‘Class…Substituting Today For Your Teacher Is New York Yankees Pitcher Rich Beck!’

Posted July 26th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in 1965 New York Yankees, Ray Barker, Rich Beck, www.retrosheet.org
Sounds like a monster movie:
The Teacher Wore Pinstripes!
Looks like he’s pitching to White…

Would you rather face hungry American League hitters, or a classroom of ornery high schoolers?

Rich Beck has done well against both lineups. A veteran teacher, Beck’s career was cut short by military service during the Viet Nam War.

Beck writes like a great teacher. He began his reply with:

“Wow, Tom! You are testing an old fella’s memory but I’ll try to answer your questions.”

Then, in the first time in the history of this blog, I received a hand-drawn SMILEY FACE!

First, I asked about one of his most dominating games, striking out eight Senators. Did the Ks come from fastballs or breaking stuff? Swinging or called?

“Probably fastballs and sliders. Don’t recall called third strikes vs. swinging but there is a website (address escapes me but suppose you can Google it) that gives play-by-play of games back to that era and that would answer the called vs. swinging question.”

Beck is referring to http://www.retrosheet.org/. Here’s the recap of Beck’s brilliance.

The same amazing website has the vitals on Beck’s Sept. 19 shutout against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.
Beck added:

“I believe that was a 0-0 game going into bottom of 8th. I do remember Ray Barker, who was playing first base that day, hit a two-run triple in the bottom of 8th. As far as the stats you quote…it was ugly but we turned two DPs I believe. I remember getting out of one inning with a fly to left with the bases loaded.”

I never got to cheer for Beck the Yankee. However, the work he’s doing as a teacher is worthy of a standing ovation. In fact, I cheer for all educators. A good pitcher wins games. A good teacher changes LIVES. Beck commented:

“I have been a substitute teacher my whole teaching stint — 1992 fall to fall of Nov. 1998 and then against from Feb. 2007 to date after working for a market research firm, The Nielsen Company, from 11/98 to 12/06. Most subbing (95 percent) is done at middle and high school level.”

Learn more about Beck with this fascinating biography written by Joe Schuster, available as part of the SABR Biography Project.

One final thought: I read once that Phillies announcer Harry Kalas recorded answering machine messages for fans. Imagine how the late Yankee Stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard would have sounded on a school intercom.

“Students…now entering the classroom…number 23…former New York Yankees pitcher, Rich BECK!”

Coming Wednesday: The milestone 500th post for Baseball By The Letters

Baseball Families Are Overlooked Autographs

This gem of Mrs. Babe Ruth
congratulating Roger Maris on
his record-tying 60th homer sold by
for $1,175 in 2007. The
autograph helped. Mrs. Ruth
was a happy by-mail signer, too.

 Shawn Green inspired me.

Sorry, not his book. (I will read it!) Just the book jacket set me thinking.

His bio blurb says that he retired to spend more time with his wife and family.

Why do collectors overlook baseball relatives? Why do they ignore someone, just because they never wore a uniform?

In his trio of great baseball books, Seth Swirsky proved what swell content awaits creative collectors. He gleaned some wondrous insights from widows of long-gone players.

It seems the Hall of Fame should forward mail to wives of living and deceased members.

Andrew Martin, at his ever-surprising Baseball Historian blog, has gotten great stories out of Mrs. Curt Schilling and the nephew of Joe Pepitone.

I asked Andrew how he’d approach a baseball relative. Here’s his kind reply:

“Off the top of my head I have interviewed 4 baseball relatives in the past few weeks… Mrs. Schilling, Billy Pepitone, Ben Gamel (brother of Mat), and George Case III, son of the outfielder. These subjects have not been intentional, but rather opportunity that beckoned.

I don’t have a preference of the relationship between that person and the player, but think in each case there is the potential for valuable insight. Typically, what we know of a player is what they allow us to know, or what the media portrays. Speaking with a relative gives us some insider knowledge. That being said, I am still working on developing the best questions to ask such interview subjects.

When I interview the relatives of players, I try to make the interview center on them, and not the player. First of all, I think it is the respectful thing to do. Secondly, I think that the relative has a unique story to tell on their own, and through that, we typically find out more about the player.

For the All-Star type players, I want to know more about them off the field. The media has typically given us more than enough material about on-the-field exploits, so I want to know what is happening for them in other areas.”

Please, visit Andrew’s blog, or find his selected writings at http://www.seamheads.com/.

Coming Tuesday: A look back with Yankee pitcher Rich Beck.

Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn Remembered By Phillies Pitcher Pat Combs

Posted July 22nd, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Harry Kalas, Pat Combs, Philadelphia Phillies, Richie Ashburn
Combs signature
swirls like a
tight curve ball!

When do you know you’ve made it? When do you feel like you belong?

I asked Philadelphia pitcher Pat Combs what his four-hitter versus the Cardinals during his 1989 rookie season meant. (Thanks http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the memories!) Combs wrote:

“The Cards game was great! What I most remember is that it proved to me how good my ‘stuff’ was. It showed me that good pitchers get hitters out. The key is to make good pitches.

My wife was in the stands that day.”

Combs should get extra credit for his final-month victories in 1989 and ’90. I pointed out that pitchers are facing September call-ups, guys without substantial scouting reports. By contrast, word spreads fast about how pitchers are pitching. Combs added:

“When I arrived in ’89, I had the same type of finish. I seemed to get stronger as the year progressed. The only attribution I could come up with is that my fitness level was extremely high. I would stay in great shape throughout the season, and simply outworked most of my peers.”

Two reasons that Combs remains memorable to Phillies fans are announcers Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. What does the former pitcher cherish from these beloved voices?

“Harry K and Richie (Whitey) were great men. They so much enjoyed the game and the players. We could sit and talk for hours with them. Both were very kind and gentle men.”

After reading about Combs’ Christianity, I decided to end my letter with my favorite Biblical passage. Combs replied:

“Tom, yes, James 2:14-17 are great verses. We must always practice what we preach, and walk in the ways of our Lord Jesus. He showed us the Way!


Coming Monday: writing to baseball family members.