For Bobby Thomson’s sake… Let’s pick it up Giants!

On August 11th, I wrote about how the Giants had about as good a chance as any to win the NL Pennant assuming they made the post season.

None of the other NL Teams were powerhouses and San Francisco could steamroll them through the NLCS.

The Giants have dropped 4 of the next 6 games including the brutal first few games of the Phillies series.

So now the Giants have fallen out of a playoff spot… they look lost and even my dad, the biggest Giants fan I know declared them dead.

But guess what? They looked dead in 1951 as well.

While I wrote about the Giants hopes on August 11th this year, on August 11th 1951 the Giants were 13 1/2 games behind the Dodgers before they completed the Miracle at Coogan’s Bluff and Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard ‘Round The World.

Thomson passed away this week and while that was nearly 60 years ago, the home run still resonates in baseball lore and should be looked on as hope for the current Giants club.

OK, there’s no Willie Mays or Monte Irvin on this squad. And yeah, their starting pitching is in a huge slump.

There’s no 13 1/2 deficit to overcome. In fact if the Giants and Jonathan Sanchez can beat the Phillies and Cole Hamels this evening, they’ll be only 2 games back in the loss column with 40 games to play.

Making up 2 games in 40 games isn’t a miracle. It’s focus.

Come on Giants. You can still win the Pennant! You can still win the Pennant!

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Monte Irvin and #20

Yesterday the Giants announced that they were retiring Monte Irvin’s #20. And thankfully, Monte is still alive and will be at the ceremony.

Chances are Monte Irvin’s number retirement in San Francisco will get some nice applause at AT&T Park and some heartfelt commentary from baseball experts and most baseball fans will have no clue who he is.

He never played a day as a member of the San Francisco Giants, so you can forgive their fans if they don’t get worked up when #20 gets retired.

But if things had played out a little differently, #20 would already have been retired all over baseball.

No less of an authority than Cool Papa Bell thought that Monte Irvin was going to be the player to break the color barrier.

He certainly was a more established professional baseball player than Jackie Robinson was. As an outfielder for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues, he was a five time All Star and batted over .400 in 1940. He also was the MVP of the Mexican League in 1942.

Like Robinson, Irvin was talented at many sports. He was a champion javelin thrower as well as a star on the Lincoln University football team. Like Robinson, Irvin had served in the military during the Second World War and was a married family man.

When Branch Rickey was looking for the right candidate to break the color barrier, he wanted more than a good ballplayer.

He wanted an upstanding human being and one who would be willing to take the punishment and respond not with their fists but with their play.

And oh yeah, he also wanted to make A LOT of money!

Irvin fit all the qualifications… solid player, family man, college educated, military service and a person of strong character.

And supposedly Rickey approached Irvin to be part of his great experiment. Legend has it that Irvin didn’t think he was ready to play at the Major League level so soon after leaving the service.

Rickey went with Robinson and Irvin would eventually join the Giants. Irvin led the National League in RBIs in 1951 when the Giants would over take the Dodgers behind Bobby Thomson’s homer. He was also an All Star in 1952 and helped the Giants win the 1954 World Series, the last one the team has won to date.

He worked for the Mets and the Commissioners office after his retirement and became a member of the Hall of Fame in 1973, a year after Jackie Robinson’s untimely death.

But imagine if he had said yes to Rickey.

Maybe it would have been Monte Irvin whose legacy we celebrate in breaking the color barrier.

Maybe school children would be taught to marvel at the dignity, talent and bravery of the great Monte Irvin.

And chances are Jackie Robinson, not given the directive by Branch Rickey to curb his well known hot temper, may not have lasted long. Perhaps Jackie would be known as a former UCLA football star who briefly played in the majors.

Maybe Jackie would have joined his former UCLA football teammates Woody Strode and Kenny Washington as racial pioneers in the NFL.

People might say something like “What Monte Irvin was to baseball, Jackie Robinson was to the National Football League.”

And maybe in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of the color barrier being broken, Bud Selig and Bill Clinton would have retired #20 all over baseball instead of #42.

We’ll never know. But what we DO know is Monte Irvin deserves to have #20 retired.
And if you are at that game… stand up and applaud.

He had All Star stuff and the heart of a pioneer.

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Sully Baseball Honors… BOB SHEPPARD

Bob Sheppard, the voice of Yankee Stadium, is retiring.

He’s 99 years old… the fact that they have to announce that he is retiring and explain why he won’t be able to even do one game next year says a lot about him.

Most people when they reach 99 years old have been dead for about 20 years.

But Sheppard is alive and does a job that seems to be essential… he gives class and dignity to announcing the Yankee line up.

The man first announced the lineups for the 1951 World Champion Yankees that featured Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Allie Reynolds and was managed by Casey Stengel.

The last team he called was the 2007 Wild Card team that featured Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Joba Chamberlain, Mike Mussina and was managed by Joe Torre.

That’s stretching over some serious time.

He was featured in Seinfeld, Anger Management and was the final voice over in Billy Crystal’s surprisingly good 61*.

And yes, while I am a Red Sox fan, I admit I got chills when I heard his voice.

My first memories was hearing names like “Chris Chambliss” “Reggie Jackson” and “Willie Randolph.”

And let me tell you, when I was at NYU in the early 1990s and the Yankees were awful, he made some of those names sound good.

“Hensley Meullens.”
“Don Slaught.”
“Alvaro Espinoza.”
“Mel Hall.”

Any chump can say Mickey Mantle or Thurman Munson… but to make Oscar Azocar sound like a great Yankee took some talent.

So give yourself a break… and I hope Bob Sheppard reaches well beyond 100 years.

Reggie Jackson called Sheppard “The Voice of God.”

God should take that as a compliment!

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