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Uncle Andy's Blog

Run for Fun and Fitness


Remember when you used to run and play outside until it got too dark to see, or until Mom yelled, “Supper’s ready.”  Running, jumping, skipping and playing outdoors was what you lived for.  Being inside meant chores, homework, and looking after your younger brother or sister.  Heck, back in the day, kids could take a stick, a ball of any kind, and a rock or the corner of a broken cinder block, and make up more games than you can download on your iPhone.  They exercised their bodies while expanding their minds and using their imaginations.  Now, unless they are playing an organized sport, the only moving body parts appear to be their thumbs.  “This cannot be good for our youth,” said local fitness guru, Victor Betancourt.  “So, we decided to put the fun back in fitness for the kids.”  And they’re doing it for FREE.  “What about social media,” I asked.  “Is too much television, texting, games, Facebook and Twitter creating unhealthy kids?”  “Moderation is the key,” answered Betancourt.  The message, get them involved in physical activity even if it’s just swimming.  Have you ever met a kid who didn’t like the water?  So, if you want your child to be well-rounded (that doesn’t mean just physically but mentally as well), get them moving.  

V-Fit Productions started in 2010, but Victor Betancourt has been a personal trainer for well over eighteen years.  Visit their studio at 2001 S. Staples and you will find 6,000 square feet of specialized equipment designed to put you back on the right track for healthy living.  No frills here, just hard work and results.  “Exercise doesn’t do it alone,” says Betancourt.  “Sleeping right, eating the right foods in the right amounts will help make a difference.”  V-Fit has organized well over 60 races of all lengths since their inception, but now Betancourt, a father himself of a 15-year-old son, feels the time is right to capture the kids of Corpus Christi.  “Kids Get Fit,” a nonprofit event, is just one of four each year that directly benefits the kids.  And now Kayla Butts, a well known local registered dietitian and nutritionist, has joined the V-Fit team.  This program will make a difference you’ll see, and I hope someday you can say your child is healthier because of companies like V-Fit Productions. 

Now for the best part, here’s the skinny.  On Saturday, December 20, at Cole Park on Shoreline Drive, you and your kids are going to show up at 8 AM with your running gear on and with jingle bells tied into your shoes laces.  For $25 each, there will be a 5K run for anyone who wants to participate and a 1K fun run including a laser tag, FREE for the kiddoes.  The name of this event is “Jingle All The Way,” and it benefits The Boys and Girls Club of Corpus Christi, located at 3902 Greenwood Drive.  You can also sign your kids up for FREE classes right now by visiting www.bgccorpuschristi.org/.  There will be a costume contest and lots of great door prizes to be given away.  All V-Fit asks is that you register @vfitproductions.com before you get there, or go by The Boys and Girls Club and sign up.  V-Fit is giving the gift of health this Christmas.  Now, that’s what I call a great present.  V-Fit, making it fun to be fit.   

P.S. Don’t be surprised if Santa is waiting for you and your kids at the finish line.   I wonder what you will ask Santa for this Christmas. 

 

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.

The Fix was In


 

According to former boxer, Abe Attell, the 1919 World Series scandal that almost took down the National Pastime, was put into place by the notorious New York gambler, Arnold Rothstein and Joe Sullivan from Boston.   Attell agreed to be interviewed in October of 1961, by “Cavalier” magazine.  “The results of that fix,” said Attell, “were felt over two years and destroyed one of the greatest ball clubs (the Chicago White Sox), smashed the fortunes of their owner, and ruined the careers of eight pretty fair ballplayers.”  Attell first met Rothstein in 1905.  Abe was the first Jewish boxing champion in the U.S. and Featherweight champion of the world.  Attell was known as the “Little Champ” and weighed all of 118 pounds and had held the title for 12 years.  Abe eventually was beaten by Johnny Kilbane in 1912; he retired and went to work for Rothstein. 

A Boston-based gambler by the name of Joseph “Sport” Sullivan made it known that he wanted to meet with Rothstein.  Arnold sent Abe Attell to find out what Sullivan wanted.  Sullivan had been accused of “fixing” many different sporting events, including the 1903 World Series and several professional fights and auto races.  Sullivan had also been seen hanging around the 1906 World Series.  He was arrested in 1907 at the Boston Braves’ ballpark for gambling in public.  Sullivan was arrested again in 1911, 1913 and 1914 for gambling.  Sullivan was not, as the movie Eight Men Out seems to imply, some small-town crook.  Rothstein and Sullivan knew each other very well.  Sport was treated as a hero by many other gamblers and recruited the services of ex-ballplayer, “Sleepy” Bill Burns, and ex-fighter, Billy Maharg, to dig up dirt on current players.  According to Attell, Sullivan’s two guys were seen playing pool with pitcher Eddie Cicotte and first-baseman “Chick” Gandil, both of the Chicago White Sox.  In fact, Sullivan knew both Cicotte and Gandil as early as 1912.  The true story of the fix will never really be known.   Attell was to be Rothstein’s go-between with Sullivan and claims that Gandil, Cicotte and Sullivan all met at the Boston Buckminster Hotel to talk about fixing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.  At this point, Abe was told by Rothstein the fix would never work and the deal was dead.  But, according to Sullivan, plans were made and the list of players chosen to participate was approved.  Gandil claimed he could get seven or eight players to participate, the fix was in.

According to Abe in his interview, “I found out later that the players were asked to meet with Gandil in his hotel room on September 21, 1919.  They agreed to throw the Series for $100,000 in advance to get even with owner Charles Comiskey, because he had cut their pay during World War I.  Burns and Maharg were to deliver the money to the players,” said Attell.  Joe Jackson did not attend this meeting but later found $5,000 under his pillow, which he kept.  Sport Sullivan, while well-off, did not have access to $100,000 at that time, so he approached Arnold Rothstein who agreed to front the money.  Baseball in those days was not as clean as others thought.  In 1917, the racetracks around the country had been closed by the U. S. Government for the duration of the war, so gamblers started betting on baseball.  There would become a nationwide network of baseball bookies.  Bookies started asking a player who was pitching that day, how they were feeling, and if anyone was injured.  Any inside information was just a short step away from tampering with the ballplayers themselves.  All this info improved the gamblers’ odds of winning.  There were many games that appeared to have been fixed before 1919.

So the best of nine World Series was played with the Reds winning five games to three.  Everybody knew the Series had been fixed, but Charles Comiskey refused to believe it.  In 1920, the embarrassed White Sox owner; put up $10,000 for anyone who could offer evidence that the fix had actually occurred.  This is when Billy Maharg spilled his guts to a newspaper man in Philly.  This accusation became known as the “Black Sox Scandal.”  When the Grand Jury made the names of the suspects public, Sport claimed that he had been labeled the “goat” of the fix and admitted to handling several thousand dollars in bets, but had not been in on the fix.  Sullivan was indicted by the Cook County grand jury on nine counts of conspiracy to defraud but was never arrested or appeared at the trial.  Interestingly, Sullivan never even went to Chicago.  According to Attell, Rothstein called a meeting with Sullivan and Abe.  Attell was to go to Montreal, Canada, and Sullivan to Mexico.  Rothstein was to also disappear, but did not.  Instead Rothstein went to Chicago with his lawyer, William J. Fallon, and denied knowing anything about the fix and blamed the fix on Attell.  Attell became angry and threatened to spill what he knew.  Before Abe could be indicted, interestingly, all the signed confessions by the ballplayers and all the records from the Grand Jury disappeared.  How much it cost to steal all the Grand Jury evidence is anyone’s guess.  The trial ended in an acquittal for all the defendants, yet the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned the eight accused players from organized baseball, for life.

 These players’ names are as follows:  Claude “Lefty” Williams, Eddie Cicotte, George “Buck” Weaver, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, and Oscar “Happy” Felsch.  Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte were the only two players that confessed to participating in the fix.  The dirty players claimed they received very little money.  Some said Bill Burns kept $30,000 for himself and bet against the White Sox.  No one knows what happened to the rest of the $100,000.  Billy Maharg never got his ten grand from Comiskey.  The other ten clean players, including the manager of the White Sox, were each given a $1,500 bonus by Comiskey after the Series was over, for being honest. 

Abe Attell claimed his reputation was tarnished and that Arnold had made $350,000 on the fix.  Rothstein got away scott-free and the aging Sullivan was barred from all ballparks and racetracks and slowly faded from public view.   Then along came this pitcher, a big, ugly, overgrown kid from Baltimore by the name of George Herman Ruth.  He began to take his turn at bat for the Boston Red Sox, but that’s a whole other story.  He would become known as “The Babe.”

 

 

 

 

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.

 

I'd Play for Anything


 

Willie Mays joined the New York Giants in 1951, but it was not until 1954 that Mays began to blossom into one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  That year, Mays became the youngest African American to grace the cover of TIME magazine.  He was also voted to participate in his very first All-Star Game.  The Giants had a great year, winning 97 games and the National League pennant.  They would face the Cleveland Indians, who won an American League record 111 games, eclipsing the old record of 110 wins held by the 1927 New York Yankees.  The Indians had four terrific pitchers of which three would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  They are as follows:  Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Early Winn and Mike Garcia.  The Major League record for wins in a 154-game season was held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs, at 116.   The 1954 World Series featured racial and ethnic diversity, as Cleveland had three African Americans, Larry Doby, Al Smith and Dave Polk, and the team also included Bobby Avila and Mike Garcia who were both of Mexican decent.  New York boasted three African American players by the names of Willie Mays, Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson.  Giants’ Pitcher Ruben Gomez was born in Puerto Rico.

Game One began on September 29, 1954, and Mays batted fourth in the lineup.  A crowd of 52,751 sat side by side as NBC readied to broadcast the game nationwide.  It would be the first time most of the country would see Willie Mays play baseball.  In the crowd were the wives of Jackie Gleason and Lou Gehrig.  Perry Como sang the National Anthem. Right-hander Sal Maglie started on the bump for the Giants. The first batter for Cleveland, who was the favorite to win, was Al Smith, and Maglie hit him right in the middle of the back with a fastball. The message:  Welcome to New York.   Avila followed with a single, and Vic Wertz hit a line-drive triple to right field, scoring both runners.  By the time Mays came to bat, the Giants had scored a run against Indians’ pitcher Bob Lemon and had one man on base.  Mays walked, and Hank Thompson hit a screamer to the right side, driving in another run and leaving Mays stranded at third. The score at the bottom of the first inning:  Cleveland 2, New York 2.  Lemon and Maglie would now settle into a pitchers’ duel.  Wertz had Maglie’s number and singled in the fourth, and again in the sixth inning, he ripped another hit to right.  With the score still tied, Larry Doby started the eighth inning with a walk.  Al Rosen then got a hit.  With two on, nobody out, Vic Wertz was the next hitter.  Giants’ manager Leo Durocher was not going to let Maglie face Wertz again, so he brought in left-hander, Don Liddle.  Now, the stage was set.

Liddle got ahead in the count against Wertz, one ball, two strikes.  Liddle’s next pitch, a fastball, was aimed inside but stayed out over the plate.  Wertz extended his arms and hit the ball square.  This line-drive blast passed just to the right of second base rising, as Wertz put his head down and started running hard to first base.  Mays, in centerfield, said later he knew it was hit well, by the sound of the ball coming off the bat.  Mays turned, full around, head down, running as hard as he could, straight toward the wall in centerfield. The wall stood an estimated 483 feet from home plate.  This ball was sailing directly over Mays’ head, the toughest of all catches to make. 

Liddle headed over behind third base with his head down, to back up the throw that would eventually come from Mays in centerfield.  Everyone in the park stood up, including the Giants in the dugout.  After running nearly 90 feet, Mays finally glanced over his left shoulder.  The dark green wall in front of Mays stood 8 ½ feet high and had no padding.  When Mays right foot hit the cinders of the warning track, he knew there was only ten feet left between him and the wall.  Mays now looked up and extended both arms like Jerry Rice, and opened his Rawlings Model HH glove.  Wertz’s blast fell gently inside.

 Doby on second base had started towards third, but slowed as he realized he would have time to go back to tag second, if the ball was caught.  Rosen on first base headed hard to second, certain he would score.  Wertz never saw the catch and did not realize it had been made, until he passed Rosen coming back to first.  Wertz would stare at Mays in disbelief when he realized what happened.  He cursed and then kicked the water cooler when he reached the dugout.

NBC announcer Jack Brickhouse’s call went like this.  “There’s a long drive...way back at center field…way back, way back, it is a--Oh, my!  Caught by Mays!  Willie Mays just brought this crowd to its feet with a catch which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people.  Boy!” Doby retreated to second base, touched and headed to third.  But Mays whirled, losing his cap, and threw to second base all in one motion.  As Doby reached third, Rosen had made it back safely to first base.

No one really understood the importance of “the catch,” as there were still two Indians on base, at first and third, with only one out.  With the stadium still in an uproar, Cleveland Manager, Al Lopez would now send up pinch-hitter, Dale Mitchell, and Leo Durocher countered with a new pitcher, Marv Grissom.   Liddle was done after facing only one batter.  It was at this time that one of the great lines in the game of baseball was uttered.  When Grissom reached the pitcher’s mound, Liddle tossed him the ball and said, “Well, I got my man.”   Mitchell was then walked to load the bases.  The next Indians’ batter, Dave Pope struck out.  Then catcher, Jim Hegan hit a fly ball out to right field.  The game went into extra innings as neither team could score in the ninth.  Wertz led off the tenth and hit what should have been a triple to left center, but Mays raced it down and held Wertz to a double.  Some say this is where the Indians quit.  In the bottom of the tenth, Mays was due up second.  Mays walked with one out and stole second on the next pitch.  Lemon then intentionally walked Hank Thompson, bringing “Dusty” Rhodes to the plate.  Rhodes ended the game with a 257-foot home run, down the right-field line.  It landed in the first row, 200 or more feet shorter than Wertz’s blast to centerfield.  The New York Giants won Game One 5-2, and would go on to sweep the Indians for the 1954 World Series title.  It was considered one of the great upsets in World Series history.

During the Series, Wertz batted .500, 8-for-16, with two doubles, one triple and a home run, but all anyone remembered was his out.  Mays went 4-for-14 (.285) and drove in three runs.  Mays was selected MVP.

 

 

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.

Looking back with Bart


 

Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”  Every once in a while, I meet an athlete who becomes a true friend, a guy I can trust and one I feel comfortable with.  Bart Shirley is one of those guys.   

Just being around Bart; made me feel ten-years old.  He has a way of serving as the rainbow in everybody’s cloud.  In my opinion, Bart Shirley was born with a heart three sizes too large.  There is nothing this man would not do for you, and that’s a good thing.  Bart is humble, God-fearing and snail quiet.  I proudly refer to him in public as a “Corpus Christi Treasure.”  

Barton Arvin “Bart” Shirley was born on January 4, 1940, in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Bart played and starred as a shortstop in baseball for Head Coach A.J. Luquette and left halfback in football for Head Coach Bill Stages, for Ray High School.  His play was such that Bart was inducted into the Ray Texans’ Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.  After graduating from Ray in 1958, Bart signed an athletic scholarship and headed to Austin, Texas, to play for the Longhorns.  In 1959, after his freshman year, Bart would line up as a halfback for legendary football coach, Darrell Royal.  Bart would complete four of ten passes for two touchdowns, while executing the halfback-run option.  One of those touchdown passes came against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for a Texas win.  Bart also rushed for 90 yards on 25 carries and caught two passes for sixteen yards.    

Bart’s star shined even brighter on the baseball diamond for the 1960 Longhorns, as Bart started at shortstop for Head Coach “Bibb” Falk and was voted to the All-Southwest Conference team.   Later that same year, Bart was signed as an amateur free agent by celebrated scout, Hugh Alexander, of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  “Once I signed the contract I lost my amateur status at Texas,” said Bart. “I went to Spring Training in 1960 and sent my signing bonus home to my mother.”    

In 1961, Bart Shirley reported to the Atlanta Crackers, the Dodgers’ Double-A team, of the Southern Association.   Bart later joined the U.S. Army Reserves and attended basic training, in 1961.  He would fulfill a six-year obligation to his country.  By 1962, you could find Bart playing shortstop for the Triple-A Omaha Dodgers of the American Association.  In 1963, he would hone his skills for the Triple-A Spokane Indians of the Pacific Coast League, before being called up to the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 14, 1964.  At the beginning of the 1966 season, Bart was called up again to the big club on April 19th.  Shirley would stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers until June 25.   Walter Alston and the Dodgers continued to play well and won the 1966 National League pennant with a 95-67 win-loss record.  With stars like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, winning was made easy, but it was not enough.  Bart was proud to be a part of that team.  The Dodgers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles for the 1966 World Series title.  Bart received his share of the 1966 World Series money.    

In 1971, Bart decided he was not yet through playing baseball and did what many American players have done before him.  He headed to Japan.  There he signed with the Chunich Dragons of the Japan Central League.  Bart would play there for two years.  Other American Major League players that played in Japan while Bart was there include Clete Boyer, Davey Johnson, John Miller and his close friend Jim Lefebvre.

Bart Shirley returned to the States in 1973 to manage in the Dodgers’ Minor League system.  Bart would manage a total of 401 games in three years, while winning 199 for a .496 winning percentage.

Pastor Mark Salmon introduced me to Bart Shirley.  Mark had met Bart in August of 2001 when Mark became the Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church.  Mark Salmon, being a diehard baseball fan of the Yankees, and his friend Bart spent hours talking baseball.  “His greatest days were not when he was a professional baseball player, but as a true and devoted friend,” said Salmon.

One of those devoted friends was a fellow by the name of Garron Dean.  Garron has been a Bart Shirley fan for sixty-plus years.  “We went to junior high and high school together and participated in sports together all those years,” exclaimed Garron.  “Upon graduation, he went to Texas and I went to LSU and we lost each other until he returned to Corpus Christi.  Bart had been in Japan playing baseball.”  Dean continues, “Bart is one of the most honest individuals I have ever known and a devout Christian who spends a lot of hours devoting his life to Christ,” said Dean.     

Interestingly, Bart’s high school relationships with teammates stand as strong today as ever.  They continue to move in and out of each others’ lives to this very day and gather occasionally to remember and celebrate their past.  Bart and his current wife, Victoria, make their home here in Corpus Christi.  What I would want to leave with Bart and others is the realization that whoever you are, there is some younger person who thinks you are perfect.  I would count myself as one of those who feel that way about Bart Shirley.  The fact is we need our heroes more than they need us.

 

 

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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