White Sox Pitcher Howie Judson Defied Fate

Posted February 28th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Hobie Landrith, Howie Judson

“A courageous man, Judson pitched his final seasons knowing he might be going blind from a retina infection.”

— The Ballplayers

Imagine thinking that every game might be your last. Consider that the other team knows you may be distracted, far from your best physical or emotional self.

Howie Judson pitched with such a burden. The famed reference book noted that he was a “highly respected hurler,” even though he never had a winning season. Others might say that his will to compete gave him a winning career, no matter what the stats claim.

“I kept it quiet for a number of years, but finally it got out, so it got in the papers.”

Although his debut came more than 60 years ago, Judson recalled the anticipation of that first game with the 1948 White Sox:

“I was told about five days early. I could hardly wait for the time to pass.”

How did it go? Let the stunning http://www.retrosheet.org/ share Judson’s premiere game details!

Judson saluted one batterymate during his career:

“The best catcher I ever pitched to was Hobie Landrith with the Reds. He was very shifty behind the plate and had a good arm.”

Tomorrow: a fresh look at Yogi Berra, from Yankee roommate Bobby Brown!

Experiencing Chuck Estrada’s Brushback Pitch

Posted February 27th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Chuck Estrada

I saw the same glare UP CLOSE!

“What do you guys do with all this s—?!?”

— Chuck Estrada

Years ago at a Tacoma PCL game, pitching coach Chuck Estrada growled this question to a group of adult collectors.

A couple just giggled. I just pulled back. One squeaked, “Collect it?”

One eyebrow arched. Estrada smirked. He stomped past.

Writing or in person, the WHY needs to be there in your “pitch” for an autograph. If you can’t say why you want that precise person, save your energy and stamps.

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.