Ump Denies Dave Wickersham 20th Win

Posted October 29th, 2010 by Tom Owens and filed in Bill Valentine, Dave Wickersham, John Stevens, Norm Cash, Phil Linz

From the 1964 Topps Giant set,
foreshadowing “Wick’s” giant year!

Pitcher Dave Wickersham amazed me. Here was my question:

“In the book THE BALLPLAYERS, it reads in part about you: “…going 19-12 and missing a 20-win season only because of his first ejection from a ballgame.” What’s missing from the story?

Instead of a simple, “I was robbed,” Wickersham recounted the entire shocking episode. How can history slip through your fingers? Relive the fateful day in the hurler’s own words:

“The score was 1-1 in the seventh in Yankee Stadium. Men on first and third with two outs. Phil Linz bunted a ball towards first base. Norm Cash could stand on first base and field the ball. The ball was going so slow that Linz could almost outrun it.

The ball was rolling and took a teeny hop. It hit Cash’s glove and dropped to the ground. He immediately picked it up as he stood on the base.

The umpire Bill Valentine called Linz safe (the runner on third scored, the runner on first went to second base.) I thought Linz was safe. Cash started jumping up and down (he had the ball). Valentine started walking away down the right field foul line, Cash right beside him hollering at him (still holding the ball). The runner on second started for third.

I hollered, “Time out!” Nothing happened to my request. Valentine and Cash were getting further down the right field line. The runner on second base kept going towards third base. I hollered, “Time Out” again louder! Still nothing.

So I start running down the field toward Cash and Valentine. I come up to Valentine from behind and tap him on his left shoulder and said, ‘Time Out, Bill!’ He turned to me and said, ‘You’re out of here.’

I was shocked. I started walking towards our third base dugout. When I crossed an imaginary line behind the pitcher’s mound and home plate, John Stevens the home plate umpire said to me, ‘Where are you going?’

I told him through tears (I had never been kicked out of anything before in my life), ‘He kicked me out.’

Then I headed to the dugout and up to the locker room. When a player is kicked out, he is fined automatically ($50 minimum back then). And I never got notification of a fine. We won the game, 4-2, in nine innings. That supposed out at first base would have put the game into the top of the 8th.

Lots more happened after that and Valentine has since admitted that I should not have been thrown out. I also told him I thought his safe call was the correct call.”

Be sure to check out the fantastic batter-by-batter account offered by

Pitcher Dave Wickersham Discovered by Hall of Famers Branch Rickey, George Sisler

Posted October 27th, 2010 by Tom Owens and filed in Branch Rickey, Dave Wickersham, George Sisler

Pitcher Dave Wickersham’s career began with the greatest expectations. Instead of being promised the moon by some amateur scout, two baseball giants scouted the young hurler. Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler and fabled general manager Branch Rickey convinced Wickersham to try the Pirates organization, signing him in 1955.

Wickersham remembered:

“Branch Rickey started the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and had the best mind of anyone I’ve ever met. A wonderful man. I really did not get to know George Sisler. He seemed very humble.”

 The budding moundsman shared Rickey’s faith and beliefs. That translated to honesty and humility in every mound meeting with concerned coaches. Wickersham wrote:

Tomorrow: relive the epic FIRST-PERSON story of how an impulsive umpire deprived Wickersham of his only 20-win opportunity.

“I never argued with a manager. Sometimes, they would ask how I felt. It was always, ‘Good!’ Only once when I said that did we lose in late innings.”

Met J.C. Martin Ran Inside My Baseline!

Posted October 26th, 2010 by Tom Owens and filed in 1969 Mets, J.C. Martin

Is  this the closest I’ll
get to J.C.’s signature?

 I am the OH. Not the initial, but the rare hitless team member who did nothing in the one-sided victory. The box score is filled with crooked numbers for hits and runs scored. I’m nothing but zeroes.

J.C. Martin broke my eight-month winning streak. The letter got returned, along with the blank piece of stationery. First time! I’ve had a few players offer a consolation prize signature, instead of answering questions. Pitcher Gary Peters (Martin’s teammate and alter ego on the 1960 Topps card!) wrote back, saying that he doesn’t fill out questionnaires. Others will tackle their favorite of three questions. I’m grateful for any attempt at a reply.

My first thought? Martin is 73? Is he ill?

Maybe not. I checked the ever-helpful Martin had signed for 182 of 184 hobbyists writing to him, with replies received THIS WEEK! He’s even added special, requested inscriptions like “1969 Miracle Mets.” Collectors report he’s signed as many as six cards per reply.

Additionally, Martin is far from another silent Steve Carlton or George Hendrick. J.C. gave an impressive interview to Baseball Almanac.

And, for the record, I never quizzed him on that 1969 World Series bunt controversy.

I try to learn from every attempt. I keep sending a letter a day. Daily, I seek new ways to beef up my pitch to former players. Meanwhile, I’ll count my hits, not my misses.