Hot stove memories
Earl Weaver was run from 91 games during his managerial career, including both games of a doubleheader. His wit was legendary, but a few of his adversaries, players and umpires, gave as well as they got. “The only thing Earl knows about pitching is that he can’t hit it,” said Jim Palmer.
When Weaver pumped his chest and told Bill Haller he was going to the Hall of Fame, the veteran umpire retorted, “For what Earl, bleeping up the World Series?”
During the early 1970s Weaver’s teams regularly caught the Red Sox during their late season fades. In 1974, Boston was in first place with a 70-54 record but lost 14 of its last 24 games, including five of six to the O’s. My friend Wayne Bedell and I were at one of those games, and Bedell said he wanted to lean over the O’s dugout and yell something clever when Weaver returned from delivering the lineup card at home plate. “He worked as a loan officer,” I said. “Tell him he oughtta take a loan out on his team.”
Bedell jogged down from our grandstand seats, cupped his hands and shouted at the O’s skipper. When he returned I asked, “What’d he do?”
“He gave me the peace sign,” smiled Bedell, gratified he’d gotten a reaction.
A few years later I was covering the Red Sox for The Valley Advocate and was poking around the O’s clubhouse, trying to act nonchalant while glimpsing at a sheet of paper attached to a clipboard when a voice boomed, “What you looking at?”
It was Frank Robinson, Weaver’s bench coach. In his playing days Robinson was fearless. He is the first and only player to have won the MVP in both leagues, with Cincinnati in 1961 and Baltimore in 1966. He glared at me and I stammered I was looking for Earl Weaver.
“He ain’t here,” bellowed Robinson. “And he ain’t on that clipboard either!”
Fortunately the O’s amiable first base coach Jim Frey was sitting next to Robinson and said Weaver had to step out for a few minutes. He diffused the situation but I’ll never forget that glare from Robinson, a man not to be messed with.
A few years ago I told Robinson the story of our encounter before a spring training game in Jupiter, Fla., where he was managing the Montreal Expos. He grinned, just as Carl Yastrzemski did the time I told him of my attempt to get his autograph in New York City when I was 10 years old. Yastrzemski was walking across the lobby of the Commodore Hotel, reading a letter. I fell in stride beside him and held a baseball up for him to sign. Without breaking stride and not taking his eyes from the letter, Yastrzemski softly replied, “Bug off, son.”
I told Yaz that story, too, inside the Red Sox clubhouse before a game. He was sitting in front of his locker and smoking a cigarette. Like Robinson, he simply smiled.
These are warm memories during cold winter nights. The Super Bowl is tomorrow but as Dagwood Bumstead said: “Baseball my son, is the cornerstone of civilization.”
Amen to that.
Our spy in the stands had these observations about Marcus Camby Day on Jan. 19 at the Mullins Center: “There was no Dr. J. and no specific mention of him either. There was a long video feed of (John) Calipari praising Camby and all he did for the program, the usual Cal bull**** with no mention of infractions and NCAA violations and vacated games and trophies. The ceremony itself was well done and Camby’s remarks were brief and heartfelt.
“You might think that UMass would have been inspired but they lost to George Washington. To lose at home on Marcus Camby Day, come on. They might be in for it against the A-10. Jesse Morgan is a big loss.”
Morgan was the Minutemen’s second-leading scorer when he went down with a torn ACL against Saint Louis. The injury comes as UMass embarks on its toughest part of the schedule, including games against 27th-ranked Butler No. 31 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 58 Temple, No. 59 St. Joseph’s, No. 63 Dayton and No. 77 Xavier (according to the Sagarin rankings). On Tuesday, the Minutemen were ranked 106th by USA Today and are 0-3 versus top-50 teams this season.
Former Greenfield resident and retired Mass. State Trooper Tod Mason is enjoying the good life in the Sunshine State. Two weeks ago, he was kayaking on the Silver River in central Florida when “I looked to my left and got a real surprise, a gang of about 20 monkeys. What a hoot. I found out they’re descendants of monkeys that escaped during the filming of the Tarzan movies back in the 1930s.”
Throw out the all-time top ten home run hitters that used steroids to supplement their power — Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez — and the list is relatively unchanged. Henry Aaron remains on top with 755, followed by Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612), Frank Robinson (586), Harmon Killebrew (573), Reggie Jackson (563) Mike Schmidt (548) and Mickey Mantle (536).
A more detailed review will follow, but first this morsel from “Francona, The Red Sox Years” by Dan Shaughnessy and Terry Francona. After going hammer and tong to beat their arch-nemesis New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, Boston general manager Theo Epstein made an apt comparison for the World Series to follow: “Time to play Finland now,” he said, comparing St. Louis with the 1980 U.S. Olympic team’s Gold Medal opponent after it beat the U.S.S.R.
Squibbers: The GHS Alumni Hockey Game memorializing Dave Petrin is today at 6 p.m. at the skating rink. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors. ... John Madden still can’t believe that Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones got behind the defense for his 70-yard touchdown catch against the Broncos. “Where was the safety?” asked Madden. “From high school they’re coached to be deep as the deepest. That’s what takes coaches and makes them broadcasters.” ... The Washington Nationals are expected to leave their spring training home in Viera, which by Florida standards is in the middle of nowhere. Sites being considered include Fort Myers, Kissimmee, Port St. Lucie and a yet-to-be-specified location in Palm Beach County. ... The Grapefruit League season begins two weeks from Friday when Atlanta hosts Detroit at Walt Disney World. The Red Sox play a twin bill versus Northeastern and Boston College on Feb. 21 and host Tampa Bay in Fort Myers on Feb. 23. ... All the hoopla about tomorrow’s Super Bowl reminds me of what Duane Thomas, a star-crossed running back from the 1970s once said of the game: “If it’s so important, why do they play it again next year?”
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.