est. 1985


2007 Season     

   Edition No. 18        

December 21, 2007






As Old Man Winter tightens his grip on us and makes us wish we were all as wealthy and cagey as our resident Purveyor of Dreams –– and, like him, owned a second home in the Valley of the Sun to which we could repair for restoration during the bleak winter months –– let us all gather round the old hot stove and warm the cockles of our hearts by talking baseball. 


WINTER MEETING:  Saturday, January 5, 2008, 6:00 p.m.


According to our scientific survey, the evening of Saturday, January 5, 2008, is the most doable date for our annual Winter Meeting, at which we will pay tribute to the 2007 Champion, Brother Shamu, and feast our eyes on the designer championship berets that are being printed up at Art FX perhaps even as we (figuratively) speak.  The game plan is for all of us to meet promptly at 6 p.m. that evening at Colton’s Woodfired Grill located at 17501 West Center Road, and after a hearty steak dinner with all the trimmings, we will plan to venture next door to the Fox and Hound or across the street to Oscar’s for further libations, celebrations, and associated monkeyshines and tomfoolery.  From that point on, you are on your own, whether your celestial lights take you from there to the casinos in Council Bluffs, the ballet, the emergency department, or the comforts of your own bed.  Currently, we have unwavering commitments from 11 of the 13 league participants to attend the Winter Meeting, more than enough for a quorum to modify our rules for the 2008 season.  In any event, now that you know the precise date, time and location of our winter shindig, mark it down, shout it out, and defend it jealously.  See you on the 5th, if not before. 




As has been pointed out to me by more than one of you, I somehow forgot to include a recitation of the final standings for 2007 in my last two editions of From the Bullpen.  Please be assured that this had nothing to do with the Senators’ dishonorable finish in the standings, and allow me to correct this little oversight by publishing them here: 


Final Standings for 2007










































We have also updated the record of Final Finishes on the website, but allow me to point out a couple of observations which may be gleaned from this database:


Shamu’s 1st-place finish was his second championship in a full 23 years of competition, and his first in a season which was not tainted by a season-ending work stoppage.  All hail the chief!


As if getting to watch his two boys play in the state championship football game this year wasn’t enough, Magpie also experienced a return to the glory days of the Hot Stove League, when his Reds were in hot competition for one of the money finish spots.  After giving Shamu plenty to worry about during most of the season, the Highlanders/Reds faded during the final trimester of the campaign, but still performed courageously enough to finish in 2nd place, Magpie’s fifth 2nd-place finish, tying Jim Ed for the most times as a bridesmaid.  Remarkably, the Highlanders/Reds have finished in the money (top 3) 12 times in 20 years of competition, and even more astounding, they have finished in the Upper Division 19 times in 20 seasons.  Wow.  Now we know where those Pirnie boys get their competitive drive. 


SloPay’s finish in the 3-hole was the second time that the Irates (Bears) have finished in 3rd, the first time being in their second year of competition in 1988.  It is also their second consecutive year of finishing in the money.  Has parity hit the Hot Stove League?  Let’s ask Bob. 


The Chiefs, with B.T. drafting out of the 13-hole, did themselves proud with their third consecutive 4th-place finish, and their fifth finish in the 4-spot in 23 years of competition, a statistical outlier.  (For instance, the Senators have never finished in 4th-place ‒‒ usually preferring to end up higher than that.)  It will be interesting to see what B.T. can do when drafting in the 4 spot. 


The Wahoos finished in 5th-place (bor-ing), their third time they have occupied this position at the end of the season. 


In his first year of sole ownership in the Hot Stove League, Screech piloted his Monarchs to 6th place, barely keeping a toehold on the Upper Division, and falling two slots from last year’s 4th-place finish.  No wonder Steinbrenner helped Screech finance his new franchise and went back to solo ownership of the Chiefs


Jim Ed guided his Redbirds to their second consecutive 7th-place finish, their fifth Lower Division placement in the last seven years.  From the looks of things, Tirebiter may be in his exclusive little club with Underbelly, Mouse and Screech for many seasons to come.  Pity. 


Itchie finished in 8th place for the second consecutive season.  Is the bloom off the rose?  Is that Itchie magic gone forever?  We can only hope. 


Big Guy’s Tigers finished in 9th place, their second 9th-place finish overall, and a serious blow to this franchise after finishing in the Upper Division two out of the last three years.  Oh, for the return of the dead ball era. 


Underbelly finished up on the 10th rung of the ladder this season, the sixth consecutive year that this moribund franchise has finished in either 10th or 12th place.  This six-year stretch of stench roughly equates to Underbelly’s tenure as shipping manager at Art FX, which makes it clear that it is The Man that is keeping him down.  Way down. 


McBlunder’s Blues finished in 11th place for the second time in a row, the fifth consecutive year that this once-proud organization has finished in 10th, 11th, or 12th.  Like the big league club of the same city, it appears that an infusion of new talent is needed to bring this team out of the doldrums. 


Mouse’s Bombers managed to stay out of the league bowels once again this season, but just barely, meaning by only one spot.  Like his elongated fellow owner one notch above him, Mouse has to be concerned that the word “contraction” might once again enter the league vernacular.  On the other hand, maybe if Mutt and Jeff pooled their cerebral resources, they might could figure out a way to actually draft a contending team.  Ooh.  That sounded harsh, I know, but somebody had to say it.  


Finally, the pressure is off. With the Senators’ first-ever last-place finish in 23 years of competition, there is no more pressure to avoid a cellar finish, and no place for this franchise to go but up.  Next season, I won’t be hamstrung by the duties of a little league baseball presidency, and B.T. has already proved that one can go from ignorance and darkness and a 13th spot draft position to the thick of a competitive pennant race in the span of one season.  It’s time to put 2007 behind me, and as to the 2008 season, I say, BRING IT ON. 





I commend to you all another Roger Kahn baseball book that I just recently finished reading, The Era, subtitled 1947-1957 When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World.  Kahn grew up in New York City and began his baseball writing career during this magical baseball time for the Big Apple, during which 9 of the 11 World Series titles were won by a New York-based team (seven times by the Yankees, once each by the Dodgers and the Giants), and during which time center field was occupied for these teams by Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Willie Mays. 


This is not Kahn’s best work, and probably doesn’t make it into his top three, but it is still vintage Kahn, with his impressive but not snobbish use of vocabulary and his very personal recounting of his marvelous memories of this splendid time in baseball.  One of my favorite stories that is woven by Kahn in The Era is of the alcohol-induced implosion of Yankee GM Larry McPhail (called the “Roarin’ Redhead” by Kahn, a terrific sobriquet) after the Bombers captured the 1947 Series.  Listen to this: 



A full complement of reporters attended the Yankee victory party in 1947, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel on the night of October 6.  Neither McPhail nor the old gentlemanly press code really survived the evening. 


As the Yankees moved toward their final victory, McPhail began serious drinking.  He left his box during the seventh inning and began to mix Scotch and beer, with speed and gusto. . . .  Writers came running down the corridors far below the three-tiered stands at Yankee stadium.  McPhail pushed his way through them, tears rushing down his face, and threw an arm around dour, chipmunk-cheeked George Weiss, his farm director. 


“Here, you guys,” McPhail shouted at the reporters.  “I want you to say this in your stories.  I’m the guy that built up the losers, the Brooklyn club.  Here’s the man who really built the Yankees.”  He raised George Weiss’ right arm.


"Now I gotta talk to my players . . . .”


He started crying again.  Then he went looking for Branch Rickey and found him amid another swarm of reporters.  “You’ve got a fine team,” McPhail said.  “I want to congratulate you.”


Rickey leaned in very close.  His whisper was ice.  “I’ll shake your hand because I have to with these people watching.  But I don’t like you, sir.  Don’t care for you at all.”  McPhail wheeled away.  He needed another drink.


Toward eight p.m. he came staggering into the press room at the Biltmore Hotel.  “I got some things to tell you writers,” he said.  “Stay away from me or get punched. . . .”


Sid Keener, the sports editor of the St. Louis Stars-Times, had known McPhail for thirty years.  “Larry,” he said mildly, “everybody gets criticized in your business even when they win.  Branch Rickey won in St. Louis and . . . .”


“Rickey?” McPhail shouted.  “Bible-quoting, hypocritical, tight-wad son of a bitch.  He’s worse than Chandler (the commissioner), worse than that goddamned hayseed we have as a commissioner.” 


McPhail was shouting all of this at reporters from every major newspaper in the country. . . .


He (McPhail) spotted Dan Topping, big, Anaconda copper-rich Dan Topping, who owned one-third of the Yankees. 


“Hey, Topping,” McPhail said.  “You know what you are?  A guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth who never made a dollar in his life.” 


Topping seized McPhail’s left arm.  “Listen, you,” Topping said.  “We’ve taken everything from you we’re going to take.”  Topping wrestled McPhail into the hotel kitchen.  He was bigger than McPhail, younger by twenty years, physically stronger, and considerably more sober.  He shook McPhail roughly in the kitchen, punched him with a few body blows, and ordered McPhail to behave.  “If you act up again, Larry,” Topping said, “I’m going to knock your head off.  Now go into the washroom and clean yourself up and for Christ sakes, comb your hair.” 


About a half hour later--ten p.m.--a subdued McPhail returned, properly groomed.  But the whiskey and the mindless rage still burned within him.


He walked up to Joe Page, who was sitting with his wife.  “What were you, Joe, before I picked you up?  A bum.  You and this broad here, you were nothing.  I bought a home for you.  You’re wearing nice clothes now.  You’re drinking champagne.  But without me, the two of you would be starving.”


Topping was approaching with a murderous look.  Mrs. Page burst into tears. 


McPhail weaved away from the couple.  Then this wondrous, bizarre, driven character staggered out of the room and out of the victory party and out of baseball. 



Wow.  And all of this after McPhail’s Yankees won the World Series. 




Kahn also tells a story in the book about a get-together between McPhail and fellow owner Tom Yawkey at Toots Shor’s nightclub, in which a very interesting trade was discussed, if not agreed upon:



McPhail’s next attempt to discard his somber centerfielder showed the man at his roarin’ redheaded best.  He invited Tom Yawkey, the multimillionaire bon vivant who owned the Red Sox, to join him for a night of talk and drink at Toots Shor’s.  Yawkey kept his distance from the press, in the manner of many moneyed men, but Shor’s was a safe saloon for public drinking.  By unwritten rule, what went on at Shor’s was off the record, unless a specific exception was made. 


. . . .


McPhail threw out no booze at Shor’s.  He knocked back drinks, and Yawkey joined him.  McPhail got to his idea.  “I have this big dago in center field.  He hits the hell out of the ball, but to left center.  We got a spot out there that’s 475 feet from home.  He hits these tremendous drives, home runs anywhere else, and in my ballpark they’re just damn long outs.” 


“That’s the way this game is,” Yawkey said.  “I got this skinny kid, pulls everything left-handed, hits these long balls to right and right center.  In my ballpark, right center reaches 420 feet from home.”


The men drank some more.  Yawkey wanted to know what McPhail thought about Rickey’s plan to bring “nigras” into baseball.  Shor later recalled the conversation for me. 


“Gonna kill our business,” McPhail said. 


Yawkey nodded.  (Yawkey’s Red Sox did not employ a black ballplayer until 1959, fully twelve years after Robinson’s major league debut.)  They were both drinking hard and they were getting along very well.  After a while, at 2 in the morning, McPhail proposed his trade. 


The big dago for the skinny kid.


No cash, no other ballplayers. 


Even up, Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. 


“Helluvan idea,” Yawkey said.


“Put the dago up there with your close-in left field wall,” McPhail said, “and he’ll hit 60 homers.” 


“Right,” Yawkey said.  “Put the kid in the stadium, with the right field stands so close, and he’ll hit 70!” 


“We got a deal?”


“We got a deal!”






“Let’s have another.”


According to Kahn, the following morning Yawkey called McPhail and said, “I can’t do it, Larry.”  After McPhail responded that he thought they had a deal, Yawkey reportedly said, “We did.  I’m not denying that.  But I can’t do it.  They let Babe Ruth out of Boston.  If I let Williams go, the fans will crucify me.”




Whether you believe the story or not, it’s a heckuva yarn, and one only wonders how their careers might have differed if The Kid had been in pinstripes and Joltin’ Joe in a Red Sox uniform. 


One of the great quotes from the book is from the great right-handed pitcher Early Wynn:  “Every job has drawbacks.  The drawback of my job is that I gotta pitch to Joe Dimaggio.”


There are plenty of other good stories and lines in The Era, including the description of DiMaggio’s first wife, Dorothy Arnold (a blonde knockout and aspiring actress from Minnesota), as DiMaggio’s “spring training for Marilyn Monroe.”  I love it.  Do yourself a favor and buy The Era as a stocking stuffer for yourself. 




I share with you here a great story from Baseball Digest, Tim Hudson’s most embarrassing baseball experience: 



In 2000 or 2001, when I was with Oakland, I was pitching in Seattle.  It was early in the game and a ball was hit into the gap with a runner on first base.  I was running to back up third base and went to back-peddle and tripped.  I pretty much did a stop, drop and roll for about 10 feet on the foul line.  All I could hear was Frank Menechino, one of my teammates, in his New York accent saying, “Down goes Frazier.”  Everybody on the bench was cracking up. 



This one really made me laugh.  Great visual.




Finally, here in the midst of the Christmas season, with Christmas Day just around the corner -- since I’m always thinking of you guys -- here is Skipper’s Wish List for all of you for the holiday season and in 2008:



A 100-word per day posting limit.


A debate-worthy HSL opponent.


A little bit of that Jigger magic.


Shamu’s secret recipe.


A renewal of his Hairclub for Men membership. 

Big Guy:  

A time machine to take him back to the glorious Dead Ball Era of 1985-87, when his Tigers ruled the jungle. 


His son Rob’s metabolism and a Division 1 offer from Bo Pelini.


A one-way bus ticket to St. Louis to visit Skeezix.


Back-to-back HSL crowns.


A judge’s robe and gavel.


A voicebox to go with his wit and wisdom.

Jim Ed:  

A clue.  Stocking stuffer:  Another money finish. 


* * * * *


Thanks for hanging with me on this one, which got a little longer than I anticipated.  God bless each and every one of you, and have a safe holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.