Can Whitey Herzog-Era St. Louis Cardinals Break This Early Summer Mail Slump?

How many in this group still answer fan mail? I’ll find out!

My mailbox is on a diet. Instead of losing weight, the baseball responses are shrinking.
Quite likely, everyone is outside more. Baseball season is in full swing. More choices. Slower responses.

Instead of fretting over envelopes not yet returned, I’ve stayed in action. I chose a bunch I cheered for in the 1980s: Whitey’s boys.

Any team needs a stating nine to break a slump. Here’s mine:

Glenn Brummer
Tom Brunansky
John Costello
Ricky Horton
Kurt Kepshire
John Mabry
Mike Ramsey
Lonnie Smith
Scott Terry

Who might be the trickiest in the group? I vote for broadcaster Horton. I checked http://www.sportscollectors.net/. The last reported by-mail response from the lefty was Jan. 5, 2010. The letters are out. The fingers are crossed.

Stay tuned…

Coming Tuesday: An inspiring note from catcher Chris Bando

Pirate Paul Smith As ‘Casey At The Bat’

Should have asked…
Does Smith know he and his
card are comic fodder  in
‘The Great American Baseball
Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble
Gum Book’?

Call me a mind reader.

Just as a formality, I asked Paul Smith which of his seven homers was a favorite. I knew, however. Sure enough, Smith agreed, saying:

Favorite home run – against Brooklyn , ninth inning, pinch-hit HR to tie the game with two outs and two strikes.”

Cheers to http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the details!

Smith played ball in Havana, before there was any Fidel Castro. What was it like?

“I had played winter ball in Cuba 1952-53 and had a great season. The fans were great when I played for the AAA team.”

I read that Smith had suffered concussions as a player. A hitch in the armed forces may have complicated his career, too.

Smith didn’t make excuses, noting:

“Concussions – hard hat (helmet) made it minor! Headaches for a couple of days.

Military – a year in Iceland.”

Before thanking me for the questions, Smith summed up:

“Life in baseball is great. See a lot of the country. It’s a challenge when you’re only 5-foot-8.”

Thursday: A Cubs teammate remembers Ken Hubbs

 

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

Kudos to Jay Grossman and
http://www.sportscarddatabase.com/
for preserving this sad
specimen of hobby history:
AN AIRBRUSHED YANKEE!

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.

Pitcher Don August Offers 2 Olympic Memories

The face of a
future history teacher!

They may not have called him MISTER August when batting against him, but everyone addresses him with such respect now.

Former pitcher Don August has been teaching middle school history for six years in Wisconsin. I wrote to him in care of his school.

Before debuting with the 1988 Milwaukee Brewers, August helped the United States baseball team win silver. He shared TWO Olympic memories:

“Top Olympic memory, hard to say. The incredible travel schedule Team USA went on during our pre-Olympic tour. We played in about 12 Major League stadiums. Some of those parks don’t exist any more.

– OR –

I came in relief in the semi-final game in a 2-2 game. Two outs, runner on third with a 2 ball, 0 strike count. I finished the game with 0 runs and got the win to put us into the gold medal game.”

With Milwaukee, August had another notable victory. Flash back to June 17, 1991. August twirled a five-hit shutout. (Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the sweet details!)

“I don’t remember any tense moments, maybe because in that game I rolled up five double play balls, which meant before they could do anything the double play probably stopped it. The Oakland A’s definitely had a tremendous lineup.

I had a good day.”

These days, August is living history for his classes. He explained:

“The kids I teach weren’t born when I pitched for the Brewers. They really don’t know the players of that era. They don’t know who George Brett was.

One kid may say, ‘Oh, is he that guy who went bananas with the pine tar bat incident?’,
 and that’s it about George Brett.

They all think that I am a millionaire. They know what the salaries are today, so they think that’s the money we made. They just think it’s cool that I played on TV, played in cool stadiums, etc.”

Coming Wednesday: Seven fascinating words from catcher “Tim” Thompson

Defending World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers? Not Against Chicago Cubs Pitcher Don Kaiser

Same easy-going signature!

A lad from Oklahoma had a job to do. He didn’t care who had won last year’s World Series.

On June 2, 1956, Don Kaiser faced the Brooklyn Dodgers. He seems pleased with the results almost 55 years later.

“I guess the biggest thrill in my first start was after the game, knowing I pitched a two-hitter against the World Champions.”

(Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, here’s the results of that amazing day, produced in front of an amazed Wrigley Field crowd.)

Less than one month later, a home crowd saw Kaiser shut out the Milwaukee Braves.

“That day in Wrigley Field was one of those days when everything went right. I mean, I had good stuff and good control and they weren’t hitting that day.”

Before adding his thanks, Kaiser summed up his career:

“Well, I can tell you that life in the Majors is the Best. I just wished I could have stayed up there a lot longer than I did.

I still follow the game pretty close, even though I have been out of the game since 1962. But I can always say that I got to play with and against some of the greatest players in the game.

After I got out of the game I got into law enforcement and spent 30 years in it. Thanks for asking all these questions. I hope I have helped you some.

Sincerely,
Don Kaiser”

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