Results tagged ‘ Catfish Hunter ’
Grace and dignity…
Unfortunately, this day was inevitable. Father Time catches up with everyone, including the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball.
Saturday, the great Mariano Rivera confirmed the speculation of the last few days. The 2013 season will be his final one as the champion of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium.
Mo has been my favorite Yankee since the time he was the “lights-out” set up guy for closer John Wetteland in the 1996 season. Wetteland was effective, but there were always a few anxious moments. Rivera, on the other hand, completely dominated the hitters prior to turning the ball over to Wetteland. There were so many times that I had wished manager Joe Torre would have stayed with Rivera rather than pulling him for Wetteland. While it was Rivera’s talent and ability that caught my attention, it was his character…full of grace, dignity, and professionalism…that has made me an enduring fan all these years.
Rivera has taught so many over the years how to forget life’s failures and how to enjoy its successes without gloating or antagonizing opponents. He has always respected the game and never once in his career has he placed himself above the game or above others.
Relievers have had their struggles gaining acceptance into the Hall of Fame, but in my mind, Rivera should be a first ballot entry.
It was appropriate that Mo wore the number #42. As the final active player to wear the number after it was retired league-wide, he has upheld the legacy of Jackie Robinson…perhaps better than anyone else could have. Jackie endured far more challenges and difficulties than I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend, but he paved the path for others including Mariano Rivera to succeed. Mo embodies the depth of character that Jackie Robinson had and it is tremendous that #42 hanging in Memorial Park will stand for two of the greatest men in baseball’s long history.
It has been a privilege to call Mo my favorite player for so many years. As I think back upon my life as a Yankees fan, it was Jim “Catfish” Hunter who first attracted me to the Yankees when he signed as a free agent in 1974, along with my high regard for the legendary Lou Gehrig. Once a Yankees fan, my favorite player quickly changed to the heart and soul of the team…catcher Thurman Munson. I have always loved to see passion in doing what you enjoy, and Thurman was certainly as fiery and passionate as they come. The 1976 World Series still stands out to me. Although the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, it wasn’t because of Munson, who hit over .500 in the series. If the rest of the team could have matched Munson’s intensity that year, they would have defeated the Big Red Machine.
After Thurman’s untimely death in 1979 (a day that I will always vividly remember, like so many Yankee fans), Rich “Goose” Gossage became my favorite player. After a few years, he had moved on to the San Diego Padres as a free agent. But by that time, Don Mattingly had become my favorite player. Donnie Baseball was one of the great ones and it’s unfortunate that back problems caused the premature end of his production and subsequently career. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he had been able to sustain his production for a few more years. Donnie Baseball will always be a favorite and he’s the reason that I consider the Los Angeles Dodgers to be my favorite NL team. When Mattingly retired after the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners, I became a Mariano Rivera fan.
As I look to life beyond 2013, I cannot say that any one player stands out as a potential favorite player. But as history has proven to me, the door will open for the next great Yankees superstar to take the stage.
None of this is meant to knock Derek Jeter. He has been a terrific player for so many years and can match Rivera in depth and quality of character stride for stride. He’ll be taking his place in Cooperstown one day, but for me, this day is about Mariano Rivera. Enter the Sandman…Exit the Legend.
I look forward to watching Mo for one more season. Regardless of the outcome, he is a champion…
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…
There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time. I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is. He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto). But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong. He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself. He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).
I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time. But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals. I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season. Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s. Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.
If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be. I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career. I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.
That first step is a doozy…
David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities. I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man. Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important. I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.
A few favorites…
With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:
- Favorite living former Yankee: Don Mattingly
- Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime: Thurman Munson
- Favorite all-time player: Lou Gehrig
- Favorite manager: Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
- Favorite owner: George Steinbrenner
- Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera): Robinson Cano
- Favorite Yankees team: 1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)
There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for…most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today. I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974. I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan. I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.
I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle. A great player who really could have been even greater than he was. I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy. It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.
Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success. There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.
Hard to close…
It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers. So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell). This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL. But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity. Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.
Game of Stars…
I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready. I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype. It is good for baseball. Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement). While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC. I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.
Where’s the caveat?…
When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score. C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins! It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston. So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.
What am I doing writing this post? I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers! Have a great weekend, everyone! J
I have been a Yankees fan for exactly 36 years!
How do I know? I
became a Yankees fan the day that free agent pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter,
formerly of the Oakland A’s, signed with the New York Yankees. The date was December 31, 1974. Prior to the signing, like many other people,
I had been a fan of the Athletics.
I was fairly young so my deep interest in baseball didn’t
really materialize until after I had become a Yankees fan. Each year, from the 1975 season until about 1982,
I kept a scrapbook on the season. I’d
record box scores and transactions, and would collect news clippings and
I think it was during the 1981 season that I showed my
scrapbook to then Yankee Oscar Gamble and he autographed it for me. I still carry these scrapbooks around with me
although they’ve been packed in storage for years. One of those days, I will pull them and
re-live those great seasons of Catfish, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Sparky
Lyle, Rich Gossage, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Bucky
Dent, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, and others.
Becoming a Yankees
fan was easy. One of the very first
books I recall reading as a child was a biography about Lou Gehrig. I was probably only 7 or 8 at the time and I
was so in awe of Gehrig and the history of the Yankees. I am not sure why I didn’t become a Yankees
fan then, but at that point, Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings were my
main spectator sports passion. Baseball
did not really capture my attention until the personalities of the championship
Oakland teams of the early 70′s hit the scene.
It is hard to believe that it’s been over 10 years since
Catfish passed away. He was a great
Yankee and one of the best pitchers of his era.
I will forever be grateful to him for bringing me with him to the
Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
As for the current Yankees, not much has been happening
but that’s to be expected this time of year.
Once we get past the holidays, I am sure that we will see movement on
the Andy Pettitte front (will he retire as currently expected by many?). While no frontline starting pitcher looms on
the horizon, the Yankees can help minimize the deficiencies of the starting
staff by building a superior bullpen. I
remain hopeful the team finds a way to bring reliever Rafael Soriano on board
to set up Mariano Rivera. That would
allow David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain to focus on the seventh inning and
prior to really shorten up the games for the starters.
I really cringed when I heard that Bartolo Colon was
saying that several teams were interested in him, including the Yankees. That is definitely one signing that I do NOT
want to see!
Patience, patience, patience…I know, that’s what Brian
Cashman keeps saying. So, we’ll see what
the new year brings us!
Happy New Year to everyone! May 2011 be your best year yet! J
The question has been asked on multiple blogs, but it is always very relevant and quite interesting…
Why did you become a fan of your favorite baseball team?
Often, it’s simply geography or a family’s passion that is passed from generation to generation. But other times, there are deeper, individual reasons for why we follow certain teams.
I have always been quick to say that I became a Yankees fan on December 31, 1974. That’s the day Oakland A’s free-agent pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter signed a 5-year, $3.75 million contract with the Yankees.
Walter Iooss Jr/SI
The early 70′s were a great time to be an A’s fan, and I was on the bandwagon like all my friends. But I was starting to get older and had gained a better awareness and understanding of baseball. After some careful thought, I decided to follow Hunter to New York in terms of my loyalty and support. I was immediately captivated by the personalities on the Yankees roster, and Billy Martin was quickly my all-time favorite manager. Thurman Munson became my idol, and I can still remember the magic and excitement when Chris Chambliss hit the game winning home run in the 1976 ALCS against the Kansas City Royals (I remember watching his foot placement in the batter’s box and feeling that something huge was about to happen).
New York Daily News
I remember my mom was getting tired of me telling her that Reggie Jackson had hit another home run in the 1977 World Series, and sadly, I remember exactly where I was on August 2, 1979.
Yet, when I think about why I was attracted to the Yankees, it really happened much earlier. When I was about 7 or 8, I read a book about Lou Gehrig.
At the time, I was just starting to become aware of Major League baseball. I was drawn to the history and aura of the game. I “discovered” pro football first, but baseball quickly passed football as my true love. Today, Lou Gehrig is my personal all-time hero, and hence, the source of the name for my blog.
“I’m not a headline guy. I know that as long as I was following Babe Ruth to the plate I could have stood on my head and no one would have known the difference.”
There are multiple meanings in this quote for me personally. Not only does it pay homage to the great class and character of Lou Gehrig, but it also recognizes that I am among greatness at MLBlogs with so many outstanding writers.
I have always been drawn to the history of the Yankees, so I think the book about Gehrig set the stage for my conversion from an A’s fan to a Yankees fan a few years later.
A very moving article to read is the “This Morning with Shirley Povich” column that appeared in the Washington Post on July 5, 1939. The Washington Senators played a double-header against the Yankees on July 4th, and Gehrig gave his immortal farewell speech between games.
Yankees manager Joe McCarthy made the following statement at the mike that day while openly crying: “Lou, what else can I say except that it was a sad day in the life of everybody who knew you when you came to my hotel room that day in Detroit and told me you were quitting as a ball player because you felt yourself a hindrance to the team. My God, man, you were never that.”
I think that quote alone can sum up why I feel that Lou Gehrig was such a special person…
The Senators won the first game, 3-2, but the Yankees came back to win the second game, 11-1, after Gehrig’s farewell.
This is an excellent tribute to Lou…
Who would have known it would set me on a collision course against Julia of Julia’s Rants?
This is an impressive first look at the new Yankee Stadium, complete with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. I realize that it is a virtual look, but it definitely has the “feel” of the old Yankee Stadium: Sony MLB ’09
Jon Heyman has indicated that the chances of the Yankees resigning Andy Pettitte are less than 50%, with retirement, the Dodgers or the Astros looming as possible alternatives. Given the losses of Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, combined with the Astros’ budgetary constraints, I see a reunion with Joe Torre and Donnie Baseball as the most likely destination at this point.
Good luck to Justin Christian, who signed with the Baltimore Orioles today. I’d like to see him experience success in the major leagues…well, so long as it isn’t against the Yankees. Speaking of the Orioles, I’d also like to say good luck for former O’s player, Jay Gibbons who has signed with the Florida Marlins. Yes, he is associated with steroids, but deserves a second chance. I read kind words about Jay from Baltimore writer Peter *******, and while I think Jay the baseball player was earned another opportunity, Peter leads me to believe that Jay the man equally deserves…
Granted, I am not that familiar with the Red Sox starting rotation, but if John Smoltz is going to start, who’s the odd man out? Assuming that Brad Penny nails a spot, and the front three (Josh Beckett, Dice-K, and especially Jon Lester) are secure, wouldn’t that leave Tim Wakefield as the odd man out? I guess he could be the long guy or spot starter, but wow, he’s been a rock in that rotation for so long.
I think it’s wrong that Michael Young was told to move to third base from shortstop by Texas manager Ron Washington, but all things considered, I think he should make the move and drop the request to be traded. I just don’t see how the Rangers could get equal value in a trade given Young’s age and contract. Elvis Andrus certainly deserves a shot at short, but this situation could have been handled much better…
The first baseball game I ever attended was at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis on May 29, 1974 I remember that Tommy John was on the mound for the Dodgers that day, and the legendary Bob Gibson for the Cardinals. The teams were locked in a pitchers’ duel, when I left to go to the bathroom. Of course, while away, Ron Cey hit what would have been the first home run I’d ever seen in person. A little dejected, I walked over the concession stand but noticed a line nearby. I walked over to check it out, and saw an older guy in sunglasses signing autographs. I figured that he must have been someone important if everyone was lined up to get his autograph. I waited and finally got my turn. I looked the guy in the eyes and shook his hand. He proceeded to sign his autograph in a book for me, and I looked down and saw the words “Stan Musial”. Of course, even though I was only 12, I had read about Musial (my first book of interest was about Lou Gehrig, so I had a preference for baseball autobiographies). I was a little shocked about who I had just met, and somehow that made up for not seeing Cey hit that sixth inning home run. As I look back, I became an Al Hrabosky fan that day and there has been no one who has pumped me up the way Al did when he did his Mad Hungarian routine before taking the mound for the next pitch. But, startling as it was, I did not realize that the Cardinals first baseman was none other than Joe Torre. He went 1 for 4, with a single. The Dodgers won 5-2. It was an incredible first game, and it set me on the path of a lifetime love for major league baseball. You would have thought I would have become a Cardinals fan, but I guess that it was the love of baseball history I experienced through that early book about Lou Gehrig. My favorite player at the time was A’s pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter. On December 31, 1974, Hunter signed with the Yankees. I went with him…
And finally, why I am a Yankees fan…