Archive for Baseball

In memory of a teammate

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2020 by macmystery
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The Lithonia Youth Athletic Association 1981 Minor League Padres. I am at far left in the second row. Pledger Fretwell, and that beautiful smile, is center in the third row.

The baseball world lost Whitey Ford this week, just a couple weeks shy of his 92nd birthday. He was just the latest Hall of Famer to pass in the last month or two, joining Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson.

Ordinarily, I would have penned something, even brief, for this space or social media about these legends, stories of whom filled my childhood. But I didn’t seem to find the time (yet).

But there was a passing this week I can not let go by.

Rest in peace, Pledger Fretwell.

Pledger graduated a year before me from Lithonia High School in 1988. He was ridiculously intelligent — a member of the National Honor Society and the Math and Science clubs. He would go on to his beloved Duke University and graduate in 1993.

Pledger was also a talented guitarist. But we were really only acquaintances in the halls. We would chat occasionally.

PledgerFretwell

Pledger Fretwell, shown here in the 1988 Bulldog (the Lithonia High School annual), shows off his air guitar skills while wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt.

But for me, I would always have a bond with Pledger for something that happened several years earlier.

Despite my love of baseball, I was afraid of the ball and didn’t play organized baseball until I was 9 years old.

During that first year in 1981, Pledger was my teammate on the Lithonia Dixie Youth Baseball minor league Padres.

Pledger, like me, wasn’t very good. He was among ha handful of us who rotated in right field, along with Tony, this tiny Black kid to whom no pitcher could throw a strike, and maybe a couple others.

Pledger, quite heavy-set, was slow, but there was nobody on the team who had more fun. He was always, … ALWAYS, smiling.

My mother loved Pledger and his smile. I think if she had gotten to choose which kid she took home from a practice, it may have been Pledger over me.

I only remember one time Pledger wasn’t smiling.

It was late in the afternoon, and the setting sun was blazing, making it impossible to see if you were looking in its direction. The outfielders were warming up in the outfield. There were a half dozen of us, though I specifically remember Pledger, Tony, Chris Guy and myself.

I had ridden to the game with the mother of a teammate and neighbor. Supposedly, however, my dad was going to make this game, which was not always the case.

So in between warm-up throws, I would turn and peer behind the fence, hoping to see my mom and dad’s presence. As I was scanning the rickety wooden and metal bleachers for my parents, I heard a familiar voice say, “No, this is how you hum the ball!”

I turned in the direction from which the voice had come and all I saw was the brightness of the sun. I never saw the baseball, not even when it crashed into my face with enough velocity to break my nose, causing it to explode.

I screamed. And there was blood everywhere. I wasn’t actually seriously hurt, but tell that to a 9-year-old kid covered in his own blood.

I’m not sure if my mom was there and got me, or if my friend’s mom drove me home and we went from there. But I remember getting a brief glimpse at Pledger’s face during the commotion, and though I hadn’t seen it, I knew he had thrown the ball.

For the only instance in the time I knew him, Pledger looked unhappy. Sad. Hurt. Pained. I heard a coach yell at him for throwing the ball when I wasn’t looking. I wouldn’t have known how to describe it then, but I felt for him.

I obviously survived, and we played the year out together. I wasn’t on his team again, and because we didn’t go to the same elementary school, I really didn’t see him again until high school.

We talked and joked about him destroying my nose numerous times in the years afterward, and had discussions about music and other things.

And then, down the line, I reconnected with him on Facebook. We weren’t close, though compared to many of my high school acquaintances, I had a lot more in common with him.

But we were always connected, at least for me, by that one afternoon in the spring of 1981.

I got the news this week from my sister, who had seen someone post his passing on Facebook. I had to ask around before another Facebook friend closer to him told me it was colon cancer.

I pray he suffered as little as possible, My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.

I know that the world is a worse place today without him in it.

Happy birthday, Kid

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2020 by macmystery

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The Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams (Baseball Hall of Fame)

 

Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, would have been 102 years old today.

Williams, not just figuratively, but statistically, as well, is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest hitter in Major League Baseball history.

If you love baseball, it’s really hard not to love Ted Williams.

He is the all-time leader in on-base percentage (.482), second all-time in slugging percentage (.634) and second in OPS (1.116), the combination of those aforementioned two numbers, which essentially paints a picture of how productive a hitter is.

The leader in both categories in which Williams is second? Babe Ruth, often considered the game’s greatest player. But Williams, unlike Ruth, played his career in the live-ball era and played the majority of his career after integration, meaning all of the best players could finally make the major leagues. (More on this topic later.)

He is the last major leaguer to hit higher than .400 in a full season – .406 in 1941.

He won the Triple Crown in 1942 (.356, 36 HRs, 137 RBIs) – the last season before he joined the Marines as an aviator for World War II. And he won the Triple Crown in 1947 (.343, 32, 114), his second season back from WWII.

As a 2nd Lt., Williams was an F4U Corsair flight instructor at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He was in Pearl Harbor awaiting transport to a unit in the Pacific when Japan surrendered in 1945. He missed three full seasons in his prime (1943-45) for the war.

When the Korean War happened, Williams was called up from the reserves and assigned to VMF-311, Marine Air Group 33 in Phang, South Korea.

For much of the war, he was future astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn’s wing man. Glenn called Williams the best pilot he had ever seen. Glenn’s wife said he was the most profane man she’d ever met.

Williams earned the Naval Air Medal when his plane was hit across enemy lines and he guided it back safely, despite the plane eventually catching fire after a crash landing.

He finished his military career with two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars. And he never complained about his time in the prime of his career lost to the service.

Using Williams’ averages during those periods in his career, in almost five full seasons, military service cost him 864 hits, 155 home runs and 582 RBIs. Adding those numbers to his career totals, Williams would have amassed more than 3,500 hits, good for fifth all-time behind just Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial; 671 home runs, behind just Barry Bonds, Aaron, Ruth and Alex Rodriguez; and more than 2,400 RBIs, easily eclipsing Aaron as the all-time leader.

And it’s fair to say Williams could have done even more damage. He retired as a 41-year-old after a 1960 season that saw him hit .311 with 29 home runs and 72 RBIs. An all-star, he posted an OPS of 1.096. For reference, that OPS would have been second in the major leagues last season by .004.

In his retirement, Williams was an avid and talented fisherman, owning several records during his lifetime. He is a member of the International Fishing Hall of Fame, making him one of just four athletes to reach the Hall of Fame in multiple sports joining Jim Brown (football, lacrosse), Cumberland Posey (baseball, basketball) and Cal Hubbard (baseball, football).

Politically, Williams was once described as even “to the right of Attila The Hun,” except when it came to civil rights. Possibly the best thing Williams did off the baseball field during peacetime was to use his acceptance speech upon induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 to advocate for the inclusion of Negro League players who had been denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues and were not eligible for the Hall.

“I hope that some day the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way could be added as a symbol of the great Negro players that are not here only because they were not given the chance.”

 

 

Rakim, minus Eric B., of course, but not all by himself

Posted in Journalism, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by macmystery

https://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=622595890&mediaId=622597776

While procrastinating late Monday night, as I so often do when I have a viable writing topic, I found myself listening to music.

It’s not an uncommon activity in my life. A large percentage of my disposable income (and a lot that should have never been disposable) has been spent on music, not to mention my time, both disposable and indisposable, as well. Concerts, records, tapes, CDs, road trips.

But I’ll admit that over the last few years of my marriage, which LEGALLY ended in 2016, aside from time spent in the car, music had all but disappeared from my life. And maybe that should have been a sign. But that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, as I said, I was listening to music, something I do again, typically late at night. A strange mix … Dierks Bentley, the Cowboy Junkies, Henry Mancini, Metallica and Dave Brubeck. (I’ll admit, there was 10 minutes of George Carlin mixed in there, as well.)

I was listening to this strange mix as I put off writing something more substantial than my Facebook post from earlier Monday evening about former two-time National League Most Valuable Player and longtime Atlanta Braves standout Dale Murphy. Ironically, I’m still going to write that post, but it’ll be another day now, at least.

That’s because, while perusing Facebook, I came upon the New York Times story (How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media) about the relationship between its reporter Ali Watkins and a man who handled security for many years for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

So, of course I was going to write about that. Being a former journalist — being a former journalist is like being a former Marine … there’s no such thing — the story presents some interesting and frustrating dilemmas during a time when the press is badly needed, as well as badly maligned.

And then Rakim happened.

Someone I know from high school, a lifetime ago, had shared the latest installment of National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert. Featured for June 25, 2018 was Rakim, initially, at least, of Eric B. & Rakim fame.

I’ll admit it. Aside from straight up classical music, the least represented major genre in my music collection is rap. Or hip-hop, if you will. Old school Run D.M.C., some Sir Mix-A-Lot, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar … but not much else. A lot of it doesn’t interest me. A lot of it I respect but simply don’t enjoy.

I have read a lot about Rakim. But I haven’t listened a lot to Rakim.

But I did Monday night.

And I was treated to 9 minutes and 37 seconds of brilliance that maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for 30 years ago, when Eric B. and Rakim were on top of their game. Kind of the same way I have a different appreciation for jazz now than I did as a young man.

And in a lot of ways, comparatively, Rakim’s style is jazz, at least vocally. His lyrics and voice are his instrument, and while aggressive, he is not necessarily loud and not in a hurry. Much as Willie Nelson brought jazz phrasing and guitar to his otherwise solid country gold lyrics, Rakim in some ways does the same thing.

It’s evident with the live band, rather than a DJ, backing him in the small NPR studio. The musicians are tight and work infectious grooves through three songs, allowing Rakim’s lyrics to shine as his instrument.

I was impressed. I had a moment, really. Usually, though, it’s when I hear something new that blows me away. I am admittedly not used to, at this point in my life, hearing songs more than two decades old, performed by the original artists, that pique my interest so completely.

My son, Dylan, possibly in the wrong place at the wrong time, can attest. He walked in the room in a moment of boredom after his computer crashed, expecting to wander in and wander out.

Instead he was detained by me and forced to surrender 9:37 of his evening, too, to sit and watch this Tiny Desk Concert. Not surprisingly, to me, he found himself, like I did, enjoying the video, foot tapping and hands popping.

The final two songs of Rakim’s three-song set, were “Paid In Full” and “Know The Ledge,” … classics and songs I will now seek out. But they followed “King’s Paradise,” a song released a few days ago and featured in Season 2 of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix.

“King’s Paradise” is Rakim’s first new release in a decade. Suddenly, seemingly, I’m hoping it’s not his last.

List of the week: Doubling down

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by macmystery

San Francisco Giant Edgar Renteria, back, is congratulated by teammates after his three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

Shortstop Edgar Renteria’s seventh-inning three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series led the San Francisco Giants to a 3-1 win and a 4-1 Series victory against the Texas Rangers.

Renteria also had the Series-winning hit in the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins.

With the the homer, Renteria became just the fourth major league player to have the World Series-winning hit in more than one Fall Classic. And he joined quite an elite club.

Here are the major league baseball players who have had the Series-winning hit in more than one World Series:

 

Like it or not, I’m back

Posted in Family, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 2, 2010 by macmystery

After successfully failing to post for the entire months of May and June (Heck, I posted just one day in April), I have returned. See how I made that sound positive.

Some health issues (well, one actually), a lack of computer access and a heavy load at work have conspired to keep me down, but I have prevailed.

I’ve missed a lot the last three months … a lot I’d have liked to comment on.

I saw a Neil Young concert, my third, that was downright nasty it was so good.

I went to camp for three days with my son, Dylan, and thought I was going to die.

I had some sort of episode at work and thought I was going to die.

And among other things, I really would have liked to comment on some people I admired who did die.

Down the road, I may get to some of those things, albeit a little late. But for whatever small number of people who read this and myself, it’s simply progress that I’ve typed these words. Any catching up I do will be icing on the cake.

Later this morning I leave for Washington D.C. and then New York City for my annual baseball trip. Hopefully, I’ll have some things to comment on from there.

Bye, for now.