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Uncle Andy's Blog


 

The game of baseball has always lent itself to stories, so storytelling becomes important.  This guy can tell stories with the best.  He’s loud, funny, relaxed and confident, traits he received from his dad.  He’s a born hitter, an on-base machine; some say his favorite pitch is the first one he sees.  As a youngster, he could roll out of bed and hit line drives and rip your heart out with a double.  Giving this guy a bat was like handing Jack Nicklaus a 7-iron, Wayne Gretzky a curved stick or giving Doc Holliday a hand gun, something incredible was about to happen.  At 6’ 3” tall and weighing 220 pounds, he could hit home runs like Mike Tyson hits a chin.  Now he’s a coach.  What this fellow does with his words is what Koufax did on the mound, what Mantle did with a bat and what Mays did in centerfield.  He allows all his kids to dream.  He understands that the easiest things to do in baseball are hustle and be prepared.  Everything else is hard.  Still, he was born to wear the green and blue.  Now Texas A&M Corpus Christi Head Baseball Coach Scott Malone hits home runs with his words and deeds, and he “kills it.”  The only way to stop Malone’s team is to lock the dressing room door before they come out.

Andrew Scott Malone was born in Longview, Texas, on April 16, 1971.  Scott played baseball for his father at Abilene-Cooper High School (ACHS) and won two 5A Texas State Championships in back-to-back seasons (1987-88).  Scott was selected second team All-State his senior year and Student-Athlete of the Year.  When his dad, Andy Malone, retired, he owned the most wins (861-345) of any high school baseball coach in the State of Texas.  “He taught me to play the game the right way, play aggressive, play to win, and that nothing is more important than your impact on kids,” said Scott.

As a pitcher, Scott signed a scholarship with Texas Christian University (TCU) in 1990.  In his first pinch-hit at-bat with the Horned Frogs, Scott hit a home run.  By the end of the year, Scott would be voted Southwest Conference Freshman of the Year.  For the next two seasons, Scott won the individual batting title and was named SWC Player of the Year and an All-American.  In the fall of 1992, Malone was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the ninth round.  He would play four full seasons, reaching Class AA.  Scott was also invited to the USA Olympic Team Trials.  In 1996, after baseball, Scott finished his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports studies at McMurry University, while participating as a student assistant baseball coach.  His coaching stops included TCU, Kentucky and UNLV.  Scott headed back to Texas as a hitting coach and spent four seasons in the Southland Conference at University of Texas-Arlington, where one of his guys was Hunter Pence, and University of Texas-San Antonio.  His kids led the league in hitting, three of the four years.  

You can see the passion in Scott’s eyes when he speaks about the game.  Scott’s favorite position to play was outfielder, and the most famous player he ever played with is Rich Aurilia.  He’s still in contact with Hunter Pence, just not as often.  Scott’s favorite players growing up were Nolan Ryan and Michael Young.   The greatest first baseman he’s ever seen is Will Clark; “He’d rather fight with you than let you strike him out,” laughs Malone.  His favorite piece of memorabilia is anything signed by Nolan Ryan, and the one guy he would love to meet in person is Derek Jeter.  We agree that Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame, and the pitcher Scott owned at the plate was Jose Lima.  During a time where the length of the game is questioned, Scott loves slowing down the college game and maximizing his team’s time on offense.  “The secret to baseball for me is the kids,” said Scott. 

You’ll never forget the first time you meet Scott.  He’s one of those guys that always makes you feel better after speaking with him.  You can feel your heart rate increase just sitting in the dugout next to him.  Some guys collect coins, this guy collects baseball players.  Malone could sell newspapers to a blind man and everywhere Malone goes, his kids hit the baseball.  Scott Malone was inducted into the TCU Sports Athletic Hall of Fame, together with LaDainian Tomlinson in October of 2011. 

It has been said that a good leader rarely talks about being a leader.  Malone’s job now as coach is to perfect his kids’ game and their character.  He understands that you need to relax to play well, but not get comfortable.  Comfortable gets you beat.  He knows the only disability in life is a bad attitude.  Malone has learned that managing means a lot more than pulling pitchers and using pinch hitters at the right time.  A manager must know his players better than they know themselves.  You must be their teacher, their leader and, at times, their best friend.  A manager who fails to understand his players is more than likely doomed to lose. 

Scott’s “sweet spot” in life resides at home instead of on a baseball.  Her name is Lee and his best squeeze play always includes his daughters, Parker and Presley.  When kindness meets class, you have Scott Malone.  And he kills it.

 

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.



 

 

As a kid he would rather spend his time on a ball field instead of at the mall.  You can’t read a book and learn how to play a sport.  He believed you needed to play the game and watch the game being played.  You should be able to walk into any park with the scoreboard covered up and know which team is winning by watching how they are playing.  I can’t imagine how many games this fellow has seen.  As he grew older, he became a symbol of what’s good about the game of baseball, and he would rather play catch than sleep.  As a former American League All-Star pitcher, this guy could bury his pitches in the bottom of the box.  He had four right-handed pitches that could embarrass you.  With a fastball, curve, slider and changeup, he had many ways to sit you back down.  At times he pitched like home plate had eight corners.  He just lived at their knees.  Now he spends his time here with us.  You could say he’s our “diamond in the rough.” 

Corpus Christi Hooks’ President, Ken Schrom, is one of a kind.  If he had never played ball, if you had never heard his name and you passed him on the sidewalk one day, you would turn around and look.  I’ve known Ken Schrom for over 20 years and I’ve never heard a bad word spoken about him.  Ken loves hearing the vendors hawking peanuts, beer and popcorn at Whataburger Field.  He loves the sound of the ball popping the catcher’s mitt.  He loves the fairness of the game, the colors, the smells, and the feel of the ball in his hand.  He loves that he never grows old at the ballpark.  He also loves how the ballpark gets quiet when the game is on the line.  You will find Ken at game time standing on the concourse greeting folks, shaking hands and watching baseball. 

Kenneth Marvin “Ken” Schrom was born on November 23, 1954, in Grangeville, Idaho.  Ken Schrom was a heck of a high school athlete.  He was selected All-State in baseball and basketball and All-American in football at quarterback.  All total, Ken earned 11 athletic letters.  In 1973, after high school, Ken was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in tenth round, but decided to attend the University of Idaho on a football and baseball scholarship.  Schrom dreamed of becoming an NFL quarterback.  In fact his favorite player of all time is Bart Starr.  “I got in trouble more times than you can imagine because I wrote the #15 on everything I had, including new school clothes,” laughed Schrom.  Injuries steered him toward baseball.  Ken was later chosen and signed by the California Angels as a pitcher, in the 1976 amateur draft. 

Ken was traded in 1980 to the Toronto Blue Jays and debuted against the Kansas City Royals as a reliever, on August 8, 1980.  Ken would again be traded and become a starter and spend 1983-1985 with the Twins.  In 1983, Ken recorded a 15-8 win-loss record and was selected the Twins’ Pitcher of the Year.  On June 26, 1985, Ken threw a one-hit game for the Twins against the Royals.  It was the first one-hitter ever thrown in the Metrodome in Minnesota.   Schrom and his Twins got the win, 2-1.   

In 1986, Ken would find himself in Cleveland with the Indians.  He started off his season with a 10-2 record and was selected to the American League All-Star team which beat the National League 3-2, at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.  His 1986 All-Star jersey is one of his most prized possessions.  Ken would finish the year 14-7.  In 1987, Ken tore his shoulder labrum which required surgery.  His last game occurred on October 3, 1987.  Ken pitched over 900 innings in seven years in the Major Leagues, for three teams (Twins, Indians, and Blue Jays), and won 51 games while losing the same number.  He struck-out 372 batters and hit 25 while earning a 4.81 ERA. 

Schrom spent the next 16 years in the front office of the El Paso Diablos of the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization.  El Paso is where I initially met the Diablos’ owner, Jim Paul, and Ken Schrom.  Ken, his wife Cindy and the kids left El Paso and joined the Hooks in 2003.  Ken was selected the Texas League Executive of the Year in 2005.  He became the President of the club in 2009.  He was inducted into the University of Idaho Sports Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.  Ken is a fine man, a good friend and a heck of a baseball guy.  He was also kind enough to write part of the foreword of my newest book.  In his spare time, you can find him winning money from his friends on the golf course, or fishing somewhere quiet.

Did you know that in the past ten years, 56 of our very own Hooks’ players have joined the Houston Astros?  Ken Schrom just announced that on April 2, 2015, the Astros will make their third trip to our fair city to take on their Double-A club known as the Corpus Christi Hooks.  This is to be a homecoming for some, as there are 17 former Hooks’ players on the current Astros 40-man roster.  The game will be played at Whataburger Field with a 6:05 PM start.  Ken Schrom and I hope to see you there.

 

 

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.



 

While waiting on a pitch, his fingers moved like a piano player against the handle of the bat.  Hands back, right elbow up, hunched in the batter’s box, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do, play baseball.  He was the best player on a bad club for 19 years.  He had started out as a shortstop and, like many who played for awhile, he ended up a first baseman.  In the early 1950’s, before reaching the Major Leagues, this fellow played for $7 a game with Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Leagues.   “Cool Papa” Bell and Satchel Paige were two of his teammates.  As a young man, he was not all about baseball; it was the other way around.  Baseball is supposed to be all about guys like him.  He was a winner in life, which is far bigger than a game of baseball.  He became more important to baseball than hotdogs and nachos.  Heck, they named streets after this guy.  His joy was not defined by something that happened on the field.  He was able to filter out the down times that occurred in the game.  With his wonderful attitude about others and his abundance of enthusiasm about life, he could have been a Hall-of-Famer at anything he chose to do.  In ten minutes he could own the room.

“Do you know Andy?”  Those were the first words I ever heard him say in person.  We were standing on the field at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, before the 2004 All-Star Game.  He was tall and walked with the bend in his back of an old ballplayer.  His knees had been surgically replaced from the many slides into second base by his opponents with their spikes showing.  His eyes twinkled and were still sharp.  His face was thin with time.  I listened carefully as he said to Joe, “I’ve had 19 years of doing and 32 years of remembering.”  When Ernie asked, “Do you know Andy?” he was talking to Joe Booker.  The great Ernie Banks was actually introducing me to Joe.  Ernie had only seen me once before years ago but here he was introducing me to someone else as if we were old friends.  It’s the first and so far the last time that has ever happened to me.  I was astounded.  Yes, I knew Joe Booker quite well.  Joe and I had spent lots of time over the years in the media section, discussing the game of baseball and covering the hometown Houston Astros.  Banks had been a friend of Booker’s for years.  Ernie Banks saw me standing there quietly; waiting to interview him, and he read my name on my media credentials.  How cool is that?  Banks was one of the warmest and most sincere guys I have ever met.  I enjoyed being around him.  Baseball lost one of its best friends today, another part of my childhood taken away too soon for me.

Born at home on January 31, 1931, in Dallas, Texas, Ernest “Ernie” Banks would have turned 84 in eight days.  Ernie’s parents were named Eddie and Essie Banks and Ernie was the second of 12 children.  His father worked in a warehouse for a grocery chain, and his mom encouraged him to follow his grandfather’s career and become a minister.  Ernie loved swimming and playing football and basketball.  He never showed much interest in baseball until his dad bribed him with a store-bought glove for three dollars and gave him loose change to play catch.  Eddie had played baseball for several black semi-pro teams in Texas.  In 1950, Ernie graduated from Booker T. Washington High School.  Interestingly, Washington High School did not have a baseball team, so Ernie played softball at church and baseball during the summers, for a team known as the Amarillo Colts.  A natural athlete, Banks received athletic letters in football, basketball and track.

There seem to be two stories about how Banks joined the K.C. Monarchs.  A Monarch scout by the name of Bill Blair claimed to have discovered Banks, while a Kansas City player named James “Cool Papa” Bell says he influenced Banks to play for Kansas City.  Bell operated a team known as the Junior Monarchs and they were touring Texas, when he saw Banks play.  The story goes:  Bell telephoned “Buck” O’Neil, manager of the Monarchs, and told him about Ernie.  Buck signed Banks to a contract without ever seeing him play.  Either way, 19-year-old Ernie Banks joined the Monarchs in 1950, after high school.  It’s hard to believe that according to Buck, Ernie was shy and somewhat introverted at the beginning, when he arrived in Kansas City.  Banks always looked up to Buck O’Neil as a father figure.  I guess you could say Buck’s pleasant demeanor rubbed off on Banks. 

 In 1951, Banks was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Germany during the Korean War, where he injured his knee in basic training.  Banks later served as the flag bearer in the 45th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion at Fort Bliss, located in El Paso, Texas.  While there, he occasionally played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters.  Banks was discharged in 1953 and returned to Kansas City to play with the Monarchs.  Ernie’s roommate was a fellow you might remember, Elston Howard.  At the end of the 1953 season, the K.C. Monarchs sold Banks’ contract to the Chicago Cubs for $10,000 in cash.  Banks signed on September 14, and became the first African-American player for the Cubs.  His first Major League at-bat occurred on September 17th.  Ernie was 22 years old.  Banks’ first home run was hit out of Sportsman’s Park three days later.  Cardinals’ pitcher Gerry Staley provided the fastball.  It was the first of 512 home runs to be hit during Banks’ 19-year career.  Banks would hit 40 or more home runs five times during his career.  He contributed his power to switching to a lighter bat (34-31 ounces), and developing strong wrists by playing handball.  Ernie Banks would become the ninth player in Major League history to reach 500 home runs. 

Shortly thereafter, in 1954, second basemen Gene Baker would join the team.  These two would not only be roommates on the road, but turn into one of the best double-play combinations in the National League.  The first baseman at this time for the Cubs was Steve Bilko.  Cubs’ announcer, Bert Wilson, could be heard describing a double play as “Bingo to Bango to Bilko.”  After hitting 19 home runs, Banks finished second to Wally Moon in the Rookie-of-the-Year race.  In 1955, 44 home runs left Ernie’s bat and he played in his first All-Star Game.  Banks also set a record by hitting five grand slams in a single season.  It was quite a year for “Mr. Sunshine.”

Banks became the first player to win the National League MVP Award in back-to-back seasons, 1958 and 1959.   In 1960, Banks won his first and only Gold Glove at the shortstop position.  Banks was moved to left field at the beginning of the 1961 season, but soon found a new home at first base.  On a Friday during the 1962 season, Banks was hit in the head by a ball thrown from pitcher Moe Drabowsky, a former Cub.  Banks left the field on a stretcher, unconscious.  He spent two days in the hospital and then sat out Monday’s game.  On Tuesday, incredibly, Banks returned to the lineup and hit three home runs and a double.  Ernie Banks played with many stars, but his favorite was Lou Brock.  Banks roomed with Lou while playing with the Cubs.

Banks finished playing the game of baseball on September 26, 1971, at the age of 40.  He had been a 14-time All-Star, and a two-time National League home run (1958-1960) and RBI (1958-1959) champ.  This North Side hero taught everyone how to lose gracefully, as he never got the chance to win it all.  The incredible amount of joy he received back from the fans easily replaced any World Series ring he may have won.  He continued to serve the Cubs as a coach, instructor and administrator.  Banks was married a fourth time in 1997.   Hank Aaron was his best man, and Ernie and his new wife Liz adopted a baby girl in 2008.

Banks won the 1968 Lou Gehrig Award.  Ernie had a lifetime batting average of .274.  He recorded 2,583 hits and 512 home runs, and batted in 1,636 runs.  With a vote of 83.8%, Banks was inducted into the Baseball-Hall-of-Fame Museum in 1977, on the first ballot.  In 1982, Ernie’s #14 was the first to be retired by the Cubs.  In 1999, Banks was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.  In 2008, The Cubs unveiled a statue of Banks just off the third-base side of Clark and Addison streets.  The Library of Congress named Ernie a “Living Legend” in 2009.  On August 8, 2013, Ernie Banks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  “I handed him a bat that belonged to Jackie Robinson,” said Banks. “He was trilled to hold that bat.”

 Mr. Sunshine took his place in the heavenly lineup on Friday, January 23, 2015.  He died of a heart attack at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  Baseball’s brightest light flickered and went out.  Expect the Cubs to honor Ernie during the season, especially during the Major League opener set for Sunday night on April 5, 2015.  In the end, Ernie Banks honored his mother and father by becoming a great baseball player and an ordained minister.  There’s a good chance there will be a double header in Heaven this weekend.  At a time where drugs, steroids, cheating and spousal abuse fill the sports pages, Ernie Banks was a breath of fresh air.  He was a reminder of all that is good in the world of sports.  Perhaps Major League baseball should have every team play a double-header next year in his honor.  I will remember the rhythm of his voice and that smile.  Thanks, Ernie.

I will end with a quotation by Ernie that will stand the test of time. “There’s sunshine, fresh air, and the teams behind us.  Let’s play two.”

 

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.