I’ll have a Yogi Berra please

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)

While I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Mets (well, and Yankees) legend Yogi Berra this morning. I felt compelled to share a conversation had on my Facebook page during which Yogi gave us one last chuckle.

One commenter suggested that Yogi was the “Arnold Palmer of baseball” to which I responded that we needed to create a drink in honor of him. I came up with the following:

  • Half club soda
  • Half seltzer
  • Half carbonated water

My plan is to order one at a restaurant in the near future. Here is how I envision the conversation:

Me: I have a Yogi Berra.
Server: Never heard of that sir. What is in it?
Me: Easy it is half club soda, half seltzer and half carbonated water.
Server: Okay… Wait… what?

As a youth I proudly wore number 8 in honor of him. He was the manager of the Mets at the time.

Yogi is truly a hero of mine. Not only is he the only person I can think of who bridges the Met-Yankee divide, but his legendary reformulations of quotations are always inspirational.

When speaking I often refer to him as “that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra.” In my book he is up there with Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Will Rogers.

My personal favorite quote: We made too many wrong mistakes.

Much wisdom in that.

RIP, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015)

Proud Dad Moment

“Merkle’s Boner! Merkle’s Boner!” Sean, my son, shouted at the TV to a surprised and somewhat horrified group of relatives last night.

For those of you that are not up to speed on a play that happened a mere 107 years ago, “Merkle’s Boner” is perhaps one of the most infamous (unless you are a Chicago Cubs fan) plays in baseball history.

In the heat of a pennant race, on September 23, 1908, with the scored tied 1-1 and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Moose McCormick was on at third base and Fred Merkle on at first base for the New York Giants. Al Birdwell rocketed a single into center field plating McCormick for the apparent winning run.

Giant’s fans stormed the field as was the custom after every game because the exit was out in centerfield and the Giant’s rookie first baseman, Fred Merkle, never got to second base mostly due to self preservation from the the on coming fans.

Cubs second baseman and future Hall of Famer, Johnny Evers, noticed this and called to centerfielder Solly Hoffman to thrown him the ball. With the Giants and their fans celebrating around him, Evers recevied the ball from Hoffman and promptly stepped on second base forcing out Merkle.

By rule, this would mean the run would not count and the score would remain tied. It was thusly ruled and the game was then scheduled to be replayed at the end of the season should the Giants or Cubs not be the clear winners of the pennant. Well, you can guess what happened. The Cubs and Giants ended the season with identical 98-55 records. The Cubs, this is before the Curse of the Billy Goat, won the game 4-2 and went on to win the 1908 World Series.

 

Now back to August 9, 2015 and Sean’s reaction.

Our family was asembled in the living room watching the end of the Cincinnati Reds/Arizona Diamondbacks game which ended with a bases loaded hit by rookie Chris Owings. The official MLB record says, “Chris Owings singles on a sharp line drive to center fielder Billy Hamilton. Paul Goldschmidt scores. David Peralta to 3rd. Jake Lamb to 2nd.”

Only Jake Lamb and David Peralta never made it to second and third, respectively. Just like in the Merkle game, an alert fielder, this time shortstop Brandon Phillips retrieved the ball, albeit from a security guard, and then tossed it to Hamilton who by this time was near second base. Hamilton caught the ball then touched second base. He then threw the ball to shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who was now standing on first base. Suarez then tossed it third baseman Ivan DeJesus who walked across the field and touched third.

Now this whole thing is just a mess.

First, shame on Peralta and Lamb for not touching the next base. Despite the result (a D-backs win), this was really dumb on each of their parts as the only people storming the field were their own teammates. I personally feel the “walk off” win celebration in the Major Leagues has gotten a bit out of hand.

Second, Phillips, or really Hamilton, should have retrieved the ball himself. Once the security guard touched the ball, it is likely a dead ball, although I am not 100 percent sure about it becasue it was in the field of play and not in the stands. Clearly, if the guard was in the stands and out of play, it is a dead ball and the rest is moot, but it is possible that by ground rule, the security guard on the field might, in fact, be in play. That said, if it is not a ground rule in Arizona then, it is a dead ball and the next paragraph, as mentioned, is moot.

Third, why did the Reds touch second base first? As they needed two outs, not just one, they needed to first force out Peralta at third before forcing out Lamb at second. Touching second base negated the force out at third. They should have first tossed the ball to DeJesus at third for the second out of the inning and then to Phillips, or whoever was at second, perhaps Hamilton. Had the Reds done this, the scoring would have been as follows: 6-5-8, or more precisely, SG (for security guard)-6-5-8. EIther way, it is a pretty odd double play combination.

Fourth, it turns out that all of this is moot because rule 5.08(b) in the 2015 Official Baseball Rules (4.09(b) in previous editions) reads, “When the winning run is scored in the last half-inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases full which forces the runner on third to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home base and the batter-runner has touched first base.” I hope this rule gets changed, it should require all runners touch the next base to which they are forced.

Fifth and lastly, I am very proud of my son for recognizing the situation and making the connection to the Merkle play. And, that is really why I wrote this post.

On September 21, 2001

I was blessed in that the only person I personally knew who perished in the terrorist attacks was a friend of my cousin Thomas with whom I have played golf with a few times. For many, I know the tragedy hit much closer to home. This is not to say I was not affected by the events of that awful day, but as I reflect back, it was ten years ago today that my personal healing process with respect to 9/11 began.

When it was announced that my beloved New York Mets were going to play in the first professional sports event to be held in New York City after the attacks, I knew I wanted to be there. Although truth be told, it was probably Christine (now my wife) who suggested it out loud.

So, we purchased tickets.

21September2001

For those of you not familiar with the layout of Shea Stadium, Section 1, Row V is the last row of the upper deck and directly behind home plate. From this vantage point we had not only a view of the entire stadium, but by turning around we could view the smoke still rising from Ground Zero.

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As the immense crowd of 41,000+ swelled, I realized that we were not there for the Mets, but for ourselves. We were there out of defiance to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. “You will NOT make us live in fear!” was the collective thought of everyone in the ballpark including the ballplayers and coaches.

The visiting (and usually much hated) Braves received a standing ovation as they were announced. The two like-named, but stylistically diametrically opposed managers, Bobby Cox and Bobby Valentine hugged at home plate. The virtual United Nations on the field including: Bruce Chen of Taiwan; Andruw Jones from Curacao; Julio Franco from the Dominican Republic; Tsuyoshi Shinjo from Osaka, Japan; Edgardo Alfonso from Venezuela; Rey Ordonez from La Habana, Cuba; Mike Piazza from Norristown, PA; and John Franco from Brooklyn, was matched in the assembly of New Yorkers including a native of Jamaica (the island, not Queens) who with his two kids sat next to me and a Hassidic (Orthodox Jewish) family who sat directly in front of us.

We all cheered Yankee fan Mayor Rudy Giuliani as he came out to throw the ceremonial first pitch, cried during the National Anthem sung by Diana Ross, and sang New York, New York with Liz Minnelli during the seventh inning stretch. The Mets wore caps representing New York’s Finest and Bravest (the police, fire and other emergency personnel) during the game. (John Franco would wear his FDNY hat the rest of the year.)

After falling behind by one in the top of the eighth, Alfonzo walked on a close pitch from Steve Karsay. What happened next could only be the stuff of Providence or Hollywood.

 

This was a monster blast of at least 440 feet. From my seat it looked like a line drive, “a frozen rope” as old-timers say. I hugged Christine and the kids; the man from Jamaica hugged his; the Hassid hugged his; we all hugged each other.

With the Mets now ahead 3-2, Armando Benitez (also from the Dominican Republic) gave up a walk to Javier Lopez (Puerto Rico), struck out B.J. Surhoff (from the Bronx), and enticed Keith Lockhart to ground into a game-ending double play. I am certain radio announcer, Bob Murphy said his trademarked, “…and the Mets win the ball game!”

The healing did not occur all at once, and in some sense it will always continue, but for me, it began that night at the ballpark.

God bless America! God bless Baseball!