Fernandomania

In the summer of 1981, I was a 14-year-old 3rd baseman and pitcher for the immortal  “Tucker’s Big Star”13-14 age group baseball team. A grocery store sponsored baseball team that featured orange uniforms with white pinstripe…yea they were hideous.

Although I grew up in Tennessee we all knew Fernando Venezuela. He was huge in the baseball world and his popularity was growing with the masses that summer. He was a 20-year-old Mexican pitcher for the Dodgers. Being a Dodger fan I was rooting for him. The 1981 MLB baseball season was played in two parts. An MLB strike started on June 12 and play wasn’t resumed until August 19th.

It was a split season and playoffs had an extra round. It was my favorite Dodger team and they finally beat the Yankees with the help of Fernando. Fernando came out of nowhere. He was born in Navojoa Mexico and discovered by a scout named Mike Brito. He came close to being signed by the New York Yankees but the Dodgers signed him for 120,000 dollars.

Pitcher Bobby Castillo taught him how to throw the Screwball. A pitch that wasn’t common in the Major Leagues. He started the 1981 season 8–0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50. He ended up with a 13-7 record with a 2.84 ERA that year.

Like the Bird Mark Fidrych a few years before he was a huge draw in every park he pitched in. Unlike the Bird, he enjoyed a 17-year career. He won game 3 in the 1981 World Series. He didn’t have his control or best stuff but he hung on to win. He pitched a ridiculous 146 pitches in the complete-game victory.

Fernando had a good career which probably could have been better if not for overuse. Fernando was worked like the town pump.

The enduring mystery of Roberto Clemente’s bat

This is a long article but what a story. It’s about the bat that Roberto Clemente used to hit his 3000th hit. More than that…it upped my respect for the man if that was possible. It has more twists and turns than most stories.

It’s an excerpt from a book (A Drive into the Gap) by Kevin Guilfoile. His dad Bill Guilfoile, was the PR man for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1970-1978. Kevin is a writer and he also worked in public relations with the Astros for a while…he also was an intern for the Pirates in the 90s.

If you have the time it is a good read.

https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/page/Roberto-Clemente-bat/enduring-mystery-roberto-clemente-bat

 

Top 10 3rd Basemen of the 70’s

I am a child of the 1970s. My teen years were in the 80s but 1970s baseball is closer to my heart. These are my top 10 pics for third base. I’m going to cover all the positions and then have an all 70’s team.

I pitched a little and caught a little but I mostly played 3rd base in little league, 13-14, 15-16 and High School so that is where I will start. My favorite modern player at the time was Ron Cey…he was the reason I wanted to play 3rd base.

I will list WAR on these…but I don’t go just by that. I think WAR is a great tool but not everything about a player.

I first list their career WAR and at the end list their 1970’s only WAR.

Which ones do you agree with or disagree with? Thank you baseball reference!

  1. Mike Schmidt106.8 WAR – His 1980s stats were just as good as his 70s stats and that is saying something. …he is probably the best of all time…not just the seventies. 50.3 1970’s WAR 1970s
  2. George Brett – 88.7 WAR – George’s swing was a thing of beauty. He was the Pinetar man but much more than that. 31.5 WAR 1970s
  3. Graig Nettles68 WAR – This guy could beat you defensively just as much as offensively. Nettles had just as much to do with beating the Dodgers in the 77 and 78 World Series than Reggie Jackson did. I think he should be in the Hall of Fame as painful as that is to say. 54.5 WAR in the 70s…the leading WAR third baseman in the 70s.
  4. Sal Bando – 61.5 WAR – Sal was the captain of those great Oakland A’s teams of the 70s and had good power.  49 WAR 1970s
  5. Ron Cey –  53.8 WAR – The Penguin had a great batting eye and was the best power hitter the Dodgers had not named Reggie Smith. He was clutch in the postseason. He was the MVP (one of 3) of the 1981 World Series.  35.6 WAR 1970’s 
  6. Buddy Bell – 66.3 WAR – I remember Buddy Bell from the eighties more than the seventies. He languished with the Indians and Rangers in the 70s. He never played in the postseason.  31.4 1970’s WAR
  7. Bill Madlock – 38.2 WAR – This man could flat out hit. He played with a lot of teams in his career. I remember him most with the Pirates and he was part of their 1979 We Are Family championship. He was injured quite a bit in his career. He had a career batting average of .305.  20.8 1970’s WAR
  8. Don Money – 36.5 WAR – Don played with Philadelphia and Milwaukee. I remember him with Milwaukee and he had some pop.    28.8 1970’s WAR
  9. Richie Hebner – 33 WAR – I remember Richie with the Pirates and Phillies but mostly with the Phillies but he spent the bulk of his career with the Pirates and won a championship in1971 with them. 25.3 1970’s WAR
  10. Pete Rose – 79.7 WAR – Pete only played third from 1975 – 1978 for the Reds…that is why he isn’t higher.  19.9 WAR 1970s as a 3rd baseman

Oakland A’s Mike Andrews

In 1973, the Oakland A’s owner Charles Finley…decided to essentially fire a player during the World Series.

During game two, Oakland’s second baseman Mike Andrews made two errors in an inning. With the Mets leading 7-6 in the twelfth inning…a ball went through Andrew’s legs allowing two runs to score. The next batter hit a ground ball to him and his throw pulled first baseman Gene Tenace off the bag allowing another run to score.

Charlie Finley was not a happy owner after the game. Andrews had a previous shoulder problem but it was not bothering him. Oakland knew this when he was signed in July of 1973. Finley forced Andrews to sign a medical statement stating that medically he could not play the rest of the series which was not true. Mike Andrews told Finley he made the errors and it wasn’t because of any injury. Charlie bullied Mike into signing the statement and then he headed home.

Finley wanted to use Andrew’s previous shoulder injury as an excuse. Manager Dick Williams and the rest of the team were furious over this. They boarded the plane going back to New York for game three and the entire team united in their dislike of O’Finley who they didn’t like at the best of times.

For game three most of the A’s wore “17” (Andrew’s Number) with medical tape on their jerseys until the Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that Andrews be placed back on the team.

By this time it was national news and Andrews rejoined the team in New York. During game four Dick Williams sent Andrews up to bat, against Finley’s orders, and Andrews got a standing ovation from Mets fans at Shea Stadium who were well informed of what was going on. He grounded out to second base and he didn’t play in another game in the series but he was with the team.

Dick Williams told the team after game three that this would be his last year managing Oakland win or lose. He couldn’t take Charlie Finley another year.

Oakland ended up winning the World Series that year 4 games to 3 in Oakland. Mike Andrews never played in the majors again. In 1975 he tried to play in Japan before retiring. He later became the chairman of the Jimmy Fund in Boston.

Reggie Jackson talking to Joe Garagiola about Charlie Finley and the Mike Andrews situation.

At 16:36 you can see the errors. The replay of the last error shows that it was probably a missed call because of Tenace’s foot appears to stay on the bag.

David Clyde

David was called “The Next Sandy Koufax” as he was drafted straight out of high school with the number 1 pick in 1973. I’m not so sure he would have been another Sandy Koufax but because of greed he never found out. David was a can’t-miss prospect who was 18-0 with a 0.18 ERA as a Westchester senior who went just 18-33 as a major leaguer.

The Texas Rangers had moved from Washington because of bad attendance and settled in Texas. In 1972 they had low attendance and the owner Bob Short wanted a boost in attendance and the plan was to start his new draft pick David Clyde in two games and then send him to the minors after that.

Twenty days after pitching his last high school game, Clyde won his first-ever Major League start before over 35,000 fans in Arlington Stadium, the first sellout in stadium history. David pitched well in his second game until a blister forced him out in the 6th inning. Now he was scheduled to go to the minors to learn and develop. Short, though, had other ideas after 33,010 fans flocked to Arlington Stadium for Clyde’s second start, a six-inning, no-decision performance against the White Sox.

Clyde remained a Ranger and got battered, going 4-8 with a 5.01 ERA for a 57-105 team.

Whitey Herzog the manager pleaded with Short to send Clyde to the minors. Like many young pitchers, Herzog says, Clyde started throwing his curveball too hard and lost control of it. Then hitters began sitting on his fastball. Herzog says Clyde could have regained his control and confidence in the minors.

At the end of 1973 Billy Martin was let go by the Detroit Tigers and Rangers owner Bob Short told his manager, Whitey Herzog, that he would fire his own grandmother to have a chance to hire Martin…well he fired Herzog and got Martin. Herzog’s reply was “I’m fired, I’m the grandmother.”

Martin argued to send David Clyde to the minors for seasoning the next year but he still started 21 games. He was sent and later on developed arm troubles and was traded to Cleveland in 1978

He threw his last major league pitch on Aug. 7, 1979, as a 24-year-old Cleveland Indian, 37 days shy of qualifying for MLB’s pension plan. He has tried to act as a coach to get the 37 days but no luck so far. 

Many people claim that David Clyde saved the Rangers Franchise from moving elsewhere. 

 

George Brett and Graig Nettles ALCS Gm 5 fight

I remember watching this when it happened. Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS between the Royals and the Yankees. In the bottom of the first Brett hit a triple with Hal McRae on first. It went over the head of Mickey Rivers and Brett slid in at 3rd base and got in tangled with Graig Nettles…Nettles did a dirty kick to the face of Brett and George came up swinging.

Everyone got in on the action including pitcher Ron Guidry and then Thurman Munson came over. Thurman had seen Nettles kick Brett in the face and although Nettles was a teammate…Munson’s sense of fair play took over.

Thurman gets into the pile and covers Brett and sticks his glove over Brett’s head to avoid any cheap shots. George Brett said Munson told him:  “Don’t worry, George, I won’t let anybody hit you when you’re down.” And they didn’t. “Thurman is my hero.” This quote surprised me quite a bit since Thurman was known to be crusty at the best of times.

Yankee manager Billy Martin, no stranger to fights, wrapped an arm around the 5’5″ Royal shortstop Freddie Patek and pulled him from the fracas. Billy said to him, “Stay with me over here and we won’t get hurt. Let those guys sort it out.

The reason this fight stuck with me all of these years is because no one got ejected… there were no warnings. Everyone brushed themselves off and played the rest of the game like nothing happened…the Yankees won 5-3 and advanced to the World Series where they beat the Dodgers.

 

1976… The Year of the Bird

I didn’t start following baseball heavily until 1977. I do remember Detroit Tiger Mark Fidrych well though. Once in a while there will be a player that fans want to see no matter what team he plays for at the time. There are a few that come to mind. Fernando Valenzuela, Bo Jackson, and to a lesser extent Yasiel Puig in his rookie year. We want to see them because they have strong personalities and are usually good to great players.

Mark Fidrych was a joy to watch. He would look like he was talking to the ball, do ground maintenance on the mound, and would congratulate teammates for making routine plays. It was so much fun to see his obvious excitement playing Major League baseball. MLB estimated that in 1976 the 21 year old drew in over `1 million extra attendance across the league. Teams would ask the Tigers if they would change their rotation so Fidrych would pitch in their park to spike their attendance. Can you imagine that happening today?

His nickname “The Bird” came from his blonde thick curly hair and his big feet resembling to Sesame Street’s Big Bird. Fidrych was great in his rookie year. His record was 19-9 with an ERA of 2.34 and he pitched an incredible 250.1 innings with 24 complete games! He didn’t pitch his first game until May 15 that year. That makes it more impressive.

He injured his knee in Spring Training the next year in 1977. He recovered and was doing great until July 4 against the Orioles he felt his arm go dead. He ended up only pitching 81 innings in 1977 and was 6-4 with a 2.89 ERA. He tried pitching through what he could but missed a lot of time…he was out of baseball by 1980.

It was a rotator cuff injury that wasn’t properly diagnosed until 1985 when he was 31 because of medical advancement. There was too much damage already done to his shoulder that prevented him from coming back.

Some teams didn’t like his antics. The Yankees thought he was showing them up but teammate Rusty Staub said “It’s no act. There’s nothing contrived about him and that’s what makes him a beautiful person.” I think that is the reason people did like him so much…he seemed real and was having the time of his life playing baseball.

Fidrych went back home to Northboro, Massachusetts, where he became a licensed commercial truck driver and later purchased a farm. He married his wife, Ann, in 1986, and they had a daughter, Jessica. He made appearances for charity groups and nonprofit organizations over the years, making himself rather accessible to fans who fondly remembered the career of the Bird. Tragically, Fidrych died on April 13, 2009, at age 54, in an accident as he worked underneath a truck.

Baseball needs players like Fidrych…who are genuine and appreciate being a grownup playing a game.