August 30, 2011

HoJo to Play Baseball...Again!

It's been close to 16 years since he last played in the Majors (a 3-for-4 effort on October 1, 1995), but 50-year-old Howard Johnson is making a comeback

According to Paul's Random Stuff Blog, the member of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets looking to get back in the swing (see what I did there?) of things.

Read!

This weekend, he’ll be stepping back into action as a member of the Rockland Boulders in the independent Can-Am League. He’ll be playing alongside his son, Glen Johnson as the Boulders close out their inaugural season with a two-game series against the Newark Bears at Provident Bank Park.

“This may be my last go ‘round so it’s a great opportunity to play in a professional game with my son,” said Howard Johnson in a team-issued press release. “How many fathers can do that?”

Initially, I was kinda "meh" about this, but after thinking about it for a few minutes...I'm thinking it is cool.

Sure, this type of thing make independent league baseball look like a circus, but, really, isn't that what it should be.

I mean, if Jose Canseco can take his traveling sideshow (which includes a 52-year-old Tony Phillips) across the country...why can't HoJo cash a check and get in a couple of swings.

Game on!


The Rivalry is Heating Up

So, yeah, I stole that title from New Era's You Tube description of their latest commercial featuring Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski, but how else would you describe it?

With a game and a half separating them, this week's series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees could, again, be the one that turns the tide in the American League East.

But if you're keeping track...the Sox have taken twn of twelve from the Bombers this season.

Battle...won.  War...still on.


Triple-A Pitcher Sinks Full Court Shot

Suffice it to say, the imminent return of Stephen Strasburg is getting all the attention among Washington Nationals fans.

Until now.

I like my share of trick basketball videos (I've lost hours watching the Pool Domination videos), so when friend of The Hall Matt Antonelli posted the following video on his blog...I couldn't click on the link fast enough.

First...this is what Antonelli posted:

I have to confess. Many of you have seen my Nerf basketball video where my former roommate Wade Leblanc of the San Diego Padres and I drain some pretty ridiculous shots in our run down living room during Spring Training. Well, the truth is, a lot of those shots weren't made on the first try. In fact, some of them took five, ten, even twenty tries.  

But today I have something better for you. We're not joking around with this shot. No Nerf basketballs. I'm talking about the real thing. And this shot was made on the first try. No re-takes. No edits. First shot of the day. Swish. The shot is made by my current teammate J.D. Martin and he needs some props. If my shitty Nerf basketball shots made it all the way to ESPN and First Take then this shot needs to get there too. With you're help, and J.D.'s super human talents, I'm positive it will.

Now...here's the video.


Let's see Strasburg do that!

August 29, 2011

The Greatest Brewers Mustaches of All-Time!

Sometime contributor Lou Olsen (of Reviewing the Brew fame) sent me an email the other day asking me to serve as his "Stache Specialist".

Naturally, I was flattered.

But clearly...I needed more information.

As it turns out, Olsen and his ragtag team of misfits are breaking down the five best mustaches in Milwaukee Brewers history.

Number five, naturally, the team's mascot...Bernie Brewer.

My take was simple:

The beautiful thing about Bernie Brewer's mustache is not the glorious yellow lip sweater itself...but the seemingly drunken smile that it hangs above. And yes, I'm calling the Colonel DeBeers lookalike a drunk. Think about it, without alcohol entering the equation, there's no other explanation behind a full grown adult in lederhosen, hurling his body down a waterless waterslide to celebrate a home run.

But I digress.

If you ask me (and I was), Bernie Brewer's mustache is one of the three finest mascot mustaches in baseball history...right up there with Mr. Redlegs and Mario. You remember Mario Super Sluggers, right? Yeah, I didn't either...I had to look it up.

You can read the rest of the discussion over at Reviewing the Brew.  But, before you go...watch this old school Brewers video!


Jamie Moyer to Rehab in Clearwater

In less than 15 months, Jamie Moyer is eligible to join AARP.

And, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki...he is also giving baseball one more shot.

He is going to be continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery at the Phillies’ Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. The Phillies have not signed Moyer to a contract, so he remains a free agent, but he asked the Phillies if he could use their facilities.

“We’re providing him our space in Clearwater and our expertise,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

The 48-year-old Moyer went 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 19 starts last season for Philadelphia.  For his career, he has compiled 267 wins...good for ninth all-time among left-handers.

This past December, he had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

In case you were wondering...the only other instance of a pitcher north of 40 coming back after Tommy John surgery was John Franco.  Dude was 42 when he returned from the procedure. He pitched three more seasons, putting together a 2-11 record and a 4.63 ERA in 95 inning.

Oh, and in case you were wondering...the asking price on Moyer's house in Seattle that, last year, had been slashed to $7.8 million is still for sale.

And I've got 6.75 million reasons why you should own it! 

Happy Anniversay, Kuip!

On this date in 1977, Cleveland Indians second baseman (and current San Francisco Giants broadcaster) Duane Kuiper hits the one and only home run of his 12-season major league career.

The "blast" comes off of Steve Stone of the Chicago White Sox, in the second inning of the Tribe's 9-2 victory at "The Mistake On The Lake". Two other Indians homer off of Stone in the same inning...first baseman Andre Thornton (an inside-the-parker) and left fielder Bruce Bochte.

Here's the boxscore!

Suffice it to say, "Kuip" has probably called more home runs in the last few days than he ever hit.

Friends of The Hall, Cardboard Gods author Josh Wilker and Larry Granillo from Baseball Prospectus have both written about Kuiper in the past year or so.  You can read their pieces by, as luck would have it...clicking their names.

***Knowledge courtesy of Dan Epstein from Big Hair & Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball In The 1970s.***


This Week in Baseball Cards: August 29

Hurricane Irene canceled a few baseball games this past week.  One thing she couldn't cancel...Bo Ronsy's "This Week in Baseball Cards".

And no...I had no idea what a Caldor is/was.

It’s been a slow baseball week, as we have been distracted by Quakes...


...and ‘Canes.


Still, it’s worth celebrating Jim Thome’s return to the team he made his debut for twenty years ago. His rookie cards included issues by manufacturers like Fleer, Pinnacle, Score, Upper Deck, and, as shown here, Ultra. None of these companies make baseball cards anymore. Of course, back then you could still fly Pan Am, purchase a Commodore computer, and buy baseball cards at Caldor.


Remember, gang, you can check out Bo's daily insights over at his site...Baseball Cards Come to Life.


August 26, 2011

Friday 5: CM Punk

If you follow enough baseball players on the Twitters, you'll find that a number of them are either fans of pro wrestling...or want to be pro wrestlers.

That said, to find a pro wrestler that is a fan of baseball might be harder to do.

Recently, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Joe Cowley caught up with WWE Superstar (and Chicago native), CM Punk and talked to him about his beloved Cubs.

Enjoy!

COWLEY: Tell me about these dirty-looking Cubs hats I hear you’re always wearing.

CM PUNK: I’ve lost a few, and a couple have simply disintegrated. I had one that I wore so long that when I washed it, well, it simply turned to dust.

COWLEY: You always talk about what’s ‘‘good for business.’’ What’s good for Cubs business at this point?

CM PUNK: They removed (Jim) Hendry. That was a step in the right direction. It’s a good team...we just make stupid decisions. As far as GM, hmmm...they should offer me the job. I could be a reliever, too. We’re in discussions.

COWLEY: Did you bother rooting for the Sox in 2005?

CM PUNK: Couldn’t bring myself to do it. And the Game 4 clincher (against the Houston Astros) was on my birthday. A.J. (Pierzynski) reminds me of that all the time.

COWLEY: A.J. has been in the ring and has a belt. Any chance...

CM PUNK:  Pierzynski? He does have a belt, but I have championship titles. He’s not in my league.

COWLEY: Best wrestling entrance of all-time?

CM PUNK: Undertaker’s, easily.

You can read the rest of Cowley's interview with the WWE Superstar by checking out the Chicago Sun-Times online.  Oh, and I get what Punk is saying about Undertaker's entrance...but dude's entrance at Money in the Bank last month was pretty epic.


August 25, 2011

Jim Thome Headed BACK to Cleveland

After a frenzied day of "who got put on waivers" and "who didn't"...one waiver wire pick up stuck.

That's right, if you believe the folks on Twitter (and, really, why wouldn't you?), Jim Thome is leaving the Minnesota Twins and heading BACK to the Cleveland Indians.

There's no word yet as to who is heading north.

In 12 years with the Tribe (from 1991 through 2002), Thome hit a team-record 334. In his final year, the future Hall of Famer hit a single-season team record 52 homers.

On August 15, the 40-year-old slugger became the eighth man in history to hit 600 homers.



August 24, 2011

This Week in Baseball Cards: August 24

From babies to ballhawks, milestones to mustaches...The Hall has run the gamut this past week.  Here's Bo Rosny with another installment of "This Week in Baseball Cards".

On Saturday, we posted the news that Chipper Jones would be returning in 2012, with a photo of the grizzled veteran looking every one of his 39 years. Here is a very different picture of a baby-faced Chipper from his rookie year of 1993.


The "Friday 5" featured ballhawk Tim Anderson, who caught home run balls on three straight days. I’d be more impressed if he caught an actual outfielder, like these Dodger fans did in 1992, snagging an authentic Darryl Strawberry.


Speaking of Dodgers, Friday also featured Alyssa Milano’s baby shower, where she got a personalized Dodger jersey for her baby. It might take the baby a little while to grow into it, much like Mark Leiter’s kid, who’s got a lot of room to grow in his Giants jersey, socks and hat.


Remember, gang, you can check out Bo's daily insights over at his site...Baseball Cards Come to Life.

Everybody Hates Saves


Good friend of The Hall of Very Good (and originator of The Topps Traded 1975 Project), David Jordan hit Cooperstown last month and had a "quick conversation" with Goose Gossage.

Apparently the Hall of Famer is everywhere and, well, here's Jordan's story.

As someone who has immersed himself in Induction Weekend Culture two of the last three years, I believe I have a sense of the different levels of involvement certain Hall-of-Famer players employ.

You have guys like George Brett,  Carl Yastrzemski, Ernie Banks, Steve Carlton, Cal Ripken and Sandy Koufax, who show up for the ceremonies but aren’t interacting much with the fans on Main Street.

Then there’s the Jim Rice, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount types.  They provide extremely limited time windows to sign autographs and then that’s it, they’re gone.  Some players like Willie McCovey, Stan Musial and Nolan Ryan (even before his heart scare), who, most likely because of age-related ailments, rarely even attend.

And then there’s Goose.

He was everywhere and, quite possibly, the most visible athlete during the weekend. He was always ready with a smile for a fan or a quick conversation.  I would say Goose, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, were the most ubiquitous around town during my time there.

Before getting to my conversation with Goose...the trip made me think a lot about saves.

Apparently you’re not one of the cool kids if you still measure closer effectiveness by saves or hitters by Runs Batted In.  Sure, there are finer barometers for performance assessment, but baseball is a game of tradition, and such a low-stakes controversy like this, there’s really no need for you to be throwing around the 96 you got on the fifth grade Language Arts final.

There’s quite a bit of chatter going on regarding the prospects of Trevor Hoffman being elected to the Hall of Fame now that he’s retired. Again, I would love to hear more thoughts on this, but I don’t know if I see it. 

Mariano Rivera should be passing him on the all-time saves list by the end of the season since he’s only nine away from him now.

Incidentally, is ANYONE talking about this? With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Jeter’s 3000th hit, there has been nary a word in the media regarding the run-up to Rivera eclipsing Hoffman.

Here’s the top ten closers in history by saves:

  1. Trevor Hoffman – 601
  2. Mariano Rivera – 592
  3. Lee Smith – 478
  4. John Franco – 424
  5. Billy Wagner – 422
  6. Dennis Eckersley – 390 (which is amazing when you realize he spent half his career as a starter)
  7. Jeff Reardon – 367
  8. Troy Percival – 358
  9. Randy Myers – 347
  10. Rollie Fingers – 341
That’s all well and good. Now, let’s glance at the Top Ten relievers measuring PWAR...or “Pitcher Wins Above Replacement".


  1. Mariano Rivera – 55
  2. Goose Gossage – 36.8
  3. Hoyt Wilhelm – 33.2
  4. Trevor Hoffman – 30.8
  5. Lee Smith – 30.3
  6. Billy Wagner – 29.7
  7. John Franco – 25.8
  8. Bruce Sutter – 25
  9. Kent Tekulve – 24.9
  10. Rollie Fingers – 24.4
Conclusions and questions:

  • Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in the history of the game. And it’s not even close.
  • Kent Tekulve may be the most forgotten great closer in the Baseball Conversation today.
  • Did Billy Wagner throw away a shot at the Hall of Fame by retiring two to three years too early? Outside of saves...his numbers are better than Hoffman’s.
  • Is a closer’s WAR baseline for inclusion into the Hall 30 wins above replacement now? Is it 35?
  • Now you know why Rich Gossage is a Hall of Famer.
Although he is mostly known today for his time with the Yankees, Goose said he still has a good amount of people ask him about his years on the South Side of Chicago.

I mentioned to him how I always found it odd that both he and Terry Forster were shifted to the bullpen for the 1976 season.

Listen to what this ballclub did.  Okay, trading Stan Bahnsen for Chet Lemon and Dave Hamilton in mid-season...that I can deal with. But then you trade Jim Kaat, a 20-game winner, to the Phillies during the winter meetings.

Now you’re left with Wilbur Wood, who was beginning his decline, Jesse Jefferson and Claude Osteen, who wouldn’t even make it out of spring training the following season.

So what did the ChiSox do with their American League Fireman of the Year?

“Yeah, the ballclub called me in the offseason,” Goose told me, “And told me I was going to the rotation. I’d do anything to help the ballclub so I was fine with it.”

This ’76 squad had Gossage in the rotation and a young Pete Vuckovich in the bullpen...whom they left unprotected, by the way, in the expansion draft the following winter.

Incredible.

So, what do you think?  Who is the greatest closer of all-time and why?  Also...do saves even matter anymore?

August 20, 2011

Chipper Jones is Coming Back, Gang!

Hey Atlanta Braves fans...don't book your July 2017 trips to Cooperstown just yet...Chipper ain't done.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chipper Jones is playing in 2012.

“I’m playing next year,” the 1999 National League MVP said Friday. “I still feel like I can go out there and play a good third base and be a threat, at least, at the plate."

Two hours later, he hit a home run for the second night in a row.

With 448 home runs, Jones is adding to career numbers that have already earned him the distinction of being the only switch hitter in Major League Baseball history to have a .300-plus batting average, 400 bombs and 1500 RBI.

“I take a lot of pride in those numbers,” Jones said. “Those are awfully big numbers over an 18-year career. But that’s not what drives me. I want to punctuate my career helping these guys win a championship.”


August 19, 2011

Alyssa Milano's Baseball-Themed Baby Shower

All obvious references to former boyfriends aside...Alyssa Milano has had a longstanding relationship with professional baseball.

On "Who's the Boss", she played the daughter of a retired baseball player.

In 2007, she launched a line of MLB-licensed team apparel for female baseball fans.

Two years after that...she penned the book Safe At Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic.

And now, the 38-year-old mom-to-be had her baby shower at, of all places, Dodger Stadium.  Take it away Us Weekly!

Milano and her talent agent hubby David Bugliari celebrated their baby-to-be with 35 of their closest friends, a source tells Us Weekly. Guests included Holly Robinson Peete, Colin Hanks and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

The fete included Dodgers cupcakes from Crumbs Bakery. The Who's the Boss star posted a photo of herself on her blog holding up a tiny, custom-made Dodgers jersey.

Alright, I've question for the rest of you who follow Milano on Twitter (don't judge me)...doesn't it seem like this chick has been pregnant forever?  Sure, she's due next month, but doesn't it seem like the former "Charmed" star has a gestation period that rivals the black alpine salamander?

And so you don't have to look it up...their pregnancies can last from two to three years

Friday 5: Tim Anderson

Raise your hand if you've ever caught a ball at a baseball game.  Raise your hand if you've ever caught a home run ball.

How about three?

Now that I've got your attention, 17-year-old Tim Anderson did the unthinkable last week.  Not only did he catch homers on three consecutive nights...but he made ballhawking cool.

HOVG:  Break it down for me.  Over the last week, you've gone from being a 17-year-old Baltimore Orioles fan to a Sportscenter conversation piece.  How has this all played out...and what is it like?

ANDERSON: It all really happened so fast. Getting the first home run was nothing special of course.  I had done it before. Getting the second was just cool because I had never gotten multiple game home runs in the same month, let alone back-to-back games. When I caught the third, I was thinking that it was just a really big deal, and that no one would really notice it. Who at any news outlet is going to notice the same fan getting a home run in three games in a row? It's not like I did some crazy dance or anything to get noticed. 

(Fellow ballhawk and author) Zack Hample, who knows a thing or two about being noticed for catching home runs, told me as we were leaving that I shouldn't be surprised if it goes national.  Boy did it ever.  First it was the Orioles' TV broadcast station, MASN, who noticed that I had gotten all three. Then it rocketed to ESPN where I was the #9 top play of the night, then to Baseball Tonight. All of a sudden, I have interviews lined-up for the next day with MASN, ESPN, Orioles.com and the Baltimore Sun. People then tell me that I'm the top story on Yahoo!, a topic on Around the Horn, and mentioned on Intentional Talk on MLB Network. 

Now, I'm just kind of back to being that 17-year old Orioles fan...as hard as it may be to do that. 

HOVG:  What is your strategy when it comes to ballhawking?

ANDERSON: My strategy is pretty much having my glove and giving myself some space. I don't want to have to climb around people to catch a ball, and I definitely don't want to hurt anybody. Besides that, I feel as if it's out my hands. 

HOVG:  You impressed many with the three-straight home runs last week...how many home runs have you snagged overall and this season?

ANDERSON: The third homerun of the streak was my sixth on the season and ninth overall. Here's what I've caught/picked up off the ground:


1 - Adam Rosales - 5/27/10*
2 - Adam Jones - 9/14/10*
3 - Brandon Inge - 10/2/10
4 - Vladimir Guerrero - 4/20/11*
5 - Johnny Damon - 6/12/11
6 - Nolan Reimold - 7/15/11
7 - Carlos Quentin - 8/9/11
8 - J.J. Hardy - 8/10/11*
9 - Alexei Ramirez - 8/11/11*

(* means I caught them on the fly)

HOVG:  And how many balls total are in your collection?

ANDERSON: Unofficially, since I have only been counting for the last season and a half, I have 317 balls (229 this year).

HOVG:  What do you do with your baseballs?  How do you store them?  Do you catalog them?

ANDERSON: Most of the balls I end up giving away during the games. The ones I take home end up going in a large green bucket...which is almost over flowing at this point. I really don't catalog them besides updating my My Game Balls account

HOVG:  Outisde of the three straight homers, what has been your greatest feat so far...any memorable stories?

ANDERSON: I'd have to say the Vladimir Guerrero home run that I caught. I made a pretty athletic catch on it and celebrated a good bit afterwards, landing me extended TV time as well as MASN to make a commercial of the celebration. 

HOVG:  Lastly...is ballhawking "luck" or "skill"?

ANDERSON: It's a little bit a both. Let's just say you enhance your luck with the more skill you have. 

When Tim Anderson is not at Camden Yards, he is online contributing to both Sports Nickel and Baseball and That Other Good Stuff.  You can find "Mr. Shagtastic" on Twitter at @sportsnickelTim.

In a few weeks, Anderson will be entering his senior year at Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore.



August 18, 2011

Hideki Irabu's Death Ruled "Self-Inflicted"

Not that there were any questions surrounding the death of former big leaguer Hideki Irabu, but the death certificate confirmed what we already figured out.

The 42-year-old hurler died due to "hanging"..."self-inflicted with rope".

Irabu played for the New York Yankees, Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers...last pitching in the Majors in 2002.  He won World Series rings with the Bombers in 1998 and 1999.

And for you sickos...here's the death certificate courtesy of the Thirty Mile Zone.  Click to read!  Sicko.


August 16, 2011

Jim Thome Quietly Reaches Milestone

Shhhh.  You hear that?

That's the silence surrounding Jim Thome's 600th home run.

You see, Monday night, Thome did what plenty of others attempting to reach major milestones couldn't. 

He didn't milk his pending accomplishment.

Long story short, he took four months of the season to get within two home runs of 600, then, nearly two weeks later...knocked out homers 599 and 600 in the same game.

Well.  Done.

In all honesty, Thome has been a great guy for this site.  Allow me to explain.

Or for some of you...re-hash the tale.

Nearly two years I wrote the following and a powder keg was ignited.

There you have it...Thome is very good, not great. Hall of Famer? Perhaps…but not on the first couple of ballots.

To this day (and especially after dude's most recent achievement), Google directing people (mostly those who look for information on "Jim Thome and steroids" or "Jim Thome and the Hall of Fame") in droves to a little post where I suggested that the man might not make it into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot.

My reason was simple.

His home run total, while incredible, will not be as eye popping five years after Thome's retirement. Basically, we’ve got a guy who smacked the Hell out of the ball, but was never the most dominant, much less feared, player of his era. And because of that, he'll get lost in the mix.

Since then, he's hit 102 more home runs and is one of eight players to have reached the 600 home run mark.  And, while I still believe it (to an extent)...I'll gladly eat my words.

I'm ready to take the heat.

So, to the chimps over at Baseball Think Factory...bring it on. I can take it.

Now...watch Jim Thome dressed up as Paul Bunyan!


Talking Mustaches with John Axford

John Axford's mustache has been getting a lot of press lately...and, honestly, there is little doubt as to why.

It. Is. Awesome.

Continuing the American Mustache Institute’s award-winning interview series, AMI chairman (and great friend of The Hall) Dr. Aaron Perlut recently spoke with the guy Axford's lower nose garden is attached to...Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford.

You can find Axford on both Facebook and on Twitter when he isn't busy tearing through National League hitters.  Dude is also expected to be a top contender for the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year in 2011.

Here is that aforementioned interview.


August 15, 2011

This Week in Baseball Cards: August 15

Last week, in response to The Hall's fascination with mustaches and Cooperstown, contributor Bo Rosny put together a fun “Name the Hall of Fame ‘Stache'" quiz.

Here are the long-awaited answers.  Thanks to all of you who made guesses!


Two-time American League MVP and 1999 Hall of Fame inductee Robin Yount.


1978 Rolaids Relief Man of the Year and 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Rich "Goose" Gossage.


Fifteen-time All-Star and 2007 Hall of Fame inductee Tony Gwynn.


Baseball's all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored, 2009 Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Henderson.

Which Hall of Famer has your favorite lip sweater?  Let us know!  And remember, you can check out Bo's daily insights over at his site...Baseball Cards Come to Life.



August 12, 2011

It Looks Like Nike Has Given Up

A while back, I received what might have been the greatest t-shirt ever designed.
The Nike Cooperstown Hair-itage Rollie Fingers Player Tee.

What a concept, right? Nike took advantage of everything all red-blooded American men enjoy...'70s baseball legends, mustaches and, for you art nerds, negative space.

All the greats were there and available for purchase: Fingers, Mike Schmidt, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson...the list goes on.

But now, I think the gang at Nike is mixing in current players (I blame Brian Wilson's beard) and is, frankly, giving up.

Exhibit A...Andre Ethier.


Exhibit B...Joe Mauer.


The list continues, troops...and you can check out the roster of Nike Hair-itage collection HERE.

Who is your favorite of the bunch? Which shirt misses the mark? Let us know!