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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wild Pitches

Wow! It feels so nice being able to get out to the ball park again! It seems like baseball season ended two seasons ago!

I tried to catch a Bowling Green Hot Rods game a week or so ago. The weather was crazy when I was in the area though (the game was cancelled) and I did not get to see the team.

I have been able to catch the Legends. Thank goodness there are some bats on the team this year! The Lexington team looks great so far.

The Bats are playing at their beautiful park, and the Florence Freedom start up in about 3 weeks. Oh, and the Freedom will be playing 3 exhibition games in the middle of May too!

Speaking of the Louisville Bats and Lexington Legends, I watched the Reds beat the Astros last night. Many of the Reds players have spent time in Louisville, and several of the Astros started out in Lexington. It was great seeing Tommy Manzella and J.R. Towles with the big team now. It seems they were both playing for the Legends just the other day. I saw them at the SAL All Star game a few years ago, and Towles looked amazing in that single A home run derby.

There are plenty of great, fun minor league parks to visit right outside of the state too. The Indianapolis Indians, Evansville Otters, West Virginia Power, and the Major League Reds are close by. Plus, the state right to the south of us has many teams.


Here is a link to a story about the most unpopular teams in the majors. Sadly several of my favorite teams ranked at the top. My Indians are the number 1 must unpopular, the Reds are #3, and the Astros are #4. It is interesting the way the measured opinion. I love all 3 of these teams, but.....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

BOOK: Planet of the Umps by Ken Kaiser

This is probably one of the first baseball books I ever read. It has been some time, but I enjoyed it. It is a jam packed book with lots of great baseball stories.

Ken talks about his rise through the ranks of the various baseball levels, strikes, friends, etc. I really enjoy his story of his other career as a pro-wrestler. He enjoys this career while also being an ump, until one of his colleagues sees him wrestle one night!

Again, it has been some time since I read this one, but I remember it had a lot of great stories, and I just wanted to keep reading it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book: The Catcher was a Spy- The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg

This is another fun, well researched book about one of the many great characters who have been part of baseball, but his notoriety relates more to what he did outside of ball.

The title alone is eye catching. How can you not read a book about a a spying catcher?

The book is jam packed, and long, but it reads like a much shorter book. It has a great flow.

Berg, an intelligent guy in general, floats around baseball, and gets a bit of a following because he is Jewish. He spends time between law school and baseball, often a bit torn between the two.

He seems to read constantly, and even has rituals relating to how he reads the various daily papers. He speaks several languages too!

On a trip through Japan (he goes through Japan teaching baseball, and playing on an All Star team) he makes a trip to the top of a hospital and films the city. He is a bit sneaky about it, saying that he is at the hospital to visit a friends daughter.

Later, he shows his film footage to military officials who may have used the information from it during the Doolittle Raid.

The most interesting Moe Berg story involves his trip to Switzerland with orders to kill physicist Werner Heisenberg if Berg suspected the Germans were close to making a bomb. This part of the story gets complicated, but "The Catcher Was a Spy" does a great job covering the situation.

Moe Berg seems exciting and mysterious to some, but he also seems rude and strange to others. He spends time living with friends and family drifting around much of his life.

Berg is a great character in baseball history, and this book does justice to him. I read this book some time ago, but I still think about the book, and about Moe.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book: "Throwing Heat- The Life and Times of Virgil Fire Trucks"

Virgil Trucks put out a very fun book about his baseball career a few years back. It is another one that is hard to find these days. I bought my copy from Virgil some time ago.

The book is a little unusual, in that the chapters are broken up by one page notes from player friends of his talking about their relationships with Virgil Trucks. The notes from his friends are interesting on their own.

Virgil gives a lot of great baseball stories, including covering his relatively brief time in the minors. He tosses a few no-hitters, including one where he not only tosses the no-hitter, but he is the only one to hit and score for his team!

Another game involves him losing a no-hitter, in a situation similar to Harvey Haddix.

Virgil seems to get along with many other players and coaches in the minors. He does have a manager who fines him $50 for staying out late after a very long game. Trucks says that he was just out trying to find some food after the game. He protests the fine, which is eventually resolved. Virgil has the chance to play for this manager again, but initially refuses to. The manager assures Virgil that he will leave him alone. After awhile, Virgil says, they became friendly.

Virgil talks about how he was not a smoker, but he did agree to appear in a Camel add. Players then weren't making the money they do now, and the money paid for his likeness was needed. Virgil comments that he hopes no young person was influenced to smoke because of him.

Virgil also took off season jobs. He had a job (while he was playing in the majors) that involved going around to people and asking them not to empty their ashtrays on the sidewalk.

I like how Virgil tells a story, and then one of the other players who contribute may add (or disagree) with Virgil's version of the story.

For example, Virgil tells a great story about staying in a hotel while with the Tigers. Management suspects he has brought a girl to his room, and they try to bust him. As Virgil tells the story, he denies being a ladies man or having a girl in his room. Ted Gray seems to remember things a little differently though, as he says he suspects his fellow pitcher indeed did have a girl in his room! Believe it or not, the story actually gets better, as a lawyers get involved!
Virgil talks about the baseball legend midget, Eddie Gaedel. He quotes Gaedel before his at bat. This might be my new favorite baseball quote by the way. "Just get the ball over- I'm gonna murder it!" Bob Cain, the pitcher that day who heard this from Gaedel would be the only player to attend Eddie's funeral years later. Any first hand account of the Gaedel plate appearance is worth the price of a book.

Another story involves the scoring of an error vs. a hit during one of Virgil's no-hitters (he had 2 in one season!).

Virgil talks about going after Hank Bauer during a bench clearing brawl, but he later becomes friendly with him, according to Bauer, while they are with the Yankees.

Virgil gets shuffled around between several teams. He finally accomplishes his goal of winning 20 games in 1 season. He comes close to doing it again, but just misses. He plays very briefly in the PCL, the coaches for the Pirates.

Trucks does a great job of telling baseball stories. He takes time out to serve his country in the military, as many of the greats did during WWII. He plays in a military baseball World Series, and Barnstorms too. He isn't afraid to say what he thinks, ending his book with some observations about today's players.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book: "Baseball in Louisville" by Anne Jewell

Here is another great book from Arcadia Publishing. I picked my copy up some time ago at a Half Price Books. I love that store.

Obviously, the cover alone is worth the cover price. Honus Wagner is on the cover of a lot of books mostly as a member of the Pirates (and, how many baseball players have an entire book written about the legend of their baseball card?). Most people forget that he played for the Louisville Colonels before they merged in to the Pirates.

I won't go on about what the book is about, but the photos alone are worth the price of the book. Also, as all of the great Arcadia books do, they give a brief but thorough description of the book topic.

You can actually read this book in one quick setting, but it is a nice book to have around for reference, and just to flip through for the fun of it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Postal and stamp collecting- and baseball!

I have dabbled with collecting things here and there. Obviously, I love baseball, and I do find myself casually collecting a few related items (tickets to games I go to, an autograph, books, etc.). I don't like the usual collectibles (I really don't like baseball cards or statures).

I do like postcards and First Day Covers, especially if they relate to baseball.

I found this issues of "The American Stamp Dealer" from 2006 recently that has a brief but informative article on baseball and stamps! I love the cover of this issues!

The first baseball stamp ever used was a 3 cent stamp issued in 1939 to coincide with the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The next baseball related stamp was not issued until 30 years later in 1969. A 6 cent stamp was issued to commemorate the Centennial of Professional Baseball.

Several baseball related stamps have come out since then, including various ones of baseball players, and the great set of baseball stadiums.

The article from this magazine also notes several other stamps that relate to baseball which might fit in to a baseball topical collection.

I try to pick up every postcard I can when I am in an area with a ball park. The last time I was in the Boston area, I found MANY fun postcards showing Fenway Park. I really enjoy finding postcards with minor league parks, but they sometimes require more hunting to find.

Also, I might try to find envelopes with postmarks relating to a baseball event. I might try to find an envelope canceled in New York on the date of the last game at Shea or Yankee stadium.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lexington Legends Gatling Gun


The Lexington Legend's first home game of the season is tonight! I am so glad baseball season is going again here in my neck of the woods.

I just thought I would put a quick note up about Ben's Biz Blog. Ben posted yesterday an interesting story about a driver hitting the box office at the Salem Virginia's minor league team's box office.

Under that strange story, Ben has posted a photo a brief description of the Lexington Legends t-shirt Gatling Gun. It can shoot 24 t-shirts in 10 seconds! Click on the link above to go to Ben's blog! Do it now!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book: July 2, 1903 by Mike Sowell

If you have ever found yourself twiddling your thumbs with nothing to do and you check out my other blog, you know that I am a huge fan of Niagara Falls. I used to visit the Falls a couple of times a year. It is beautiful, mysterious and strange.

If you know me, you might know that I have a fascination with strange events, dates, and other moments of weirdness.

I also have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the city of Cleveland (for starters, I love the Indians but hate the Browns- thats a topic for another day though).

If you mix all of those factors in with my love of baseball, you get the story of Ed Delahanty.

I must admit that I really didn't know much about this HOFer from Cleveland until his name kept popping up in other books I have read about true crime and strange events relating to Cleveland and Niagara Falls.

Ed was a great baseball player at the turn of the century. He played around Cleveland, then signed on with the Philadelphia National League team. Towards the end of the 1800s, the newly formed American League started trying to coax National League players to come to their league.

Mike Sowell gives a lot of background on the American League starting up and competing with the National League. A third league even gets going at one time, but doesn't last. Several players sign contracts with more than one team.

Players like Ed Delahanty and Nap Lajoie compete for large contracts. Ed makes it clear that he wants to go where he can get the most money.

Ed jumps from the Philadelphia team to play for Washington.

As the wars continue between teams competing for the best players, Ed finally signs with New York, who is offering him a chunk of money. Initially, Ed denies that he is leaving Washington, but he finally says he is leaving. Also, Delahanty is dealing with mounting gambling debt. A big pay check might be perfect for Delahanty and his gambling hobby.

Add to this the fact that Ed has a bad drinking problem.

I have discussed Ed's death while mentioning another book (see my review of Niagara Falls confidential). Ed is on a train near Niagara Falls, not traveling with his team. He does a lot of drinking, and starts harassing other passengers. He receives warnings from the train crew, but he continues. Finally, the crew forces him off the train.

Later that night, a security person sees a guy pretty much jump (there are different versions of the story of how the man jumped or went over, and the security person tells more than one version).

The baseball world is curious about the whereabouts of Ed Delahanty. The truth really isn't known until the unknown jumper's body is found. Ed's hat and his unclaimed luggage also work into identifying him.

Ed's family is reluctant to believe what is reported. His brother investigates the situation, asking the train crew about what went down.

Ed did seem to have some thoughts of death though. He had bought some 24 hour life insurance policies (oddly, none were active when he died). He did appear a bit self destructive at times.

Ed does have a funeral, and many in baseball show up. His brothers also have nice pro ball careers.

This book covers all of the major details in the death of Ed, but it also gives a great account of the majors right at the turn of the century, relating the two events appropriately.

Monday, April 12, 2010

BOOK: Things Happen for a Reason by Terry Leach

Terry Leach put this book out years ago. It is one of my more favorite baseball books. Terry gives fun basic stories about his days in baseball.

There are MANY 2-3 page stories here about Terry's days in college, independent, minor league, and major league baseball. You can read a few very short enjoyable stories, as each one stands well on its own. Of course, reading the entire book gives a great look at a very interesting baseball career.

Terry talks about a very young Dwight Gooden dealing with instant success and fame. He also mentions other players from his exciting playing days.

One of my favorite stories in the book involves Terry getting an 86 World Series ring. It took him a while, but he got it!

This is another book I actually read some time ago, but I really liked it and wanted to bring it up here. It is an extremely easy to read book. You feel almost like you are listening to Terry tell his stories as you read the book. It has that kind of a flow. Plus, it would be a great book for a younger reader since it is family friendly.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wandy Rodriguez in Sports Illustrated

There was a nice article in Sports Illustrated this week about 2002 Lexington Legends pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy is a bit of a personal favorite. I like his attitude.

The SI article talks about how he had to originally fake his identity to get a chance to play in professional baseball.

Wandy has played with the Astros now for awhile. I always love cheering for an underdog like Wandy (and the Astros). I know of several from Lexington who are following the Astros now because of the single A team in town.

As usual, Sports Illustrated does a very nice job giving a good story. I got my subscription at a huge discount through my nieces school magazine sale.

Any Kentuckian might be hesitant to buy this weeks issue because of the basketball team shown on the cover, but you should pick it up anyway.

Also, I am putting up a picture I took of Wandy when he was pitching against the Pirates at PNC Park back in 06. Wandy very kindly signed the photo for me!

Friday, April 9, 2010

BOOK: Have Glove Will Travel by Bill Lee

Bill Lee is such a classic character in baseball. The Spaceman has been around for some time as a member of the Expos, Red Sox, or some other team.

"Have Glove Will Travel" is a fun baseball book full of Bill Lee stories.

I can't even try to give you an overview on this one. It is wacky. Real wacky. Bill has always been open about his indulgences and his lifestyle.

In this book, he covers his trips through baseball towns and other various "trips."

The Spaceman talks about his getting released from the Expos, and doing his darnedest to find another ML team to take him (he was very blackballed). He goes out and plays for any professional, or not so professional team that he can.

Bill's stories are all over the map. One of my favorites involves Bill trying to contact Pedro Martinez to tell him not to joke about the curse of the Bambino. Bill crosses paths twice with Salem's official witch Laurie Cabot in attempts to reverse the Bambino curse. Another great story involves Lee's confrontation with a preacher trying to save him during a fishing trip.

Bill gives a crazy but sincere story about how he feels about the controversial state of Ted Williams after Ted's death. Bill had a lot of admiration for the legend. Bill describes his feelings, and those of others as rage.

You may or may not agree with Bill, his philosophies or his lifestyle, but I think you will still enjoy this book. His stories are honest, and he doesn't alter his tales to make them more appealing to a wider audience. His honesty is rare, especially in a baseball book by a baseball player, who has very openly admitted to drug use. Bill Lee is not trying to justify or convince. He is not trying to push his agenda. He is just giving honest descriptions about his experiences in baseball.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

BOOK: Pam Postema

Man, where do you start with this book? I guess the obvious must be addressed. Pam Postema is a former professional baseball umpire. She made it to triple A, which was groundbreaking for a female. She even did some exhibition umping in the majors, though she never quit made it to umpiring in a major league game.

Oddly, not many other females have gotten nearly as close as Pam, which makes this book from 1992 still very interesting.

Pam kind of shifts around low pay and low reward jobs, working for Howard Johnson, Taco Bell, a candy factory and others. One day, her mom calls her after reading an article about female umpire Christine Wren and suggests to Pam that she try this.

She dismisses the idea at first, then, after some thought, becomes intrigued by the idea. After some calls and chats with the umpire school, she convinces them that she does not need any special consideration. They have no other female students, but she assures them they will not need to change their program in any way.

Pam struggles through umpire school, works, and stays in a really bad apartment with a bunch of rats (literally). She offers to ump some college games in Florida for free, She pretty much feels like her career is over when she gets an invite from the GCL to ump.

Pam works her way up the system. She has to deal with politics, fellow umps trying to overrule her calls at times, and other issues.

One of my favorite stories is when Pam is confronted by her bosses about a job as a change girl at a casino. Obviously, ANY link to gambling in baseball is frowned upon, so she is asked to quit her off season job, or quit baseball.

Of course there are some fun stories of conflicts with players, players trying to kiss up by flirting, etc. Pam gives a great story about how the clubbies at one park lost her bra while doing laundry, forcing her to call a game without one- a situation that could only happen to Pam!

Sports Illustrated, Pam notes, bashed MLB for taking its time with advancing Pam. After that, she is asked to ump the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown!

Obviously, after spending 13 years in the minors, Pam's career comes to an end. She pretty much admits this in the intro to the book (I guess she gives away the ending of her book within the 1st few pages) but she says she had a good time. As of the books publication, she was driving a Fed Ex truck.

This is a great book, with lots of good stories about many big names in baseball and the politics of the sport. It is also about one of the more significant females to break in to pro baseball. It is a great book right now but I think as time goes by, its importance will be more thoroughly realized- as will Pam's.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

BOOK: Everything Happens in Chillicothe by Mike Shannon

As you might guess, I really enjoy reading books about baseball. I read a lot of books in general, and I like talking about them. I probably read 5 times more than I ever review on my 2 blogs. If I don't like a book, I won't write about it at all. If I like a book, I write about it.

I hate to rank books. There are many great books out there. I would hate to say that I like one more than another. It just doesn't seem right.

There are things about certain books I like more than others. I like stories about underdogs. I like baseball stories from the lowest levels of the minors. I enjoy the human element in a story. I hate a book where a player is trying to justify why they cheated, or where they try to explain why what they did was not so bad. I appreciate humans being humble.

I have read a lot of great baseball books this year alone. I love many books. When I am asked what my all time favorite baseball book is, I scratch my head. I might ask the person asking me about what they like in a baseball book. If they are a fan of the 50s era Yankees, they might not appreciate a book about the 86 Mets. I will try to think of a book they will like.

If I had to come up with one book that is just great for any baseball fan, if I was forced to disclose my one personal most favorite baseball book ever, and considering my personal biases when it comes to a good baseball book, I would name Mike Shannon's "Everything Happens in Chillicothe." I might answer that question reluctantly, out of respect for all of the other great underrated books out there, but this is my favorite.

"What is the book about?" one might ask.

The book is about a one eyed umpire.

I know what you are thinking. "A one eyed umpire?!?! That's just wrong! Why would someone write a book like that! That's insensitive!"

Relax pal. This isn't a work of fiction. It is a real book about Max McLeary (he does exist!), a real professional baseball umpire- who happens to have one eye.

Mike Shannon is a thoughtful writer, and he correctly decides that following the Frontier League's most interesting personality around for a season would make a great read. I thank Mike Shannon for this.

You get a lot of book for your money with this one. It is 400 pages, but the book is so good, the size won't matter. Don't be intimidated. You will bury your nose in this one and enjoy every moment.

I won't even attempt to summarize it, but it is a good book about quit a character. In fact, Max is such a fascinating person this would be a good book even if he had two eyes.

Max really seems to enjoy umpiring, going to Frontier League games, high school games, etc. He really makes next to nothing doing it. Also, it seemed to me that many of the players in the league had developed a respect for him.

Not to give anything away, but there is a very touching and sad moment in the book involving Max going to see a AAA game in Indianapolis. Max has not maintained a good relationship with his son, Marty McLeary. His son, oddly has become a AAA pitcher and Max makes the trip to see him pitch. After the game, Max makes an attempt to talk to his son.

Mike Shannon really covers the Frontier League and gives some rich info on the leagues history. There are other great Frontier League stories in this book too (including a fun one about a player wining big at the Casino in Evansville).

If you read this book, you come away feeling like Max is a buddy. You feel his pain at times, and grow to like him.

I emailed Bill Lee (President of the Frontier League) a couple of years back and asked him about Max's current status. He told me that Max was involved with a college league team near Cincinnati. Still involved with baseball.

So, here it is. My favorite baseball book.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

BOOK: Crocodiles Rock! by Tom Delamater

One of my favorite leagues is the Frontier League. For an independent league it has been around for a long time, though 1993 doesn't seem that long ago.

The league has really transformed. In fact, with the departure of the Chillicothe Paints, there are no original teams in their original city left.

I will save the Frontier League history lesson for another day, but the the league has had some of the coolest named teams ever, including the Canton Crocodiles.

I recently saw a book about Ohio baseball that neglected the Frontier League teams! Fortunately, the teams radio announcer for their 1st season documented that 1997 summer.

Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium in Canton had hosted minor league baseball. The Canton-Akron Indians left the venue to go and play their home games in the new downtown Akron facility. The young but growing Frontier League jumped in immediately and the Canton Crocodiles were born.

Tom Delamater gives a great and easy to understand history of the league leading up to the Crocs entrance. He talks about how the league was very much an Ohio league. He covers all of the politics involved in getting a minor league team to a town. Delamater also describes the chaos of opening night for a new minor league team.

Tom talks about the Crocs season and their battles to make it to the Frontier League Championship. He covers the players, the opponents, and the other teams home fields that he visits.

I personally enjoyed Tom describing the conditions in the broadcaster booths at each of the parks!

One of the interesting characters in the book is Thurman Munson's son, Mike Munson. I won't go on about Thurmon's legacy and all, but how many times does a second generation pro player play in a stadium named after his father? "Crocodiles Rock" documents it.

As a side note on Mike, I found a great article about his restaurant:


It has been a while since I read this book- I read it before I started this blog, but it is a great minor league baseball book. The players on the Crocodiles team are mostly forgotten now, as their careers have ended in pro baseball. After their championship game win in Evansville the team went back to Canton (Tom notes that staying another night in Evansville, where they won their championship, was not in the budget).

I appreciate the passion and the scrappy play of the low level minor leagues. Budgets are a huge concern. Players work in the off season. No one, players, coaches or owners, are likely to get rich at this level. I doubt Tom Delamater made money on this book.

I appreciate the fact that he did though. He has preserved a piece of baseball history that might have otherwise been forgotten. As the Frontier League ages, and continues to gain respect (as it has every season) I think more people will become interested in the leagues origins and early days. Thanks to Tom, they will be able to read about one of those teams championship seasons.

This is a well written book by a humble radio announcer for a lower level team. Tom has nothing to prove (or gain) in writing this great book. I can easily say this is one of my top ten favorite baseball books of all time.