Twins Catcher George Mitterwald Salutes Manager Billy Martin

I miss the old “Baseball Bible.”
The cover paintings were part of
that reverence. I never tried to
get a TSN autographed. I couldn’t
bear seeing those covers bent in
the mail!

George Mitterwald hasn’t forgotten manager Billy Martin. I asked for any memories of their brief time together in Minnesota. Mitterwald replied:

“Billy Martin was a great manager, whom I learned a lot of baseball from. His strategy and willingness to always push the envelope when it came to making the opposition try to stop us from taking extra bases, stopping us from stealing home, double stealing and taking the extra base almost all the time.

Off the field he was brash at times, generous all the time and just plain fun to be around all the time because of his comedic nature.”

Coming Monday: Contrasting memories of owner Calvin Griffith.

Detroit Tigers Manager Billy Martin DID Order Spitballs, Confirms Pitcher Fred Scherman

“Throw a spitball? Me?”

Pitcher Fred Scherman was a true team player.

He listened to his manager and did his best. No matter how bizarre the game turned.

Let’s flash back to Aug. 30, 1973 in Detroit. Cleveland’s Gaylord Perry is working on a six-hit shutout.

After the loss, Martin complains to the media that umpires refused to listen to complaints about Perry throwing illegal greaseballs. In retaliation, the fiery skipper claims that he ordered both starter Joe Coleman and reliever Scherman to throw spitters, too.


“Yes it was true and yes I did. I didn’t know how to throw a spitball so I just spit on it and threw it.”

A certain manager was dismissed by team officials three days after flashing such brazen honesty.

Scherman racked up a career-high 20 saves for the 1971 Tigers. As opposed to a win, how much did a save mean 30 years ago? How much did it bring in next season’s contract?

“The ‘save’ got less respect. Our GM did not reward me well for my efforts.”

Scherman rewarded me with his reflections on Sept. 17, 1971. He registered a six-hit win against the mighty Orioles. Did he want to be a starter after such success?

“That was a great day. Starting or relieving didn’t matter, as long as I got to pitch.”

Tomorrow: Eric Soderholm, in the shadow of Minnesota superstars.

Johnny Goryl Salutes Billy Martin

Want proof that Johnny Goryl was a team player? Ask him about hitting four homers in one week (July, 1963), commemorated by Many players can recite their career stats by heart, including individual highlights.

Goryl, meanwhile, replies…

“I never knew I did that. I know that my best season in the M.L. was with the Twins.”

Speaking of the Twins, Goryl served on the coaching staff of new manager Billy Martin. How was the fiery skipper as a boss?

“Billy M. was great to work for. He did a terrific job that season, taking us to the A.L. Division Playoffs, only to be swept by Baltimore. We lost the first two games by 1 run and then got beat badly in the 3rd game in the best of 5 series.”

Goryl’s closing paragraph impressed me most:

“I am going to enter my 60th year in professional baseball next season, an accomplishment I am very proud of. I have numerous wonderful memories over the years and have seen a lot of great players in that time. I feel privileged to have been able to be a small part of the game and to be on the field with so many great players.

Thanks for remembering me, Tom,

Johnny Goryl”

See Goryl discuss his career and the future Cleveland Indians in a 2009 video


Torre, Torre, Koufax: Ken Aspromonte’s Brooklyn Baseball Boyhood

Ken Aspromonte enjoyed a magical time growing up as a ballplayer in Brooklyn.

Yes, his younger brother Bob made the majors, too.

But he crossed paths with three other guys who fulfilled the same dream.

“The Torre brothers (Frank and Joe) played against the Aspromonte brothers throughout the high school years and sandlot baseball,” he wrote. “Sandy Koufax went to the same high school, Lafayette in Brooklyn, with my brother Bob and I. He played first base but eventually moved to pitching –“

Ken’s career as a starter was brief. He did earn a full-time job in the 1960 Cleveland infield, batting a career-best .290. More time to make good wasn’t the only explanation, he noted:

“Success comes in the major leagues when a baseball player finally realizes that he belongs in the majors. It takes lots of patience and finally if you have talent, it will all come about –“

Ken returned to Cleveland to manage in 1972. He led the team through one of the zaniest, scariest nights in baseball history: “10 Cent Beer Night” in 1974. When drunken “fans” wouldn’t clear the field, the Indians forfeited.

When rowdy fans confronted Ranger Jeff Burroughs in the outfield, manager Billy Martin urged his team to grab bats and charge the field to defend a teammate. However, the Texas roster wasn’t big enough to confront the mob.

That’s when Ken Aspromonte sprang into action. He led his Indians onto the field to help defend the visiting team.

“It was a terrible unfortunate evening, something I knew was going to happen when you make beer available at such a LOW price,” he recalled. “I definitely would do the same today if I was managing.”

The world may offer 10-cent beers again someday. But there will never be another Ken Aspromonte.

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