How Long Can We Keep Classic Ballparks Alive?

Posted February 26th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Al Grunwald, Carl Bouldin, J.W. Porter

Fading from view, all too fast!

“The Stadium was cool. But my memories of the players that I had read about are/were more clear.”

— Senators pitcher Carl Bouldin

In the first-year replies I’ve shared in “Baseball By The Letters,” I’ve loved player memories about the ballparks I never visited.

However, I’m beginning to understand the many half-answers I receive.

J.W. Porter remembered how close the fans in Tiger Stadium were. Pitcher Al Grunwald (who passed away in January) said he felt like he could reach out and touch the Green Monster from the pitcher’s mound.

Those are exceptions. So often, most players are like Bouldin. They’re so happy to be a major leaguer that the “where” of their career is almost a riddle. Stat-oriented players sometimes stop at quoting outfield dimensions to me. Of course, if you’re a pitcher afraid of gopher balls or a pinch-hitter hoping to tie a game, you may be fixated on how far that right field wall is (or isn’t).

I won’t give up yet. The list of people still here to tell you about playing in Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds or Crosley Field dwindles yearly. I realize that each question is like swinging for the fences in the bottom of the ninth. We’re supposed to take time to smell the roses along the way, says the song. I think too many players were so busy trying to keep their jobs. They never realized that their place of employment would become a baseball shrine that future generations could only dream about.

Smile With Pitcher Al "Stretch" Grunwald

Posted January 11th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Al Grunwald, Fenway Park, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial
Still Looking Up!



 Al Grunwald led two baseball lives.

First, anyone spotting his nickname should be clued in that this was no ordinary pitcher. Grunwald was one of baseball’s good sports. Imagine being in an organization seven years, suddenly being told that you might be of more service at another position.

That’s how a first baseman gets relocated.

Upon reading that, I expected Marlon Brando’s “I Coulda Been a Contendah!” Nope. No moaning about finding work in Japan as a first baseman after the majors gave up on the converted hurler.

Instead, Al Grunwald’s still filled with wonder!

He debuted with the 1955 Pirates. Grunwald recalled one talented young teammate:

“What I recall about Roberto Clemente, he was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw! I never talked to Roberto, but watching him play was remarkable!!!”

A 1955 highlight had to be his 5.1 scoreless innings against St. Louis May 1. Grunwald shared:

“Tom, there is always tense moments in baseball. Pitching against Stan Musial was a great thrill! He hit a line drive single over my head.”

Grunwald’s only career save came as a Kansas City Athletic. He shut down the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Sept. 11, 1959. How did that feel?

“Looking at the left field wall, it felt like you could reach out and touch it. Ha! Ha!”

Grunwald opened and closed his letter thanking me. He wished my family ‘Happy New Year’ and prefaced his autograph with “As Ever.”

I hope more former players like Al Grunwald remain “as ever.” That would make a new year happier for all fans and collectors.

Smile With Pitcher Al “Stretch” Grunwald

Posted January 11th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Al Grunwald, Fenway Park, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial
Still Looking Up!



 Al Grunwald led two baseball lives.

First, anyone spotting his nickname should be clued in that this was no ordinary pitcher. Grunwald was one of baseball’s good sports. Imagine being in an organization seven years, suddenly being told that you might be of more service at another position.

That’s how a first baseman gets relocated.

Upon reading that, I expected Marlon Brando’s “I Coulda Been a Contendah!” Nope. No moaning about finding work in Japan as a first baseman after the majors gave up on the converted hurler.

Instead, Al Grunwald’s still filled with wonder!

He debuted with the 1955 Pirates. Grunwald recalled one talented young teammate:

“What I recall about Roberto Clemente, he was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw! I never talked to Roberto, but watching him play was remarkable!!!”

A 1955 highlight had to be his 5.1 scoreless innings against St. Louis May 1. Grunwald shared:

“Tom, there is always tense moments in baseball. Pitching against Stan Musial was a great thrill! He hit a line drive single over my head.”

Grunwald’s only career save came as a Kansas City Athletic. He shut down the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Sept. 11, 1959. How did that feel?

“Looking at the left field wall, it felt like you could reach out and touch it. Ha! Ha!”

Grunwald opened and closed his letter thanking me. He wished my family ‘Happy New Year’ and prefaced his autograph with “As Ever.”

I hope more former players like Al Grunwald remain “as ever.” That would make a new year happier for all fans and collectors.