Opening Day in baseball always brings up memories for me, most of them taking me back to the finger-stinging cold that usually accompanied an Indians opener on the shore of Lake Erie. And somehow this week popped into mind Gomer Hodge, a utility infielder who was the toast of Cleveland in April 1971.
Keep in mind that in those days, the name Gomer was fully in the public consciousness because of the simple country boy Gomer Pyle character that Jim Nabors played on the Andy Griffith show and on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Gomer Hodge had labored in the Indians farm system for eight years before getting his chance with the big-league club. Baseball Reference has a fine summary on him, which I won’t repeat here. In the Tribe’s home opener, the late innings of which I caught on the radio, Gomer delivered the game-winning hit. Cleveland went crazy.
Alas, Gomer played nothing more than a utility role that year, appearing in about half the Indians’ games during his only season in the majors. He later managed in the minors for the Indians farm system before dying at age 63 in 2007.
Hodge played a bit part in Tribe history, but he made his mark. Today, there are other rookies getting the first crack in the big-leagues and none of them knows whether they’ll see several seasons or just a few games in “The Show.”
It’s a good reminder for us all to “seize the day,” or “carpe diem,” as the Romans used to say.
On these posts I’ve complained, whined and kvetched about how America’s major television networks and the media overall are obsessed with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Super Bowl XLVI is upon us, and we have another Boston-New York matchup with the Patriots and Giants. The network executives must be mighty pleased that those two big northeastern markets are reprented, but NFL execs are always pleased with whatever teams are playing.
The Super Bowl is the biggest thing in sports – in this country, anyway – and it will draw monster ratings even if Tennessee is playing Tampa Bay. The big game rules regardless of the market size of the competing teams.
In the NFL, talent is dispersed, dynasties are rare and most teams have at least a strong hope every few years at getting a shot at glory. Except maybe the Cleveland Browns.
There’s a lesson for Major League Baseball in the NFL’s universal success. Football has unified national appeal. Baseball, while enjoying broad appeal nationwide, is at heart a region-by-region, market-by-market affair. And the game pays a price for that.
Posted in Baseball, Football, TV
Tagged broadcasting, Cleveland Browns, Major League Baseball, MLB, National Football League, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFL, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVI, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, television, Tennessee Titans, TV
A colleague at work and a huge baseball fan, my friend Kelly Jones is making a bid for the MLB Fan Cave for this baseball season. She’s put up a YouTube video making her case, which you can watch here. That way you can find out why she talks through her mitt so much!
(Good luck, Kelly!)
Since proposing that fans celebrate the “Baseball Solstice” last week, I’ve received a good amount of feedback and I really appreciate it. The response impels me to keep the idea going by suggesting how baseball fans might observe the solstice, which will be Friday, Dec. 30.
Over the past week I’ve been thinking about the right way to observe the arrival of the mid-point between the end of the 2011 World Series and the first games of Spring Training 2012.
What I propose is for fans to head to the nearest ball diamond, take a photo and share it with other fans. Use Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Instagr.am, email or any other means of your choosing. But share the image, and tag it with “baseball solstice” if tagging is available.
The idea is to capture our fields of dreams in mid-winter, when our longing for the sport intensifies and the hope for a new season passes the halfway mark.
- Take a photo of the snow-swept diamond at the park where your son will play T-ball come spring.
- Snap a shot of the high school diamond where your daughter will open the softball season in a few months.
- Head to the nearest minor league park and capture the desolation of the unattended ticket booths.
- Drive to the nearest big-league park and fire away as in your head you hear the cheers that will fill the air on Opening Day.
Or maybe even better, point your camera to the yard or street where you first tossed a ball with your father or played Wiffle ball with your friends.
Taking a photo isn’t the only way to celebrate the sport, and if you can’t swing getting a photo, feel free to mark the observance in your own way.
Can there be any choice but Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? After inheriting a dreadful Arizona team from 2010, he led the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. How can anyone top that?
Not only did the D-Backs win the West, they put the defending world champion San Francisco Giants out to pasture. Here’s how my ballot stacks up for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Connie Mack Award for the top manager in baseball in 2011:
1. Kirk Gibson
2. Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
3. Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies
To reiterate, Gibson is in a class by himself.
I put Leyland at No. 2 because of the remarkable job the Tigers did, clawing their way to the top in the AL Central. It wasn’t just Justin Verlander who put them there.
And let’s not overlook the fabulous season the Phillies had, running away with the NL East title and leading all major-league teams in victories.
The San Francisco Giants shook up their roster today, jettisoning veterans Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada while calling up Brett Pill from the minors.
I’ve had days in my career like Rowand and Tejada are having, and I’ve also had a few call-up moments.
I congratulate Pill on his ascension to the big leagues, a move cheered by headline writers who won’t be able to resist plays on his name.
I feel badly for Rowand, who has had a lot of key hits for San Francisco in recent years and who helped the team get to the playoffs last year on the way to a world championship.
Tejada has done little for the Giants this season and hasn’t made much of an impression on me. I did pick him a couple of times for my fantasy baseball teams years ago, but that was just that: fantasy.
Today, the cold, harsh reality of competitive professional sports exacted its neverending vengeance on ballplayers past their prime. And it gave another kid a chance.
Cue the “Circle of Life.”
Anyone reading my blog knows I’ll buy a baseball cap at, well, at the drop of a hat. But the All-Star game caps just don’t do it for me, this year or any year.
The design is actually not bad. But I just can’t get excited about a batting practice cap. It’s so manufactured, not authentic like a real MLB cap.
If I were at the game and all its sideshows, I might feel differently.