In November of '02, I started Bronx Banter on Blogspot. The next year I took it to All-Baseball.com, and for the past four seasons, I've been with the crew at Baseball Toaster. It’s been a great run and a true honor to blog alongside the talent here. Now, Bronx Banter is moving again, this time to the SNY network of blogs.
The new address is www.bronxbanterblog.com.
The Banter writing crew, Cliff Corcoran, Bruce Markusen, Emma Span and Will Weiss, are all coming along, I retain complete editorial control, and the new spot will be poppin. Please jern us. Once again, I want to say what a great time we've had here at Toaster. Special thanks to Ken Arneson for making the transition a smooth one.
Thanks, and as Kane says:
Last Chance for Romance?
After three games, the aggregate score of the World Series is dead even at 10-10, but if the Rays don't win tonight, this thing could be over, as Cole Hamels would pitch for the title tomorrow. Given that this has the potential to be the most exciting World Series since 2001, it would be a shame for it not to go at least six, and preferably seven games, but the last World Series to start off like this also ended in five games as the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 fall classic. I explain in my preview of Game 4, which is up over at SI.com.
Three games in, and this has been a fun, competitive World Serious. The Rays were down 4-1, came back to tie the game, but the Phils pulled it out with a cheap hit in the bottom of the ninth.
Go Baseball! Hope we get four more just like it.
All of the baseball cards that I use to illustrate my posts are from my personal collection, which includes every regular-issue Topps set dating back to 1979. The first complete set I ever owned was the 1987 set. It remains one of may favorites both because of its nostalgic significance to me, and because of its appealing design and fine photography. With the recent quasi-retirements of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (the latter of whom was pictured on the first card in the first pack of 1987 Topps cards I ever bought, his .223 average prompting me to think he was some skinny slap-hitting nothing), the last remaining active player who had a card in the 1987 set is Jamie Moyer (Moyer's then-teammate Greg Maddux is the only other active player from the 1986 season, but his first Topps card was a 1987 traded card). I had written Moyer off as a scrub in the early '90s. He was released by the Rangers after the 1990 season and spent most of the 1991 and all of the '92 seasons in the minors, and I figured he was just another anonymous face on a baseball card that I'd never see again.
Instead, Moyer quickly resurrected his career with the Orioles and, after a quick layover in Boston, emerged as an unconventional star with the Mariners just before the turn of the century. Last October, I found myself at his locker in Citizens Bank Park, interviewing him about Coors Field in anticipation of his Game 3 NLDS start, and now, 21 years after I pulled his rookie card out of a pack I bought on a trip to the mall with my mom, he's starting his first World Series game at the age of 45, and I'm writing about how he could cost the team he grew up rooting for a chance at its second championship, for SI.com. I guess we've both come a long way.
Incidentally, the sight of Moyer in a Cubs cap on this card reminds me of the ex-Cub factor, a theory which was popularized in the 1980s stating that the winner of a playoff series could be determined by finding out which team had fewer former Cubs on its roster. The 2001 Diamondbacks (and the 2003 Cubs, who actually won a playoff series themselves) blew a hole in the theory, but for yucks, Phillies Moyer, Matt Stairs, and Scott Eyre outnumber the Rays' lone ex-Cub, Cliff Floyd, three to one.
Finally, here's the factoid from the back of the pictured card: "Jamie pitched 3 consecutive No-Hitters at Souderton Area High Scool, Souderton, Pa. in 1980." Yes, 1980.
Card Corner--Roger Repoz
Most baseball fans who navigate the internet know of the man named “Repoz,” the pseudonym for Darren Viola, who selects and introduces articles for Baseball Think Factory. But where did that nickname come from? We can thank a former Yankee outfielder from the 1960s for that little invention.
Roger Repoz (pronounced re-POZE, as in someone “lying in repose”) not only had a lyrical name, but also seemed destined to become a major league superstar. Some members of the Yankee organization regarded him as the next Roger Maris, but Repoz (seen here in his 1966 Topps card) would end up settling for a career that was more along the lines of Roger Cedeno or Roger Metzger. As if the Maris comparisons weren’t stressful enough, many New York writers and fans began referring to Repoz as the “next Mickey Mantle,” in part because he shared a blonde crew cut and a powerful uppercut swing with the legendary Mantle.
Playing for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens and employing a newfound batting stance in 1965, Repoz emerged as a top-flight Yankee prospect, prompting minor league manager Frank Verdi to call him the best everyday player in the International League. Shortly thereafter, Repoz earned a mid-season promotion to the Yankees, with mediocre old favorite Horace Clarke sent back to Triple-A to make room for the young outfielder. (That exchange, in and of itself, should have been something of a harbinger of doom.) Given his talent, Repoz seemed like a can’t-miss superstar in waiting. An excellent defensive outfielder with the speed to play center field, Repoz also owned the kind of left-handed pull hitter’s swing that made him a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium.
With everything in place, including an opportunity to play for a team in decline, Repoz should have continued the Yankees’ long line of center field greatness. So what the heck happened? Repoz may have had a smooth, picturesque swing that produced 23 home runs over parts of three seasons in pinstripes, but he struck out too much, tried to pull the ball too frequently, tinkered with his batting stance endlessly, and couldn’t touch left-handed pitching. Soon realizing that he would never transform himself into the next Mantle or Maris, the Yankees traded Repoz to the Kansas City A’s as part of a package for pitcher Fred Talbot and catcher Billy Bryan. When the A’s came to the same realization as the Yankees, they sent him to the California Angels for pitcher Jack Sanford and outfielder Jack Warner.
Repoz’ fortunes continued to flutter in Anaheim, but he did play better for the Angels than he had for the Yankees or the Athletics. In 1968, Repoz put together his finest season, an ironic development given that it coincided with “The Year of the Pitcher.” He batted a not-so-terrible .240 and reached then career highs with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs, totals that would have been even higher if he had not missed nearly 30 games while serving as a private first class in the National Guard. In assessing his 1968 breakout, Repoz gave much of the credit to his use of an Exer-Genie, an exercise machine developed by NASA for astronauts who needed to work out in the confined quarters of a spacecraft. If only the Angels had played their games in outer space.
After a miserable 1969 season—the only bright spot was a career-high 60 walks—Repoz rebounded in 1970, launching a career-high 18 home runs in 407 at-bats. The Angels rewarded his power surge by making a trade with the White Sox for Gold Glove center fielder Ken Berry, which made Repoz the odd man out in the Angels’ outfield. With Berry flanked by the enigmatic Alex Johnson in left and the comebacking Tony Conigliaro in right, Repoz’ days as an everyday outfielder had come to an abrupt end.
By 1972, Repoz’ career reached a crossroads. No longer in California’s plans (and now sporting some of the worst sideburns in the game), Repoz found himself exiled to the Orioles’ organization, where he resurfaced as an everyday outfielder in Rochester. Playing for the Triple-A Red Wings, Repoz earned the nickname “Rocket Man” because of the lengthening distance of his home runs. But then in August, he took a backward turn, enduring a 4-for-45 slump that resulted in a barrage of boos from Rochester fans.
Repoz’ 1972 struggles convinced him to seek employment elsewhere. Like other onetime Yankees Clete Boyer and Joe Pepitone, Repoz signed a lucrative contract for $123,000 with the Taimeiyo Lions of the Japanese Leagues. That might not sound like a lot of money, but it made him more highly paid than many established stars in the major leagues at the time. His new Japanese contract brought a new set of expectations, with Asian fans but merely expecting him to emerge as the “next Sadaharu Oh.” That never happened, leaving fans with a sense of disappointment once shared by fans of the Yankees.
So by the end of his playing days, Repoz had managed to disappoint two sets of fans on two different continents. That should have guaranteed that he become forgotten in the baseball world, but thanks to the work of a man now carrying his name at another web site, that won’t happen for a long, long time.
Bruce Markusen writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLB.com.
Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #45
By Steven Goldman
I don't know if this is my warmest memory of Yankee Stadium. Somehow my memories of the ballpark are more vivid than warm. There's not a lot of romance attached to it. Maybe that's because in the games I have attended as a fan, in my pre-professional days, I've seen a disproportionate number of losses. This is true even of the good years. Resultantly, my inventory of memories stretching back to the 1970s mostly shows visitors like Paul Molitor, Kirby Puckett, and George Brett doing mean things to the Yankees, and mediocre starters like Neil Allen and Joe Niekro doing their desultory best not to lose too badly. Even the things that are vivid involve losses. I was at the 1998 playoff game against the Indians where Chuck Knoblauch failed to pursue a ball that was sitting on the ground right next to him because he was arguing with the umpire, while Enrique Wilson tore around the bases with what proved to be the winning run. It was amazing to hear 40,000 people shouting, "Throw the f**king ball!" in near unison.
Some of my most vivid memories involve personal embarrassment or shame. The 1988 Old Timer's Day game is fixed in my mind not only because of the grand slam that the great Jose Cruz pinch hit against the White Sox, the last home run of his career and his only as a Yankee, but because at almost that same moment my car was being stolen. I was 17; it was the first time I had driven to the ballpark. PS: despite the grand slam, the Yankees lost.
Going back still further, I can remember one of my first trips to the Stadium, if not the first, when I was about five years old. On our way into the building, I had seen a little toy horn that one of the vendors was selling. It was nothing more than a blue tube of plastic with a trumpet-shaped bell at the end. I was, in my childish way, very excited to have it, but as we entered the Stadium, a security guard saw the horn and started screaming at me. "What is that thing? You can't bring that in here!" My parents intervened and the guy relented. I was allowed to bring it in, but with a warning: "Don't make ANY noise with that thing!" For the rest of the game I felt scared, as if I was being watched, as if one wrong move would get us thrown out. I remember nothing about the actual contest, just the powerful feelings of mortification that blotted out all else. I imagine the Yankees lost.
Far more recently, during my professional years, I passed out in the Yankees clubhouse (in front of Tanyon Sturtze's locker—he brought me a chair) and had to be carried out on a stretcher after Gene Monahan administered smelling salts. Thus I have experienced Stadium-based mortification both as a very young child and as an adult. It only remains for me to reap some kind of extreme embarrassment in old age; perhaps I'll soil myself while interviewing Derek Jeter, Jr. at Stadium II.
Mo Money, Mo Problems
Who said sports ain't glamorous?
JR Moehringer won a Pulitzer in 1999 for this article.
Two years earlier, he was nominated for the same award for his piece Resurrecting the Champ, which was made into a movie last year. I didn't see the flick but think the article is a monster, absolutely riveting.
Just check out this classic opening:
I'm sitting in a hotel room in Columbus, Ohio, waiting for a call from a man who doesn't trust me, hoping he'll have answers about a man I don't trust, which may clear the name of a man no one gives a damn about. To distract myself from this uneasy vigil--and from the phone that never rings, and from the icy rain that never stops pelting the window--I light a cigar and open a 40-year-old newspaper. * "Greatest puncher they ever seen," the paper says in praise of Bob Satterfield, a ferocious fighter of the 1940s and 1950s. "The man of hope--and the man who crushed hope like a cookie in his fist." Once again, I'm reminded of Satterfield's sorry luck, which dogged him throughout his life, as I'm dogging him now. * I've searched high and low for Satterfield. I've searched the sour-smelling homeless shelters of Santa Ana. I've searched the ancient and venerable boxing gyms of Chicago. I've searched the eerily clear memory of one New York City fighter who touched Satterfield's push-button chin in 1946 and never forgot the panic on Satterfield's face as he fell. I've searched cemeteries, morgues, churches, museums, slums, jails, courts, libraries, police blotters, scrapbooks, phone books and record books. Now I'm searching this dreary, sleet-bound Midwestern city, where all the streets look like melting Edward Hopper paintings and the sky like a storm-whipped sea. * Maybe it's fatigue, maybe it's caffeine, maybe it's the fog rolling in behind the rain, but I feel as though Satterfield has become my own 180-pound Moby Dick. Like Ahab's obsession, he casts a harsh light on his pursuer. Stalking him from town to town and decade to decade, I've learned almost everything there is to know about him, along with valuable lessons about boxing, courage and the eternal tension between fathers and sons. But I've learned more than I bargained for about myself, and for that I owe him a debt. I can't repay the debt unless the phone rings.
Moehringer is also the author of an acclaimed memoir, The Tender Bar. If you aren't familiar with his work, I highly recommend checking it out. He's one of the best we've got.
I haven't been drawn to Charlie Kaufman's movies (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), at least the ones he's written. So I can't say that I'm falling over myself to see his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York. However, I do admire the Times' film critic, Manohla Dargis, and she gave the movie nothing short of a rave this morning.
Yeah, it took some moxie on the part of Joe Maddon to stick with David Price, who wound up getting the final seven outs for the Rays last night (he also got a key break with a non-call in the ninth). And onions to Price for bending but not breaking.
The Series is tied at one as the action moves to Philly tomorrow night.
The Phillies were supposed to win Game 1 last night behind Cole Hamels, and they did. The Rays are supposed to win Game 2 tonight behind James Shields to salvage a split at home. Result pending. My preview is up on SI.com.
Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #44
By Chris DeRosa
A Goodbye in Eight Games
23 May: Sea 2 @ NY 13
I've only made it to a handful of games in recent years, so with this season being the last chance, I bought a seven-game package and distributed one of each pair of tickets to my family as Christmas presents. My dad and I got a good one to start it off. Andy Pettitte finished off hitters more efficiently than he usually does, and Matsui and Giambi had big games at the plate. Our seats were half-way up in right field, which afforded us a view of the new building. There is some comfort in the fact that it is literally across the street. When you go to new place, you're still making the familiar trip.
The most memorable game that I saw with my dad when it was just the two of us was Old Timers' Day, 1978. This game was a famous one in Yankee political history; they announced Billy Martin would return as manager—bizarrely, a year and a half later—and he got a deafening sustained ovation. We had an old used car at the time, and, getting onto the expressway on the way home, the engine burst into flames and we had to abandon it. There was a group of kids who saw it happen and broke into "Burn, baby, burn—disco inferno!"
19 June: SD 1 @ NY 2
A sunny Thursday afternoon game with my brother Ben, who is a Red Sox fan. As an exercise in nostalgic reverie, having the San Diego Padres as the visiting team is a bit jarring. Do the Tigers or Indians play ever here anymore? The Yankees announce the opposing lineup to the "Imperial March" from Star Wars, which by logic, should obviously be our theme, if you want to embrace the Evil Empire conceit. "It's because they have no sense of humor about themselves," says Ben.
Joba Chamberlain started for the Yanks and held San Diego's minor league lineup in check, striking out nine. In the second, he loaded the bases with no outs, but then he unclogged the inning with a strikeout, a tag out at home from a ball that squirted away from the catcher, and another strikeout. Chamberlain came out for the sixth, struck out the first two guys, and then must have reached 100 pitches, and Girardi took him out. "Why don't you just put him in a bubble?" said Ben.
30 June: Tex 2 @ NY 1
My friend Kevin, who is not a big fan, called me and told me he thought he'd better see Yankee Stadium before they tore it down. I went off the plan and splurged for tickets in Box 628, over third base in the upper deck, because I wanted to show him the sort of seats that will not exist in the new place. He was surprised to learn that Yankee Stadium is freshly painted, made of concrete, and only mildly pungent. He was under the impression that he was going to see some venerable old ballpark with rickety wooden planks and peeling paint.
Even Fruit I Like Room Temperature
Did you ever suck the jelly out of a jelly donut and then fill it with chocolate-swirl ice cream?
Mm'eeeh, could be.
Grace Under Pressure
Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge made like Stravinsky last night and composed a big win for the Phillies.
Philadelphia left a ton of runners on base because the Rays' pitching was excellent too. The experts said that Philly needed to win Game One. Now, let's hope the Rays tie it up tonight and make it a Serious.
It's strangely fitting that the Phillies and Rays are meeting in the latter's first World Series. When then-Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar was assembling what would be the inaugural Rays roster in late 1997, he decided to build his team around pitching and defense. Any good defensive team needs a strong defensive shortstop, so LaMar worked out a deal with the Phillies to draft a young outfielder out of the Astros' system in that November's expansion draft and flip him to Philadelphia for the Phillies good-field/no-hit shortstop Kevin Stocker.
Stocker had taken over the Phillies shortstop job as a rookie in July of their pennant-winning season of 1993 and had since established himself as one of the game's best defenders at the position. A 27-year-old switch-hitter who wouldn't price himself off the team, Stocker was exactly what LaMar was looking for to anchor his new team's infield. The problem was that LaMar had failed to notice the steep drop off in Stocker's defense during the 1997 season. Stocker's glove recovered in 1998, but he had his worst season at the plate, hitting just .208/.282/.313, and his season was mercifully ended a month early when his hand was broken by a pitch. The next year his bat picked up, but his glove work declined again, and knee tendonitis ended his season soon after the All-Star break.
That winter, LaMar scrapped his defense-first concept, signing aging sluggers Greg Vaughn and Vinnie Castilla to join Jose Canseco and original Ray Fred McGriff in the Tampa lineup. Stocker, the symbol of the Rays' abandoned approach of just two years earlier, was released in May. Despite LaMar's shift in focus, the Devil Rays of 2000 once again finished a distant last in the American League in runs scored. Making things worse, the young outfielder Lamar had used as currency to acquire stocker was a 23-year-old Bobby Abreu, who hit .312/.409/.497 as the Phillies' right fielder in the Rays' inaugural season of 1998 and proceeded to perform at a Hall of Fame level over his eight and a half seasons in Philadelphia.
Now, a decade later, LaMar is the Phillies' scouting director, and his team is in the World Series against a Rays' team that produced its first winning season, first playoff berth, first division title, and first pennant in part due to a renewed focus on pitching and defense. The signature player in that renewed focus is Jason Bartlett, a good-field/no-hit shortstop who was acquired for a talented young outfielder. The trick being that Bartlett wasn't the key player in the deal that brought him to Tampa Bay from the Twins, righty starter Matt Garza was, and the outfielder he was traded for, Delmon Young, is no Bobby Abreu, which just goes to prove that intention is only as good as its execution.
To be fair, LaMar deserves to have a better legacy in Tampa Bay. It was under Lamar that the Rays drafted Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, James Shields, B.J. Upton, Andy Sonnanstine, and Young, and it was Lamar who fleeced the Mets in the Scott Kazmir deal. Still, it took a change in ownership and an overhaul of the front office for the Rays to figure out how to make proper use of that bounty.
My point in all of this is that, even in a World Series in which the two combatants have just one prior championship between them (the lowest combined total since 1980 when the Phillies and Royals met, both looking for their first), there is still some history here.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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