As some of you know, I’ve been writing a book for the past year…make that almost two. Yes, I may have underestimated how long this takes.
I interviewed 50 ball players and personalities, many of them Hall of Famers. There are three I’m the most proud of. Sitting with George Brett in the President’s box in Kauffman Stadium ranks up there. Interviewing my childhood idol, Dave Winfield also makes that top list, as does my interview with Cito Gaston. Ok, maybe I have more than three favourites. But this interview I hadn’t mentioned to many people. This one was very special, and I was planning on keeping as a surprise. Well, perhaps now is an appropriate time to say that it was Yogi Berra, and let us all take this time to say goodbye to a baseball legend.
Yogi was a man who beat the odds. What do I mean? Just like Pete Rose was told, Yogi was probably too small for baseball, at 5’7″ and 185 lbs. The Yankee catcher would go on to hit 358 HR’s over his 19-year tenure, being selected to the All-Star team 18 times! He was also a 13-time World Series Champ, and won the MVP 3 times. Not bad for 5’7″, eh?
I was talking to a seasoned veteran baseball writer back when my book was just an idea, and mentioned I wanted to interview Berra.
“You need to be more realistic”, he said. “Yogi doesn’t do interviews anymore”.
Well that was true, as I discovered. But I persisted, and Yogi agreed to an interview via his son Dale, who asked Yogi my questions for me. I asked Yogi to tell me the funniest conversation he had on a baseball field. This was his response:
In St Louis, playing against the Browns, the temperature was in the high 90’s and Casey made me catch both games of a double header. I started arguing every call the umpire made in an effort to get thrown out…the umpire said to me, “Yogi, you can curse me and call me every name in the book, but if I’m staying out here, you’re staying, so shut up!”
Shortly after my interview with Yogi had been completed, Yogi’s wife Carmen passed away. 18 months later, the great Yankee slugger has joined her.
Yogi was perhaps most famous for his hilarious stories and sayings. “It ain’t over ’till it’s over”, is perhaps one of the best known.
Well, it ain’t over Yogi.
Your legend will live on forever.
Watch as I discuss the 2015 Blue Jays with Cito Gaston, and we make connections to the 1992 and 1993 World Championship teams that he managed. The 3-part interview is posted below.
With each win, the 2015 Blue Jays climb closer to that long-awaited playoff birth.
The Championships of 1992 and 1993 seem SO long ago. They were. I have friends who weren’t even alive for the Jays first World Series title.
But with AA pulling off a sequence of blockbuster trades, and those pieces making an immediate impact, suddenly the connections between the ’92 and ’93 squads and the current team don’t seem so far-fetched. In the off-season, late 1991, the Jays signed free agents Jack Morris and Dave Winfield (on consecutive days). Those who watched the 1992 team will no doubt remember the significance both Morris and Winfield had during the regular season, and during October baseball. In the off-season this past winter, the Jays signed free agent Russell Martin, and 10 days later pulled off a mammoth trade for Josh Donaldson. It’s obvious what an impact those two have made thus far.
It’s the end of August and the Jays are in first place, two games up on the Yankees. Hey, they’ve already started selling post-season tickets!
There are so many moments from both championships that stand out for many fans, but one of the most talked about is the “triple play that wasn’t” during the 1992 World Series.
I reminisced with Kelly Gruber, the Jays third baseman during that memorable play.
Fans may remember that in fact, it was this very day, August 27th, back in 1992, when Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson were traded to the Mets for David Cone. Cone would contribute to the championship with a 1 – 1 record and 3.22 ERA.
David Price has been the masterful pitcher everyone expected he would be, upon his arrival. Toronto has their first true ace since Roy Halladay. It’s exciting to think about what he could accomplish this October.
Over two decades after Carter’s home run disappeared over that left field wall, we find our blue birds that much closer to going back to the playoffs and possibly taking another run at a World Series.
So, is history repeating itself?
It was his final home game in Yankee Stadium.
Everyone wondered how he would be honoured. Would he be pulled off the field with two outs in the 9th, allowing the fans time to appreciate him? Nah, that’s not his style. Derek would have rather ended that inning by turning a double play, or maybe by making his signature jump-spin to throw out a runner one final time.
But Baltimore is gunning for home field advantage in the playoffs and had no intentions of letting up. Two Orioles home runs later and suddenly the game was tied. It took the air out of the crowd, but only momentarily once everyone realized what had just been set up.
One more at bat for The Captain.
The Yankees executed as they almost always do, and with a runner on second in the bottom of the 9th inning, Jeter did what everyone hoped – what everyone expected him to do.
He came up big, one more time.
As the AL East dominant force that often beat up on my hometown Blue Jays, I can honestly say this was the first time I found myself cheering for a Yankee win. Why?
Because baseball, is the easy answer.
Because Jeter played the game the way a true hero was supposed to play it. With passion, with pride, and with integrity. And it’s hard not to cheer for someone like that.
Thank you, Derek Jeter. Thank you for always respecting the game.
This week signifies two very important things: The first day of Summer (finally!), and the Induction Ceremony for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (which falls on the same day). What better way to kick of the season?
I had the pleasure of attending the induction ceremony last year, and interviewed Rob Ducey, George Bell, Tim Raines, who were all being inducted into the 2013 Class. I also connected with Shirley Cheek, who was accepting the induction award on behalf of her late husband, Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcasting legend, Tom Cheek. More on that here.
This year, the festivities span several days, offering something for the whole family. The Hall of Fame is proud to announce this year’s inductees: Tim Wallach, Dave Van Horne, Murray Cook, & Jim Ridley.
The events kick-off on Thursday, July 19th with a celebrity softball game, which I’m honoured to have been invited to participate in (obviously as media, not as a celebrity!). The teams will be represented by Tim Wallach, and Hall-of-Famer Fergie Jenkins. Other celebrities include Dave Van Horne, Murray Cook, Jim Fanning, Paul Spoljaric, Billy Atkinson, many other notable former professional players, as well as representatives from Team Canada Fastball. There will also be a Slo-pitch homerun derby.
I was discussing past celebrity games with the Director of Operations of the HOF, Scott Crawford, who outlined one of his favourite memories from just a few years ago being Larry Walker hitting a homerun out over right field corner wall. Last year Tim Raines and George Bell played. This year there will be even more celebrities. This is an event you don’t want to miss!
Friday (June 20th) is possibly the busiest day of the week. The day kicks off with the 4th Annual “London Salutes Canadian Baseball” fundraising breakfast, sponsored by Lerners Lawyers and the London Convention Centre. There with be a Q & A with the celebrities, a live auction, and O’Canada by Canadian legend Michael Burgess. Also in attendance will be George Bell, Devon White, and Duane Ward.
Later that morning is the 18th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic & Sports Banquet. The list of incredible celebrities is way too long to list, but include the likes of Tom Henke, Tony Fernandez, Paul Beeston, and Babe Ruth’s Granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti. There is a banquet following the tournament, and tickets can be purchased separately as well.
Finally, Saturday June 21st kicks off with a Baseball Family Street Festival from 9 am to Noon, with a variety of events for kids of all ages. The induction ceremony starts at 1 pm, with a Blue Jays Honda Super Camp following, at 3 pm, where youth will get the opportunity to receive baseball instruction from Duane Ward, Devon White, and George Bell. I attended the Guelph Honda Super Camp, more on that here.
If you needed any more reasons to attend, this year is very special in that the inductees cover all facets of the game of baseball. Tim Wallach played for the Expos for the majority of his career, Dave Van Horne was an announcer for the Expos for 32 years and now covers Marlins games, Murray Cook is a Canadian who was the General Manger of the Yankees, Expos, and Reds, and Jim Ridley was a scout from 1976 – 2002. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame continues to build and expand, and is well worth the drive to St Marys.
For more information click here, or call the Hall of Fame directly at: Phone: 519-284-1838, Toll-free: 877-250-2255
The Toronto Blue Jays Honda Super Camps kicked off this past weekend, starting in Guelph, Ontario. Boys and girls between the ages of 9-16 had the opportunity to attend the two or three-day baseball camp and receive instruction from George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, Devon White, Roberto Alomar, and Sandy Alomar Sr. I connected with a Jays rep and discussed the camps, and also spoke with an employee from the Royal Distributing Athletic Centre, where the camp was held. You can hear those interviews and more, here.
When discussing the importance of tradition in sport, baseball often tops the list, possibly being the most “traditional” of all. Yet in some cases, holding onto what is traditional can possibly hold the sport back, or even hurt it. Sounds and smells associated with the sport are, “the crack of the bat”, “the feel of the grass”, and “the smell of the glove”. That smell of course being a leather baseball glove. However, one man who has become a pioneer in the development of new baseball gloves is Scott Carpenter. His business is certainly located in a traditional baseball town, being Cooperstown, NY. That’s where the tradition ends though, as his baseball gloves that are made with synthetic materials are proving to be lighter, stronger, and superior to the traditional leather gloves used by most. But this isn’t just a gimmick or a fad. Many professional ball players are now starting to use Carpenter gloves.
So why are they better?
Most players are stronger and faster today than they were 20 or 30 years ago. While one can argue that performance-enhancing drugs are the cause of that, it is an argument for another day. It does mean that the balls are sometimes being hit harder, and players need to react faster. In baseball, timing and specifically reaction time right down to fractions of a second can be the difference between safe and out, a home run or a fly ball, and even be the difference between a catch with a glove, or taking a hard-hit ball of a body part or worse, the face. Baseball has seen some serious injuries over the past season or two, as a result of a pitcher taking a come-backer off the head, not getting the glove up in time to protect themselves. It makes sense then, that buy wearing a lighter glove, one’s reflexes can move the glove faster, which means more plays made and more balls caught.
Another advantage to using synthetic materials Scott mentioned, is that the gloves don’t “wear” or stretch as traditional leather gloves do. Carpenter gloves are not only lighter, but also stronger. That means the feel doesn’t change, and the comfort remains the same throughout the life of the glove.
Want proof they’re better?
As I mentioned, professional players are already using Carpenter gloves. Something more significant is that the Pro players are opting out (or are going to be opting out) of glove contracts (I didn’t even know that was a thing!) to wear Carpenter gloves. Scott stated in his interview with me that he doesn’t pay players to wear his gloves. So what does this mean? It means that players are choosing to wear Carpenter gloves over a glove they would be paid to wear. To me, that speaks volumes to the quality of the product.
Frank Viola III is the proud new owner of a Carpenter Trade glove:
If you’re looking to learn more, listen to my interview with Scott Carpenter here.
You can visit his web site at: www.carpentertrade.com
The St. Louis Cardinals fans have a lot to be proud of. A Championship-calibre team, a thriving baseball city, Hall-of-Fame alumni like Lou Brock & Ozzie Smith, and now, a world-class facility called Ballpark Village, which features a series of bars and restaurants, new seating decks in left field (across the street from Busch Stadium), and a new Cardinals Hall-of-Fame and Museum. In a recent series of interviews, I connected with Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Chris Carpenter, and Museum Designer Kelly Giles. You can listen to my review of the facility, the weekend, and some clips from the aforementioned interviews here.
You can check out more pics from Ballpark Village and the stadium in a recent blog post, here.
Ozzie Smith on Twitter: @STLWizard
I rode the metro link from my hotel and got off right at the foot of the stadium. It was the night before the Cardinals home opener, as well as the official ribbon cutting for Ballpark Village’s Museum and Cardinals Hall of Fame. There’s something special about a baseball stadium at night. It could be the stories it holds. It could also be the excitement in the air, and the anticipation of another potentially successful season for the baseball-crazed city.
I took some time to admire the bronze statue of Stan Musial, then continued my walk and stopped to check out more statues honouring Cardinal greats, some of whom I would be interviewing the following day.
Upon approaching Ballpark Village, I heard a familiar voice. ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball was being broadcast on the giant outdoor screen, so of course it was Dan Shulman I was hearing. Dan was a guest on my show last year, you can listen to that here. What a terrific spot to watch ball games, especially when the weather is nice!
There was a brief press conference the following morning, and the official ribbon cutting for the museum. After being the first official group to tour the museum (along with the inductees), I had the opportunity to interview Tony La Russa, Lou Brock, and Ozzie Smith. I made friends with a local photographer, Robert Rohe, who was kind enough to snap these great shots for me.
I even managed to grab former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, and Cardinals 2006 & 2011 World Series Champ Chris Carpenter for an interview. Following my interview, he bravely ventured downstairs and through a sea of Cardinals fans. Can you spot him? It’s like playing a giant game of “Where’s Waldo”.
Despite the steady rain that had been falling all day, the Cardinals home opener commenced. The “Cardinals Nation” boasts a strong following of some pretty serious fans. In St. Louis, baseball is #1. After what I witnessed, I would say it’s really a culture. Cards fans take their baseball seriously. One group of young fans I made friends with snapped this great shot for me from a balcony in Ballpark Village. You can see what a terrific view you get of the field from across the street.
Overall, I would have to put Busch Stadium & Ballpark Village toward the top of my list of “must-see” baseball destinations. Regardless of whether or not you are a Cardinals fan, touring through the museum and Cards Hall of Fame is a real treat, and you can grab a frosty beverage from any number of happening spots to watch the game live, or on any number of ridiculously large televisions.
On April 15th every year we celebrate Jackie Robinson day. Jackie was a pioneer of the civil rights movement, as a result of breaking major league baseball’s colour barrier in 1947. To say that Jackie was an incredible baseball player, is just listing one of his many significant accomplishments, as his brave actions paved the way for other civil rights activists, where Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. followed suit years later. Worthy to note is that Jackie was really just one of many talented ball players who made sacrifices far greater than most of us have experienced, and endured racism and hatred far worse than what most of us can even fathom. Several weeks ago I did an interview with the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick, which you can listen to here. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Bob recently and he took me on a tour through the museum:
John “Buck” O’Neil, was the first black coach in the Major Leagues, and discovered the eventual Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock, signing him to his first big-league contract. In a press conference for the Negro Leagues Baseball “Hall Of Game” Ceremony on April 12th, 2014, Lou said jokingly that, “Buck thought he was my father”. Truth be told, Buck was a father figure to many, especially Brock, as well as another Hall of Fame player, Ernie Banks. He was also instrumental in signing Toronto Blue Jays World Series hero, Joe Carter.
If it weren’t for Jackie making the sacrifices he did, when he did, who knows how different the history books might have been. It’s possible we could be much further behind in both baseball and human civil rights.
Some of the greatest ball players to have ever played the game had reached the end of their careers before major league baseball started signing black and Hispanic players. Bob Kendrick stated that Buck always used to say, “the Negro Leagues Museum represents the men who built the bridge over the chasm of prejudice in our country”. Indeed then, it was Jackie Robinson, and many others following him who would be the ones to cross over that bridge.