I was noticing how low-scoring and homerless today’s (Opening Day) games seemed. . .then I see MLB Network flash the stat:
average of 4.7 runs per BALLGAME today. Lowest for a full day (min. 7 games) since May 11, 1983.
*not lowest opening day, folks. Lowest single day run output per ballgame in 29 years!!!*
a good infotweet courtesy @espnstatsinfo: A recap of the day’s pitching and how it – and the game with the most runs – rewrote the Opening Day record book. http://es.pn/I0jIB7.
sidenote(s): Matt Kemp. Dodgers. Magic. Vin Scully. Awww yeah, it’s back!!!
Apparently, I’m not as excited as most Dodger fans regarding the landmark McCourt sale to Earvin Johnson & the Kasten-Guggenheim Group.
While I do feel that this change in ownership is necessary, and I certainly believe that this is the right ‘team’ to lead the organization for the next decade+, I’m a bit offput at both the $2 BILLION price tag. As of yesterday, the projected sale price was a robust $1.5 billion, though perhaps Time Magazine was a bit more optimistic, calling the $1.5 billion projection a ‘bargain.’ That latter conjecture turned out to be true, and while the Guggenheim team has $125 billion in assets, I don’t see how you outbid somebody by half a billion dollars. . .
That’s not my main gripe, however. The fact that McCourt still is a partner in a “land venture” in the surrounding Chavez Ravine area. Though he won’t be an organizational decision-maker so that should be sufficient reason to back the Dodger news whole-heartedly, but my enthusiasm is definitely dampened. The main reason I cut back on tickets & attendance (personally) for the past two years was due to McCourt personally. The fallout from the divorce & proceedings led to a subpar experience at Dodger Stadium and Frank-ly, the team was inferior due to the shoestring budget of ownership.
New ownership – especially by one of L.A.’s most beloved icons – is definitely an enticement to head back to ballgames & the Stadium, but as Vin Scully’s years wane, the pull to stay home and “get back to this one” on the TV may outweigh the fact that McCourt will still be getting my money. Furthermore, the unplanned-as-of-yet land venture will undoubtedly be a profit machine, adding to McCourts magical coffers. . .with my hard-earned money. I’m dubious.
Though it is definitely a ‘fresh start’ and celebratory moment at the Ravine, I’ll feel better if Magic can really occur, and somehow Earvin Johnson can make McCourt disappear for good.
Until then, it’s TIME for Dodger baseball. . .
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?
Quite simply, there is nothing better than relaxing on a summer evening, door open, slight breeze blowing, dog in tow. . .listening to Vin.
Enjoy while you can, Dodger fans. I can not stress enough how fortunate we are to have Vin Scully as our Homeboy.
Si.com Recently ranked Vin Scully #2 Sportscaster of all-time (behind Jim McKay).
Always awesome to hear anything Vin-related.
SI.com’s Top 20 All-Time Sportscasters: #2 Vin Scully
At 61 seasons, Scully has the longest tenure of any broadcaster with one professional sports team, and he’s still going strong. He has been known as “the Voice of the Dodgers” since 1950, when the team was still in Brooklyn. The 82-year-old play-by-play man and his familiar voice may be nearing a final season.
As fans of the Dodgers wallow in the misery that is the McCourt Divorce proceedings – accompanied by a 2-4 start on the road versus the woebegone Pirates and payroll-challenged Marlins – there is respite in the looming despair: Opening Day, 2010. With an abundance of talent and numerous question marks about the state of the Organization, YKI flashes back to the years of yore, with photographic memories of my childhood and the Dodgers.
Opening Day is a time of hope and positivity toward the future and nostalgic leanings to the past, and here I present some of the images that in these times of $15 parking, $70 Loge seats & $12 beers, still make it so difficult to be objective about the Organization that produced so many good memories in my household.
A fantastic way to begin the 2010 Major League Baseball season: Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News has a Q & A with Vin Scully, the focal point of a solid baseball preview edition. Though the LATimes’ was a bit more NYTimes-esque; compact boxes featuring two tidbits and an outlook, at least the DN went old school and dedicated resources & print to the paper – always appreciated by the loyal if not-quite-as-erudite reader base. The print copy was wrapped with fairly thorough National League, American League, Dodgers & Angels preview stories. The jewel, of course was L.A. landmark Vin Scully, who amongst other things elaborated on the severity of the head injury that scared the bejeezus out of the Los Angeles fanbase.
My wife said it sounded like a watermelon had been dropped from five stories up. It was a marble floor and if your head hits that at full tilt, anything can happen.
Vin also admitted that he’s not too fond of “the kids and their music” these days, in an anecdote from Ray Charles: I said, ‘Ray, please don’t ever sing a rap song.’ And he put his head back and howled. That would be the last thing he’d do.’
Hoffarth continued the Q & A on his blog with questions from fans answered by Mr. Scully.
Whether or not they’re winning ballgames, Dodgers fans will be blessed as long as Vinny is behind the mic.
Bill Dwyre of the L.A. Times writes a great piece on Vin Scully’s scare the other night, reminding us yet again how fortunate we are to be living in the Age of Vin.
Vin Scully is OK, making all of us OK
It is late Friday morning, and our hearts have started beating again.
The dreaded words were right there in the morning paper: ” Vin Scully hospitalized.” It happened so close to deadline that the story could not satisfy the axioms of journalism and say what, why and how.
Now we know. He fell at home and hit his head. But he is OK. The good news got out there quickly. It marks the first time we have been happy for the existence of the Internet.
And then it hits us. Would any other member of the Dodgers — any other member of any sports franchise in Los Angeles — be deemed so important that a newspaper felt compelled, and correctly so, to print a man-enters-hospital story with no other details?
The answer is no.
Scully is a franchise treasure, a community treasure. No need to stop there. If you are even a tiny bit of a sports fan, he is a national treasure.
He is also 82, and even though his 82 is the new 67, when he hits his head, the rest of us gasp.
His reaction will be embarrassment at the attention this gets. Our reaction, since this is all about us and his several million fans, is to mandate that he now wear a helmet around the house. He’ll get a chuckle out of that and go looking for one of those old leather jobs from the Red Grange era with no facemask.
He will never quite understand what he means to the rest of us because he cannot. He is the one inside that skin.
But if anything happens to him, the void is too huge for comprehension. If we had our way, there would be a fountain of youth and Scully would have John Wooden, who may know more baseball than basketball, as his broadcast sidekick. That might be the only tandem that would work, because, as current Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner has so often and so aptly pointed out about Scully’s go-it-solo broadcasts, “Poets don’t need straight men.”
Think of what we would miss as we navigate our tangled web of freeways during the baseball season.
Scully starts a story as the batter comes to the plate. The stories are almost always new, always fascinating. As the tale unspools, we focus harder, praying somewhere deep within ourselves that the pitcher has the decency to throw a couple in the dirt and the hitter has the good sense to take some pitches, or at least swing and miss. We don’t care about the game at that very moment. We want no interruption to Scully’s story.
We’ve even thought about asking our old friend Bud Selig to help. Hey Bud, how about some sort of little buzzer that will go off on the plate and the mound when Scully starts telling a story? Then, under penalty of fine from the commissioner’s office, the pitcher is ordered to walk off the mound and go to the rosin bag. After that, the hitter must re-tie both shoes and return to the dugout for a new bat.
The once redheaded Scully was born of Irish immigrant parents and still wears the old sod like a comfortable nightshirt. One of his best friends over the years was The Times’ late and great columnist Jim Murray, who also had the Cliffs of Moher embedded in his face.
Listening to the two of them talk over a cup of coffee was like watching Koufax pitch or hearing Pavarotti sing. The stories were marvelous, some of them even true. The occasional blarney made one thirsty for a swig of Guinness.
The joy with which they interacted was a pleasure to behold. Nor did either comprehend what the rest of us have known forever: That reading Murray was like eating whipped cream, and listening to Scully is the same.
Peter O’Malley, who used to own the Dodgers and whose vintage is such that he thinks of Cork first as a county rather than something capping a bottle of wine, reacted with relief.
“Vinny’s genuine, 14 karat,” O’Malley said. “He’s as good as a friend as he is behind the microphone.”
When Murray died and a memorial service was planned for Dodger Stadium, the list of speakers included the equivalent of an American sports who’s who. In the group were Jerry West, Al Michaels, Al Davis, Chick Hearn, Chris McCarron and Scully. The dilemma for the memorial service planners was who would bat cleanup. Quickly, it was determined there was no dilemma.
So when Scully stepped to the plate to wrap things up, looked to the heavens and told the audience that it was the kind of day that Murray would have appreciated because it was “what the Irish call a soft day,” there were no dry eyes.
Scully will do his first spring game from Arizona on Sunday. Dodgers versus Cleveland Indians. The score won’t matter. The voice giving it to us will.
We remained blessed.
The L.A. Live played host to a magical event on Saturday night; An Evening with Sandy Koufax and Joe Torre at the Nokia Theatre, moderated by T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times. I attended with The Count (my pops), who was misty-eyed at the thought of even seeing Koufax (a notorious ‘recluse’) speak freely & publicly.
Turns out that the acerbic & endearingly annoying Simers was a perfect facilitator for this event, just as he was last year during the John Wooden/Vin Scully event. Immediately making himself the butt of jokes – while poking fun at the two legends – he enabled Koufax to feel comfortable, as the gregarious Torre played along, contributing anecdotes and color to Koufax’s somewhat brief initial ripostes. One thing clear from the beginning is that Sandy was going to tell the truth, and would answer questions adamantly, if not a bit tersely as well.
I was very surprised to hear that neither of Koufax’s two major injuries occurred while pitching, meaning that the era of starters throwing 300+ innings was more beneficial for players as I’ve been saying. . again, buttressing my long-running stance on ‘pitch counts’ ruining a generation of pitchers; i mean honestly, why is pitching the only physical activity that maintains the philosophy of ‘less’ is better for you? The fact is, though, with Sandy – one of his injuries occurred when he was hit by pitch as a batter and an artery exploded; the other when he was sliding back into second base and landed on his elbow awkwardly.
Another inspirational moment occurred when Clayton Kershaw was pulled on stage – the lefty having been previously compared to Sandy Koufax by none other than Torre – and stood side-by-side with Koufax, at one point comparing hand size. Koufax – legendary for his huge hands – dwarfed Kershaw’s hands, but admitted that the kid is a damn good pitcher and is obviously making due with his more average-sized hands.
Additional highlights included:
*Vin Scully video tribute to Koufax, including his ‘final out’ call of the perfect game vs. the Cubs, and some good-natured ribbing of Torre from Vin.
*Torre discussing his childhood and abuse, and being a ‘portly’ kid that was motivated by his brother’s haranguing to get in shape and fulfill his potential.
*Koufax dismissing any thoughts about him being ‘soft’ and saying that a quality start “ended with me shaking hands with the catcher.”
*Tommy Lasorda video tribute to being the man cut so Sandy could take his place on the roster.
Great, great evening – I look forward to next year’s event (hint, hint – TJ) – hopefully featuring Tommy Lasorda in person.