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Uncle Andy's Blog

Billy Ripkens Bat


 

In 1988 Fleer Baseball Card Company sent Bob Bartosz into the field to take pictures of the Major League baseball players for their 1989 issue.  Second baseman Billy Ripken, younger brother of Cal Ripken, stood proudly with his bat on his right shoulder, his right hand on top of his left hand as he gripped the bat.  Billy was the third member of the Ripken family to be associated with the Orioles as his dad Cal Sr., was the manager.  It is interesting to note that Billy was known more for his glove than his bat as he had only hit four home runs in first two years with the Orioles. So, why did they picture him with a bat instead of fielding a ground ball?  That is the real question.  But, on this day, his batting stance would be the least of his worries and probably shed some light on how he felt about his hitting in general.  You see, there were two words written on the bottom of the handle of his bat that were clearly legible, F___ Face.  How this got by the proof readers is beyond my imagination.  Nevertheless, When Fleer discovered the error, they rushed to correct.  Many cards had already been released to the public and of course Billy was questioned over and over by the media.  He denied knowing anything about the curse words written on the bat handle. 

Fleer released versions in which the text was scrawled over with a marker, whited out with correction fluid; the card was also cut by machine in an effort to take out the explicative words and also airbrushed.  On the final corrected version, Fleer obscured the offensive words with a black box.  Many of these corrected cards have become collector’s items with some cards reaching as high as $1,200 in mint condition.  There are at least ten different variations of this card, #616.  Years later, Ripken finally admitted that the bat was his and he only used it in batting practice.  The words written on the handle were to help him distinguish it from his game used bats and he had never intended to use that bat for the Fleer baseball card.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Shoot the President


 

It was July 4, 1976, Independence Day.  The Philadelphia Phillies and the rest of the country were celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  They invited the President, Gerald Ford, to throw out the first pitch.  At the time, Pat and Bob Bartosz lived in Philadelphia where he had been a cop.  He was now a professional photographer, and Pat was a proofreader.  They were also huge baseball fans.  In fact they would later be hired in 1980 by Fleer Baseball Card Incorporated, to take pictures of professional baseball players for their sports cards.  But on this day, Bob had asked and received clearance from the President’s Secret Service to be on the field taking pictures of the event for the Philadelphia Enquirer.  Bob left for the ballpark early.  He had not been gone very long when the phone rang and Pat answered.  The president of the Gannett Company (a news service marketing company) would also be in attendance and would be on the field as a guest of President Ford during the throwing out of the first pitch.  The Gannett Company wanted a picture of their president and President Ford together.  This was before cells phones so Pat hurried to the ballpark to get word to her husband, Bob.  Pat did not have clearance to be on the field so she wrote a note to Bob and handed it to a policeman.  He gave the note to the Secret Service.  As soon as they read the note, the Secret Service whisked Bob off the field into the dugout where they frisked him briskly.  The note said, “Bob if you shoot the President shoot the guy in back of him, too.” 

Wives, don’t you just love them?

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Last View from Shortstop


 

 

Do you believe now?  “Wait till next year” does not apply.  The Fall Classic just came early.  Do you believe in magic?  How about ghosts?  Some say the ghost of Yankee Stadium intervened.  Who knows?   The forecast had been a 75% chance of rain, but not a drop fell that night.  There is no doubt that in the years to come only a few will remember who won the 2014 World Series, but everyone connected to the game of baseball will remember the night of September 25, 2014.  Under the circumstances, last night’s results will go down as one of the greatest final home games in the history of baseball.  You see, the magic of sports are those moments that can’t happen in real life.  Of all the great Derek Jeter moments, tonight’s topped them all.  I hope you took a good look, because that’s what a baseball player looks like.  Then he kissed and hugged his parents before celebrating with his teammates.

It was the bottom of the first inning with Jeter batting second, when he hit an RBI double.  Derek later scored the second Yankee run.  With the Yanks leading 5-2, New York closer David Robertson blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, as the Orioles tied the score 5-5.  In the bottom of the ninth, José Pireta began the inning with a single and was replaced by pinch runner, Antoan Richardson.  Antoan was bunted over to second base by Brett Gardner.  Then Jeter used his inside-out swing to hit a walk-off single to right field, scoring Richardson.  The roar of the crowd was so loud the dust flew off of the back of my TV.  It was over; Yankees won 6-5, a story-book ending.  For twenty years, Jeter has never played on a losing team.  People will relive that day for years to come. 

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I believe that the attraction to Derek Jeter comes not so much from his being a great baseball player, on the winningest franchise in sports history, but in the fact that he reminds us all of what being an American means.  He is hardworking, loyal, honest and morally sound.  He shows good judgment, is kind, law abiding, considerate of others and respectful.  He never embarrassed anyone about anything.  Jeter believed he could overcome any obstacle placed in front of him.  I believe he would have been great at anything he chose to do in life.  His story will be shared by generations.  Unfortunately, it’s sad to realize that Jeter is not the norm anymore; he’s the exception.  As my dad, Gordon, would say, “This guy was a real piece of work.”

On May 29, 1995, Derek Jeter debuted in his first game as a New York Yankee, compliments of Yankees’ Manager, “Buck” Showalter.  Jeter started at shortstop and batted ninth in the lineup that day.  He struck out once and recorded no hits.  The Yankees lost to the Seattle Mariners that night, 8-7 in 12 innings.  The Yankees lost five games in a row before winning at home against the Los Angeles Angels, on Sunday, June 4, 1995.  The rest, as they say, is history.

On August 13, 1995, less than three months after Jeter became a Yankee, my childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, died.  In 1964, as a 13 year-old kid, I saw Mantle play at Yankee Stadium and thanks to my two sons, Bill and Harry, who took me on vacation in 2010 to Baltimore to see the Yankees play the Orioles, we saw Derek Jeter.  Not many people can say they have seen their two heroes play in person, forty-six years apart.  Jeter made baseball better.  The old saying goes, “It’s good to be king,” but in this case, it was also good to be his subjects.  I think Ozzie Smith summed it up best when he said about Jeter, “He’s a play-off player.”  I just hope there are more Derek Jeter’s around the corner.

I am reminded of a great poem written by Grantland Rice, a sports writer from the 30’s, 40’s and early 1950’s.

 

“For when the One Great Scorer comes,

To mark against your name,

He writes -- not that you won or lost,

But HOW you played the Game.”

 

So Jeter rested on Friday and claimed the designated hitter spot in Boston this past weekend to finish out his career.  On Sunday, in his final at-bat, Jeter did what he does best.  He hit an RBI single and left us on our feet thanking him for his time.  “I wanted my last view from shortstop to be in Yankee Stadium,” said Jeter.  On Friday night, Jeter finally shared with the media his most personal thoughts.  He said, “I know that there are a lot of people that have more talent than I do, but I can honestly say I don’t think anyone played harder.”

It was Buck who suggested that Jeter be given the #2 to wear.  Owner George Steinbrenner was concerned, as only the best of the best in Yankee lore had worn the lower numbers.  You’ve heard the names, Billy Martin, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, “Yogi” Berra, Bill Dickey, Roger Maris, and Phil Rizzuto.  Only the #2 and #6 had not been retired.  “You had better be right,” said Steinbrenner to Showalter.  Buck was right.   Joe Torre, Jeter’s second manager, who wore #6, has just had his number retired for all time by the Yankees.  Now Jeter’s #2 will take its rightful place in Monument Park. 

Joseph Campbell once said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  Now Derek wants to be an owner.  Will he be a good owner?  I don’t know, but I wouldn’t bet against him.  He will continue to oversee his Turn 2 Foundation, which funds programs that discourage drug and alcohol use among young people and promote healthy lifestyles. 

Unfortunately, Father Time always has the last at bat and when Derek Jeter enters the Baseball Hall-of-Fame Museum, he will join Lou Boudreau as one of only two Hall-of-Fame players to record a walk-off hit for a win in their final home game.   

And to all you Jeter critics, I say, “Perhaps you should just sit quietly and let everyone think you are uninformed instead of opening your mouth and removing all the doubt.”

 

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

AL MVP - Just Maybe


 

It’s Friday the 19th and I’m casting my vote now; I’ve seen enough.  This guy blew past his team record like it was just another day at the park; and the record holder was sitting about forty feet away, behind home plate, with the Texas legend, Nolan Ryan.  Normally, when a player approaches a record; his biggest obstacle lies within his own mind.  One of the secrets of this great game of baseball is that you get to play every day, so over-thinking sometimes becomes easier.  It happened at 8:32 PM on Tuesday night, September 16, 2014.  In the fifth inning, against the Cleveland Indians pitcher, Corey Kluber, (16-9) at Minute Maid Park, José Altuve lined a double, down the left field line, for his 210th hit of the season, and tied former Astro and future Hall-of-Famer, Craig Biggio, for the Astros’ all time, single-season record for hits.  In his next at-bat in the seventh inning, Altuve broke the record with a single, back up the middle of the diamond. 

Now, in order to put this feat in the proper perspective, you need to know that Hall-of-Fame players like Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Joe Morgan and Eddie Murray never got 200 hits in a season.  In fact, I was shocked to find out the Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson never even got to 160 hits in a season.

Altuve shook Craig Biggio and Nolan Ryan’s hands after the game.  “Biggio said, ‘Congratulations and keep swinging,’” said José.  “I really appreciated that.”  You can’t find two better guys than Biggio and Altuve.  The only thing dirty about these two was their uniforms. 

At 24, José Altuve looks more like the batboy.  I’ve got cats older than this guy.  He’s also short in stature, 5’6” if he’s lucky.  Altuve’s so small, that if he came in a box you’d put it in water before opening, in hopes that he would grow.  When he crouches over in the batter’s box, his strike zone looks like the size of a cigar box.  This guy can motor, one of the most exciting guys on the base path.  They say he once ran the 40-yard dash in 4.1 seconds, backwards.  I’m just kidding, but he is fast.

I love hearing the crack of José Altuve’s bat, on the radio.  We are all stuck with the radio until Comcast, Drayton McLane and the Astros solve their issues in court.  José is a savage hitter who can blister a fastball.  This guy can hit his way out of anything except jury duty.  The only way to stop this guy from hitting is to lock the clubhouse door before he comes out.  I get a lump in my throat watching him hit.  He can hit the skin off of a baseball and loves showing off that arm. 

In baseball you need to relax to play well, but not be too comfortable.  Comfortable gets you beat.  So, how do you focus and relax at the same time?  That’s called discipline.  One of the secrets of baseball is wondering what’s next.  The pauses permit conversation and imagination.  It’s a game of limitless possibilities and the odds of failure are enormous.  We don’t know anymore about what will happen than we know about life.  Even the very best in the game fail seven out of ten times in baseball.  It’s a game of democracy, you can be any size or color or nationality.  It’s a fair game and no matter how hard players and owners try to screw it up, it just keeps going on and on. 

During Wednesday night’s game, Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco (8-5) struck out 12 Astros and only gave up two hits in a 2-0 win for Cleveland.  Guess who made the two hits?  You got it.  José led off the fourth inning with a single, and then hit another single with two outs in the ninth inning, to reach 213 hits.  There’s nothing slow about Altuve. 

When you can be voted AL MVP at 5’7” like Yankee shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, or 5’8” second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, who was voted AL MVP in 2008; that says something about the opportunity in baseball.  

There are stars and superstars, and then there is José Altuve.  This two-time All-Star currently leads the American League in batting average (.340), hits and steals.  He is also second in doubles.  I can make a case that he has helped his team win an extra 20-25 games this year.  During this remarkable stretch of hitting, Altuve has also become the first Astro to record multiple hits in seven straight games, passing former Hooks’ outfielder, Hunter Pence, who held the record with six.  Altuve also hold the Major League record of 65 multi-hit games in the 2014 season and is the first Major League player to have at least 213 hits, 43 doubles and 53 stolen bases in one season, since Ty Cobb in 1917.  Now that’s MVP “stuff”!

I find it interesting that both Mike Trout and José Altuve wear the #27.  Mike Trout, the odds on favorite to win the AL MVP, has never recorded 200 hits and has 46 less hits than Altuve at this time.  He is no doubt a great player but he has lots of help up and down his line-up.  If I had a vote, I would vote for José Altuve for the American League MVP.

Dan Rather was once asked how one should go about becoming successful.   He answered, “Get up early, work hard in between and stay late.”  It worked for Rather and it is working for José Altuve right now.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

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