Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baseball Thoughts

I was home sick yesterday and was watching the Nationals home opener on TV when I learned that both Harry Kalas and Mark "The Bird" Fidrych had died.

Fidrych came on the scene in 1976 as a guy who made minimum salary, cleaned up the pitching mound with his hands and would talk to the baseball. He resembled Big Bird from Sesame Street. He beat the Yankees on June 28, 1976. We all saw it on Monday Night Baseball, which was a big deal then as the only national games we'd get on TV were Saturday's NBC Game of the Week and Monday Night Baseball. Fidrych started the All Star game in July 1976 but got shelled and laughed about it as he was like a kid out there on the mound. He finished the season 19-9 and had 24 complete games for a bad Tigers team. Injuries cut his career short, first a knee injury, then his shoulder. He pitched parts of four more seasons in the majors but was never the same and retired for good in 1981.

Kalas was the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and he also was the narrator for NFL Films. I adopted the Phillies as my favorite National League team as occasionally my Dad would bring me along on his business trips and we would go to games at the Vet. I used to pick up games on my Panasonic Tech 1000 radio and I’d follow the Phils and other teams. No ESPN, internet, baseball package and mass media we have today.

My fondest memory of Harry Kalas at work was back when I was at Elon College (North Carolina) during the Fall of 1980. My buddies went out carousing on a Saturday night and I didn’t want to miss the Phils key divisional battle with the Expos. No TV then, so for me, my Saturday night was an empty dorm room, a six pack of Bud, the Panasonic and Harry’s call of the game. I got to hear Harry's call of Mike Schmidt's homer that gave the Phillies the NL East title. Great moment, something I won’t forget.

While reminiscing about baseball yesterday I came up with some great baseball nicknames that we'd hear or read about while growing up in the '70's. There are many more but off the top of my head I came up with:

Pops (Willie Stargell)
Candyman (John Candelaria)
Lefty (Steve Carlton)
The Bird (Mark Fidrych)
Cakes (Jim Palmer)
Mr. October (Reggie Jackson)
The Mad Hungarian (Al Hrabowsky)
The Goose (Rich Gossage)
Louisiana Lightning (Ron Guidry)
Charlie Hustle (Pete Rose)
Sarge (Gary Matthews)
The Human Vacuum Cleaner (Brooks Robinson)
The Capital Punisher or Hondo (Frank Howard)

Now you hardly hear nicknames anymore. Everything is now abbreviated ARod, JRo, ManRam, Tex....

I’ve decided that I want to take a couple nights a week this Summer and just listen to baseball on the radio. No TV, just me, the radio and perhaps a book, just like it was when I was a kid. Back when all I cared about was where the Orioles were in the standings. I've got XM and access to all the games. I developed my appreciation for baseball listening to games on the radio and and hearing my Grandfather talk about baseball when he was a boy back in the ‘20’s. While it is great that in my basement I have access to a lot of televised baseball, the simple pleasure of a ball game on the radio cannot be beat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Phil Garner (Scrap Iron)
Dave Parker (The Cobra)
John Odom (Blue Moon)
Tony Perez (Dog)
Jim Hunter (Catfish)