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Back by popular demand and to celebrate the 2012 season, we’re having our “Winning Streak” sale on all limited edition lithographs from now until the conclusion of the 2012 World Series. If the team represented on the litho you order has won their previous game you will receive 10% off, 2 games in a row-20% Off, a 3 game winning streak – 30% off, 4 games in a row 40% off and a 5 game winning streak is worth 50% off. (Discounts are capped at 50%.) Call us at 860-567-7770 to place your order. Our business hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, east coast time. Please remember, we are GOOD SPORTS. So, if you hold out for that 4th consecutive win to get the 40% off and the team happens to lose, call us anyway. We will still give you that 30% discount, even after a loss. Standard shipping of $12 per order will apply.
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On July 17, 1998, just past the middle of one of the most magical and captivating seasons in recent baseball memory, I saw one of the two
heroes of that season — the titanic, ginger-haired slugger Mark McGwire — hit two home runs in a home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Having grown up a Cardinals fan in Little Rock, Arkansas, and, as such, having made many trips to St. Louis and the friendly confines of the second Busch Stadium, I was naturally very excited to be on hand to witness not just a 4-1 victory for my team, but also a striking individual accomplishment by the season’s main headline-grabber (with all due respect to Sammy Sosa, of course).
It was a hot, dry night at The House That Beer Built, now carpeted with real grass in place of the hard, dangerous AstroTurf of yore. The Dodgers looked a formidable team coming into that four-game series; they had brought up five straight NL Rookies of the Year from 1992 to ’96, and had finished at .500 or better every year from 1993 through that very 1998 season, when they would eventually end up with the same 83-79 record as the Cardinals. In contrast to the Dodgers’ youthful exuberance, the Cards were a team led by power-hitting veterans like McGwire and the outfield trio of Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan, and Ron Gant (though the 1998 season would see them introduce Placido Polanco and the highly-touted J.D. Drew, as well as trade for the promising young third baseman Fernando Tatis).
The Cardinals’ starting pitcher, Juan Acevedo, began the game with a 1-2-3 inning, and Dodgers starter Brian Bohanon looked as though he might do the same when he struck out the first two Cards batters in the bottom of the first. But when the hulking McGwire strode into the batters’ box, he was ready for whatever Bohanon could throw at him; he took Bohanon’s first pitch deep to left field — an absolute moon shot. The ball’s accelerating descent carried it into Big Mac Land, a porch on the third deck of the left-field stands that was specially built prior the 1998 season, after St. Louis’ 1997 trading-deadline deal to acquire McGwire from the Oakland A’s. Big Mac Land was not just a constant corporate tie-in promotion for the ballpark, the fans, McDonald’s (who offered up a free Big Mac to anyone with a ticket stub from that section for any game in which a Cardinals player hit a home run there), and, of course, McGwire. Though he was personally unaffiliated with McDonald’s, “Big Mac” was the redheaded righty’s nickname, and nobody bequeathed more burgers to the citizens of St. Lou that year than McGwire.
McGwire would go on to hit another homer, this time off reliever Antonio Osuna, in the bottom of the eighth. His final line: 2-2 with two walks and two solo home runs — a more or less typical McGwire outing for a season in which he ended up with 70 HR, 147 RBI, 152 hits, 155 strikeouts, and 162 walks in 155 games, all of which contributed to his gargantuan OPS of 1.222. That home run tally, of course, set a new single-season record, shattering Roger Maris’ previous mark of 61 and cementing McGwire’s legend as the greatest slugger of his generation (at least until Barry Bonds bashed 73 dingers in 2001, Mac’s final season in the majors). It also tied McGwire’s name inextricably to that of the St. Louis Cardinals, despite it being his first full season with the ball club. McGwire would retire as a redbird in 2001, after just over four seasons with the team, the final two being blighted by injury. But the relative brevity of his tenure with the team did nothing to diminish the heroic status he enjoyed among the Cards’ fans. Simply by virtue of the fairytale 1998 season — one which reconfirmed baseball’s mantle as America’s Pastime after a decade of labor strife, franchise expansion, and aging ballparks threatened to consign baseball to the lower rungs of the American sporting hierarchy — McGwire will forever be remembered as a Cardinal, in spite of the fact that he played his first 11-plus seasons in Oakland. McGwire walked away from the Cardinals organization, but Big Mac Land remained, even being transported to the third incarnation of Busch Stadium when it opened in 2006, as a constant reminder of McGwire’s deftness with the deep ball.
Unlike so many recently retired star athletes, who either move into punditry or otherwise attempt to parlay their fame into a second career in the public eye (Jim Bunning, anyone?), McGwire has spent the past eight years in relative seclusion, demanding a high degree of privacy and thereby adding to the mystique and intrigue surrounding his accomplishments. Next season, though, Cards fans won’t have to look toward left field for a memento of McGwire; in fact, they won’t have to look past the dugout, where Big Mac will be sitting with his mentor, Tony La Russa, serving as the team’s new hitting coach. Despite having been hired for the position nearly two months ago, McGwire has yet to be formally introduced by St. Louis, nor has he addressed the media in any capacity. This conspicuous silence and lack of fanfare at the prospect of bringing a Cardinals legend back into the fold smacks of “something to hide,” just like McGwire’s 2005 appearance at a Congressional hearing on steroid abuse in Major League Baseball — a televised hearing in which McGwire told members of the U.S. House of Representatives that he was “not here to talk about the past.” (What, pray tell, did Mac think they wanted to speak with him about? Golf? Foreign policy?)
Interviewed last week at MLB’s winter meetings, La Russa weighed in rather unofficially on McGwire’s reticence, saying that his former player had not yet spoken on the record because he didn’t want to interfere with or overshadow the World Series or baseball’s end-of-season awards. If that’s true, then we can applaud McGwire’s class and reluctance to steal anyone’s spotlight. But La Russa was quick to deflect any question of a date for McGwire’s official introduction to the press, opting instead to tout McGwire’s skills as a hitting instructor and the seriousness with which he’s taking the job. La Russa also claimed that, once spring training begins, whatever McGwire does say to the media is “going to be about coaching.” That’s an unlikely scenario, to be sure, and one which would do nothing to dampen the suspicions that McGwire’s impressive hitting accomplishments were the result of steroid use.
While it is unclear where public opinion comes down on the did-he-or-didn’t-he questions surrounding McGwire’s use of performance-enhancing drugs, the Baseball Writers Association of America has made their stance apparent in light of McGwire’s paltry tally of Hall of Fame votes. While it is unlikely that disgraced sluggers Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco will ever be seriously considered for Hall of Fame induction, it is perhaps even less likely that McGwire will be forgiven for any transgressions — even those which are unconfirmed suspicions — until he publicly addresses them. Big Mac should take a lesson from players like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, who, having been exposed ex post facto as cheaters, accepted the blame for their actions, lending further credence to the public perception that PED use has been so widespread in professional baseball in recent decades that it’s hardly even a competitive advantage, but rather more of a status quo practice. Giambi, A-Rod, and other active Major Leaguers who have admitted to PED use have more or less enjoyed the public’s forgiveness in light of their confessions, and there is no reason to believe that the same forgiveness shouldn’t be extended to the likes of McGwire and Sosa, whose magnetic personalities and nice-guy public images imparted the magic on that 1998 season every bit as much as their bats did.
Finally, all the hub-bub over McGwire’s hire begs the question: where is MLB in all this? If there is any lingering suspicion that a former player used steroids, and that player refuses to cooperate in any investigation or probe into that topic, why would the commissioner’s office, the owners, or the player’s union want to allow that player to return as a coach? Is the potential perpetuation of PED use not clear to everyone in that scenario? Coaches should be required to prove they are clean and drug-free just like players, in an ongoing effort to keep PEDs out of clubhouses and out of the sport as a whole. Anything MLB does short of that would only be paying lip service to the problem, and McGwire’s attempts to avoid the questions should be scrutinized more heavily by a league looking to restore its image. -E.J. Wolborsky
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Stadium and Jim Abbott, born with one arm, pitched a no-hitter against one of the best hitting teams in baseball. Nobody ever seems to talk about it.
As a hoot in about the 4th inning I said to my son, “Abbott hasn’t allowed a hit yet, but let’s not jinx him.” So instead of talking about it I suggested we wink every time he got an out. Wink wink wink wink wink wink wink wink… When Carlos Baerga, who hit .321 that year, grounded out to short to end the game, the place went nuts. When we got home, my wife said to our son, “I don’t ever want to hear you say, ‘I can’t.’”
It was the second no-hitter I attended. On my 18th birthday, June 4, 1964, I went with
a friend to Connie Mack Stadium to see my beloved Phillies play the Dodgers. Sandy Koufax against Chris Short (remember the 1964 Phillies: Short and Bunning and then start running- collapse). Koufax was damn near perfect that day. He faced the minimum. He walked Dick Allen who was promptly erased by a double play, and he never allowed another runner.
Someone else shared both of those no-hitters with me, Frank Howard. Howard had won the game for Koufax with a 3 run homer in the 6th, the only runs of the game. He was also the the first base coach for the Yankees in 1993. Me and Frank Howard. Frank Howard and me. However, back to Jim Abbott.
Does anyone care to comment on a greater athletic feat than Jim Abbott’s no-hitter?
|No Hitter Box Score
June 4, 1964
Connie Mack Stadium
Hitting & Fielding Notes
Doubles: Tracewski, Parker.
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When it is time to come up big with that special gift for that important occasion (Birthday, Fathers Day, Christmas-perhaps a baseball calendar-, Hannukah), consider the gift of sports art. Everyone has a favorite baseball team (how about the NY Yankees, the team everyone either loves or loves to hate), favorite player or ballpark. What better way to solve a gift problem that with the gift of baseball art lithographs, postcard type art card sets or posters or maybe golf art lithographs from Bill Goff Inc / goodsportsart.com.
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Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s as a pre-teen, I only had a chance to go to one of these ballparks, Connie Mack Stadium (aka Shibe Park). I must have gone 100 times, always trying see Robin Roberts pitch. The other big issue was who was in the starring cast of the road team.
I think I must have seen all of the stars of the day. The big question was, “Who is going to beat the Phillies this time?” I remember thinking, “Oh no, not Stan Musial again.” …or Willie Mays, or Duke Snider. Being the oldest of 10 grandchildren, my wise grandmother figured the way to her grandchildren’s heart could be through baseball, and the 2 of us went together all the time.
And as much as we loved the Phillies, it was always a thrill to see Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks or Henry Aaron come to town. It was a great time to love baseball, and little did I know at the time I would have a career publishing ballpark art. -Bill Goff
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There’s been quite a bit of talk about the New York Yankees “buying” their championships over the years. 34 years worth of talk and it’s not going away. The complaints are so numerous and uniform and almost sound as if the Yankees are allowed to live by a different set of rules than the rest of the Major League Baseball teams. Ever since Mr Steinbrenner signed his first free agent, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, on New Years Eve 1974, fans and sportswriters have complained that the 27 time World Champions are throwing their money around at an unfair rate, stealing the best players every year.
Let’s do a “fer instance”.
Say you own a hamburger stand. Suppose that you serve a good product at a fair price and people come from near and far to sample your burgers. All of a sudden, you find yourself more profitable than your competition. Do you plow those profits back into your burger stand to make it better and more enjoyable for your customers or do you go with the status quo and pocket the additional profits? The smart businessman would try to enhance his business and make it grow, attract more customers and thereby create even more business and even more cash flow that can be invested back into his stand. The American way.
Okay, let’s step away from the burger stand for awhile.
Baseball ceased being a “sport” a long time ago. It’s now a business. The arbitrators that declared Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith free agents in 1973 made it that way. Until then, players were “owned” by the club that they played for, there was no player movement unless these “good-old-boys” that were the owners decided to make a trade. Players did not control their destiny in any way, shape, manner or form. Once the players were set free, a business developed from a sport. Once Charlie Finley decided to not pay the money he owed the Catfish, the best pitcher in baseball was allowed to field offers from all of the “new” business owners and decide where he wanted to set up shop.
Back to the burger stand.
Suppose that the owner of the above mentioned burger stand decided to take the excess profits and stick them in his pocket. His competition down the street, seeing that there was more money to be made by improving his stand, adopts a similar plan for his joint but decides to plow those profits back into his business. His brand grows and keeps growing because he keeps trying to stay ahead of the competition. By re-investing and making his business better, he’s increasing his revenues. All of a sudden, he’s hiring the best cooks, the best service people and promoting his business at a rate that was unheard of prior to that point. Is that an unfair business practice? No, that’s the American way.
Ok, back to baseball. The greasy fries are starting to get to me.
When Charlie O, the arrogant guy with the profitable team, the arrogant guy who’d won 3 consecutive Championships, decided that he didn’t want to plow those profits back into his club, didn’t want to pay what he, by contract, owed, the sport of baseball turned into the business of baseball. The Catfish was set free, as McNally and Messersmith had been, and the reserve clause was rendered null and void, as Curt Flood had attempted in 1970. Some of the competition, George Steinbrenner in particular, decided that he wanted to become the best and most profitable owner in the business and started paying the best players to come to work for him. Year after year, player after player, good choice or bad, Steinbrenner used the open marketplace to attempt to create the situation that would render the competition as also-rans. As any business owner would do that wanted to be the best. The American way. It paid immediate dividends, as the Yankees won the American League pennant in ’76, losing the Championship to the Cincinnati Reds, and the World Championship in ’77 and ’78, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, due in no small part to the signing of Reggie
Jackson. Success breeds the need for more success, just as the smell of a good burger breeds feeling the need to eat. By creating the successful franchise, the Yankees began enjoying more and more profit. Instead of playing in front of empty seats, the Yankees were playing in front of packed stands. The profits grew. With all of the happy customers, sales of Yankees paraphernalia grew and profits grew even larger. Investment of those profits back into the business allowed the business owner to grow the business even more. The Yankees became a international brand, not just a local brand. That interlocking NY was soon found globally, on a the hat of a kid in England, a tee shirt in the Netherlands, a uniform in the Dominican Republic, a banner in Asia. And it brought that marketing possibility to all MLB teams, another way to grow the brands that had been long established in the United States.
From 1981 to strike shortened 1994, the Yankees, even though Steinbrenner kept re-investing, were not winners. For 12 years, other teams made the playoffs, other teams won the pennant, won the World Championship. 5 different teams won in each of the two American League Divisions. The Blue Jays won the American League East 4 years in 5, the Red Sox 3 of 5. The Oakland A’s won the AL West 4 years in 5. There were 5 different winners in the NL East and 6 in the NL West in that same span of time. The Pirates won the NL East 3 consecutive years and the Braves did the same in the NL West. Most of these 21 different division winners won with the help of talent acquired through free agency. The problem is, not all owners grasped the concept, that they too could elevate the marketing of their teams by signing the best free agents at market price and becoming a more successful franchise and thereby enhance their revenues and create a more even field of competition. They wanted to keep their profits, not take that chance, not sign that free agent. So, they’d be complacent after winning, expecting to rake in the profits that come after winning and not be a player in the free agent market every year. When it became obvious that these franchises were falling behind, both in revenue and in competition, they blamed their small market status and claimed that that was the reason for consistent poor showing in the standing. The Yankees? Still signing free agents but making poor choices. Continuing to invest. But not continuing to win. Taking chances with the hope of making their business better. Then, for a while, signing with the Yankees meant having to constantly defend yourself in public spats with ownership, physical confrontations with the manager, the booing of the fans who expected a yearly winner. The Yankees became a disdainful destination for players but the players still used Yankee offers as a valuable bargaining chip. The problem then became one of collusion. Owners didn’t want to spend the big bucks that players were commanding. They stopped falling for the threat of Yankee offers. They knew that most players didn’t really want to go there, have to deal with that. They kept market prices down. The Yankees, meanwhile, retooled their front office. Retooled their leadership on the field. Refined their image. Steinbrenner’s suspension didn’t hurt. Other voices in the organization were heard and became the sound of better judgement. Player development became a more important part of the plan. They became a bit more of a desired destination for the players. Showed some success. Brought up players developed in their own organization. Made some important trades for quality players. Still worked the free agent market but became more of a home grown team, too. Then the ceiling fell in. The players went on strike during the 1994 season. Fans became former fans, to a much higher degree than in the strikes of ’72 and ’81. There was no postseason in ’94. No winner for the 1st time. Only losers. Owners, players and fans. Then a shortened season in ’95. Diminished attendance, diminished revenues.
The Yankees minor league system was starting to produce major league talent. Championship caliber talent. Bernie Williams first, in ’91. Then Andy Pettitte in ’95. After cups of coffee in ’95, Derek Jeter
and Mariano Rivera
in ’96. Jorge Posada in ’97. The foundation for 4 World Championships in 5 years. Traded for Paul O’Neill prior to the ’93 season, David Cone and John Wetteland in ’95, Joe Girardi and Tino Martinez in ’96 season. All major plyers in the start of the Yankees run. Acquired the old fashioned way. Signed Jimmy Key in ’92, Wade Boggs in ’93, Kenny Rogers and Dwight Gooden prior to the ’96 season. All but Key were not major factors. All free agents. But still the Yankees were vilified for “buying” the Championships.
Fast forward to 2009. Pettitte, Posada, Jeter and Rivera are still the foundation. Add more homegrown talent – Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Dave Robertson, Chien Ming Wang, Francisco Cervelli. Most are major contributors, some minor and some not at all. Make some trades – Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, Xavier Nady, Chad Gauvin, Eric Hinske – some worked out, some didn’t. Throw in what’s left of the last 7 years of free agent signings – Hideki Matsui (’02), Johnny Damon(’06), Jose Molina (’08), CC Sabathia
, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira(’09) and you have this year’s World Champions. 4 of 9 starting offensive positions are manned by homegrown talent. 2 others came via trades. 3 in free agency. Starting staff is 3/5ths homegrown. 2 via free agency. Bullpen? Other than Marte, all homegrown.
So, my question is: Did the Yankees just build the better hamburger stand by investing back into it or did they buy it?
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