Talkin’ Baseball: Jackie Robinson Day 2017!!!

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s colour barrier being shattered by the late, great Jackie Robinson! From MLB.com:

Saturday will mark the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier, and special activities planned for this Jackie Robinson Day will include the unveiling of the Hall of Famer’s statue at Dodger Stadium, the introduction of a “Trailblazer Series” for girls, the annual donning of No. 42 by all active players and a lot of buzz about the upcoming Jackie Robinson Museum.

In what promises to be an emotional ceremony before the Dodgers’ 9:15 p.m. ET home game against Arizona, Robinson’s 94-year-old wife Rachel and their children Sharon and David will be on hand for the unveiling of a statue depicting Jackie in his rookie season of 1947, sliding into home plate in his signature style. Dodgers owner Magic Johnson, Dodgers President Stan Kasten, and legends Frank Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Don Newcombe and Vin Scully will among participants in that invitation-only dedication a few hours before the game. The first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive a replica Jackie Robinson statue, with seats available at dodgers.com/tickets.

As has been tradition each year since 2009, MLB will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing the now-retired No. 42 during all Saturday games. One jersey will be signed by each member of every club and auctioned live on Saturday at MLB.com/42jersey, with proceeds benefitting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.”

This man has always been an admirable individual, displaying the attributes of courage, strength, dedication, selflessness, and humility. According to his official website, he was born to a family of sharecroppers in 1919. His mother single-handedly raised him and his four other siblings. They were a close-knit family, united against the prejudice and hatred they faced from their neighbours as they were the only Black family on the block in the area in which they lived:

Growing up in a large, single-parent family, Jackie excelled early at all sports and learned to make his own way in life. At UCLA, Jackie became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All-American football team. Due to financial difficulties, he was forced to leave college, and eventually decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. After two years in the army, he had progressed to second lieutenant. Jackie’s army career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to his objections with incidents of racial discrimination. In the end, Jackie left the Army with an honorable discharge.

In 1945, Jackie played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling all over the Midwest with the Kansas City Monarchs. But greater challenges and achievements were in store for him. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey approached Jackie about joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Major Leagues had not had an African-American player since 1889, when baseball became segregated. When Jackie first donned a Brooklyn Dodger uniform, he pioneered the integration of professional athletics in America. By breaking the color barrier in baseball, the nation’s preeminent sport, he courageously challenged the deeply rooted custom of racial segregation in both the North and the South.”

There will be many events at baseball parks across the USA commemorating this historic day. On Thursday, 13 April, the Seattle Mariners unveiled a statue celebrating our own hometown hero, Ken Griffey Jr. A little-known fact: Ken Griffey Jr. was a prime motivator behind getting all players in the MLB to wear Jackie Robinson’s number, 42, on Jackie Robinson Day. From the Seattle Mariners website:

Ken Griffey Jr. takes immense pride in the fact his retired No. 24 hangs alongside Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in center field at Safeco Field. He relishes his role in getting every Major League player and coach to wear No. 42 now every year on Jackie Robinson Day.
So yes, as MLB celebrates another Jackie Robinson Day on Saturday, Griffey fully appreciates his latest link to baseball’s African-American pioneer as part of the intricate detail of the new statue of his likeness that was unveiled Thursday at the front gate to Safeco Field.

Sculptor Lou Cella included a Jackie Robinson patch on the right sleeve of the seven-foot bronze statue, much to Griffey’s approval. “Like I tell everybody, if it wasn’t for him, when’s the next time somebody would have played?” Griffey said. “For him to sacrifice pretty much his life and go through the trials and tribulations that he had to go through [is greatly appreciated].” Griffey’s home in Orlando is 35 minutes from Sanford, Fla., where Robinson lived during his first Spring Training in 1946 with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ Triple-A farm club, in a time of considerable racial tension…Griffey was the first player to wear Robinson’s No. 42 as a tribute on Jackie Robinson Day, having the Mariners flip-flop his normal 24 to 42 on the 50th anniversary of the day Robinson broke into the big leagues on April 15, 1997.

Ten years later, when Griffey was with the Reds, he called then-Commissioner Bud Selig to ask if he could again wear No. 42 on the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s historic day since MLB had by then retired the number throughout baseball.

Selig not only granted his approval, he liked the idea so much that the process began where now everyone wears 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.”

Here’s to Jackie Robinson on his day in history. His contributions were many, and should not be diminished.

MLB Monday: Opening Day 2017!

Finally…Spring Training is over and baseball season has officially begun! Today marks Opening Day of Major League Baseball (MLB), with the first games of the season for teams across the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). The official ‘Home Opener’ for my Seattle Mariners is next Monday, 10 April, but they do play today down in Texas against the Houston Astros. I sure wish that the home opener was being held today! The weather is picture-perfect, so the retractable roof would be wide open to let in the warm sun and gentle breeze. Safeco Field is one of the nicest MLB stadiums that I’ve seen, and I acknowledge that I might be slightly biased, LOL!

Watching the game on television is all right, but nothing compares to seeing a game live, in-person, at your local ball-park and cheering along with other fans! I was hoping to do so at least twice this year, but unexpected roofing issues have cropped up, so house repairs will eat into our savings this year. At least taxes are out of the way…

The Seattle Mariners website has five Opening Day facts listed, so I figured that I’d do a bonus ‘Five Fun Facts’ and post them! I learned a few things about my team, hopefully there is something of interest to other baseball fans as well:.

HOUSTON — With Seattle set to begin its season Monday night against the Astros, here are five interesting facts related to Mariners’ Opening Day.

1. The churn continues

Only seven of the 25 players who’ll be in uniform Monday were on the Opening Day roster last year when general manager Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais started their new tenures. The select seven: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Leonys Martin, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Nick Vincent. Seven others joined the team midway through last season: Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia, James Paxton, Ariel Miranda, Edwin Diaz, Evan Scribner and Dan Altavilla. The other 11 players were added in the offseason.

2. Opening Day newbies

While the Mariners have a solid veteran core, eight players made their first Opening Day roster, including starting right fielder Mitch Haniger. The other first-timers are Taylor Motter, James Pazos, Dillon Overton, Miranda, Heredia, Diaz and Altavilla.

3. The King’s reign continues

When Hernandez takes the mound, he’ll be making his ninth consecutive Opening Day start, the longest active streak in the Majors. Next closest is Clayton Kershaw, who will pitch his seventh straight opener for the Dodgers. No one else has more than four in a row, and both of those are having their streaks snapped, as Adam Wainwright will pitch the second game of the season for the Cardinals this year and David Price is opening the year on the disabled list with a strained elbow in Boston. King Felix has not only pitched a lot of openers, he has been extremely good. In nine Opening Day starts — he also started Opening Day in 2007 before beginning his current streak in ’09 — Hernandez is 6-1 with a 1.49 ERA. The lone loss came last year at Texas despite allowing just one hit.

4. Don’t feel left out

When Jarrod Dyson starts Monday’s game, he’ll become the eighth different Opening Day left fielder in the past 10 years for Seattle. The revolving door has seen Raul Ibanez (2008), Endy Chavez (’09), Milton Bradley (’10-11), Mike Carp (’12), Michael Morse (’13), Dustin Ackley (’14-15) and Norichika Aoki (’16) precede Dyson.

5. They open well

Thanks in large part to Hernandez’s mound mastery, the Mariners have the fourth-best Opening Day record of any franchise in the Majors since their inception in 1977. Seattle is 24-16 in season openers, trailing only the Mets (29-11), Orioles (26-14) and White Sox (25-15) in that span. Seattle had won nine straight until last year’s 3-2 loss to Texas, which left the Mariners one shy of the MLB record of 10 straight by the Boston Beaneaters from 1887-96. Of course, Hernandez started eight of those previous nine openers, with Erik Bedard starting the only other game in 2008 in a 5-2 win over the Rangers. Seattle has not allowed more than three runs in any of its past 10 openers. This will be the first time they’ve opened against the Astros, but the eighth time in the past nine years they’ve debuted on the road.”

My Opening Day post wouldn’t be complete with the song “Centerfield” by John Fogerty. I also added some of the best Mariners-related commercials, just for the hell of it! Whomever you’re rooting for, I hope that your first day of regular-season Major-league baseball is awesome – unless, of course, you’re rooting for the Astros…then, no hard feelings, either way. It’s just a game, after all! Game-time is at 1700 PDT; you’ll have to check your own local listings for your respective team(s). With that…PLAY BALL!!!

😎 😄 😎

Tuesday Tidbits: 1 September 2015

A new month begins…wow, this year is flying by! Staying busy and involved with various projects seems to speed time up – there aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done, sometimes. Still, I’m not rushing anything. I used to have that bad habit of doing too much at once; call it the curse of the over-achiever, LOL – so I’ve learned to slow down and take my time, and enjoy each accomplishment as they’re completed before starting something new.

Speaking of being busy, I forgot to mention a notable date in baseball yesterday. On 31 August of 1990, Ken Griffey, Sr. and Ken Griffey, Jr. became the first father-son team-mates in MLB history! From MLB.com:

Major League history is filled with prodigious bloodlines. Some, like Barry and Bobby Bonds, featured two generations of stars, while other families like the Bells, Boones and LaRoches, seem to have enough Major League players in their families to field their very own teams. 

But despite the 140-something years of Major League Baseball and the thousands of players to have put on a jersey, only two father-son duos have ever taken the field at the same time. Long before Tim Raines and Tim Raines, Jr. accomplished it in Oct. 2001, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. did it for the Mariners on Aug. 31, 1990. 

Which, when you think about it, is absurd. Here are all the things that need to go right to make this happen (at least until medical science replaces us all with robots): 

– The father has to be a Major League player

– And not just a Major League player, but one who is good enough and remained healthy enough to be a viable big leaguer for decades.

– Who has a son that is also talented enough to be a Major Leaguer

– And not just good enough, but a phenom, ensuring that they reach the Majors and are successful at a very young age. 

– And if all of those conditions are met, the team would need to have a need or opening at two positions to fit both the elder and younger on the team at the same time. 

Fortunately, the Mariners were able to do it in 1990 — when Griffey was just 20 years old and coming off his first All-Star appearance, and Ken Griffey Sr. was 41 and in his second stint with the Reds. Even then, though, it wasn’t entirely easy. Griffey Sr. first had to deal with his Reds contract.

That’s one hell of an accomplishment, and I love the fact that my Seattle Mariners have done some pretty awesome things over the years. Too bad they won’t make the playoffs this season, and the trades have already begun. General Manager Jack Zduriencik was let go from the team on Friday, 28 August; former closing pitcher Fernando Rodney was traded to the Chicago Cubs on 27 August, outfielder Justin Ruggiano was traded to the L. A. Dodgers, and Austin Jackson was traded to the Cubs yesterday for an as-yet unknown player. Win or lose, they are my home team, and I’ve never been a fair-weather fan – I can be loyal to a fault, sometimes!

I’ll close with my five favourite Mariners commercials – “True to the Blue!”

😉

 

Talkin’ Sports: MLB All-Stars! ***UPDATED***

It’s the “All-Star break” in Major League Baseball (MLB), meaning that the season is halfway over. The “Boys of Summer” are headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, to take part in the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. Here’s a little information about it, from CBS Sports:

The rosters for the 2015 All-Star Game were officially announced during a pair of live broadcasts Sunday and Monday night. As a reminder, the starting position players are selected by the fans while the rest of the rosters are voted on by players and selected by managers Bruce Bochy (Giants) and Ned Yost (Royals).

The All-Star rosters run 34 players deep, but only 33 players for each team were announced. The final spot is up for grabs via the Final Vote fan voting. Any starting pitchers who pitch Sunday, July 12, are not eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game itself, which will be played at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on Tuesday, July 14. The Home Run Derby will be played the day before, and the Futures Game the day before that.

All 30 teams get at least one representative in the All-Star Game. Keep in mind that injured players will be replaced on the rosters between now and then.

Two of my Seattle Mariners are in the roster: “King” Felix Hernandez, pitcher, and Nelson Cruz, designated hitter (DH). The DH is mainly used by teams in the American League (AL), due to minor play differences between the AL and the National League (NL). AL pitchers do not go up to bat, while NL pitchers do. The AL’s DH position is essentially a batter who doesn’t play a field position, taking the place of the pitcher. This changes during Interleague games and in the World Series, depending on where the game is played. When a game is played at an AL park, the NL team must choose a DH; when a game is hosted at an NL park, then the AL team’s pitcher must go to bat.

The Home Run Derby is…well, here’s a little info about it from the MLB website:

“…In a radical new tournament-style format, the first round will pit Albert Pujols (No. 1 seed) against Kris Bryant (No. 8), Todd Frazier (No. 2) vs. Prince Fielder (No. 7), Josh Donaldson (No. 3) vs. Anthony Rizzo (No. 6) and Joc Pederson (No. 4) vs. Manny Machado (No. 5). The seedings were based on each player’s 2015 home run total through July 7.

It’s pretty simple. The winner of each head-to-head matchup will move on to the semifinals, while the loser will be eliminated. The two players who emerge from the semifinals will square off in a third and final round. Ties will be broken by a 90-second swing-off. If there’s still a tie after that, the batters will engage in successive three-swing swing-offs until a winner is declared.”

I’ve watched the Derby a couple of times; it’s nice to know who the main sluggers are, and who needs to be watched when they’re up at the plate!

Credit: blog.crsportsbet.ag

You’d probably be surprised to know that I used to HATE baseball. That hatred stemmed from playing one season in Little League. We had co-ed teams; girls and boys played on the same teams and against each other, but I and my two older brothers were on the same team – and we were on the WORST team! Our “coach” was an alcoholic who spent more time flirting with women in the stands than coaching us. I had recently gotten glasses, so I wasn’t cut out to be an infielder – I got stuck out in far-right field. Forget batting; I was too worried about getting my glasses broken and having to wear tape on them, so I suffered the indignity of “tee-ball.” We only won two games that entire season, and one was by default: the game was rained out, and the other team didn’t bother to show up!

I started liking baseball when I worked at the Kingdome – turns out I’d rather watch that sport than participate in it. Not that I never played any sports; I made the varsity volleyball team in 8th grade and as a frosh – I was one hell of a blocker! My vertical jump was impressive, to say the least. I also got into weight-training, and took Tae Kwon Do for a year…only a yellow-belt, there, but it was enjoyable. I would have liked to have participated in track and field events, but my school was too small for that. We didn’t have a swimming pool or a football team: there was boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling (boys only), volleyball (girls only), and cross-country racing (girls and boys, competing separately).

In closing, here’s a great song about baseball…enjoy!

***UPDATE***

…and, the winner: Cincinnati’s home-town hero, Todd Frazier, who was a Little League Champion in 1998! He hit 15 homers in the finale, narrowly edging out rookie Joc Pederson…and Pederson was no slouch. He should hold his head high, IMHO. He has a ton of potential in this, and many seasons to come. Well done, gentlemen – all of you were a joy to watch!

Credit: lasordaslair.com

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