Run, Jim Kaat! Max Alvis Grabbed A Bat!!!

As a kid, I thought the
Topps “Giants” set only
had the tallest players.
Alvis looks like he’s
ready to swallow
a whole baseball!

Pssst…don’t tell Cooperstown.

Voters have toyed with the idea of Jim Kaat gaining Hall of Fame membership. He’s worthy on many counts. However, he might want to leave his encounters with Max Alvis off the application.

Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, I relived some of those 1960s match-ups. Of those 31 hits against the lefty, Alvis pounded half those for extra bases. I’m guessing that most of those nine walks were no accident, either.

The most remarkable part of chasing Mister Kaat? It was news to Alvis. He wrote:

“Jim Kaat was one of the greatest pitchers that I ever played against. Not only could he pitch, but he could hit and was the best fielding pitching I ever saw. It is a surprise to learn that I was that successful against him.

I must have been real lucky.”

Alvis is one of the decade’s top “what if” hitters. How many extra homers would he own hitting in a cozy ballpark, instead of Cleveland’s canyon-like Municipal Stadium?

“Cleveland Municipal Stadium was a big stadium. Probably because it was home to the Cleveland Browns, also. The park was not real Home Run friendly, but the great pitchers of the Indians probably appreciated that fact. We always had good center fielders who could roam that big space and protect the pitchers.”

Don’t miss “Max-imum Overdrive,” a fine tribute to the slugger written by Todd Newville.

Tomorrow: Alvis reflects on his Cleveland departure and overall career.

Jim Colborn ‘Recounts’ Bullpen Hijinks

“How many fans in Cleveland today?”

What’s better than hanging out at the ballpark with friends?

How about getting paid to hang out in a ballpark bullpen?

Jim Colborn confessed to some major league fun during his career. He wasn’t a starter all his life! He wrote:

“The BULLPEN is always fun — endless pranks and jokes to pass the time and deal with the stress.

  • Once counted every person in attendance in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.
  • Often traded balls for hot dogs, etc.
  • Built fires to stay warm.
  • Not as much fun now — too serious — higher standards and expectations for athletes. Good-natured fun too often misconstrued as evil, harmful, politically incorrect, etc. The days of innocence are gone.”

Thankfully, baseball still has colorful characters like Colborn to preserve its wacky, wonderful past.

Jake Striker’s Cleveland Dream Came True!

Jake Striker was meant to pitch in the major leagues.

Either the majors, or starring in a Zane Grey western. Gotta love the name!

Striker the minor leaguer remembers the news of the promotion. The opportunity allowed him to chase just one modest dream. He wrote:

“I was playing in San Diego and was told by my manager that I was being called up to Cleveland when our season ended. I cannot say I was overly surprised, as I had a very good 1958 and a decent year in ’59. Still, it was a great feeling to be called up, hoping that I would have the opportunity to pitch in Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

That was my childhood dream, to pitch in Cleveland, as I only lived 90 miles southwest of Cleveland.”


It happened. At home, at THE PLACE, in front of family members who could share the dream: Striker’s first (and only) victory in the bigs.

These days, umpires call time and fetch the historic baseball from a player’s “first” anything. A coach can be seen in the dugout inscribing the ball with the feat. Instant souvenir! No such luck for Striker, who wrote:

“No, I did not get the game-winning ball. If I had gone the complete game, I am sure I would have had the ball. I do have a team-signed ball from the 1959 team.

I celebrated my win with my wife and parents and two brothers.”

Tomorrow: Baseball’s trading deadline just passed. Striker shares what it feels like to be shipped off as part of a blockbuster deal

(Every day, discovering baseball’s buried treasures, I’m astounded at http://www.retrosheet.org/. Thanks, guys!)

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