The name on the front of the jersey

Jeter Rivera

Future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Yankees throughout their careers…quite a rarity these days.

Gehrig. Feller. Williams. Musial. Banks. Stargell. Yastrzemski. Bench. Yount. Ripken. The list goes on and on. Many of baseball’s all-time greats never changed uniforms in their lengthy big league careers. Of course that’s a rarity now, which makes present-day Yankees greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter all the more unusual.

I grew up in an era when baseball was changing dramatically. In the 1970s, as the DH rule and free agency hit baseball, longtime stars suddenly started moving from team to team. I remember thinking how strange it was to see Catfish Hunter become a Yankee, but superstars changing uniforms quickly became the norm. Continue reading

Puig: Astounding to date, but not a Hall of Famer just yet

Eric Young & Mike Piazza

Two future major leaguers, Eric Young and Mike Piazza, as Albuquerque Dukes in 1993.

Twenty years ago I had the good fortune of working in the front office of the old Albuquerque Dukes as Mike Piazza blazed his way through town on his way to the Dodgers and, I expect (steroid rumors aside), ultimately the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a classic phenom – a late round draft pick taken primarily as a favor to Tommy Lasorda who blossomed into maybe the best-hitting catcher in baseball history.

However, I also remember Raul Mondesi, who had almost as meteoric a rise through the system and to the majors. He was yet another Dodgers product who became a Rookie of the Year, and yet another phenom. He had some very good years, but he never reached the greatness predicted for him when he arrived in the big leagues., and instead of a storied Dodgers career he ultimately wore the uniforms of seven different franchises. Continue reading

Game Seven

As the FOX commentators droned on toward the end of Game 6 of the NLCS about how “there’s nothing like a Game 7 in all of sports,” one of my happiest thoughts was that I’d get to enjoy Game 7 without Joe Buck repeatedly touting the Sunday NFL broadcast schedule or Tim McCarver butchering historical facts like how Willie McCovey fared in his debut game (It was 1959, not ’58, and he didn’t hit three triples in that game. He went 4-for-4 with two triples and two singles against Robin Roberts. Any dyed-in-the-wool Giants fan knows this and so much more that the national broadcasters fail to recognize. And that’s true for fans of any team…these guys need to do their homework before they start throwing out historical anecdotes.).

Anyway, enough about MLB on FOX. I grabbed tickets for Game 7 while Ryan Vogelsong was throttling the Cards in Game 6. Despite some pre-game raindrops and a veritable downpour in the ninth inning, Marco Scutaro caught that final popup and my daughter and I got to enjoy one of the great moments in San Francisco Giants history in person…the 2012 National League pennant. On to the World Series!

A few scenes from the day, thanks to my trusty iPhone:

Meeting Vida

Vida Blue

Vida Blue in his heyday with the Oakland A’s

Vida Blue was one of my baseball idols growing up. He was with the A’s and then the Giants throughout my childhood. I remember actually crying when the Giants traded him to Kansas City before the 1982 season. He was the one guy who was in the Bay Area playing for my teams from the time I could remember all the way up to then. McCovey had retired. Catfish was long gone. Vida was the last one. So I took it kinda hard.

He ran into trouble in KC…part of the infamous cocaine trials of the mid-1980s that scarred baseball for a time. But he paid the price, got straight, and a few years later was back in the Bay Area again, with the Giants to finish his career. And later he went to work in the Giants front office – community relations and such – for many years.  He still works with the Giants and last year appeared on TV with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area too. Continue reading