Monday, May 25, 2009

Baseball - a Sweet Time

On this day, May 25, 1935, Babe Ruth hit the 714th and final home run of his career. At the time, he was playing for the Boston Braves in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season (1927), a record which stood for 34 years until broken by Roger Maris in 1961. According to the Wikipedia article,

"Ruth completely changed baseball itself. The popularity of the game exploded in the 1920s, largely due to him. Ruth ushered in the "live-ball era," as his big swing led to escalating home run totals that not only excited fans, but helped baseball evolve from a low-scoring, speed-dominated game to a high-scoring power game."

Roger Maris hit his 61st on October 1, 1961, in the fourth inning of the last game of the season, a contest between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in front of 23,154 fans. I was a new high school freshman at the time, and I remember many of us brought small transistor radios to school (not sure if that was really allowed or not) and listened to the games, cheering each time he got another home run. According to Wikipedia again,

" 1961 progressed, the Yanks were now "Mickey Mantle's team" and Maris was ostracized as the "outsider", and "not a true Yankee." The press seemed to root for Mantle and to belittle Maris. But Mantle was felled by a hip infection late in the season, leaving Maris as the only player with a chance to break the record.

"However, Maris remained bitter about the experience. Speaking at the 1980 All-Star game, he said of that season, "They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for 61 home runs? Nothing. Exactly nothing." Despite all the controversy, Maris was awarded the 1961 Hickok Belt for the top professional athlete of the year, as well as winning the American League's MVP Award for the second straight year. It is said, however, that the stress of pursuing the record was so great for Maris that his hair occasionally fell out in clumps during the season. Later Maris even surmised that it might have been better all along had he not broken the record or even threatened it at all."

Roger Maris' major league record would stand three years longer than Ruth's did, until National Leaguer Mark McGwire broke it by hitting 70 in 1998. The record is currently held by Barry Bonds (also a National Leaguer) who hit 73 home runs in 2001. Maris remains the American League record holder through the 2008 season.

So, why am I writing and copying all this stuff about baseball today? Yesterday I drove back to Bartlesville, OK from Tahlequah, OK, and part of Hwy. 82 is named the Mickey Mantle Highway.

In a google search, I found that Mantle had been born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, and Hwy. 82 goes right through that town. It's a beautiful area with lots of greenery and water. Even though Mantle wasn't a pitcher, the curving, winding road reminded me a little of a pitcher's curveball. In one spot, the road made almost a complete circle. You can bet I slowed WAAAY down for that one. I didn't want to get hit by an oncoming, truck.

I sometimes wish those days of baseball many years ago were still around as it seemed a much more enjoyable time to enjoy baseball. When I was just a kid, I remember listening to San Diego Padre games on the radio with my grandmother (my dad's mother, she's the one in the center of the picture. I'm the little kid). She loved the game, and I don't think she missed one of them. She and I even attended a double-header at the stadium after I had spent most of the day at the beach and had a horrible sunburn. At the time, they were only a minor league team in the Pacific Coast League , arriving in San Diego in 1936. They won the PCL title in 1937, led by then-18-year-old San Diegan Ted Williams.

Lots of baseball memories.
My two daughters both played Little League. The pictures are of my youngest.

For some reason I couldn't find a baseball picture of the oldest but this one was taken about the right time.

My son, his dad and I use to watch Seattle Mariner games all the time and drove up from Oregon for a few games. He was a Ken Griffey, Jr. fan and Halloween was a fun time (see picture). We also watched a lot of American Legion games in Roseburg, Oregon. Sometimes he even got to be a bat boy for those games.

I haven't watched a baseball game in a while, but am not sure I'd still enjoy it as much without another baseball fanatic watching it with me. Maybe I'll ride my bike over to a little league game sometime and just hang out a bit.



Garry DesMetis said...

The one thing I really miss here in Europe is baseball. It does not exist here and people dont even know what a glove is. So sad.

The other thing they do not have here is people who live in fishes. Although there was this guy who lived in a Tuna I read somewhere. A biggish Tuna somewhere in Italy. Near Pizza I think.

spiritualastronomer said...

Yes, I guess Jonah was a little further southeast. And I guess he really didn't LIVE in the whale, just visited for a while.

Garry DesMetis said...

Read about this guy you mentioned. It was a biggish book. Something about Harry Potter and God.

Jonah was a wild and crazy sort of guy who hung around with Ahab.

Jonah was the Prodigal guy and Ahab was the one who stayed home. Jonah explained to his dad when he returned after drinking and carrousing for a decade or two in some two bit horse town named Sodom and Gamorah. He spent all of his money and ended up wearing rags so he had to go home.

Once he got home he explained to his dad that he got eaten by a whale so of course his dad believed him and gave him all of his estate giving nothing to Ahab so Ahab went out and killed the whale.

He intended to mount this whale to show this to Jonah but Ahab got all tied up in the ropes and drowned along with his boat the Pequod.

spiritualastronomer said...

I love it! As A Unitarian Universalist (read: LIBERAL) minister, I'll have to add this story version to my repetoire.

Old Newsie said...

What a heck of a lot of research. Must CERTAINLY be a baseball fan.
Watch what she does when she looks into Will Rogers' lfe!
As far as baseball over in Europe, in World War II the GIs had fabulous tams with units playing against each other every weekend until the invasion came along. The team in my outfit became ETO champs at one point with pitcher Pete Fraser in the forefront - not quite as goof as the Babe's teammaates unfortnately.

spiritualastronomer said...

No, not that much research at all. I really like Wikipedia - other people have done all the research for me. Will Rogers?

Will Rogers Phenomenon?