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Human League

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Referencing that huge '80s hit "Don't You Want Me?," let's zoom in on some talented, appealing and still unsigned free agents.  Cody Bellinger (above, as a 2019 Dodger) leads the pack of everyday players.  Coming off his bounceback season with the Cubs where he hit 26 homers, drove in 97 and posted an OPS of .881, you'd have expected he'd already inked a new deal -- but that's not been the case. Nor has it been for Blake Snell .  Fresh off his second career Cy Young Award, he's remained unclaimed until President's Day.  So where's the hang-up?  He's a bit outspoken, some sources label him immature."  And it is odd that he has never thrown a complete game in eight big league seasons, partly due to his high pitch counts.  But in the case of both Snell and Bellinger, could having uber-agent Scott Boras represent him be the issue? Starting to detect a pattern here?  Add Jordan Montgomery  ( below ) ,  another Boras client to the list.

Spring Training Pre-game: 2014

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Running it back a decade, here are candid shots of some Yankee standouts just before the March 6th, 2014 Grapefruit League game against the Phillies at Clearwater. (Above:) Derek Jeter  (Below:) Mark Teixeira (Above:) Alfonso Soriano  (Below:) Masahiro Tanaka

If Your Birthday is February 14th...

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  ...you share it with Mel Allen .  The Voice of the Yankees for a quarter-century, he called the action for a parade of legends from DiMaggio to Mantle.  Mysteriously fired after the 1964 season -- not long after CBS took over ownership of the Yankees -- which was followed by an 11 year absence from the post-season.  In one of George Steinbrenner's wisest moves, Mel was brought back to the booth in 1976, when the Yankees began airing a portion of their schedule on cable TV.  And what do you think happened that season?  Of course -- the Yanks won their first AL East title to snap that playoff drought. Mel Allen also reached an entirely new audience as the longtime narrator of This Week in Baseball  until he passed away in 1996. Fittingly, Mel and Red Barber were the first two recipients of the Baseball Hall of Fame's  Ford Frick Award  for Broadcasting Excellence in 1978.  And you'll find his plaque displayed in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park alongside so many of the pl

Change in Seasons

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The Super Bowl is in the books; the focus of sports coverage now pivots from the gridiron to the diamond.  Clubs are reporting to training camps in Florida and Arizona; the first exhibition games are a little over a week away.  Whether your loyalty draws you to Port St. Lucie (above), Tampa (below) or Clearwater (bottom), the countdown toward opening day has begun.  And with the Dodgers and Padres taking a special opening series to Korea next month, we're 37 days from the first games that count. Enjoy these glimpses of spring training. For the next month and change, it's mostly day games... save for a few scheduled at night, for the benefit of hometown fans watching on TV.  Palm trees, warm breezes... and dreams aplenty.

If Your Birthday is February 9th...

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...you share it with Vladimir Guerrero, Sr .  The sweet-swinging outfielder batted .318 with 449 homers over 18 seasons.  I caught my only photo of the nine-time All Star during Cactus League action in 2010, when he was a Ranger. Logan O'Hoppe  smacked 14 homers in 51 games in his Angels rookie season that was interrupted by a shoulder injury.  The Long Island, NY native was drafted by the Phillies and moved on to Anaheim in the 2022 deadline deal for Brandon Marsh.  I caught him in action earlier that summer with Reading in a AA game against Binghamton. (Below)  Dioner Navarro caught for 13 seasons in the majors, but made only one All Star team: 2008, while with the Rays.  That summer, baseball's midsummer classic was held at Yankee Stadium and the All Star parade ran right past my office in midtown Manhattan, where I snapped this image.  

On This Date in 1979...

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Jesse Orosco becomes the "player to be named later," going to the Mets to complete the trade that sent veteran Jerry Koosman to Minnesota back in December.  Just a year after being drafted from Santa Barbara City College, the young lefty will make his MLB debut that September -- and goes on to pitch in 24 big league seasons, highlighted by recording the final out of the 1986 World Series on the mound at Shea Stadium. Over a career that spans four decades and concludes in the 21st century, Orosco will set the record for pitching in the most games -- 1252 .  He's also the last Mets pitcher to win both ends of a doubleheader.  On July 31st, 1983, the Mets walked off the Pirates twice -- with Jesse recording the last out in the top of what became the final innings. All told, a pretty good return for a franchise that struggled mightily in the late '70s.  

Random Images

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Just 10 days before pitchers and catchers begin to report, the free agent market has again slowed to a snail's pace.  Over the weekend, the Mets signed veteran reliever Jake Diekman to a minor league deal -- so maybe this 2012 photo when Diekman was a rookie, proved a bit clairvoyant? You know I'm a big believer that baseball is simply a better game in the daytime.  So the Mets deserve a major attaboy for announcing -- after polling fans -- that all their Saturday home games will be played in the afternoons.  I know that the first big league games I saw were afternoon starts.  Hopefully this strategy will give a chance for more parents to get their kids excited about baseball. I was surprised to find that MLB.com ranked Luisangel Acuña   as the Mets number-one prospect.  Call it an embarrassment of riches: outfielder Drew Gilbert and shortstop Jett Williams stand two and three.  I'm looking forward to seeing all three in Grapefruit League action in just a few weeks,  

If Your Birthday is February 2nd...

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...you share it with the late Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst .  An icon to both St. Louis and Milwaukee fans, the switch-hitter played alongside Stan Musial on the Cardinals' 1946 World Series champs (after spending his rookie year in '45 as Stan's fill-in in left field) and into the mid-'50s.  Sent to the Giants in one of many ill-conceived trades by GM Frank Lane, Red moved onto the Braves early in 1957, and quickly became the final piece in that club's championship puzzle.  After tuberculosis cost him the 1959 season and part of 1960, he returned to St. Louis as a player-coach. Again, he was Stan's teammate -- while hitting .300 hitter coming off the bench in 1961 and '62.  But that wasn't the end of his story: Red succeeded Johnny Keane as Cardinals manager and was the skipper on the 1967 World Champs and '68 NL pennant winners.  He had two brief, later stints as their manager, 1980 and '90 -- serving between the departure of Whitey Herzog a

15 Years Ago This May

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Rewinding to May 22nd, 2009 ,  the first season of the new Yankee Stadium and  what turns out to be a World Series preview.  The Yankees -- who missed the post-season in '08 -- are hosting the defending champion Phillies in the opener of a weekend inter-league series.   After a friendly pre-game encounter of rival fans, it's on to the action. On this Friday night in the Bronx, it's a packed house.  Above, Phils starter Brett Myers faces Yankees center fielder fielder Johnny Damon .   Below, it's  Mark Teixeira  getting his chance against Myers.    Notice the on-field scoreboards, reminiscent of the original Stadium -- I miss them.  Sorry that after going unused for a couple of years, they were replaced by more advertising.   The defending champs have the upper hand on this night, smacking four home runs (Rollins, Ruiz, Werth and Ibanez -- watch his land in the right field seats ) en route to a 7-2 victory.   Come October, it would be a different story, as the Yankees wo

Former Yankees Find New Homes

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A pair of onetime Yankees have landed free agent deals.  David Robertson will begin his 16th major league season in Texas.  The reliable reliever split his 2023 between the Mets and Marlins -- where, save for a rocky August, he was generally effective. For trivia buffs: since the retirement of Robinson Cano, he's now the last Yankee to have played at the old Stadium and is still active . (Below): Aaron Hicks , who bounced back, hitting .275 in a 65 game Orioles stint after being released by the Yanks, heads to Anaheim.  There, he'll both backup Mike Trout and try and help fill the huge void in the Angels offense after Shohei Ohtani left for the Dodgers.   Both of my images were taken in the Bronx during the 2018 season: Robertson was on the mound facing the Angels, while Hicks was batting against the Red Sox.

If Your Birthday is January 26th...

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...you share it with "Mister Baseball."   Bob Uecker  might be  the most famous .200 hitter in baseball history -- and, thanks to the Ford Frick Award, the only one enshrined in Cooperstown.  Finding  his true calling as a Brewers broadcaster and standup comic, the Milwaukee native made  100  Tonight Show  appearances, where Johnny Carson coined his nickname.   One of the stars of the Miller Lite TV ads, he branched out into sitcoms with   Mister Belvedere and extended his brand as the play by play announcer in the Major League movies.    Seen here in the 1965 Cardinals Yearbook, Uecker is about to begin his 54th season as the Brewers radio voice. Also in our January 26th baseball circle: Davis Schneider   was promoted to the Blue Jays last August after slugging 21 home runs during the first two-thirds of the minor league season.  The New Jersey native cleared the fences eight times in 35 Toronto games and will get a shot at being the club's regular 3rd baseman this comi

The Call From the Hall

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Adrian Beltre (above),  Todd Helton  (below) and Joe Mauer (bottom) got the call Tuesday night -- letting them know they'd been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Careers of excellence and achievement... Helton was a two-sport star, preceding Peyton Manning as the U of Tennessee's quarterback and winning college baseball's Dick Howser (Player of the Year Award) before playing his entire 17 season MLB career in Colorado.  Runner up for 1998's NL Rookie of the Year, he was the league's 2000 MVP, winning the batting and RBI titles and making the first of his five All Star Game appearances.   Beltre enjoyed stellar seasons with the Dodgers and Red Sox but really hit his stride during his eight years in Texas, where he combined stellar glove work with consistent hitting -- being named to four All Star teams and finishing in the Top 10 of MVP voting five times.  He's also the only third baseman with 3000 hits and 400 home runs. Mauer lived out every kid's dream

Rare Remnant of a Lost Ballpark

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When the subject of baseball in Brooklyn comes up, the discussion centers around Ebbets Field, the Flatbush venue most famously home to The Boys of Summer.  Those legendary 1940s and '50s teams that featured such historic and beloved players as Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges. Ebbets Field hosted its last major league game in 1957 and was torn down during the winter of 1960. But decades earlier, just before World War One, the Dodgers were based in the Park Slope area and played at Washington Park.  Once they moved out, the land was occupied by another stadium, which housed a different franchise.  The upstart Federal League, which played in the 1914 and '15 seasons, had a Brooklyn team called the TipTops.  Owned by a local baking magnate Robert Ward, whose company produced TipTop bread, the club took over the abandoned lot along 3rd Street and built a new brick and steel venue. The only no-hitter in the Federal League's two-year r

If Your Birthday is January 19th...

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...you share it with Jon Matlack .  One of the array of talented pitchers developed by the Mets from the mid '60s through the early '70s, the West Chester, PA native was the 1972 NL Rookie of the Year.  The lefty won 10 or more games seven times in his 12 full MLB seasons and was named to three All Star teams.  Matlack later coached in the Padres, White Sox, Tigers and Astros organizations. And, celebrating on Saturday the 20th... Travis Taijeron played 26 games with the Mets in the final weeks of the 2017 season.  Seen here that March during Spring Training, his big league highlight was a September 26th walk-off single at Citi Field to beat the Braves 4-3.  

10 Years Ago This Spring

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Derek Jeter shares a friendly moment with Tony Tarasco during a 2014 Yankees/Nationals Grapefruit League in Tampa.  The two will always be linked by Jeter's home run in the opening game of the 1996 ALCS, when young fan Jeffrey Maier snatched Jeter's fly above the right field fence before Tarasco had the chance to catch it -- turning what could have been a routine out into a memorable home run.  A home run that led to victory in a post-season capped by the Yankees first championship since 1978.     

Will He Wear Zero in the Bronx?

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The Yankees bolstered their starting rotation with Thursday's signing of Marcus Stroman .  The Long Island native, who spent 2019 and '21 with the Mets before moving onto the Cubs, brings a 77-76 career record to the Bronx, along with a recent loyalty to uniform number (?) zero.  If he requests that, he'd become the third Yank to wear it, following the path of Adam Ottavino and Domingo German.  Of course, neither of their Yankee tenures ended all that well -- Ottavino struggled badly in 2020, before reviving his career with the Red Sox and Mets; German's alcohol and domestic violence issues sabotaged such Yankee highlights as last year's perfect game. Can a number truly be lucky? You can understand kids in little league or high school ball wanting to wear 2 in honor of Derek Jeter or 7 for Mickey Mantle.  But is there an heroic ballplayer associated with 0?  The closest I recall comes from pro football, where the Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame center Jim Otto wore 00

If Your Birthday is January 12th...

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  ...you share it with Ivan Nova , who looked like a budding star when he went 16-4 in his first Yankees season (2011), but never again reached such lofty levels for the rest of his 11 year career. Also in today's birthday circle: Dontrelle Willis also got off to a fast start -- earning the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year award with the Marlins, then winning 22 two years later as the runner up for the Cy Young.  The lefty with a big leg kick was among the last of the strong-hitting pitchers: he batted a career .244, and hit two home runs in a 2006 game against the Mets.  Arm problems and an anxiety disorder shortened his playing career.  He's now a broadcaster with the Dodgers and Fox Sports. Mike Marshall was a power hitting outfielder-1st baseman with the Dodgers during the '80s, but found his greatest fame while dating Go-Go's lead singer Belinda Carlisle. Bill Madlock , the sweet-swinging 3rd baseman who won a pair of NL batting titles with the Pirates (1981 and '83)

10 Years Ago This Summer

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Chase Utley (above) and Jimmy Rollins (below), seen on August 24th, 2014, are in their 10th and final season as the  Phillies middle infield combination.  And this year, for the first time, both are on the Hall of Fame ballot. Teammates for five consecutive NL East champs, a run highlighted by the 2008 World victory over the Rays, they hope to join such legendary 2nd base/shortstop duos as the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese; Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio (White Sox); and Joe Gordon and Phil Rizzuto (Yankees) in Cooperstown. It's easy to check their stats (just click the links under their names).  But leadership and attitude are never as easy to evaluate.  As the gritty heart and soul of the Phillies lineup during the franchise's most successful five-year period, Utley and Rollins check off the boxes for me. The members of the BBWA made the decision.  We'll learn who gets this year's call to the Hall on January 23rd.   My images of Utley and Rollins were

Finally, a Free Agent Signing

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With too much of the energy of this off-season concentrated on free agents Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a lot of productive players remain unsigned.  That's still the case, eve after outfielder Teoscar Hernandez landed a one-year deal with the Dodgers.  The righty power hitter, who's crushed 25 or more homers in each of the last four full seasons, helps fill one of the weak spots for L.A., which is rich in pitching and infielders -- and of course DH, with the addition of Ohtani. With Hernandez off the market, the biggest bats still available include Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and Jorge Soler. Just five weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting, let's hope this marks the beginning of some Hot Stove activity. ( My image of Hernandez is from a 2018 Blue Jays/Yankees game in New York .)  

If Your Birthday is January 5th...

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  ...you share your birthday with C.J. Cron , the power-hitting 1st baseman who reached  25 or more homers four times in his 10-season career.  ( He's seen above in a 2016 Angels/Yankees game in the Bronx .) Also in today's birthday circle: Vaughn Grissom , the young infielder the Braves just traded to the Red Sox for Chris Sale. Eduardo Escobar , the 13-year veteran infielder who spent 2022 and the first half of '23 with the Mets. Jose Iglesias , the Cuban-born sho rtstop whose 11 year career was bookended by time with the Red Sox and Rockies. Henry Cotto , who spent three (1985-'87) of his 10 big league seasons as a backup outfielder with the Yankees. Sandy Vance , a pitcher whose first and last names matched Dodgers Hall of Famers, but whose big league career with the same franchise lasted for just parts of the 1970 and '71 seasons, where he compiled a 9 - 8 record. Charlie Hough  also had Dodger roots, but the knuckleballer enjoyed his most productive seasons w

On This Date in 1973...

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George M. Steinbrenner III leads a group of investors who purchase the Yankees from CBS for $8.8 million dollars.  Despite claims that this would be "absentee ownership" and he would "stick to building ships," the onetime graduate assistant to Woody Hayes would become the most famous owner in sports, overseeing a revival of the once mighty franchise, leading it to seven World Series in his 37 years as the helm -- and in the process, the outspoken and often impulsive executive becomes as big a celebrity as any of his legendary players. Is it any surprise that his is the largest monument in Yankee Stadium, strategically placed to hover above those for its  earliest and most enduring legends, Lou Gehrig, Miller Huggins and Babe Ruth. Like him, love him or hate him, The Boss gets credit for ending a period of malaise when after becoming New York's "other ballclub," and making the Yankees matter again. Hit the comment tab and share your memories and opinion

Happy New Year

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  Jorge Posada and Rickey Henderson lead the chorus wishing you a terrific 2024.

If Your Birthday is December 25th...

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The greatest leadoff hitter of all time is a Christmas Day baby.  Rickey Henderson , turning 65 today, burst into stardom with the A's, spent 4-1/2 productive seasons with the Yankees, returned to Oakland and then made several other stops during his 25 big league seasons -- a career spanning four decades over two centuries! The game's all time stolen base leader led his league in thefts 12 times -- including seven years in a row. He scored more runs than anyone ever, and by walking 2190 times, maintained a career on-base percentage over .400. His speed and power earned him another distinctive mark -- his 81 leadoff homers are the most ever. Following the post-World War II example of Jackie Robinson, and then Maury Wills and Lou Brock, Rickey -- even though just 5 feet 10 -- was an intimidating force to any and all pitchers. While today's advanced analytics downplay the importance of speed -- though it does respect his knack for home runs and walks -- tell me you wouldn'

There Used to Be a Ballpark

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  Look closely... that flagpole  carries quite a story.  Once placed just outside Brooklyn, New York's much beloved  Ebbets Field , it again greets sports fans -- instead of the Dodgers, it welcomes those who cheer for pro basketball's Nets. After the iconic ballpark was demolished, it lived on after being donated to a nearby VFW post, at a building that held several other purposes over the decades.  Nearly 50 years later, then-Nets owner Bruce Ratner obtained the pole for Barclays Center to unite the borough's old sports tradition with its new one.   Ironically, the arena stands on the parcel of land Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley once envisioned as the next home of his baseball team.  But when O'Malley, failed to gain title to the land, he began to look elsewhere, landing in Los Angeles in 1958, and opening Dodger Stadium there four years later.  It took more than 50 years and a totally different cast of characters for pro sports to return to Brooklyn -- along with