April 29, 2010

Friday 5: Mark Grant

Prior to last season, I went out on a limb and predicted that the young San Diego Padres would win the National League West. They finished fourth out of five teams.

This year, I went with the Dodgers and they are in last place. The team in first? You guessed it…the Padres.

Former Friar hurler Mark Grant takes the mound for this week’s “Friday 5”.

HOVG: Who was your biggest influence and why?

GRANT: My dad Larry. The greatest man I've ever known. Because he is humble.

HOVG: What is your most memorable travel experience?

GRANT: I got called for traveling when I was playing CYO basketball in the seventh grade. It was a bad call!

HOVG: What is your favorite baseball term or saying?

GRANT: On a check swing that's not called a strike…"if he hits it, it's a double!"

HOVG: What is your best experience or greatest accomplishment?

GRANT: Witnessing the birth of my three children, which I helped create. I am the giver of life!

HOVG: When did you know that you “made it”?

GRANT: When I was in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium in 1988, and Don Drysdale, who was doing Dodger radio at the time, approached me and said, "hi Mark”…I was floored! The Hall of Famer knew who I was.

Mark Grant played eight seasons for six different teams. He pitched more than half of his innings with the same team that has employed him as their color commentator since 1997.

The Padres.


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Check out "Watercolor Day"

From The Beatles rocking Shea Stadium in 1965 to "Sweet Caroline" being piped through the speakers at Fenway Park...baseball and music have gone together like peanut butter and jelly.

Seth Swirsky is the embodiment of that music and baseball sandwich. In addition to being the keeper of, if you ask me, one of the best privately owned baseball collections, he is also a talented musician and songwriter.

With his latest effort, "Watercolor Day", Swirsky seems to summon the spirits of a bygone era by channeling John Lennon and Brian Wilson. Last fall, I had the privilege to talk to him.

HOVG: You’ve accomplished plenty. Songwriter, artist, author, filmmaker…but, I’m cutting right the chase on this one. How did you end up in possession of the “Buckner Ball”? It was owned by Charlie Sheen before you got your paws on it, right?

SETH: Yes. Charlie was the first owner of the ball. He bought it at auction, in 1992. He auctioned it in April, 2000 and I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get one of those iconic pieces. The underbidder to both Sheen and me was Keith Olbermann.

HOVG: Okay…now that that is out of the way, let’s talk some baseball and not just about one ball. If someone were to head over to
your site and look at your collection, what would be the first piece you’d want them to see…the crown jewel?

SETH: There are many. The letter from Commissioner Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis that banned “Shoeless” Joe Jackson; Reggie Jackson’s 3rd Home Run Ball from Game 6 of the ’77 World Series: Tom Seaver’s ’69 World Series Home Jersey; The "Buckner Ball"...rare autographs of the midget Eddie Gaedel and “Shoeless” Joe (who was illiterate); a baseball signed by The Beatles on the night they played their famous Shea Stadium concert, in August, 1965. Too many “favorites” to mention. They all are part of the many themes in my collection.

HOVG: How did you get started with collecting? What was your first piece?

SETH: In November 1994, I bought, off of QVC, a baseball signed by the living members of the ’69 Mets. I grew up loving that team, so I bought the ball. I found that I really enjoyed looking at the ball with all those signatures. I then saw a 1952 N.Y. Yankees team ball with Mickey Mantle on it. It was a beautiful ball. I bought it and still have it. I then got to spend an afternoon with the famed collector, Barry Halper and I saw the quality of his things. Every piece told a story. Barry loved themes and truly historic pieces. I was very fortunate to have met him and become a good friend of his.

HOVG: Any recent finds?

SETH: I just picked up the first home run hit at Wrigley Field in it’s first-ever night game. It was hit by Lenny Dykstra in 1988. It goes with a theme I have called “Like Night and Day” and includes a baseball used in baseball’s first-ever night game (in May, 1935, in Cincinnati), a program from that game, a letter from the starting Reds pitcher that night and a ticket to that game. I also have a ball used in the first night game in Brooklyn Dodgers history that also happened to be the occasion of Johnny Vander Meer’s 2nd no hitter. Along with those things, I have a ball used in the first night game in St. Louis history (a Browns game in 1940) along with a very old photograph of Thomas Edison...whose invention of the lightbulb made baseball at night possible!

HOVG: Is there anything that your wife Jody looks at and wishes you didn’t purchase?

SETH: No. She digs my passion.

HOVG: Despite your allegiance to the New York Mets, your baseball hero was, if I’ve done my homework correctly, Mickey Mantle. Tell me about your 1994 meeting with “The Mick”.

SETH: It was the first autograph “show” I went to. It was in San Francisco, around Thanksgiving, 1995. I remember shaking Mickey’s hand. A warm, huge hand. He was such a nice man. And so nice to everyone in line. A real good guy. I asked him, of all the rings he’s won, which was he wearing? He said “my Hall of Fame ring...you know, I went in with Whitey”, referring to his great friend on the Yankees, pitching great, Whitey Ford. He showed it to me. It was a neat experience. He died about 10 months later. I was so glad to have met him. He really made an impression...of a warm, nice, real human being!

HOVG: Which brings me to your books. You said in a 2000 interview that Mantle’s was the one letter that you wished you had gotten in return. For those that aren’t familiar, you’ve authored three books where, basically, you re-print letters that you’ve received from baseball players, as well as some of the game’s more popular fans. Where did you ever come up with the idea? Did it start as another way to get some cherished memorabilia or fodder for a book? Or both?

SETH: No, I wrote those letters because I started to delve deep into the rich history of the game and I simply wanted answers to some questions from the players that participated in some of the great moments. Tons of players wrote back...very famous players and not so famous players. I just loved their stories, in their handwriting, with other people.

HOVG: Of all the replies that you’ve received…do you have a favorite?

SETH: I love Cal Ripken Jr.’s letter about how he became close to his dad. He wrote that he had five brothers and sisters and his dad, who was a coach with the Orioles, would take him to the ballpark with him as none of his other siblings wanted to go. I used to love to “go to work” with my dad growing up and it reminded me of that poignant moment. But, there are so many. Handwritten letters from Sir Paul McCartney, President George W. Bush, Ted Williams, Tom Seaver…they run the gamut.

HOVG: You’re a huge baseball fan, clearly. But as you’ve said, your “soul is in music”. Tell me about that letter you received from McCartney?

SETH: I saw him on TV at a Yankees game. During the seventh inning stretch, the organist played The Beatles great song, “I Saw Her Standing There”. Paul got up and sang it out loud. I thought, I’m going to write to Paul to get the story of how he got into liking baseball and what it was like for him to hear Beatles songs over huge loudspeakers while he’s a spectator at a baseball game. A week later, I got a Fedex from London, opened it and out pops a two paragraph, handwritten letter from Sir Paul for my third book of letters called "Something to Write Home About: Great Baseball Memories in Letters to a Fan". It was thrilling to get his letter.

HOVG: Let’s talk music and that love of The Beatles. Great artists and songwriters, who, collectively…are, quite possibly, are one of the greatest bands ever assembled. In your estimation…who would be the baseball equivalent of The Beatles?

SETH: The closest I can think of is the 1976-1981 New York Yankees. They went to the World Series four times in those years. They had a cast of "cool" characters (“Reggie”, “Sweet Lou” Pinella, Bucky Dent) and they could beat you in many ways...like the many ways The Beatles could make you feel when listening to their albums.

HOVG: One last Beatles-related question…when are we going to be able to see the documentary, "A Year in the Life", you’ve been putting together?

SETH: It is being edited now with a hopeful release next year.

Seth Swirsky is an American pop music songwriter, recording artist, author, filmmaker and memorabilia collector. His music credits include working with the likes of Celine Dion, Tina Turner, Air Supply, Michael McDonald and Al Green.

You can purchase his CD "Watercolor Day" over at
his website, through iTunes or at Amazon.com.

Swirsky’s three books "Baseball Letters: A Fan's Correspondence With His Heroes", "Every Pitcher Tells A Story: Letters Gathered by a Devoted Fan" and "Something to Write Home About: Great Baseball Memories in Letters to a Fan" are half of the books I’ve read in the last two years.


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Happy Effing Anniversary, Lee Elia!

Given the advent of the 24-hour sports channels, cell phones, internet and what have you, it's easy to believe that if a coach or manager told his team's fans that they could kiss his ass...it would be viral within seconds.

27 years ago, when then-Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia launched his now (in)famous profanity laced tirade, there were only four members of the media present...and it still blew up!

I guess that's the awesome power of dropping DOZENS (too many to count, really) of F-bombs in a span about three minutes, huh?

One of the four media types that was in the room with Elia, Les Grobstein from Chicago Sportsradio 670 The Score has a great write up on what went down before, during and after the blow up over at
WSCR's website.

You can, of course, listen to the tirade (captured on glorious audio tape by Grobstein) in a variety of places. And if you can stomach the hodge podge of grainy baseball photos (remember, no cameras were rolling when Elia went off)...you can check it out over at YouTube.

Here's the
EDITED rant as captured that day...and, naturally, the UNEDITED VERSION.

Elia, did, amazingly, keep his job following the blow up and the Cubs 5-14 start. But following a collapse later in the season, he was let go. In the 27 years since, Elia has found himself in a variety of different roles for the Phillies, Mariners, Dodgers and Rays.


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April 27, 2010

Twitter Tuesday: C.J. Wilson

Last week, I suggested everyone follow one of the bigger douchebags on Twitter...Jose Canseco. This week, I urge you to check out someone who is at the other end of that spectrum.

C.J. Wilson.

The Rangers hurler is very responsive to his followers, injects his posts with a lot of humor and, basically, is just a good guy. Plus...he's a big fan of LOST.

TWITTER HANDLE: @str8edgeracer

SAMPLE TWEETS:

I need a legit haircut asap. Willing to give away nyy game ticket as trade. RT that

Jamba juice is going off right now. And by going off I mean the people working here are going off on each other. Soooo busy. Total zoo!

Larry david is at harvard! http://tweetphoto.com/19336854

Last season, I had the honor of catching up with the lefty. Feel free to read what he had to say HERE. And if you've already read that...you can check out CJ's blog over at LeftyLefty.com.


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April 26, 2010

Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime: Boston

So here's the thing about Fenway Park...you never knew how badly you wanted to go there until you've been there and want to go back. Simply put...the thing is a treasure and there are so many things to soak up that it takes more than one visit to appreciate it all.

All that aside, I've been there only once and feel I got cheated out of exploring the entire park because of some showers in Beantown throughout the day.

Matter of fact, we weren't sure if the game was going to be played or not.

This past week, Navin Vaswani made his second sojourn to Fenway and had the honor of seeing good friend of The Hall CJ Wilson and his Rangers square off against the Sox.

Fenway Park in Boston remains as I left her: one of the Meccas of baseball; a special place to watch a game. If you can only make it to a handful of ballparks in your lifetime, Fenway should be on your list. New, state-of-the-art stadiums are all the rage, and I'm enjoying them so far on my trip, but there's something to be said for history. For nostalgia. As much as I'm not a fan of the Red Sox, and as much as I complain about the park's short porches in left and right field, baseball needs Fenway Park to endure.


And she will.
And that's a good thing.


Read the rest of Navin’s adventure at Fenway Park
HERE.

You can follow his exploits on Twitter at
@eyebleaf or visit his piece of the interwebs over at Sports and the City.


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April 24, 2010

Alex Rodriguez and "The Unwritten Rulebook"

There's been way too much talk about Alex Rodriguez breaking one of baseball's "unwritten rule" the other night when, after a long foul ball, he crossed the diamond, walked over the mound and stepped on the pitching rubber.

Was it intentional?


Probably.

Was he trying to intimidate Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden?


Maybe...who knows.

Truth is, you can never be sure with Rodriguez. This is the same guy who, during Game Six of the 2004 American League Championship Series swatted away Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo's mitt and played it off like it never happened.

Three years later, he made noise again (literally) in Toronto when, during an infield pop up, he shouted in the direction of the Blue Jays infielder who was trying to make the play.

What were his intentions with all of that? I'm not sure.

Thanks to Selena Roberts and her 2009 Sports Illustrated story, we know that Rodriguez is a guy who will do anything he can to gain an edge on his opponent. And here's one thing I know for sure, when "A-Rod" is involved...the shortest distance between two points isn't always a straight line.

Former All-Star third baseman and friend of The Hall Morgan Ensberg took to his website recently to clue readers in on the so-called "unwritten rules" of baseball.

"Understand that what I am doing is going to bother a lot of players. But it is time for you to see this," Ensberg wrote for his readers. "You will notice that the rules are presented in outline form."

Take a gander at the "The Unwritten Rulebook" HERE.


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April 23, 2010

Friday 5: Herm Winningham

Earlier this week, the WWE released former champion Shelton Benjamin. And I only bring up Benjamin, so I can segue to another athlete that grew up in the town of Orangeburg, South Carolina…former Major League outfielder Herm Winningham.

The current head baseball coach of the Orangeburg-Wilkinson Bruins is answering this week’s “Friday 5”.

HOVG: Who was your biggest influence and why?

WINNINGHAM: My Mom and Dad because that’s my foundation of life.

HOVG: What is your most memorable travel experience?

WINNINGHAM: Going on vacation with my family to Washington DC.

HOVG: What is your favorite baseball term or saying?

WINNINGHAM: If you can’t throw it, you can’t catch it…you can’t hit it.

HOVG: What is your best experience or greatest accomplishment?

WINNINGHAM: Having my son Kevin.

HOVG: When did you know that you “made it”?

WINNINGHAM: When (former Minor League manager and current Los Angeles Dodgers bench coach) Bob Schaefer called me in his office and said “you are going to the show”.

Herm Winningham was 22 years old when he broke into the big leagues with the New York Mets. In 1990, he was part of the Cincinnati Reds team that won the World Series in four games over the heavily favored Oakland A’s.


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April 22, 2010

Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime: New York, Part Two

Growing up, I thought the sun rose and set on Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and their personal demons aside (and God, they've had plenty)...I still kinda do.

To an extent.

I vowed that I was done with "The Celebrity Apprentice" last season when Joan Rivers invaded my airwaves every Sunday night. This go 'round, The Donald brought in Straw and again, I was hooked.

Seeing the once lanky outfielder (he is now a little more fuller) made me remember how badly I always wanted to go to Shea Stadium as a kid. I wanted to see that dumb apple come out of that upside down hat so bad...I could taste the disappointment of the Bobby Bonilla era all the way here in Illinois.

Good friend of The Hall Navin Vaswani got to see that apple earlier this week.

I've always wondered, had I grown up or ever found myself living in New York City, where my baseball allegiance would lie. Mets or Yankees; how does one choose? The masochist in me believes, without a doubt, that I'd be a Mets fan. I'm all about the struggle; the lean years, when I could easily throw in the towel. When all that remains is hope without reason. I'm afraid that if I was a Yankees fan, I'd take the playoffs for granted. That I'd take winning for granted. As a sports fan, those are my greatest fears. Luckily, I live in Toronto, where those fears will never, ever be realized.

Read the rest of Navin’s adventure at Citi Field
HERE.

You can follow his exploits on Twitter at
@eyebleaf or visit his piece of the interwebs over at Sports and the City.


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C.J. Wilson Gets LOST (Part Three)

I'm conflicted and I'm not sure what to do. I'm a Red Sox fan and tonight they square off against the Rangers...and good friend of The Hall, C.J. Wilson.

What should I do?

Thankfully, the blue-gloved one and I can agree on one thing...our love for LOST. Recently, he had an opportunity to visit show writers/producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse at the ABC Studio in Hollywood.

Here's Part Three of their showdown. Feel free to check out
Part One and Part Two.



If the embedded video doesn't play for you for some reason...check out the entire thing HERE.

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April 21, 2010

Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime: New York

Alright...so this is where I am going to lose some of you.

I have no desire to go to Yankee Stadium.

Ever.

Oh, I'd go there to check out Monument Park...but I'd leave shortly thereafter. I mean, as much as I love baseball, the thought of being surrounded by 50,000 screaming Yankees fans gives me the shivers.

I'd sooner be locked in a school bus with zombies.

Fortunately, good friend of The Hall Navin Vaswani doesn't subscribe to my (admittedly) narrow-minded point of view.

I journeyed to the mother ship of baseball's Evil Empire Sunday afternoon: Yankee Stadium, in the South Bronx. While waiting in line at Tim Horton's in Manhattan before I set off, the gentlemen in front of me had his phone ring. The ringtone? Darth Vader's Imperial March. I kid you not. Moments later, I learned a valuable lesson at that Tim Horton's, one that will stay with me for the rest of my baseball journey through America: when you buy a medium coffee in the U.S., you're actually buying a large.

Read the rest of Navin's trip to the Bronx
HERE.

You can follow his exploits on Twitter at @eyebleaf or visit his piece of the interwebs over at Sports and the City.


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Talkin' Baseball with Everett Bridgeford

There are Facebook groups out there for just about anything.

Some make
perfect sense.

Some
don’t make any sense at all.

For Everett Bridgeford of Somers Point, New Jersey, there was only one group that seemed right…“Let's Get Luis Tiant into the Hall of Fame Now!” This is his story.

HOVG: What made you start your grassroots effort to get “El Tiante” enshrined in Cooperstown?

BRIDGEFORD: I was arguing with a friend of mine who is a Yankee fan that knows everything about Tiant’s legacy. He told me I was nuts. I was up late one night and I sent (Angels broadcaster) Victor Rojas a message on Facebook asking him if he thought I was crazy too. He said I was right and if I believed in it then I should pursue it. I then went to (former Red Sox pitcher) Dick Drago, who was also on Facebook, and he quickly said that Luis Tiant is the best person he has ever met and I should definitely try to get him in. So I started a page and began inviting as many people as I could find in Boston.

HOVG: How did your love affair with BeanTown start?

BRIDGEFORD: I have been a Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Being 34, I was too young for the good days and had a long wait for 2004, but I was always a student of those teams in the 70s. I would use my Yaz swing and my Tiant windup in little league and Wiffle Ball and could never understand why none of my other friends in South Jersey didn't love the Sox as much as I did.

HOVG: And this carried over to the Hall of Fame too, right?

BRIDGEFORD: Right. I would wait every year for the Hall of Fame ceremonies, so I could see Ted Williams come up on stage. I successfully begged my parents to drive the eight hours to Cooperstown so I could see Yaz get inducted. And then I waited and waited. Why wasn't Tiant getting in? Why weren't Rice and Evans getting in? It was driving me nuts. I was a kid, these were my idols and I still couldn't understand why no one else got it. I watched the children of .260 hitters from 50 years ago accept awards for their fathers and it caused me to lose faith in the Hall of Fame.

HOVG: Who or what moment specifically caused you to lose faith?

BRIDGEFORD: The last straw was 2009 when Joe Gordon's daughter accepted his induction. Are you kidding me? This is the best they have to offer us? Then I saw the doccumentary “The Lost Son of Havana”. Was Joe Gordon exiled from his home country at 22? Did any of the players in the Hall look into the stands after their first hit or shutout and not see his father giving him a standing ovation? Tiant was a lights out, shut down competitor, who thrived with a team on his shoulders. I have seen many Hall of Famers crumble under that pressure. Nolan Ryan had many, many nights when his was far from super. The great Roger Clemens needed help to be a winner. And if I could pitch to the age of 48, I could get 300 wins like (Phil) Niekro. Luis changed the game and the city of Boston. Think about it, in a city like Boston, in the 70s, he had thousands of people chanting his name. Ted Williams never got that. Luis went through twelve seasons without ever being able to go home like all the rest could and still he is the winningest Cuban pitcher in Major League history! His numbers far surpass those of the “great” Catfish Hunter, Senator Jim Bunning (known for the great failure if '64) the legend Lefty Gomez and many others in the Hall no one has ever heard of. He is still one of the most beloved athletes in Boston history, and a constant reminder of what we want our heroes to be like. He is and always will be a Hall of Famer.

HOVG: What support have you received for the Facebook group?

BRIDGEFORD: I have received support from people all over the world…Canada, the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Europe and, of course, the United States. Richard Johnson, author and curator of the Boston Sports museum and artist Frank Galasso have been the biggest supporters along with Dick Drago and Victor Rojas. This past week, I received a helping hand from (Red Sox broadcaster) Jerry Remy and his team. They are prepared to see this through with me and offered all of their support.

HOVG: In what regard?

BRIDGEFORD: They are offering polls, links and in-game mentions of the site, which have been a huge surprise for me. Billy Conran of 1110 WCCM in Methuen, Massachusetts was the first person to contact me about a radio interview and that will, hopefully, include Luis Tiant himself. I also get great photos and memories from fans all over the country who remember seeing Tiant pitch when they were five and it being the best time they ever had. There’s also people who had a cigar with him at a golf course, or the kids in his neighborhood, that would knock on his door to get his autograph. In the past two weeks, I have added over 1,500 members and all of them know this is going to happen.

HOVG: All in all, what’s your goal?

BRIDGEFORD: My goal is to continue adding mew members through all means possible…the website, Facebook, word of mouth, TV and radio. This is truly grassroots. I have done this so far at no cost and have not earned a single cent from my efforts. I know we can do this based on the huge numbers of people that believe in this man getting in the Hall. The end game will consist of an all out marketing assault on the Hall's Veteran's Committee and getting that 75% from letters, phone calls, interviews and statistics that stand up to anyone.

HOVG: What would it mean to you for “El Tiante” to get the call from the Hall?

BRIDGEFORD: What would it mean for me? Wow, for one, I think it will be the greatest thing ever to see him on stage with a huge smile and cigar with thousands of fans chanting “LOU–EEE LOU-EEE”! I have never had this much passion in my life for anything and I believe it will happen. Ask anyone that knows me…I am not like that. But something is making me do this and it continues to grow. I do know that the coolest thing will be able to sit back and say that I changed things for the better and mean it. I could not believe that no one had tried this before and now it seems like a done deal and we are just waiting for the ceremony. There is a lot of work left and no shortage of people or ideas. I love waking up in the morning knowing that this will happen.

If you’re interested in helping Bridgeford get his message out about getting Luis Tiant in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, check out his Facebook group, join and then…invite your friends.


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April 20, 2010

Twitter Tuesday: Jose Canseco

I know my career home run total isn't sitting at 462, but if I had a history of domestic violence, alienated myself from the sport that made me a millionaire and got my ass handed to me by former kick returner Vai Sikahema...the last thing I would be doing is getting on Twitter and picking fights with anyone who will pay attention.

But then again...I'm not Jose Canseco.

TWITTER HANDLE: @JoseCanseco (naturally)

SAMPLE TWEETS:

U mother****erfs can dish it out but u can't take it I new u where cowards ****ing genetic malfunctions should have been killed at birth

I wish I could bring this anger into the ring btween what baseball has done to me and u f***ing haters I could kill somèone rite now

Ok my girlfriend just woke up she's gonna kill me when she finds out what I said to u guys.ok got to go hey by the way love u guys

And that was just from Monday afternoon!

Normally, I wouldn't follow (much less suggest you follow) someone as vulgar and seemingly illiterate as baseball first 40/40 man...but I want this bi-polar mess to continue with whatever it is he thinks he is doing.

I really, really, really do. I can't wait to see how this trainwreck ends up.



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April 19, 2010

Game Over

In 2002, Eric Gagne seemingly came out of nowhere to become the most dominant closer in the Majors for close to three seasons.

Similarly...comes word of his retirement.

According to an interview the bespectacled closer gave to the French-Canadian website
RueFrontenac.com, Gagne is officially done.

The former Los Angeles Dodgers closer was the center of the baseball universe from 2002 to 2004 when he set a Major League record of 84 straight saves. In 2003, he finished the season a perfect 55 for 55 in save opportunities and ran away with the National League Cy Young Award by capturing 28 of the 32 first place votes.

He became the first reliever in eleven years to take home the honor and along with Fergie Jenkins...one of only two Canadians. In addition, his 2-3 record that year made him the only pitcher to win the award while having a losing season.

By the time the middle of June 2005 rolled around, Gagne's short stint as a superstar was all but done. Arm injuries and subsequent Tommy John surgery did the righty in.

Overall, his tenure with the Dodgers was pretty successful. Prior to going to the Texas Rangers in 2007, he had converted 161 saves out of 168 save opportunities for a conversion rate of 96.6%...the highest in Major League history for a pitcher with at least 100 saves.

Gagne played for the Dodgers, Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers over his 10 seasons and compiled a 33-26 record with 187 saves in 204 chances. He fanned a 718 batters in 643.2 innings and carried a 3.47 ERA.

He has battled numerous injuries over the past few seasons including shoulder, elbow and hip issues and prior to the 2008 season, he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, former Senator George Mitchell's report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.

Now, if only I knew how to say "Game Over" in French...I would have a much clever title to this post. As it is...I'm pretty sure I'm just one of about 47,000 that will mention the iconic phrase.


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Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime: Pittsburgh

I wish I had some sort of story to tell you right now about the time back in 1992 when I was hanging out with some buddies and we made a bet about what would happen next...the Pittsburgh Pirates would make the playoffs or the expansion Colorado Rockies would have someone throw a no-hitter.
Because this past weekend...the latter happened.

Sure, the Pirates are above .500 (they're 6-5), but they're a long way from the postseason...even if good friend of The Hall Navin Vaswani thinks he found the one guy who believes this might be the Bucs year while in the Steel City.

The rumours are true. How do I know? Because, thanks to The Baseball Road Trip Of A Lifetime , I now have first-hand proof. Pittsburgh Pirates fans are indeed real; they are not unicorns. And I happened to meet probably the nicest one of them.
Read the rest of Navin’s adventure in Pittsburgh HERE.

You can follow his exploits on Twitter at
@eyebleaf or visit his piece of the interwebs over at Sports and the City.


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April 18, 2010

Ubaldo Jimenez Throws Season's First No-No

To me, milestones are what make the baseball season interesting. No doubt, I like seeing my team win and certain players reach different levels of achievement...but it's the milestones that keep it fun.

Since Ubaldo Jimenez threw his no-hitter Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, you've undoubtedly heard plenty of different fun facts about the what the young righty accomplished.

Most notably...it was the first no-hitter thrown by a Rockies pitcher. Sure...two have been thrown against Colorado...but this was the first by one of their own.

And before you ask, the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays are the only teams to have not no-hit their opponent.

Of the 264 no-nos that have been thrown, Jimenez is the only hurler with a first name starting with the letter "U".

Lame.

And with his no-hitter, Jimenez because just the fourth Dominican pitcher to accomplish the feat.

Interesting.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez threw the first of two no-hitters last season (Mark Buehrle threw the other) and even though he is a product of Ohio Dominican University...he doesn't get to join Juan Marichal (1963), Ramon Martinez (1995), Jose Jimenez (1999) and Ubaldo Jimenez on the list.

But, even with all the fun we have with milestones, I'm reminded of Matthew Futterman's recent column for The Wall Street Journal.

Basically, he wonders if baseball is running out of milestones and I agree to a point. Too much milestone coverage seems to diminish the big ones...but I think milestones themselves are one of the reasons that makes baseball so much fun to follow.

Check it out HERE and decide for yourself.


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Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime: Cleveland

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the story of the time my friend Jeff and I decided to up and drive to Cleveland for spring break.

Some destination, huh?

Well…long story short, we froze our behinds off walking around downtown (and an empty Jacobs Field) and on the way home, Jeff drank all the remaining Dr. Peppers before we even left Cuyahoga County.

In his ongoing series “Stealing Home”, friend of The Hall Navin Vaswani checks in from Cleveland where, surprisingly, there weren’t THAT many more people in the stands than when I was there before the season even started.

History was made Wednesday night in Cleveland, and I'm proud to say I paid only $7 to be a part of it. Only 10,071 souls came out to watch the Indians entertain the Texas Rangers, the smallest crowd in the history of Progressive Field since it opened way back in 1994. I don't know where the hell everyone else was, or what they were doin; downtown Cleveland isn't exactly brimming with excitement, and the Cavaliers were playing down in Atlanta. It guess it's safe to say that, 16 years later, Progressive Field's novelty has worn off for the average Indians enthusiast.

Read the rest of Navin’s adventure in Cleveland HERE.

You can follow his exploits on Twitter at @eyebleaf or visit his piece of the interwebs over at Sports and the City.


BallHype: hype it up!

Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime: Detroit

I never had the chance to go to many baseball games with my Dad. The one time we did hit a game was a Spring Training affair between the Blue Jays and Phillies down in Clearwater, Florida.

I don't remember anything from the game other than walking up to the park, finding it out it was sold out and going back to the car only to see that the guys who parked us on their lawn conveniently packed so many other vehicles in...we couldn't get out.

So we went back to the park, pleaded our case...and was let in.

In the second installment of his "Baseball Road Trip of a Lifetime", fried of The Hall Navin Vaswani and his Dad hit Comerica Park in Detroit and, thankfully, brought home with them more memories.

I made the trek down to Detroit Tuesday morning, bright and early, with my father. I needed a ride to the Motor City and he - pardon the pun - stepped up to the plate. It was, in a way, fitting that The Baseball Road Trip Of A Lifetime began with my Dad and I taking in the matinee between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park; I'm glad it worked out that way.
Read the rest of Navin’s adventure in Toronto
HERE.

You can follow his exploits on Twitter at
@eyebleaf or visit his piece of the interwebs over at Sports and the City.


BallHype: hype it up!