Category Archives: In memoriam

Rest in Peace, Oscar Taveras

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I’m by no means a Cardinals fan, but I am a huge fan of talent; and I am an even bigger fan of young phenomenal talent.

When I got a text message from a friend while at dinner last night that Oscar Taveras was dead, I had to take a moment to read it several times. I didn’t want to believe it.

Oscar Taveras’s don’t die – they marvel us with their talent. They win Rookie of the Year awards. They hit .353 at a ridiculously young age. They play 15 years in the big leagues and we hate seeing them come to town to play our team because they spend a series filling the box score. The win championships and continue to build the legacy of one of the best organizations in the game.

They don’t pass at age 22; not on a night when they could have been playing in the World Series if the ball had bounced a bit differently.

It still doesn’t seem real to me. I can’t believe I’ll never get to buy a ticket and go watch the second coming of Vlad Guerrero play live. In a weird way, I was looking forward to Taveras torturing the Cincinnati Reds over the next ten years. He would have, too.

I’ll always remember where I was when Oscar did this in the rain the first time we got to witness his talent:

I’m sad to say I didn’t see his last big league hit on television, or his NLCS home run off Jean Machi. And unfortunately, I’ll remember forever where I was standing when I got the horrifying text that Oscar Taveras died, hoping somehow that there had been a mistake; and then learning that it was reality.

Rest in Peace, Primo. Like all things in life, this remarkable young talent had an expiration date. It doesn’t make it any easier to understand or deal with. I will forever go on wondering what this young man could have accomplished if things had not ended tragically, maybe more so than anyone I’ve ever followed in my three decades of loving baseball.

RIP, Frank Cashen

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If you don’t know Frank Cashen’s name, you should.

He was one of the finest baseball architects of all-time, crafting what we believe was one of the greatest teams ever assembled, the 1986 Mets. We first learned of Frank Cashen while reading The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman (perhaps one of the best and most underrated baseball books ever written).

Cashen passed away today at age 88. If it were not for his vision, we would have never known of Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter, Ron Darling, Jesse Orosco, Roger McDowell, Keith Hernandez, Ray Knight and all the various other guys who made that team so special.

The Mets of the mid-to-late 80’s didn’t win the three or four titles that many thought they would, but when Cashen arrived in 1980 the Mets were the laughingstock of baseball. By the time he left, they were a feared team that no other franchise wanted to cross in a postseason series.

Rest in Peace, Batman (Tony Gwynn)

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The baseball Grim Reaper has been hard at work of late, but man; this one really stings.

I always really loved Tony Gwynn growing up as a kid. I loved the fact that in an era of steroid sluggers, a roly-poly line drive hitter could be so feared. I loved that he played his entire career in one uniform. The dude started raking the year I was born, and didn’t stop until the year I went to college.

I remember where I was in my life when I learned of a lot of the legends dying – Ted Williams, George Steinbrenner, Mickey Mantle. I’ll forever remember where I was when I learned that the greatest pure hitter of my childhood died. I came out of a meeting this morning and checked my phone, and I was shocked to see the news blip that Tony Gwynn had passed away at the age of 54 from salivary gland cancer.

Obviously, Gwynn’s ailments could have been brought on by his long-term use of smokeless tobacco. This is one of the few addictions that has afflicted me throughout my adult life since I played baseball. My connection to Gwynn runs deeper than simply saying I saw him play live once that August 15th day in 1992 in Cincinnati. It runs deeper than having a couple pages in my baseball card album as a kid dedicated to his Diamond Kings Donruss cards.

You see, Tony Gwynn should be reason enough that I never touch smokeless tobacco again. I wish I could sit here and say that him getting me to quit was his final parting gift to me; after all the wonderful memories like that 1994 season when he had so much magic. Like that 1998 the World Series when he hit .500, because Tony Gwynn is the type of hitter that gets a hit every other time up on the game’s grandest of stages. But the truth is, I don’t know if this will be enough to make me quit. It should be though, because the memories I have of Gwynn are nothing but pleasant.

When he spoke he sounded like an everyday guy, a nerd almost. Not a jock. Not like you would expect a lifetime .338 hitter to sound like. There probably isn’t a story anywhere on the large scary internet of Tony Gwynn being anything but pleasant to journalists and fans alike. He was a once in a lifetime hitter, but he was also a once in a lifetime person by all accounts.

It’s hard for me to me to grasp the concept that Gwynn really passed away today, because legendary figures like Gwynn just don’t seem to go out so quietly. Reports at this point are sparse – and while I am sure we will get a more in-depth story on this soon – there are no real details that Gwynn had taken a turn for the worse.

I will always remember that 1993 to 1997ish era where Tony Gwynn was one of the most dominating hitters in the sport I love. The Ted Williams of my generation, the closest thing I ever saw to The Splendid Splinter. His place in the game and his 3,141 hits will never be forgotten by this man. And hopefully someday when I consider of taking that next pinch of chew, I’ll think of Mr. Padre and throw my can away for the final time.

RIP Bob Welch

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The year I got really into baseball, Bob Welch won 27 games for the 1990 Oakland Athletics. He’s one of the first really dominant pitchers I remember seeing and pulling his baseball cards out of my stack because I thought he was pretty good – and he was.

What’s more is that Bob Welch had a long and storied career that spanned back about a dozen years before I got to know him. He lost game two in Cincinnati in that 1990 World Series, which is the first that I really remember in my life in baseball.

Bob Welch passed away today at the young age of 57 to a heart attack. In his career he won 211 games with the Dodgers and Athletics. He is most often remembered for allowing three home runs to Reggie Jackson in that 1978 World Series when Welch was a 21 year old youngster.

RIP, Don Zimmer

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I don’t really know why – but there was something that always felt comforting about seeing Don Zimmer on television in a baseball uniform. Today he passed away at age 83, and baseball lost one it’s most coveted members of it’s storied fraternity.

Zimmer spent much of his time in uniform with three of the most storied organization in baseball history: Dodgers, Cubs, and Yankees.

He lived a charmed life in baseball. He’ll probably be most remembered for getting thrown to the ground by Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS. It’s arguably one of the most famous moments in the rivalry’s history:

And at that moment, you wanted to walk down on the field and pick up the little man they called ‘Popeye’ and dust him off. Much of the baseball world became forever endeared to the bald fat man who sat next to Joe Torre in the Yankees dugout at that very moment.

You get the feeling that Don Zimmer loved extra innings and more baseball. Where he’s at now, every day is like a new 19-inning marathon, all-you-can-eat baseball buffet. Sleep well old timer.

RIP Ralph Kiner

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Today, a Hall of Fame player passed away at age 91. It seems like Kiner is a forgotten man amongst the greats of the past who played this game. His career numbers didn’t end up gaudy, but it’s hard to imagine a player in baseball history ever having a better prime or five-year stretch than the one Kiner put together from 1947 to 1951 in Pittsburgh.

During those years (beginning when he was 24 years old) he strung together home run totals of 51, 40, 54 47, and 42. His OPS over that span was 1.029. Back in that era before weights existed and PEDs and all of those evils, that’s nothing short of insanity. And the guy never won an MVP!

RIP, Kiner.

RIP Tony Soprano

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I’m pretty shocked by the news that Tony Soprano died today at age 51 of a suspected heart attack. It’s weird and ironic, because in the last week I’ve been looking online for the complete DVD set of the Soprano’s at a reasonable price. I wanted to show it to my wife who is from New Jersey where all this stuff went down every week on the show.

And it brings up a larger point that I was trying to explain to her. When I was in high school and college, after the NFL went off the air on Sunday’s it wasn’t time to pack up the laundry my mom did and head back to the dorms just yet. The Sopranos would come on, and my mom and dad and I would watch them every week. We would laugh at the stupid shit that Paulie would say. We would laugh at Tony’s son. We would argue about who was on the hot seat to get whacked next.

It truly became known in our house as “Family Hour”. And not too long after that I visited New York City and there was a billboard with the Soprano’s gun on the side of a large building in Times Square that said exactly that: ‘Family Hour’. That’s all it said and that’s all the ad needed to say.

When the show ended I was closer to being an adult and my parents were going through a divorce – much like Tony and Carmella on the show. But we always had the memories of family hour and to this day I still debate with friends, co-workers, and anyone who enjoyed the show their theory on if when the screen went black; did Tony get whacked?

Personally, I think he was shot. RIP, Tony and thanks for the memories.

A sad day in baseball continues: Stan Musial passes away at 92

The Man.  What a nickname.  Can there be a better one?  Stan Musial was one of the best baseball players in the history of the game and pretty much defines what it means to be a St. Louis Cardinal.  A 1969 Hall of Fame inductee, a 3 time MVP, and a 24 time All-Star, he was consistently great for so long, that sometimes his name can get lost in when mentioning the all-time greats – don’t make that mistake.  Musial didn’t just fade into the sunset after his playing career, but proved in his post playing career that he was as good of a man as ball player.  A great Musial quote?

“You wait for a strike, then you knock the shit out of it.”

So simple, so great.

Baseball is a little worse off today.  Rest in peace Stan.

Rest in Peace Ryan Freel

Ryan Freel was always a favorite of mine. So much that one night, I felt compelled to add him as a Facebook friend. In fact, whatever occurred between today and yesterday was not something that I would think was planned all along by Freel. As of yesterday, Freel had added a submission to The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Field fan page stating “Let me know if I can help in anyway……”

I lived in Cincinnati in 2004 and 2005. I spent countless summer nights by myself at the ballpark, where I saw Freel up close and nearly felt like I knew him. Those years would coincide with the finest seasons of Freel’s MLB career. Over three seasons, he was a fixture at the top of the Reds lineup that desperately needed a leadoff man and stole 103 bases from 2004 to 2006. He played every position on the diamond except for first base and shortstop. He was a hustling, down and dirty throwback of a renaissance man.

I got the feeling that Freel; in all his battling from the dusty fields of the minor leagues, was a guy who never forgot where he came from.

A short story I never about Freel that might illustrate that comes to mind. One night I was sitting in the first row of the seats on the Reds dugout. A guy next to me was someone from Freel’s past; a coach, a friend, someone who had known Ryan for some time and had traveled a long way to see him play in Cincinnati from what I gathered. Freel was finishing a few warm-up tosses when he noticed the guy and he nodded and came over and spoke to him. He told the guy to hold on a second, popped into the dugout and emerged from it with a couple game used bats for the guy and his kid.

He was likable and approachable to Reds fans. He played the game like a warrior, running through walls and generally having no reservations about his own health when it came to stealing a bag or making a play. One night at Great American Ball Park the giveaway was Ryan Freel dirty t-shirt jersey night. I still have that shirt somewhere in my dresser with the dirt stains down the front covering Freel’s number six to commemorate his head first slide.

My thoughts and my prayers go out to Ryan’s family and friends tonight. This is a terrible and senseless thing.

Never Knew Pesky’s Pole Had So Much Grafiti on It

I figured that if the less famous distant cousin of the Green Monster is ever going to get a post on this blog, today had to be that day.

Johnny Pesky was a Red Sox legend who hit .307 for his career, and he died today at age 92. This is one of the most famous baseball landmarks in the game. When I make my first trip to Fenway (God willing), I’ll be sure to write something cool on that pole.

You want to read why they call it Pesky’s Pole, right here.

You want Pesky’s Baseball-Reference page, right here.

Henry Hill of Goodfellas Fame has Passed

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We promise to never make too many pop-culture references, but when it pertains to Goodfellas we have to mention it in a post.

Henry Hill–the rat played by Ray Liotta in the Hollywood film–has passed away at age 69. I wouldn’t have known it until I read this Grantland article.

Rest in peace ‘Hendry’ as Tommy said in the movie. Thanks for the great movie and mystique surrounding wiseguys everywhere.

RIP Kid

Gary Carter is gone.

In the first baseball video game I ever played–the Original RBI Baseball on the NES–Gary Carter was the clean-up guy for the New York Mets. They were my team of choice. That GCarter guy could really swing it back in those days. I wanted to learn more about him. As I collected all the Darryl Strawberry Mets items I could find, Carter was a good Robin to his Batman for me.

In one of the first baseball books I ever remember reading–a book about the ’86 Amazin’ Mets in my school library–I read all about the heart and soul of the Mets team. It was not Strawberry they spoke of as I wished, but this Carter character.

Ironically it was Strawberry today who said the following about his former teammate:

“I Wish I Could Have Lived My Life Like Gary Carter…He Was A True Man.”

A sad day for baseball. Gary Carter, gone too soon.

“Hulkamania is like a single grain of sand in the Sahara desert that is Macho Madness.”

RIP, Macho Man.

I know this is a baseball blog. But this guy was a huge piece of my childhood. If you grew up in the 80’s and you liked old WWF, today is a sad day.

Countless VHS tapes of old wrestling pay per view’s that my parents rented for me when I was just a little guy had the Macho Man straight dominating.

The pinnacle of his career, Wrestlemania 4:

He’ll definitely be missed, and he should definitely be remembered for not being a guy who hung around too long. Unquestionably one of the greatest of all-time and a legend. Thanks for all those Saturday morning memories, Mach.