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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

?Pardon Me While I Stand and Applaud": Those Were The Days, 20 June


20 JUNE 2002 St. Louis paid its final respects to Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck, who had died after complications following lung surgery. A public viewing with closed casket was held at Busch Stadium for the 77-year-old announcer, and the bronze statue outside the stadium showing Buck at the mike was loaded with cards, stuffed animals, photographs, and other bric-a-brac in his memory.

Baseball’s nuisances were small indeed compared to the loss our game incurred the day before the Busch memorial, when the news arrived that we had lost a gentleman who made his listeners feel they belonged to his territory even if they never set foot therein or rooted for his core employer. If you were not a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you might stay with a game regardless if your radio picked one up, risking Jack Buck’s evocative deftness at making you a fan for at least that game.

“The basic idea,” he once said, “is to communicate with those who are exiled from the game; in hospitals, homes, those who have seldom seen a game, some who can’t travel to the games, those who are blind. After all these years, I realise that my energy comes from those on the other end.” It is easier to pass a fast ball through the eye of Ichiro Suzuki’s batting arc than to resist the draw of a broadcast prose poet who practises his art from a sensibility like that.

You might return to your customary partisanship when Buck’s day’s work was finished, but you might also nurse a furtive craving for the next chance you might have to become a Cardinal fan for a day by the default of Jack Buck’s congenial rasp of a voice. The citiest slicker or countriest bumpkin, the Californiest beacher or the Georgiest peach, th
e Chicagoest hard boiler or the New Yorkiest night crawler, could never hear him without becoming part of the Midwest and for his Cardinals, even when hearing him anywhere but, broadcasting anyone but.

The call for which he may be remembered best had nothing to do with the Redbirds at all. Splicing it long since onto the television capture of that play has led a generation at least to believe he made the call for the cameras. But he was set in fact in his customary seat behind radio’s microphone, for CBS, Game One of the 1988 World Series as a pinch hitter who should have batted in a wheelchair stood in against Dennis the Menace in the bottom of the ninth.

And somehow, though we knew at core it was due to arrive, we did not believe our game would be honoured no longer by Jack Buck calling one. His duel against Parkinson’s and lung cancer came to the bottom of the ninth, and he went down swinging mightily.

He left a son whose own deftness behind the mike at the ballpark is cured enough with the father’s sensibilities. “We miss him already,” said Joe Buck over the station (KMOX) where his father had become St. Louis. “But I’ve been missing him for months.” The son had also inherited the father’s grasp of proportion.

“Pardon me while I stand and applaud!” Mr. Buck hollered into his microphone, shame nowhere found or heard, after Mark McGwire deposited his Maris-tying line bomb into the left field seats. Surely at least one among previously departed Cardinals, upon Mr. Buck’s arrival to his much-earned reward, said those words precisely. Nor would it have been out of place, necessarily, during the public viewing.

At about the moment he didn’t believe what he saw Kirk Gibson do, someone was on television for NBC calling that incandescent walkoff home run. “The impossible has become t
he improbable,” said Vin Scully. That is probably a fair way to describe St. Louis without Jack Buck, even three years later. St. Louis, and America.

Smith rips one into right . . . down the line . . . it may go—Go crazy, folks, go crazy! It’s a home run! And the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3-2, on a home run by the Wizard!

—Jack Buck, calling Ozzie Smith’s unlikely walkoff homer, winning Game Five of the 1985 National League Championship Series.


20 JUNE 1901: HOME INVASION Honus Wagner became the first 20th Century player to steal home twice in one game. Pittsburgh pitcher Jack Chesbro certainly approved of such burglary: the swipes helped him beat the New York Giants, 7-0.

20 JUNE 1914: MEATHEAD That would be Ty Cobb, getting into a fight with a butcher’s clerk, breaking his thumb, and going on the disabled list until August 13.

20 JUNE 1916: ONE BOMB, ONE STREAK Tilly Walker hit one over the left field wall . . . and it proved the only Boston Red Sox bomb to be hit at Fenway Park on the season, not to mention the only run they scored in a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees.

Meanwhile, Everett Scott, a late-inning Red Sox defencive replacement, launched what proved a 1,307 consecutive-game streak, all at shortstop, and the best such streak—which Scott would finish as a Yankee—until Lou Gehrig.

20 JUNE 1934: HEATING UP The National League pennant race leaders played it wild and high today.

The New York Giants, in first place, smothered the Chicago Cubs, 12-7, with a seven-run third making the big difference, and two bombs by Mel Ott sweetening the pot. T
hat fattened the Giants’ lead over the Cardinals to five games.

The Brooklyn Dodgers had something to do with it, too: Tony Cuccinello’s three-run bomb led a fifteen-hit Bum attack, negating two Pepper Martin hits and a steal of home by the Wild Horse of the Osage, as Van Lingle Mungo beat the Redbirds, 9-5. Mungo, of course, would have something else to say about the final outcome of the NL race, at the Giants’ expense . . .

20 JUNE 1948: SUNDAY PUNCHER For the eighth straight Sunday, Ralph Kiner went yard, en route a season’s tally of seventeen homers in 38 Sunday games.

20 JUNE 1951: ROMPERS Billy Southworth’s first game as manager of the Boston Braves was a romper, and he had Warren Spahn to thank for the most part: Spahn not only shut out the Chicago Cubs, 9-0, but the future Hall of Fame marksman went 3-for-4 with a bomb at the bat.

Meanwhile, Bobby Avila cleared the fence three times and went 5-for-6 overall with fifteen total bases, as the Cleveland Indians slashed the Red Sox, 14-8, Early Wynn going the route to win for the Tribe. Avila, who had only ever hit one bomb off Boston pitching previously, would see his team mark for total bases in a game passed by Rocky Colavito in 1959.

20 JUNE 1962: THE HUNTER GETS CAPTURED The good news for the Amazin’ Mets: Willard Hunter threw a two hitter in the second game of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Braves. The bad news: The two hits flew over the fence, courtesy of Hank Aaron, enabling a Braves sweep, 3-2 in the rain-shortened nightcap and 9-4 in the opener.

20 JUNE 1980: INSANE IN THE BRAIN That is what some must have thought of the one
signing the order, when Leonard Smith was released from Logansport State Hospital and allowed to return home to Gary, Indiana, because psychiatrists proclaimed him no longer mentally ill.

Two years earlier, Smith had killed California Angels outfielder Lyman Bostock with a shotgun blast—intended for another passenger in the car in which Bostock rode, driven by his uncle—and was subsequently acquitted by reason of insanity. Smith at the time was the estranged husband of one of two women in the car.

Smith’s release might have overshadowed one little man having one big day for a California Angels club that was having just as big a day against the Red Sox. Freddie (The Flea) Patek, all 5′4″ of him, swung a bat twice his own size, clearing the fences three times and adding a double for good measure, en route the Angels’ 20-2 burial of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Patek would hit five bombs on the season and 41 lifetime. He hit five in a season five times, six once (in 1971), and averaged four per 162 games. Perhaps needless to say, the Flea’s best asset in playing major league baseball was his defence at shortstop, a range factor .61 above his league average lifetime for the position.

20 JUNE 1994: BRAVE NEW UMPS Why on earth did umpires Dana DeMuth, Tom Hallion, Paul Runge, and Angel Hernandez work the Atlanta Braves-New York Mets game in shorts, Braves T-shirts, and Braves caps?

Because the Braves were kind enough to make sure the arbiters didn’t have to show up in their birthday suits: the umps’ regular equipment was lost in transit before the game.

Such good deeds must have had some cosmic effect: the Braves won the game, 7-3.

20 JUNE 1994: HOLD THOSE TIGERS Or, at least, keep them in the yard at last. The Indians beat the Detroit Tigers, 7-1, and ended the Tigers’ 25-game home run streak, a streak that tied the major league record the Yankees set in 1941.="http://images.google.com/images?q=tbn:3DFXRybnFQUJ:www.celebritydetective.com/images/Ken-Griffey-jr.JPG" align="left">

20 JUNE 2004: DEAR POP—THIS BOMB’S FOR YOU With his father in the stands at Busch Stadium, and Matt Morris on the mound for the Cardinals, Ken Griffey, Jr. in the top of the sixth picked the perfect day to hit one over the right field fence to become the twentieth member of the 500-bomb club: Father’s Day.


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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Oates, Kavanagh, Roberts go into Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame

... philly. com, PA - 10 minutes ago ? Brigham Young center Bart Oates, who later played for the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants, was one of three people inducted i...


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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Series Notes: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox

... postseason, but haven't won a playoff series since defeating the New York Giants in six games in the 1917 World Series ...

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

FRED MERKLE TOPIC IN BOOK (Watertown Daily Times)

In this column we've talked several times about Fred Merkle, a native of Watertown, who had a great career as a major league baseball player but was known throughout most of his life for a mistake he made that cost the New York Giants the pennant back in 1908.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

McKenzie shares insight with county student-athletes (phillyburbs.com)

After four seasons with the Jets, Kareem McKenzie signed a long-term free agent contract with the New York Giants in March. Pretty good for a guy that didn't even like football as a sophomore at Willingboro.


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