Why I Like Baseball

an online journal of baseball enthusiasm

Archive for January, 2011

An Afternoon With Ryne Duren

January 07, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Dangit. I just heard of Ryne Duren’s passing yesterday at age 81. I am supposed to be working on a biography of him for the SABR Bioproject, but he hadn’t answered my recent letter. I was going to try to track down a more recent phone number for him, but now I won’t get that chance.

The reason I took the Duren assignment for the Bioproject, honestly, is because I was hoping to have another great chat with Ryne like the one we had back in 2003 when I was working on The 50 Greatest Yankees Games. He winters in Florida like many people, and so I met him one February when I went down for pitchers and catchers. On that trip I interviewed a lot of former Yankees, including Tom Tresh (who also sadly passed as well) and Phil Linz (still kickin’). Ryne wanted to know if I could meet him at a greasy spoon near Lakeland. This wasn’t that near either his home nor where I was, but I readily agreed.

When I got there I found out why he wanted to meet there–because of the proximity to several large pawn shops. In his dotage, Ryne had become something of a junk connoisseur, and apparently it’s more fun to hunt for junk with company that without. I happily went with him to pick through piles of used lawnmowers, lamps, stereo equipment, etc. We found no gems, but it was fun, and then we settled into the little diner nearby to have a bite to eat and talk baseball.

At the time I was working on The 50 Greatest Yankee Games, so I had a bunch of questions about Duren’s teammates to ask him (he played with the Yankees from 1958-1961) but sometimes you never know what you’re going to find if you just let a fellow talk. And Duren was a talker, that’s for sure.

In our conversation he told me stories about how Lefty O’Doul helped him with his pitching control, how alcoholism probably hurt his control, meeting Marilyn Monroe, getting batting tips from Joe DiMaggio, how having an infected heart as a child turned him into a baseball fan, Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, and much more. What follows is pretty much a verbatim transcript of that afternoon:

Ryne Duren: Did you know I just wrote a book, too?

Cecilia Tan: No, I had no idea.

RD: I’ll get you a copy. [goes out and gets one from the car] I’m going to go down and autograph copies at the museum in St. Pete [where the "Baseball as America" Hall of Fame exhibit was showing at the time]. I don’t know how much research you did about me but I’m known for two things, I have real bad eyes and I had terrible alcohol problem. Anyway, this is kind of a play off of both. [The title of the book is "I Can See Clearly Now."]

CT: Did you really hit a guy in the on deck circle in the minors?

RD: Oh no. That’s a myth. But what I did do was (more…)

Today is BBA Day!

December 10, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Yes, today is BBA Day, the day to celebrate the existence of the Baseball Bloggers Association.

This coalition of baseball writers and enthusiasts includes everything from individual fan sites for teams to group blogs of analysis and specialized topics. I joined the group when it was first forming and have had a terrific time networking with this group of people who love the game of baseball in all its forms.

I started Why I Like Baseball in 1999, using old style hand-written HTML, just to express my thoughts and feelings about the game which I had followed avidly as a kid growing up near New York City, but had lost touch with in my early adulthood. The McGwire-Sosa home run race brought me back with a vengeance. I was a professional writer, so one way I expressed my love of the game was through writing. Next thing I knew, people were actually coming and reading the site on a regular basis. Advertisers began to offer me money. I happily took it and expanded what I wrote about to include not only the Red Sox and Yankees, but minor league ball, women’s baseball (which I then started playing), baseball history, baseball tourism (ballpark visits, gravesites, museums, etc…)

They say on the Internet you will always discover you’re not the only one. You’re never alone. The term “blog” was coined in late 1999 but didn’t enter common parlance until a few years later, but the concept of maintaining a readable online journal or zine existed long before that. What really came about around the turn of the millennium was the technology to make blogging easier and more ubiquitous. And so here we are, ten years after that, with a vibrant and growing network (over 200 strong!) for people like me.

So I encourage you to check out the central website: BaseballBloggersAlliance.com/ where many posts from BBA members all over the web are cross-linked. The BBA does our own version of annual baseball awards, and even a “what if we voted for the Hall of Fame”? every year. Many of the blogs are also involved in charitable efforts.

Pressing Measures

November 30, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

I read the news recently that Jim Leyritz’s trial for D.U.I. manslaughter is over (New York Times). If you’re in suspense, he was acquitted of the manslaughter charge but the jury did slap him with a misdemeanor, which could carry a few month’s jail time, but nothing as bad as the several years that the more serious charge would have carried. Among the mitigating circumstances, the woman who was killed in the accident was also driving while drunk, might have had her car’s lights off, and Leyritz’s blood alcohol level didn’t actually test as high as expected.

What irked me about this story was not the outcome, or even its existence — people including ballplayers making bad choices is nothing new. That the article points out that he is “former Yankee Jim Leyritz” is also nothing new. Heck, that’s what makes it a news story worthy of the Times in the first place.

But what rubbed me wrong is the final two paragraphs of the story:

Leyritz’s famous homer tied Game 4 of the World Series against Atlanta, a game the Yankees won in extra innings. The victory paved the way for their 1996 title, their first in 18 years.

Primarily a catcher, Leyritz also played for the Angels, the Rangers, the Red Sox, the Padres and the Dodgers. He had a career batting average of .264 and hit 90 regular-season home runs.

Is it just me, or does that all seem really… reductive and inappropriate? I think I could have lived with just the final sentence, but the “famous homer” one just feels absolutely muck-rakey to me when juxtaposed with the content of the story.

I know it’s there for those with short memories who read the article and said “Jim who?” but I just cringed when I read it. There’s an edge of sensationalism there (“World Series Hero Driving While Drunk!”) that is just unseemly for the New York Times… or for anywhere, really.

Tis The Season

November 19, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Just got my annual letter from the New York Yankees with my invoice for 2011′s season tickets.

The good news is that my seats are staying the same price, as they have for the past 5 years, going all the way back to the Old Stadium.

The bad news is that in 2010, with the economy still limping along, I didn’t come close to breaking even on the cost of my seats. I even ended up eating the cost of two postseason tickets I couldn’t dump except to a scalper outside the McDonald’s for less than half of face value.

I have been seriously considering either dropping my plan, or dropping from all 81 games to a partial season plan.

I’m sure I’m not alone, which is why the letter to me from the Yankees does things like praise my “unwavering loyalty.” Hoo-boy. Yes, they know better than any other sports franchise on earth that love = money.

At least they aren’t hypocrites, though. Here’s why: (more…)

ALCS Game Three Recap

October 19, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It was a sad night at the Stadium tonight, and not just because of Cliff Lee and Josh Hamilton. Prior to the game the Yankees announced on the scoreboard that Freddy Schuman, aka Freddy the Fan or Freddy “Sez,” passed away yesterday at the age of 85.

It’s amazing to think Freddy outlasted Eddie Layton, Bob Sheppard, and George Steinbrenner himself, but still heart-wrenching to realize he’s gone. Freddy was a fixture at the Stadium (and even sometimes in Tampa during spring training), making his way through the entire stands in the course of a game to let as many kids (and the kids at heart) bang on his lucky frying pan with a spoon.

I banged on the pan just last week, before the ALDS clincher at the Stadium, and now I’m so glad I did. I never would have guessed that would be my last chance to do it.

I also wouldn’t have guessed it would be the last time the Yankees looked dominating this postseason. Coming into tonight’s game they are 1-1, but they could have easily been down 0-2. (more…)

ALCS 2010 Game One Recap

October 16, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

I’m trying to come up with a reasonable lede for tonight’s game recap. It was such a dramatic, feel-good team win that it’s hard to know what’s over the top. On the one hand, it might play out that this come-from-behind statement in the ALCS opener turns out to be just another leg of the steamroller’s journey. On the other hand, chipping away and never giving up is the everyday business of these Yankees.

In the tremendous (yes, I’ll use the word tremendous) eighth inning rally, the Yankees employed the strategy an old coach of mine called “hit it hard somewhere.” The Yankees call it “keeping the line moving.” Tremendous? Yes. According to the Stats Inc. tweet-feed, there have only been four other games in postseason history where a team overcame a 4-run or larger deficit in the 8th or later. Yes, what we saw tonight was rare.

ALDS Game Three: Wind Swept Evening

October 10, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

What a lovely night in the Bronx. Beautiful weather, a festive atmosphere, and a fine ballgame that swept the taste of a lackluster September right out of our mouths.

I arrived at the Stadium earlier than planned, as the traffic driving from Boston was not nearly as bad as we’d feared. Plenty of leaf peepers were out on the roads, but the backups were few and minimal. At 6pm we pulled into our favorite parking lot (#8) and got a space on the bottom level. With two and a half hours to kill before first pitch, we decided to walk around the neighborhood and see what there was to be seen before committing ourselves to the stadium.

Stan’s was already in full swing along River Avenue, with loud music pumping and large screen TVs showing the Rays/Rangers tied at one apiece (more…)

ALDS Games One and Two Wrap-Up: NYY vs Twins

October 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games

For the first time in a long time we didn’t have to drive to New York for the start of the postseason. Because the Yankees slipped out of the AL East division lead and “settled” for the Wild Card, they opened on the road. This was lucky since both corwin and I couldn’t get away from work this week, and would have had to sell our ALDS tickets. Instead, the game(s) in New York will happen this weekend when we can go!

I don’t for a moment believe that the Yankees actually WANTED to slip to the Wild Card, though many fans in Minnesota do. I’ve seen many blogs and tweets from folks in the Twin cities saying that because the Yankees always dominate the Twins in the postseason, they actually plotted to lose the division so they would get the Minnesota matchup.

I don’t believe the conspiracy theories, but I do think maybe Joe Girardi thought to himself that it wouldn’t be SO bad to face the Twins if it meant he could get everyone to October healthy and decently rested, instead of drained from the AL East chase. If anything, the Rangers have made it look like the Rays are the tired ones, holding them to a single solo homer over the past two nights, winning 5-1 and 6-0.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are sitting pretty, having won both games at the brand new Target Field.

Today’s Baseball in Tweets

August 30, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

  • Is Jeter actually hurt and just hiding it? Hits .250 off righties this season. @YankeesWFAN @Ledger_Yankees @BloggingBombers @LoHudYankees #

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Zombies are hip

August 25, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Xtreme Columns

Zombies are in these days. There are zombies in Jane Austen novels, in movie after movie, and even in romance novels now. Zombies are hip. That’s what I think every time I look back and see the Red Sox are still clinging on without completely fading this season.

This is remarkable given the sheer number of players they’ve had on the DL or lost for the season. With a 73-55 record, they’d be in FIRST PLACE in either of the other two American League divisions as of today! (And be only half a game back in two of the NL’s divisions, as well.) This is not exactly the usual showing of a gritty team barely holding it together.

Maybe it’s that Terry Francona finally picked up the Bigelow Green Tea sponsorship that Joe Torre started in New York. (more…)

SABR 40: This year’s award winners!

August 08, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Announcement of the winners of this year’s award winners!
Neal Traven, head of the judges, announces that unfortunately neither the poster winner nor the research presentation winner could be present. But he gives a recap of the winners and their topics. (And the poster, which was very beautifully done, was displayed in the back.)


SABR 40: Seymour Medal Panel

August 08, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

The Research Process: Seymour Medal Winners Panel
Dorothy Seymour Mills, David Block, Tom Swift

Official description(s):
Magnolia Chapter member Ken Fenster moderates a discussion with Dorothy Seymour Mills, David Block and Tom Swift about the ups and downs of the research process, from the formulation of original ideas all the way through to publication. The panelists will use examples from their own works to illustrate the difficulties researchers must face, and the strategies that were useful in meeting those challenges.


Today’s Baseball in Tweets

August 08, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

  • Nghh. Got in at 1am last night thanks to rain delay & extra innings and just could not get up for the Black Sox panel this morning. #sabr40 #
  • Supposedly some nifty new revelations about the Black Sox and Joe Jackson were revealed today, but I needed sleep. Fill me in #sabr40 #
  • Why does the Wall Street Journal use the term "mass paperback" instead of "mass market paperback"? Did I miss a memo somewhere? #
  • Cooling my heels outside the banquet waiting for the speakers to start. No seats. I'll have to sit on the floor in the back to blog. #sabr40 #
  • Recap of Braves GM John Schuerholz's speech at #sabr40 posted at Why I Like Baseball: http://ow.ly/2mrtN #
  • Notes from the New Technologies panel at #sabr40 (pitchf/x, Trackman doppler radar, etc) http://ow.ly/2mspD #
  • CC Sabathia left some balls over the plate in the 1st 2 innings, then shut down the Sox after that. Mo did the rest. #sabr40 #

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SABR 40: New Technologies in Baseball Panel

August 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

New Technologies in Baseball Panel
Measuring ball flight using Sportvision’s PITCHf/x, HITf/x, and FIELDf/x
Trackman’s Doppler Radar Technology

Official description: Alan Nathan moderates a discussion of the latest developments in Sportsvision’s PITCHf/x, HITf/x and FIELDf/x, and TrackMan’s radar technology used to measure ball flight.

SABR 40: awards and John Schuerholz speech

August 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Xtreme Columns

Here we are at the SABR Awards Banquet. The eating is mostly over with, and now president Andy McCue is reading off the results of various awards that were given earlier this year, including some to high school students for historical society prizes and the like, and working up to the Seymour Medal. We’ve just been reminded that next year’s convention will be in Southern California, and that miraculously, we got a weekend when both the Dodgers and the Angels will be at home, and that a lower room rate than this year has been secured. What they didn’t do was announce what the actual date was, or I’d put it here.


SABR 40: day two wrap up (Braves game)

August 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Great Ballparks

Yesterday before dashing for the bus to the ballpark, I actually managed to see a little more than half of Robert Fitts’s presentation on Babe Ruth and Eiji Sawamura, the 17 year old pitcher who struck the Babe out and became a national hero. The young pitcher had forfeited his future in academia by taking the pitching gig, as “professional athletes” were not allowed to continue in school at the time, but the lure of facing Ruth was too enticing and he signed with the team Yomiuri was putting together.

This was during the same MLB all-star tour of Japan on which Moe Berg did some of his infamous spying. The MLB team played 10 games on the tour and won them all, but the game Fitts described, which the young Sawamura pitched, was a near thing. Sawamura held the big leaguers in check, ending up losing 1-0 on a solo homer by Lou Gehrig.

I ducked out of the room just as Fitts was reading an ironic quote from some optimistic observer of the baseball tour of Japan, claiming that these nations would never be wracked by war again. (World War II was just around the corner.)

Today’s Baseball in Tweets

August 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

  • One of the best pro panels ever. Bobby Cox, Phil Niekro, Marke Lemke, Ron Gant, spoke at #sabr40 Recap: http://ow.ly/2m1DJ #
  • Did Mantle's famous homer travel 565 feet? Alan Nathan says it *might* have: http://ow.ly/2m39C #
  • More analysis: are outs on the bases worse than others? Is hitting with RISP random or a skill? Today at #sabr40 recap: http://ow.ly/2m6qA #
  • And now I REALLY need a nap. Going to go take one. #sabr40 #
  • Vince Gennaro rocks the house. #sabr40 (will post notes on his talk in a bit) Economics was never so much fun. #
  • @Baseballisms So glad you made it! #
  • This afternoon's research presentations recapped from #sabr40 at http://www.whyilikebaseball.com/ #

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SABR 40: day two, post four

August 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Okay, gearing up for the last five research presentations of the day. I might have to miss the last one in order to get the bus to the ballpark in time. I probably should have not paid for the bus and just taken MARTA instead, but when I was buying my tickets months ago it had seemed like a good idea. I actually went and took a nap instead of eating lunch, because my eyes were trying to shut during the last two presentations before it.

This afternoon it is really difficult to choose which presentation to see, but I decided to start with Vince Gennaro because every year he comes up with something very sharp and insightful. It means missing Gary Gillette’s presentation on disappearing Negro League ballparks, but I figure I can get Gary to give me the gist of it later if I see him in the bar or at the game.

The slate:

Vince Gennaro – Measuring the asset value of players: A framework for evaluating trades

Geri Strecker – Whose dream was it?: Revisiting the formation of the Negro National League in 1920

Ross Davies – Chinese-U.S. baseball diplomacy before the Great War

Will Dahlberg – A tool for diplomacy: Baseball in occupied Japan 1945-1952

Robert Fitts – Babe Ruth, Eiji Sawamura and war


SABR 40: day two, post three

August 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Do Batters Make Slumps Worse by Trying to Escape Them?
Jeff Switchenko, with several co-authors

Hitting with RISP: Real differences between players
by Eric Van

Are Outs Made on the Bases More Harmful than Other Types of Outs?
David W. Smith



SABR 40: day two, post two

August 06, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History

Revising Mantle’s Griffith Stadium Home Run
A Case Study in Forensic Physics
Alan Nathan

An intriguing look at one of the most iconic moments in the career of one of baseball’s most iconic figures. Lots has been written about the famous homer, as written about in the book CLOUT by Dan Valenti. The characters: Yankee publicist Red Patterson, Mickey Mantle, and Donald Dunaway. The places: Griffith Stadium and 434 Oakdale Place. But the claim that the homer carried 565 feet has been “debunked” before.

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