2009 Season

Edition No. 24

October 28, 2009






Just got back from my annual Sweat Lodge Conference, and not only did I lose seven pounds and have a life-changing epiphany (sweaty people smell bad, even rich ones), I came out of the deal with a dozen new clients.  We’ll sue that bastard for making ’em sweat, by golly. 


You may have heard that people paid thousands of dollars to participate in the Sweat Lodge ceremony in California, which apparently consisted of laying underneath a large piece of insulated aluminum foil and chanting Gregorian mantras.  I wonder if any of those knuckleheads realize that for the kind of dough that they shelled out for the Sweat Lodge ceremony, they could have bought their own home sauna and the entire collection of Anthony Robbins’ motivational tapes to listen to in the safety and privacy of their own home.  Just a thought.




Tonight begins the 105th World Series, with the Yankees and Phillies set to square off for Game 1 at New Yankee Stadium.  Even though these are two of the oldest franchises in baseball, this will be only the second time that they have met in the Fall Classic, the first being in 1950 when the Yankees swept the Series in four games.  If the Yankees prevail, they will have won their 27th World Series and their first since 2000.  If the Phillies should win, it will be their third overall World Championship, and their second in a row. 


We here at the Ernst house were cheering for the Rockies, Cardinals and/or Twins to make it to the Fall Classic, with the promise of a driving trip to see at least one of the World Series games.  Naturally, all three teams were knocked out in the opening round. 


Once our three favored teams were out of the running, we began cheering for a Dodgers-Yankees World Series.  It would have been an outstanding matchup for at least three reasons:  (1)  History.  This would have been the twelfth World Series between the Bronx Bombers and the Trolley Dodgers, with the tally currently favoring the Yankees to the tune of 8 to 3; (2) such a matchup would have featured Joe Torre against his old ballclub, and the chance to make Steinbrenner pay for his past sins; and (3) it would have offered a chance to hear Vin Scully call one more Fall Classic, a good enough reason in and of itself for the Dodgers to have made it. 





I listened to Scully announce a couple of the games in the National League Championship Series.  This beautiful, intelligent, mellifluous voice of the Dodgers is a National Treasure.  During one of the games, when Ryan Madson of the Phillies was about to take the mound in relief, Scully described how Madson formerly pitched in a stooped over fashion, without much success, until one of his coaches convinced him to stand up straight to his full height of 6 feet 6 inches.  When he came into the game against the Dodgers, standing fully erect, Scully described him as looking like the Colossus of Rhodes.  Had to look that one up.  As I learned, the



Colossus of Rhodes was a 100-foot-plus statue of the Greek god Helios, erected in the City of Rhodes on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 B.C.  It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  How come my history teacher at Lincoln Northeast never told me about the Colossus of Rhodes?  Damned public school education.


Anyway, I decided to find out a little bit more about Vin Scully by accessing Wikipedia and learned that he is 81 years old, going on 82, born in the Bronx, and has been announcing baseball games for the Dodgers for 60 years.  He went to Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx and grew up as a Mel Ott fan.  At Fordham University, the college of Vince Lombardi, he was the Assistant Sports Editor for the Fordham Ram, sang in a barbershop quartet, played center field, got a degree, and began preparing for his life as a broadcaster of baseball games and other sports.  In 1950, he joined Red Barber and Cornelius Desmond in the Brooklyn Dodgers radio and television booths.  When Barber got into a salary dispute with Gillette in 1953, Scully took Barber’s spot for the Fall Classic.  At age 25, Scully became the youngest person ever to broadcast a World Series game.


Scully is a legend in the world of sportscasting.  He has been named the California Sportscaster of the Year twenty-eight times, was named Broadcaster of the Century by the American Sportscaster Association in 2000, and in 2009, he was named the Top Sportscaster of All Time on its list of the Top 50. 


Among others, Vin Scully called Don Larson’s perfect game in the World Series in 1956; Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965; Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974; Bill Buckner’s boot in the 1986 World Series; Kurt Gibson’s famous home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series; Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter in June 1990; and Dennis Martinez’s perfect game in 1991.  What a resume! 


Scully recently announced that he will be back for at least one more season in 2010.  If nothing else, I hope that the above recounting of some of the highlights of Vin Scully’s career prompts you to listen to him call at least one of the Dodger games in the 2010 season.  You will not regret it. 



By Sparky Lyle with Peter Golenbock

Subtitled “The Astonishing Inside Story

of the 1978 World Champion New York Yankees”


I just finished reading The Bronx Zoo, Sparky Lyle’s “tell-all” about the 1978 New York Yankees season.  While this was probably a pretty good read in its day 31 years ago, Lyle’s recounting of the 1978 season, while controversial in its day, seems extraordinarily mild by today’s standards.  In a nutshell, it is a season-long diary of Lyle’s heartburn over playing for George Steinbrenner and not getting the raise in pay that he felt that he deserved. 


For my money, the best part of the book was Lyle’s recounting of some of the hijinks that were pulled by some of his Yankee teammates.  Some of the major pranksters were Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, of wife-swapping fame.  According to Lyle, Kekich once bought a waterbed in Milwaukee, and went on and on with his teammates about what a terrific bed he had bought.  The next day, the waterbed was hanging from the flagpole in front of the scoreboard at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, about eighty feet in the air, flapping in the breeze. 


Fritz Peterson signed up Mel Stottlemyre for every encyclopedia in print.  One time, Stottlemyre got home from a road trip, and waiting for him at his home were boxes and boxes of books with invoices totaling thousands of dollars.  He would send the books back, but more books would appear on his doorstep.




In 1972, Peterson pulled a fantastic prank on Thurman Munson.  Thurman, a gun enthusiast, had ordered a gun holster from a particular magazine, which he wanted to use to hold his .357 magnum.  Thurman filled out the order blank, requesting a holster for a .357 with a four inch barrel, made to fit his waist size of 36, and for a right-handed shooter.  However, Fritz Peterson intercepted the letter to the company, erased what Thurman had written, and substituting an order for a tiny .38 snub-nosed pistol, for a person with a 20 inch waist, for someone who was left-handed.  It took six weeks for the package to come, and Munson was all excited when he received it, until he ripped off the wrapper, opened up the box, and inside was the holster, about 3 inches long, with a 20 inch waist, for a left-hander.  Thurman was extraordinarily pissed off. 


Munson put the holster back in the box and returned it, with orders to replace it with a correctly sized and designed holster.  Fritz intercepted it once again, kept it in his locker for a couple of weeks, wrapped it up as if it were coming back from the company, and put it back in Munson’s locker.  Once again, Thurman went nuts.  Three different times Fritz did the same thing, and three different times Thurman opened the box, and every time got the same tiny holster, and could not figure out why. 


Love it. 




Also I loved this excerpt about Sudden Sam McDowell, who was a Yankee in 1973 and 1974:


          Cliff [Johnson] may get drunk every once in a while, but he was nothing compared to Sudden Sam McDowell when he played with the Yankees in 1973 and 1974.  When Sam was with us, he had a terrible drinking problem.  He was big, about 6 feet 6, and he threw real hard.  Five times he led the league in strikeouts.  He had as much talent as anybody I’ve ever seen, and he was past his prime when he was with us.  But Sam, for some reason, could not control his drinking then, and it cost him badly.  I understand that since Sam has gotten out of baseball, he’s been able to control his problem, which makes me feel real good because being with Sam was one of the highlights of my career.  He was one of the most fascinating guys I’ve ever known. 


          We used to call him Teen Angel because he always slicked his hair back.  Sam was notorious for getting in the sauce, getting real rowdy, picking a fight, and getting beat up.  This one day we were on a plane heading for a road trip, and Sam’s hair was blow-dried, and he had it combed and styled.  Everyone was buzzing, “Teen Angel got his hair done.” 


          We were taking bets because we knew something must have happened.  When Sam fell asleep, Pat Dobson went back to where Sam was sleeping, lifted back his hair, and there were two big knots on his forehead where somebody had knocked the crap out of him.  He had his hair blown dry to cover the knots because Bill Virdon had told him, “No more drinking.  One more time and you’re gone.”


          I remember one night Sam had had a few, and he tripped while walking down the sidewalk and sprained his ankle. 


          This was ’73, when Ralph Houk was managing.  The next day Sam was supposed to pitch, and his ankle was hurting him so badly he could hardly walk.  He went to Ralph and said, “You know what happened?  I went shopping yesterday, and I went up the store escalator, and I hurt my ankle.”  And Sam made up the name of one of Minneapolis’s department stores and made up all this stuff.  Houk said, “Yeah. Yeah.”  Sam said, “Really, Skip.  It hurt real bad.”  Ralph didn’t say anything, but he had known what had happened.  But to show you how Sam would work things through, the next day he went back to Ralph and said, “I just want to tell you everything’s OK.  I was going to sue those guys in the store, but I went and talked to them today, and I told them I was all right and not to worry that I was going to sue them for that escalator hurting my ankle.” 


          That night we went to the airport, and there was an escalator.  Ralph waited for Sam and made him walk up the stairs.  Ralph told him, “I wouldn’t want you to hurt your ankle again.”


          Sam used to say, “I have complete control of all of my pitches.”  Graig would say, “Yeah, you can walk any batter on any pitch.”  Later we started calling him Topper.  It didn’t matter what you said, Sam had always done something a little bit better.  One day someone said that Warren Spahn held the season record for walks.  Sam said, “No he doesn’t.  One year I walked three hundred and fifty batters.”  It was about 20 over the first number.  After that we started making up things to see what he would say, and always he had done whatever it was, only better.  Always. 


If any of you want to borrow my copy of The Bronx Zoo, let me know and I will be happy to let you use it. 




       This is the 20th anniversary of the Bay Area Earthquake Series, in which the powerful Oakland A’s absolutely steamrolled the San Francisco Giants.  Until reading about it recently, I had forgotten that the Series was delayed for about two weeks after the earthquake struck, and that Tony LaRussa had been criticized for his insensitivity because he wanted to take his A’s team to Mexico for some competition before play resumed. 


       I bet I have seen Gary Shandling on four different TV talk shows in the past two weeks, and if he doesn’t have a malpractice case against the plastic surgeon who did his facelift, then nobody does.  His skin is stretched so tight I don’t know how he gets his mouth open to talk and eat.  Yikes.




       1975 World Series Remembered


       Yet another book report


       My review of a recent Ken Hamilton article in the Lincoln Journal on his ballpark ratings


       The ruination of Fernando V.


       And maybe a whole bunch more