Catch Mickey Mantle’s Home Run Ball

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Copyright, Tony Castro. This animated graphic was created by author Tony Castro for The Official Web Site for Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (Brassey’s Books, 2002)

 

Joe DiMaggio Born 101 Years Ago Today

 

Joe DiMaggio, whose 56 consecutive game hitting record will never be broken, was on this day — November 25, 1914 — 101 years ago. Happy Birthday, Joltin’ Joe!

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The Ghost of Pete Reiser Haunts Matt Kemp

Pete Reiser, far right, with 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers teammates Dixie Walker, Joe Medwick, Dolph Camilli.

Pete Reiser, far right, with his 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers teammates Dixie Walker, Joe Medwick, Dolph Camilli. Reiser never fully recovered from crashing into an outfield wall,. So is the ghost of his demise haunting Matt Kemp  this season?

NO ONE CONNECTED to the Dodgers dares admit that he ghost of Pete Reiser looms somewhere in the distant outfield, and the lament that he could have been one of the greatest.

For if there was a field of dreams, Pete Reiser seemed to play on the field of nightmares.

How good was he?

Years after Reiser had left the game, Leo Durocher — who was his manager with the Dodgers — said he had seen only one baseball player who was as good.

That player was Willie Mays, who may only have been the greatest all-round player in the game. And in Durocher’s eyes Reiser might have one day had people using that Bernard Malamud line from “The Natural” – that he was the best there ever was.

What happened to centerfielder Pete Reiser, who as a rookie in 1941 helped the Brooklyn Dodgers capture the pennant while he won the National League batting title and led the league in almost every offensive category?

Reiser played the outfield recklessly, almost foolishly some said.

And the following season, while he was hitting .383 in August, Reiser chased down a fly ball with such reckless disregard for his body that he ran full speed into an outfield wall.

He was never the same player again.

If you’re a student of baseball – all of it, not just the fantasy-era age of the game — you can’t help but be reminded of Reiser when you see a player suffer some similar mishap from playing so recklessly.

And, of course, the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp comes to mind.

Late in August 2012, the same month Reiser was hurt 70 years earlier, Kemp ran into the centerfield wall at Coors Field at full speed, chasing a booming drive off the bat of the Rockies’ Josh Rutledge in the first inning of a game.

Kemp, who had missed time with two separate disabled-list stints last season related to hamstring problems, has not been the same since that game.

The initial report was that Kemp had suffered a right knee contusion. But then in early September his shoulder began bothering him.

Finally, in October 2012, Kemp underwent shoulder surgery, an arthroscopic procedure on his left shoulder on a torn labrum and a frayed rotator cuff.

Afterward, doctors admitted the damage was more extensive than originally believed.

“Matty was very open to me about how he felt, and right from the time he got hurt, he was never comfortable,” said Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart. “There were periods when it wasn’t as painful, but he was never comfortable swinging the bat after he ran into the wall.

“But he kept playing because he wanted to be there for the team. With a possible playoff spot, he didn’t want to sit. Nothing anybody could say or do could make him take time off.”

But the impact of Kemp crashing into that wall is still being felt today.

After another injury shortened 2013, Kemp ha been off to a better start at the plate this season, and the standard line this spring from him and manager Don Mattingly had been that there was no concern.

But it’s obvious he’s not the old Matt Kemp. He is hitting .221 with four homers and only eight runs batted in.

He has been in the news more for being involved in the Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling situation than for his baseball. Kemp is one of the black athletes mentioned in the tape recording of Sterling’s racist rants to his girlfriend that led to him being banned for life from the Clippers and the NBA.

Kemp’s response to the incident was to cleverly change the music played for him as he goes to bat each time to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.”

The former All-Star outfielder wants the focus on his baseball, and the Dodgers — including the hierarchy — have long insisted that Kemp is healthy, even thought today he has not returned to every day playing status.

“I would tell you, internally, that we’re all assured that he isn’t [hurt], you know? So, he’s not,” says Dodgers president Stan Kasten. “We can’t really put our finger on it. We certainly can’t blame it on that, because he assures us he’s not hurt. The doctors, the trainers have all assured me that he’s not hurt, that it’s just something he’s working through.”

Kemp is in the third year of an eight-year, $160 million deal. It’s been more than three weeks since he had a game like the old Kemp, slugging a pair of homers in a 6-2 win over the Giants, his first first homers he’d hit at Dodger Stadium since Sept. 30, 2012..

“That’s when I know I’m seeing the ball good, when I drive the ball to right field like that,” Kemp said. “That’s my swing right there. I just feel great. I don’t want to continue talking about injuries.”

Mattingly has  said the Dodgers will still be taking it slow with Kemp, trying to show patience as he works his way back into form.

“I still got to do the same things in terms of kind of breaking him in, not just throwing him out there and letting something else happen to him,” says Mattingly. “But we’ve never really put our full club out there on a consistent basis.”

Kemp wants to see the return of his old self, as does everyone else.

No one wants to even contemplate the ghost of Pete Reiser.

“Pete had more power than Willie — left-handed and right-handed both,” Durocher once said. “He had everything but luck.”

 

Why Valenzuela Should Be the Dodgers’ Next Skipper

Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, waving to the crowd, is the logical choice to be the team's next manager. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela is the logical choice to be the team’s next manager. (AP Photo)

WHEN THE DODGERS replaced the Yankees as the team with the highest payroll this year, they also assumed the great expectations that come with spending that kind of money in America’s national pastime.

But a little over a month into the season, the only thing that Dodgers and the Yankees have in common is an abnormal rash of injuries to stars that have put too any multi-million-dollar players on the Disabled List.

Playing with subs and journeyman players, though, the Yankees are in first place in their America League division. The Dodgers, with most of their injured stars back in the lineup, occupy last place in their National League division.

Understandably, fans and sportswriters have begun calling for the firing of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, once a star with the Yankees but with no real connection to the Los Angeles team and a contract that expires this season.

It is a monumental disappointment. The Dodgers were sold last year for a record $2.2 million, ridding Los Angeles of the previously owner who was widely despised.

Heightening the disillusionment was that the team first celebrated the Jackie Robinson film “42,” and now has been upstaged by that Hollywood motion picture being the only positive thing you can associate with the Dodgers.

The situation is so bad that a leading national writer with Fox even predicts that Mattingly will be sacked as early as this Thursday.

It has raised the subject of who will replace Mattingly, with the usual names popping up, but importantly they are names that reflect on noticeable shortcoming for the times.

None of those names are of Hispanics.

And yet these are Dodgers who hold themselves up as the model for racial inclusion. They are the team that broke baseball’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson in 1947. They are among the first teams that began a widespread recruitment in Latin America, even opening the first baseball camp for that purpose in the Dominican Republic.

But the expected firing of Don Mattingly opens a tremendous opportunity for the Dodgers to make another historic statement in the hiring of a Latino manager.

Ozzie Guillen heads the list of experienced Latino managers who are available. He managed the Miami Marlins last season, and he won a World Series in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox.

Of couse, diehard Latino fans say the Dodgers have perfect Hispanic former player who comes to each game and who would be the ideal Latino Dodger manager.

Former pitching great Fernando Valenzuela, who thrilled Dodger fans with Fernandomania a generation ago, is one of the team’s Spanish-speaking radio announcers.

As such, he is intimately familiar with the team’s players and knows their strengths and limitations. He also has coaching experience, having been he pitching coach for the Mexican national team in the World Baseball Classic.

Earlier this year, passing Fernando in the press box, I asked him the question, though at the time it was completely academic as the season had just begun.

“Ever think about managing?” I asked him in Spanish.

Vez en cuando,” he said. From time to time.

The Dodgers have their next manager in house, if they’re anywhere as smart as they are rich.

They insist they are staying with Mattingly but for how long?

Fernando has no managing experience. You can hear them saying when that moment does come.

That’s true. But then that’s the same amount that Don Mattingly had when they gave him the job.

Will they discriminate in their thinking in hiring a new manager who is Latino and bleeds real Dodger blue?

2016 and the inevitability of Jeb Bush

Will Jeb Bush, right, in the family tradition, run for the presidency in 2016, following dad George and brother George W.?

Will Jeb Bush, right, in the family tradition, run for the presidency in 2016, following dad George H.W. and brother George W.?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took a first step toward a 2016 presidential run Friday when he led a Miami gathering of Republican insiders mapping out how to appeal to Hispanics in future national campaigns.

Bush, the brother and son of the two last Republican presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, is at the heart of those GOP Latino-wooing dreams for both personal and political reasons.

“His Hispanic family ties and his pro-Latino record make Jeb Bush the face of any serious Republican effort to extend a sincere olive branch to Hispanic voters,” says California consultant William Orozco.

Bush’s wife is Mexican-American. He speaks Spanish fluently. And Bush himself has a long history advocating a comprehensive immigration reform.

But Bush’s Achilles Heel in seeking the 2016 nomination, say critics, is the suspicion of him by conservatives and Tea Partiers, though the 2012 presidential campaign debacle may have softened their strength

“I feel confident the governor would dispel any concerns about his conservative bona fides the minute he entered the race, if he does,” says longtime Bush friend Al Cardenas, former head of the Florida GOP and chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Cardenas also has told reporters since last November’s election that seeking the presidency “continues to intrigue him, given how much he has to share with the country.”

The Miami meeting Friday was organized by the Hispanic Leadership Network, a conservative group intent on broadening the Republican Party’s appeal among Hispanic voters, especially in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Cardenas’ American Conservative Union has removed any doubt of how quickly the jockeying for 2016 is happening with its 2013 CPAC March 14-16 in Washington, D.C., that is developing as a possible preview to the Republican presidential field.

Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are among the announced featured speakers along with new Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Early GOP favorites for 2016 also include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

A recent Florida Insider Poll of more than 100 of Florida’s most important political campaign operatives, fundraisers, lobbyists and insiders found that 62 percent expect Bush to run in 2016 while only 45 percent think Rubio will.

Meanwhile, another survey of 400 Latino voters in each of four key states – Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida – lambasted the GOP for failing connect with Hispanic voters.

“The results make clear the size of the hole Republicans have dug among Hispanic voters over the past eight years,” the survey’s authors reported.

“If Republicans achieve 40 percent or more of Hispanics nationally, they can elect conservative Republicans to national office. Settling for a quarter or less of the Hispanic vote nationally will relegate Republicans to a regional party with few national prospects.”

It is largely to try to answer the challenges posed by that study that Friday’s meeting was taking place, according to a national Republican insider.

Jeb Bush, the insider said, is riding a tidal wave of credibility because of his Hispanic connections and favorability among Latinos.

In California, though, some Republicans close to Bush are concerned that the former governor may only be using this time as a stalking horse for Rubio, who has been like a protégé.

“We know Jeb and we would rally around him in an instant,” said the California supporter. “We don’t know Marco, and Jeb may just be clearing the field of other likely contenders for him as well as lining up contributors so that they don’t align themselves with anyone else.”

But clearly Jeb Bush already has a strong base.

Florida political blogger Steve Kurlander calls him “the most formidable — and electable — candidate for the Republican Party right now.”

“Jeb, with his successful record as governor and his recent realistic stances in addressing major inadequacies in the GOP’s positions on immigration and social issues, is the only national figure in the Republican stable who can both turn around the GOP and run nationwide and, possibly, win in 2016,” writes Kurlander.

Bush’s two sons have also recently staked out their own political paths.

George P. Bush, 36, has filed paperwork in Texas for a run at becoming the state’s land commissioner. Jeb Bush Jr., 29, has founded a political action committee, Sun Pac, to promote and recruit conservative Latino political candidates.

“The old line that blood is thicker than water is never truer than in politics,” says political consultant Orozco. “And it sounds like Jeb Bush’s family is circling the wagons to do something big.”

 

The Hispanic Power Ranger Unmasks Obama

Obama heard loudly about what a disappointment he has been to Hispanics when Univision anchor Jorge Ramos insistently hammered the President about his failure to keep his promise of getting comprehensive immigration reform. (Unisivion)

“MEN GO TO BED WITH GILDA,” Rita Hayworth used to lament about her unhappy love life. “They wake up with me.”

Gilda had been the role in a film of the same name that made Hayworth a Hollywood cultural icon. But that image was a far cry from her real self, the legendary actress said, and the disillusion often led to disappointment.

But then, illusion has always been a powerfully seductive aphrodisiac, not only sexually but also politically, as we all usually find out, though too late.

In 2008, America went to bed with the hope and change promises of Barack Obama, and four years later the infatuation remains so strong that polls show the country will likely ignore waking up every day to the worst economic crisis since the Depression and the nation more bitterly divided than at any time since the Civil War.

On Thursday, Obama heard loudly about what a disappointment he has been to Hispanics when Univision anchor Jorge Ramos insistently hammered the President about his failure to keep his promise of getting comprehensive immigration reform in the first two years of his administration when he had a Democratic House and Senate.

“I want you to acknowledge that you did not keep your promise,” Ramos said to him Spanish language Univision presidential forum live-streamed and broadcast nationally in Spanish and in English on Facebook.

Confronted like that, almost at the start of an hour-long historic event for Latino voters in the U.S., what was our political Gilda to say?

His defense was that the promise to Hispanics had been forced to take a back seat to the plummeting economy and Obama seemingly so one-minded as to feel he could not champion two causes at the same time.

Fighting to stave off another Great Depression was his reason, which is a great answer if you don’t consider that what the country got instead was an Obama Depression, and now a lot of nice sounding blame-it-on-the-economy excuses like:

“Even in that first year, one of my first acts was to invite every member of Congress who (supports)… comprehensive immigration reform to the White House and say, we need to get this done… What I confess I did not expect… is that Republicans who had previously supported comprehensive immigration reform… suddenly would walk away. That’s what I did not anticipate.”

To which Jorge, who sounded like the second coming of French Revolution crusading journalist Jean Paul Marat’s “I am the rage of people,” didn’t let up.

“You promised that,” he confronted the president again. “A promise is a promise. With all due respect you didn’t keep that promise.”

You have to admire Jorge, especially when you consider that some might wonder if he’ll still have a job tomorrow morning or perhaps find himself in Mexico covering the drug cartels.

His ultimate boss is Univision chairman Haim Saban, the billionaire Democratic donor whose wife Cheryl only yesterday was named the American representative to the United Nations by President Obama. How cozy can you get, some might say.

Only in American politics can you get an Egyptian born Israeli-American television and media magnate, best known in pop culture for giving us “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” children’s series, who is now head honcho of possibly the only network with an anchor with enough cojones to tell the president that he’s been an utter failure on the issue dearest to the heart of many Latinos.

That kind of chutzpah must make Jorge Ramos the Hispanic Power Ranger, huh?

It has taken until 47 days before the election for someone in the mainstream news media – and Univision with Hispanic Power Ranger Ramos and partner Maria Elena Salinas certainly belong there with any of the networks hosting the debates – to publicly but respectfully before a national audience pull back the curtain on our Gilda, our wizard, and say, “Hey, you weren’t who we thought you were,” while Obama seemed to say “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

This was the best political show since Clint Eastwood and his empty chair showed us what a movie star’s brain looks like in old age.

Of course, immigration obviously is not the only issue in the election, nor the biggest facing the country, but it is immigration that perhaps has provided the window to see how the hypnotic politics of charisma can sometimes lead an enchanting politician to make promises he likely had no intention of keeping and thinking there will be no one authoritative enough or un-cowardly lion enough go call him on it.

Unfortunately, none of this will likely change the election one way or the other. Obama may be some powerless wizard – he told Ramos and Salinas he was not “all-powerful president,” after all – but Mitt Romney has probably painted himself as the Wicked Witch of the West in the eyes of too many voters, Latinos included.

So America is stuck with whichever of the mixed metaphors it chooses: The unpowerfully powerful “I don’t know how it works” wizard or the alluring sexy pin-up Gilda.

Rita Hayworth herself may have offered the best advice of how to look at people like her alter ego.

“I never really thought of myself as a sex goddess,” she said. “I felt I was more a comedian who could dance.”

Yankees See ‘No Risk’ in Pettitte’s Comeback

Brian Cashman with once and future starter Andy Pettitte

Brian Cashman: “We did not want Andy to retire (in 2010). Andy was still well above average as a starter, and so I thought he pulled the plug too soon. He didn’t shut  it down for injury or anything of that nature. Now how does he respond to being a year out? I don’t know. I mean, I believe he’ll be fine because he did the transition from power pitcher from the left side to (a pitcher) with real pitchability after all the injuries he suffered during his career… so I’ve got to believe all the equipment is there. So we’re rip rearin’ to go, but we’ll see. There’s no downside. There’s only upside, and in Andy’s case: No risk no reward. But obviously he wants to be a part of winning another championship, and he wants to go out there and again hopefully be a part of something special. But you have to take risks to get there. So  that’s what competitors do. They’re not afraid to put themselves in the middle of the arena.”

The Much-Hoped-For Comeback of Andy Pettitte

A CRUCIAL GAME, be it the playoffs, the World Series or even a division leading battle with the Red Sox, who would you rather see on the mound for the Yankees? Miguel Pineda, throwing a 91-mph fastball that’s going to likely wind up in the seats, Hiroki Kuroda possibly getting a shot off his head…
Or 39-year-old Andy Pettitte who has been there, done that so many times when the Yankees badly needed a win?
As of Friday, you can put you money on Pettite who came out of retirement not for the money — he could have had millions more if he’d done it two months ago — but because he loves it.
“This is all about me having the desire to do this again,” said Pettitte, who signed a non-guaranteed, $2.5 million Minor League contract. “For what I’m coming back and playing for, it’s an awful lot of money and I realize that, but it’s a long ways away from what we were talking about in January. But I have a desire to work again.”

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