May 29, 2009

Talkin' baseball with Rollie Fingers

So…Mustache May 2009 is coming to a close and admittedly, getting an updated ‘stache of the Day out there every day was a little more ambitious than I thought.

Oops.

That being said, I promised myself two things at the start of the month…a rockin’ ‘stache at the conclusion and an interview to knock the socks off of my regular readers. Pics of the ‘stache will be posted over at my facebook page soon.

The latter begins below.

HOVG: It was about time you put your thoughts in writing, can you tell me how your book Rollie’s Baseball Follies”came about?

ROLLIE: A guy by the name of Chris “Yellowstone” Ritter contacted me a couple of years ago and wanted to write a book. I told him I wasn’t really into writing a book, but he told me that it wasn’t going to be a book about my life, but more a book about baseball. We talked for a while and came up with different stories and (Ritter) wanted to put a bunch of facts and trivia in there…things about different ballplayers. It took a couple of years. We were in contact, it seems, about every other day through phone calls and emails and, finally, came up with a pretty good book. We hope it does well.

HOVG: Everyone knows about the mustache. The story of the three hundred dollar bonus is legendary. But what (former A's owner) Charlie Finley did prior to that is what shaped your career. You were actually groomed in the minors to be a closer, right?

ROLLIE: Actually, I came up as a starter. That was how you got to the big leagues back then was going through the organization as a starter. There was no such thing as grooming yourself in the minors as a relief pitcher. In 1971, I made the starting staff, but I got to the point where I couldn’t get out of the second or third inning. Our manager Dick Williams said “that was it” and told me I was out of the rotation and into the bullpen. I was basically a mop up pitcher. I was pitching in ballgames when we were four or six runs behind just to get us through the game. After back to back games where I got the saves, (Williams) brought me in his office and said “you’re my closer”…and that was fine with me. I was in the right place at the right time.

HOVG: So, Dick Williams kinda defined the role of the modern day closer?

ROLLIE: (Laughs) He changed my career around that’s for sure. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I was heading in the big leagues. He started using me in game situations and built up my confidence. And once you’re successful, you’ve already got one strike against the hitters.

HOVG: Closers now come in and pitch an out or two…an inning at the most. Do you think they could go the three, four or five innings that you and Goose (Gossage) did on a nightly basis?

ROLLIE: I had close to a dozen saves where I went four innings. There was one game I went seven innings and didn’t get anything out of it. Now, each guy has his own little job out of the bullpen.

HOVG:
You were the first closer to 300 saves. Matter of fact, you were the all-time saves leader from 1980 until 1992…do you think that the numbers that some of the closers are getting now is watered down?

ROLLIE: I think there are more opportunities for closers to get saves nowadays. Starting pitchers aren’t throwing as many complete games. When I was with Oakland, we were completing 45 to 55 ballgames a year. That means 45 to 55 save opportunities are gone and that’s the biggest difference. They’re taking starting pitchers out early now, whereas starting pitchers wanted those complete games back then. That’s how they got paid. Pitchers didn’t want to come out. You had to almost fight Catfish Hunter to get him out of the game. If it’s a 3-1 game, now, the closer comes in. Back then, Catfish would start that inning and if he got in trouble, he wouldn’t come out unless there were two guys on base and two runs already in.

HOVG: I talked with former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery about what the save benchmark should be. He suggests 400…do you agree?

ROLLIE: With the number of saves that guys are getting, definitely. Guys are getting 40 to 45 saves a year now. When I was playing, it was 20 saves a year. The way they’re getting saves now, you almost have to raise the bar. But look at Lee Smith and his 478 saves and he’s not in the Hall of Fame. He was caught in between both stages where you could pitch one inning or you had to pitch more. He was a workhorse. And starting pitching…I don’t know what they’re going to be looking at for the Hall of Fame. Their numbers are going way down. You’ll never see 300 innings pitched and you’ll probably only see a couple more guys with 300 wins. You won’t see guys with 3000 strikeouts because teams carry so many pitchers now. We use to break (spring training) with nine pitchers. Now, teams will have 12 or 13. If starters go five innings, that’s a quality start. In my day, if you went only five innings, you were on your way to the minors.

HOVG: Do you think that with players like Clay Zavada of the Diamondbacks, groups like the American Mustache Institute and celebrations like “Mustache May”…the mustache is making a comeback?

ROLLIE: The more these guys are on television the more they might see themselves and think “I might look good with a mustache…maybe I’ll start growing one”. I’m sure none of it hurts the mustache gang. (Laughs) It all comes back to if you like it or if your girlfriend or wife likes it.

HOVG: After you…who had the best big league mustache?

ROLLIE: Probably Goose Gossage. He had that intimidating fu Manchu. Sparky Lyle had a pretty good mustache as well. You had Jeff Reardon and Bruce Sutter with the beards. Even Dan Quisenberry had a good one.

HOVG: Have any players ever stopped you for mustache advice?

ROLLIE: Not really. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me that I have a mustache just like Rollie Fingers. They recognize the mustache before they recognize me. They see the handle bar mustache and they associate that with me. I get that every day actually.

HOVG: Let’s talk Cooperstown. When you went in in 1992, there was no talk of steroids or PEDs. What are your feelings going to be when a player who has admitted use or is suspected of using, and it’s bound to happen, gets elected to join you in Cooperstown?


ROLLIE: I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. The sportswriters are pretty sticky about that. It’s pretty obvious with the numbers that Mark McGwire has gotten. If you’re known to use or if they figure you’ve been using, I don’t see that person getting voted in.


HOVG: If someone that is suspected of steroids makes it in, like a Roger Clemens, are you on that stage when they're inducted?

ROLLIE: Yes…simply because the sportswriters voted him in. If they felt as though he warranted going into the Hall of Fame, I am not going to shun him. I would stay on the stage. But like I said before, I don’t think that it’s going to happen. Roger Clemens says he doesn’t care, but I guarantee you…Roger Clemens cares.

HOVG: We can all blame Jose Canseco.

ROLLIE: (Laughs) I tell you what…everyone gets on Jose Canseco, but you don’t see too many people suing him. If he hadn’t have written the book, who knows where we’d be at today with steroids and the number of guys using them. It would probably be out of hand. At least right now, they’re taking care of the problem. The worst thing you can do is to let kids see that it is okay to use this stuff and get by. You have to show kids that this is not the right way to go and clean it up.

HOVG: Do you ever regret not getting the chance to be a member of the Red Sox?

ROLLIE: I was happier than a pig in shit to get traded to the Red Sox. I wanted to get the Hell away from Charlie Finley. He was a pain in the neck. He sold me to the Red Sox for a million dollars. I was in uniform, the Red Sox had just come into Oakland for a three games series. I just picked up all my stuff from out of my locker and went over to the visiting locker and had a locker next to Carl Yastrzemski. I was there for three days and at the end of the three days, (former commissioner) Bowie Kuhn nixed the deal. So I picked up all my stuff and went back to the Oakland A’s clubhouse. Had I got in a ballgame, I don’t think that Bowie Kuhn could have done anything though.

HOVG: Lastly…if you were trotting in from centerfield tonight to close out a 3-2 ballgame, (A) whose win would you want to be securing and (B) what would the music be that is blaring over the PA?

ROLLIE: If I was coming in to save a ballgame, I would want to save a Catfish Hunter ballgame. He carried more games into the eighth and ninth inning than I ever saw. The last thing I ever wanted to do was screw up a Catfish Hunter game. As far as music goes…I couldn’t care less about what music was playing when I walked in. When I played, they didn’t even care. You just walked in from the bullpen. I guess I would be the only player in the big leagues without a song playing.

Rollie Fingers is a native of Steubenville, Ohio…but currently calls Las Vegas his home. He was a seven time All-Star and the winner of the 1981 American League Cy Young and MVP Awards. He spent his career as the closer for the Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers.

You can purchase Fingers' book “Rollie’s Baseball Follies” HERE. Better yet...you can win a copy of the book! Here's all you need to do...drop me an email with the number of saves Fingers ended up with in the subject line. I'll pick a name, send it over to Clerisy Press and they'll send you a book.



BallHype: hype it up!

May 24, 2009

No mustache, no thong...Giambi hits 400

Last year at this time, all the talk surrounding Jason Giambi was about mustaches and golden thongs.

This year, we're talking his return to Oakland and, today...his 400th home run.

When The Hall previewed the upcoming American League West milestones back in March, all thought was that Giambi would have surpassed 400 sometime in Mid-April. Unfortunately, a terrible slump pushed back the milestone.

Giambi returned to Oakland, where he spent the first seven years of his career before playing for the Yankees for seven seasons, in the off season. He hit 209 homers with New York, and his 191 homers for the A's put him in a tie with Gus Zernial for ninth-most in club history.

"I was glad the fans here got a chance to see it where I started my career," said Giambi after the game. "The fans have always been great to me here."

Having passed up Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline on the all-time list, Giambi is now the 44th player in big league history to hit 400 career homers. Next up on the list, Hall of Famer Duke Snider at 407.

After that...500? We'll see.


BallHype: hype it up!

May 21, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Dick Allen

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache.

Now, with all apologies to those who are figuring out my poor attempt to cash in on Google searches for American Idol Season 8 winner Kris Allen...allow me to introduce today's 'stache of the day.

Dick Allen.


AMI Style: Allen rocked a pseudo-horseshoe for much of his career. It wasn't as long as, say, Robin Yount...but I can't really call it a chevron..

Grade: B+
Allen had a great 'stache and sideburns. Kudos!



Feel free to re-visit The Hall's HOF case for Dick Allen HERE.


A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 19, 2009

2000...2000?

Almost a decade after a horrific July 4 ankle injury that almost forced him out of baseball, Brewers catch Jason Kendall did something that only seven other full-time catchers have done.

You guessed it...he got his 2000th base knock last night against St. Louis.

And even though I failed to mention him in March's National League Central Milestone Preview, the veteran is now closing in on Hall of Famers Johnny Bench (2048 career hits) and Gary Carter (2092) on the career list.


"When I snapped my ankle 10 years ago, a lot of people said that I would never come back and be the same player," Kendall said. "This is very special."

Down in Atlanta, Todd Helton wasn't as fortunate...or was he?

The future Hall of Famer (yup, I said it) lined one at shortstop Yunel Escobar who, after failing to make the play, was saddled with the error instead of the hit.

"All I can do is hit it," the Rockies hit king said. "I've never seen that ball called an error before. I guess I should have hit it higher or somewhere else."

In hopes of getting the ruling overturned, the Rockies requested a meeting with the game's official scorer. Any review of the decision could take up to 24 hours.

So...I guess we'll all wait and see.

Of course, if Helton and his .429 batting average against tonight's Braves starter Jair Jurrjens have anything to say about it...chances are a legitimate Number 2000 might happen sometime in his first couple of plate appearances.

***UPDATE***

In the third inning of Tuesday night's contest versus the Braves, Helton singled off Jurrjens and left no doubt as to whether or not he had eclipsed 2000 hits.

With the single, Helton became the 255th player to reach 2000, and the fourth active player to reach that milestone with one club. Two of the others were at Turner Field in Braves uniforms...Garret Anderson (who had 2368 hits for the Angels) and Chipper Jones (who entered Tuesday with 2310 for the Braves).

The active leader for one team is Derek Jeter, who entered Tuesday with 2,577 hits for the Yankees.


BallHype: hype it up!

May 18, 2009

Welcome to the 300 Club, Pudge

Nearly lost in the hype surrounding Mustache May (by the way...how is YOURS coming?) is that fact that Ivan Rodriguez surpassed a milestone last night. Back in March, we mentioned "Pudge" as one of the many who were going for milestones this season and last night, he circled the bases for his 300th career home run.

"It's nice," said the catcher. "To be in 18 years in my career, to get to 300 and have the career that I've had and to be able to stay healthy pretty much my entire career, to be able to reach these kind of goals is very nice."

"It's a tremendous accomplishment, the man's a Hall of Famer," Lance Berkman added. "He's been around a long time, and that's a lot of home runs."

Rodriguez has hit 293 of his 300 homers as a catcher, good for seventh among backstops on the all-time list. He's 20 games away from tying the other "Pudge", Carlton Fisk, for the record for all-time games caught. Sunday marked the veteran's 2,206th game behind the plate.

Check out video of the monumental home run HERE. Thanks YouTube!


BallHype: hype it up!

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Lee Elia

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with the most foul-mouthed manager ever to don the lip sweater...Lee Elia.

As a tribute to Nick Digilio of 720 WGN-AM Radio (you can listen to my appearance on his show HERE)...I've gotta go with another Cub.

AMI Style: Looking like 87% of the men in their mid-50s at the time...Elia rocked the chevron

Grade: C Elia was un-mustached throughout most of his career. However, in true Chicago fashion, he grew out his cookie duster and the results...average.

Unless you've been under a rock for most of your baseball lovin' life, you've heard the following 1983 rant by Elia. If you have heard it...hear it again HERE.


May 17, 2009

MM09...We're past the midway point! Win a free shirt!

We're half way through Mustache May, gang. I hope that those of you that are growin' are proudly showin'. And to the rest of you...thank you for your support of this month long celebration!

TONIGHT (Sunday, May 17)...I'll be representing the cause (and The Hall of Very Good) on WGN 720 Radio sometime after Midnight CST.

If you can tune it in on the old transitor...go nuts. If not, listen live online HERE.


And when you done listening, podcasting, iTuning or what have you...drop The Hall an email. Put "Digilio" in the subject line and you'll be entered to win a t-shirt. Sometime during the week...I'll hit you back and get your details, etc.

Join in on the madness, gang! Hit up the facebook group and chime in on your thoughts. Be part of the trend that is surely going to sweep some portion of the nation. Keep up to date on the time and place for the proposed "Mustache May 'stache Bash Bar Crawl", email The Hall with 'stache of the Day suggestions, photos, contributions, etc.

And lastly, you can still read the interview Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins gave us HERE.

MM09...God 'stache America!

May 16, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Jeffrey Leonard

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with the "HacMan" himself...Jeffrey Leonard.

Leonard has always been a favorite of mine and, admittedly, it isn't because of his mustache. Something that endeared me to Leonard was when, in 1987, he won the NLCS MVP award. Why is that a big deal? His Giants lost the series.

AMI Style: Part chevron, part walrus...one flap down.

Grade: C+ Leonard's lip sweater was a perfect accessory to his manacing scowl. That being said...it lacked the defining character of, say, a Luis Tiant or "Goose" Gossage.


If you are feeling up to it this weekend, it appears as though I'll be updating the world on the status of Mustache May over at 720 WGN-AM Sunday night at midnight CST.


Listen online HERE!


A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 15, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Rollie Fingers

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with the king...Rollie Fingers.

I wasn't going to go with Fingers...too easy. But after missing a day, I figured I owed it to everyone to show them the best 'stache EVER to grace Major League Baseball and, eventually, Cooperstown.

AMI Style: Handlebar. Period.


Grade: A+
Fingers would score higher if he could. His 'stache defined a generation.

If you are feeling up to it this weekend, it appears as though I'll be updating the world on the status of Mustache May over at 720 WGN-AM Sunday night at midnight CST.


Nick Digilio has been kind enough to extend the invitation...and I will do my best not to let you down. Listen online HERE!

A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 13, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Dennis Leonard

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with Morgan Spurlock lookalike Dennis Leonard.
I promise to you I am not looking solely at the 1981 Topps collection...but for some reason, they are really jumping out at me.

AMI Style: Leonard wore the best horsehoe in baseball for a long, long time.

Grade: A+
Like I previously stated, Leonard's horseshoe was one of the games best for a long, long time.

Combined with his huge 'burns and that goofy smile and you have a recipe for greatness.

One of the league's most dominating pitchers over his brief career...I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that we might have been looking at a potential 225-250 game winner had Leonard's knees not failed him.


A special thanks to
checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 12, 2009

Talkin' baseball with Fergie Jenkins

It’s rare that a Major League Baseball player (past or present) will say “sure, I’ll talk with you” via email or any other medium.

But when a Hall of Famer will actually devote some time to do a one on one sit down interview with you four days after
having his number retired…you do what you can to make it happen.

Such was the case last Thursday, when The Hall had the unique opportunity to talk baseball, steroids, mustaches and hockey with 284 game winner Ferguson Jenkins.

Here’s how it went down.

HOVG: Let’s talk about your career on the North side since that is how you are most commonly remembered. On your plaque in Cooperstown, you’re immortalized as a Cub. Chicago is a town where if the fans love you, they LOVE you. What’s it like playing for the Wrigley crowd?

FERGIE: The first time I came here (as a Phillie) I didn’t think it was all that great. It became interesting because Cub fans are different from others…knowledgeable, smart and loyal. They come out regardless…win or lose. There have been a lot of nicknames for the Cub fans that I think are not good. But Cub fans take it. They’d like to see their team win, so when they do win...I think the city will go crazy.

HOVG: After your first stint in Texas, you went to a similar atmosphere in Boston. You know, that’s quite the debate on a number of message boards, chatrooms, etc…Wrigley vs. Fenway. How do the Fenway fans stack up to those at Wrigley?

FERGIE: The Fenway crowds are very good. If you’re playing against the Yankees, there is always that love-hate relationship in the stands. They always want you to perform well because you’re the home team…they want you to beat the nemesis. Fundamentally, when you go out there, you already know in the back of your mind that you’ve got to perform well. You’ve got to put your A game together and win and the fans respect you for that. If you don’t win on that particular night, (the fans) are honest enough to know that you gave what you could to win. Giving up is not in my vocabulary…I love to win.

HOVG: You came to the mound to “Canadian Sunset” in Chicago…did that follow you to Texas and Boston?

FERGIE: No. The only place that they ever played it was Chicago. It was nice to hear that. They recognized you as a certain individual and I was a Canadian.

HOVG: Alright, so let’s get back to that…you’re from Ontario. And, subsequently, you’re the only Canadian Hall of Famer. What I want to know is…who was a better hockey player, you or Tom Glavine? Glavine, of course, having been drafted by the LA Kings in 1984.

FERGIE: Structure wise I am a little bigger than Glavine and that’s the way the game is now. In his era, maybe he was a decent player...but I didn’t get to see him skate. I was a decent hockey player.

HOVG: Outside of hockey, you also played basketball. In 1967 and 1968, you actually played with the Harlem Globetrotters. How did that come about?

FERGIE: (The marketing guru for the Globetrotters) came to see me one afternoon at Wrigley Field and he wanted to know if I was going to go (back to Canada) in the off season. He said that they were going to start their tour in Sherbrooke, Quebec and asked if I would like to join their team and be part of their skit as the pitcher. I went over and worked out with them a couple of times…we got our routine together and after a while, they found out I was a decent player. I used to play every third quarter. But my fundamental opportunity for playing was to give up a home run every night to Meadowlark Lemon.

HOVG: Was it your two years on the hardwood, traveling the globe that encouraged you to grow out the mustache and afro?

FERGIE: (Laughs) A lot of times guys would come to spring training with a mustache or beard but would take it off. I just think that when you got to a team…some guys had a little bit that they wanted to do. When the afro started to become a trend, I started growing mine a little bigger.

HOVG: Some people, myself included, believe the mustache to be the ultimate performance enhancer. Do you believe that your mustache was the catalyst to seven 20 win seasons in eight years?

FERGIE:
No, not really. (Laughs) The way you get driven to win games, is to try and be consistent. You try to prove to yourself and your teammates that you’re as good a player as anybody else in the league. Gibson, Drysdale, Koufax, Bunning…or any of the other pitchers in the league. They’re the number one pitchers on their staff and you’re the same on yours. That makes you drive yourself a little harder to try and win more games.

HOVG: In all seriousness, with the talk of steroids all over the sports channels and what not…what are your feelings going to be when a player who has admitted use, and it’s bound to happen, gets elected to join you in Cooperstown?

FERGIE: I don’t think (it’s bound to happen). Whoever has the vote, the Hall of Fame committee…the 500 plus reporters, they’re not going to vote for them. Guys like Sosa might not make it. Neither will Bonds or McGwire. A-Rod might not make it. Once you get that particular black mark on your record, they are not going to give you the required amount of votes. You have to get 75 percent. McGwire only got 22 percent. He’s not even close.

HOVG: If someone that is suspected of steroids makes it in, like Clemens, are you on that stage when they're inducted?


FERGIE: I don't know, I'd have to wait and see. I know Bob Feller voiced his opinion already. There's a few guys who voiced their opinion and said they wouldn't go. (Al) Kaline probably wouldn't go. Some of the guys who are staunch advocates of playing the game clean...they probably wouldn't show.

HOVG: Tell me about that sweltering day in 1991, when you Rod Carew and Gaylord Perry were welcomed into the Hall.

FERGIE: Gaylord Perry won 314 games. Rod Carew had eight batting titles. I had some consistency in my career too. Three pretty good athletes went in in 1991, so I was pretty happy with the circumstances. My mother always said I had a gift for gab, and, you know, I very seldom get nervous.

HOVG: What’s hotter…the heat on that podium, or getting called into Billy Martin’s office, who incidentally, managed you, Carew and Perry at different times in your careers.

FERGIE: Getting called into Billy Martin’s office. Two managers of mine, Leo Durocher and Billy Martin had an open door policy. You could go in and talk if you had a beef with something. But I watched too many reporters get thrown out that I wasn’t going in. If I had to talk to Billy, it was probably on the bench.

HOVG: I’ve got a friend in Toronto, David Allan, who is obsessed with Canadian baseball. He’s been over at my site, The Hall of Very Good, touting the efforts of Larry Walker. Who in your estimation has the best chance of being the NEXT Canadian in the Hall?

FERGIE: I think as a hitter (Walker) has the numbers. An MVP, some batting titles, a lot of home runs…he supported his team very well. I think he’s got a great opportunity. I’d like to have some company.

Ferguson "Fergie" Jenkins is a native of Chatham, Ontario, Canada. He was a three time All-Star and the winner of the 1971 National League Cy Young Award. While most of his career was spent playing for the Chicago Cubs, he also had stints with the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.

You can learn about his foundation
HERE.


BallHype: hype it up!

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Fergie Jenkins

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins.

Recently, Jenkins had his jersey retired by the Cubs, but his well 'stached career made its way through Texas and Boston as well.

AMI Style: Fergie's Canadian passport defies definition. It can either be classified as a thicker pencil or the popular chevron

Grade: A
Fergie's lip sweater can be traced back to his post-Globetrotters career. That alone, makes it Grade A.


Check out Fergie's exclusive interview with The Hall HERE.



A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.


May 9, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Biff Pocoroba

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with Biff Pocoroba.


Pocoroba is a player, who, basically, was an enigma.



As a rookie in 1975, he gained attention by throwing out 11 straight would-be base stealers. Somehow, he was an All-Star in 1978. Most remarkably...his given name is actually "Biff".


AMI Style
: Pocoroba's rocking a pencil. Sadly, I don't think it is on purpose.

Grade: D
Pocoroba's pencil is obviously inadvertant. Frankly...I can't imagine why he would intentionally grow out this particular lip curtain.



A special thanks to
checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 8, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Ozzie Smith

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with a guy who, every time I see him or hear his name...I think not of backflips and dazzling plays at shortstop, I think of the greatest swindle I ever pulled while trading baseball cards.

Ozzie Smith.

The year was 1984. We used to trade cards at recess and I knew what people wanted. One classmate in particular was a HUGE White Sox fan, so, naturally...I used to load up my Sox cards and haul them to school. I traded a 1984 Topps Mike Squires, fresh from the pack for a 1979 Ozzie Smith. At the time, Squires was a common (still is) and the Smith rookie was worth $1.75.

AMI Style: Basically it is a thicker pencil...not quite a painter's brush.

Grade: C/A-
Solo...the 'stache itself is nothing to write home about. Combined with those sideburns, we're looking at a Grade A combo.



A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 7, 2009

Ooops!

Obviously, the Hall of Very Good is a fan of Manny Ramirez. Let's face it...he's a great character AND he brings it night after night.

Well, apparently, his "bringing it" might have been enhanced.
Major League Baseball is expected to announce today that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and will be suspended for 50 games, The Los Angeles Times is reporting.

***UPDATE***

According to ESPN, the Dodgers star said he did not take steroids and was prescribed medication by a doctor that contained a banned substance. The commissioner's office didn't announce the specific violation by the 36-year-old outfielder, who apologized to the Dodgers and fans for "this whole situation."

However, two sources told ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada that the drug used by Ramirez is HCG -- human chorionic gonadotropin. HCG is a women's fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle. It is similar to Clomid, the drug Bonds, Giambi and others used as clients of BALCO.

"Recently, I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me," Ramirez said in a statement issued by the players' union.

"Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons."

BallHype: hype it up!

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Ken Phelps

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with a guy who would have been long forgotten if it wasn't for an episode of "Seinfeld".

Of course I'm talking about the same guy George Stenbrenner's "baseball people" were talking about when they traded Jay Buhner...Ken Phelps.


AMI Style: I'm a little hesitant...but I'm going to go with the walrus here.

Grade: B+ Phelps kept his lip warmer throughout his career. Even when with the Yankees...he couldn't be persuaded to shave it off.

On April 20, 1990 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the Mariners (Phelps was playing for Oakland), Phelps was called out of the dugout to pinch hit against Brian Holman. Holman had retired the first 26 batters in succession and was working on a perfect game when Phelps went deep for the last time in his career.


A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 6, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Billy Martin

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache and present to you...Billy Martin. The embattled manager is best known as a Yankee, but it was when he left George Steinbrenner's iron rule when he grew out the 'stache.

Twice Martin led the New York Yankees to the promised land and the thanks he got...well, if you look up "second chance" in the dictionary, Billy is pictured next to it.

AMI Style: Beneath those aviators resides an unkempt chevron.


Grade: C Martin's mustache wasn't around the entire length of his career. A little more history with the womb broom...and the grade would have been higher.


For some reason, Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga named his new mascot "Billy the Marlin" when Florida debuted in 1993. What made it an odd choice is Martin's lack of association with the Marlins and the fact he was dead more than three years.


Am I the only one who thinks Martin should be in the Hall of Fame? That gives me an idea.


A special thanks to
checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 5, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Robin Yount

I'm not sure when...not sure where, but somewhere along the way I heard the quote "it's not how you start, it's how you finish". Well, thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache and present to you...Robin Yount.

The dude started off his career clean shaven (look it up, gang), and ended up with a Hall of Fame career and 'stache.


AMI Style: It's safe to safe that by the end of his career, Yount had the epitome of the horseshoe. All the while, his lip warmer could only be compared to the lemonade that share's it's master's name...100% Rockin'.

Grade: A Yount earns major points for playing a pivotal role on one of baseball's finest mustached specimens...the 1982 Brewers.


On September 9, 1992...Yount became the 17th Major Leaguer to notch 3000 hits and something tells me that one of you here is upset that I mentioned it.

Happy Birthday,
E!


A special thanks to
checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 4, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Carney Lansford

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache. It's safe top say that in the late 80s, if you suited up alongside Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, you had to do something to stand out from the crowd.

Enter Carney Lansford, his glasses, windbreaker and a well groomed performance enhancer all of his own.

AMI Style: I'm gonna call it the baby horseshoe. He's tempting us by by being more than the Chevron...less than the traditional 'shoe.

Grade: B+ With Lansford...you grade the entire package. And the package is top notch.

Here's a fun fact...according to his 1987 Topps baseball card, Lansford is a direct descendant of the British privateer Sir Francis Drake. According to me...that's one spectacularly mustached family!


A special thanks to
checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

MM09: so far...so good!

All in all, Mustache May has gone off without a hitch. We've gotten some notice and all in all...no complaints.

Last Thursday, in preparation for Mustache May, Dr. Aaron Perlut made mention of MM09 during his weekly column over at JoeSportsFan.com.
He writes:

"Welcome back to The Shakedown! Friday begins "Mustache May," as our friends at the Hall of Very Good are reporting. While that did not stop the Cardinals' Rick Ankiel from killing an angel in heaven by shaving his lip garment..."
Read the rest HERE.


Then, on Friday, our friends at the American Mustache Institute sent out this decree.

"Today begins Mustache May. Not 'mOUstache' May, because spelling mustache with an 'OU' is communist. But 'mUstache' May. So what is this devine holiday you might ask?"
Check out the rest HERE!


The coup de gras (so far) came on Friday night, when WGN 720 Radio DJ Nick Digilio joined in and alerted his viewers that it was officially Mustache May.

Listen to the podcast HERE!


Join in on the madness, gang. Be part of the trend that is surely going to sweep some portion of the nation. Email The Hall with 'stache of the Day suggestions, photos, contributions, etc.

Also...check out Mustache May over on Facebook and keep up to date on the time and place for the proposed "Mustache May 'stache Bash Bar Crawl".

MM09...God 'stache America!

Just how good was Jenkins?

***If I asked you "who is the Canadian that contributes to the Hall of Very Good?" you'd answer David Allan, right? WRONG! Please welcome the latest contributor (and Canuck) to join the hallowed halls of The Hall...Joel Kirstein.***

When the Chicago Cubs announced in March that on May 3, they would retire Ferguson Jenkins' Number 31, it made my day.

Adding Greg Maddux to share the honor embodies the legendary words of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, "it's a great day for baseball...let's play two."

Ferguson Jenkins, the pride of Chatham, Ontario and the only Canadian member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, is finally getting a long overdue honor of being immortalized in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, home of some of his greatest accomplishments.


I got to see Jenkins pitch in his prime, 1969 to 1973, as the Cubs' ace and stud of pitching staff whenever Chicago came into Montreal to play the Expos. Back in the day, he was an "standing room only" ticket as he was the premier Canadian Major Leaguer at the time.

Jenkins won only one Cy Young Award (in 1971), which shows how under appreciated he was as a pitcher at a time when there were so many great pitchers.

Pitching in an era when Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Bob Gibson, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Denny McClain, Jim McNally, Mike Cuellar, Steve Carlton, Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue were all winning 20 games and Cy Young Awards, few remember that Jenkins won 20 six seasons in a row, from 1967 to 1972.

Jenkins won 20 games seven times and missed winning 20 another three times playing with terrible teams in Chicago and Texas in the 1970s. Jenkins had a career best 25 game win season in 1974 with Texas...his seventh 20 win season.

Jenkins' career ended in 1983 with 284 wins and without a single trip to the postseason.

Had Jenkins played with a winner, his numbers might have rivaled Warren Spahn, because he was just as durable and as dominant. And because Jenkins was so consistent and efficient and played for a perennially under-achieving Cubs team, he never got the recognition he so richly deserved.

Jenkins had a surreal year in 1971 and he finally did ge some recognition from baseball by winning the Cy Young Award. That year, he went 24-13 for a barely .500 Cubs team.

And to put his stellar season in perspective, his ERA was 2.77 pitching at Wrigley Field. Anywhere else? Jenkins' ERA might have been 2.00 or lower.

He started 39 games and completed 30 of them. The entire pitching staff of the 2009 Chicago Cubs had only two. Jenkins further impressed by striking out 263 batters and issuing only a meager 37 walks.

Kick in the six home runs he hit and 20 RBI in 1971 and he should have been the talk of baseball that season. Instead, the overnight success of Vida Blue captured the imagination of baseball fans.

In his 25 game win season, Jenkins lost out to Jim "Catfish" Hunter for the 1974 Cy Young Award. He finished second and third twice in the Cy Young award balloting. He was a three-time All Star and received MVP votes six times.

In 1991, he was voted into Cooperstown.

Earlier today, Jenkins and fellow hurler Geg Maddux joined Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg as Chicago Cub immortals.


Add in Hack Wilson one day and maybe this will be the good karma that takes the Cubs to their first World Series title in over 100 years.

Check out some of Joel's other writings over at Bleacher Report.

BallHype: hype it up!

May 3, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Greg Maddux

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache and recognize Greg Maddux.

It is fitting that Maddux's dirtlip is featured today given that, along with Fergie Jenkins (more on him later this week), Maddux is getting his number retired by the Cubs today at Wrigley Field.


AMI Style: Not many guys can rock a pencil...the future Hall of Famer Maddux was no different.

Grade: C- Maddux was brought up to fill out a Cubs staff that was led by Dennis Eckersley, but something tells me that Mad Dog's effort was a letdown.

It is speculated that Maddux lost a bet with his brother Mike to see who was going to carry on the Maddux mustache legacy, but much like Billy Ripken conceding the Iron Man streak to his brother Cal…Greg allowed Mike to don the womb broom.

A special thanks to
checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 2, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Rudy Law

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I continue our month long celebration of the 'stache with a guy who was a speed demon on the basepaths and given his impecable grooming, a hit with the ladies off of them...Rudy Law.

I can't tell if Law is trying to look tough, sensual or if the cameraguy caught him by surprise. Any way you Slap Chop it, he's rockin' a decent 'stache.

AMI Style: Law's ladykiller is too thick to be a pencil...too pencil-like to be a painter's brush.


Grade: B- The indecision to choose a style knocks Law down a couple of pegs...what brings him back up to respectability is he complied with the MM09 "two-fingers" rule.

Here's a sidenote about Law. When the White Sox made their march to the AL West pennant in 1983, Law was one of SIX Chicago players to get MVP votes. Right in front of him in the voting...Ron Guidry. Behind him...Jack Morris. Talk about good company.


A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.

May 1, 2009

Mustache May 'stache of the Day: Luis Tiant

Thanks to the continued support of the American Mustache Institute, it is with great pleasure that I begin our month long celebration of the 'stache with one of the fiercest mustaches ever to rock the baseball world.

Of course I am talking about "El Tiante" Luis Tiant.

AMI Style: I've gotta go with a horsehoe-walrus (walshoe... horserus?) combo. Any suggestions as to what to call this beauty?

Grade: A+++ You can't go wrong with "El Tiante"...way to start us off!

Some of you will say I am biased. Sure, thanks to my pal Sidearm, I have an autographed Tiant ball in my office, but c'mon...look at it. My guess is that of the 229 victories during Tiant's Hall-worthy career, 55-60 of them were thanks in large part to his luxurious lip curtain.

As a sidenote, the ESPN Tribeca Sports Film Festival is going to be showing what appears to be a great documentary about Tiant. Check out some clips HERE.

A special thanks to checkoutmycards.com for the use of their images.