Baseball’s Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling

The 2013 voting

Sammy SosaKelly commented on my post about baseball, specifically concerning Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling. It was so long that it required its own post.

Sosa was a smiling, happy player. He even had his own version of the High Five. He conveyed a sense of joy during those home-run years, so I think the ire isn’t as great toward him because of another annoying vestige of racism (that Black people are to be tolerated and even honored as long as they don’t convey the least bit of unhappiness).

I think you are correct up to a point. His post-career decision to use bleaching cream to lighten his skin is undoubtedly due to his dealing with colorism over many years. The issue of race is complicated.

He had over 600 career home runs, which I think should be HOF-worthy, PEDs or no.

The rap on him was that he was a one-dimensional player. Let’s look at the statistics. He was a career .273 hitter, which is not too shabby, especially for a power hitter. No, he was not Dave Kingman.

Comparable hitters

Sammy Sosa struck out a lot. For a guy with 609 home runs, he only had 1667 runs batted in. But he was playing for the Chicago Cubs. He was a below-average right fielder, but he wasn’t in the lineup for his defense. Here are more impressive numbers.

Baseball-Reference considers his batting career comparable to:
Jim Thome (862.9) *
Mike Schmidt (858.1) *
Reggie Jackson (841.1) *
Ken Griffey Jr. (830.6) *
Harmon Killebrew (822.5) *
Eddie Mathews (822.2) *
Mickey Mantle (821.4) *
Willie Stargell (820.5) *
Gary Sheffield (814.5)
Willie McCovey (807.8) *
Except for Sheffield, they are all in the Hall of Fame.

Yet in his ten years on the BBWAA ballot, he never got more than the 18.5% he got in his last year of eligibility. And he only had 6.6% in 2015; if he had dipped below 5%, he would have fallen off the ballot.

I still remember the excitement he and Mark McGwire generated during the 1998 season chasing Roger Maris’ home run record. This was a counterweight to the disastrous 1994 MLB strike, which soured many fans on the game.

Yet I never voted for him on my faux ballot because I always found ten candidates more worthy. This was exacerbated by the 2013 voting when NO ONE was selected. This meant there were more candidates to consider in subsequent years.

Performance-enhancing drugs

It’s worth remembering that PED use was really widespread and that PEDs mostly help with recovery from day-to-day injuries; while they do increase your strength a bit, they don’t suddenly make you good at the act of hitting a baseball thrown by a major-league pitcher. 

Agreed.

I’m not a PED apologist by any means, but I find the moral outrage (especially among HOF voters) really overblown and even disingenuous since MLB didn’t even take the issue seriously enough to have a testing policy in place at the time, despite PED use having been a major issue in sports for over a decade prior to all that HR hitting.

I’ve been saying that for years. For anyone taking performance-enhancing drugs before 2004, I’ve largely given a pass. I would always select Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on my would-be ballot.

The PED era is far from the first time MLB has run its business in such a way as to artificially influence the competitive product on the field (collusion in the 70s, raising and lowering the mound, and the decades-long collusion that kept some of the very best baseball talent relegated to under-reported Negro Leagues).

Too true.

The guy with the bloody sock

BTW, on the topic of guys from that general timeline who aren’t in the HOF, what’s your take on Curt Schilling? In terms of baseball accomplishments, he should be there, but he’s proven himself to be at least double the heel that Bonds ever was.

Yup.

If you made a list of the biggest jerks in MLB history, Schilling might make the cut, just behind Ty Cobb–to the point that he just outright said that he didn’t want to be in the HOF at all. That guy, I struggle with. He certainly displayed the kind of sustained excellence that the HOF is partly intended to honor, but he has displayed none of the character qualities thereof.)

How did I “vote” for him over the years? In 2014 and 2016, I made no selections. (Years generally indicate the time I wrote about the following year.)

2012: Yes. “Pivotal in World Series wins for two different teams (2001 Arizona, 2004 Boston)”

2013: No. I dropped him in favor of Tim Raines

2015: A stellar pitcher in a couple of World Series. I don’t like him much, but I’d support him.

2017 and 2018. No.

2019: Yes. It’s not the taint of steroids but his quite terrible politics, specifically “his xenophobic, transphobic and conspiratorial memes.” I’d bump him if there were many other candidates of a similar caliber, but there aren’t.

Time #9 was his best chance

2020: Yes. (70.0% of the vote last year, with 75% needed for induction). His Twitter feed is full of Trumpian drivel about the notion that Biden didn’t win the election… I find him to be a loathsome individual. But he deserves to be in the Hall… He has the highest strikeout-to-walk rate of any pitcher with 3,000 innings (4.38). This is the year he likely gets in. [which tells you what I know]

2021: No. “In a flip from last year, I WOULDN’T vote for Curt Schilling (10th year, 71.1%). And it has something to do with his public request not to be on the ballot. After last year’s vote, he touted “presidential election-related conspiracy theories, calling for a declaration of martial law; and comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to a Nazi.

“After the December 31 voting deadline, Schilling doubled down by tweeting his support of the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, a move that was a bridge too far for some voters who had otherwise continued to support him.”

Obviously, I’m very conflicted about Schilling. I would not have been upset had he made it, but his exclusion does not break me up. I think, down the road, Schilling, Bonds, Clemens, and maybe even Sosa and McGwire will get in via the veterans’ committee.

Break-up, baseball, and JEOPARDY

Lake George

break-upHere are some Ask Roger Anything questions about break-up, baseball, and JEOPARDY. They were asked by Kelly Sedinger, the fine Buffalo-area blogger at ForgottenStars.net.

When the break-up finally comes, does New York form a country with, say, NJ and New England and maybe PA, MD, and DE? Or do we all just join Canada?

First, I do accept the premise of the question. Major Garrett, formerly of FOX and now CBS, wrote a book suggesting that America is close to Civil War. But I remain puzzled by the mechanism.

As someone in upstate New York, you KNOW there are pockets of conservatives in New York, such as the Southern Tier south of you, or much of the territory north of me, which are quite conservative. Conversely, there are liberal enclaves in Iowa.

The Greater Idaho movement, with much of eastern Oregon joining the spud state, will be difficult to achieve. Redistributing assets nationally would be a nightmare.

Still, rhetorically speaking, your larger model works. And the Canadians, if they are smart, will want to have nothing to do with a land annexation. They don’t want those gun-toting folks in their jurisdiction.

Here comes the Judge

Am I crazy in detecting a rather unsavory note in all the cheering of Aaron Judge this season as he chases home run records? Because it really does occasionally take on a tone of “Thank God a white guy is posing a threat to the record held by the black guy nobody likes.”

I can say that Barry Bonds was very supportive of Judge’s pursuit of the American League record of 61 (Roger Maris, 1961) and understood the stress of getting that 61st one. Days before the regular season ended, it was pretty clear that Judge wouldn’t surpass Bonds’ 73 HRs.

But I think your question hit on the real issue. Barry Bonds is just not warm and fuzzy. And people feel that he cheated with the Performance-Enhancing Drugs. So I don’t think it’s specifically racism, although I don’t listen to sports talk on radio or TV because I find much of it repetitive and banal.

Now some people didn’t want Henry Aaron to topple Babe Ruth’s career record of 714, even sending death threats. (When I saw a guy on the field running with Hammerin’ Hank, I was genuinely worried about the slugger’s safety.) But many people think Bonds’ career record of 762 is tainted and that it should belong to Aaron, with 755.

Favorite place within 50 miles of Albany?

I’m fond of Lake George, north of here. The lake itself is quite beautiful, and it has several amenities without being TOO touristy.

Unchange

A change you would make to JEOPARDY!? (Resurrecting Trebek is not an option.)

Actually, my wish can never happen because it seems to be too popular with the fans. I’d prefer that they stayed with five-day champions, and then they’re gone until the annual Tournament of Champions. The interview segment is fine for someone staying for a week, but most of them start to wear on me.

I don’t want to see the same people in yet another tournament. They had that awful team event a few years ago. Besides seeing Ken and Brad yet AGAIN in competition, it took away time when we might see your average champion. They seem to be keying on the “super champions,” which just doesn’t feel right. At least Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen, as hosts of the show, can no longer compete on the show because they’ve hosted.

Oh, and I’m against giving a bonus to people who run a category. Former JEOPARDY champ Austin Rogers makes a case for it, but I remain unconvinced.

Oh, and here’s something that Trebek used to say that I never liked, and I recently heard Jennings repeat. When all three contestants missed the same question, Alex would say, “No harm, no foul.” It’s not correct. If Player A has $12,000, Player B has $6,000, and Player C has $3,000, and they all miss a $2,000 question, who is most disadvantaged? The person with the least amount of money.

Jim Kalas (John W. Kalas), RIP

Psalm 84

Jim Kalas
from northcentralcardinals.com

His given name was John, but he was always Jim Kalas. I knew him from my time at Trinity United Methodist Church from 1983 to 2000, but I would continue to see him occasionally when the FOCUS Churches would meet during the summer.

One thing many folks knew was that he was an avid swimmer. I found this article from North Central College in Naperville, IL. He was inducted into the college’s sports Hall of Fame for Men’s Swimming in 2015 based on his accomplishments in the pool back in 1955.

Speaking of a Hall of Fame, Jim had the same deep, mellifluous voice as his brother. Harry Kalas, who died in 2009, was the longtime announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies. Harry was the 2002 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, awarded by an arm of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jim and his wife Mary attended the ceremonies in Cooperstown.

The college article about Jim gave some useful biographical information. “After graduation, Kalas went on to earn a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the University of Chicago in 1958 and a doctorate degree in philosophy from Columbia University in 1962 before beginning his career as an assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Lake Forest College.”

TUMC and SUNY

At Trinity, he was very active on various boards, as I was for a time. He was also an educator. I attended several of his sessions, reading sections of a Bible version that Jim had translated from the original Greek. He was slated to offer a monthly Bible study of Genesis, promising to look “at the present day meaning of some of those old, familiar and fascinating stories.”

His primary vocation, though, was as an administrator for the State University of New York, overseeing various areas over a quarter century, including research, economic development, and international programs. He was interim president of the College at Potsdam c. 1997

Jim retired, allegedly,  in 2000 as an associate provost, He later joined the University of Albany as a part-time professor in educational administration and policy studies.

He was always very active, serving on the board of The Capital Area Council of Churches, among other tasks.

My job
jim kalas1
from suny.edu

Here’s a story I told two years ago, but I never gave attribution before. Shortly after he retired, Jim told me that I almost didn’t get the job as a librarian at the NY Small Business Development Center in October 1992.

“There were one or more persons on the committee who were concerned about my race. Specifically, the job required that the librarian in that position create liaisons with the state directors and other staff in the other states’ lead centers. Many of them were in the South, of course. The search committee feared that these folks wouldn’t cotton to working with a black person. So I was rejected for that reason.

“Then, someone up the State University of New York food chain told them, ‘You can’t do that!'” SUNY protocol prohibited them from excluding me because of my race. SUNY is the host institution of the NY SBDC. I ended up getting the job after all.” That someone was Jim Kalas, my boss’s boss’s boss at SUNY.

Brahms

Recently, my wife thought she saw him walking in the retirement community where my MIL lives. He must have moved there relatively recently, after his wife Mary, who I liked, died last year. Jim and Mary had been married 49 years.

Sometime this century, Jim told me that he wanted How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place sung at his funeral, which will be on October 1 at Trinity. The song is part of the German Requiem by Brahms, sung in English. It’s based on Psalm 84. I’ve sung it several times. Jim, who had a nice singing voice, probably had as well.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time

black, Puerto Rican, and Spanish-speaking

The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time took place on July 25, 1956, the Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates. Here’s the box score.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Bucs were trailing 8-5. Here’s the play-by-play from SABR:

“With Turk Lown pitching for the Cubs, a walk to Hank Foiles, a single by Bill Virdon, and another walk to Dick Cole loaded the bases for Clemente. Jim Brosnan relieved Lown and threw one pitch, described by Jack Hernon as ‘high and inside.’ There was no doubt that Clemente would swing.

“He hit the ball over Jim King’s head in left field and after the ball struck the fencing, it rolled along the cinder warning track toward center field. The three runners easily scored and Clemente ignored the outstretched arms and stop sign of Pirates manager and third-base coach Bobby Bragan as the relay throw came in from center fielder Solly Drake to Ernie Banks to catcher Hobie Landrith. The last moments of the improbable were captured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: ‘He slid, missed the plate, then reached back to rest his hand on the rubber with the ninth Pirate run in a 9-8 victory as the crowd of 12,431 went goofy with excitement.'”

Roberto Clemente hit an inside-the-park, walk-off grand slam. Now the term walk-off wouldn’t enter the lexicon until three decades later.

If Pete Rose had done it…

Martín Espada suggests in the Massachusetts Review suggests that the REASON it is The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time – emphasis on FORGOTTEN – was Clemente’s ethnicity.

“Brosnan’s reaction—that he was ‘shocked’ and his team ‘disgusted’ —is key to understanding why Clemente’s amazing accomplishment has been diminished and even forgotten. First of all, consider the fact that this quote comes from an article published in 1960—four years after Clemente slid past home and slapped the plate with his hand. It is distinctly possible that tiptoeing up behind Jim Brosnan and whispering ‘Roberto Clemente’ in his ear was enough to send him into a babbling fury for the rest of his life…

“It was no coincidence that Brosnan was writing about Clemente for Life magazine in October of 1960… Brosnan was commissioned by the magazine to write a scouting report in advance of the World Series between the Pirates and the Yankees.

Bias, maybe?

Here is Brosnan’s previous quote in context:

Clemente features a Latin-American variety of showboating: “Look at número uno,” he seems to be saying… He once ran right over his manager, who was coaching third base, to complete an inside-the-park grand slam homer, hit off my best hanging slider. It excited the fans, startled the manager, shocked me, and disgusted my club. (And no, he did not run over his manager, he just ran through Bragan’s stop sign.)

“Roberto Clemente was black, Puerto Rican, and Spanish-speaking in the 1950s… According to [author David] Maraniss, Al Abrams of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered Clemente in spring training 1955—his rookie season—and wrote: ‘The dusky Puerto Rican… played his position well and ran the bases like a scared rabbit. It seemed that every time we looked up there was Roberto, showing his flashing heels and gleaming white teeth to the loud screams of the bleacher fans.’ Even his admirers utilized a racially charged vocabulary; thus, Clemente’s detractors, like Brosnan, felt perfectly free to couch their criticisms in racial terms.”

Nichelle Nichols; Vin Scully

the voice

Nichelle NicholsBarrier-breaking Nichelle Nichols inspired the naming of her Star Trek character. “When [she] came to audition…, she was carrying the book she was reading. Uhuru is a 1962 novel by Robert Ruark about the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, and Roddenberry noticing, a 20-minute conversation ensued… [Gene] Roddenberry was inspired to read the novel and decided to name the communications officer after the title.”

Famously, she got work advice from Martin Luther King, Jr. “He told me that Star Trek was one of the only shows that his wife Coretta and he would allow their little children to stay up and watch. I thanked him, and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face, and he said, ‘You can’t do that. Don’t you understand, for the first time, we’re seen as we should be seen? You don’t have a Black role. You have an equal role.'” And, of course, she stayed on the series and for several movies.

It only occurred to me later that one of the reasons my father was drawn to Star Trek was that she was one of the few black people on network television, along with Greg Morris as electronics expert Barney Collier on Mission: Impossible and very few others.

NASA recruiter

People magazine: “Last December, the star made her final convention appearance before her many fans as part of a three-day farewell celebration at L.A. Comic-Con. Nichols was seen waving, blowing kisses, and flashing Star Trek’s famous Vulcan salute to the many fans… She was surrounded by members of her family and longtime friends, including… former astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, who joined NASA as a result of Nichols’ role in recruiting women and minorities into the space program in the 1970s and 1980s [thanks to] her Star Trek fame.”

Her impact is seen in the many tributes: George Takei (Sulu) wrote: “My heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars you now rest among, my dearest friend.”

Also paying homage: Zoe Saldana (Uhura in the 2009 movie) and Celia Rose Gooding (Uhura in the Paramount+ series). Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan on ST: TNG) said, “Nichelle was the first Black person I’d ever seen who made it to the future.” Nichelle Nichols was 89.

Iconic broadcaster

Vin ScullyIn baseball announcing, Vin Scully was the Greatest Of All Time. The Los Angeles Times touted his “folksy manner and melodic language.”

He covered the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years until 2016, from “the 1950s era of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson” to “Clayton Kershaw, Manny Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig in the 21st century.” He also covered golf, tennis, and the NFL. “In 2010, the American Sportscasters Association named him the greatest sportscaster of the 20th century.”

Scully was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982; here’s a Scully bobblehead. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016.

The Los Angeles Times declared: “For legions of Dodgers fans, Vin Scully was the voice of their beloved baseball team. But for many Angelenos, the ginger-haired broadcaster was more like a family member: a grandfather, a tío, someone they welcomed into their homes on game day.

“Heartbroken fans mourning Scully’s passing… at age 94 say it felt like a death in the family.

“‘It almost felt like I lost my father again,’ said Desiree Jackson, who took the bus from skid row to Dodger Stadium to lay flowers and pray at the makeshift memorial that sprang up there overnight. ‘I fell in love with sports because of my dad, and my brother, and Vin.'”

Here is Mark Evanier on his father’s love of the Dodgers and Scully. An emotional Ken Levine wrote: “No one besides my father has had as much impact on my life as Vin Scully,” and was thrilled to have worked with him.

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