Shhh

While we’re hearing nothing but crickets from MLB teams and free agents, I want to share about two baseball-worthy events. This past week featured the first Senators Fan Club Diamond Talk of 2019. Yesterday marked the SABR Babe Ruth Chapter meeting in Baltimore. So while MLB struggles for new headlines, please allow me to shout from the rooftops … from the keyboard.

We introduced a lot of new content during our Diamond Talk. We voted to update our bylaws, discussed the Nats’ moves so far this off-season, and previewed what the club has in store through the Senators‘ Opening Day.

SABR historian and Fan Club member, Ted Knorr, shared some insights about the 1960 World Series. Ted and Fan Club member, Fred Walker, attended the Game 7 rebroadcast at the Forbes Field wall back on October 13th. They projected stats, photos, and told us about their annual APBA Game 7 replay.

This year’s event, played near the left field wall, featured unique qualities that you’ll only find in baseball. Their game even elicited some curious onlookers, which opened up a fun baseball conversation.

Speaking of conversation, I’d been fretting the forecast all week because Fan Club member, Terry Hartzell, and I had committed to the SABR Baltimore Chapter meeting on Sunday. Never underestimate the power of baseball! Like magic, the storm fizzled, the state of emergency lifted, and we were on our way to Peabody Heights Brewery on North 30th Street.

On the way, we encountered rain showers and fog, but spotted lifting clouds and even some blue sky after crossing the Mason-Dixon Line. We arrived in plenty of time to strike up some Hot Stove talk.

The first person I saw was Dick O’Keefe, the brewery owner. I met Dick more than a year ago when Terry and I visited for our historical baseball parks tour. Dick’s such an inviting gentleman! He offered the venue, built on the site of a former Baltimore Orioles’ minor league park (1916-1944), gratis to the local SABR Chapter. He also supplied free beer to all attendees!

We all enjoyed presentations throughout the day. The only time out was for all of us to enjoy a Mission BBQ catered lunch.

Author David B. Stinson, who was a Fan Club guest speaker after releasing “Deadball”, emceed. We heard from authors, long-time SABR members, researchers, even a former ballpark chef (named Grill) told their stories. A former Orioles Rookie of the Year, Ron Hansen, approached me after the meeting adjourned and warmly shook my hand. Since I’d never officially met Mickey Morandini, Ron becomes the first to greet me and turn an MLB unassisted triple play.

Larry Haney and Ron Hanson

Ron and former Orioles’ catcher Larry Haney informed and entertained our group throughout their appearance. Both seemed would be just as comfortable sitting down to chat over a cup of coffee. Both enjoyed long coaching careers following their playing days and each has been married more than 50 years. Ron and Larry truly appreciated their time associated with MLB and it showed. Ah, respect for the game…

A few years ago, I received a wonderful gift. “The Last Boy” by Jane Leavy is one of the most comprehensive baseball biographies I’d ever read. Without referring to one note, Jane fed us details about her latest effort, “Big Fella,” a unique look at Babe Ruth. Just when you thought you’d read everything about George Herman, Jane unearths more about The Babe’s childhood and persona. I instantly purchased a copy onsite. And I wasn’t the only one. Jane spent a few minutes chatting with me while personally signing my copy.

After seeing Ken Mars and David Stinson‘s video presentation, I gained a new appreciation for their level of research on John McGraw. Our day was filled with wonderful baseball surprises like these. And then, we switched gears.

A former client when Terry and I were creative directors at a recording studio penned his own sports book and released it last fall. Jack GIlden’s “Collision of Wills” tells of the relationship between Don Shula and Johnny Unitas. Although I lost interest in football long ago, I have two relatives who grew up as Baltimore Colts fans.

After Terry and I said our SABR goodbyes, we secured two copies of Jack’s book and met with Jack at The Corner Stable. Jack kindly personalized each gift. We visited over refreshments before parting. Terry and I rolled toward Harrisburg (on dry I-83 North) with a terrific day full of fresh memories.

So nothing’s happening on the free agent front? Shhhh. Keep your eyes and ears open. You’re sure to find satisfying Hot Stove action nearby.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Head East – All I-70 All the Time

Saturday, June 8 – UBT Day Eight

You know what they say about Ohio. It’s high in the middle and wide on both ends.

I have family in the Dayton area so I’m familiar with just how wide. Plus, a couple of our UBTs have covered nearly every professional team in Ohio. (I’ve only missed the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and possibly a new team that’s sprung up since our Ohio tours.)

Although none of this week’s driving has dragged, I brought along a laptop in order to share something with Mitch. Of course it’s baseball-related.

I’d been fanatical about baseball since Little League. Even considering our brief season, pickup games, whiffle ball, The Sporting News and the Game of the Week, I craved more. So I finally responded to the APBA ad (in The Sporting News) to receive a free Johnny Bench card. What better way to spend some birthday cash?

I still have that set and every season since. I’m still active in a fun face-to-face Master Game league called OOTL with about a dozen other local baseball enthusiasts.

I also embraced technology and play in some leagues using their computer version, BBW or Baseball for Windows. That brings me to my point.

The BBW version features Ernie Harwell doing radio play-by-play of your games! What better complement to a UBT stretch of driving than to play a few league games through Mitch’s truck radio?

I boot my laptop and arrange my starting lineup. Soon we hear Ernie paint the diamond picture with the Riegle Speakers hosting. Ohio’s girth never seemed so narrow!

Before we know it, we cross into West Virginia for a familiar grocery store stop. (If you’re unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s laws regarding beer sales, think Dark Ages.)

Over the PA border lies Washington County. When traveling I-70, you can literally glance directly into the ball yard home of the Washington Wild Things.

Our hotel also hugs the Interstate as we’re perhaps 150 yards from the home plate entrance. This is where UBT 2013 will conclude.

Due to Washington’s proximity to Pittsburgh, two friends in Mitch’s face-to-face All Star Baseball winter league join us on the hotel patio for pre-game pizza and beverages. Chris was with us for UBT 2010 featuring both Chicago MLB teams and Milwaukee with bookend games in South Bend and Gary, Indiana. That had been our most aggressive trip prior to this marathon. We’re glad he and Jeff can share in our final night of UBT 2013.

The four of us stroll toward the entrance of Consul Energy Park. Our perfect evening of independent Frontier League ball is enhanced by the “Turnpike Classic.” The Lake Erie Crushers represent the Cleveland Browns while the home team assumes the role of the Steelers.

Consul Energy Park Pregame - Washington, PA

The outdoor stadium features artificial turf and dirt. Although bouncers do kick up some sort of cloud.

Bleacher seating is flanked by a picnic area down the left field line and a party deck in far right. The kids really enjoy the mascot as many families attend.

Steeler-themed giveaways highlight between-inning moments. The Crushers live up to their name during those innings, scoring early and often, coasting to a 9-1 victory.

Mitch's Popcorn Snack - Consul Energy Park - Washington, PA

The Wild Things load the sacks in the bottom of the 9th, but come up empty. No one homers, but Russell Moldenhauer strokes an RBI triple in the 4th.

We enjoy post-game beverages and baseball highlights back at the hotel before Chris and Jeff travel back to Pittsburgh. All that remains for Mitch and me is a good night’s rest and a leisurely Sunday drive to Harrisburg.

UBT 2013 gives us a lot to talk (and write) about. Our custom T-shirts, binders, photos and conversations keep these UBT memories alive. Thank you for taking this journey with us.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short