h/t @PhilHecken of UniWatch
February 26, 2014
Comparing Derek Jeter and Lou Gehrig in all the wrong ways.
Source: The excellent site www.HallofVeryGood.com
Derek Jeter’s retirement letter to fans.
Derek Jeter will play his final regular season series against…well, look at that.
Baseball is grand.
Obit of the Day: The Pirates’ Only Living Hall of Famer
So many trivia questions, so little time:
What player has the most career home runs in their first 5 seasons?
Who is the only player to lead his league in home runs for 7 consecutive seasons?
Who was the first National League slugger to hit 50+ home runs in two consecutive seasons?
Who was the second person, after Babe Ruth, to hit at least 40 home runs in five consecutive seasons?
Who was the only National Leaguer to hit at least 54 home runs between 1931 and 1997?
The answer to all of these questions is “Ralph Kiner.”
And yet, he was barely elected to the Hall of Fame, receiving 273 votes (he needed 272) in 1975 his 15th and final year of eligibility, from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he set all those records, didn’t retire his uniform number, 4, for another twelve years.
Part of the reason for the Hall of Fame delay was his limited time on the field. Mr. Kiner retired from baseball at age 32 after a back injury made it impossible for him to play. It was so hampering that after his first seven seasons he had hit 294 home runs, but in his last three only 75.
And the Pirates were terrible during his time with the franchise. Between the time Mr. Kiner joined the team in 1946 and when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1953, Pittsburgh never finished higher than fourth and usually in the bottom half of the National League standings. (Later Pirates Hall of Famers, like Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, were part of perennial playoff contenders including two World Series crowns.)
He did receive more recognition during his career than after. He was selected to six consecutive All-Star games (1948-1953) and finished in the top ten in MVP voting for five straight seasons (1947-1951) especially impressive playing on such abysmal teams.
Following Mr. Kiner’s retirement he found a successful second career as a broadcaster. Spending the 1961 season with the Chicago White Sox, Mr. Kiner headed to New York to join the television broadcast booth with Bob Murphy and Lindsay Nelson for the expansion New York Mets. Mr. Kiner would broadcast Mets games for 52 seasons. He was the last of the original Mets’ broadcasters.
Known for misspeaking on occasion - wishing a hearty “Happy Birthday!” on Fathers’ Day - Mr. Kiner became more closely identified with the Mets than the Pirates by the end of his career. (A friend of Obit of the Day who is lifelong Pittsburgh fan believes this is why he is overlooked by the Pirates and their fans.)
Ralph Kiner, the fourth oldest living Hall of Famer, died on February 6^, 2014 at the age of 91.
(Image of Ralph Kiner, circa 1948-1953, is uncited - on six different websites - and courtesy of democratherald.com)
^ Coincidentally Mr. Kiner died on Babe Ruth’s birthday. Mr. Ruth was the only person to hit home runs more often than Mr. Kiner (11.76 at-bats per home run vs. 14.11) until the sluggers of the 1990s.
Baseball Hall of Famer and long-time Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner died today.
Kiner was 91. From 1946-1952 he led the National League in home runs, the only person to lead a league for seven consecutive seasons. He hit 54 home runs in 1948, no one would hit more until Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961 and no one hit more in the National League until Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998.
Kiner also hit a home run every 14.1 at bats, fourth behind Ruth (who was born on February 6, coincidentally), Bonds, and McGwire.
He was also the last original TV broadcaster for the NY Mets joining the team for their inaugural season in 1962 and serving as a guest analyst through last season.
Sources: Baseball Hall of Fame, baseball-reference.com, Wikipedia
Top image: Kiner, circa 1946, copyright Corbis.com and courtesy of baseballhistorypodcast.com
Bottom image: Bob Murphy (brother of Jack Murphy of San Diego fame), Lindsey Nelson, and Ralph Kiner, circa 1962, courtesy of 2guystalkingmetsbaseball.com
"Only" is 41% of all NFL teams - 13/32.
Since the Super Bowl started 20 MLB teams have won the World Series, leaving only 10 who haven’t - 33%.
The NFL “parity” illusion continues.
North Side Centenary
Although the Cubs didn’t begin playing there until 1916. We need to see more Chicago Whales…
We are closing in on $4,500 raised for for Doctors Without Borders. Put us over the top and please donate what you can today.
Well look what we have here. After the unveiling of “Clark” on January 13, 2014 by the Chicago Cubs, we are down to three teams in Major League Baseball who have not debased themselves adopting a mascot: the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the New York Yankees. I admire these three proud franchises who have not simply catered to the hoi polloi and —- wait, what? The Yankees had a mascot? A fuzzy, goofy character to entertain children and inebriated fans? You’re kidding! Tell me more!
Travel back with me to the 1979 baseball season. Thirty-five years ago, when the House That Ruth Built was home to only 22 World Championships and Monument Park was filled with names like Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Berra. And the Yankees introduced “Dandy” a short-lived but very troubled figure in Yankee history1.
It all starts with the Phillie Phanatic, as so many baseball stories should. The Phanatic was introduced to the Veterans Stadium crowd on April 25, 1978. The Phillies decided they needed to reach out to more families at the ballpark and saw a mascot as one solution. Designed by Bonnie Ericson2and Wayde Harrison, the 6‘ 6” green fuzzy creature with a long tongue was an immediate hit, which made fans happy and the Phillies even happier. The club estimated that their new mascot added another $2 million in revenue through the sales of Phanatic-themed souvenirs alone.
It did not take long for word to travel from Philly to the Bronx. But unlike the then-hapless Phils, the Yankees fortunes were riding as high as they possibly could. The 1978 season was glorious. The Yankees won their second straight World Series championship, even though it took three managers to get there: Billy Martin, Dick Howser, and Bob Lemon. The roster was an All-Star team unto itself with Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Catfish Hunter, Tommy John, Goose Gossage all penciled into the lineup at one time or another. And their success paid off, as they led the American League in attendance with over 2.3 million coming through the gates3 . Everything was coming up Steinbrenner.
But the Phillies showed that there was more money to be had.
So the Yankees turned to Ericson/Harrison, Inc. to create a giant, fuzzy, Yankee-themed mascot of their very own. The result? A tall pear-shaped body, akin to his green cousin from Philly, with a pinstriped body (“a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee fan”), a mustache that was to remind people vaguely of Yankee captain Munson, an oversized Louisville Slugger, and a Yankee cap…that spun around. He was nicknamed “Dandy,” as in “I’m a Yankee Doodle…” Now before we start judging it as atrocious, please remember that this was the 1970s, and that’s how the whole decade looked.
Ericson and Harrison had to present the designs personally to Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner. After a brief argument over whether the pinstripes were royal or Yankee blue, the Yankees’ principle owner agreed to contract Dandy for three seasons for $30,000. He would be presented to fans at the end of July 1979.
Then the San Diego Chicken had to ruin it all. The Chicken, the most famous of all baseball mascots, originally attached to the Padres but later on freelance (let’s hear it for The Baseball Bunch!) was working for the Seattle Mariners4 on July 10, 1979. As the story goes the Chicken put a “jinx” on Yankee ace Ron Guidry5, which Lou Piniella - fiery as always - did not take too kindly too. He chased after the Chicken, and threw his glove at him in a classic Piniella rage.
Following the game Mr. Steinbrenner, who apparently sided with his left fielder over a giant fake chicken, stuck a knife in the heart of Ericson, Harrison, and Dandy by saying that “mascots had no place in baseball.” Awkward.
Thus was Dandy doomed to fail. Because of the incident in Seattle, Dandy was not allowed anywhere near the field at Yankee Stadium for fear of distracting players or umpires. So while the Phanatic was dancing on dugouts and riding ATVs in the outfield, Dandy was relegated to the upper decks. Out of sight, out of mind.
Things got worse after August 2, 1979 when Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. The already ostracized Dandy was quietly hidden for a time as few fans would want to his Munson-inspired mustache around the ballpark.
Dandy was all but done. Rick Ford, the performer hired to dress up and perform as Dandy, had practiced choreography for weeks but it was shelved. The famed Yankee organist Eddie Layton wrote a special song for Dandy but it was never played and the music is lost to history. Dandy was to the Yankees as Sloth was to the Fratellis.
After the 1981 season, Ericson, Harrison, and the Yankees agreed to part ways. The Dandy costume was tossed out into the garbage but their company, Acme Mascots, still have the designs and the rights to Dandy. So if you hope he gets another chance, there’s still hope. The business partners survived the Dandy fiasco and continued to design mascots for MLB, NFL, and NBA teams including Youpie of the Montreal Expos, K. C. Wolf of the Kansas City Chiefs, Stuff the Magic Dragon (!) of the Orlando Magic, G. Wiz of the Washington Wizards, Hugo of the Charlotte Hornets (who will return when the Bobcats revert back to the Hornets in 2014-2015), and Jaxon deVille of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But as we mock “Clark” for his resemblance to Kit Cloudkicker from TaleSpin and concerning lack of pants, we must remember that 25 years ago another storied franchise tried its hand at the mascot game….and it was much, much worse.
(Image of Dandy is copyright of Acme Mascots and Wayde Harrison and courtesy of whattalking.com)
Like Carl Pavano but the mascot made more appearances and cost 1/7000 the price.
 Ms. Ericson created Miss Piggy and Statler and Waldorf, so she is completely legit, and amazing.
 The Yankees were fourth in MLB that season behind the Dodgers (3.3 million), Phillies (2.6 & the Phanatic), and the Reds (2.5).
 The Mariners did not introduce their own mascot, Mariner Moose, until 1990
 Jinxes are not real.
Josh Eisenberg is the proprietor of Obitoftheday.com, the most popular obituary site on Tumblr. He also writes for MLBOffseason.com and just started ItHappenedin1974.tumblr.com. In his free time, Josh is an above average stay-at-home dad for his five kids and an excellent tour guide for the Chicago History Museum.
My contribution to this year’s blogathon.
Makes Clark seem like a good idea.
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Sometimes, you see a trailer for a movie and you know immediately that you will do anything to see it. You will cross oceans for it. You will search Korean websites for a bootleg 6 part torrent of the subtitled screener. Mr Go is that type of movie.
On its surface, Mr Go is another Air Bud-esque movie of an animal playing a sport because there isn’t a rule banning them, but it’s much more than that. Kind of. Let’s just jump into it.
Because people won’t buy tickets to see a 4 hour movie about a baseball playing gorilla, the film is forced to shove in an hour’s worth of back story on the characters within the first 10 minutes of the movie.
At a small circus in central China, there is a gorilla named LingLing and his ringleader, a young girl named WeiWei. LingLing’s job in the circus is the take batting practice inside a circus ring and hit piñatas that are hanging up. That kind of ball placement is something legends are written about.
Oh and something worth mentioning that I find amazing is that WeiWei taught LingLing how to understand Korean. Oh, and she taught herself how to speak gorilla. But rather than share the greatest achievement in the history of primatology with the world, everyone just acts like this is normal. But seriously, the gorilla understands spoken and written Korean.
WeiWei was raised by the old ringleader who was obsessed with baseball and taught her everything about the game, even though she asserts that baseball is not a popular sport in China. This one of several slights towards China that this Korean film throws out casually to the viewer.
For no reason whatsoever, they decide to give the gorilla a baseball bat one day and teach him tee ball. Because if you have a giant gorilla hanging around, why not give it a weapon as well? Also, they acquire another gorilla named Leiting and try to teach him to pitch, but turns out that he has no control whatsoever and just throws 100 mph balls everywhere outside the strikezone. Maybe it’s because he’s a fucking gorilla.
It is then revealed that the old ringleader, though he respected the game immensely, loved baseball also because he was a massive gambler, and spent his spare time losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on games. Oh, there’s also this gem of a reason to love that game that makes very little sense.
Yeah, I have no clue. Maybe it’s just a message to keep WeiWei in China.
And then the May 12th earthquake hit central China and the entire circus collapsed. And the Chinese rescue workers pretty much give up immediately when looking for survivors. But don’t worry, LingLing is there and digs through the rubble to save WeiWei. LingLing, the baseball playing gorilla, becomes international news and a beloved hero.
But since the circus is destroyed, they turn into a traveling circus to make money. This is when it’s revealed that the circus is in massive debt. But not just any debt. Mob debt. Somehow, through running a circus with a gorilla that plays baseball and terrible sports betting, the circus is over $1M (12M yuan) in debt to the mob. And the mob wants the gorilla.
But in steps a smooth talking Korean sports agent that wants to take LingLing to the world of professional baseball in the KBO. How does he do this? The god damn Air Bud rule of cinema. Because there’s no rule excluding gorillas, the KBO has to allow a team to sign LingLing. Also, for sake of branding the agent renames LingLing “Mr Go.” So, to escape the mob, the crushing debt, and a circus that is entirely run by children at this point (no clue), WeiWei and Mr Go are headed to play baseball in the KBO.
The agent that brings Mr Go to the KBO is also the most hated sports agent in Korea, basically the Korean Scott Boras. He is known as “the bounty hunter” and has a bad reputation for both stealing Korean players for Japanese and American teams and misrepresenting injured players as healthy. The KBO commissioner actually tries to attack him while he is negotiating a deal for Mr Go. And he is such a good agent that he got this deal for his primate player from the Doosan Bears: half of the ticket profits go to Mr Go.
That is a gigantic god damn contract for one player who has never played a game. The Doosan Bears essentially gave Mr Go half of the team’s profits. Not even Boras could do that.
I also have a question for the Doosan GM. What the fuck were you thinking?
After the contract is signed, WeiWei and Mr Go are packing up to move to Korea when the mob comes to collect their debt. This lasts for about 6 seconds before Leiting, the pitching gorilla, throws 100 mph balls at the faces of every mobster there. After the mob is just a pile of knocked out bodies, WeiWei and Mr Go leave for Korea and leave behind around 40 children no older than 13 to look after the circus. Because that seems like a great idea, right? Leaving a bunch of children behind with a murderous gorilla and mobsters? It’s OK because she also gives out great advice as she leaves.
Great advice for children taking on the mob, WeiWei.
It’s then revealed that WeiWei’s endgame is making $1M so she can go back to China to open her “Circus of the Sun” with the children. The Agent says that his goal for Mr Go is $100M, selling Mr Go’s contact to the Japanese NPB league, and then eventually the MLB. At this point in watching, I screamed “American sequel, please!” to my empty living room at 2 AM.
Mr Go’s debut for the Doosan Bears is amazing. They take on the hated rival, the NC Dinos. It’s also worth noting, that the viewer learns absolutely nothing about any baseball player on any team. There is no backstory or even name for any human player in this movie.
In Mr Go’s KBO debut at bat as a pinch hitter in late innings, he sits down on home plate. The pitcher throws a breaking ball. Mr Go hits the biggest foul to the right in the history of baseball. The second pitch is also a breaking ball. Mr Go hits the biggest foul to the left in the history of baseball. 0-2 count. WeiWei goes into the game as the first base coach. She snaps her circus bullwhip. Mr Go stands up and launches the pitcher’s 158 kmph (98 mph) fast ball into the centerfield jumbotron. It was easily a 500 foot homerun.
Understatement of the century, underwhelmed commentators.
During Mr Go’s first game, the mobsters break into the child run circus and kidnap Leiting, but only after Leiting beats the living shit out of everyone there. Keep Leiting in mind for later in the movie.
And then the best part of the movie starts: a baseball montage set to the Dire Straits classic “Walk of Life.”
Mr Go is knocking pinch hit homeruns and grand slams in every single at bat. Imagining the records that he’s breaking is mind boggling. No strikeouts. No groundballs. Every pitcher is pissed. Pitchers try to intentionally walk him and Mr Go does his best Miguel Cabrera impression and stretches out to hit those as homeruns as well. A pitcher rolls a ball to the catcher. And guess what Mr Go does? Hit another gigantic home run. Only at one game, does a ball hit off the wall. Mr Go trucks every single infielder on his way to an inside the park home run.
The KBO season is 128 games. In Mr Go’s streak, he is breaking every baseball streak record ever. The Bears are back from the dead.
With the Bears streaking behind the bat of Mr Go, two offers come to the agent from the NPB: one from the Chunichi Dragons and one from the Yomiuri Giants. He plays hardball and rejects them immediately. Mr Go and WeiWei have moved into the agent’s Seoul loft at this point and WeiWei gets a video in the mail from her circus. She stays behind in the loft while Mr Go and the agent go to the ballpark.
Not surprisingly, the video is from the mob, saying that if they don’t get their money, they will start selling the children, because they are the only commodity the circus has. Remember what I said about the film being full of slights towards China?
Meanwhile at the game, Mr Go is pretty much lost without WeiWei as the first base coach. Seriously, WeiWei. It’s a video. You can watch it after the game. You have a god damn job to do. Anyways, Mr Go comes in with the Bears down 2 runs, with the bases loaded and 1 out left in the 9th. The first two pitches are looking strikes. On the third pitch, Mr Go throws the bat all the way to centerfield and hits a fan in the face (IN THE FACE!) Yes, There is no joy in Seoul. Mighty Mr Go has struck out.
Mr Go reacts to his strikeout like any other rational player. He runs into centerfield and climbs the jumbotron. With one out remaining, the bases loaded, and Mr Go refusing to scale down the video board, the umps call the game as a forfeit from the Bears. The GM and owner act like any rational person after a loss and calls in a military helicopter to shoot a net gun at Mr Go.
That’s right around when WeiWei gets up off her lazy ass and goes to the ballpark to calm down Mr Go. Of course, that doesn’t work because he’s a god damn gorilla and on top of a jumobtron. He eludes the helicopter and the GM eventually calls it off, because that’s totally within the power of all KBO GMs. The KBO throws down the Roger Clemens penalty and says that Mr Go can only play home games for the rest of the season. No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.
During a Bears road trip, WeiWei finds out from the agent that they are withholding $300k from Mr Go for no reason whatsoever. The agent uses a bunch of double talk to calm WeiWei until she is sufficed.
That night, the agent does what every baseball agent dreams off: he gets totally wasted with Mr Go and eats $3000 orchids with him. He also tricks him into eating some sort of spicy Korean dish. Everyone has a laugh and they eventually pass out after destroying a $50,000 indoor tree. This scene was so insane that I stopped taking screenshots for a while, so that I could better focus on whatever plot was unfolding in front of my eyes.
Meanwhile in China, the mob is at their own circus with Leiting the pitching gorilla in a cage. I guess that everyone in central China has their own circus? Anyways, when a story about Mr Go is on TV, Leiting freaks out and throws multiple 100 mph fastballs at the TV. The mob boss finally realizes that Leiting fucking hates Mr Go with every fiber of his being for exactly zero reasons.
Back in Korea, Mr Go’s agent puts him out there in a media and promotion blitz to show that he’s not a murderous primate. There’s a way, way too long scene on a talk show where WeiWei sings a beautiful love song while Mr Go dances with the female host. This is followed with Mr Go destroying a treadmill on some Korean version of the Home Shopping Network. While this is happening, the Doosan Bears clinch the playoffs and will play the NC Dinos in the first round.
During the playoffs, the agent tells WeiWei that the owners of the NPB teams, the Giants and the Dragons, will be in attendance, so that the agent can drive up Mr Go’s price.
A strong percentage of the plot from this point on deals with KBO contract negotiation and the transfer process. The explanations are minimal, so this must be common knowledge to Korean moviegoers. Also, can we talk about how comically sinister they make the Japanese owners look? There is no love lost between the KBO and the NPB.
At game 1 in the series, the NC Dinos institute the “12 second rule” of pitching. If the pitcher does not pitch the ball within 12 seconds, it is considered a ball. So, 48 seconds later, Mr Go is given a walk. He is bewildered, or at least as bewildered as a gorilla playing baseball can be. And how does the crowd respond? They start throwing bananas on the field. Seriously. Everyone brought bananas with them. Even the NPB owners.
Luckily, the Bears still win Game 1. And in Game 2, Mr Go hits a god damn walkoff grandslam. At this point, the offer on the table from the Dragons is a $2M transfer fee and a $1M a year contract for Mr Go.
After his Game 2 heroics, Mr Go collapses on the way to the locker room. The agent and WeiWei rush Mr Go to the team doctor. Mr Go has torn ligaments in his knee and is recommended to be rested for 6 weeks. Seriously, a gorilla DH has torn ligaments from hitting too many homeruns. No words. The agent talks the doctor into shooting Mr Go up with morphine and giving him a walking brace that will only keep him out for 2 games, because agents totally have that kind of power in baseball, right?
Unknowing that Mr Go is the only gorilla to ever have a knee injury from baseball; the Giants go over top of the Dragons and make an offer of a $4M transfer and $2M a year. At this point, I had to Google the teams and apparently they are like the Yankees and Red Sox of the NPB.
Without their primate DH, the Bears lose Game 3 and now lead the 5 game series only 2-1. And then the NC Dinos do the unspeakable. They hire a gorilla pitcher. And it’s none other than Leiting, being sold to the Dinos by the mob under the awesome name of “Zeroz.”
Zeroz has apparently been trained on pitch location by the mob (because training gorillas to play a sport is simple, right?) and is throwing at 120+ mph fastballs, which I had to Google after seeing 195 km on my screen.
Zeroz gets his first callup in Game 4 with a save opportunity. Every single pitch is a fastball so hard that it knocks the catcher back several feet. I now wonder how the mobsters that got hit in the head with balls could possibly survive those injuries. The bidding war from the Giants and Dragons for Mr Go has now turned to Zeroz as well. Did I mention that all contract bidding and negotiation only takes place during the games? Because, yes, that is a thing in the KBO in this movie.
The NC Dinos win Game 4 and tie up the series 2-2. All while the Dragons and Giants are prepared to outbid one another for Mr Go, and now also for Zeroz. It all comes down to Game 5 for the Bears and Giants. Mr Go will be off of the 2 game secret DL and ready to play ball while completely high on morphine.
During Game 5, Mr Go is passed out on drugs for a majority of the game in the lockerroom. The Dinos and the Bears are at each other’s throats and on the verge of bench clearing brawls at every pitch. The Giants and Dragons are continuing their tradition of bidding on players during the game, with the focus now on Zeroz. WeiWei turns on the lockerroom TV while Mr Go is passed out, and it’s a documentary about her and Mr Go titled “Humanity’s Best Friend.” She remains on the verge of tears from this point forward in the movie.
Now, I don’t pretend to understand Korean baseball contract rules, but what happened next confused the hell out of me. The owner of the Doosan Bears bows to the agent and hands him a blank check for Mr Go’s contract, apparently wanting to go over the top of anyone else in the middle of Game 5.
After this, the owner follows the agent to the lockerroom and finds out that Mr Go is on morphine with a busted up knee. Apparently no one knew that he was injured, but didn’t ask why Mr Go wasn’t being used for Game 3 and 4 in this crucial playoff series. The owner says that he will have the agent arrested for fraud and thrown in jail. They take baseball contracts very seriously in the KBO.
While the agent is getting his ass chewed out, two things happen: WeiWei finishes watching the documentary that couldn’t have been longer than 6 minutes and Mr Go wakes up and starts to walk. The agent’s heart grows 3 times its size and he uses the blank check from the Doosan Bears owner to give WeiWei a $1M check to start her circus. He says that Mr Go doesn’t have to play, but Mr Go is having none of that shit and starts to walk out to the dugout. We’re about to have a gorilla versus gorilla showdown!
With WeiWei taking her circus whip to her first base coach position, Mr Go gets in the batters box with his knee brace to face Zeroz. The bases are loaded. The Bears are down by 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th. The commentators use this moment to discuss a National Geographic special on gorillas they just saw.
First pitch. 120 mph fastball. Swinging strike. Second pitch. Another 120 mph fastball. Another swinging strike. This swing is so hard that Mr Go breaks out of his brace Forrest Gump style. He collapses.
And then something miraculous happens that takes everyone’s breath away.
Reblogging because I know how much time leeleeleelee spent on this movie and post. And gorillas in baseball uniforms.