Tagged: The Sandlot

My Oh My

Rap is not the usual music genre for baseball songs. Teams may create a music video for the upcoming season, postseason, or a particular player. College teams are known to lip sync from time to time, looking at you 2012 Harvard baseball team. However, it is rarely a rap song. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis changed this with My Oh My. The song was written in response to longtime Seattle Mariners radio broadcaster Dave Niehaus’ sudden death in November 2010. It is the best baseball song of the last decade.

My Oh My is not reserved just for Mariner fans, however to fully appreciate the song you must understand what Dave Niehaus meant to the Pacific Northwest. He was the Mariners broadcaster since their inception in 1971. He broadcast more than 5,000 games, missing roughly 100 games in 40 years. Niehaus was the voice of baseball for Mariners fans.

Baseball had a tough beginning in Seattle. The Pilots lasted only one losing season, 1969, before moving to Milwaukee. The Mariners, and their fans, suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons. They did not make the postseason until the fabled 1995 season, their 19th. There was little excitement on the diamond, yet the fans tuned in their radios to listen to Dave Niehaus.

Dave Niehaus
 Dave Niehaus was the voice of baseball in the Pacific Northwest. My Oh My was a loss.(John Lok/ The Seattle Times)

Mariners fans were rewarded by listening to Niehaus call the golden age of Mariners baseball. From 1995 through 2001, the Mariners made the postseason four times, reaching the American League Championship Series three times. The excitement inside the Kingdome moved to Safeco Field, now T-Mobile Park, on July 15, 1999 with Dave Niehaus throwing out the first pitch. The following summer, Niehaus became the second member of the Mariners Hall of Fame, after former first baseman Alvin Davis. In 2008, Niehaus received the highest award in baseball broadcasting, the Ford C. Frick Award, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Niehaus was more than a broadcaster. The 2011 season was the teams first without him in the booth. The team honored Niehaus with a performance of My Oh My on Opening Day.

My Oh My was released six weeks after Dave Niehaus’ death as a bonus track on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ album The Heist. Macklemore begins by recounting the winning run of the 1995 American League Divisional Series against the Yankees. The voice of God on the radio calling the game as Edgar Martinez drives in Joey Cora tying the game and Ken Griffey Jr. is waved home to win the game. The pace of the song quickens along with your pulse for the play at the plate.

Wisely, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis step back while Dave Niehaus makes the call during an interlude. Artists recognize the talents of other great artists. Niehaus paints the picture of the play at the plate and how it felt inside the Kingdome and across the Pacific Northwest.

The second verse zooms out to examine baseball memories from childhood. Macklemore discusses learning to play baseball, spitting sunflower seeds, playing under the sun, and his Dad teaching him the beauty of the game. He layers in childhood favorites of Big League Chew, recreating The Sandlot, and begging his Mom for one more inning before bed. Recalling childhood memories quicken the pace of the song, like an excited child talking faster and faster.

Macklemore rounds out My Oh My with a final verse connecting baseball and real life. The third verse begins at a frantic pace. The same feeling Mariner fans had as Griffey rounded third. Life feels as though it’s moving faster than we can grasp it. There is a touch of anger underpinning the understanding that life will give you bad hops and you must be ready for them. The lessons of baseball stay with you as an adult. Life is a trip around the bases, success comes by putting your head down and running as hard as you can. The verse slows as it approaches the end and finishes with a trombone playing a mournful farewell…almost a baseball version of Taps.

Macklemore’s description of Dave Niehaus’ call and how baseball makes him feel could be anyone, not just a kid from Seattle. Every baseball fan knows the thrill of following the winning run racing home. My Oh My takes baseball fans back to their childhoods and the joys of baseball and the lessons it teaches.

The song is also a reflection of becoming an adult and losing your childhood heroes. Baseball is a child’s game played by adults, yet those adults are not invincible. Every kid eventually deals with the loss of a hero. Despite never meeting the person, it has a profound impact on their life. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are spot on with My Oh My and the music video. The video is simple, just baseball pictures, equipment, jerseys, old stadiums, and replays of past moments. No wonder people in Seattle had to pull over to collect themselves when they heard My Oh My for the first time.

DJ

Advertisements

The Best of Baseball 2015

2015 has been a wonderful year for baseball.  Baseball has been everywhere from Spring Training and Opening Day to playing catch in the backyard and playing a friendly season of fantasy.  The big moments like the Royals winning the World Series can be just as special as feeling the pop of the ball when it hits your glove.  Everyone experiences baseball differently.  As 2015 comes to an end the staff of The Winning Run wanted to share our best moments from baseball in 2015.

Derek:

Spending three days going through the National Baseball Hall of Fame was the highlight of 2015 for me.  I literally moved inch by inch through the museum, reading every plaque and sign, look at every picture and artifact on display.  Seeing everything from the baseball used in the first game in which spectators had to pay to watch, to the glove used by Willie Mays to make The Catch, to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery.  Three days and at least 24 hours may seem like an extraordinarily long time to spend inside of a museum, however when it was time to leave Cooperstown I found myself rushing to finish seeing everything.

Cooperstown Statue

Statue behind the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (The Winning Run)

Visiting Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame only increased my passion for the game.  While the museum is just a building and Cooperstown is just a small town, there is something magical about both.  2015 has been a year of transitions for me personally and professionally.  Visiting Cooperstown allowed me to be a kid again, even for a weekend.  Walking through the Hall of Fame with the same wide eyes I have had since I first fell in love with the game only solidified why baseball is and forever will be special.

DJ

Bernie:

Fantasy baseball. I was mesmerized by Madison Bumgardner and the SF Giants in the 2014 World Series and was really excited to get back into watching baseball in 2015. Fantasy was such a pleasure because it helped me keep on track with news and yet had to pace myself to get through the week and season. There were plenty of great baseball moments but the overall winner that made the experiences more enjoyable started with playing fantasy baseball this season.

Infield Lies Trophy

The Infield Lies Fantasy Baseball Trophy. Derek is now the 2 time defending champion. (The Winning Run)

BL

John:

So 2015 is almost over and we think back on what a year it was. That’s a tough assignment when I’m sitting outside grilling in shorts in the last week of December. I should have a baseball game on instead of Christmas lights. But this does aid in recapping my best memory of baseball this season.

GBraves Foul Ball

John’s treasured foul ball from the Gwinnett Braves game on Back to the Future Night. (The Winning Run)

This season was my year of watching it on tv. I did not get a chance to travel and catch any games and only saw a handful of Atlanta and Gwinnett Braves games. A lot happened around the league but I’m going to share a personal trip to a Gwinnett Braves game in June. I remember the day because I was stuck on the stairs watching Max Sherzer flirt with perfection. I took the family to what turned out to be Back to the Future Night at the stadium so it was fairly attended. I got us seats down the first base line but in the outfield part that juts back into the field. I brought my glove this time and was determined to catch a foul even with the pessimist behind me ho thought no baseball could make it that far. As luck would have it a foul came my way in the fourth and I made a pretty spectacular play in my opinion and snagged in on the fly while crashing onto someone who ran into our row. I high fived and showed the girls our souvenir much to their non-caring.

By the seventh they mentioned the silent auction going on for the jerseys the home team was wearing for the promotion, so after conferring with our other writer Jesse, who’s as much a Back to the Future fan as a baseball fan, I decided to try my luck. I brought the older child and found a relief pitcher with no bids. I bid with a few minutes left and had the child stand in front and smile at other potential bidders. This guy was ours. We won, paid and were told to come back so we could go on the field to aquire our winnings. I brought the family unit down, hung out til the final out, and then was allowed on field to wait for our guy and his “game worn” jersey that did all of allowing him into the bullpen without credentials. He autographed the jersey for the girls and even signed my fly ball from earlier.

Back to the Future

Jesse is clearly excited about his new Gwinnett Braves Back to the Future jersey. (The Winning Run)

Even though the game was only seen by the crowd in attendance and didn’t help the standings at all, it brought memories and a story I can share for many years to come. I believe baseball is more than just what is happening in the majors or in the headlines. It’s about experiences and sharing your enjoyment of the sport with the ones you love. I am happy that my best memory of 2015 was personal and shared with my family. Happy New Year.

JB

Jesse:

The best things that I ended up doing and/or experiencing baseball related in the year of our Lord, two thousand and fifteen are as follows (dates and order are questionable at best)  Any pics that aren’t noted as being borrowed from the internets were taken myself or another member of the Winning Run.  Enjoy.

Cooperstown

For such a small town, the amount of fun that I had there was better than I could have expected.  Only thing I’m disappointed about is that I didn’t see the ball that Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez busted the guts out of.

Cooperstown Front

The National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York (The Winning Run)

The Hall

Walking among the legends of baeball. (The Winning Run)Cooperstown Lake

 

Otsego Lake, a short walk from Main Street and the Hall of Fame. (The Winning Run)

Baseball game for my Dad’s birthday

Managed to score some pretty low seats at the Braves on the 3rd base side for my dad’s birthday.  Just went with my mom and dad.  We were low enough that we were able to see Ron Gant a few rows in front of us.  Sadly, he doesn’t seem to check his Twitter account very often.  I was hoping to get a pic of him and Dad together.

Dad Birthday

 

Jesse enjoying a Braves game with the parents on Dad’s birthday. (The Winning Run)

Seatgeek

In a quote I picked up the pages of history (not sure if it comes from Napoleon or Stalin, don’t care) “quantity has a quality all its own.”  Thanks to the beauty of online retail and a secondary ticket market, I was able to see a MUCH larger number of MLB games this year.  Yay internets.

Braves Lightning

Thunder and lightning on and off the diamond in Atlanta. (The Winning Run)

Braves Sunset

The sky was on fire. (The Winning Run)

Braves America

It is never a bad day if it is spent at the ballpark. (The Winning Run)

Braves Tomahawks

The Force is strong with these Tomahawks. (The Winning Run)

Neon Cancer

After working in an unairconditioned shop in the middle of summer near the exact center of the Everglades (the place was exactly 2 hours from EVERYWHERE in Florida, a true geographic anomaly), I decided to drive to Miami and look for Will Smith.  I didn’t run into him, sadly, but I did manage to go to a Marlins game and have very low seats.  I was probably as close to Ichiro as I’ll ever be, and that was titillating all on its own.  Also, if for nothing else, the bobblehead museum is worth the ticket price.

Marlins Park

Inside Marlins Park, watching Ichiro up close and personal. (The Winning Run)

Bobblehead Museum

The Bobblehead Museum at Marlins Park in all its glory. (The Winning Run)

Minor League Baseball

Minor League Baseball is my jam.  I love the stuff.  I can’t say that there is a better bang for your buck in the entertainment world.  This year I managed to sit directly behind the net at the local team (the Gwinnett Braves), thanks to buying an A/C, I saw a dog act as ball boy AND run the bases (Myrtle Beach Pelicans), and I walked up to a craft beer and unlimited hot dog night (Chattanooga Lookouts).  That was a fun night on the Twitters.  It was a good thing that I was only walking two blocks back to the hotel that night.

Dog Batboy

The batboy for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at work. (The Winning Run)

Sunset

 

Watching the Chattanooga Lookouts play on a warm summer eveing. (The Winning Run)

baseball Cannon

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans shoot to thrill. (The Winning Run)

Lookouts

Baseball, beer, and hot dogs. What more do you need? (The Winning Run)

Baseball and Beer

Enjoying a lookouts game and a beer. (The Winning Run)

Hot Dogs

No food is more baseball than hot dogs. (The Winning Run)

Infield Lies

Fantasy Baseball has become a great way to sit and talk about the minutia of the day’s baseball awesomeness.  This year I managed to get my girlfriend, and now wife, talked into playing.  Once she got the basics of what should be going on, she became dangerous.  Dammit.

College Ball

I’ve only watched a few college games live, but this year’s first game was at Gardner-Webb University.  Yay baseball’s back.

Gardner Webb

Kicking off the baseball season, watching Gardner Webb University’s baseball team in action. (The Winning Run)

The Playoffs

The 2015 playoffs were some of the most enjoyable to watch in a long time.  I simultaneously wanted the Cubbies to win to fulfil their Back to the Future density (yes I meant “density”.  Watch Back to the Future if you don’t get it), but I longed for the curse to stay in tact at the same time.  Daniel Murphy seemed to be able to do no wrong (until the WS at least).  Then there was the “slide”  Take a look at the pic, you’ll remember it.

Chase Utley Meme

Chase Utley needs to learn how to slide. (MLB Memes)

Apologies

My now son/stepson/boogerface (still working on the naming conventions) confided in me that his favorite team wasn’t the Braves.  Mind you that he isn’t much for baseball, of which I intend to learn him in the ways of the base on balls, but he came to me in a bit of a quiet tone to inform me that he liked the Marlins.  I was a little take aback, UNTIL I heard the reasoning.  His favorite player is Ichiro.  He likes the way he tugs at his shirt when he comes to the plate.  Sounds like a great reason to me.

Hell Froze Over

Citi Field.  It was cold.  We were in the nosebleed.  It was cold.  We rode the 7 train.  It was cold.  It was cold.

Citi Field

Citi Field was strangely cold when the Toronto Blue Jays visited this summer. (The Winning Run)

Fleer

I found a complete set of Fleer baseball cards from 1989 at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore (kinda like a Goodwill for non clothing stuff).  Welcome to the Bigs Mr.Griffey.  Also, I sadly got the edited version of Billy Ripken’s card.  So close.

Griffey Rookie

Ken Griffey Jr., when the Kid was truly just a kid. (The Winning Run)

Fleer Cards

The complete set of 1989 Fleer baseball Cards. (The Winning Run)

My First True Doubleheader

Manage to make it to my first true MLB doubleheader on the last day of the regular season.  That seems like an awesome way to go into the dark dreary non baseball time of year.

Outfield Seats

It’s a beautiful day for baseball, let’s play two. Lots of fans came dressed as empty seats. (The Winning Run)

Christmas

I got a baseball signed by Matt Cain to go along with my ticket from my perfect game.  Time to make a display for that awesomeness.

Matt Cain Perfect

I was at Matt Cain’s Perfect Game, now I have an autographed baseball. (The Winning Run)

NL East

The Nationals didn’t win.

jonathan-papelbon-bryce-harper

Jonathon Papelbon and Bryce Harper might not be best friends. (www.larrybrownsports.com)

JJ

2015 was the most exciting and successful year for The Winning Run.  There was so much in and around baseball that we were able to experience.  Baseball is special in that you can always feel like a kid even when you have played, watched, and followed the game for decades.  While it is impossible to see and experience everything that makes baseball wonderful, we will not stop in our quest to achieve the impossible.  We hope our efforts in sharing our love and knowledge of  the game have added to your enjoyment of baseball in 2015.

Happy New Year,

The Winning Run

The Irish in America’s Pastime

You can observe a lot just by watching. ~Yogi Berra

The same can be said for listening and reading.  Last week was the anniversary of Bill James publishing his Historical Baseball Abstract.  Understanding the impact of his work and the creation of sabermetrics, which have changed how teams evaluate players and provided everyone with a greater understanding of how teams win games.  Reading more about Bill James and found that he was a 2010 inductee the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame.  So naturally, I started researching the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame, as I had never heard of it before.

The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 2008.  It is located inside Foley’s NY Bar & Restaurant across the street from the Empire State Building in Manhattan.  Visitors must use door handles that are wooden baseball bats to enter Foley’s.  Once inside the majority of the wall and ceiling space is covered with baseball memorabilia.  The memorability ranges from photographs, signed baseballs, jerseys, signs, to bobbleheads, and any other baseball related item imaginable.  While there is a lot to see, the displayed memorabilia is not jumbled together, making each item easy to view and interesting.

Ceiling of jerseys and shirts at Foley's. (The Winning Run)

Ceiling of jerseys and shirts at Foley’s. (The Winning Run)

The inside of Foley’s looks like Mr. Mertles’ home in The Sandlot, only with better lighting.  There are pictures of Reggie Jackson’s third home run in Game 6 of the 1977 World SeriesPete Rose fighting Bud Harrelson of the New York Mets during Game 3 of the 1973 National League Championship Series.  You have Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run ball.  A Carl Crawford Boston Red Sox jersey hangs from the ceiling.  A bobblehead of Orbit, the Houston Astros mascot is on display as well.  The list of items displayed by Foley’s continues around the restaurant.  It would be easy to spend a full day looking at everything, without repeating.

Wall full of signed baseballs and bobbleheads. (The Winning Run)

Wall full of signed baseballs and bobbleheads. (The Winning Run)

As quirky as the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame might sound, and might truly be, it is still important for both baseball and America.  It connects the past with people like Manager Connie Mack to the present with nominees like current Met Michael Cuddyer and everywhere in between with Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.  It also reminds us that America is a country of immigrants.  We have come from all over the world to make America our home.  On the diamond, it does not matter if you or your ancestors came from Ireland, Japan, Venezuela, Kenya, or if you are a mixture of cultures.  What matters is whether you can play America’s pastime.  Every group has its own history in America, but when these histories are put together they create the history of America.  The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame simply tells the Irish story of their place in baseball and in America.

D

The Liquor Store and the Cold War

Savannah Valet Service, note the picture in the doorway of Cobb and Jackson. (Blaclbetsy.com)

Savannah Valet Service, note the picture in the doorway of Cobb and Jackson. (Blaclbetsy.com)

Rudolf Anderson, Jr. was born in Spartanburg, SC in September of 1927, the same year that the infamous Murderers’ Row proved to be its most effective, posting a .714 winning percentage for the regular season, and defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games to win the World Series.  That same year Joseph Jefferson Jackson was living in south Georgia operating a dry cleaners, the Savannah Valet Service, after having managed the Waycross Coastliners to a state championship two years prior.  The same season he played center field for the Coastliners batting .577, even occasionally switching sides to bat for both teams

The 1925 Waycross Coastliners. Jackson is 3rd from the right. (blackbetsy.com)

The 1925 Waycross Coastliners. Jackson is 3rd from the right. (Blackbetsy.com)

Years earlier, in 1919,  the man who owned the Savannah Valet Service, had been know as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.  He had been one of the most dramatic offensive weapons in Major League Baseball.  He batted .351 for the season, fourth best in the Majors, behind Ty Cobb, Bobby Veach, and George Sisler, had 181 hits, behind only Cobb and Veach (both had 191), and led the majors in at bats per strikeout, striking out on average only once per 51.6 AB.  By comparison, the 2013 leader, Nori Aoki, had one strikeout for every 14.9 AB.  Putting that into math terms, Aoki struck out 3.46 times more often last season than Jackson did in 1919.

Four years after the 1919 Black Sox scandal had rocked Major League Baseball, Jackson was still playing baseball, albeit in the minor leagues in Georgia and South Carolina.  During this time he was still pleading with Kennesaw Mountain Landis, named baseball’s first commissioner in 1920 in attempts to repair baseballs image, to reinstate him into the game.  In 1921 a jury in Chicago found the eight men accused not guilty of any wrongdoing in relation to the series.  Despite this, Landis continued his refusal to reinstate of any of the players associated with the scandal.  

Black Sox in court

Black Sox in court (law2.umkc.edu)

In 1933 Jackson moved back to his hometown of Greenville, South Carolina and played for a few minor league teams.  At the same time he opened up a short lived BBQ restaurant, and later a liquor store on Pendleton Street in Greenville.  Jackson operated the liquor store until his death on December 5, 1951.

Joe Jackson's Liquor Store (Blackbetsy.com)

Joe Jackson’s Liquor Store (Blackbetsy.com)

In 1944, and the aforementioned Rudolf Anderson, Jr. had moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina and he enrolled at Clemson University studying textile manufacturing.  During his time at school he was involved across campus, from intramural football, basketball, swimming, and softball.  Most importantly to his life and his place in history though, he was involved with the Air Force ROTC program.  

Major Rudolf Anderson, USAF

Major Rudolf Anderson, USAF (History.com)

Anderson did not possess the ability to catch things as well as Jackson.  In his senior year Anderson was on the third floor of the campus barracks when a pigeon flew into the hall.  Anderson chased the bird down the hall and failed to stop before he fell out of the window, hitting the eaves over the door on the way down.  He suffered a completely dislocated wrist, fractured pelvis, and lacerations to the head.  

After graduation, Anderson joined the Air Force.  He served time in Korea earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses for reconnaissance missions flown over Korea in his RF-86 Sabre.  Four years after the ceasefire in Korea, he qualified on the U-2 and joined the 4088th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.  There he logged over 1,000 hours making him the top U-2 pilot the wing had to offer.

In 1962 a large influx of people and supplies from the USSR to Cuba, then President John F. Kennedy directed Strategic Air Command to fly reconnaissance over Cuba to investigate the nature of the shipments.  The 4088th was tasked with the assignment, and after flyovers by Major Richard Heyser and Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr, photographic proof of ballistic missile sites on Cuba became available.  On October 22 the President addressed the United States for nearly 18 minutes detailing the gravity of the situation. 

October 14-28, better known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, saw the two superpowers, the US and USSR play a game of brinksmanship that has never been matched.  Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was discussed as a realistic option, whereby both parties would destroy the other with their entire nuclear arsenal, effectively ending all life.  Not unlikely, was the start of World War III.

It was during this time that Major Anderson met his fate.  On October 27th, Anderson was flying yet another reconnaissance mission over Cuba in a U-2 when he was shot down.  It was expected that shrapnel from the explosion punctured his suit and caused it to decompress at an operating altitude of 70,000 (13.25 miles).  Major Anderson would become the only combat death of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The surface to air missile that shot him down was fired without permission from the Kremlin.  Both Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev quickly realized that nuclear war was rapidly becoming a reality and would likely be caused not by the leaders, but a panicky soldier or commander on the ground.  The two sides quickly realized their inevitable loss of control and reeled back the hostilities, and on October 28th, the Crisis was averted.  The Soviets publicly agreeing to dismantle all missile bases in Cuba, and the US publicly agreeing to not invade Cuba.  Privately, the US also agreed to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy.

Rudolph Anderson Memorial (The Winning Run)

Rudolph Anderson Memorial (Greenvilledailyphoto.com)

Major Rudolf Anderson may have been the most important death of the 20th century.  His death highlighted the uncontrollable state of affairs that was unfolding and started the serious communication between the White House and the Kremlin that led to the end of the standoff. Without this dialogue, the reality of a worldwide nuclear holocaust was very real.  

President Kennedy posthumously awarded Anderson the Air Force Cross.  In 1963, the City of Greenville erected a memorial in honor of the downed pilot.  Renovated, the monument, made from an F86-Sabre similar to the one he had flown in Korea, was unveiled again in October 2012 in Cleveland Park in Greenville, South Carolina.

Commissoner Kennesaw Mountain Landis denying Shoeless Joe Jackson's bid to end his ban. (Blackbetsy.com)

Commissoner Kennesaw Mountain Landis denying Shoeless Joe Jackson’s bid to end his ban. (Blackbetsy.com)

Shoeless Joe has been more recently memorialized in the City of Greenville as well with a statue   It can be located near Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive, Boston’s single A affiliate.  Across the street from the stadium is Jackson’s house.  It was moved from its original location to 356 Field Street in Greenville.  The home has been transformed into the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum which is free to tour. The house was give street number 356 in recognition of his lifetime batting average, which remains the third highest all time behind Cobb(.366) and Hornsby (.359) .

Fluor Field, Home of the Greenville Drive and across the street from the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. (The Winning RUn)

Fluor Field, Home of the Greenville Drive and across the street from the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. (The Winning Run)

Ultimately these men have only have a few things in common.  Both men were able to achieve their dream, Maj. Anderson in the Air Force, and Shoeless Joe in Major League Baseball.  Both men’s dreams ended abruptly, in ways that neither likely expected.  The other thing that they share is Greenville.  They both grew up there, and it is now where they are each buried.  In fact, they are both buried in the same cemetery, Woodlawn Memorial Park.  The cemetery is located across from Bob Jones University in Greenville and is open to the public.

Shoeless Joe’s place in baseball history will always be one of contention, whether he was a hero, a villain, or someone stuck in a no win situation.  Maj. Anderson’s place in history, sadly, is a largely forgotten one despite his overall importance. In the words of Art LaFluer in The Sandlot “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”  In their hometown of Greenville, each man is regarded as both.

Joe Jackson's final resting place. (The Winning Run)

Joe Jackson’s final resting place. (The Winning Run)

Major Anderson's final resting place. (The Winning Run)

Major Anderson’s final resting place. (Findagrave.com)

J

The Dilemma: The Pete Rose Story

Pete Rose. Just the mention of his name can flood the minds of baseball fans with memories of Charlie Hustle. Sprinting to first after drawing a walk. Sliding head first into third. Colliding with Ray Fossee during the 1970 All-Star game. Standing on first trying to hold back tears after passing Ty Cobb for the all time hits record. Shoving Umpire Dave Pallone during an argument. Commissioner Bart Giamatti announcing Rose has been banned from baseball for life. Being interviewed by Jim Gray during the All Century Team ceremony and avoiding all discussion of his ban from baseball. Everyone of these memories and countless others are how we remember Pete Rose, but the good is overshadowed by the bad. Pete Rose was and continues to be banned from baseball for betting on games he managed.

Baseball, and those who run it, have long been concerned about keeping the integrity of the game intact. They have gone through gambling scandals, recreational drug using players, racist and insensitive players, owners, and executives, steroid and performance-enhancing drug using players, and numerous other unsavory episodes throughout baseball’s history. However, the one which has the greatest ability to damage baseball is gambling. Fans want the games to be played on the level with everyone trying to win. Fans often do not care what a player thinks about different issues, nor do steroid using players do so to lose the game. They are seeking an advantage over their opponent. If you take away the belief that everyone is playing to win, then you could reasonably see the death of any sport, including baseball.

Charlie Hustle

Charlie Hustle

Baseball’s first Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, understood this in the years following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Gambling could destroy baseball and something had to be done. In 1927, after several more isolated occurrences of gambling in baseball, Landis created Rule 21 in 1927. Section D of Major League Baseball Rule 21 states:

  1. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
  2. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.

It is plain and simple, you do not have to translate the rule from legalese to understand that if you bet on baseball you will be suspended for a minimum of one year, if you bet on your own team, even to win, then you are gone forever. Not just for life, forever. Or as Michael “Squints” Palledorous from The Sandlot would say, “Forever. FOREVER. FOR-EV-ER. F-O-R-E.-V-E-R!”

All Time Hit King at work

All Time Hit King at work

The latest round of attention on Pete Rose and his banishment from baseball is from the book by Kostya Kennedy, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Sports Illustrated has an excerpt from the book in its March 10th edition. We are also approaching the 25th Anniversary of Sports Illustrated reporting that Rose bet on baseball, which the magazine first reported on March 21, 1989. The question of whether it is time to reexamine the ban on Pete Rose is posed in the except. Rose remains extremely popular in Cincinnati and with his former teammates. Fans flock to see him and to get his autograph at shows. Portions of the media, including baseball fanatic and ESPN’s Keith Olbermann support the reinstatement of Rose. While I enjoy listening to Olbermann talk about baseball and its history I could not disagree with him more that Rose deserves to be reinstated.

Is there really a dilemma?

Is there really a dilemma?

Rose should remain banned from baseball for his transgressions, as there are some violations of the rules which deserve a death penalty of sorts. Yes, America is the land of second opportunities but Rose chose to abuse his second chance. Rose broke the rules, much like the performance-enhancing drug users I have referenced in previous here. The difference is Rose sought to alter the game through means which had been against the rules of baseball for 36 years prior to his first appearance. The performance-enhancing drug users were going around baseball’s lack of drug testing and enforcement to gain an advantage. Once the rules changed, only then the rules were reflective of creating a level playing field based upon what a player could and could not consume.

Gambling was and is forbidden by Major League Baseball and yet Rose chose to ignore the rules. He had opportunities to come clean long before he did, but never did. He could have admitted what he did to then Commissioner Bart Giamatti and pleaded for mercy. I am in no way suggesting that admitting he had bet on baseball, specifically on Reds games, would have softened the penalty levied against him by the Commissioner. I would suggest however that being honest and forth coming could have changed the hearts and minds people over the last 25 years and potentially allowed for Bart Giamatti in the weeks after handing down the ban, or his successor Fay Vincent, or Bud Selig, or the next Commissioner of Baseball to alter the punishment. The truth could have set Rose free. He could have been credited with good behavior and had his sentence commuted to time served. Instead he continued to lie and to profess his innocence against the charges against him until he released his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, in 2004. Even his confession was unbecoming a player of his stature. Rose tried to stick it to Major League Baseball as he was making money on his confession through the sale of his book, instead of coming to Major League Baseball to beg for mercy. He never faced the truth until it was also a way for him to benefit from it. I have no issue with people making money off of their accomplishments, such as former Presidents writing books about their time in office or entertainers selling their memorabilia to the highest bidder. The problem with Rose is that he could have made money off of his accomplishments and come clean, but he chose to do them both at the same time. To say the least this is in poor taste. This raises the question: are you confessing because you are ready to tell the truth or because you want the book to sell more copies?

Commissioner of Baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, doesn't play games.

Commissioner of Baseball, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, doesn’t play games.

If Bud Selig or any future Commissioner decides that Pete Rose should be allowed back into baseball and is removed from the permanently ineligible list I believe it would do two things. It would set an extremely bad precedent and it would also be unfair to the other individuals on the permanently ineligible list. Why should Pete Rose be allowed back in and not the others. Allowing Rose back into baseball would enable people in the future to cite his reinstatement as the precedent for reducing their penalties. Imagine if Rose had been reinstated three years ago. Would Alex Rodriguez been able to point to Rose and argue that his season long suspension should be reduced to 100 games? Would Ryan Braun been able to argue that his first failed test should not count against him because he had not been previously warned not break the rules? The what ifs are too great. The reinstatement of Rose has the potential to allow the worst of baseball to remain in the game and to continue robbing the game of its integrity and the fans of their belief in the sport.

Shoeless Joe Jackson's ban needs to be reexamined by MLB.

Shoeless Joe Jackson’s ban needs to be reexamined by MLB.

George Bechtel, Jim Devlin, George Hall, Al Nichols, Bill Craver, Dick Higham, Jack O’Connor, Harry Howell, Horace Fogel, Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Lefty Williams, Joe Gedeon, Gene Paulette, Benny Kauff, Lee Magee, Phil Douglas, Jimmy O’Connell, and William Cox. These are the 26 men who for various reasons ranging from gambling, to jumping between teams before free agency, to car theft are on the permanently ineligible list for Major League Baseball. Pete Rose is #27. If you reinstate only Rose, then I fully expect an explanation as to why he received special treatment. Is it because he is the only living member of this exclusive “club”? If you allow Rose back in for time served then the rest of these men should have been reinstated a long time ago. William Cox is the only person to be banned since 1925 besides Rose. If reinstatement is to happen then you cannot pick and choose. Baseball would be at best hypocritical to allow Rose in while keeping another one of the games great hitter, Shoeless Joe Jackson, out of the game. I firmly believe that Jackson’s banishment should be reexamined as there is sufficient evidence that suggests he was not a part of the Black Sox Scandal. It is impossible to know for certain, however I do know that the cries for letting Rose back in should fall on deaf ears so long as there is not a serious consideration of allowing the rest of the banned players, an umpire, and an owner back in. They should all be in or all be out, not split up. None of those who were thrown out for betting on baseball were breaking the rules, they are the reason the rule was put into place. They were thrown out because they broke the trust between players and fans about playing to win every game. Rose does not have that argument, as the rule was in place long before he got to the Majors and he still chose to ignore it.

The Black Sox, did they all throw the 1919 World Series?

The Black Sox, did they all throw the 1919 World Series?

Rose is banned from baseball but he is still getting along fine. He is a constant presence in Cooperstown during the Hall of Fame inductions each summer. The Hall of Fame in which his accomplishments are recorded, but which he will never become a member. He makes a good living doing public appearances and signing autographs, and so long as he pays his taxes he has little to worry about financially. The realization that time is no longer on his side and the ban from the game he love has teeth is becoming, I believe, more painful every year. His ban does have some holes in it. He has been allowed back on the field for being a part of the All Century Team and on the anniversary of breaking Ty Cobb’s hits record. He was on hand when his son, Pete Rose Jr. made his Major League debut. Rose has not been totally thrown out in the cold. He is close enough to the proverbial fire to feel a little of its warmth but not close enough to bask in its glow, and for me this is as close as he should ever get.

Rose broke a single rule of baseball. The impact which his transgressions could have on the entire game warranted the measures Commissioner Giamatti took and all subsequent Commissioners have upheld. What Pete Rose accomplished on the field should be celebrated by those who love baseball, but he should also serve as a warning. No one, regardless how great they are, is bigger than the game. There is no dilemma about Pete Rose for me. He is and should remained banned from baseball. His gambling could have fractured the foundation upon which the game has been built upon for over 100 years. Everyone is playing to win. He should not receive special treatment while the other members of the permanently ineligible list are ignored. Major League Baseball cannot pick and chose who they will and will not reinstate. You either reinstate them all or you leave them as they are, banned. Pete Rose made his mistakes and now he has to pay the price, the only living member of a club no one wants to join.

D