My first 1935 Goudey card: Joe Vosmik

My first 1935 Goudey card: Joe Vosmik

Dad and I were at the late, lamented World of Baseball Cards on Lemay Ferry Road in south St. Louis County sometime in the late 1980s, flipping through vintage cards. Among the old cards in the pile was a 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 featuring Cleveland Indians players. The most noteworthy was Joe Vosmik, an All-Star left fielder who batted .348 that year.

I was debating whether to buy the card or not when Dad glanced over. “Get that one,” he said. “My dad knew Joe Vosmik.”

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Let Eric Hosmer hit second

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians humiliated the Kansas City Royals 8-3 in what really looked like a showdown between two bad teams. Neither team played especially well, but the Indians were less bad. And in any given game, less bad is all it takes to win.

The Royals fielded poorly in the first inning and that made the difference, but the makeshift lineup the Royals fielded made it difficult for them to catch up. And catching up wasn’t out of the question. The Indians didn’t have Cy Young or Walter Johnson out there; it was the aging Derek Lowe. Read more

Remembering 11 September 2001

I was on my way to work when they said on the radio something was wrong. The details were scarce, but an airplane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Then the other. And as I was pulling into the parking lot, the news came that one of the towers had collapsed.

The day didn’t get any better as it wore on. I remember it well. Looking back at what I wrote on that day, some details faded over the decade, but my recollection of most of the day is vivid. I can tell you more about that day than I can most of the days of the past week.

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Salary cap? Baseball needs something

Funny how now that the New York Yankees have added the most expensive sports contract in history, Alex Rodriguez, to their already outrageously priced roster, suddenly the freespending Boston Red Sox, owner of the second-most expensive sports contract in history and the second-highest payroll in baseball, are calling for a salary cap.

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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.

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.

Phillies’ signing of Thome is about confidence, not wins

The Phillies just signed the most popular slugger in Cleveland Indians’ history, inking a 6-year, $87 million deal.
Analysts note that with Thome in the lineup instead of Travis Lee, the Phillies would have scored about 70 more runs last season. They still would have been fourth in the league, even with those extra 70 runs. That’s not enough to guarantee you’ll be the fourth team in the playoffs.

Analysts also noted that for the past few years, Thome has spent a good deal of time as the DH rather than playing in the field, and they doubt Thome will be capable of playing first base for the last year or even two years of his contract.

Also, last week, Philadelphia signed David Bell to play third base, replacing Placido Polanco. Bell’s a better hitter than Polanco, but not by much. Bell’s a better fielder than Polanco (at least at third), but not by very much.

But this trend isn’t about fielding. It’s not so much even about scoring runs. I’m not even convinced it’s about winning ball games. This is about confidence.

You see, a year ago, the Phillies had the best third baseman in baseball and the second-best third baseman in their team’s history (second only to Mike Schmidt, who is one of the three best third basemen who ever lived). The Phillies offered Scott Rolen a pile of money to sign a long-term contract. But Scott Rolen wasn’t convinced the Phillies wanted to win badly enough. He refused a couple of offers, slumped, got into some arguments with manager Larry Bowa, and eventually was traded to the Cardinals for whatever they could manage to get for him, preferring that to losing him to free agency.

It wasn’t that long ago that Philadelphia lost Curt Schilling, one of the best pitchers in the game today, pretty much the same way.

Rolen rediscovered his swing, and helped the Cardinals get to the postseason. Schilling dueled Randy Johnson for the Cy Young Award two years straight, and along with Johnson was the hero of the 2001 World Series, and was practically unbeatable up until the 2002 postseason.

Meanwhile, the Phillies looked like they’d given up and entered a rebuilding phase as they got ready to open an expensive new ballpark. And Philadelphia fans are notoriously unforgiving. We’re talking fans who’ll boo Santa Claus.

And the Phillies have lots of young, exciting players whose contracts are running out.

Signing David Bell and Jim Thome proves the Phillies are willing to spend some money. This will make unhappy players play better (witness Scott Rolen’s performance after coming to St. Louis versus his so-so performance in Philadelphia last year). Bell has become one of those players who always seems to find himself playing for a winner. Young players need that influence. Bell, at least theoretically, brings value beyond the numbers he puts up. If it were about numbers, the Phillies would have acquired Joe Randa, who makes much less money, and the Phillies could have had Joe Randa for a bag of baseballs and a vial of dirt scraped off one of Mike Schmidt’s spikes. But Joe Randa’s never played for a winner.

And Jim Thome’s a big, burly, buff guy who hits monsterous home runs by the truckload and excites fans. The Phillies haven’t had a truly great power hitter since Mike Schmidt. In his best year, Schmidt hit 48 home runs and batted .286. Jim Thome hit 52 home runs and batted .304 last year.

In 1997, the St. Louis Cardinals were missing something. They had the opportunity to trade for Mark McGwire. McGwire hit a bunch of towering home runs and captured the fans’ imagination and helped the Cardinals lure some other great players, most notably center fielder Jim Edmonds, to St. Louis.

The Phillies want Jim Thome to come in and be Mark McGwire.

The Phillies covet former Braves pitcher Tom Glavine. Glavine’s been one of the best left-handed pitchers in the National League for the past decade. The Braves and Mets are also interested in Glavine. But the Braves made him a half-hearted offer and seem to be more interested in unloading salary than in making another playoff run. The Mets are coming off a last-place finish and they’re trying to find someone willing to take Jeromy Burnitz and Mo Vaughn’s contracts. Meanwhile, the Phillies have just signed two of the most coveted players in the free agent market. The Phillies’ offer is comparable to the Mets’ offer. Glavine wants money, of course, but he also wants to win another World Series before he retires. Who do you think he’s most interested in pitching for now?

David Bell alone doesn’t make the Phillies a better team. Jim Thome alone makes the Phillies a marginally better team. David Bell plus Jim Thome plus Tom Glavine signal a commitment to win, at least for the next few years, which will draw out the best in the players they have and make other players interested, as well as draw fans, which creates revenue, which can be used to pursue other quality players.

Those are the ingredients of a dynasty.

Now the Phillies just have to figure out how to mix them properly.

I can’t figure out what to write about so I’ll write about everything I can think of.

Cars. I just found out today that one of my coworkers owns four vehicles. And that’s not counting his Harley. I wondered the same thing everyone else did: What’s a single guy need four cars for?
I guess it would be handy for some things. Like this morning, I started my car, hopped out, started scraping, and when I got back inside, I looked down at my gas gauge and saw the yellow indicator light staring back at me. If I had four cars like (ahem) some people, I could have just shut it down and hopped in another car that had more gas in it. Of course, then I’d just have three more cars I could run down to E, so maybe that wouldn’t work.

I guess the other advantage would be driving something different to work every day, so people can’t keep track of whether you’re there or not. But I’m still having a hard time justifying it to myself.

The Cure. The Cure retired a year ago. Of course, the only thing harder than keeping track of how many times they’ve retired is how many band members they’ve had. So they recorded new material and released their third greatest hits collection, fulfilled their obligation to their record label, and said they’re still a band, but they’re staying unsigned.

As clueless as the record industry has become, it’s probably a smart move. It’d be nice if a few financially well-off artists would get together and form a privately-held record label that’s just about the music, rather than about pleasing shareholders or building huge financial conglomerates.

Cleveland Indians. The disassembly of the franchise continues. Manny Ramirez departed a year ago, replaced by a damaged-goods Juan Gonzalez. Now that Gonzalez has recaptured his old form, he’s gone. Roberto Alomar’s been traded to the Mets for a handful of prospects, plus ex-Twins outfielder Matt Lawton. Speedster Kenny Lofton is gone.

Cleveland was the model franchise of the 1990s. They signed their young players to long-term contracts early and they were only wrong about one of them (Carlos Baerga). The first two young stars they let go, Baerga and Albert Belle, are out of baseball now. They built a new stadium and kept it full. But for all the things they did right, they didn’t get a World Series win to show for it.

And I don’t see any indication with this trade that the Indians have learned their lesson. Clearly they’re in rebuilding mode, dumping salary and getting younger, cheaper players in the hopes of making a run for it again in a few years. But they traded Alomar for two outfielders and a relief pitcher. The Cleveland teams from the mid-90s on featured terrific offense and enviable defense that was at times spectacular, but little in the way of pitching. And the lesson of Arizona is that starting pitching plus one big bat is all you really need, even in these high-offense days.

So I’m shocked to say that between the Royals and the Indians, right now the pitcher-hoarding Royals are much closer to doing the right thing.

Should I be laughing at this? Gatermann sent me this link and I got a good laugh out of it. I can’t figure out if I should feel bad about that.

Viruses. My work laptop, or, more specifically, the Windows partition on my work laptop, was a victim of last week’s data recovery efforts. I have no excuse. I temporarily took leave of my senses and I didn’t write-protect the DOS boot floppies I made. So I booted off the troubled computer, then I booted the laptop off the same disks, and the next thing I knew, the laptop was infected too. It was, to say the least, my finest moment.

Yesterday I finished rebuilding the Windows partition and booted the laptop into Windows for the first time in half a week. I didn’t do any special tricks; I just wiped and reformatted the partition. But since installing Windows wipes out your Linux boot sector, I used a trick. I booted into Linux, inserted a floppy, and issued the command dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/fd0 bs=512 count=1 to save the boot sector to a floppy. Then, after Windows was installed, I booted off a single-disk Linux distro, replaced the floppy, and reversed the command: dd if=/dev/fd0 of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=1 Bingo! I had a dual-boot system again.

Virus hoaxes. I just got e-mail from Wendy (the friend whose computer taught me a whole lot about data recovery last week), who got e-mail from a classmate. She’d received a fairly common virus hoax via e-mail, one that advises you to search for and delete the file SULFNBK.EXE
alleging it to be a virus. In actuality that file is part of Windows, so it’ll be present on every Windows 9x system. I personally can’t remember if it’s critical or not, but Steve DeLassus tells me it is.

I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but any time you get virus e-mail like that, check it out with an IT professional. My rule of thumb is this: I disregard any virus information I get via e-mail unless I’ve also heard about it on the news. And by the news, I mean the morning news, the news on the morning drive on the radio, the front page of the local newspaper–stuff like that. Believe me, any time there’s a legitimate virus story, it’s big news. Many of the powers that be in the media are still computerphobes, so they relish any bad news regarding computers that they find. So the mainstream media is really good at hunting down and reporting virus stories.

Meanwhile, I hope she didn’t delete that file. But at least it’s easy enough to replace if she did.

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