David Bruce: Baseball Anecdotes

In 1978, when she was age 23, Jill Baer got a chance to manage a major-league baseball team. She met Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and Dodgers first-baseman Steve Garvey in a TV studio where she worked, and she took the opportunity to ask Mr. Lasorda to allow her to manage the Dodgers for one game during spring-season training. Mr. Lasorda was impressed with the knowledge of baseball that she had displayed before asking him that question, and he answered yes. She flew to Vera Beach, Florida, location of the Dodgers’ spring-training camp, and she was issued a uniform with number 2—the same number as Mr. Lasorda. For a week, Ms. Baer watched the players and took notes. When she took over as manager from Mr. Lasorda for one game, she made out the lineup the same way that he made it out—with one change. She switched Ron Cey and Steve Garvey and made Mr. Garvey the clean-up hitter instead of Mr. Cey. All went well for a while, but when the Dodgers’ third batter went to the plate, Mr. Cey started for the on-deck circle. Mr. Baer told him, “You’re batting fifth today.” Mr. Cey replied, “I bat cleanup.” Immediately, Ms. Baer said, “Not on my ball club.” Dodger outfielder Dusty Baker advised Mr. Cey, whose nickname was Penguin, “You better sit down, Penguin, or she’ll have you in Albuquerque [where the Dodgers had a minor-league team] by the end of the week.” Mr. Cey sat down. Actually, Ms. Baer did not manage the team for the entire game. She argued with the umpire, and the umpire told her, “Go to the showers!” Ms. Baer replied, “I can’t—I’m a girl.” Then she left the field to a standing ovation of her players and the fans. (And the Dodgers won, 5-2.) Late in the season, with a pennant to be won, Mr. Lasorda switched the batting order of Mr. Cey and Mr. Garvey and made Mr. Garvey the clean-up hitter instead of Mr. Cey, just like Ms. Baer had done. The Dodgers won games playing the then-first-place Giants, and the Dodgers won the pennant.

New York Yankees Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, and Whitey Ford enjoyed having fun, and after a preseason game in Cincinnati in 1953 they had so much fun that they missed the train the team was travelling on. No problem, they thought. They would simply take a flight instead to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates. Unfortunately, bad weather kept the planes out of the air, and the Yankee players were forced to take a taxi instead. They learned an important lesson: a taxi ride across states can cost $500—a large amount of money in 1953. (By the way, tired as he was in Pittsburgh, Mickey hit a home run over the 100-foot-high fence at Forbes Field. Yankee manager Casey Stengel, who was not happy about his players missing the team bus, said, “Nice hit, Mickey.”) Of course, Mr. Mantle was a home-run hitter. On September 12, 1953, Yankee coach Bill Dickey was saying that players such as Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx could hit the ball further than Mr. Mantle. Immediately after Mr. Dickey said that, Mr. Mantle hit a home run that was still in an upward trajectory when it hit the seats high above left field. Mr. Dickey watched the home run and then said, “Forget what I said.”

In 1998, Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs to break Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record of 61 home runs in a single season. Mr. Maris, who died in 1985, had realized that someday someone would break his record, so he had left something behind for that person. Mr. McGwire received a cap that was signed by Mr. Maris with two 61’s on it. Mr. McGwire also is capable of giving good baseball gifts. When he became the first player ever to hit 50 or more home runs three seasons in a row, he signed a baseball for each of his teammates. On each baseball, he wrote “50-50-50.” He also personalized each baseball with a teammate’s name and wrote the date. In 1990, when Mark McGwire won his first Rawlings Gold Glove, he gave it away — to his optometrist. Mr. McGwire was considerate in other ways, also. When he broke Mr. Maris’ record, members of Mr. Maris’ family were in the crowd. Mr. McGwire made sure to go to them in the stands and hug them. Roger Maris Jr. said, “For him to come up there and do that, let us partake in that moment, it is outstanding and something we will never forget.”

Of course, umpires can throw players and managers out of baseball games, and occasionally they even throw public address announcers out of games. In 1995, the home-plate umpire got into an altercation with minor-league manager Charlie Kerfeld, who shook his eyeglasses at the umpire. The team’s media director asked the public address announcer to make the next announcement to kill time during the on-the-field argument. The next announcement was for a local eyeglass maker, and the umpire threw out the announcer. The media director, Bruce Unrue, said, “It was totally innocent, but the umps didn’t think it was funny. Of course, the crowd thought that was hilarious.”

In 1926, the New York Yankees boasted some heavy hitters. In a game in Cleveland, Indians player Joe Shaute pitched outside to left-handed hitters Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to keep them from pulling the ball to right field. Babe hit a baseball that knocked third baseman Rube Lutzke down after hitting him on the shoulder. Lou then hit a baseball that hit Rube’s shin. Next Bob Meusel, a right-handed batter, hit a baseball that hit Rube in the stomach. This time, Rube went down and stayed down. The Indians players gathered around him. Joe asked, “Are you hurt, Rube?” Rube answered, “Am I hurt? A guy would have been safer in the world war.”

While batting, a young and green Lou Brock was once hit by a pitch from Warren Spahn, so of course he ran to first base. Mr. Spahn yelled at him, “Fall down, kid! Fall down! G*ddamn it, fall down so it will look like I’m throwing hard!”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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2 Responses to David Bruce: Baseball Anecdotes

  1. tref says:

    Hey Dave! RE-posted on twitter @trefology

    Liked by 1 person

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