Sam

Posts Tagged ‘Reggie Smith’

Fans and players – then and now

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

One of my pastimes is collecting vintage sports photos, some of which you see here on the Sports Purist. I recently bought this photo of Reggie Smith taken in the mid 1960s. When I look at this wonderful picture I cannot help but think how sports in America has changed over the last 40 years. Is there any ballpark in America nowadays where you could find a crowd that resembles this wholesome vignette of Fenway Park circa 1966? The answer is, of course, no. Crowds at ballparks and stadiums nowadays are often rude, inebriated and sometimes violent -witness the Bryan Stow beating at Dodger Stadium at the beginning of this season or the shooting of two fans following a 49ers exhibition game this past summer. In fact, I found it very interesting that after the Stow incident many longtime Dodger fans said they no longer attended Dodger games because the gang presence at Dodger Stadium had become too ominous. Needless to say, it is hard to reconcile my image of picturesque Dodger Stadium over the years with the reality of the place nowadays. Many of the other parks are no different.

The other thing that struck me about this photo is the proximity between player and fans, the physical proximity but the emotional proximity as well. Smith seems genuinely at home with the fans as they do with him. Maybe this is because Smith’s income, when this picture was taken, was probably at or around the MLB minimum in 1966, under $ 10,000 a year. In other words, what the average American was making back in 1966. The only thing that sets Smith apart from everyone else in the photo is the fact that he is wearing a uniform and they are not. Yes, he is black and they are white but even race does not register in this photo. Looking at this image one cannot help but feel that there was once a unique closeness between players and fans, a closeness which no longer exists.

Finally, one other thing that makes this photo so wonderful: when is the last time you were in an American ballpark or stadium and did not see a tattoo?

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Carmen Fanzone: Renaissance Man

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

In the early 1970s the Cubs had a utility infielder by the name of Carmen Fanzone. Fanzone bounced around the Red Sox farm system for several years before making the big league club in 1970 but he was traded to the Cubs prior to the 1971 season. Plagued by injuries Fanzone never realized the potential he showed as a young player coming out of Detroit in the early 1960s and he was out of baseball by 1974.

The interesting thing about Fanzone was his off-season avocation: professional trumpet player. Fanzone played in Jazz clubs in Chicago, gave lessons and at one point was even a member of the Tonight Show orchestra. On road trips with the Cubs, while most of the other players were out on the town, Fanzone would be holed up in his room playing scales on his trumpet.

When I think about Carmen Fanzone I think about some of the other uniquely well-rounded and talented ballplayers of his era including Curt Flood, an accomplished painter or Denny McClain, an organist who was good enough to record two albums with Capitol Records. Reggie Smith, an all-star outfielder with a host of teams, was proficient on several instruments including, the cello, violin, clarinet and saxophone. On the road with the Red Sox or Cardinals, Smith would often forgo the bars for the art galleries. Steve Stone was a state–wide championship bowler and ping-pong player. And the list goes on and on….

Well-rounded ballplayers like Fanzone just don’t exist anymore for the simple reason that society nowadays attaches value to and amply rewards rigid specialization. Athletes are not immune and it is rare now to hear of a professional baseball player who can do anything well but play baseball. We seldom learn interesting details about a player – simply because there are none to tell. We have only statistics.

It was a better game when Carmen Fanzone played.

Happy 4th of July