HOFer Earl Weaver’s Unanswered Mail

He looked too dignified
to be a professional
wrestling manager…
but he would’ve been

I’m glad I wrote to Earl Weaver when I had a chance.

I never asked for an autograph. I had something to give him.

The last game I ever saw at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium was an Orioles-Twins affair. I don’t have the date or the final score right now.

No stat could compare to the image. I sat on the 3rd base side. I loved going to a game before the game. I loved watching players be boys. That’s when they have the most fun.

Well, manager Weaver was walking across the field, chatting up an attentive Lee May. The skipper threw back his head and laughed. May smiled and nodded, hanging on every word.

“Weaver…you son of a bitch!”

Ever hear all the wind sucked out of a place with one collective gasp? It wasn’t me shouting. Some rabid Twins fan wanted to be heard.

Weaver heard. He scanned the stands. May spread his huge arms, ready for battle. He took one purposeful stride toward my section.

I never spotted the screamer. But I swear I can hear the SQUEAK followed by the sound of running.

“The Duke of Earl” grabbed May’s elbow. He looked at his manager, who burst out laughing. They continued to the dugout, unphased by the muttering buzz from the stands.

Did the O’s like Weaver? I sent him proof. I saw one who would have committed a crime for him!

Yankee Slugger Tom Shopay Owns Souvenir, Courtesy of Fast-Acting Teammate Jim Bouton

Kudos to Jay Grossman and
for preserving this sad
specimen of hobby history:

Time to create a new statistic. Jim Bouton gets the first “historical” assist. Okay…save one for Tom House in the Atlanta bullpen when Hank Aaron set homer history (but that’s another story).

Tom Shopay began his baseball life as a New York Yankee. On Sept. 23, 1967, Shopay collected his first-ever home run, off Minnesota’s Dave Boswell at Metropolitan Stadium. Meanwhile, Bouton collected the artifact, negotiating with partisan Twins rooters. I’m guessing that the famous author-to-be served as a horse-trading Santa Claus for more than one rookie in his pitching career.

As Shopay saw it:

“The pitch was a fastball on the inner half of the plate. Jim Bouton traded a fan a couple of new balls for my ball. He was in the bullpen.”

(Thanks to www.retrosheet.org for the details!)

Shopay was a Rule 5 draft acquisition by the Orioles, ending his brief time in pinstripes. I asked him to compare the media attention he observed with each team.

“At the time I played, it seemed that you had more newspaper coverage. But New York is New York. The sports writers were always around, and plenty of them.

Baltimore was always doing a lot of radio and TV interviews. They also had the same beat writers that were with you all the time. They were good human beings, too.”

Tomorrow: Words of wisdom from Baltimore manager Earl Weaver.

Eric Soderholm Honors Three Twins Legends

No signature change
in 35 years!

Eric Soderholm lived two lives. He’s known to many as a gritty Minnesota Twins third baseman. Others remember the reborn slugger who found his career comeback as one of the Chicago White Sox “South Side Hit Men” in 1977.

I saw him play in Minnesota, providing the foundation for two questions.
First, I asked what it was like to play in the company of three stars — Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew. Soderholm replied:

“Killebrew, Carew and Oliva were world class, on and off field. Learned from their determination.”

I shivered when I thought about seeing Soderholm play at Metropolitan Stadium. In fact, every Twins game there left me with a BRRR! My folks loved the easy access to the ballpark from Iowa. Other teams played in CITIES. The Twins played…nearby.

“The Met was a nice park for right-handed hitters — but COLD!”

A knee injury shelved Soderholm for all of 1976. When The Sporting News named him American League Comeback Player of the Year, I wondered how he felt about the title.

“Comeback Player of Year was a great honor — and appreciated after I worked so hard on my knee.

Best wishes,
Eric Soderholm”

A well-done profile of Soderholm, written by Mark Liptak, can be found at one of my favorite websites, Baseball Almanac.

Tomorrow: An inside peek at the “Baseball By The Letters” mailbox.

Twin Mike Cubbage Shares Ride on His ‘Cycle’

Same Signature!

Am I the only fan on earth who thought it would’ve been great to have Mike Cubbage play for the Cubs? After all,. his name wasn’t Mike TWINage! Broadcasters would have feasted on that wordplay.

No, I didn’t ask the infielder that. Instead, I quizzed him on what might have been his finest moment at bat: April 27, 1978, devouring Toronto pitching before an appreciative Metropolitan Stadium gathering of 18,258. Four hits. One of everything. Cubbage hit for the cycle. (Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/ for preserving the moment.)

His recollections:

“The cycle had some luck. A double in first at-bat versus Jim Clancy of Toronto an d was thrown out at third base, trying to stretch it!! Homer in second at-bat and the last two hits versus Jerry Garvin (??) Infield single off his leg and the triple in the last at-bat, on a ball hit off the center field wall at the Met!!”

The humble hitter chose to ignore his four RBI, accounting for a 6-3 win.

Tomorrow: Cubbage recalls his mastery of Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.

Bob Wolff on the Birth of Minnesota Twins

Broadcaster Bob Wolff saw Senators become Twins overnight. He broadcast Minnesota’s first season from Metropolitan Stadium.

I asked him to compare the ballpark to Washington’s home. I confessed that I had limited adjectives for my trips to “the Met,” with the words “cold” and “windy” appearing most frequently. Wolff replied:

“My memories of Metropolitan Stadium were very positive. I loved the large crowds, and their response to the team. the team was on the rise. Sitting in the TV or radio booth there, I was pretty well-shielded from ‘cold’ and ‘windy.’ In Washington, it was ‘hot’ and ‘hotter.'”

Wolff inspired me to give Metropolitan Stadium one more chance (in my imagination, at least). I scoured the ‘net for a nice ballpark bio. Too many read like obituaries. Then, I discovered that “The Met” has its own Facebook page. Want to see a ballpark come alive again? Check this out!

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