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My Teeth Hurt

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:29 PM Comments comments (48)

One of my favorite Johnny Unitas stories was told by Baltimore Colts’ Hall-of-Fame tight end, John Mackey.  It had been said by Unitas’ receivers that he was so accurate that if he threw you a pass in your gut, it meant catch the football and go down, because you were about to get hit from behind.  If he threw the football up and out over your head, it meant you were wide open and you needed to turn and run under the football, catch it and score.  If he threw the football wide of you, it meant you needed to lay out for the catch or knock it down to keep it from being intercepted.  So when back-up quarterback Earl Morrall took over in a game for an injured Johnny Unitas and threw a pass up and out to tight-end John Mackey, “I got hit so hard my teeth hurt,” said Mackey.
                                                                Andy Purvis


Scary Voice

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:28 PM Comments comments (6)
Scary Voice
 “Big Ben” Davidson joined the Oakland Raiders in 1964.  He wasn’t the best defensive end, but he was the most recognizable.  Davidson would be recreated by the Raiders into a fine quarterback killer.  Playing for the Raiders was like playing for the New York Yankees, Duke, or Notre Dame; they were hated at every turn.  Playing the Raiders was less popular than a case of the chickenpox.  It was always nice to see Ben on TV because that meant he was not hiding in the back seat of your car with a knife and masking tape.  As for that scary voice, Ben claimed that Kansas City tackle Jim Tyrer hit him in the throat during a game.  “Jim Tyrer was easily the best blocker I ever faced,” Davidson recalls.  “At 6’6” tall and 280 pounds, he had power and finesse.  I used to kid him about who had the biggest head, him, or my Raider teammate, Jim Otto.  I would often say at banquets that Tyrer wore a big red trash can as a helmet when he played,” said Ben. “Those games with the Chiefs were my favorite games.  I always likened them to a heavyweight fight.  You knew you were going to get beat up, but it was fun.  We needed the Chiefs.  We wouldn’t have been as good without them,” exclaimed Davidson.  “Tyrer would come up to the ball for the first play and say ‘Hi, Ben.’  I’d say, ‘Hi, Jim.’  Then we bent down and went at it.  After the game, we’d shake hands and say, ‘See you in a couple of weeks.’  He should be in the Hall of Fame,” noted Ben.
                                                          Andy Purvis



Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:27 PM Comments comments (4)
In 1936, at the age of 19, Phil Rizzuto showed up at Ebbets Field for a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  It was not to be.  Skipper, Casey Stengel, took one look at him and said, “Yer too small.  Go home. Get a shoebox.”   Rizzuto later said, “I was small.  So small, the clubhouse guy thought I was trying to break into the clubhouse to get autographs.”  So Phil went across town to tryout with the New York Giants and again was turned away by Manager, Bill Terry, for the same reason.  Undaunted, Rizzuto was eventually signed by the New York Yankees in 1937, as an amateur free agent.
The little guy, Phil Rizzuto, became a Hall-of-Fame player.  The one play that Rizzuto would become known for was the “squeeze play,” basically nonexistent in today’s game.  Very few knew about this play, except for his Yankees teammates.  Rizzuto developed a unique sign for the “squeeze bunt.”  Anytime Rizzuto would come to bat with a man on third in a tight game, he had the authority to give the runner the sign for the squeeze bunt.  Here it is.  If the first pitch to Rizzuto was called a strike, while turning to the umpire to argue the location of the pitch, he would grab his bat at both ends at the same time, to put on the sign for the squeeze.  When he turned around to get back in the batter’s box, he would look at the runner on third; and if the runner tipped his cap, Rizzuto would know the squeeze was on for the next pitch. 
A wonderful example of this play occurred in 1951 against the Cleveland Indians, during a pennant race.  It was the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied at one.  Joe DiMaggio was on third base with Rizzuto at-bat.  The first pitch to Phil was called a strike, and he turned toward the umpire to argue.  He grabbed his bat at both ends, signaling the squeeze sign.  With a nod of his cap, DiMaggio acknowledged the sign, but broke from third base a bit early on the next pitch.  The Cleveland pitcher Bob Lemon threw high and inside, forcing Rizzuto to raise his bat head-high in order to put the ball in play.  The pitch was bunted and “Joltin Joe” scored the winning run.  Casey Stengel called it, “The greatest play I ever saw.” 
Although the Yankees had great success under Stengel, Rizzuto was never much of a fan of Casey.  “Scooter” was quoted as saying, “No, I’m not big on him.  In the National League, he was considered a clown.  He inherited a great Yankees team.  He was funny and good for baseball, but he didn’t get along with the veterans.  He wanted young players that he could control.”  Casey would never discuss his early wrong call on Rizzuto.  Phil recalls, “When Casey became manager of the Yankees in 1949, I reminded him of that conversation, but he pretended he didn’t remember.  By 1949, I didn’t need a shoebox, anyway.  The clubhouse boy at the Stadium shined my Yankees spikes every day.” 
                                                    Andy Purvis


Onion Rings

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:26 PM Comments comments (4)
Onion Rings

Reid Ryan, the new Houston Astros’s President and older son of Texas pitching legend, Nolan Ryan, once told a story about him and his dad at a Houston Astros’s luncheon, held here in Corpus Christi, at the Solomon Ortiz Center.  Seems that his dad, Nolan, had pitched earlier in the day, and they decided that the two of them would go out to dinner together.  They went to a fine restaurant there in Houston and ordered a large order of onion rings as an appetizer.  This large plate of onion rings was placed between them as they sat opposite of each other at the table.  Now if you have lived in Texas for very long, you know that onion rings in Texas are known as 1015’s.  The name 1015’s refers to the month and the date they were invented (October 15).  They are the biggest, sweetest onions found anywhere in the world.  While they sat waiting for the main course to be served, Reid said he noticed two middle-aged ladies a couple of tables over turning and looking at him and his dad.  They continued to stare and look over at them for quite a while.  Nolan had noticed also and whispered to Reid, “They are probably going to come over and ask for an autograph or something.  Don’t worry about it; I’ll handle it.”  “Sure enough,” said Reid, “after about ten minutes or so, one of the ladies got up and approached our table.”  When the lady got to their table she said nicely, “Please excuse me.  I don’t mean to bother you, but could my friend take a picture?”  “Sure,” said Nolan, figuring that this would be quick and pain-free.  So, the lady goes around to the other side of the table and bends down so her face is right above this plate of onion rings.  Her friend hurries over to Nolan’s table and takes a picture of the other lady and the plate of onion rings.  “It is at this point,” says Reid, “that my dad and I realized that they did not know Nolan Ryan, the future Hall-of-Fame pitcher.”  After the picture was taken, the lady who had approached their table first said with a huge smile “Thanks so much.  We’re from Washington State and we’ve never seen onion rings that big.”   

No Wonder

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:25 PM Comments comments (7)
No Wonder
Umpire Ron Luciano once told this story about Stan Musial.  “I was working in St. Louis and Don Drysdale was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Stan Musial was the batter.  The Cardinals were down by one run, with two men on base and two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning.  The count on Stan was 3 balls and 2 strikes.  Drysdale threw a fastball on the outside corner and Musial fouled it off.  Then he threw another fastball in the same place except when I raised my arm the ball tailed off the plate about four or five inches.  There was nothing I could do.  The catcher rolled the ball towards the pitcher’s mound.  The Dodgers started towards their dugout and 40,000 people saw me call Stan Musial out.  Musial stood at home plate looking at the batboy and told him to go get his glove.  As the batboy left for the dugout, Stan calmly said without ever looking at me, ‘I don’t know what league you were in, but all I want you to remember is that home plate is 17 inches wide.  The ball is supposed to touch it.  Now, calm down and take your time before you call a pitch.  Wait for it to cross the plate.’  The batboy handed Stan his glove and Musial turned and jogged away.  As I watched him run to first base, I thought, no wonder they call him The Man.”  
                                                          Andy Purvis



Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:23 PM Comments comments (14)

He was a terrific high-school basketball player who played his college ball for N.C. State and UNC.  From 1940 to 1946, he starred for the Washington Capitals and Boston Celtics of the NBA.  Horace “Bones” McKinney looked exactly like his name sounded.  Tall, lanky, slumped forward a little, and as white as tissue paper.   At 6’ 6” tall and weighing only 180 pounds, he reminded you of a buzzard sitting in a tree.  Ichabod Crane comes to mind.  Thinning hair, volatile, he wore glasses and was an ordained minister before becoming a college basketball coach at Wake Forest University, located in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  Bones coached at Wake Forest from 1958-1965 and took the Demon Deacons to the NCAA Final Four in 1962.  Does the name Billy Packer ring a bell?  Packer was the star guard for that Wake Forest team.  Unlike today’s game, where coaches can walk up and down courtside and some even come out onto the floor, there was a time that if a coach left his seat anytime except when there was a timeout, it was an automatic technical foul.
Bones stayed in trouble because he simple could not stay seated.   Bones was up and down so often that his assistant coaches came up with a plan.  At courtside, one of them would sit on each side of him and put their hands in his pockets, in an effort to keep him seated.  Of course that didn’t work.  So, a fan of the team that owned an automobile garage devised a seatbelt that could be attached to his chair at courtside.  That worked fine for a while until he forgot about unbuckling the seatbelt and at times would stand up out of anger with his seat attached to his backside.  The fans roared, the TV folks had a story, and Bones continued to receive technical fouls from the officials.
One night during a 1961 NCAA tournament game against St. Bonaventure, in Charlotte, a Wake Forrest player was called for a foul, as the teams played at the other end of the court.  At that time only two referees per game were used in college basketball.  Bones disliked the call and jumped up off the bench, while kicking his foot hard against the floor in disgust.  His shoe flew off and landed near the foul line.  The officials had not seen his reaction so Bones walked out on the court to retrieve his shoe.  As he bent over to pick up his shoe, several ink pens fell from his shirt pocket and he had to go back and get the pens.  The crowd laughed hysterically, which called attention to Bones.  Meanwhile, the possession of the basketball changed hands, and St. Bonaventure players began running towards him.  To the crowd’s delight, Bones began to play defense.  It was here that the ref noticed Bones was on the court, so they stopped play.  Bones explained he was just removing debris from the court.  He did not receive a technical foul, but he probably should have.  You can’t make this stuff up.
Another story finds Bones coaching his Deacons against the Flyers of the University of Dayton, Ohio.  A woman seated directly behind the Wake Forest bench is giving Bones booth barrels of choice words.  He heard her, but did not want to turn around and acknowledge that she was being heard.  So, Bones asked one of his players on the bench exactly where she was sitting and then positioned himself in front of her.  Then he tossed a cup of water over his shoulder, directly into her face.  That ended the confrontation.
One of my favorite stories about Bones was a night when things were not going well for his Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  Bones thought his team got a bad call and, as the referee ran by him, Bones said “You’re either blind or a crook.”  With that the referee turned and said, “You are out of here.”  “Why?” screamed Bones.  “Because you called me a crook,” said the ref.  Bones hollered back, “No I didn’t, I gave you a choice.”
                                                         Andy Purvis


Stealing Hits

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:22 PM Comments comments (6)

Gabe Paul and Bill Dewitt took pride in their part of building the Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine.”  This club dominated the 1970’s in the National League.  They won six Western Division Titles, four National League pennants, and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.  Meanwhile, Reds’ Head Coach “Sparky” Anderson’s club won 102 games and the pennant in his first year as skipper, and lost the 1970 World Series to the Baltimore Orioles in five games.  “Any college kid could have managed this club,” said Sparky.  After robbing Cincinnati players, Lee May, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, and Tommy Helms of sure base hits in the 1970 World Series, Orioles’ third baseman, Brooks Robinson, was awarded the Series MVP Award.  Reds’ skipper Sparky Anderson was asked by a reporter if he had ever witnessed anything like Robinson’s defensive play at third base.  Sparky answered, “I haven’t been around all that long, and it’s been said that Brooks was even better five years ago.  Hell, if Brooks Robinson was any better, the Orioles wouldn’t need a shortstop.” 
My favorite sportswriter, Jim Murray, of the Los Angeles Times summed it up well when he wrote, “When Brooks Robinson retires, he’s going to take third base with him.” 
                                                         Andy Purvis


Swimming Lessons

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (75)

      One afternoon the Yankee team was hanging around a swimming pool in Lutherville, Maryland, located near Baltimore.  Bob Turley, a former Yankee pitcher, lived there and had invited Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Bob Cerv, “Moose” Skowron and Roger Maris over for a swim.  Roger Maris had just joined the team.  Mickey Mantle told Roger Maris that he used to be the Oklahoma State swimming champion.  Roger was impressed.  Mickey laid it on thick.  He told Roger about doing triple back flips and setting the state record for the 200-meter breaststroke and 400-meter butterfly.  What Roger didn’t know was that Mickey Mantle couldn’t swim a lick.  So finally, Roger challenged Mickey to a contest to swim from one end of the pool to the other.  Whitey Ford realizing that Mantle was baiting Maris grabbed one of the big pool-cleaning brooms.  This broom is plastic and about 10 feet long.  So Mantle and Maris lined up side by side and someone hollered “Go.”  As soon as Mantle hit the water, Ford stuck the broom handle in the water and Mantle grabbed hold.  Then Ford ran as fast as he could down to the end of the pool, pulling Mantle to the other end.  Mantle then got out of the pool and sat in a chair with his legs crossed.  Mantle said, smiling, “Ford was pulling me so fast I was leaving a wake in the pool.”  Maris came flying to the end and touched the wall with his hand and looked up to see Mantle sitting there in the pool chair.  Maris said, “How the hell did you do that.”  Then everyone started laughing, including Roger.
                                                        Andy Purvis


Take Us to Pittsburgh

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:18 PM Comments comments (19)
Take Us to Pittsburgh
On April 10, 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a home run over the 100 foot high grandstand wall at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.  Up until that time, only two players had ever done that, Babe Ruth and Ted Beard; but the greatest accomplishment that day may have been just getting to Forbes Field in the first place.  On April 9, the Yankees were riding a train north playing exhibitions games.  When they arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, it was bitterly cold but they played anyway and, after the game, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, and Mickey Mantle headed out on the town to have some fun before catching the train to Pittsburgh.  They had to be back at the train station by 10 PM to ride all night and get to Pittsburgh the next day for batting practice.  At 9:30 PM, Mantle started looking for the other two.  They finally all hooked up at 11 PM, too late to catch the train.  Mantle says, “To hell with it, let’s stay and catch a plane tomorrow in the morning.”  So they get up at dawn and it’s snowing.  They get to the airport an hour later and all the fights have been cancelled.  So Ford says, “No problem, let’s take a cab.”  Ford and Martin piled in the backseat as Mantle slides into the front seat and says to the cab driver, “Take us to Pittsburgh.”  The cab driver says, “Get out of my cab; I hear that crap all the time.”  Finally Mantle convinces him they are for real, so the cab driver calls his boss and says “What’s the charge to take these guys to Pittsburgh?”  $500.00 is the answer, and off they go.  Somehow they get to Forbes Field, and the team is already taking batting practice.  Ford wasn’t pitching, so all he had to do was run in the outfield.  Mickey and Billy are in the locker room trying to get their socks on as fast as they can and praying that Casey Stengel didn’t notice they weren’t on the train.  Mantle is bent over tying his shoes and whispering to Billy out of the side of his mouth, when a hand is placed on his shoulder.  Martin is nowhere to be found and Casey is standing there.  He says, “I don’t know where you jerks have been and I don’t know what you have done, but I wanta know.  You two are going to play the whole game,” and then Casey storms out.  So Billy is hiding in the bathroom laughing and they go out to the field and batting practice is over.  The first time Mantle comes to the plate he hits that long home run over the grandstand.  “Nice hit Mickey,” says Casey.  “Take the rest of the day off.”  Martin is beside himself and ends up playing the entire game.
                                                                Andy Purvis



Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:14 PM Comments comments (45)

               Former pitcher, Bob Turley tells a story about Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle playing in the outfield one day at Yankee Stadium.  Hank was in right and Mantle in center.  Harvey Kuenn of the Detroit Tigers hits a line drive to right centerfield between the two players.  Both take off after the ball with Hank Bauer being a bit closer.  But Bauer realizes that he can not get to the baseball with his gloved left-hand so at the last minute he reaches out with his bare right hand and deflected the ball towards the on coming Mantle.  Mickey reaches out and catches the ball on the dead run for the third out.  Then they both turn and run to the dugout in unison with no facial expression whatsoever.  The fans in the stands are going crazy and as they get to the dugout, Mantle says with a straight face, “That’s a play we’ve been working on.”  Their teammates almost collapse in laughter.
                                                            Andy Purvis