Sam

Posts Tagged ‘NY Yankees’

The lost art of fan mail

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 at 6:32 am

I was looking through my photos the other day and came across this picture of Willie Mays reading fan mail between games of a doubleheader sometime back in the mid-1960s. I think this picture says so much about how the game has changed. Writing fan-mail is a lost art for 10 and 11 year old kids nowadays. Indeed, the very term “fan mail” seems archaic when I use it here. I imagine that if a kid nowadays wants to send a message to a player they do so via Facebook or twitter, or one of the other bloated, solipsistic social media outlets. And you wonder if a player received a letter, would they even read it? Probably not. Players nowadays are far too wealthy and their time far too valuable to take the time to acknowledge individual messages from admiring fans. Can you imagine Alex Rodriguez on the trainers table at Yankee Stadium reading fan mail as Mays is here ? I certainly can’t.

But back in Willie Mays’ day players read letters and answered them. The expression on Mays’ face says it all: the game had humanitas back then.

Boy, how times have changed.

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Ryne Duren – Fastballs and Highballs

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 3:10 am

Ryne Duren passed away the other day. Duren was a fireballing right handed reliever for a host of major league teams from the mid- 50s through the mid-1960s. In the days before speed guns, Duren was one of the legendary hard-throwers in the game, known for the fear he struck into opposing hitters with a combination of good velocity and poor control. That he wore a pair of coke bottle glasses every time he took the mound added to the trepidation hitters felt as they stepped into the box to face Duren. As his manager on the Yankees, Casey Stengel, once said: “I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever hit you in the head you might be in the past tense.”

Duren was a mainstay on the Yankees 1957 and 1958 World Series teams but was traded in the middle of the 1961 season because of alcohol-related excesses. He chronicled his struggles with alcoholism in the book, I Can See Clearly Now. The opening of the book is memorable. Despondent over the downward spiral of his life – both his baseball career and marriage derailed because of alcohol abuse – Duren had decided to commit suicide. Accordingly he walked into a lake in Michigan intent on drowning himself ( needless to say he was drunk at the time) but decided he needed another drink and headed for the nearest tavern….drenched in the waters of the lake.

I Can See Clearly Now is a wonderful book, probably the most inspirational baseball book I have read. It recounts the glory days of the Yankees and baseball in America and the unfolding plot of Duren’s surrender to alcoholism and his eventual recovery. In Duren’s day the worst a player did was to show up at the ball park drunk or hungover unlike today when hardcore recreational and performance enhancing drugs have have invaded and severely tainted the game.

Duren became a spokesperson for AA and helped many players who faced similar problems with alcohol. He was a truly inspirational figure to hundreds of people.

Thanks for the memories, and for all the people you helped, Ryne. You will be missed.

Professional sports nowadays: Whatever happened to dress codes ?

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm

With just one game remaining in the college football season and the NFL playoffs underway, I begin to anticipate the dreary month of February. February is always the worst month for me because there is no football (even though I do not consider myself a Pro Football fan anymore – See Sports Purist archives- I do watch the playoffs and the Super Bowl) and baseball has yet to start. In February there is only basketball. And in basketball these days it seems that there are only tattoos.

I can no longer watch the NBA because the tattoos, diamond-stud earings and bling have quite simply become an eyesore. I think this all started with Dennis Rodman about twenty years ago, but there are very few players on the hardwood nowadays who do not sport elaborate and often cryptic tattoos. If you just looked at the bodies -and the attitudes- on the court you could easily imagine that you were walking the streets of gang-infested urban America, not watching a professional basketball game. It’s funny but I was talking to my sister, a rabid sports fan, recently and she said that she no longer watches basketball for precisely the same reason. I have a feeling we are not alone. Are you listening, David Stern ?

What happened to the hair and dress codes that were once so ubiquitous in American professional sports? I think the New York Yankees are the only professional sports team nowadays that requires its players to look like gentlemen (do people even use this word anymore ? ). When you are paying someone millions of dollars a year to project your brand into the community I would think you would have all the right to expect them to act – and dress – with decorum, as the Yankees do. And I often wonder why the NBA, in particular, has not seen proper to limit self-expression in the form of tattoos, especially given the association in American culture of tattoos with gangs. I am sure money is involved somewhere.

I have never understood the appeal of tattoos anyway.