Check Your Arsenal at the Door
The union agreed with MLB’s message, though it’s a small miracle that Gene Orza, the union’s Number Two, didn’t launch some kind of resistance for the sake of launching some kind of resistance, as he’s prone to do.
In a preventative measure, Major League Baseball this past week put a note out that guns, knives, explosives, and other sorts of weaponry will be officially banned from clubhouses, not to mention any workplace under the control of MLB and its teams. Though it’s automatically assumed that the rule was instituted in the wake of a NBA incident in which two Washington Wizard players threatened each other with guns in the locker room, it was actually written up following the arrest of football star Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself with an unregistered gun at a nightclub in 2008.
Coming Soon: Ozzieworld
First there was Ozzie and Harriet, followed years later by Ozzy and Sharon. Now we get Ozzie and the White Sox. The MLB Network has developed a reality TV show that it’ll begin airing in July that follows colorful Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen from spring training and throughout the season. If you thought the Osbournes were foul-mouthed, wait to you get an earful of bleeps from the acid-tongued Guillen.
Jim Bibby, 1944-2010
Jim Bibby, a 12-year pitching veteran with 111 major league victories, passed away this week in Lynchburg, Virginia at the age of 65. Bibby was an off- and on-again starter, playing the workhorse for Billy Martin in Texas in 1974 when he finished 19-19 in 41 starts; it was a year earlier that he threw the first no-hitter in Ranger franchise history, silencing the eventual world champion A’s at Oakland. Bibby was a member of 1979 World Series-winning Pittsburgh Pirates and enjoyed his best season in 1980 with the Bucs, finishing 19-6 with a 3.32 ERA. At 6’5”, 250 pounds, he was also a big guy; in one of his last appearances, during a second go-around with the Rangers in 1984, he was brought in during the third inning to replace starter Charlie Hough in Toronto because manager Doug Rader felt Bibby’s bulky frame would be relatively effective against gusty winds pummeling Exhibition Stadium.
Olympic Fact of the Week
Katie Uhlaender, an American winter Olympian who finished 11th in the skeleton event at Vancouver (and has twice won the World Cup in that sport), is the daughter of former major leaguer Ted Uhlaender, who passed away last year from cancer. Uhlaender was an outfielder from 1965-72 for Minnesota, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Sans Dodger Blue
Sandy Koufax made a guest appearance at spring training in Florida, but not at Dodgertown, which has moved on to Arizona. The legendary pitcher instead stopped in on the New York Mets, whose owner (Fred Wilpon) is a former high school teammate of Koufax. (The two also share a more dubious connection; both were swindled by Bernie Madoff.) Odds will soon be released on whether Koufax leaves camp without joining the Mets’ disabled list.
He's BackBut in Name Only
Six years ago, Eric Gagne was the game’s best closer, a dynamite fireballer who threw as if there was no tomorrowand very effectively, recalled in his 84 straight saves without blowing one to smash a major league record. This past week, Gagne signed a minor league contract to return to Los Angeles and the scene of his glory, but as a much different man. Between injuries and being called out by the Mitchell Report, Gagne no longer has the moxie or bravado that elevated him to his peak from 2002-04; he hasn’t even thrown a major league pitch since 2008, when he struggled for the Milwaukee Brewers.
He Said What?
Did Mark McGwire plug us? Upon reporting to spring training as the Cardinals’ new batting coach, apologized yet again for his steroid use by saying: “I can’t say I’m sorry enough to everybody in baseball and across America, and whoever watches this great game.” Note to the media: Those last three words need initial caps.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
Wounded of the Winter
We know most players showing up at spring training aren’t in midseason form, but you think they would be healthy. Yet it seems every year that when the major league medical ward opens in March, it gets stampeded upon by a horde of players who just couldn’t keep themselves from getting hurt during the winter. This past week we heard of the following players who limped into camp and will miss part or all of spring trainingand perhaps the start of the regular season: Jair Jurrjens (shoulder), Ted Lilly (right knee) Cliff Lee (foot surgery) Freddy Sanchez (shoulder), Ross Detwiler (hip surgery), Brian Roberts (back), Joel Hanrahan (elbow, arm) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (upper back).
The Future of Cuba
Interesting story this past week penned by the Toronto Star’s Morgan Campbell on the state of baseball in Cubaand what would happen if ballplayers there were liberated should the Castro regime collapse.
This Film is Not Yet Rated
It’s a story with such juice, you wonder how it took Hollywood 40 years to finally get around to making a film about it. This past week, it was announced that Ben Affleck will direct (and perhaps star in) a movie about the wife-swapping between two New York Yankee pitchers, Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, in 1973. The irony here is that Affleck is a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. If you thought Oliver Stone was salivating writing up Nixon, wait until Affleck starts poking some fun over the Yankees.
Those Gosh Darn Seatbelts Are Killing Me!
Detroit manager Jim Leyland has made two spring training resolutions: To stop swearing and to start wearing seatbelts. No word on whether the chain-smoking Leyland will go for the trifecta and throw out his cigarettes, but he may have to once the regular season starts: Comerica Park will become a complete no-smoking zone this year.
Beware the Eyes of Marsh
Here’s news that likely made Leyland break his no-profanity pledge. Umpire Randy Marsh, who was behind the plate and said that the Tigers’ Brandon Inge did not get hit by a Bobby Keppel pitch at a crucial moment in last year’s tie-breaker match at Minnesota, has now admitted he erred. Inge was at the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the 12th inning of a 5-5 tie; after not getting awarded first base for getting brushed on the front of his jersey, Inge grounded into a force for the second out, and Gerald Laird struck out to end the inning without the Tigers scoring. The Twins won it in the bottom half of the 12th and moved on to the playoffs. Marsh telephoned Leyland and apologized for missing the call, the first of many blown calls that took place during the 2009 postseason.
Mining a PR Disaster, Continued
Last week we reported that the Tampa Bay Rays were moving forward with a new naming rights deal for their spring training ballpark in Charlotte County, Floridaeven though the new sponsor, phosphate mining giant Mosaic, has become a pariah within a county that has spent millions fighting it over environmental violations. Bowing to pressure, the Rays this past week announced they were dropping the deal.
A Chat With Baseball's Biggest Communist Fan
Lester Rodney, who pressed for racial integration within baseball through the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker a good ten years before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, passed away on December 20 at the age of 98. One of the last people he gave an in-depth interview to was our own Ed Attanasio a few years back; that interview is now up in our They Were There section. Check it out now.
New and Improved at TGG
Our intro to the 2000s section of the Yearly Reader, originally written back in 2005, has been retitled and updated to provide a more complete overview of the decade. Also, the Teams section has been updated to include results from the 2009 regular season.
Coming Soon to TGG
Look soon for our Yearly Reader page covering the 2009 season.
We Ought to Tell You: Our All-Decade Awards
With the end of the Oughts (read: 2000s), This Game Great has released its choices for the best, worst and most memorable of the decade that was. Check it out now.