May 27, 2011

Gary Carter Update

So, yeah, I'm a pretty cynical bastard...my string of nonsensical Jeff Conaway tweets should have proven that by now.

But, I'll be honest...the Gary Carter news is kinda hitting me like a ton of bricks.

Saturday it was reveiled that he had four "small" brain tumors and now, today, the New York Daily News is reporting this:

Stricken Mets great Gary Carter has received ominous news from doctors at Duke University, who say that they are "90% certain" that tumors on his brain are malignant, according to a Carter family website.

According to the family's website, doctors have said that even if malignant, the tumors could be treatable.  Carter won't know the official diagnosis until early or the middle of next week, but, man, I think I speak for everyone when I say...this sucks.

I had a chance to talk with "The Kid" last year at this time.  Feel free to read my interview with the Hall of Famer.


Friday 5: Jose Melendez

I’m going to go out on a limb and concede that you probably don’t know who Jose Melendez is.

Yet.

But let’s not kid ourselves. No one knew who Bill Veeck was until 1947 when he signed Larry Doby…the first African-American to play in the American League.

Sure, Veeck went on to mastermind plenty of baseball’s best publicity stunts…sending a midget to bat in 1951, implementing the “exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park and, of course, 1979’s Disco Demolition Night. Melendez has already come up with one stunt and, frankly, it is a winner.

This past April, he named Jose Canseco manager of the Yuma Scorpions and, recently, I had the chance to talk with the ambitious general manager.

HOVG: Alright, I’ve gotta start by asking the obvious...how does one get Jose Canseco to come play for and manage his baseball team, much less, get in touch with the former MVP and best selling author?

MELENDEZ: Actually, I have been a huge fan of Jose Canseco my whole life. I grew up watching the (Oakland) A’s and I am still a die hard fan of the team. Canseco always interested me in helping him get back to the game he loves. I feel he has lots to offer. My older brother is the one that actually found his contact information and we worked diligently in getting him to Laredo (Texas) in 2010. In 2011, we came onboard with the Yuma scorpions.

HOVG: Not too long ago, Canseco took to Twitter looking for someone to help him put together a reality show about the Yuma Scorpions. What is the latest?

MELENDEZ: I feel that a reality show depicting the return of the Canseco brothers is something that will be a great success on TV. There are so many interesting factors both bring to the table and the public will be fascinated about how they really are.

HOVG: Is the reality show all part of your plan to bring “Hollywood to Yuma”? I read about some of your plans online...what other ideas are you kicking around?

MELENDEZ: We plan on bringing a lot of celebrities (to Yuma) this season. We are in talks with many celebrities to make appearances and put on a good show for the people of Yuma. It will be fun.

HOVG: I also read a report that said that you’ve invited former Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez to join the Scorpions. Where does that stand...have you made any progress?

MELENDEZ: We have extended invitations to a lot of prominent (former) Major Leaguers. We hope things go our way and they agree to come.

HOVG: What’s on the horizon? What can we expect to see you pull out of your bag of tricks next?

MELENDEZ: I always like to create a buzz and now with great ownership (Diamond Sports) where they push creativity. I feel this will be an amazing season and something to really look forward to. All I can say is, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Jose Melendez spent the past six years with the Laredo (Texas) Broncos, where he took home the United League's Executive of the Year three times. His current team, the Yuma Scorpions, kicked off their season the past Tuesday by splitting a double-header against the Calgary Vipers.


Stephen Strasburg Throws Off Mound...Can't Hold a Gun

Earlier this week, pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg tweeted some encouraging words to the Washington Nationals faithful.

First bullpen in the books. Felt great! Hopefully time will speed up now!

Of course, that was far better news than what Kevin Kaduk from Yahoo! Sports posted…that the big righty had been taken into custody by red ninjas.

Allow me to explain.

Wednesday…a fella by the name of “Vega” put up a gem of a post over at the Washington Nationals Fan Forum.

It started innocently enough:

I picked up a Mcfarlane Playmakers Stephen Strasburg action figure two weeks ago. I figured that you guys might want to see it, so here's my review.

Then the hilarity ensued...and it included a number of your favorite G.I. Joe figures, a chainsaw, Wolverine and, of course, those red ninjas.

Now, if the exploits if action figure Strasburg is a precursor of what might be on the horizons for a healthy Stras…oh my.

If he can't return from Tommy John surgery…I’m pretty sure homeboy has a second career as an American Hero already lined up!


May 26, 2011

Marlon Byrd: "I'll Be Back"

Call him "The Byrdinator".

Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd recently took to his blog (The Byrd's Nest) and promised to be back following the devastating pitch he took the face over the weekend.

Thanks for the get well messages. I’ll be OK and come back playing as hard as ever! – Marlon

Two things pop to mind after being reminded of Byrd's injury.

One...I never want to see the words "multiple facial fractures" pop up anywhere ever.

And two...if I'm Boston Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves, I'm a little more hesitant opening my door for fear of getting a Terminator-like shotgun blast to the chest.


***A tip of the hat to Ryan from Prose and Ivy for still being a Cubs fan and reading Byrd's blog regularly.***


May 25, 2011

Let's Make This Happen, Gang!

Not that long ago, I threw out an innocent enough question...could Garner (North Carolina) Magnet High School reliever Scotty McCreery "end up bigger than Bryce Harper?"

The 17-year-old was coming off a sophomore season where he was 6-1 with a 1.04 ERA.  Oh...and dude had just made it past Hollywood Week on "American Idol".

Harper, last year's number one overall draft pick, was still packing his bags for Spring Training.

Now that McCreery has won the the latest installment of the singing competition...I'm curious of something else.  Can we make McCreery the youngest ever member of the Trojan Athletics Hall of Fame?

Why not?

Last year's inaugural class featured, at best, the MVP of the 1993 NCAA champion North Carolina Tarheels and a journeyman outfielder who stuck around in the bigs for 214 plate appearances.

The criteria is the sticky part though, gang. 

Consider this:

"A.  The nominee, if an athlete (and our country-fied crooner is), must have attended Garner High School and have been out of high school for at least ten years."

McCreery is technically a junior, so...moving on.

"B.  The nominee, if a coach, must have coached at Garner High School...blah, blah, blah."

Next!

"C.  The nominee, if an at-large candidate, must be a member of the community who has made a significant contribution to Garner High School."

Ah ha...that's it!

Sorry, Scotty's Mom, but your son isn't going back to high school so his accolades on the field (while impressive) aren't going to get any better.  It is his current standing as a "member of the community" who has made a "significant contribution" that can't be disputed.

Let's face it...no one would know about Garner Magnet High School (much less Garner, North Carolina) if this kid didn't make it to the Finals of American Idol.

So...who is going to do the honors of submitting the nomination form?  There has to be one of you out there that is close enough to this sleepy suburb of Raleigh that can handle the task.

Anyone?


Royals All-Time Wins Leader Dies

Just ten days after announcing he was battling oral and skin cancer, Kansas City Royals all-time wins leader Paul Splitorff has died.

The big lefty spent his entire big league career with the Royals and this past April...began his 24th season in the team's broadcast booth.

"I had the good fortune of knowing Paul and working with him and the amazing thing about Splitt was his ability to relate to people on any level," former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery told The Hall exclusively. "It didn't matter if you were a fan, a player, or a fellow member of the media, Paul was easy to talk to and easy to relate to. He has provided so many great memories for fans across the country both as a player and broadcaster. He will be missed by many."

Splittorff put together a 166-143 career record and a 3.81 ERA in 429 games. He played in four postseasons with the Royals and reached the World Series in 1980.  And not only does Splittorf hold the Royals' career record for victories, he is the leader in starts (392) and innings pitched (2554 2/3). He was also the club's first 20-game winner in 1973.

In 1987, he was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.

Paul Splitorff was 64.


And the Winner Is...

Long before the weeklong celebration of Ross Grimsley’s Major League debut hit the site, I made a promise.

I promised all of you that I would be giving away a copy of Dan Epstein’s fantastic book Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s.

Plenty of you had great suggestions for who your favorite player of the decade was and kudos to Bill Jacobs who brought Grimsley’s name into the fold.

But, after a random draw, the winner of the book is…Kerry Devine (hence the picture of Chet Lemon above and the video below).

Congrats!

And if you haven’t yet…please check out the interview I did with Epstein. It’s afro-tastic!


May 24, 2011

Ashkon is "Feeling Like a Giant"

If I had to pick a favorite San Francisco-based rapper, I mean, gun to my head, HAD to pick one…I’d go with Ashkon.

Sure, I’m biased. Dude is a good friend of this site, is mad serious about his love of baseball (and his World Champion Giants) and, last fall, agreed to an interview.

But all that aside, the guy can flow and he’s back to reset the clock on his fifteen minutes of fame with a new video paying homage to his beloved Black and Orange.

Oh, and this time…he brought a buddy.


And in case you’ve been in the dark and not one of millions to have watched Ashkon’s first foray into team anthems…feel free to check out “Don’t Stop Believin’”.


***A tip of the cap to 22gigantes.com for the "Feeling Like a Giant" music video.***

Jose Canseco's Yuma Scorpions Set to Debut

Ladies and gentlemen...your new favorite baseball team starts their season today.

That's right.  After making headlines last month by bringing Jose and Ozzie Canseco on board, the Yuma Scorpions are ready to get their season underway against the Calgary Vipers.

And in true Jose Canseco fashion...the Scorpions' player/manager took time out from going goo goo for Lady Gaga and made a bold prediction Monday night via Twitter:

Opening night for my Yuma Scorpions tomorrow...I'm going long

But the former American League MVP wasn't the only Scorpion making predictions, team general manager Jose Melendez has been making some of his own.

"We're going to bring Hollywood to Yuma," Melendez told the Yuma Sun.  "That's what we want to do, that's our goal this year. That's our motto: Bring Hollywood to Yuma."

Whether or not Hollywood ends up in Yuma remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain...the three-ring circus (with the Brothers Canseco occupying two of them) is in town and it will get plenty of attention.

***Be sure to return to The Hall Friday for an exclusive interview with Yuma Scorpion General Manager Jose Melendez***


May 20, 2011

Ross is Boss: Thank You

Since Monday, The Hall of Very Good has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut.

And while the first time he took that mound on May 16, 1971 wasn't all that spectacular (three earned runs in an inning and two-thirds)...the support this past week has been.

I could go ahead and make this a colossal link fest...but I won't.  Instead, here are some folks that helped make all this nonsense a success.

Warren Cromartie, Foodstamp Davis, Dan Epstein, Derek Erdman, Ed Herrmann, Jeff Idelson, Matt Larson, Bruce Markusen, John O'Connor, Lou Olsen, Anthony Oppermann, Bill Papierniak, Aaron Perlut, Lenny Randle, Gar Ryness, Scott Wilke and Josh Wilker.

Also...this whole thing couldn't have been what it became without the support of some great websites.

The American Mustache Institute, Fantasy CPR, The Flagrant Fan, Gack Sports, The Hardball Times, Mark's Ephemera, On the Outside Corner, Pastime Post, Paul's Random Baseball Stuff, Red Sox Nation-Alberta, Reviewing the Brew and Yardbarker.

As you might suspect, The Hall tried feverishly to reach out and talk to "Scuz", but, unfortunately, the stars, planets and all those other cliches never aligned.

Fortunately, Grimsley's team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels was gracious enough to offer up some thanks.

On behalf of Ross Grimsley, the Richmond Flying Squirrels would like to thank The Hall of Very Good, its contributors and fans for paying tribute to a man who is great both on the field and off. Ross deserves all of the respect he has earned in the game of baseball and in addition to being an outstanding pitching coach, he is a close friend to many on the Flying Squirrels staff. We couldn’t be happier to have him as one of our own.

So there you have it, the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut is in the books.  It only happens once, gang...and you were all here for the ride.  If I failed to mention you or your website by name...all apologies.

See you next April when we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the late Rod Scurry's big league debut.

Just kidding.


"Macho Man" (1952-2011)

So yeah..."Macho Man" Randy Savage died this morning.

And while I know there isn't a direct correlation between baseball and wrestling (insert steroid comments here), some of you might recall that the former WWE Superstar DID start his professional sports career in baseball.

But first...this is what the Thirty Mile Zone is reporting:

Macho Man Randy Savage, one of the most famous wrestlers of all-time, died today in a car accident in Tampa, Florida...TMZ has learned.  TMZ spoke with Randy's brother, Lanny Poffo, who tells us the wrestling legend suffered a heart attack while he was behind the wheel around 10 AM and lost control of his vehicle.

Tampa's Bay News 9 has a little more information and a picture of Savage's banged up vehicle:

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Savage was driving west on State Road 694 near 113th Street North when his 2009 Jeep Wrangler went out of control just before 9:30 a.m.  The vehicle when over the raised median in the road, crossed the eastbound lanes, jumped the curb and smashed head on into a tree. Savage was taken to Largo Medical Center where he later died.

The "Macho Man" was 58.

You'll read plenty about Savage's accomplishments in and out of the ring (he held more than 20 WWE and WCW championships), but as I mentioned already...before the "Macho Man" began his wrestling career, he was outfielder Randy Poffo and actually spent parts of four seasons in the low minors.

He was a career .254 hitter in the St. Louis and Cincinnati organizations and best season was his final one...with the Reds single-A affiliate Tampa Tarpons. Savage, er, Poffo finished third in the league in RBI and tied for fifth in home runs.

The 1974 North Division Champion Tarpons didn't produce any significant Major Leaguers, but the Florida State League in which they played had a few rising stars...speedster Ron LeFlore, pitchers LaMarr Hoyt and Dennis Martinez and a young Eddie Murray.

You can hit up Baseball-Reference for a complete breakdown of Randy Poffo's baseball career.


Playing With/Against Ross Grimsley

Throughout his playing career, Ross Grimsley had to have shared the field with hundreds of players.

In an effort to further celebrate the 40th anniversary of Grimsley’s Major League debut…I tracked down three of them to get their thoughts on “Scuz”.

HOVG: There are plenty of stories out there about Ross Grimsley and his superstitions. Do you recall any of his superstitions?

ED HERRMANN: All players had superstitions; some went further than the other. Most pitchers had more supers than players did. There was nothing out of the ordinary that I remember.

HOVG: Do you have any good clubhouse stories or memories of Ross Grimsley?

HERRMANN: I'm from the old school, what's said and done the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. No clubhouse stories to share here

WARREN CROMARTIE: Ross was a great teammate! I had lots of fun with him for three years in Montreal. I am also very proud to have played with the Expos only 20-game winner.

LENNY RANDLE: His afro and Oscar Gamble’s were classic! The ball would come out of (Grimsley’s) hair when he threw over the top. If he only knew it, it could have been a great cover up.

CROMARTIE: “Scuz” was a fierce and smart pitcher. I enjoyed the times when we hung out after the ballgame for dinner and a beer!

HOVG: Do you associate at all with Ross Grimsley now? If so…what is your relationship with him now?

HERRMANN: I haven't seen Ross since we played together. He was a great pitcher, very competitive and a good teammate. Way better than people gave him credit for.

Former outfielder Warren Cromartie played with Grimsley for three years in Montreal. Ed Herrmann served as Grimsley’s battery mate in 1978. Former infielder Lenny Randle faced went head-to-head against Grimsley while two played for the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles respectively. Head-to-head, Randle got ten hits in 36 at bats…good for a .276 batting average.


Ross Grimsley Mustache Facts

"A man without a mustache is a man without a soul." - Confucius

Now, I'm not sure if Confucius really uttered the words above...but I'm pretty sure it is true.
 
As part of the ongoing celebration of Ross Grimsley's May 16, 1971 Major League debut, Reviewing the Brew's Lou Olsen has uncovered 12 Mustache Facts that you might not have known.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache has no birthday, that's why we celebrate it every day.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache is a board member of the Beard and Mustache Club at the University of Illinois.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache doesn't believe in science, not after the things he's seen.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache convinced Richard Dreyfuss to grow a mustache for his role in "Jaws".

Ross Grimsley's Mustache doesn't trust Sno-Cones.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache was deemed "Too Manly" to be GQ's "Man of the Year" 1978.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache is Australian for gin.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache is a semi-professional downhill skier

Ross Grimsley's Mustache told President Nixon that the Watergate was a really nice hotel.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache is insult resistant.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache dreams of having a pet tortoise.

Ross Grimsley's Mustache does not have a drink named after him...yet.

Lou Olsen is the author of the widely popular "John Axford Mustache Facts". You check them out over at his site Reviewing the Brew.

Have you unearthed a Ross Grimsley Mustache (Rosstache?) Fact? If so...make it public in the comments section below!


May 19, 2011

Ross in Richmond

The following piece was written by John O’Connor and originally appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on July 25, 2010. The Hall of Very Good would like to thank John for his continued support of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut.

Richmond Flying Squirrels pitching coach Ross Grimsley made a memorable mound visit not long ago. The pitcher and catcher silently waited for Grimsley to arrive, and when he did, Grimsley said this:

“Does my (rear end) look big in this uniform?”

Grimsley sensed that his pitcher wasn’t relaxed and would benefit from comic relief.

Of pitching coaches’ visits, Grimsley said, “A lot of it is not what it seems to be.”

Grimsley, who pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues with five clubs and is in his 12th season as a coach in the San Francisco Giants organization, may offer a quick tip - bend more, follow through, or keep your delivery tight. Grimsley knows that extensive, complicated advice is useless after the game has started.

“Some of the times (pitching coaches) came out and talked to me, I didn’t have any idea what they said,” said Grimsley, 60. “I promise you I didn’t have a clue what was said. I know that happens with some of these guys. So be it. If a guy is focused in on what he wants to do, he’s not going to hear a whole lot.”

Grimsley’s visits - he says he tries to minimize them so as not to interfere with the game’s flow - may be designed to hear what the pitcher and catcher have planned during a key point of the game. Sometimes he visits to give another pitcher time to warm up in the bullpen.

Occasionally, he just wants to give the pitcher a rest. In these cases, Grimsley might say nothing until the umpire arrives to dismiss him. Then, Grimsley has been known to ask the ump, “What are we going to do? What do you think he should throw here?”

Subsequent laughter extends the pitcher’s break.

Typically, Grimsley’s visits are short. Lefty Clayton Tanner says when he’s pitching and Grimsley comes calling, meetings usually go something like this:

Grimsley: “What do you feel like you’re doing wrong?”

Tanner: “I think I’m opening up too quickly.”

Grimsley: “Well, don’t do that.”

Grimsley then walks back to the dugout.

Hard-throwing righty Daniel Turpin says he receives the same advice from Grimsley during virtually every visit: “Throw strikes and keep the ball down in the zone.”

Pitchers appreciate brevity and simplicity. Very few ever want to be visited. None wants to be the subject of a lengthy lecture that includes a reinvention of his mechanics.

Said lefty Andy Sisco: “This is something the average person could relate to. If you’re playing a round of golf, and you’ve hit a couple of bad shots, you really want to hit that next shot and move past it. “And then someone comes up and tries to tell you how you should hit this shot.”

Grimsley gets annoyed when his pitchers fail to throw strikes.

“Sometimes, I’m frustrated on the way out there, and I’m frustrated going back,” he said.

Grimsley says he fears he’s turning “crusty.” But most of his communication on the mound is conversational encouragement, as if from a colleague, rather than stern instruction, as if from a boss, Sisco said.

“Treat people the way you want to be treated,” Grimsley said.

Sisco, who appeared in 151 major-league games before arm trouble, says Grimsley “has the wisdom of a master.” Grimsley went 124-99 in the big leagues. That experience plus his lengthy tenure as a pitching coach to Sisco means “He is someone who has seen all of the different situations, and he knows how to deal with them.”

Sometimes, Grimsley grasped long ago, the best way to deal with a struggling pitcher is to lighten the moment. George Bamberger worked as Baltimore’s pitching coach for manager Earl Weaver while Grimsley was an Oriole during the 1970s. Grimsley was getting hammered one day. Bamberger strolled out to the mound and delivered this message:

“Grims, Earl said if you don’t cheat, you better start now.”


Limerick of the Week: Manning v. Grimsley

The following piece originally appeared over at ContractsProf Blog on June 23, 2008.  Long before Rob Dibble threw a ball into the crowd at Riverfront Stadium and Roger McDowell went all homophobic in San Francisco...Ross Grimsley lost his cool in Boston.

Above is a picture of Fenway Park (actual size!), site of Ross Grimsley's immortality as an icon of scope of employment doctrine. On September 16, 1975, some Red Sox fans were doing their best to encourage Grimsley, who was warming up to pitch for the Baltimore Orioles.

Grimsley was so grateful to the Boston faithful that he decided to provide them with a souvenir. He hurled a baseball into the crowd. It penetrated the protective netting and struck plaintiff, who then sued Grimsley and his team (but not, for mysterious reasons, the obviously negligent Red Sox who failed to maintain the protective netting).

The liabiility of the Baltimore Orioles turned on whether Grimsley was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of his mis-directed pitch. In Massachussetts, a servant acts in the scope of employment if, among other things, her use of force is in response to conduct from the planitiff that "presently interferes" with the servant's duties.

The court found that the heckling during Grimsley's warm-ups was indeed a present interference with Grimsley's work and thus held that the Orioles could be vicariously liable for Grimsley's tort.

Manning v. Grimsley
A reliever awaiting deployment
May act in the scope of employment
If he throws some high heat
At a fan in his seat
Unless for his own sheer enjoyment.

ContractsProf Blog is a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network...something I never knew existed until I looked up "Ross+Grimsley+limerick" (don't ask) on the Googles.


Cardboards Gods: Ross Grimsley

The following piece was written by Josh Wilker and originally appeared over at his site Cardboard Gods on June 25, 2010. The Hall of Very Good would like to thank Josh for his continued support of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut.

Two nights ago, I punched a bag of pretzel nuggets. I needed to punch something but the thing I really wanted to punch, an air conditioning control box, would have broken if I’d punched it, and then I would have had to explain to my wife and then the landlord that I had punched and broken an electronic device, and then I would have had to pay for its costly repair. It was a very hot, humid evening, and I just wanted to turn on the air conditioning, but this device, my nemesis, is extremely complicated. You can’t just turn on the air conditioning but have to program it to turn on; however, all the options for programming make no sense to me: wake, return, sleep. Return? Which one gets the thing to turn on? I could not figure it out and eventually resorted to pushing all the buttons randomly in hopes that I’d luck into turning it on, but that didn’t work, so I stalked around the apartment sweating and hurling obscenities until I came upon the bag of pretzel nuggets sitting on the counter and I punched the shit out of it.

Goddamn bag, fuck you!

And oh, it knew it had been punched. Many of the nuggets inside the bag were instantly pulverized into dust upon impact with the human TNT encased in my right fist, and the structural integrity of the entire bag was also ruptured significantly, so much so that I had, while tidying up the mess from the incident, heart still pounding from battle, to move the surviving pretzel nuggets into a Tupperware container. Even the surviving pretzel nuggets felt my wrath. They were traumatized crumbling versions of their former selves. I know this because yesterday evening when I got home from work I ate a few of the pretzel nuggets out of my cupped hand and my wife chastised me for scattering pretzel crumbs all over the floor. I hadn’t told her that I’d punched a bag of pretzel nuggets. She wouldn’t necessarily get a thrilling charge out of imagining her 42-year-old husband stomping around our apartment assaulting snacks. But the point is this: don’t fuck with me, pretzels.

***

The point is this: I have been trying and failing all week to write something about this 1974 Ross Grimsley TRADED card. I had six pages of really shitty material even before getting into it about the pretzel nuggets, which, in case you were wondering if you missed something, do indeed have nothing whatsoever to do with the 1974 Ross Grimsley TRADED card except maybe that I bought both of them, one item a few days ago and the other thirty-six years ago.

***

The point is this: I started buying packs of baseball cards when I was six. It was near the end of the summer of 1974. A high percentage of those first cards I ever obtained were from this disquieting 1974 TRADED cards series, those first packs rife with these indelible testaments to transience and rejection. Maybe Topps slapped together the cards late in their production cycle that year. This makes some sense—the cards depicted relatively late-breaking events from the previous year. Or maybe the gods were trying to tell me something. It was, after all, a summer of trades. You could say that I had been traded from New Jersey to Vermont, or that my New Jersey friends had been traded for Vermont strangers, but the biggest transaction involved my dad. He had been with the club from before I’d joined via the family’s expansion draft in 1968, but just before the move to Vermont he’d been traded elsewhere. There was no TRADED card explaining the trade.

***

The point is this: During this week’s failed attempt to use words for some clear purpose, I read a fair amount about Ross Grimsley. He was known as Scuz and Crazy Eyes. He believed a witch helped him win games. He refrained from bathing while on winning streaks. He is shown here just before he was allowed, upon being freed from the constrictive, conservative Reds, to grow a mustache and let his hair bloom into a big greasy bush in which, some argued, he secreted ball-altering substances. The back of the card has a fake newspaper story from a fake newspaper, “The Baseball News”:

GRIMSLEY TRADED TO ORIOLES

“The Baltimore Orioles, shopping for another starting pitcher, today obtained Ross Grimsley . . .,” the story begins. It then notes some highlights from Grimsley’s time with the Reds and mentions that he’d be joining two other lefties in the Orioles’ rotation. If things were going a little smoother inside my mind or soul or whatever, maybe I could find a way to connect Ross Grimsley’s interesting story (related entertainingly in a good recent post by crack baseball historian Bruce Markusen) to my own life. I don’t know, it has been one of those weeks when things don’t really come together. I have gone to my job and come back from my job. My interaction with other humans has been minimal. I have a portable satellite radio with ear bud headphones. I jam the buds into my ears as I am walking out the door and take them out when I get to my cubicle, then several hours later I shut off my computer and leave my cubicle and shove the buds back into my ear and don’t take them out until I get home. Were birds singing? Did anyone call my name? I don’t know.

***

The point is this: I can picture a 1974 TRADED card for my father. I can see the headline on the back:

DAD TRADED TO NEW YORK

“New York added another solitary today,” the story would begin. The image on the front of his card would feature some doctoring, as all the traded cards did. Of course, my dad did not wear a baseball cap, then or ever, so it’s unclear what could be doctored in or out. Maybe a pair of large headphones, which he began to use extensively as soon as he moved into his studio apartment in Manhattan. He listened to Bach. He shut himself off from the sounds of the present to envision patterns of perfection beyond time.

***

I shut myself off from the sounds of the present but am mostly just looking for distraction. I listen mostly to chatter, Howard Stern or sports talk. Sometimes I mix in some music, too. Yesterday on the way home from work to my wife and my terrorized Tupperware container of pretzel nuggets I listened to some “classic alternative” music from the 1980s and thought about myself from that time and my friends from that time and the feelings from that time, which seemed in retrospect, backed by the poufy-haired British music in my ears, to mostly amount to a sort of swelling romantic melancholy. I started missing the way I was sad in the 1980s. It was somehow larger and more heroic than the measly lowgrade glumness I often slog around in these days. Plus I was thinner. Such is the way of the world. We get older and softer and weaker and fade. There are no TRADED cards marking the changes. There are no stats to analyze. There aren’t even any words.

Josh Wilker is the author of Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards and writes about his life and childhood baseball cards at cardboardgods.net.



Cooperstown Confidential: Ross Grimsley and the Swingin’ ‘70s

The following piece originally appeared over at The Hardball Times on May 21, 2010.  The Hall of Very Good thanks author Bruce Markusen and his continued support of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut.

With all of the attention paid toward the best-selling biographies of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and George Steinbrenner, another worthy new book is being overshadowed. Terrifically titled Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ‘70s, the tome is the work of Dan Epstein, an expert on popular culture during the decade of decadence. In honor of Dan’s colorful volume, let’s put the 1970s strobe light on one of the era’s most emblematic characters.

Though lesser known than icons like Dock Ellis and Bill Lee, former big league left-hander Ross Grimsley was the consummate free spirit. He lived according to his own set of rules—and those rules supposedly included some intriguing involvement with witches and some strange choices regarding personal hygiene.

So it was with a rather large helping of irony that the offbeat Grimsley was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds, one of the most straight-laced organizations of the 1960s and '70s. Personality quirks aside, the Reds liked Grimsley’s left arm and tall, 6-foot, 3-inch build. He threw high, hard fastballs that made him a rapid riser in the Reds organization. On the heels of winning the National League pennant in 1970, the Reds brought him to Cincinnati the following May.

Early in his major league career, Grimsley established himself as a pitcher who felt governed by more than fastballs and curveballs; he felt regulated by the laws of superstition. During his rookie season of 1971, a television reporter introduced Grimsley to a witch, believing that she could bring the struggling neophyte left-hander good luck. The witch gave Grimsley a charm—a greenish-blue stone put into a setting and linked to a chain. After receiving the charm, Grimsley pitched well and won four games in a row. He then lost the charm. Soon after, Grimsley lost his next two games. He telephoned the witch, who sent him another charm. Grimsley proceeded to lose the replacement charm; when he tried to contact the witch again, he realized he had lost her number, as well.

Grimsley’s manager, the old school Sparky Anderson, learned about the left-hander’s communications with the witch and called him into the office. Anderson advised him to forget about the charm and the witch, warning him that continued publicity about his superstition might result in him being branded by the rest of baseball. “You’re crazy,” Anderson told Grimsley face-to-face, according to an article in The Sporting News. “You’ll be known as the clown of the league once this gets around.” Grimsley didn’t care. He defended his belief in the charm. “If I think it’ll help me win,” he told The Sporting News, “why shouldn’t I keep in touch with the witch?” Remaining steadfast in his superstitions, Grimsley collected pocketfuls of lucky pennies, coins and charms of various sorts during his career.

Good luck charms aside, Grimsley enjoyed early success with the Reds. Employing a herky-jerky windup and an exceedingly slow but deceptive change-up (once clocked as slow as 42 miles per hour), Grimsley won two games in the 1972 World Series against the Oakland A’s. Yet, he didn’t feel comfortable under Anderson and certainly didn’t fit in with the corporate image preferred by the Reds’ front office. The Reds enforced strict rules about grooming, insisting on short hair, no mustaches and absolutely no beards; Grimsley preferred to wear his black hair long and curly, and he didn’t always like to shave. In general, the Reds existed as a conservative organization; Grimsley existed as a free-spirited radical. Inevitably, the two could not co-exist. After the 1973 season, the Reds traded the left-hander to the Baltimore Orioles for backup outfielder Merv Rettenmund.

With the Orioles, Grimsley sported a bushy mustache and grew his hair out. He liked to keep his locks long and greasy, perhaps for more than just reasons of fashion and habit. Throughout his career, opponents suspected Grimsley of loading up his pitches with a foreign substance that he might have been keeping in his hair and even in his eyebrows. Whether it be grease or jell or oil of some sort, Grimsley’s full head of curly hair (a white Afro, as some have called it) would have provided a comfortable hiding place.

Grimsley’s hair wasn’t his only distinctive physical trait. He also featured large green eyes—accentuated by turquoise contact lenses—which tended to bulge, giving him a piercing expression. When his face locked into a stare, other players took notice. Early in his career, baseball people began referring to Grimsley as “Crazy Eyes.”

Grimsley’s teammates probably didn’t mind his eyes, or the length of his hair. But they took notice of another one of his habits. Grimsley supposedly didn’t like to take baths or showers, or wash his hair on a regular basis. He particularly didn’t like to do so when he was pitching well, another example of his well-worn list of superstitions. According to some teammates, Grimsley left a memorable impression in the clubhouse and dugout, where quarters could be especially close. Some argued that his first name should have started with the letter G.

As his career progressed in the 1970s, Grimsley made the transition from a high-power pitcher to a change-up specialist. He threw change-ups at three different speeds: slow, slower and slowest. The style of pitching proved maddening to opposing hitters and helped him cash in on the newly created free agent system. After the 1977 season, Grimsley signed a lucrative deal with the Montreal Expos. Pitching in his first season with the Expos, he became the franchise’s first 20-game winner. In fact, he remains the only pitcher to ever win 20 games in a season for the Montreal franchise.

Grimsley could be a paradoxical figure, both in terms of temperament and relations with the media. Though known as a laid-back free spirit, he gained unwanted notoriety when he famously lost his temper with a fan. During a game in September of 1975 against the Boston Red Sox, Grimsley found himself on the receiving end of some heckling from fans while warming up in the Orioles’ bullpen. At the conclusion of his bullpen session, Grimsley acted as if he were going to make one final warm-up toss, then suddenly spun around, and fired the ball in the general direction of the Fenway Park stands. Traveling about 80 miles per hour, the ball missed its intended target, instead hitting an innocent fan standing by. Though formal charges were dismissed, the fan later sued Grimsley and the Orioles.

In general, Grimsley meshed well with the media. Friendly and talkative, he made himself an approachable figure to writers and broadcasters. Strangely, Grimsley changed his tune as a member of the Expos in the middle of the 1979 season. Without warning or explanation, he posted a handwritten sign above his locker in the clubhouse. The sign read, “STAY AWAY. THAT MEANS YOU!!” When reporters asked Grimsley about the turnaround, he said the sign was self-explanatory.

Several years later, by now retired from the game, Grimsley played a practical joke on longtime Cleveland sportswriter Terry Pluto. A respected writer, Pluto asked Grimsley what he was doing in retirement. Grimsley responded by saying that he owned an armadillo farm, which featured 300 of the distinctive animals. He then provided Pluto with an extensive dissertation on armadillos, discussing their habits and characteristics. Pluto wrote about the armadillo farm in his newspaper column. Upon his return to the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse, players greeted Pluto with howls of laughter. Grimsley’s story about the armadillo farm had been a complete fabrication. He had apparently made up the entire story about armadillos as retribution for some negative remarks Pluto had written about Grimsley’s struggles with the Indians. Grimsley blamed Pluto, at least in part, for the booing he received from fans at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. For his part, Pluto pointed to Grimsley’s 6.75 ERA during his final season in Cleveland as the true motivation for the boobirds.

Given his erratic relationship with media and management, not to mention his radical grooming habits, it might come as a surprise to learn what Grimsley decided to do after his playing days. Much to my shock, the off-the-wall Grimsley became a pitching coach—and a respected one at that. Since the 1999 season, this symbol of 1970s zaniness has worked as a pitching guru for the San Francisco Giants organization. Currently stationed at Double-A, Grimsley tutors pitchers with the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Yes, Ross Grimsley is now a Flying Squirrel! Somehow, in the wacky world of baseball that was so evident in the 1970s, that makes picture-perfect sense.

Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books on baseball, including the award-winning A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, the recipient of the Seymour Medal from the Society for American Baseball Research. He has also written The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, Tales From The Mets Dugout and The Orlando Cepeda Story.


May 18, 2011

RossArt: Artists' Roundtable

As part of this week-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley’s Major League debut, three artists with three very different visions were tasked with coming up with some fresh “RossArt”.

If you haven’t already…feel free to check out the original work of Foodstamp Davis, Derek Erdman and Scott Wilke.

I’ll just sit here and wait.

Now that you’ve returned (you have returned, right?)…please enjoy this Artists’ Roundtable.

HOVG: When you start drawing a subject like Ross Grimsley...where do you start? The mustache, the hair...somewhere else?

WILKE: I started with the outline of his body and head and then I began with his face. I usually lightly draw the face because I tend to erase often. Typically, the rest of the drawing is completed…then I go back to the facial area. I saved the mustache for last because it was the signature of the illustration.

ERDMAN: Probably the hair. Or the hat. In this case it was the Expos logo. It varies, really.

FOODSTAMP: This was the second time I’ve been tasked with capturing Grimsley’s swarthy image. I can’t really tell you how I started the drawings, but I can tell you that the experience was the same each time. I barely pick up my pen before I’m overcome with the beauty and I just sort of go into a trance. When I come to, the picture has already been completed and I remember nothing. Also I’m all sweaty.

HOVG: Obviously you each have a different style, but one thing is the same…you all like drawing people. Who has been your favorite person to draw thus far?

WILKE: So far, Prince Fielder is and has been my favorite to draw. I’m a big fan and he has a cartoonish look to his stance and swing.

ERDMAN: I really like to draw Diana Ross. I love her shoulders.

FOODSTAMP: That would have to be draculas driving cool trucks.

HOVG: Any subjects you’d like to tackle in the future?

FOODSTAMP: Now that I’ve combined Ross Grimsley and Burt Reynolds, I’m not really sure where I can go from here. This could be the start of an entire portfolio of important mustaches of the sports and entertainment world. Maybe Lanny McDonald dressed like Magnum P.I. or Rollie Fingers arm wrestling John Waters.

WILKE: I plan on doing George Brett, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor in the near future. They are my favorite players of the pre-steriod era. I am currently working on a Ricky Weeks of the Milwaukee Brewers, which will be completed by next Monday.

ERDMAN: Oh geez, I dunno. I get a lot of orders from people to draw their children. I reckon I'm going to tackle children next.

HOVG: Where can people keep up with what you're working on or maybe purchase some of your art?

WILKE: You can find Wilke Art online to see and purchase prints or originals. You may also “Like” Wilke Art on facebook.

FOODSTAMP: People can keep up with my random personal and professional projects as well as my recently-begun “365 Days of Unplanned Doodles” at my very disorganized flickr page. For random links to look at while at work, adorable animal YouTube videos, random non sequiturs, occasional drunken depression, or even to contact me about commissioning some artwork (now accepting money!) you can follow/contact me on Twitter.

ERDMAN: Facebook, Tumblr, or my website. Try Google!


RossArt: Derek Erdman

A few weeks back, I hammered out a quick post for the Bowie Baysox Mustache Night promotion and when I searched the Googles for a picture of Hall of Famer Eddie Murray...I was greeted with a colorful piece by Derek Erdman.

I'm going to be honest...I had no idea who Erdman was at first.  I thought he was a pretty good artist who was able to capture the essence of his subject in even the simplest of pictures.

But dude even has his own Wikipedia entry!

Derek Erdman (born December 6, 1973) is an artist living in Seattle, Washington. Erdman is known primarily for his vibrantly colored paintings, his phone-prank CD Kathy McGinty, his portrayal of Rap Master Maurice, and his website. His work has appeared in the Chicago Reader newspaper, Roctober magazine, and on the cover of the acclaimed 2006 novel Lullabies for Little Criminals. In 2010, Erdman contributed to MTV's music website and became a regular contributor to Seattle's the Stranger.

Any way you slice it, Erdman is legit and I'm proud to have his original take on "Scuz" as part of this week's celebration.
You can check out Erdman's massive collection of work (and Lord, I suggest you do!) over at his website.

Please check out the other “RossArt” artists Foodstamp Davis and Scott Wilke as well as the Artists' Roundtable. Man…try typing that five times fast!


RossArt: Scott Wilke

I don't remember who contacted who first, but Milwaukee-area artist Scott Wilke and I hit it off pretty quickly.

I remember seeing some of his Milwaukee Brewers drawings on facebook and knew that I needed what would happen if I challenged him to put pen to paper and scribble out a Ross Grimsley drawing for the world to see.

Suffice it to say...I think Wilke did just fine.


You can check out more of Wilke's work (he doesn't disappoint) over at his site Wilke Art.

Please check out the other “RossArt” artists Foodstamp Davis and Derek Erdman as well as the Artists' Roundtable. Man…try typing that five times fast!


RossArt: Foodstamp Davis

Every good company has an iconic logo.

Nike has its swoosh.

McDonald's has its arches and that clown.

And The Hall of Very Good (and no...I'm not calling this website a "good company") has its "Grimsley".

You see, the "Grimsley" is, and has been some time, the official logo for The Hall...and to further celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut, I've reached out to some friends for their artistic interpretations of "Scuz".

But first...about the "Grimsley".

When I needed to brand this site, I reached out to my friend Foodstamp Davis and asked him about transforming one of my favorite baseball cards (the 1981 Topps Ross Grimsley) into something magical.

And he did.

Years after the later, "Foodstamp" has, possibly, outdone himself.


Initially, I wasn't sure how I felt about the Ross Grimsley-Burt Reynolds hybrid...but, honestly, it grew on me. I hope it grows on you as well.

You can check out more of Foodstamp's work, or more specifically, his “365 Days of Unplanned Doodles” at his flickr page.

Please check out the other “RossArt” artists Scott Wilke and Derek Erdman as well as the Artists' Roundtable. Man…try typing that five times fast!


Ross is Boss: Mark's Ephemera

To my surprise, there has been a pretty good response to celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley's Major League debut.

I received one of my favorite emails (and, subsequently, links) today.

As a Friend of the (Baseball Bloggers Alliance) I've become aware of your love affair with Ross Grimsley. I just posted a blog entry about him. You'll find it interesting, I hope.

Keep up the good work.
Mark Aubrey

Here is what Aubrey uncovered over at his site Mark's Ephemera.

I can't start to recap (Ross Grimsley's) career in a few paragraphs, especially when you can easily peruse it at baseball-reference. But one thing that caught my eye was his trade on December 4, 1973.

Traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Wally Williams (minors) to the Baltimore Orioles for Bill Wood (minors), Junior Kennedy and Merv Rettenmund.

This really isn't that amazing or interesting. Minor leaguers, players, teams. Trades like this happen all the time.

I was intrigued by the double letter sequences in the players' names.

ROSS GRIMSLEY
WALLY WILLIAMS
BILL WOOD
JUNIOR KENNEDY
MERV RETTENMUND

Five players, all with at least one double letter sequence. I know of no other trade that accomplishes this feat.

Pretty cool, man! Keep up the good work, gang...and keep the party rolling!

May 17, 2011

Twitter Tuesday: Richmond Flying Squirrels

All this week we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ross Grimsley’s Major League debut and this week's Twitter Tuesday is no different.

Grimsley, of course, pitched 11 big league seasons, but did you know that in 1989, he began a second career as a Minor League pitching coach?

It’s true.

Currently, “Scuz” is in his second season with the Double-A affiliate of the World Champion San Francisco Giants…the social media savvy Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Now, I’m not sure who is doing the actual tweeting for the team, but whoever it is…they’re doing it with just the right mix of live tweeting, posting pictures and keeping their followers engaged with team promotions.

And, of course, there’s this:

Looks like a reinactment of the truffle shuffle from the Goonies more than the chicken dance. but the crowd loves it!

Want to know who is coming out to The Diamond, who won the Uncle Bob’s Self Storage raffle or the process of a player selecting their walk up music…follow the Richmond Flying Squirrels at @gosquirrels  now!

In the meantime, why not watch this "interview" with team mascot Nutzy!  C'mon...you've got something better to do?