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Showing posts from February, 2022

More Three Ring Memories

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Last week's post introducing the classic 1950s-'60s Yankee broadcast team stirred up so many positive memories, it's time to stick with another from the team's longtime sponsor. Visiting our favorite collectibles store See the Man in Sherburne, New York,  this  vintage serving tray caught my eye. Featuring the updated Ballantine logo from the '60s, it was on display and up for sale.  Ever seen one of these? Own one? Did you parents have any? How long and strong does this tie-in last? Decades after its radio, TV and ballpark sponsorship ended, seeing that Ballantine logo and brew still makes me think baseball.  

If Your Birthday is February 25th...

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...you share it with  Paul O'Neill , who flipped an invisible switch once the Reds traded him to the Yankees, elevating his game and becoming a cornerstone player on four World Series championship teams. Tenacious all-out play earned him the Bronx faithful's forever affections, along with  the nickname The Warrior from George Steinbrenner. O'Neill's keen insights and dry wit have led to a just-as-successful second Yankee career as their lead analyst on TV. In fan-friendly move, the Yanks announced that they will retire his number 21 this August. Jorge Soler , the Cuban expat slugger who, after struggling to earn an everyday job with the Cubs, developed into a steady middle-of-the-lineup presence with the Royals -- and then reached his peak after a mid-season 2021 trade to the Braves, where he blasted three World Series homers, including a mammoth shot in the clinching game six, to earn Series MVP honors. Unsigned before the lockout, he could be one of the most in-demand

Even on a Chilly and Grey Day...

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...there's no place quite like Wrigley Field. It's about an hour before a  May 2015 Cubs/Mets afternoon game -- early in that renovation project. The digital video boards are already up, but the refurbished right field bleachers aren't yet ready. Below: preparing the home plate area, just before the chalk lines are laid out. (In the distance, catch the bleachers atop the apartment building across Waveland Avenue.) Atop the grandstand, the press box is home to print reporters, radio, TV and the forever tribute to the one of a kind broadcaster Harry Caray.  

From the 1957 Yankee Yearbook

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  Ballantine Beer was the primary sponsor... Mel, Red and the Scooter were the voices of Yankee baseball. 1957 began Phil Rizzuto's 40 year run behind a microphone. That's worth a "Holy Cow" and a "How About That!"

If Your Birthday is February 18th...

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  ...you share it with the shortstop who has won #18 for the Yankees and the Phillies, Didi Gregorius . Born in Amsterdam and raised in CuraƧao, the son of a pitcher in Dutch pro ball, he originally signed with the Reds. After moving onto the Diamondbacks, he was traded to the Yanks in 2015, where he was handed the unenviable job of taking over for Derek Jeter at shortstop. Not only did he raise his game after moving to the Bronx, he quickly became a fan favorite. But a 2018 elbow injury that needed Tommy John surgery cut down his offensive effectiveness. Moving onto the Phillies, he enjoyed a bounceback year in 2019, but has struggled the last two seasons -- and isn't assured of a starting spot if and when the season begins. He shares the day with a teammate: Nick Maton showed promise during his rookie season in 2021.He got his first major league hit April 19th off Giants ace Kevin Gausman. In fact, he began his big league career hitting safely in his first six games -- including

Shouldn't This Be Next?

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The Super Bowl is over; the post-game buzz has already faded. Because the NFL gives out its awards before its big game, there's no talk of Players of the Year. And since free agency doesn't begin for nearly a month, you won't hear much speculation over big contracts or players changing teams. By mid-week after a Super Bowl baseball begins washing across sports sections in print or online. Stories about good weather, intriguing prospects and hoped-for bounceback candidates are the order of the day IN A NORMAL YEAR. Look at the above photo: it's from the Yankees 2016 spring training visit to the Mets in Port Saint Lucie. There's a then-unknown Aaron Judge in the batting cage -- four months before he'd make his Bronx debut. Above and behind, a fan snaps a picture, wondering if this kid would ever graduate to the big leagues. That's what the weeks after football ought to be. Now, below: Mets pitcher Josh Smoker signing autographs for the kids, the future fans. C

Ice Cream Time

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Originally filled with Carvel, I saved this souvenir mini-helmet from the final summer of Shea Stadium.  

If Your Birthday is February 11th...

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...you share it with Dansby Swanson .  The Braves shortstop has developed into one of the National League's best at this position. Always a good glove man, the Georgia native upped his power game in 2021 -- smacking a career-best 27 homers for the World Champs. While there's been plenty of buzz concerning whether or not Atlanta will re-sign Freddie Freeman, fans will be curious to see how the club deals with Swanson. He's a free agent a year from now. Also on our cake and candles list: Ben Oglivie , whose 16 big league seasons were highlighted by 1980 -- when he led the American League with 41 home runs. We remember... Sammy Ellis , the Reds righthander who won 22 games in 1965, but was never as effective again. He returned to the majors as a pitching coach for several clubs, including 1982-'84 and '86 with the Yankees. "Downtown" Ollie Brown broke in alongside Willie Mays in the Giants outfield, before moving on to the expansion Padres, where he hit 20 a

Where Jeter, Dent and Rizzuto Once Played

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Could  Isiah Kiner-Falefa be the Yankees next shortstop? Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Rangers, after landing free agent middle infielders Marcus Semien and Corey Seagar on contracts totaling more than a half-billion dollars, are looking to deal their incumbent. A native of Hawaii, Kiner-Falefa has played 3rd, 2nd and short -- and enjoyed his most productive year in 2020's 60-game season.  With Texas committed long-term to its two new stars, they're likely in a mood to move Kiner-Falefa, probably before training camp opens -- whenever that might be. Younger and likely to cost less than free agent stopgaps Andrelton Simmons or Jose Iglesias, the four-year veteran could hold the spot until top prospects Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza prove they're ready.  ( These images of Kiner-Falefa are from the Rangers/Yankees game last September 22nd .)

Still Waiting

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A souvenir from 2016... makes you wonder if both sides are savvy enough to realize that canceling Grapefruit and Cactus League games does more damage than a less than ideal Collective Bargaining Agreement. Finding common ground should also mean finding common prosperity for both sides. And isn't that the real goal?

If Your Birthday is February 4th...

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. ..you share it with Chris Gittens , a power-hitting Yankee prospect who, after 2019 success with Trenton, appeared in 16 big league games last summer -- but didn't make consistent enough contact to stay on the 40-man roster. He'll play for Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2022. Taking a Hall-&-Oates-like swing, he's not the only Chris on our list. Chris Coste (below) was the Phillies version of Rocky Balboa, a 33 year old rookie who became a popular backup catcher from 2006-'09. After his playing days, he worked for the club as a TV analyst before returning to the field as the coach for Concord Moorhead University, and more recently, the indy ball Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. And to complete our Triple Play, Chris Bando  was the Indians backup catcher for eight seasons during the '80s. The last name should sound familiar -- his older brother Sal played 3rd base for the great Oakland A's teams of the '70s.  

Remember These?

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Baseball and Warner Brothers had a clever marketing partnership in the 1990s with several teams releasing shirts such as this. Did you ever own one? Still have it? Is it too valuable to wear?