What a sad day as baseball lost a pair of legends in Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas and former American League Rookie of the Year Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.
Kalas is arguably the most imitated announcer in baseball history thanks to that incredible voice. People that never heard him call a Phillies game would instantly recognize Harry’s resonant pipes from his work with NFL Films or on commericals for Campbell Soup and GMC Trucks.
I went to college with Harry’s son Todd who is now an outstanding broadcaster with the Tampa Bay Rays and I spoke to him recently about the incredible thrill of having his Rays face his dad’s Phillies in last year’s World Series.
My thoughts are with Todd and his family.
I was a baseball-obsessed 12-year-old when Mark Fidrych broke in with the Tigers in 1976 and soon found myself talking to the baseball like he did when I pitched in Little League games. There have been better pitchers than Fidrych, but I don’t know if anyone was more fun to watch.
That helps explain why more than 9,300 fans turned out at McCoy Stadium (back when there were only 6,000 seats) on July 1, 1982 to see Fidrych face another former Rookie of the Year in Dave Righetti It was the biggest crowd in McCoy history before it was renovated in 1999.
Righetti whiffed 12 batters in 6 innings, but Joe Morgan let Fidrych go the distance in a 7-5 Pawtucket win.
If you would like to see a great old TV news report about that game, check out this link.
Monday was a busy day for the PawSox as Gil Velazquez was called-up by Boston to replace the injured Jed Lowrie.
Gil’s spot on the Pawtucket roster was filled by LHP Chris George who promptly pitched 2.2 scoreless inning in a 5-3 loss to Rochester.
More moves could be coming as Devern Hansack had to leave Monday’s game with a shoulder injury. No word on the severity yet.
Monday (April 13) was the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose’s 4000th hit, which led to an interesting story on the broadcast about PawSox Manager Ron Johnson.
He and Rose were teammates in 1984 with the Montreal Expos and in RJ’s first game after being called-up from Triple-A, he was used a defensive replacement in right field.
There was one problem. He had been used exclusively at first base in the minors that year, and didn’t even have an outfielders mitt, so he borrowed a glove from one of the pitchers.
When Rose got word of it, he called RJ over to his locker which was filled with mitts of various shapes and sizes and told him to pick one out.
After RJ made his selection, Rose said, “you choose a good one. I used that mitt in the World Series with the Phillies.”
Several weeks later when RJ was sent back to Triple-A he wanted to keep Rose’s glove, but knew the right thing to do was to return it.
But when RJ tried to give it back, Rose said, “Go ahead and keep it — but if I find out that you sold it, I’m going to kick your butt.”
RJ had Pete autograph it, and the World Series-used Pete Rose mitt remains in the Johnson family.
Kudos to my partner Steve Hyder who improved to 4-1 in “Stump Steve” with a win in “2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad.”
Since we’re in Rochester, home of Eastman-Kodak (#238 on the Fortune 500), I came up with 3 baseball questions in which the correct answer shared the name of a Fortune 500 company.
1. I was a 10-time All-Star pitcher who finished my career with 236 wins and only 106 losses. My .690 winning percentage is #1 in baseball history for pitchers with at least 300 decisions.
2. After leading the US to Olympic Gold in 1988, I was the #1 overall pick in the 1989 draft. I threw a shutout in my first major league start, but shoulder trouble eventually resulted in a mediocre career. Add an “S” to my name, and you’ll have a Fortune 500 company.
3. As a catcher, I won 4 straight Gold Glove Awards, and my name makes up one-half of a Fortune 500 company.
Here are the answers:
1. Whitey Ford (Ford Motor)
2. Ben McDonald (McDonald’s)
3. Charles Johnson (Johnson & Johnson)
Steve correctly answered questions 1 and 2 which is good enough for a win.
I hope you’ll join us on Tuesday night as the PawSox face Rochester in Game 2 of their 4-game series. The pregame starts at 6:20 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.