Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Baseball Thoughts From Rick Kaplan

Marty – Recently watched "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" for the first time, and this evening wrote the following letter to the friend and baseball lifer who had sent it to me. Thought you might enjoy my letter to him . . . .
I think I may have just done the biggest double–no, make that triple–take I have ever done. I was looking at the scores on for today, Saturday, when I noticed something that I was sure had to be a mistake. It said that the Devil Rays were leading the A’s, 12-2, in the eighth inning at Tampa Bay. It wasn’t the lopsidedness per say of the score that seemed improbable, not with the horrible A’s. It was the idea that this game, the third in the series, was on the verge of being completed with the third consecutive 12-2 score. The A’s had won the opener, and the Rays returned the favor last night. As it turned out tonight in the third game, though, after the game reached the trifecta 12-2, the Rays scored twice more and went into the ninth leading 14-2. I was actually disappointed. How many times has something like that happened (I will leave it to ESPN to translate this into some kind of "record.") ?
Nice to hear from Rick, Click below for more…Marty

Speaking of the A’s and how horrible they are, Milton Bradley tied up the Phillies-Friars in Philly in the eighth tonite with a home run, and the Pads then took the lead on a couple of more homers. Since MB has returned to the diamond on his latest visit from the DL he is electrifying his new team. Last night he had a pair of three-run jobs in a Padres romp (his first one was pivotal). The night before something else, and so on. This guy, when playing, is probably the best, most clutch all-around player in the game (I would still probably want Barry or David Ortiz for a single at-bat, but I’m talking here about the all around, 5 tool, game dominating package). As for Bonds, nearly everything BB does seems to matter, but the rest of the team is so bad, especially the horrid bullpen, and his constant heroics at the plate and crucial getting on base via walks, which often result in would-be critical runs (with a good team) ends up being in vain.
I think maybe I got tired of writing about baseball because some things are really obvious and how may times can you say them, like that Milton Bradley on the bench is worth more to a team than Mark Kotsay in center field, and that there are guys like Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby and Esteban Loaiza and even Mike Piazza that never, ever seem to wear out their welcome, but other guys like Bradley, and Jermaine Dye, who simply won the World Series MVP after the A’s out-and-out dumped him, and Jose Guillen–who is leading the Mariners in an unexpected pennant race–who always do. Billy Beane probably isn’t any kind of hard core racist. He is just a lousy judge of baseball talent. And he can take the JJ Furmaniaks and Andrew Browns and all his other Moneyball monstrosities, who seem to be unusally unathletic and unexciting, and move to Fremont tomorrow. I will help them load the truck (just baseball bravado, I’m sure. When the A’s had won five in a row before running into the Devil Ray juggernaut, I was starting to turn on the game and secretly calculate September scenarios . . .)
Anyway, two things at this point are saving the season for me. One is my enjoyment at seeing Barry hit and demonstrate why he is one of the premier batsman in the game, not only all-time but right now (and almost by osmosis, I find myself actually rooting for the Giants, probably so Barry’s at bats won’t be in vain). He is likely to go well over thirty home runs, no bad for a guy that even virtually all the local writers had dismissed two months ago as pitiful. Wham !! And wouldn’t you just know it, but just as I hit the period just this moment he smacks the ball into left to knock in another run !! . . . three at-bats tonight thus far. two sharp singles, two ribbies, a walk, and a few more HGH-delayed wrinkles in the face that will some day grace Cooperstown . . .
So, do you still think there is no evidence that teams regularly steal signs in some very undignified, and routine, ways (i.e., the Giants in 1951 and 1954), even after Hank Greenberg confessed very explicitly about having all the Reds signs in the 1940 World Series and lamented the fact that Paul Derringer was unhittable despite that the Tigers knew what was coming? As they say, cheating is part of the game, and you have to do it to keep up. But it doesn’t mean you are going to automatically succeed. You still have to be very, very good to win.
Yeah, I really liked the "Life and Times of Hank Greenberg." It sent me into some very personal space. I really wanted to be a ballplayer badly. And I berate myself for not trying hard enough and not working at it. But the truth is that I think that anti-semitism had a much bigger role in my "not trying" than I appreciate. I think I’ve told you about being chased out of Gould Park in Dobbs Ferry by a pack of little nazis screaming "jew boy, get the jew boy." I am alway interested when you explain that Pelham Parkway felt insulated from this "The Cossacks Are Coming" kind of ambiance. I just could never get my head in a confident place, and you can’t play ball like that.
I wish someone would have preached to me about Hank Greenberg. I basically hardly knew who he was when I was a kid and a sense of standing up to bullies was sorely lacking for me. Although there is a wrinkle to that, at least the part of not knowing who Greenberg was, something that I’m not sure if I ever told you about.
It was the early 1950’s. I must have been six or seven. I didn’t know a thing about baseball in any sort of substantial way (Willie’s catch in 1954, seen on TV remarkably enough, was my first concious baseball memory). But I knew about the famous Yankees and Yankee Stadium, and I was excited to be with my father at a game, possibly my first one.
We were sitting about five or six rows directly behind the visiting Red Sox dugout on the third base side. I still remember being restless and fidgeting and probably wanting something from the vendors (watery orange drink in the flame thrower dispensers?) every two minutes. "What are balls and strikes, dad?" We were sitting adjacent to a box in which were huddled three well-dressed men who seemed to be conversing quietly about what was going on on the field. One of the men briefly greeted my father. Eventually my dad discreetly whispered to me that these men were important and famous baseball people, two of whom were former players, and there names were Buzzy Bavasi, Joe Cronin, and Hank Greenberg. As I learned later, at the time all three of these men were GMs at the time, Bavasi, of course, of the Dodgers, Cronin the Bosox, and Greenberg the Tribe, and they just might have been cooking something up. (Were there any big trades involving the Red Sox and the Indians in the early fifties?)
It’s funny, because even though I wouldn’t have known Hank Greenberg form Ron Blomberg back then, I have always believed that it was a sense of great respect that my father communicated to a little boy about these three giants that somehow osmotically gave me a recognition of them from that instant that never faded even slightly for the rest of my life. And it didn’t hurt that Greenberg was one of the most handsome and noble looking figures I have ever seen.
Incidentally, my grandfather (Remember, was the usher at Hilltop Field near 168th and Broadway, and moonlighted as bird dog for major league scouts?) and Bavasi’s family had some personal connection, via work or the neighorhood or both. As curious as I have always been about it, I’ve never had muc
h success in finding out what it was all about, other than my grandpa and Bavasi’s dad’s widow had some kind of friendship. Shouldn’t that have been enough to get me an audience with Happy Felton?
Anyway, there’s more. As I said before, we were sitting behind the Red Sox dugout, and, again, I was clueless and about six years old. Well, there was something about this one Red Sox player that was really getting my attention and curiosity as he would trot in from his position each inning after the Yankees made the third out. So, as the game wore on I start pestering my dad about the Sox player who wore his hat "the wrong way," as I put it (I distinctly remember feeling even then that "that guy" had a certain dignity about him, even though I wouldn’t know the word for it). My dad tried to ignore me, and probably shushed me more that once, not wanting our famous neighbors to be distracted by a tyke’s restlessness and big mouth.
Finally, after my umpteenth complaint about "that guy who wears his hat wrong," with great and restraint and a succint reverence that forever conveyed to me a whole culture’s sense of what greatness was all about, my father leaned over to me and whispered, "Ricky, that guy is Ted Williams, and he can wear his hat any way he wants."


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