Tag Archives: New York Giants

Marking the Baseball Solstice with a list of Top 10 moments

To mark the Baseball Solstice, I’ve been contemplating the greatest moments in baseball history. A number of these came to mind instantly, a few of them took a bit more prodding of the memory banks.

This list is strictly my own reckoning on this date. Ask me in a few weeks or a few months, and some of the items may change — although the top three to five would likely stick.

10. The Amazin’ Mets win the 1969 World Series. The expansion Mets were a miserable franchise in the 1960s (no comment on subsequent decades) and their defeat of the Orioles was as exhilirating as it was surprising. I should note that I was rooting for the Orioles, yet even as a kid I thought the Mets were quite the story.

9. Cal RIpken breaks Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. Gehrig’s once unassailable record fell when Cal took the field that night, an event that connected the glory days of the past to what was then the present day.

8. Billy Buckner boots the grounder at first base. The Red Sox were oh so close to breaking the curse of the Bambino, and then Buckner let the ball go between his legs. It would be several more years before the Red Sox would finally win their first World Series  since the first decade of the century.

7. The George Brett pine tar bat incident. Never have I seen anything so uproariously funny during a baseball game. Brett charged from the dugout like a demon, screaming bloody murder. Later it came out that Billy Martin had waited for the ultimate moment to call the pine tar violation, which makes the incident even funnier.

6. Who’s On First? OK, so this isn’t a real baseball moment. But Abbot and Costello’s classic routine underscores baseball’s relevance in American culture better than anything.

5. Babe Ruth calls his shot. We know that “Who’s on First” was made up, but the Ruth legend is somewhere in between fact and fiction. That the famous gesture to center field was issued in a Yankees’ defeat of the Cubs in the World Series tells me without a doubt it really happened.

4. Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” farewell address. This sad yet sweet moment under the echoing arches of Yankee Stadium is undeniably one of the great ones. It’s a reminder of the nobility of man, and that baseball can break your heart.

3. Roger Maris hits his 61st home run. Through all the relentless pressure he faced, Maris still managed to launch home run No. 61 off Tracy Stallard in 1961. He broke Babe Ruth’s single-season record that day. And he did it witout any hint of performance-enhancing drugs.

2. Willie Mays catch at the Polo Grounds. In Game One of the 1954 World Series, Vic Wertz ripped a monster drive into cavernous center field. Mays raced straight back and brought the ball to earth and, his cap flying off, hurls the ball back toward the plate. The Indians, the winningest regular-season team ever, were toast and lost to the Giants in four straight.

1. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.  Bobby Thompson smacked a home run off Brooklyn’s Ralph Branca to give the Giants a victory in the final of a three-game playoff series to determine the National League champion. It was the ultimate “walk-off” moment, immortalized by Russ Hodges’ radio call: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

New York vs. Boston again – but I’m OK with that

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.

My TV is too lame, so I can’t host a Super Bowl party

At a measly 36 inches on the diagonal, the low-def television set in our family room  is simply too pathetic for me even to begin thinking about inviting people over to watch the Super Bowl.

Our Toshiba is a hand-me-down from my brother. He gave it to us when he moved overseas back in 2001, when Tom Brady was in his second season with the Patriots and Eli Manning was making his mark at Ole Miss.

The TV darn near broke my back when I hauled it out of my brother’s New York City apartment and ‘rassled it  down the stairs to our family room in New Jersey. Muscle spasms aside, seeing that 36″ screen was a thrill  for somebody whose earliest television memory is of watching a modest black- and-white Admiral catch fire right as Mary Martin came onscreen in “Peter Pan” back in 1960.

The Admiral was replaced by a Zenith (“The quality goes in before the name goes on”), which was to be the set on which I would watch the first football game I can remember. That was the 1964 NFL championship game, in which my Dad and I watched the Cleveland Browns defeat the Baltimore Colts. Even that childhood TV experience was cut short. Electronic “snow” filled the screen late in the fourth quarter as the sun set and we lost the signal from the Toledo station carrying the game.

Although I’m sure it happened a few times, I’m hard pressed to remember watching a Super Bowl in my own home. It seems we’ve always been guests at the home of somebody with a bigger, more manly set. At a co-worker’s place in Omaha as Da Bears won Super Bowl XX. At the home of friends in the Bay Area as the Packers took Super Bowl XXXI. And so on.

This year, we’ll again beg the gracious hospitality of friends across town who have an HD set so big that it’s measured in meters. Wes Welker will appear actual size. And I’ll sit there in a comfy chair, goggle-eyed at the spectacle of punts and pixels, knowing that my TV is today and will be forever too lame to afford me the pleasure of walking over to my own refrigerator for a beer during the big game.

Exit, 49ers, and bring on baseball!

With the 49ers’ overtime loss to the New York Giants still stinging sharply, I turn to my blog and the prospect of another baseball season for solace.

As a (baseball) Giants fan, it was weird — and damned annoying — to hear chants of “Let’s go, Giants” ringing out from Candlestick Park after today’s NFC Championship game.

The baseball Giants have their roots in New York, of course, and I guess that must count for something. In my New York/New Jersey years, I followed the (football) Giants and will likely be rooting for them in the Super Bowl.

But it’s going to take several days before I get the disappointing end to the 49ers’ season out of my system. Give me time to heal, please.

Iconic baseball caps: The original New York Mets

A pickup truck carrying a couple of young guys from a neighborhood softball team broke down on our street today. Eying their blue and orange uniforms, my wife asked, “Who are these guys, the New York Mets?”

If my wife, who pays attention to baseball only by virtue of being  married to an all-in fan, recognizes the Mets’ colors, they must be something special. And that leads me to the original New York Metropolitans’ cap, with its orange-filigree NY set against a field bluer than the East River’s wildest dreams of paradise.

It’s a beauty. The colors are complementary, as perfectly matched on the color wheel as second base is to home plate on the diamond.

I like the new generation Mets cap with a bolder NY and black brim, but the original — evoking distant memories of its National League predecessors, the New York Giants — is unbeatable.

I’m old enough — and fortunate enough — to have experienced the Mets’ “amazin’” victory in the 1969 World Series. I listened to a number of those games on my transistor radio while walking home from school, and, as an American League devotee, I was actually rooting for the Baltimore Orioles.

But when Seaver and Kranepool and Clendenon and Agee and all the other Amazins won it all, I caved and celebrated. To this day, I remember Ron Swoboda’s catch of a Brooks Robinson liner — which I saw live on TV — as the greatest catch I’ve ever seen.

So I tip my cap to the Amazing Mets. While the team and its fans may have suffered ignominiously for so many years, that team has given us some of the most exceptional memories in baseball history. And their classic cap is part of the lore.

Google’s news archive a treasure for baseball researchers, fans

 

New York Giants' 1913 Opening Day lineup at the Polo Grounds

For the baseball fan and the baseball researcher, the Google News Archive is a dream come true. Point your browser to news.google.com/archivesearch and at your fingertips you have access to an unimaginable bounty of newspaper and magazine clippings on the grand old game, not to mention just about any subject you might care to pursue.

You can follow any team almost day by day through any year – the New York Giants in 1913, for example, shown above on Opening Day at the Polo Grounds. They made the World Series that year, only to lose to the Philadelphia Athletics.

I became aware of the Google archive a couple of years ago because the newspaper at which I work was one of the early members of the News Archive Partner Program. Newspapers agreed to work with Google to get their content online, and Google is scanning and indexing newspapers going back to at least, as far as I can tell, the early 20th century.

It’s a gold mine for historical information on baseball. In just a few searches today, I found the following:

  • A June 29, 1921, story from the Berkeley (Calif.) Daily Gazette about the opening of the fabled “Black Sox” trial in Chicago.
  • An AP story in the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette on Christmas Day in 1925 about how Babe Ruth would undergo a rigorous exercise regime to help him stage a comeback in 1926. (I never knew that Ruth had a “failed” season like ’25, when he hit just .290 with a mere 25 home runs.)
  • An AP story about the Cleveland Indians that appeared in the Reading (Pa.) Eagle on Jan. 21, 1965, a few days after the Tribe had reacquired Rocky Colavito in a three-way deal with the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Athletics. (The trade was the biggest news of my life to that point when I was a kid in Cleveland!)
  • A UPI story in the Pittsburgh Press on Oct. 20, 1969, carrying a report from the Chicago Daily News that the Seattle Pilots would move to Milwaukee the next season.

Think of anything you want to know about baseball – the feuding between Reggie Jackson and Yankees’ manager Billy Martin, speculation on how Willie Mays would hit as Candlestick Park opened in San Francisco in 1960, or Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and assigning him to Montreal of the International League in 1945.

The possibilities – not to mention the box scores – are endless.

Try as I might, I can’t get behind the Green Bay Packers

You’d think someone who spent a significant chunk of his life in Wisconsin, met his wife there and has two cheesehead children would be backing the Green Bay Packers in the NFL playoffs. But that’s not the case with me.

I tried to like the Packers when I lived in Milwaukee in the late 70s and early 80s. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. My allegiance to the Browns was still strong then, and the Packers under coach Bart Starr stunk.

I’d prefer that the Packers beat Atlanta today, my only connection to the Falcons being that I played on a grade school flag football team named for the 1966 expansion franchise. If the Packers lose, I’ll be a bit disappointed but won’t really care.

So who will I back? Certainly not the hated Steelers or ex-Browns Ravens. I tilted toward the Giants when I worked in New York, so forget the Jets and the Patriots. I had Seahawks’ season tickets for four seasons but today’s team leaves me cold.

Which leaves the Packers’ ancient rivals, the Chicago Bears. And I’m hoping they win it all.

The Bears have every bit as great a tradition as the Packers, and Chicago is a manly city full of passionate fans.  For this batch of playoffs, Da Bears are my team.