LONGSHOTS: Lessons learned from days gone by this week
by Dave Long
Got this e-mail from a friend of mine who was in Afghanistan for six months. He gives in to the notion that few have any interest in anything from below the Tarrier-Line, so he was giving it to me for my recent column on the anniversaries of the Willis Reed Game and Bill Russellís last game. I often have to speak very slowly for him to keep up ó so I tried to do that in explaining that the best teachers are the ones who get the class excited about things it wouldnít be interested in normally. Not saying Iím that good, but Iíd like to be ó so I keep trying.
The key to making whatís happened in the past of value lies in how it relates to whatís happening today as actions are underway and decisions are being made. That way it seems more real to folks who think itís hooey or simply have no sense of curiosity. Itís doesnít always follow suit, so unexpected things can happen like, gulp, maybe the Celtics dropping four straight to the Magic, which as I write this had never been done in the NBA. But when it does apply, it can provide a guide to those smart enough to use it in helping predict behavior, learn from past mistakes and see that the more things change the more they stay the same. And since I have a reeeaaally early deadline this week and canít talk about about the Celtics and Magic as I am writing this before ó gulp ó Game 6 (much to the delight of insurance mogul Dick Lombardi), Iíll show how some things that happened on historical dates during last seven days are still relevant and useful today. Also because I want to push back at my friend whoís as wrong about this as he is whenever he talks about politics.
May 27, 1968 Ė Know Your OWN Farm System: Former Sox farm hand Jeff Bagwell was born this day. He was traded in the pennant race of 1990 to get Larry Anderson. Most malign the deal because Bags went on to a borderline Hall of Fame career while Anderson was a rental, gone after Oaklandís sweep in the ALCS. The mistake was not Anderson. They needed bullpen help and with a September ERA of 1.23 he was solid. It was not knowing their own talent. Bagwell went because AAA third baseman Scott Cooper was supposedly more ready. Yet he skipped AAA to hit .295 with 15 homers and 84 with Houston in í91, while Cooper didnít come up until 1992 ó when he hit .276 with five homers and 33 RBI. And the comparison went downhill from there as Bags hit over 30 homers nine times while Cooper was out of baseball by 1997. Theo learned the lesson as heís yet to give up the A prospect in a deal, like in passing on Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester for Johan Santana, and in putting Justin Masterson (1-12 with Cleveland) instead of Clay Buchholz in the deal for V-Mart. Not to mention the hue and cry for letting Andy Marte go to Cleveland for Coco Crisp. Anyone heard from him lately?
May 27, 2000 Ė Take Care of Your Own: The Cardinals unveil a statue of Gas House Ganger Dizzy Dean to go along with those of Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. Let me get this straight: St. Louis has a statue of Country Slaughter and Boston doesnít have one of Bill Russell? Guess hard feelings donít die.
June 2, 1915 Ė Control Your Temper: The Babe hits his second career home run and gets the win as the Sox beat the Yanks to close out a 29-game road trip. But after Ruth walks twice intentionally heís so enraged he kicks the bench and breaks his toe, knocking him out for two weeks. Think Kendrick (T waiting to happen) Perkins could learn the importance of restraint from that? Even so, it didnít stop the Sox from winning it all, so maybe the Cís, gulp, will follow suit.
June 2, 1925 Ė Lessons for Mother Francona: Even though I really like Tito I call him that because he babies players far too much. This date refutes all that non-sense as it speaks to sheer toughness. Itís the day Wally Pipp got the headache and asked out of the line-up. Not sure if that made him the J. D. Drew of his time, but it gave 21-year-old replacement Lou Gehrig his chance. And after going 3 for 5 that was all she wrote for Pipp. He was shipped to the Reds while Gehrig didnít come out of the line-up until 14 years later. While you need good fortune to avoid injury and a high pain tolerance to play with it, it shows people can do more than what Tito asks.
June 2, 1935: Sooner or Later Time Gets Us: This is the day the Babe announced his retirement after hitting just .181 with the Boston Braves. It left him with 714 homers, the most magic number in sports, which led to Roger Maris and Hank Aaron being endlessly harassed as they chased his two biggest records. Itís also behind why folks (the media) were outraged at hitters taking steroids and docile toward pitchers doing same until Rogerís embarrassing performance in Congress. Itís also a lesson for David Ortiz as when the Babe was hitting .150 in April he probably didnít get a free pass either.
June 2, 1941: Irony of Life: Not sure if someone up there has an odd sense of humor, but how ironic is it that 16 years to the day after Lou Gehrig began his incredible 2,130-consecutive game streak he dies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at just 37? It teaches us life ainít forever and youíve got to make the best of it as folks like Pat Tillman, Roberto Clemente, Ray Chapman, Reggie Lewis, Len Bias and Olympic bobsledder Nodar Kumaritashvili could attest.
June 3, 1960 - A Cautionary Marketing Tale: Former Sox utility player Steve (psycho) Lyons is born. In 1986 he did a TV spot for the long gone Frank Yancoís Manchester Toyota Dealership. A week after it hit the air he got sent to the minors. But he made it back and they were set for about a day and a half until he was traded for the great Tom Seaver in a pennant race deal. The moral: if itís a utility guy, donít spend much on the spot.
June 3, 1971 Ė Be Careful What You Wish For: Itís the day insane Carl Everett is born. He came to town with big fanfare, but you had to live with some issues. He was OK in Year One when he hit 34 homers and knocked in 108. But after one of the all-time nuttys, which included head-butting an ump and a suspension, it was two and out. And they called Lyons psycho!
I have a lot more but Iíve got to go watch Game 6. No gulp here ó even though most of the season says otherwise, history says when healthy the Cís always come through in the big game.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.