I always liked the outfielder Dave Winfield. He played for the San Diego Padres as the right fielder from 1973 to 1980, becoming an All-Star in the middle years there.
In 1981, he became a free agent. The sometimes volatile owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner signed Winfield to the most lucrative baseball contract at the time. But The Boss didn’t understand a cost-of-living provision and ended up agreeing to a ten-year, $23 million deal, rather than ONLY $16 million. This led to Steinbrenner’s feuding.
In 1985, Steinbrenner, in criticizing Winfield, said to The New York Times writer Murray Chass, “Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May.” A few years later, the owner was banned from baseball for two years, in part for hiring a guy with Mafia ties to dig up dirt on Winfield.
This was weird: “On August 4, 1983, Winfield killed a seagull by throwing a ball while warming up before the fifth inning of a game at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium. Fans responded by hurling obscenities and improvised missiles. After the game, he was brought to a nearby Toronto Police Service station and charged with cruelty to animals. He was released after posting a $500 bond… Charges were dropped the following day.”
Away from the Bronx Zoo
Dave Winfield was traded in 1990, and he was wearing a California Angels uniform the one time I saw him play in person, June 14, 1991. He went 3 for 4. Ten days later, he became the oldest player to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, home run).
Finally, in 1992, with the Toronto Blue Jays, he got his first World Series ring. He retired in 1995, having accumulated 3110 hits, including 465 home runs, in his 22-year career. He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, his first year of eligibility. Here’s his induction speech.
Even if you don’t follow baseball, you may remember the May 27, 2021 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the top of the third inning. Wilson Contrares of the Cubs gets a single and stole second base. With two outs, Javy Baez hits the ball to third baseman Erik Gonzalez. He throws to first baseman Will Craig, a little offline, but in plenty of time.
All Craig has to do is step on first base and the inning is over. But Baez stops running towards first and instead heads back towards home plate, gingerly evading Craig’s tag. Meanwhile, the runner Contrares is heading toward home. Craig flips the ball to the catcher, Michael Perez, but not in time to tag the sliding Contrares.
Now Baez runs to first. There’s no one there. Second baseman Adam Frazier is running over to cover the bag, but Perez’s throw is offline, and Baez ends up on second base. Perez is initially charged with an error though it is later attributed to Craig. The next batter, Ian Happ, drives Baez home.
Much was made of the fact that Craig could have just touch first, and rightly so. On CBS This Morning, Gayle King tried to mitigate his mistake, but co-host Anthony Mason was having none of it. “He gets paid to do that.” True enough. But, more than that, virtually any Little Leaguer or college player or minor leaguer would have known this.
Baseball in the headlines
This is why I love the story. Baseball, even though it’s probably not the National Pastime, was in the spotlight. Almost any fan would recognize what to do in the situation. My wife was reading a YA novel, Six Innings by James Preller. She doesn’t always understand the jargon that Preller uses – “stayed in the park,” e.g. Yet I am confident my wife would have just tagged first base.
BTW, if Craig had not tried to toss the ball to the catcher Perez, he could have just ignored Contrares and tagged Baez, because the batter can’t touch home plate in this situation, lest he is declared automatically out. Even though the runner Contrares reached home, his run would not have counted.
Rule 5.08 states: “No run shall score during a play in which the third out is made by the batter-runner before he touches first base.” This is unambiguous. Also, if the second baseman Frazier had covered first base sooner, Perez’s throw probably gets Baez, and the inning ends with no runs scored, instead of two.
Not incidentally, The Cubs won the game by two runs, 5-3. The play is #1 on the list of the Top 50 Plays of the First Half! (2021 MLB Highlights). Writers from both the New Zealand Herald and Slate called it the worst baseball play they’ve ever seen.
Will Craig was sent back to the minor leagues and was eventually released; he’s reportedly going to play baseball in Korea. Baez was traded to the New York Mets. Meanwhile, Frazier, an All-Star, was traded to the San Diego Padres for three players. This sort of thing happens when a team is last in its division, as the Pirates are, unfortunately.
Jim “Mudcat” Grant, American League’s first Black 20-game winner, died in June at 85. He was a starter for Cleveland and Minnesota, then a reliever, with the Oakland A’s and the Pirates.
“By his account, Jim Grant acquired his nickname at an Indians tryout camp in 1954 through a combination of racial stereotyping and disregard for his geographical roots. Mudcat was the informal name given to large catfish found in muddy streams, especially in the Mississippi Delta, though Mr. Grant was born and raised in Florida.
“’In those days, they thought all Black folk was from Mississippi,’ he once told the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. ‘They started calling me Mississippi Mudcat. I said, ‘I’m not from Mississippi,’ and they said, ‘You’re still a Mississippi Mudcat.’ And it’s been very good to me.’
“Mr. Grant’s experiences with racism and his interest in Black history inspired him to write ‘The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners” (2006),…a collaboration with Tom Sabellico and Pat O’Brien.”
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott
Even though most establishments no longer require mask wearing for the fully vaccinated – and I am – I’ve opted to wear a mask indoors for the nonce. This is in support of the store workers, most of whom are still required to mask up.
Signs Of a Toxic Work Culture—And How To Correct Them.
Remote Workers Could Quit When Asked to Return to the Office.
Best Websites to Help Kids Learn From Home in 2021.
Jack Parker White (1931-2021). He was the husband of my wife’s cousin Diane, who I’d see almost every year at the Olin family reunion near Binghamton. He, my late FIL Richard, and I would test each other over baseball statistics.
Speaking of baseball, Ken Levine on how he’d fix MLB. I agree with most of these, especially getting rid of the abomination of “the stupid extra-inning rule where a runner starts at second base.” But the shift, and fouling off ideas I wouldn’t change.
How ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ Saved Disney.
Sister Cindy Is a TikTok Star. “Some of those who turn out to see her [said] they question whether her internet celebrity status is deserved.” Is “internet celebrity status” deserved?
Johnny Carson as Reagan, a “Who’s On First” spoof.
Now I Know: The Buses That Make a Bee Line and The Tribe With the DIY Spies and Evolution, Eyebrows, and the Pets We Love and The Kids Are All Right and Why The NYC Police Darkened Their Blues and Refrigerators that Ribbit?
Not me: Four Mustangs caught going more than double the speed limit in Surrey. “High-risk driving behaviour… is one of the leading causes of collisions in BC,” said Sergeant Roger Green of the service’s Community Response Unit.
Not me: Immigrants in Greece who can’t book Covid jabs. Roger Green, a British writer who has lived on the island since the early ’90s, says some are afraid to leave their homes.
MLB’s extra-innings rule is back in 2021; here’s why baseball should use ties instead. “Each half-inning beyond the ninth — i.e., extra innings — in Major League Baseball now begins with a runner on second base and no outs.” The automatic runner rule is dreadful, a baseball abomination,IMO.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City is a “privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America.”
Pitcher Hope Trautwein Throws A Perfect Game Of All Strikeouts
Mulligan? Golfers consult rule book after ball lands on alligator’s back
It could have been in TV Guide or another magazine, or a newspaper article. All I know is that, during the run of the TV show The Rifleman (1958-1963), I knew that Chuck Connors had been a professional athlete before he became an actor.
He played basketball with the Boston Celtics. In 1946, Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was the first NBA player to shatter a backboard, doing so during a pre-game warm-up in the Boston Garden.
The future actor also played baseball. Before the 1940 season, he was signed by his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent. Though somewhat successful in the minor leagues, he got into only one game with that major league team, in 1949.
On October 10, 1950, he was traded, with Dee Fondy, to the Chicago Cubs for Hank Edwards and cash. He spent part of the 1951 season with the Cubs, appearing in 66 games, 57 of them as a first baseman, batting .239.
“In a 1997 biography titled ‘The Man Behind the Rifle’, author David Fury says that ‘Chuck”‘Connors acquired his nickname while an athlete playing first base. He had a habit of calling to the pitcher: “Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!”
His IMDB record begins in 1952. But he’s best known for playing Lucas McCain in 168 episodes of The Rifleman. The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows, by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, have a great description of the show.
“The setting was the town of North Fork, NM, whose marshall seemed incapable of handling any of the numerous desperadoes who infested the series without Lucas.” I’m sure I watched it a lot in the day, and it’s still available on MeTV.
Lucas McCain was ranked #32 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” in the 20 June 2004 issue. He raised Mark (Johnny Crawford) by himself.
Chuck spent a season on Arrest and Trial, a cop show with Ben Gazzara, which I don’t remember.
Connors was on another western, Branded (1965-1966). “Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Battle of Bitter Creek, is court-martialed and kicked out of the Army because of his alleged cowardice. Rather than demean the good name of the Army commander who was actually to blame for the massacre, McCord travels the Old West trying to restore his good name and reputation.
And my sisters and I would reenact the opening theme, which I can hear in my mind’s ear to this day:
“All but one man died, There at Bitter Creek. And they say he ran away. Branded! Marked with a coward’s shame. What do you do when you’re branded, will you fight for your name?
“He was innocent. Not a charge was true. But the world would never know. Branded! Scorned as the one who ran. What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a man?
“Wherever you go for the rest of your life, you must prove… You’re a man.”
And in the intro, the officer would break McCord’s sword over his knee. We would take a thin tree branch and break it in the same way. Or more often, take this paper covering that came with the dry cleaning and tear it.
Oddly, I don’t remember the show itself very much.
Here’s some trivia. “He suffered almost the same fate in each of his two television western series. In The Rifleman: The Vaqueros (1961), he was stripped to the waist, tied to a tree, and left to die under a scorching sun by a group of Mexican bandits. And in Branded: Fill No Glass for Me: Part 2 (1965), he was stripped to the waist, tied to a tree, and left to die under a scorching sun by a group of Indian warriors. (In both cases he survived.)”
I didn’t see him much after that, except in an occasional guest appearance, and two episodes of Roots. No, I did NOT see Werewolf.
Chuck Connors was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1991.
Born: April 10, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York City, NY Died: November 10, 1992 (age 71) in Los Angeles, CA