My 10th ’35 Goudey: Ted Lyons and Mule Haas

Once I’d drained my local supply of 1935 Goudeys, I turned to Ebay. To keep some sport in it and keep costs down a bit, initially I decided to limit myself to auction listings rather than buy-it-nows.

The first time I looked, I could have bought every ’35 I lacked, spare one, via buy-it-now, and the one I couldn’t find wasn’t an expensive card. To me, that’s not really collecting. Collecting ought to involve some chase, and waiting an extra week for a com

So, in that spirit, I bid on a 1935 card featuring four Chicago White Sox one Sunday evening, and won.

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My third 1935 Goudey: Luke Appling

The third 1935 Goudey card I bought featured four members of the Chicago White Sox, including Hall of Famer Luke Appling. But Luke Appling wasn’t the reason I bought the card.

I bought the card for George Earnshaw and Jimmy Dykes, in that order. Neither of them are Hall of Famers but they mean something to me. That’s the reason we buy a lot of the cards we buy.

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The death of Lyman Bostock

In September 1978, the death of Lyman Bostock rattled the California Angels’ heated division title race with the Kansas City Royals. The Angels’ star outfielder was murdered in Gary, Indiana at the age of 27.

ESPN has a tribute.

He’s the best baseball player you’ve never heard of, and quite possibly also the greatest human being you never heard of.My favorite quote from the ESPN tribute comes near the end. “I am parked outside his building, waiting, thinking, if I am a righteous, hard-nosed journalist, or whether — as my wife insists — I have taken this Lyman Bostock thing too far.

Lyman Bostock has that effect on the handful of people who know about him, even from the grave. Perhaps especially from the grave.

My pastor talked a few Sundays ago about heroes, and how athletes are often described as heroes, but they’re really just celebrities doing their job. Curt Schilling’s efforts to pitch the Boston Red Sox to a World Series on a crudely stitched together tendon in 2006 is often described as heroic, but it’s nothing like the people who put their very lives on the line every day to save other people’s lives–sometimes while injured just as badly as Schilling was.

I might actually be able to argue successfully that Bostock was a hero. He was one of baseball’s first big money free agents, signing a $2.5 million deal with the California Angels in 1978. His job: Play Hall of Fame-caliber defense in right field and hit .300. But in his first month, he went all Andruw Jones on the Angels and hit only .147. While lots of players will happily collect big paychecks while hitting like pitchers, Bostock went to the owner and tried to return his paycheck. The owner refused, so he gave the money to charity instead. Thousands of charities wrote asking for the money, and he read every letter, trying to determine where the money would do the most good.

The year before, he made $20,000 and had been living in an apartment. So this really was his first really big paycheck.

Bostock wasn’t used to hitting like Tony Pena Jr. He was used to challenging the likes of George Brett and Rod Carew (now both Hall of Famers) for batting titles. He worked hard to pull his batting average back up to .300. On September 23, while playing the Chicago White Sox, he went 2 for 4 and raised his batting average to .296 but grounded into the final out of a 5-4 loss.

He never played another major league game.

That night, he visited his uncle, Tom Turner, and other relatives in nearby Gary, Indiana. While eating dinner, he asked about Joan Hawkins, a girl he used to read to as a child. They drove over for a brief visit. She and her sister Barbara asked if they could have a ride to a neighbor’s. Turner agreed, so they piled into the car.

Little did anyone know that Barbara’s estranged husband, Leonard Smith, was sitting outside Hawkins’ house in his car. And he had a gun. Smith saw Barbara get into the back seat of the car with Bostock, concluded the two were having an affair, and followed them.

At the corner of Fifth and Jackson, Smith pulled up next to Turner’s car. He rolled down the window, looked into the car, smirked, and fired a .410 bore shotgun blast into the back window. Bostock slumped over onto Barbara’s shoulder. It was 10:44 PM.

Bostock died a few hours later in the ICU at St. Mary’s Mercy hospital.

The police found Smith later that same day. Barbara recognized him when he fired the shot, and when police knocked on his door, he was even wearing the same clothes. They had their man, and everyone knew it.

No one contested he fired the shot that killed Lyman Bostock. But in June 1980, he was released from Logansport State Hospital after less than a year. He’s been a free man ever since.

Smith had a good lawyer who knew Indiana law at the time had a loophole so big he could fly a 747 through it. He argued that Smith was temporarily insane when he murdered Lyman Bostock. Then he turned around and won his client’s release by arguing that he was no longer insane.

The Bostock murder caused that law to change. But no law could bring back Lyman Bostock, the ballplayer with the bat of Rod Carew and the heart of Mother Theresa. And he did it against the odds. His father, a former Negro Leagues first baseman, walked out on his mother when he was two years old, and like a plotline from a Tyler Perry movie, never made any attempt to be in his son’s life until he made it big as a professional ballplayer.

I was three years old when Bostock died. If I ever saw him play, I don’t remember it. I first read about him in 1984, in a book titled The Image of their Greatness. I still have the book and I never forgot its brief, haunting paragraph on Bostock, who even then was less well known than Ken Landreaux, the reserve outfielder who took his spot in the lineup the day Bostock died.

Lyman Bostock, 27 years of age, fleet hard-hitting Angels outfielder, was accidentally shot and killed on September 23, 1978. Bostock hit .323 in 1976 and .336 in 1977. One of the highest-paid players in baseball, he started slowly in 1978 and offered to return his April salary because he felt he didn’t deserve it. When the Angels declined his offer, he proved it was no empty gesture by donating the money to charity. The good, it has often been said, die young.

Had it not been for that day, Bostock probably still would have been playing baseball in 1984. Former teammate and Hall of Famer Rod Carew says Bostock was his equal with the bat. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver said Bostock would win 5-6 batting titles before his career ended. It’s easy to imagine Bostock playing well into the 1990s, probably spending most of those years with his adopted hometown Angels, and being inducted into the Hall of Fame sometime around 2005 or 2006.

In some ways, Bostock reminds me of Bo Jackson: enough potential to be a Hall of Famer, but his career cut tragically short long before he could pile up the credentials to warrant induction into Cooperstown.

The difference is that senseless murder trumps a hip injury every day of the week.

I wish someone would make a movie about Lyman Bostock. I’d really like to take my son to see it. Of course I’d be delighted if my son can someday hit a baseball like Lyman Bostock, but more than that, I want him to be the kind of person he was.

There are precious few professional athletes I can say that about.

Hey Royals: This St. Louisan still believes

OK, OK. So I was in Kansas City over the weekend for a Promise Keepers event, and I saw the Royals’ obituary in the Kansas City Star yesterday. It was a great season, they said, but it’s over.
Well, it wasn’t technically over. It could have ended today, if the Minnesota Twins had beat the Detroit Tigers (which they did) and the Royals had lost to the Chicago White Sox. But the Royals thumped the Best Team Money Can Borrow 10-4, helped in part by their own borrowed gun, Rondell White.

So now what? The Twinkies have five more games. They’re off tomorrow, then they host the Cleveland Indians for two games before wrapping up their season at Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Royals have six home games against Detroit and the White Sox.

The Royals need to win five of six against a team they’ve dominated and against the only team in the division they’ve played poorly against.

Meanwhile, Cleveland has to revert to its old form and beat the Twins twice, and Detroit has to temporarily forget how to play like the 1962 Mets and sweep the Twins in three games.

Long shot? You betcha. But then again, in April everyone thought the Royals were a long shot to just finish over .500.

There’s a sign hanging outside the Fellowship of Christian Athletes building just across I-70 from Royals Stadium Kauffman Stadium. It still reads, “We believe.” In reference to the Royals–belief in God, I hope, is a given for those guys.

I still believe in both too.

Good thing: It’s baseball season. Better thing: My Royals won

Every time I turn on the radio or go online, I hear about how the Bush Dictatorship has plunged us into another Vietnam or how I’m a redneck just like everyone else who ever voted Republican. And at work, I’m buried in Backup Exec problems, a program so bad that it continues to make me think its main purpose for being written was industrial sabotage.
Am I glad it’s baseball season? You betcha. I need a distraction. Take your pick: baseball or booze. I’ll take baseball. It’s cheaper and healthier.

So we’re 12 days into this war and it’s another Vietnam. People seem to have forgotten it took us 6 weeks to drive the madman out of Kuwait. Did we really expect him to roll over and play dead when we hit his mother country?

And for some reason people seem to think appeasement is the way to go. A little over 60 years ago, people said the same thing about a guy named Adolf Hitler. You might have heard of him. Neither man had any qualms about overrunning their neighbors or killing their own people. Fortunately for us, they have comparable technology.

But I’m either preaching to the choir or a redneck. So I don’t think I wanna talk about it.

The Royals, on the other hand, I’ll talk about. They shut out the Chicago White Sox 3-0. That doesn’t happen often. Shutouts are rare in Kansas City anymore, especially against pennant contenders. And on opening day. Nice. New rookie closer Mike MacDougal got the save. That’s a good sign, because for the past four years or so, a three-run lead has been an adventure. You couldn’t count on Roberto Hernandez or Ricky Bottalico to hold that lead. There was a time when you could count on Jeff Montgomery, but not in his final season. So it’s been 1998 since a three-run lead in the 9th was a given.

And they did it in front of a sellout crowd at home. And visions of 1985 danced in Dave’s head. I know it’s too early to believe. But I think I’m gonna anyway. When it comes to baseball, I’m hopeless. I’ll grasp at anything that looks like you can hold onto it.

Tell Pete Rose to crawl back under his rock

Pete Rose really isn’t worth this sentence.
I’m referring to the sentence I just wrote, not the sentence he’s currently serving. The only reason I’m wasting my time on Pete Rose is because this is the weekend and traffic’s going to be down, so I’ll save my worthwhile stuff for a higher-traffic day.

If you’ve never heard of Pete Rose, be glad. If you wish to lose your innocence, here’s Pete Rose in a nutshell: Pete Rose was a baseball player. He played baseball more than 20 years, mostly for the Cincinnati Reds. He holds the record for the most hits recorded by a baseball player. The previous record had stood for nearly 60 years when Rose broke it. (The previous record-holder, Ty Cobb, was a horse’s… backside, but he was honest.) Rose was banned from baseball for life in 1989 for betting on the game. He bet on baseball 400 times. Since that time, he’s been convicted of tax fraud and served time, and he’s also been accused of drug trafficking.

So how was he as a player? His nickname was Charlie Hustle. It wasn’t a term of endearment. Early in his career, other players didn’t like him much. He didn’t have a lot of natural ability. People talk about how Rose was an All-Star at five different positions. What they forget is that he was an All-Star at five different positions because he was one of those players who could play a lot of positions badly. The Reds played him where they could hide him. But to Rose’s credit, he ran out every ball he hit–no doubt some of his hits would have been outs with a more lackadaisical player running–and he took reasonably good care of himself, so he wasn’t hurt a lot and he was still able to play, albeit with severely diminished skills, into his 40s.

But that was part of the problem. As player-manager of the Reds, Rose kept penciling his name into the lineup long after he’d accomplished everything he was going to accomplish as a player, to the detriment of the team. Gary Redus, his center fielder, complained Rose was hurting the Reds by playing himself at first base in 1985, when he could have played slugger Nick Esasky at first base and opened up left field for the fleet-footed Eddie Milner, or for a prospect like Eric Davis or Paul O’Neill. But Pete Rose was too busy chasing glory to do anything like that.

In the 1970 All Star game, Pete Rose barrelled over Cleveland Indians catcher Ray Fosse. Fosse, the best young catcher in the game at the time, was injured in the play and never was the same after that. Rose ruined Fosse’s career, in a game that didn’t even count.

Baseball fans, let’s face it: Pete Rose was David Eckstein without the class.

Rose apologists are quick to point out that none of this is particularly relevant. And to a degree they’re right. Ty Cobb barrelled over more than a few players in his day, and Detroit’s left fielder hated Cobb so much that the team moved Cobb from center field to right field just to keep the two of them away from each other. You don’t ban a guy for life for being a jerk or a poor judge of his own ability or a bad fielder. And Rose apologists point out that Dads pointed to Pete Rose and told their kids they should play baseball like him. (Except for my dad. My dad pointed to Pete Rose and told me if he ever caught me playing baseball like him, he’d beat me senseless. My dad told me to be like George Brett, who played just as hard, was a better hitter anyway, and had class.)

But there’s something a lot of people forget about. A little rule that’s posted in every baseball clubhouse.

The rule, restated simply, says that if you’re involved in any way with a baseball team and you bet on baseball games, you’re banned for a year. And if you’re involved in any way with a baseball team and bet on a game involving your own team, you’re banned for life.

The evidence against Pete Rose isn’t all available to the public. There’s a lot of hearsay that Rose bet on his own team. But even if Rose didn’t, according to the letter of the law, Rose should have been banned for 400 years.

That wouldn’t have been a lifetime ban for Methuselah (assuming he was under age 569 at the time of the last bet), but it would be for Pete Rose and me. And probably you too.

There is a precedent. In 1920, eight members of the Chicago White Sox–pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude “Lefty” Williams; infielders Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg; and outfielders Oscar “Happy” Felsch and “Shoeless Joe” Jackson–were banned from baseball for life for conspiring with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series (ironically, against the Cincinnati Reds). Although found innocent in a federal court of law, their statistics were struck off the record books and they could never so much as buy a ticket for a professional baseball game.

The ringleaders were Cicotte and Gandil. Most people believe that Jackson and Weaver were innocent–that Weaver knew about it and didn’t tell, and that Jackson knew about it, told, and went so far as to ask to be benched, but took money from the gamblers.

The ban stood until Jackson’s death in 1951.

Of the eight, the only likely Hall of Famer was Jackson. Lefty Williams was only in his fifth full season, and Cicotte would be a questionable candidate if he were eligible, though extrapolated out to a 20-year-career, both pitchers probably would have made it. But since people aren’t elected to the Hall based on what might have been, neither is likely. But Jackson had already distinguished himself by hitting .408 at age 21. Every other player who ever hit .400 over the course of a full season in the modern era is in the Hall of Fame.

Not that it matters any, but some guy nobody’s ever heard of, a guy named Babe Ruth, claimed he learned his batting style by watching Shoeless Joe.

I’m sure by now you’ve sensed my disdain for Rose and at least a small bit of admiration for Jackson.

So I’m going to surprise you by saying I believe Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Anyone who hits 3,215 singles belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Sensing a problem, I asked my evil twin, R. Collins Farquhar IV, what he thought. This is a transcript of what he said:

I, of course, have a Solomon-like solution. (One of my favorite things about myself is that I’m so wise. One of my other favorite things about myself is that I’m so humble.) Pete Rose is banned from American Cricket for life. This also disqualifies him from the game’s quaint Hall of Fame. For life. When Pete Rose dies, his life is over, and thus his ban is over. So the simpletons should just wait until Pete Rose dies, and then elect him to the Hall of Fame.

I of course find it disturbing that I agree with everything R. Collins Farquhar IV said about Pete Rose, though not quite everything he said about himself.

What Pete Rose wants most is attention. What Pete Rose needs least is attention. Rose agreed in 1989 to a lifetime ban, and “lifetime” doesn’t mean 13 years. Rose received more than he deserved by getting the privelige of agreeing to it. Joe Jackson didn’t get to agree to his ban.

Had Rose ever shown any signs of remorse, it would probably be different. Steve Howe showed remorse. Darryl Strawberry showed remorse. When they messed up one too many times (or maybe it was because they were just too old to have any chance of being able to come back and be effective ballplayers), baseball sent them packing. Rose apologists point to both of them. But Rose has always been defiant, not remorseful. If he’s sorry, he’s sorry he got caught.

Put Joe Jackson in the Hall of Fame. He’s been dead 51 years. He’s paid his dues.

Let Pete Rose watch Joe Jackson go in. Then let him slither back under that rock he came from and ignore him. And after he dies, there’s no need to wait 51 years. Just put him on the ballot, and the people who saw him play can go on and on about what a great hitter he was, and how fun it was to watch him play the game (A David Eckstein without class can still be fun to watch), and he can go through the same voting process everyone else goes through, and he’ll be elected to the Hall of Fame, likely on the first ballot, and more likely in a red uniform than an orange one.

And then, finally, justice will all be served.

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