Gone bluefishin’

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Pete Rose, baseball’s immortal Charlie Hustle, played manager-for-a-day in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday night, calling the shots for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.

It’s a far cry from the Big Red Machine. And it’s as close as Pete should ever get to returning to baseball.

The “independent” in “independent Atlantic League” is important, because Petey has been banned for 25 years from all of Major League Baseball and all of its affiliate minor league teams. Among other things, this means that the man who had more base hits than any other player in the history of the game – the man who beat Ty Cobb’s unbeatable record of 4,191 and didn’t stop until he’d recorded 4,256, the man who was a thorn in every pitcher’s side and was the face of Cincinnati in the ’70s – is ineligible to to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Good. That’s how it should be. Rose, one of the greatest ever to lace up a pair of cleats, should never be allowed back in the game.

Rose is 73 now, and he’s always had a groundswell of support from fans who say the hit king belongs in the Hall.

On a side note, I’d be willing to bet that a majority of those same fans have no problem with excluding the home run king, Barry Bonds. Let’s just say the reasons are as clear as black and white.

But this isn’t about Barry, who also doesn’t belong. This is about Pete. And the reason Petey isn’t in the Hall is that he took himself out of it.

In 1989, after denying for months that he had never, ever, bet on a baseball game, Rose accepted a lifetime ban from the game — without admitting guilt — for, um . . . betting on baseball.

Now, before the baseball writers can elect or reject him for a plaque in Cooperstown, the commissioner of baseball must lift the ineligibility Pete accepted.

Let’s hope no commissioner is ever so forgiving.

It took years for Rose, in a desperate attempt to get reinstated, to admit that yes, in fact, he did bet on baseball games. What’s more, he admitted, he bet on his Reds … while he was the team’s manager.

Rose and his defenders argue that he never bet against the Reds. He only bet on his team to win. What’s wrong with that?

There’s a lot wrong with that.

Baseball, as we all know, is a marathon, not a sprint. There are 162 games, and even the really good teams lose 62 of them. Sometimes you have to be willing to lose because you have your eyes on the finish line.

Unless, of course, your eyes are clouded by a bet.

Did Petey ever keep a pitcher in the game longer than he should have, risking injury to the player, because he had money on the outcome?

Did he ever put a player who desperately needed a day of rest into the lineup because winning a bet was more important?

Even if the answer is no, he could have. A manager has to have his team – not his bet – foremost in his mind. And the bet opens the question of whether Petey did.

Baseball, the great American pastime, almost died 95 years ago when the Chicago “Black Sox” took money from gamblers and threw the 1919 World Series. It literally took a player of Ruthian stature to bring the game back from that scandal. Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest players ever, was one of eight ballplayers banned for life afterward. You’ll find Shoeless Joe in a wonderful book that was made into a wonderful movie, but you won’t find his plaque in Cooperstown.

Rose deserves nothing better.

Photo ops and autograph sessions are all Charlie Hustle has left now, and that’s the way it should be. According to the Savannah Morning News, “About 50 fans paid $250 each to get into a ‘meet and greet’ with Rose before this game and others paid $150 to have lunch with him. He did sign some free autographs as he took the field.”

Rose told the newspaper he “was trying to show he could be a good ambassador for the game.”

“If I’m ever reinstated,” he said, “I won’t need a third chance. Believe me.”

OK, I believe him. And I also know that he does not deserve a third chance. He shouldn’t even have gotten a second one.

Let everyone who plays this wonderful game know now and forever:

There’s no betting in baseball. Period. Not even if you get 4,256 hits.

– 30 –

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Take me out!

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My friends, today is a religious holiday. And, as I have for the last 30 years or so, I will be attending a house of worship with my sons, Josh and Ben.

Every year, Linda and I would pull them out of school on this day and we’d all head to the ballpark. Their principal would give them a dollar and ask them to bring him back a bag of peanuts. Never mind that a bag of peanuts cost around six bucks . . . He got it. And we brought him back the peanuts.

I said then — and I say now — that there was nothing they would miss in class that day that would be as important or as meaningful as this family tradition.

Today is Opening Day, and I’m heading to the ballpark. There will be hot dogs. There will be beer. I don’t care if I never get back.

And here’s the best part . . . This year my sons are taking ME!

Great memories last a lifetime. Let’s go Mets!

— 30 —

Thank you, Miss Mosey


My friend Ash recently posted on Facebook a Business Insider article about a college kid who got an 89.22% grade in his chemistry class and emailed his professor asking if maybe there was a way the prof could find an “extra” .78% somehow, somewhere, so that he could get an even 90% grade, which he said would “be a great boost in the GPA for me” and, let’s face it, would so obviously make the difference someday between slaving behind the counter at McDonald’s for the rest of his life and becoming the CEO of Dow Chemical.

The kid finished his email with “Thanks for a great semseter and good luck with medical research.”

Now, first of all, I would have lowered his grade for misspelling “semester.” But that’s just me.

And I digress. Continue reading

Cooperstown

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My kids have grown up. I know this because I’m banging away on a keyboard in Haverstraw, NY, right now, when I should be on the way home from Cooperstown.

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you all about a grand tradition that began in October of 1987, when Josh was 8 and Ben was 2 and Josh and I decided to have a baseball weekend, just us guys, no mom, no baby brother.

The plan was simple:

We’d drive to Cooperstown on Friday night, when I got home from work, and check into a motel for a couple of nights. We’d spend all day Saturday at the Hall of Fame, then head to Brooks’ Diner in Oneonta for some chicken and ribs, and then return to our motel room to watch Game Six of the World Series. Just the two of us.

And there would be a brief but essential stop at a convenience store on the way back to motel from Brooks’, so we could pick up some essentials for watching the game. All involving excessive amounts of sugar and salt.

There was one ground rule: Anything goes. You want it, we’ll buy it. Chips, candy, soda, Twinkies, whatever. We’re guys. We snack till we’re sick.

The next morning, we’d have breakfast somewhere, then doughnuts at Snyder’s Bakery, and then we’d head back home, stopping en route to pick up a Halloween pumpkin or two.

Perfect. Continue reading

Exit Sandman

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Willie Mays, the greatest player ever to lace up a pair of cleats, was a shell of himself when he said goodbye to America. He was wearing a Mets uniform by then, and all you could do was celebrate the career of a man whose time had long since passed.

No so Mariano Rivera.

It’s so rare to see an athlete go out on top, especially a star baseball player, who will play until he’s 40-something and won’t take off the uniform until his final team tells him he can’t wear it anymore. Time’s up. You’re done.

Dodgers_Sandy_Koufax_2013-300x237The only other ballplayer I can remember leaving at the top was Sandy Koufax, who won 27 games for the Dodgers in 1966 and led the league in everything (his ERA was a ridiculous 1.73 and he struck out 317). Sandy collected his unprecedented third Cy Young Award that fall and walked away from the game. He was 30-years-old.

But Sandy retired because his doctors told him his gifted left arm was seriously arthritic, and it would become essentially useless if he continued pitching.

I reckon these days he’d have Tommy John surgery, or something, and come back and win 30 games two years later. But that wasn’t possible in 1966.

So Sandy called it quits.

But Sandy was the only one. All the other greats saw their skills erode before they retired.

All but Mo.

I’m a Mets fan, so I’m genetically wired to root for the Yankees lose 162 games every season.

But when Mo took the mound, even I had to root for him. You have to admire greatness.

The greatest closer in history — and one of the greatest pitchers ever — threw his last pitch in Yankee Stadium yesterday. And he did it in a Yankee uniform, the only one he ever wore. And his teammates through all those years, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, took him out of the game.

The Yanks have three more games to play, and they will be meaningless — the Pinstripes are gloriously out of the postseason. So I hope they don’t use Mo in any of them, unless they want to let him play centerfield for an inning.

He went out last night on top, where he belongs. Click the picture below and see for yourself.

— 30 —

Say it ain’t so, dad

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This is back in 1995, when my younger son, Ben, was 10 years old, and we sent him down to Florida to visit his grandparents.

His grandpa took him to a spring training game in Fort Myers — either the Twins or Red Sox vs. the visiting Yankees — and Ben did what all 10-year-olds do in those circumstances. He got as close as he could and begged for autographs.

One player in a Yankees uniform complied.

Ben came home with the autographed ball a week later and showed it to me.

I regarded the signature and said:

“Ben, I’ve never heard of him. He’s a minor leaguer. The ball isn’t worth anything.

And Ben sighed, and he decided the ball WAS worth something. It was worth what all baseballs are worth.

And he took it outside and played with it. And played with it. And we played catch and we hit it and it scuffed in the grass and it went in the mud and it scraped the pavement and before you knew it, the stitches were ripping and the signature was gone.

And that’s why Ben no longer has a baseball autographed by Andy Pettitte in his rookie year.

Today, 18 years later, Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.

My friend Zach swears he’s a future Hall of Famer. I don’t agree, but I’ll concede he comes close.

And Ben has no autographed baseball.

Sorry, son. My fault.

— 30 —

Doc Gooden’s no-hitter, and how I became the World’s Greatest Dad

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Sooner or later, Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler will throw a no-hitter, and one thing you can put your money on here and now is that either or both won’t be with the Mets when it happens. Or that, even if they’re still wearing orange and blue, I won’t be watching. Because that’s just how we roll.

That’s how it went with Seaver, that’s how it went with Cone. It’s the story of Scott and Nomo and Humber. And it’s the story of Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan and Ryan.

But, remarkably, it isn’t the story of Gooden.

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you the tale about how I happened to be watching when Doc Gooden threw a no-hitter, and how it remains the only no-hitter I ever saw. And how, if I never see another, it was good enough.

And that’s because on the night Doc Gooden thew a no-hitter, I became The Greatest Dad in the World.

Flashback to May 14, 1996, and I’m sitting in the kitchen having dinner with Linda and our younger son, Ben, who is 11 years old. (Ben’s 17-year-old brother, Josh, is AWOL, out doing whatever high school juniors do in the middle of May.)

But Ben’s in the house, and I casually say to him over our meal . . .

Hey Ben! Dwight Gooden’s pitching for the Yanks tonight. Wanna watch? Maybe he’ll pitch a no-hitter.

Yeah, I said that.

But I didn’t really mean it, because by May 1996, Doc Gooden wasn’t half the pitcher he was with the Mets a decade earlier, when he went 24-4 with a ridiculous 1.53 ERA . . . when he won the Cy Young Award at the even more ridiculous age of 20 . . . when it was said you couldn’t hit him with an ironing board . . . when Mike Lupica speculated in the Daily News that he would easily win 400 games before his career ended . . . when Ron Cey, having struck out, stood in the batter’s box, took his helmet off his head, perched it on his bat and held it aloft as he walked back to the Cubs’ dugout, explaining that he had no chance to get a hit against this guy, so he might as well use the bat as a hat rack.

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Back then, I set my VCR to record every game Gooden pitched, because there was no doubt that he WOULD throw a no-hitter, or two or three, and I would have it on tape to watch over and over.

But that was in 1985, the year Ben was born. Back then, Doc was the best pitcher I ever saw. But injuries and drugs took their toll over the decade that followed, and on May 14, 1996, I had no reasonable expectation that Doc still had the stuff to throw a no-hitter.

But the chance to sit on the living room couch and watch a ballgame with my son . . . That was priceless.

So I said, hey Ben, Dwight Gooden’s pitching for the Yanks tonight. Wanna watch? Maybe he’ll pitch a no-hitter.

Ben had to go to school in the morning, but he was willing, and he sat down to watch a couple of innings, until bedtime.

And so it was somewhere around the third inning that Linda came into the living room and announced, BEDTIME!

Only Doc hadn’t given up a hit yet. And Ben looked at me, and I said to Linda . . . Give it another inning or two.

And Linda came back after another inning or two, and she pronounced BEDTIME!!!, and Ben looked me, his eyes pleading, and I told Linda, give it another inning or two.

And then somewhere around the seventh inning, around 10 p.m., wayyyyyy past our fifth-grader’s bedtime, Linda come in again and said, very firmly this time . . . BEN!!!!! BEDTIME!!!!!!!

And Ben looked at me again, his eyes begging for a reprieve, and he and I had both history and baseball juju on our side, and that’s when I turned to Linda and said . . .

Linda, don’t you know about the No-Hitter Rule? (I’m putting that in caps, because it’s a seriously important rule.)

And Linda looked at me all WTF, long before they invented the word WTF, and Ben looked at me like I’d told him a lot of baseball rules, like you don’t bunt with two strikes and you don’t try to steal third with two outs, but I’d never told him about a No-Hitter Rule.

And then I proclaimed, in all caps . . .

NOBODY GOES TO BED DURING A NO-HITTER!

And Ben looked at me like I was God!

And for that fleeting moment, I was.

Ben stayed till the very end. He didn’t leave the couch until we’d seen the Yankees carry Doc off the field on their shoulders. I may never quite get over the fact that he did it in pinstripes, but he did it just the same. And I was watching.

And to this day, I’m betting Ben can tell you where he was and how it came about that he saw Doc Gooden pitch a no-hitter.

And I’m sure Ben was the yawniest kid in fifth grade on May 15, but I’ll also tell you there’s nothing he was too tired to learn in school that day that was more important than our time together the night before.

If I never see another no-hitter, that’s OK. The one Doc Gooden pitched was perfect.

— 30 —