A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Norm Bass 1961-1963 Kansas City Athletics

Sometimes you hear about a story in baseball and you think to yourself, "why have I not heard this story before?" When I heard back from Norm Bass, I kind of felt that way. I thought I knew of all of the great baseball related stories. I guess that is one of the great things about the history of this sport. There are an endless amount of great stories.

"At ten years old I was blind, paralyzed, deaf and unable to speak totally. Overcoming spinal meningitis I went on to become the first African American to play two professional sports in the same year (1964)."

Norm says that after arthritis ended his professional career, he went on to win a bronze medal in the 2000 Paralympics held in Sydney.

"I was the oldest athlete in the games," he says.

In October/November of 2009, he won a gold and silver in the Pan American games in Venezuela at 70 years old.

Norm says that he follows the Dodgers and the Angels. He says that he doesn't have a single favorite player. "I'm a fan of all talented players."

"I will always be an athlete in my heart and I have been blessed to still compete."

Norm realizes that his is an inspirational story. His son has written a book about his dad called "Color Him Father." More info can be found at his website:


I will have to check out the book!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Alan Brice 1961 White Sox

Alan Brice spent a little time in 1961 with the White Sox during his pro career, but he spent a lot of time in some legendary major league towns to be (Atlanta, Dallas and San Diego).

"In 1962 when I was with Atlanta, a Cardinal AAA team, we defeated Louisville for the AAA crown. Louisville was in the American Association and Atlanta was in the International League."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dick Burwell 1960-1961 Cubs

Dick Burwell pitched for the 1960 & 1961 Cubs.

Dick sent a quick note saying that he still gets letters. "It is nice to still hear from baseball fans from all across the USA and Japan."

"I enjoyed my pro career, but my time with the Cubs was too short."

Concerning the time period he played, he says it was a great era for baseball. "I had control problems, and Ernie Banks came out to me in Spring Training to play catch and see if he could help me. It was great."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dan Frye 1992-1995 Reds minor leaguer

Dan Frye played in the Reds system for 3 years. He played for the Princeton Reds, the Charleston Wheelers, and the Winston-Salem Spirits (he also played for the same Winston Salem team renamed the Warthogs).

Dan sent me a great note about his time in baseball. Mr. Frye talks a lot about how he felt obligated to sign autographs after a bad experience as a kid.

"I remember spring break with my family as a young boy and going to a Pirates game. We tried to get some signatures and the players would not sign. It wasn't that they didn't have time because they signed some autographs further down the line."

"I told my mom that I hoped to someday be asked for my autograph. Long story short, I remember the 1st at Mississippi State University my freshman year at ISU and I never turned anyone away."

Dan says that he is proud of the fact that he never left a fan seeking an autograph with the feeling he had as a young fan at spring training.

"I loved baseball and still do today" Dan goes on to say. He says his best memories are of the people he met along the way, many after having a bad game.

Dan tells a great story about breaking his bat once during an at bat. "There was a small boy sitting next to our visitors dugout with his grandparents. I gave the boy the bat instead of just throwing it into the trash which was the norm. His grandparents brought him to see me play for a weekend every year after that. I brought him into our clubhouse, we played catch in the outfield."

Frye goes on, "I remember his letters when he began high school, when he got his drivers license and when he left for college."

Dan says that he enjoyed spending time with young kids in baseball. "I loved the look on their faces when I threw them a ball. The smiles are etched in my memory forever."

"There are many other memories with the ending always the same. I always benefited from playing baseball and the benefit was meeting all the people over the years."

"I felt the most pressure when I was told I was the next 3B in the big leagues and promptly hit .188 in Winston Salem. Even though my average was so poor, Winston Salem was a great place to hit. Especially the long ball."

"My favorite non MLB team would have to be the Durham Bulls. What a great movie. I was fortunate to get to play at both the old and new stadium before they changed classes. I hit the bull with a home run. They gave me a plaque before our next game and also a free steak dinner for 2. I also met some wonderful people in Durham."

"If you haven't seen a game at Durham, you've got to. Stop by Hickory, NC for a game too. That was another great place to play."

Dan has done well since his playing days ended, he is proud of his family and his new career.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Howie Bedell 60-62 Louisville Colonels

Howie Bedell has had a great long career in baseball. He played for the 1962 Milwaukee Braves and the 1968 Phillies. In the minor leagues he played for the notable Rading Phillies, Louisville Colonels, and the York White Roses.

Howie hit an RBI on June 8th 1958 to end Don Drysdale's 58 2/3 scoreless innings record. He also hit in 43 straight games while in the American Association.

Howie coached in the minors after he stopped playing. He served as the farm director for the Reds from 90-91.

Mr. Bedell let me know that a book is currently being written about his life!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Aaron Marsden 2003 Rockies 3rd Round Pick

Aaron Marsden spent 3 years in the farm system of the Colorado Rockies between 2003 and 2005. He played on 2 of my favorite A level teams, the Asheville Tourists and the Modesto Nuts. Fans of the TV show "7th Heaven" may remember the Nuts involvement in an episode.

After his time with the Rockies, he spent some time playing in the independent leagues. According to the baseball reference site, he finished up his last season, 2008 with one of my favorite indy teams, the Sussex Skyhawks (who play in Skylands Park, the former home of the defunct New Jersey Cardinals).

Aaron sent a great note to me about his playing days. "I think I enjoyed my year in Asheville the most because we had a good group of guys, there were a lot of teams in the league, and most of the ballparks had great atmospheres."

Aaron is involved in a job where he helps people these days, and he said that he enjoys this. "I haven't had a chance to revisit any of my former teams, but I do attend Rockies games, and get to see some of my friends playing in the big leagues."

"One interesting fact about Asheville's stadium is that it is in the movie Bull Durham. It is where Kevin Costner's character Crash Davis broke the minor league HR record. This isn't surprising as that field is tiny - I gave up a lot of cheap HRs there. In fact, I may have set the record for most HRs given up in that league."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Harlem Globetrotters

I still have a few months before baseball season. I was able to at least get a bit of a minor league game experience at Rupp Arena this past weekend. The Globetrotters were in town, and really put on a show.

Most people know what happens at a Globetrotters game (The Globetrotters make some amazing plays, goof around with the fans, and defeat the Washington Generals) and everyone leaves happy.

I was excited to see some Zooperstar type characters. They have a fun mascot too. Here are some pics!

Don Bradey 1964 Houston Colt .45's

Don Bradey played in 3 games for the 64 Houston team in 1964, marking his only MLB experience in his 15 year pro career. Don took a moment to write about several exciting stories that he experienced in baseball.

"Oct. 4, 1964 I walked into the club house in Dodgers Stadium. Luman Harris who had replaced Harry Craft as Houston's manager walked over to my locker and said you are starting today. I had not started a game in 3 years. I did not get out of the 1st inning. I don't think I have ever been any more nervous."

He also gives a great story from 1957. He walked into Vince Rizzo's office his first day in New Orleans after spring training. "I told the secretary I needed to see Mr. Rizzo. She told me he was only seeing ball players today. I said I was a ball player. She said I did not look old enough to play ball with the Pelicans."

In 1959 He pitched a double header the last day of the season trying to win 20 games. He says that he ended up winning 19. Mel Parnell was their manager. He was a great guy with a wonderful family Don says.

Don says that he played on 4 great minor league teams, noting the 1953 Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the 1960-1961 Little Rock Travelers, the 1962 Durham Bulls, and the 1963-1964 San Antonio Bullets.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dave Skaugstad 1957 Redlegs

Dave Skaugstad appeared in a couple of games for the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1957. Dave very kindly took the time to send me a great, funny note about his career in baseball.

Dave also sent an a wonderful picture of him at Wrigley Field from his career. He notes that "the photo is the closest I have to a baseball card. When I played MLB you had to stay in the bigs for 90 days before they'd do a card."

Dave proudly points out that his dad can be seen in the back of the photo wearing a suit. His dad was traveling with the team at that time.

Mr. Skaugstad says that he does not have a current favorite team. He rarely watches a regular season game on TV. "I only tune in during the World Series," he says.

He also doesn't follow any of the current players. Bob Feller was a player he followed growing up and later he liked Nolan Ryan.

He says that he favorite memory relating to the Reds "was the first game I pitched in. I was a bit nervous, only 17 years old... but got by, pitched 4 scoreless innings."

Dave says he was in the game relieving Claude Osteen who had replaced Jay Hook. He remembers it was a night game, and the manager wanted to pitch all of the rookies.

Dave says that he never played ball in Kentucky but he tells me a fun story about his manager, Birdie Tebbitts, taking only the pitchers and catchers out to dinner one night at the end of the 1957 season. He thinks they went to Covington to a a nice place where Birdie had a banquet room for them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tales From the Pirates Dugout by John McCollister

I just thought I would put up a quick note about this book. I actually bought it while in Pittsburgh a year or two ago. I just checked, it looks like the publisher went bankrupt a bit ago, but the book is still available on Amazon.

The original cover price of $19.95 does seem steep at first for a book you can easily read in an afternoon. However, Amazon has many used copies much cheaper. My copy has a Ralph Kiner signature in it, making it worth full price to me.

The book has a lot of predictable fun stories about the Pirates in it. Most Pirates fans will know these, but it is still a fun read. Make sure you get a copy with a dust jacket, as this is a very attractive piece of art, showing many of the Pirates greats on the field together.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BOOK: "Out of the Park" by Ed Mickelson

I love any book about baseball. I must admit, some are better than others. I won't mention a book if it did not impress me. I really enjoy it when guys who played decades ago put a book out, especially one that is mostly about their days in the minors.

Ed Mickelson has put out a great book about his playing career. This is a fun, honest book, that doesn't seem too fake, or too over the top. I would recommend this book to any young fan for a good read. I think any old fan will enjoy reading about Ed and other ball players back in the late 40s through the late 50s.

In a personal way, Ed constructs a bridge for me to a time I haven't been able to get a hold of in the past. My first memories of Major League ball- first hand- are from the mid to late 80s. I do remember being a little kid watching the 86 World Series. I remember the big news in those days about Pete Rose, Dwight Gooden, etc. Even though I wasn't around at the time, I can visualize the 70s and 60s, through those decades connections to the 80s. Gary Carter, a favorite of mine at the time, had his rookie card come out in 75. Rose in the 60s. I could still connect to those teams in those times. Ed makes his decade or so appear more vivid in my personal baseball timeline memory.

I love the old pictures in the book, and the illustrations by Ron Joyner make the book feel like an old Topps baseball card. Remember the cartoons on the back of the old cards sometimes? They were usually cute caricatures of the players with a caption about the player (an anecdote from school, a nickname, etc.). Ed has a lot of these type of illustrations in the book, which gives the book an Innocent feel. As I read the book, I sort of visualized Ron Joyner drawn figures in my mind acting out the scenes.

I won't give away any of Ed's stories, but I will mention some things in general that I really like about his book. The book avoids the chest beating and bragging about sexual exploits that many other books written by athletes have. Ed talks a lot about his wife, and missing her on the road. The only questionable activity he mentions is something called "bird dogging" which, by today's standards, was a pretty tame activity. Oh, I think he may have mentioned drinking a beer or two. Again, this is a book the whole family can feel comfortable reading.

Ed Mickelson didn't write this book to put down any other player, or to complain about not getting more of a shot in the majors. In fact, pretty much any time another players name is mentioned, Ed talks about them in a positive light, mentioning how they helped him along the way. I hope other former players who decide to write a book in the future take note of Ed's blueprint. He had fun in baseball, so he wrote a fun book, with fun stories.

Hunt down a copy of Ed's book (I bought mine signed directly from him). Its over 200 full pages of real baseball stories from half a century ago.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bob Feller

I hear from a lot of older players about their playing days. Many of them mention Bob Feller as a player they admired from the past. He is one I admire too. Here is a picture of Robert signing a couple of photos for me a few years ago. He still looked to be in great shape.

I think many of us think of players in this day making millions and cheating in the process. Bob Feller worked hard and became one of the greatest players ever without cheating or making millions. He was a star for the Indians from 1936-1956 with no controversey surounding his career. Oh, and he gave up 4 seasons of his career to serve his country during World War II. Thanks Bob!

Paul Schramka 1953 Cubs #14

Paul Schramka sent a great article by Eddie Gold of the Chicago Sun-Times. The article talks about how Paul wore the number 14 jersey before Ernie Banks (the number was retired in 1982 by the Cubs).

Paul wore the jersey during his two games in the majors.

Paul's pro baseball career was interrupted with military service in Germany but he came back and went back to baseball.

Number 14 for the Cubs, before Schramka, was Lou Novikoff in 1944.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rod Miller 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers

Rod Miller played in 1 game with the 57 Dodgers when he was 17 years old!

Rod sent a quick note about his career to me. He seems to still be a Dodgers fan, asking "What about the Dodgers" when I mention in my letter several favorite teams (NOT including LA).

I should have mentioned to Rod that the Dodgers aren't one of my favorites BUT one of my favorites is currently on the team. I met Casey Blake when he was with the Indians, and he is such a genuine guy. I will cheer for Casey and any team for which he plays.

Rod says that the minors were tough.

Rod does mention that, across the river from Kentucky at the old ball park in Cincinnati, "the outfield was different." He clarifies that it was uphill.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cy Young- Tuscarawas County Ohio.

I just thought I would put up a couple of pictures I took a few years back while travelling through Ohio. Cy Young's grave is located in Tuscarawas County. A friend took me to this location one Saturday, I don't think I could find it again. We were out in that area of Ohio that kind of goes into West Virginia or Pennsylvania. You are still in Ohio, but EVERYONE is a Steelers fan.

Obviously, there were some issues with the places upkeep, but I think a storm may have been through a week or so earlier.

I do love this area. It has a very rural feel, and the people in the area have always seemed real friendly to me. It was well worth the drive.

Jim Woods- Always a Cub

Jim Woods played a few games for the 1957 Chicago Cubs and then played parts of 60 and 61 with the Phillies.

Jim sent me a great note about his playing days.

"I was born in Chicago, so the Cubs are hard to forget, that's why I signed with them."

"I loved Hank Sauer with the Cubs in early or late 50s- and years later ran into him in a drug store in California."

Jim says that Robin Roberts was very nice to him when he was a rookie.

Mr. Woods says that when he was a kid, Wrigley was a favorite park. He says that Candelstick is nice too.

Jim says that he and his son are now Braves fans. They liked Dale Murphy.

Jim was roommates with Chris Short in Philly. He says he will never forget him, and he now uses Chris' #41 often.

Concerning a Kentucky connection, Jim says that he played one evening in Louisville. He watched Bob Uecker strikeout and flip his bat over his head. Great story! He also visited the Louisville Slugger Factory to see his bat being made.

I really appreciate Jim's note. It is great hearing from former players who mention players they admired who had such solid character!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hal Trosky 1958 White Sox

Hal Trosky is a second generation former Major Leaguer who played a couple of games for the White Sox during his pro career. His dad spent a lot of time with the Indians, and he also played for the White Sox.

Hal let me know that he was at Indianapolis in the late 1950's and he played in Louisville several times.

Mr. Trosky also mentions that he played in an exhibition game in Madisonville in 1955 or 1956. "The club house had dirt floors."

I am so glad the Hal sent a note about playing in Madisonville. I love that little town and would love to hear more about baseball in that area.

Hal's letter made me think about how great the history of baseball is. I have seen Louisville and Indianapolis tangle many times. It gives me goose bumps to know that those two teams have played against each other now season after season for so long!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Frank Van Dusen 1955 Phillies

According to Wikipedia, Frank Van Dusen is one of only two players to get hit by a pitch in his only at bat without taking the field.

Frank sent me a brief and fun note recently responding to my request for baseball stories relating to Kentucky.

"One year in the minor leagues I played for the Chattanooga Lookouts & I hit 3 home runs in a game."

Frank also mentions that he married a girl from Kentucky.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Elmer Sexauer 1948 Brooklyn Dodgers

Elmer Sexauer had a very brief career in 1948 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wikipedia mentions a story about Elmer from a Dodger's volume of "Tales from the Dugout". It seems he was ejected from a game before making his Major League debut!

Elmer sent a short note to let me know he played semi-pro for a Pikeville Kentucky team in 1947 that were the State Champions!

Wow Elmer, I am going to have to do some research on this Pikeville team! Does anyone else have any info on them? Anyone?

Thanks Elmer!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Red Wilson 1951-1960 Major Leaguer

Red Wilson played for the White Sox, Indians, and mostly the Tigers during his career. He also played football and baseball for the University of Wisconsin Badgers (look up his amazing stats and accomplishments for those teams!).

I asked Red if he had any sports stories relating to Kentucky. He let me know that he really didn't, though he was the catcher for Jim Bunning's no-hit game against the Red Sox in 1958! That definitely counts as a Kentucky story!

Red said that his favorite teams are the Tigers and the Brewers. His favorite player right now is Ryan Braun. His all time favorite is Stan Musial.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The 1932 Ellington Apartment Inferno... and the Philadelphia Athletics

I have some connections to Cleveland Ohio. Yeah, it is really not close to Kentucky, but it is in a neighboring state. Cleveland is oozing with baseball history in addition to many strange tales. I spent nearly a decade there. I can vouch- lots of baseball and lots of weirdness.

I need to cover the 5 book series about crime and disaster in Cleveland (6 if you count an internet volume available to read for free) on my other, non-baseball related blog. I have read 3 of the 4 volumes I own.

Which brings me to a mention of John Stark Bellamy II's "They Died Crawling." Chapter 7 of this book, "Five Minutes Out of Nowhere" covers the Ellington Apartment fire. The Ellington was a very large structure with apartments and retail outlets. Not to give away the ending but one of the retail store owners paid some pros to set a fire for insurance money.

According to the Baseball Almanac, the Athletics had topped the Tribe on June 6th, 5-2. The fire occured after midnight. The Athletics would lose to the Indians later that day after the fire (June 7th) by a score of 7-10.

Bellamy mentions that Jimmy Foxx was staying at the nearby Hollenden. He also mentions that Mickey Cochrane and a Philadelphia sports reporter helped the firemen rescue people from the fire.

Bellamy covers hundreds of true crime stories that have happened in and near Cleveland. He very tastefully keeps it to stories that happened at least a few decades ago. He is great about mentioning the locations of the strange events relating them to what is at the location now, and sometimes giving an update on some of the characters. If you are familiar with the Cleveland area (or even if you are not) Bellamy's books are a very fascinating read.