|Edition No. 2||
March 6, 2009
As we put the doldrums of January and February behind us and move into the Ides of March and Spring weather, I thought I would favor you all with a short From the Bullpen. At least, the plan is to keep it short.
Speaking of spring, I just finished reading an excellent baseball book, A False Spring, written by former minor league player Pat Jordan. This book was initially published in 1973, and I have heard it mentioned over the years, but never saw it in a bookstore and never had a reason to purchase it until recently, when I saw that the University of Nebraska Press was putting out a paperback edition. To my delight, it is a very enjoyable and easy read.
Jordan’s book was written by him in the early 1970s, more than a decade after he washed out of the minor leagues after three ignominious seasons in the low level minors. I didn’t know this when I bought the book, but his first season in professional baseball was for the Class D McCook Braves of the Nebraska State League. This home state flavor made it even more interesting to read than it otherwise would have been, but the book would still be worth reading even if it was McCook, Montana, or any other small town.
The book begins with Jordan’s recounting of having his picture taken on June 27, 1959, at County Stadium in Milwaukee, with the greatest left-hander of all-time, Warren Spahn. Jordan was 18 years old that day and just had signed his first professional baseball contract, which was to pay him a signing bonus of $35,000, four years of college education, and a salary of $500 per month, for a total bonus of a little more than $45,000 distributed over a four-year period. According to Jordan, it was one of the largest bonuses, if not the largest, any young ballplayer had received from the Braves in 1959. Because of this, Jordan had the status of a “bonus baby” among his coaches and peers.
As Jordan describes in the early part of the book, he was a childhood phenom pitcher who at age 12 regularly made the headlines in the sports section of the Bridgeport, Connecticut Post-Telegram newspaper. Four consecutive no-hitters, a season in which he struck out 110 of the 116 batters retired and gave up only 2 hits, 36 strikeouts in a row, and so forth and so on. After his fourth consecutive no-hitter, his parents were called by a reporter working for Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Such a talent was Jordan at that early age that he was invited with his parents to appear on Mel Allen’s television show prior to a Yankees-Red Sox doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, where they were treated like royalty.
After signing with the Braves, the 18-year-old Jordan was flown to North Platte, Nebraska (by himself, no escort, no helicopter parents), and then driven to McCook where his minor league career began.
There are so many interesting tidbits and excerpts from this book that I could share with you, but I will attempt to be circumspect so that you will have a reason to actually buy and read the book yourself.
After his 1960 season in Davenport, Jordan went on to play in the Florida Instructional League that winter, followed by a brief tour in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, followed by his terminal assignment to Palatka in the Florida State League. I will not spoil the ending for you by recounting how Jordan’s minor league career came to an end.
Anyway, I’m quite sure that any of you who take the time to read this book will enjoy it immensely. Happy reading.
I had the pleasure last week of visiting Richmond, Virginia, on my way to Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia, where I traveled to meet with one of the top hose doctors in the country, Dr. Stuart Howards, and then to produce him for a deposition. I had previously been to UVA, but had never before been to Richmond. It is a city well worth visiting.
I had a chance to tour the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, the second oldest continuously-serving capitol in the country. While at this great building, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson, I stood where Robert E. Lee stood when he was named the head of the Confederate Army at the start of the Civil War. I also stood where United States Supreme Court Justice John Marshall conducted the treason trial of Aaron Burr, in a courtroom in which the floor collapsed because of the capacity crowd, resulting in numerous deaths. I admired the beautiful busts of the seven Virginia-born presidents which adorn the main floor under the great rotunda. Outside the capitol, there is an enormous statue of George Washington on horseback, flanked by the busts of the Virginia giants of his day: John Marshall, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, James Madison, Patrick Henry.
I am tickled pink to have another state capitol building to chalk off on my list, No. 30 (should be 31, except for Itchie’s cruel rebuff in Albany). If you are ever in Richmond, I highly recommend a trip to Capitol Square.
Although I was a bit short of time and didn’t get to see nearly as many of the historical landmarks in the Richmond area that I would have liked, I did have a chance to visit St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty, or give me a death” speech, as well as the famous Civil War battlefield hospital which is said to be the precursor of the modern-day MASH surgical hospitals.
All in all, a great trip. One of these days, I recommend that we take a Hot Stove League trip to this area, catching the Richmond Braves and perhaps a couple of other nearby minor league teams, and soaking up some of the great history which this region has to offer.
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