Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Blogging: It Ain't Just for Kids Anymore
2008-04-10 09:59
by Alex Belth

Joe Pos has a link to a new blog by veteran columnist Ian O'Connor. Joe asked Ian a few questions in the post, which I thought you might enjoy:

Joe: You grew up a Yankees fan. What year is your favorite Yankees team?

Ian: '78, hands down. I'd totally given up, like every other Yankee fan I knew. The Boston Massacre is still my all-time favorite series, that and Brideshead Revisited on PBS. I count Bucky Dent's homer as the third-best day of my life, right after my wedding day and the birth of my son. In the still of night in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, I'll still occasionally do Bill White's call.

Joe: Who is your favorite Yankees player, first as a fan?

Ian: As a fan, Bobby Murcer. Roy White and Reggie Jackson are right in there, too, Roy for the way he carried himself, Reggie for being Reggie. But Murcer was my guy. No, he didn't turn out to be the next Mickey Mantle as hoped.* There was just something about the way he carried himself. He's obviously dealing with a very serious health issue now. I hope he lives forever.

Pos interlude: *You know, Murcer obviously did not become Mantle. But, in context, his 1971 and 1972 seasons are very Mantle-like. Here's what the numbers look like:

1971: .331/.427/.543, 25 homers, 94 runs, 94 RBIs in 146 games.
1972: .292/.361/.537, 33 homers, 102 runs, 96 RBIs in 153 games.

Excellent numbers. Throw in that Murcer was a very good outfielder (Gold Glove in '72), and you see a really good player. But the numbers deceive because it was such a low-scoring era. Murcer led the AL in on-base percentage, OPS and runs created in 1971, he led in extra base hits, total bases and runs scored in in 1972, Here's what those numbers adjust to if you place him in Yankee Stadium in the mid-1950s:

1971: .362/.461/.591, 27 homers, 108 runs, 108 RBIs.
1972: .328/.399/.601, 39 homers, 133 runs, 125 RBIs.

Back to the interview.

Joe: What about your favorite Yankees player as a columnist?

Ian: Bernie Williams. He was always good to me, for whatever reason, and I always loved the dignified grace on the field. He wasn't Jeter or Rivera, and he wasn't the greatest defensive center fielder by a longshot. But he was very good when it mattered most, and I found him to be a most thoughtful interview.

Man, I miss Bernie. I really do. You can also check out O'Connor's web site here.

2008-04-10 10:17:15
1.   Josh Wilker
A stray comment by O'Connor reminded me of a question I've had lately: Was Bernie really a bad outfielder? I know he slowed down near the end, but when he was younger he seemed to me like a guy with a lot of range. I don't know if the numbers back this up.
2008-04-10 10:26:52
2.   Alex Belth
He did have a lot of range. He used to be able to make up for bad jumps with his speed. Those long legs, man, he really was like a gazelle out there. The bad jumps were the same on the bases so he was never a good base stealer but if he was going from first to third or first to home, he could similarly make up for bad jumps with that speed. His arm was never good though it was never the J. Damon-like mess that it became in the last years. It was competent before that.

From what I recall, and I may have this wrong, he was better at going back on the ball, or back and into the gaps then he was at coming in on them.

He won four gold gloves, which isn't saying anything really I know. I don't think he was that good, but he wasn't awful either. Overall, other than Junior and Edmonds, and maybe A. Jones, Bernie was the best CF of his era.

2008-04-10 10:27:42
3.   JL25and3
1 Bernie at his best was a pretty good centerfielder, though not as good as he should have been.

When he was young, his instincts were pretty terrible. On almost every fly ball hit out there, it seemed, his first step would be in the wrong direction. Fortunately, he had the speed to be able to run down most everything anyway.

As he got older, he didn't always take that first step; he'd just sort of flinch in the wrong direction. But by then he'd lost a step, so those balls went over his head.

That, combined with his shoulder injuries, meant that he became an old center fielder pretty quickly.

2008-04-10 10:30:17
4.   Sliced Bread
Just reading or hearing the name Bernie Williams makes me smile. That's my guy.
For some reason, the first image that comes to mind is him standing at second base, after driving in a go-ahead run, the crowd pumping him up.
Is it just my memory, or did Bernie rip a helluva lotta go-ahead RBI? Anybody got that stat handy, or know where Bernie ranked among his peers in this category?

No shyte about Murcer's early years. Ted Williams thought he'd be the next Triple Crown winner.

1 Don't have the range numbers handy either, but I think you're right. Bernie covered ground back in the day. Took him awhile to get good at catching balls over his head, but he eventually did. (Melky currently needs improvement in this area) Bernie's arm was never better than average, but he was a more than adequate CF in his prime.

2008-04-10 10:32:38
5.   dianagramr
If only Murcer could have found a way to hit in Shea Stadium, he might have spent his entire career as a Yankee .... (sigh)
2008-04-10 10:33:21
6.   Sliced Bread
2 yeah, he was better going back than forward. but I think that's fairly common. they say it's harder to judge the liners.

Melky, however, is naturally better at making the plays in front of him, than the ones he has to turn and run for.

2008-04-10 10:35:18
7.   Sliced Bread
3 I think your Bernie glass is half-empty.
Mine's more than half-full, and, yeah, maybe perhaps a little rose -tinted.
2008-04-10 10:44:08
8.   ToyCannon
Even when I didn't like the Yankee's I liked Bernie Williams.
2008-04-10 10:54:12
9.   Rob Middletown CT
Bernie was my guy too. I love Posada, Jeter, Mo, Paulie, et al as well, don't get me wrong, but I liked Bernie just a wee bit more. Which of course made watching the Ghost of Bernie all the more painful.

I do miss him. Switch hitting CF with patience and (respectable) power? Yeah, and add to that his (by all appearances and accounts) dignified, decent persona.

My favorite Bernie moment was an AB with the bases juiced wherein he forgot the count. He thought ball 3 was ball 4, and started to trot to first. He was called back, clearly embarrassed. Next pitch: grand slam.

Those were the days.

2008-04-10 11:03:46
10.   JL25and3
7 You couldn't misunderstand me more completely. I loved Bernie. Saying Bernie had lousy instincts is precisely like saying that Derek Jeter has lousy range; it's Cindy Crawford's mole.
2008-04-10 11:30:50
11.   Sliced Bread
10 "Bernie at his best was a pretty good centerfielder, though not as good as he should have been."

Sorry, JL, that struck me as a little half-empty, and I'm touchy about his flaws, insignificant as they were. Cindy Crawford's mole. Heh.

re: the go-ahead RBI thing: I also seem to remember quite a few game-tying, and game winning RBI. Seemed like Bernie very often came through with the big hit. I think that's a big part of the Bernie love. That, and the way he carried himself, the dignity and grace everybody talks about.

If he was as prolific at the game-tying, go-ahead, and game-winning RBI as I think he was, would that be enough of a boost to lift him into the Hall? hmmmm. Whatever. Still my guy. Always will be.

2008-04-10 11:48:11
12.   JL25and3
11 "Not as good as he should have been." All I meant was he could have been breathtakingly good, an all-time great. Seriously - can you imagine how good a fielder he might have been if he'd had any kind of baseball instincts?
2008-04-10 12:01:58
13.   horace-clarke-era
I think everyone's saying much the same thing, with shadings of interpretation. I'm in the 'I Love Bernie' camp. Hell, even bought his guitar CD for my mother one Mother's Day!

I find him a poster boy for the gap between obvious personal intelligence and poise and intelligence in or for the game. Some attributed it TO his 'external' intelligence, the idea that to utterly succeed at a thing, that needs to be the ONLY thing for you (Rogers Hornsby never went to movies, for fear of affecting his batting eye ... that kind of thing).

But even with this, it FEELS as if Bernie was fast enough, among other assets, to have been - as JL put it - even better than he was.

I'm not sure, thinking about it, how fair this is ... could an element be the grace ... we look at a churner like Rose or L'il Davey Eckstein and admire pluck and grit making them 'more than they should be' and we look at a smooth, stylish athlete and ASSUME he should be even more?

Does Jeter, in his prime, represent the merger of both? Or Dimaggio?

2008-04-10 12:14:52
14.   standuptriple
I love the "homegrowns" but the ones that turn it up a notch when they show up in pinstripes are the ones that I really enjoy. Saw Brosious while he was in OAK and he was a decent player, so I didn't mind when the Yanks picked him up. To me, it's like investing in penny stocks of fandom. Not much risk, but the rewards can be amazing.
2008-04-10 13:15:53
15.   Zack
13 Mays?
2008-04-10 13:51:03
16.   rsmith51
Bernie was always my favorite. 7 straight .900 OPS seasons for a CF is pretty incredible. He fell off a cliff, however, once his knee was injured. It is too bad he didn't come back better from that.

I always thought that they would retire Bernie's 51 before considering O'Neill's 21.

2008-04-10 14:44:15
17.   horace-clarke-era
15 Zack, I thought about him, but I remember Willie as a kid (me, not him!) along with Mickey. Mays had gave off more sheer energy, power, visible hustle (I'm not putting this well, as we're talking images). The memory of his cap flying off as he fell down on the astonishing throw back in after catching Vic Wertz's fly in the World Series. (Before my time, but we've all seen it, right?)

Dimag never seemed to be working that hard. Though I'm mostly going by descriptions, and we KNOW how skewed they get.

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