting pitcher. Think of how Stephen Strasburg might have fit into that scenario.
But in the grand scheme of things — trying to document how Valenzuela made an impact on a culture and a city upon his arrival with a flury in 1981 — Angeles need not worry that Los Angeles will forget that part of it. We get enough screwball comedies on TV enough every season.
Starting and ending with Valenzuela’s connection to the controversial Mexican-American family displacements around Chavez Ravine between 1952 and ’58, the stuff in between will make your goosebumps rise again. Angeles was able to achieve both his goals.
Fernando’s story isn’t that tough to mess up, actually. The key is getting him to cooperate, which he did. And to speak on camera. In both Spanish and, for the first time many may hear it, in English.
“We only had five months,” said Angeles, who estimates they shot about 30 hours of material, and had another 60 hours of archived material to go through to cut down to about 50 minutes. Thank goodness most of the ESPN “30 for 30″ projects end up for sale on DVD with the director’s additional cuts.
Angeles was approached by ESPN for any ideas he might have for this documentary project, and he had already done some initial legwork in getting Valenzuela to agree to do something about his life. So he pitched it. And they’re weren’t initially sold.
“In a way, Fernando’s story has already been told through baseball history — it’s what Joe DiMaggio did for the Italians, or Sandy Koufax for the Jewish community … aside from what Jackie Robinson did,” said Angeles. “But there was much more context to put Fernando’s story into.
That would be the history of the 170-acre land under Dodger Stadium, which bulldozed three communities of 300 families, most of whom had already moved away by the time the city council of L.A. and the county board of supervisors had given Walter O’Malley the spot to build the park. Those who remained had to be forcibly taken away, with the TV cameras rolling and the photographers snapping pictures.
That Valenzuela arrived in L.A., Angeles found out, wasn’t so much by accident. O’Malley wanted a “Mexican Sandy Koufax” to bring back the local Mexican-American fans to the stadium, even though many boycotted the Dodgers, blaming them for what happened.
A key clip in the documentary is from then-general manager Al Campanis – infamously fired in 1987 when he made racial-heavy comments about African-Americans lacking “the necessities” of becoming a big-league manager.
“Mr. O’Malley, he would say, ‘Al, do you think it’s possible that we might get a good Mexican player? there are a lot of Hispanic-speaking people here and it would be a help to have somebody of their own playing on our ballclub.”
Yes, “Hispanic-speaking” was the term he used. It reminds us of how then-Dodgers broadcaster Jerry Doggett would refer to the “Latin-speaking” fans who jammed Dodger Stadium during the 1981 season to see Fernando pitch.
Angeles taps into people like United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta, author and poet Luis Rodriguez, former boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya, former L.A. Opinion managing editor J. Gerardo Lopez , former ABC producer Estella Lopez and actor Ray Lara to provide the Chicano context. Interestingly, Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, who was Fernando’s main translator at the time, wasn’t interviewed.
Several people identified only as “Dodger fans” are also on camera — it turns out that Paul Haddad was used because of his vast collection of Vin Scully audio tape — and a lot from Dodgers team historian Mark Langill also move the story along. Accounts from discovering scout and former reliever Castillo are among the most humorous, as well as from Valenzuela’s agent, Dick Moss, who came up the need for a $1 million contract when Valenzuela (who made $32,500 his first year and $350,000 his second) reached arbitration because it was a nice round number.
The numbers we are reminded of with Fernando’s arrival in ’81 are still mind-blowing, starting with that 8-0 start (“and who’s to say when it will end!” says Vin Scully after he records that eighth win). Then over his career — seasons where he had 20 complete games and 21 wins, a no-hitter, the consecutive strike-out record in the ’86 All Star game. Why the Dodgers released him in such a undignified manner in spring of ’91 is still a mystery.
“But you can’t put into words what he meant — no one else will wear No. 34 as a Dodger,” says Langill.
Think of that as you see Steve Garvey’s No. 6 (even if it was to Joe Torre) or Mike Piazza’s No. 31 recently reissued.
“We need long-term heroes for our culture,” said Angeles. “This is a city founded by 44 Mexicans, and still today, we are treated like illegal immigrants. It’s a long history that we need to take ownership of.
“Fernando is the most American story you can find. We love the underdog. And with him, he represents how hard work and a Protestant ethic can achieve the American dream. He was very modest. He didn’t want to be in the limelight. But everyone has an emotional attachment to his story, and it still brings an emotional reaction. The people living in L.A. need that context.”
And this. . .the day after Magic sells his share in the Los Angeles Lakers. . .
The always insightful & humorous Tom Hoffarth brings us the sad/distraught/odd? news about Kirk Gibson, he of the most famous homerun in Dodger history. Initially, I was apathetic upon the announcement; it’s the guy’s bat, he can do what he wants. . .even though with an impending visit to the Baseball HoF with my Dad, Mom & Wife, it would be nice to experience/feel/see one of my favorite childhood moments up close.
That said, Hoffarth explains why this sale may ring a bit hollow and somewhat inexplicable. At least we won’t forget Vinny’s “she is gone” call (oft-overshadowed by Jack Buck’s also classic “Dodgers win 5 to 4, I can’t believe what I just sawrrrr.”
There’s a whole, cool story behind the black-and-yellow pine-tarred Worth Tennessee Thumper bat that Kirk Gibson used to hit the most dramatic home run in Los Angeles Dodgers history 22 years ago. Pull up a chair, he can tell you all about it.
What’s it worth to you?
Actually, the real story here is: Why isn’t it in a display case in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? Or at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles? Or somewhere at Dodger Stadium?
And why, if anyone with credit card was so inclined, could it be bought next week at auction, stuck into someone else’s own secure humidor, and perhaps never shown to anyone without some kind of written consent form?
This bat, as Gibson points out, has a blue “x” on the knob, below the black “23,” meaning it “was a reject.” The 34 ½-inch bat was too light when it came to him from the factory, maybe only 30 or 31 ounces, so he set it aside. “So I basically had it sitting there all year.”
Until now, it’s been sitting it in a safe, in a warehouse near his home in Michigan.
He only used that bat during the 1988 playoffs because “I started getting tired,” he says. “I had no legs at all, so I didn’t want to be swinging any big lumber.” By Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, both his knees were shot. He needed something much lighter.
Now, you can assume that Gibson, recently hired as the full-time manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, doesn’t need the money he’ll receive in return from this highest-bidder-gets-a-piece-of-history exercise. But he won’t say.
“That’s not an appropriate question,” he told a reporter on a conference call Tuesday. “I don’t know what that has to do with anything.”
The bat has red ink marks on the barrel, smudges from the special red-labeled balls he fouled off early in the count. It has extra tar on the handle, to make “the balance feel better.” The deep nicks in the backside of the barrel, “that’s from me hitting my cleats . . . at the beginning of the at-bat, they weren’t very deep. Then as the at-bat progressed, I kept hitting it harder and harder.”
The spot on the sweet part of the bat where he met the ball that would float into the right field pavilion as the tail lights were heading out of the parking lot and win Game 1 in the most improbable fashion “is actually chipped out of there. There is a little nick where I hit it.”
Of the bat as a whole, Gibson says it “so much character . . . it’s like a painting. It’s like a story and it will tell you the whole thing.”
The character of the bat isn’t what’s in question here. It’s seems to be more about the character of Gibson, who is putting this, plus the batting helmet he wore, and the tar-smudged, never-washed white Dodgers jersey top out there for someone to buy. Plus a gray road uniform from that World Series.
The opening bids for the five items add up to $85,000. SCP Auctions CEO David Kolher projects about a half-million dollars will come from it. The profits go to Gibson.
“I’d like to see (the items) in the Hall of Fame,” said former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, himself a Hall member, “but if he can help a charity more, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
True, in this same auction from Oct. 27 to Nov. 13 on SCPAuctions.com, also up for bid are Gibson’s 1988 N.L. regular-season MVP Award and his replica ’88 World Series trophy, with the proceeds going to his foundation. That will fund scholarships for the two high schools in Michigan that his mother and late father used to teach. The combined minimum bids for those two items are $30,000, expected to fetch in excess of $100,000.
Don’t confuse those two charity-based hawked items with the other five 1988 World Series pieces.
Since we may never see the ball that Gibson hit for what’s been called the biggest sports moment in Los Angeles history – the owner of it has never surfaced, and it would be nearly impossible to verify its authenticity without the holograms used on today’s equipment – why wouldn’t these treasures be placed somewhere to be marveled at by the public?
“I’m really at peace with what I’m doing,” Gibson explained, implying that he’s done listening to what other people think he should do with it.
He said that while his relationship with the media and fans has been touchy in the past, “it’s much improved, and I’m going to continue to improve it,” he said, knowing that as the Diamondbacks manager, that’s probably a requirement.
“To add another group to that is the collectors. It’s a huge environment. I think just as I realized that fans and media are a huge part of the game, the collectors, the people who display it, have museums, really cherish these things on a different level than I do. It’s an important part of our game, keeping our game healthy.”
Kohler, who has one of the greatest collections of Lakers memorabilia at his Orange County home, says it’s more common these days for buyers of this kind of stuff to display it. For the public? Or in their own homes, with added security.
Yet there’s no guarantee that whomever buys these items will put them on display, but Gibson says he’s “hopeful” that happens.
Gary Cypres, the curator and megacollector who owns the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, agreed that they were “great pieces, and I’d love to own them,” as he looked at the rooms of Dodger memorabilia in his personal treasure trove. But estimating a $200,000 fetch for the uniform, for example, “that’s a lot,” he said, noting that there’s much more of an emotional tie to these items.
Having possession of them this long has actually given Gibson what he calls a “phobia,” with his fearing they’ll be destroyed in a fire. Yet, he’s hung onto them. The bat, Gibson admits, was once requested by the Hall of Fame, but it never got there.
How it was that they weren’t conveniently picked up by a locker room kid, or a team official, or someone else in the meyhem of that moment on Oct. 15, 1988, Gibson doesn’t seem to be surprised.
“Well, they were mine,” he said, adding that owner Peter O’Malley also gave him a giant LeRoy Neiman lithograph of that moment and allowed players to keep their jerseys and, presumably, other items.
At least we know where the bat is. For the time being. But for the rest of time, Gibson will handle it his way. He says he also has many items from his days with the Detroit Tigers – more equipment from the 1984 World Series – that he will sell off as well. Maybe for his foundation. Maybe not.
“I have my reasons,” he said. “Let’s leave it at that, OK?”
Sure. Fine. Whatever.
The bat alone, item No. 1198, has a opening bid of $25,000, with expectations that it could go for more than $200,000. So a price has just officially been set on a priceless archive of Los Angeles history.
Everyone in L.A. will remember where they were when Gibson hit the home run. Will they remember where they were when swatches of the event were parceled off to the highest bidder?
Forget Elvis Andrus‘s spark, forget Cliff Lee and his mastery, forget Josh Hamilton and his MVP pursuit, forget Ian Kinsler’s cockiness, Michael Young’s sticktuitiveness, Ron Washington’s redemption, C.J. Wilson’s return, Neftali Feliz’s dominance. . .even (for now), forget Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels and the amazing resurrection of this band of Castaways posing as dominant, exciting MLB franchise. Even try to forget this organizational breakthrough that had football-sick Dallas even forgetting about the Cowboys and their slow start. . .
The Rangers absolutely exciting win last night was best exhibited by the legendary, ageless Vladimir Guerrero – his mad dash home from second base on the would-be double play, coupled with his gazelle-like yet gawky slide into home, just barely beating the tag was something to behold. . something that baseball fans nation/worldwide should remember as an indelible image not just for the team, the city and the man – but the Sport in general.
What a thing of beauty – check it out in frame-by-frame from the moment he slides in to home through the dramatic safe call by umpire Jeff Kellogg.
That is baseball, folks. And that, in a nutshell, is the man they call Vlad.
Bytheway, Angels fans – how do you feel about that decision last year to let the man leave?
So Manny has officially left the building, joining the All-Dodger outfield in Chicago with Juan Pierre & Andruw Jones. While some local media are wishing Manny good riddance, YKI has no animosity toward Manny Ramirez.
Dodger fans were the benefactors of the most exciting second half (season?) in recent Dodger history, on the back of Manny(wood) and his dreadlocks – consistently providing power & excitement that YKI doesn’t recall seeing at the Stadium. Of course the 2009 Fertility Drug fiasco put a damper on the ‘legacy’ of Ramirez, but he still put up good numbers in the games he played (.290/16/63), an effect that continued this year despite copious injuries. Was he worth $45mm? Probably – he put asses in the seats and balls into the Pavilion. And guess what? The Dodgers were the focus of the baseball word for reasons other than the heinous McCourt divorce for the greater part of his tenure.
Lastly, we know this was coming – we’re fortunate to have been part of the resurrection of Chavez Ravine, and there was a definitive expiration date on his viability. That was exceeded, and Colletti dumped the salary and furthered his reputation as the best damn penny pinching big market GM in the game. Good work, and good luck to Manny. Thanks for the Memories.
YKI is trying hard not to get excited about the potential for a Wild Card (Dodgers are 5.5 games back as of today). . .but thus is baseball, with hope springing eternal, the fat lady not quite singing yet and there still being a sliver of hope until you’re officially mathematically eliminated.