September 25th, the past, the future, and what lies between.

There are some days that burn themselves into the history of sports.

Some of them are for good reasons: Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947, for example.

Some of them are for bad reasons: September 5 and 6, 1972 were the days when the Munich Massacre happened at the Olympics.

And some of them are for reasons both good and bad: June 17, 1994 was perhaps the most eventful day in sports history. There was even a documentary about it. Game 5 of the NBA finals was in New York. The New York Rangers had their victory parade. The first World Cup on American soil began. Baseball wasn’t on strike yet. Arnold Palmer (I’ll get back to him) played his final US Open round. Overshadowing it all, though, was Buffalo Bills legend OJ Simpson in a white Bronco.

Yesterday, September 25, 2016 was one of the last kinds of those days. The mixed kind. For you see, yesterday saw both the past and the future die. It also saw the present live.

Jose Fernandez was the future. An immigrant who fled Cuba after years of trying, diving into the water to save his mother during the trip. He pitched with a joy that few have seen, and his pitching brought that same joy to all except those who opposed him. His determination was also legendary: when he arrived in America at 15, he was by all accounts a far cry from the stud pitcher he became. It was only through hard work that he became a prospect, then a super-prospect, and then a ace.

And then he got hurt, and was mostly missing for two whole season.

And then he came back, better than he was before. A rising star who was an attraction by himself, and with endless potential ahead of him. One of the new faces of baseball, every bit as amazing as Trout, Harper, Machado and their ilk.

Except, in some ways, Fernandez was more than any of them. He represented the ideal of the game of baseball that in some ways has only existed in our minds. The game where everyone can play, regardless of where they come from or what language they can speak. The game where people can have fun like they had when they were kids, even if they are being paid absurd amounts of money. The game that is a game, not a war (like football).

And now he’s gone. A potential Hall of Fame career, up in smoke along the Florida coast, along with the lives of two of his friends. What he could have been, whether he could have met that potential and continued to bring so much joy to a game that at times desperately needs it… we will never know.

We do, however, know what Arnold Palmer had. He had quite the past. He wasn’t the greatest golfer ever, but he may have been the most famous, and with good reason. He has a drink named after him- not even Babe Ruth has that (he had to settle for a candy bar that officially isn’t even named after him). He loved the sport he played, and was one of the best at it. While it is tragic that he has passed, he lived a full life, and left his mark upon the sports world that his talent deserved.

Arnold Palmer, in other words, lived the life that Jose Fernandez could have lived.

Between mourning the lost future of Jose Fernandez and the glorious past of Arnold Palmer, the games went on, as they almost always do. It was full of the moments- good and bad and in-between- that define sports, and life. Vin Scully said goodbye to LA, yes, but there was also a walk-off HR to clinch the division. Football and golf went on, bringing their usual pains and triumphs. There is less than a week left to go in the MLB season, with some races still be decided, some careers still left to be finished and continued.

Yes, the games go on. They won’t show us what Jose Fernandez could have become, or what Arnold Palmer once was, but they will go on. And they will help us ease the pain and nostalgia, just as they help us forget the woes of everyday life on any given day.

After all, that’s what we love sports for, is it not?

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So… who’d be in the 2016 “In Memoriam” montage?

Like in previous years, here’s who would be in this season’s hypothetical “In Memoriam” segment of the All-Star Game. It’s in a semi-random order, and a * means that they’d get an extra emphasis, such as a highlight or interview clip about them- they all died after last year’s ASG (July 14):

Joe Garagiola Sr., Player and famed announcer*

Milt Pappas, 2-time All-Star

Mike Sandlock, played portions of five seasons

Dick McAuliffe, 3-time All-Star

John Young, creator of the RBI program

Paul Carey, Announcer

Sammy Ellis, 1965 All-Star

Monte Irvin, HoF outfielder*

Luis Arroyo, 2-time All-Star

Eddie Milner, Reds OF in 1980s

Jim Hickman, 1970 All-Star

Walt Williams, 10 seasons in MLB

Eddie Einhorn, White Sox Vice Chairman

Joaquin Andujar, 4-time All-Star*

Tommy Hanson, MLB pitcher for Braves and Angels

Phil Pepe, Noted NYC baseball writer

Rueben Quevedo, MLB pitcher from 2000 to 2003

Jim Davenport, All-Star and Gold Glove winner

Walter Young, 1B for Orioles in 2005

Frank Sullivan, 2-time All-Star

Dave Henderson, 1991 All-Star and hitter of famed home run off of Donnie Moore*

John Tsitouris, played parts of 11 seasons

Spec Richardson, General Manager for Astros and Giants

Betty Francis, AAGPBL player

Bobby Smith, OF with five teams from 1957-1965

Masayoshi Higashida, 2-time NPB All-Star

Billy Pierce, 7-time All-Star

Gene Elston, long-time Houston Announcer and Ford C. Frick winner *

Jim Ray Hart, 1966 All-Star

Marilyn Jones, AAGPBL star

Barney Schultz, Cardinals relief ace

Trent Baker, member of the Brisbane Bandits

Harry Perkowski, played parts of 8 seasons

Dean Chance, 2-time All-Star and 1964 Cy Young Award winner

Buzz Bowers, Baseball Scout Hall of Famer

Frank Malzone, 3-time Gold Glove, multiple ASG appearances, member of BOS HoF*

Jim O’Toole, Reds Hall of Famer and 1963 All-Star

Chico Fernandez, MLB 1956-1963

Erma Bergmann, AAGPBL Star

Joe Durham, Negro Leaguer and longtime member of the Orioles organization

June Peppas, AAGPBL Star

Kiyohiro Miura, 19-years in NPB

Milo Hamilton, Announcer and Ford C. Frick winner *

Ken Johnson, Pitcher for seven teams between 1958 and 1970

Norm Siebern, 3-time All-Star

Alice Pollitt, AAGPBL star

Hal Brown, Knuckleballer in 1950s and 60s

James Moore, Negro League All-Star

Tony Phillips, Utilityman Extraordinaire*

Garry Hancock, OF during portions of 6 season

Tom Kelley, Reliever in 60s and 70s

Donny Everett, college player for Vanderbilt

Cal Neeman, SS in Majors 1957-1963

Jimmy Williams, Player, coach and member of Canadian Baseball HoF

Yogi Berra, HoF Catcher and 18-time All-Star *

 

The Greatness and Legacy of Yogi Berra

We may know Yogi Berra by his quotes. That’s how I paid tribute to him on Twitter this morning (I woke up inexplicably briefly at like 4:00 this morning before falling back to sleep, explaining how early some of these tweets are):

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But then there is what comes after:

 

Those final facts are often the ones forgotten. Lost amongst the legend of his “Yogi-isms” is the fact that he was one of the greatest catchers of all time, as well as a an esteemed coach and manager (three of his WS titles came not as a player, but as a coach with the Mets and Yankees, and he was the manager of the 1964 Yankees team and 1973 Mets teams that lost their World Series).

He was a Forrest Gump of Baseball, seemingly involved in countless major events connected to baseball from the end of WWII (where Yogi served as a gunner’s mate on a navy ship, including during the D-Day invasion) until his death. He was the soul of Casey Stengel’s Yankees. Jackie Robinson played against him and had perhaps his signature moment- the steal of home in the World Series- off of him (to the end, Yogi claimed Jackie was out). When Don Larson had his perfect game, it was famously Yogi who leaped into his arm, leading Larson to say “Damn, Yogi, you’re heavy.” When Bill Mazeroski hit his walk-off home run, it was Yogi who watched it fly over the left-field fence. When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record, Yogi was on deck. The “Miracle Mets’ had Yogi Berra as a coach.

And, perhaps above all, he was a hell of a player. As Tom Verducci pointed out in his article on Yogi, he never struck out more than 40 times in a season. He and Joe DiMaggio are the only players in history to have 350 home runs or more with fewer than 500 strikeouts. He was by most accounts a defensive catcher and pitch-caller of fine quality- at one point he held the record for consecutive games behind the plate without an error. One does not become a All-Star so many times being merely average.

In the end, perhaps Casey Stengel summed up Berra the best (it’s included in Yogi’s obituary), even though it was 1949 when he said it, very early in Yogi’s career:

“Mr. Berra,” Casey Stengel said, “is a very strange fellow of very remarkable abilities.”

 

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So… who’d be in the 2015 “In Memoriam” montage?

Last year, to great controversy, Major League Baseball didn’t do a thing to honor the memory of the great Tony Gwynn at the All-Star Game, leading many (including myself) to suggest that maybe MLB should take the opportunity every All-Star Game to pay tribute to the past and those we’ve lost by having a “In Memoriam” segment at the All-Star Game. One guy (Sully) even made a video on his own, and it was pretty good.

Well, we haven’t heard anything about a possible official “In Memoriam” video happening in a few weeks in Cincinnati, so I can only assume it won’t be happening, or it’s being kept a closely-guarded surprise. But, I (somewhat morbidly) wondered: who’d be in this year’s “In Memoriam” video anyway?

Here’s a list (and a semi-random order) I came up with, a * means that they’d get an extra emphasis, such as a highlight or interview clip about them:

Alvin Dark, 1948 Rookie of the Year, 3-time All-Star, lengthy managing career *

Frank Torre, member of 1957 World Champion Milwaukee Braves

Lennie Merullo, 7 seasons of MLB experience, last surviving man to have played in the World Series for the Chicago Cubs

Gordie Gillespie, all-time leader in coaching wins in college baseball (longtime NAIA coach)

Noella Leduc, winning pitcher of the last AAGPBL All-Star Game

Jim Fanning, longtime member of Expos front office, manager of Montreal’s 1981 playoff team

Riccardo Ingram, Twins minor-league roving instructor

Rocky Bridges, 1958 All-Star

Sy Berger, longtime Topps baseball card designer

Ray Sadecki, pitcher in 1960s and 1970s

Lon Simmons, Ford Frick Award-winning broadcaster for Giants and A’s*

Fred Gladding, 1969 NL saves leader

Jean-Pierre Roy, commentator for Montreal Expos from 1968 to 1984

Victor Sanchez, 20-year-old Mariners prospect

John Keenan, longtime Dodgers scout

Jose Capellan, pitcher during the 2000s

Bill Valentine, longtime umpire

Bill Slayback, 1970s Tigers pitcher, singer of “Move Over Babe (Here Comes Henry)”

Wendell Kim, longtime coach

Minnie Minoso, 9-time All-Star, 3-time gold glover *

Carl Long, Negro Leaguer who later helped integrate the Carolina League

Dave Bergman, 17 years MLB experience, 1984 World Champion

Dick Bresciani, longtime Red Sox PR Man

Jerry Lumpe, 1964 All-Star

Ulpiano Cos Villa, Spanish-Language broadcaster for Angels and CBS in 1980s

Jeff Robinson, pitcher in late 80s and early 90s

Oscar Taveras, young Cardinals star *

George Spencer, top reliever for 1951 Giants

Bernardo Fernandez, longtime Negro Leaguer

Jerry Gross, early Padres broadcaster

Alison Gordon, first female member of the BBWAA

Hank Peters, longtime executive, GM of Orioles from 1976 to 1987

Brad Halsey, MLB pitcher 2004-2006

Ollie Brown, outfielder in 1960s and 70s

John Winkin, College Coach

Stuart Scott, ESPN legend, creator of the “Boo-Yah!” HR call

Alex Johnson, 1970 All-Star and AL Batting Champion

Jerry Dior, creator of the MLB Logo

Don Bryant, catcher of Don Wilson’s second no-hitter, Bullpen coach of the 1975 AL Champion Red Sox

Nelson Doubleday Jr., former owner of the Mets

Al Rosen, 4-time Star, 1953 MVP, 2-time AL HR champion, longtime executive *

Andres Mora, member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame, 3rd all-time in minor league HRs

Jose Martinez, former player and longtime coach and executive

Bill Monbouquette, 3 (or 4, depending on how you count the multiple ASG years)-time All-Star and thrower of a No-Hitter in 1962

James Stillwell, an original owner of the Seattle Mariners

George Shuba, member of the 1955 World Series Champion Dodgers, minor-league friend of Jackie Robinson

Joe Simenic, co-founder of SABR

Russ Kemmerer, MLB pitcher in 50s and early 60s

Nick Peters, sportswriter and winner of 2009 J.G. Taylor Gordon Spink Award from HOF

Stu Miller, 1961 All-Star, 1958 NL ERA champion, member of Orioles Hall of Fame

Darryl Hamilton, 13-years MLB experience, MLB Network analyst

Ernie Banks, Hall of Famer *

 

 

On the “In Memoriam” Idea (Also: Sully Baseball’s video)

Note: This post was being written/outlined before Sully Baseball’s excellent video went up. Make sure to check that out- he does most of what I say in here.

As everybody and their brother said during the All-Star Game, Tony Gwynn really should have gotten a tribute. And, well, he didn’t, apparently because MLB didn’t want to make it about “any one person” (never mind that the entire game coverage was about Jeter and only a few years ago they did tributes to George Steinbrenner). So, everybody said, why not an Oscars-style “In Memoriam” segment, perhaps in the fifth inning?

 

I agree. Every year at the ASG, baseball should pay tribute to those it has lost since the last ASG with a Memoriam video of between two and four minutes, depending on how much of a bummer the year has been. It would feature (with examples of the types of people next to it):

  • Hall of Famers who had passed away (Tony Gwynn, Jerry Coleman, Ralph Kiner)
  • Players who had made All-Star Games, especially if they made multiple ones (Jim Fregosi, Bob Welch, Paul Blair, Andy Pafko, etc.)
  • Players who otherwise had roles in major moments in baseball history (perfect games, no-hitters, key roles in postseason, etc.) or won major awards
  • Individuals who were outright icons for various reasons (Don Zimmer)
  • Contributors off the field (Tommy John Surgery creator Frank Jobe, MLBPA president Michael Weiner, GM Frank Cashen, Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi)
  • “Gone Too Soon” individuals who aren’t in the other categories (Umpire Wally Bell, former pitcher Frank Castillo)
  • Exemplary players from outside Major League Baseball (Negro Leaguers, AAGPBLers, College coaches, particularly exceptional international players, etc.)

As for what music that could accompany it? Well, I’m sure a good orchestral score would work well, but want to know what else would work? The most melancholy and nostalgic of all baseball songs: Frank Sinatra’s “There Used To Be A Ballpark”.

Do it, MLB. Make it classy, and it could become an indelible part of the midsummer classic.