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B Strong

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B Strong

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In the last week it was a proud time to be a baseball fan. There was no milestones reached, no must see plays, or terrific stat lines to wow over but there was something deeper that happened. The events that happened last week in the city of Boston were tragic. In the matter of minutes a tradition in the streets of Bean Town became a nightmare. The silver lining however, is that the great game of baseball and a great city became one and showed true beauty during a difficult time with honor and class.

BostonStrong

Growing up, my dad traveled a lot to Boston for work and I always associated that with the baseball team there. Not knowing any better, throughout the years I became a fan of the Red Sox. I have had the privilege to walk the streets of Boston where the marathon is held and watching the events last Monday hit home in a way. In addition, having a cousin currently preparing to run the Chicago Marathon made it strike another cord as well.

Last Monday was to be a special day in the city of Boston. It was Patriots Day in the city. The day is a holiday where fans take in a day game at Fenway and also celebrate Marathon Monday with the running of the Boston Marathon. In Major League Baseball as well April 15th was the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day across the league. Celebrating those two historical events, who would dream up anything but a festive day? But then a mere forty five minutes after the Red Sox won a ball game in walk off fashion, the earth shook with a moment in time that will now be linked to Patriots Day history forever.

If there is one city and one franchise that could rally around a tragedy like this it would be Boston and the Red Sox. That type of mentality is in their core as Bostonians. They are a tough, hard nose city. The Red Sox themselves have guys that are true leaders and role models that would not tarnish this tragedy. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Dempster, and David Ortiz are community guys that will help shoulder the pain of a city and lead a city as one. They will bear that cross and honor the city through the healing process.

The following day, it was fitting the Red Sox played a game in Cleveland where in the opposite dugout was former manager Terry Francona and a few former teammates. It was as if the game of baseball created a chance for brethrens to come together in a time of grievance. Also during their short time in Cleveland, Jon Lester made a start on the same mound where in 2007 he made his comeback from beating cancer. On the field it was a three game sweep in the win column for the Red Sox, but much deeper it was a group of guys forced into leading an example for a city and rallying together to overcome pain.

Around the league as well, support was displayed for Boston. Ballparks and cities united and rivalries were put to the side. To name a few, in New York and Chicago they played Neil Diamonds’ Sweet Caroline which is a Fenway Park mantra. Ben Revere of the Phillies showed remembrance on his glove. For a few moments in time, Red Sox Nation was supported across the whole nation. It was later discovered as well that in the marathon was the brother of former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein who was unharmed. The Red Sox are a group that has a knack of sticking with you. It goes to show that while you may be able to take them out of Boston, the ties to Boston will always remain.

Over the weekend, the Red Sox returned home to Boston. They came home to cheers of unity and a nation banding together. Fittingly, it also marked the return and season debut of fan favorite David Ortiz. Big Papi wasted little time collecting a few hits, but also providing a touching pre game speech as well for the crowd. There are no stats to prove it, but that Saturday afternoon ballgame in April could be one of the biggest moments in Fenway Park lore.

In the city limits, Patriots Day will no longer be just for remembering the battles of Lexington and Concord, but also for the tragic events of 2013. Sox Nation will do their part in honoring the fallen. They will help ease the pain, but they will also never forget. As always, Sox Nation will B Strong.

 

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The Purity Of The Pastime

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The Purity Of The Pastime

Posted on 01 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

The game of baseball is something that is near and dear to me. It has been passed down from family members and played since a young age. The game, along with the eventual bride to be, is two things that I am absolutely crazy about with the hopes of making baseball a career some day. Growing up, if the uniform was not dirty, everything was not left out on the field. Playing the game hard and the right way were core values given to me by some great coaches. The beauty of baseball can also be turned into life lessons as well.

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Steroids are a delicate subject currently in baseball. It is a line in the dirt that has affected the game for the wrong reasons. However, it has not ruined the game entirely. Despite all of the reports, congressional hearings, PED’s, HGH, and any other abbreviations there is still much to be celebrated.

This past offseason, the latest report naming players that allegedly took substances was released with more high profile names included such as Ryan Braun again and Gio Gonzalez. The latest report appears to have a common factor of ties to the Miami area and university. The university has already had its fair share of troubles and this is seemingly being added to the list of dark clouds.

Since the mid 90’s, the game as been viewed as the “steroid era” and the image and commissioner have both taken a hit for that facing the questions of just how clean is the game? While the commissioner has implemented great things that have improved the game such as the Wild Card and instant replay, many believe the stance on drug use was turned the other way.

Some may even forget that these talks and questions really began to take shape in 2005 and 2006 when Jose Canseco released the book Juiced. The information published in that book caused a serious stir around the game. Denials of any and all claims mentioned became the thing to do and Canseco became an outcast. Fast forward nearly a decade and now many of the things written have been discovered as truths rather than fiction.

In baseball, much like the other sports has some bad that comes with the good. For someone that loves the true meaning of sports that is hard to accept. The beauty of sports should be that for those two or three hours that the game is being played nothing else should matter. The game should be the story, the heart, and hustle. There should be no back drop of steroids, or criminal allegations to clutter things. It is sad when the games fans love are taken advantage of, because who would not give anything to trade places with a professional athlete? We should take notice of the clubs and players doing things the right way as opposed to the select few that do not.

Inner circles use the terms like dirt bags or grinders. Guys that seemingly give every ounce they have for their team and leave it all on the field. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Chipper Jones, and Derek Jeter often have uniforms where dirt is the primary color and earn that respect from their peers. Steroids are never brought up about guys like this. Rather, the effort and hustle are praised. They are just a few players that do not take the game for granted.

This year, for the first time in a long time no players were elected into the Hall of Fame. The question is what does that mean for future players? Will a few bad apples ruin it for the rest? I do not believe so. During the era, some players still did it the right way and will be honored. Upcoming Hall of Fame eligible players include Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Ken Griffey Jr. who should all be first ballot inductees.

No question, my favorite player is The Kid. Along with the on field talent, he brought that energy, that purity, and that smile to the game. He was a human highlight show and role model with the purest swing in the game. For the saber metrics, Griffey’s 1997 MVP season reads as a .304 batting average, 56 home runs, 147 RBI’s, and the most important number, 0. Zero being the number of steroid reports, PED’s, and accusations leaked.

The use of steroids should never be condoned, however the era should never be completely ignored or have an asterisk next to it either. It should be treated and accepted as apart of the game and just another chapter as good still emerged during the same period as well. The same time frame brought us stories such as the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and Cal Ripken becoming the new iron man. History does not discount the dead ball era and in today’s game this should be no different. No asterisks are found on pitchers stats such as the great Bob Gibson prior to 1969 when the pitching mound was different and clean players today should not be discredited with accomplishments either.

The purpose of the Baseball Hall of Fame committee is to vote and elect the best players from the sport and enshrine them in Cooperstown. They are to be impartial and select only the few worthy players. As the game hopefully moves away from the PED’s and gets cleaned up, those players will still rise above the rest and become enshrined.

As Opening Day approaches, here is to the steroid cloud hopefully fading away. The game still has and will always have many things to cherish about it. The core is still pure. To borrow a line from a movie, “The game does not stink, it is a great game.”

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NC State Outfielder Makes A Great Catch

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NC State Outfielder Makes A Great Catch

Posted on 28 February 2013 by Bill Ivie

The one thing that Full Spectrum Baseball will always bring you is baseball.

Not always Major League Baseball.  Not always American Baseball.  Not always Professional Baseball.  But we will always strive to bring you baseball in every way possible.

Today, I stumbled onto a video of an amazing catch by NC State center fielder Brett Williams.  The video is below:


Video courtesy of the ACC Digital Network on YouTube

Now that’s baseball.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at Full Spectrum Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

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Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

Posted on 21 February 2013 by Bill Ivie

Pop quiz: Who holds the record for most stolen bases in a professional baseball season, ranks second among all professional base stealers, and averaged 150 stolen bases a season?

If you answered Rickey Henderson, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Her name is Sophie Kurys (pronounced “curries”).  A young woman from Flint, Michigan, she was a founding member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and a second baseman for the Racine Belles.

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Kurys signed her first contract, for $50 a week, one day shy of her 18th birthday.

Kurys would play for eight seasons for the Belles, including rejoining them a year after they left Racine and moved to Battle Creek.  Her best season would come in 1946 when she was named player of the year after gathering 215 hits and stealing 201 bases in 203 attempts, a professional record that still stands today.  She would hit .286 that season with a .434 on base percentage, score 117 runs, walk 93 times and collect a .973 fielding percentage, leading the league in each category.  Her walks and fielding percentage marks in 1946 would go down as league records.

She wasn’t done with just the regular season, though.  She would lead all hitters in the post-season that year and have one of the most amazing games in professional baseball history in the sixth and deciding game of the league championship.

The game itself was a bit of an enigma   Carolyn Morris, the Rockford ace, had thrown a no-hitter through nine innings before surrendering the first hit of the game in the 10th.  Meanwhile, Racine’s pitcher, Joanne Winter allowed 19 base runners through 14 innings, stranding them all.  The game had gone 14 innings without a run, despite Kurys four stolen bases up to that point.  She would single and steal her fifth base of the game in the bottom of the 14th inning, putting her at second base with Betty Trezza, her double play partner and shortstop for Racine, at the plate.

As Kurys broke for third as Trezza singled through the right side.  As the throw came home from right field, Kurys would hook slide around the catcher’s tag and provide Racine with the 1946 championship.  It was easy to see that the young lady had earned the nickname “Flint Flash”.

“A hook slide away from the tag by a player wearing a skirt – how about that?  Sophie was certainly one of our best,” stated Lois Youngen, former AAGPBL Players Association President.

Many managers and players credit Kurys for her ability to read a pitcher and her attention to the detail for her base stealing prowess.  While she was certainly fast, she would get an incredible jump off the pitcher and was a “master of the slide”.

She played her first few years in the league as the clean up hitter for the team but new manager Leo Murphy, who took over the reigns of the Belles in 1945, identified her base running abilities and moved her to the leadoff spot where she flourished for her team.

She would finish her career with 1,114 stolen bases.  That mark would stand as a professional record until Rickey Henderson would eventually surpass her, finishing his career with 1,406.  Her 201 stolen bases in 1946 remains a record in professional baseball today.  She would also steal 166, 142, 172, and 137 bases in a season during her career, all more than Henderson’s modern-era record of 130 and three of which were higher than Hugh Nicol‘s 1887 total of 138.

Kurys passed away on February 17, 2013 at the age of 87 years old in Scottsdale, Arizona due to surgical complications.

Read more about Sophie in this comprehensive article, Playing Hardball In The All-American League at aagpbl.org

Bill Ivie is the editor here at Full Spectrum Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Tarnished Todd

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Tarnished Todd

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Chris Caylor

Pro athletes can be enigmatic people. So, too, can the people who cover the games pro athletes play.

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When sportswriters – especially the folks who get paid to cover a team – interject their opinions on their Twitter feed or a blog post, then they become part of the story as well. We see this every year at Hall-of-Fame voting time. Another perfect example in baseball is when an athlete gets busted for using performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball writers love (no, LOVE!) to get up on their soapboxes and rail at the sky about how those players are destroying the game. Just look back at some of the Grade A conniption fits some writers have thrown over Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Yasmani Grandal and others.

I don’t begrudge them those opinions, even if I may not share their vitriol. What I ask is this: where is the outrage over a DUI?

Yes, using PEDs is now forbidden in baseball. Yes, using PEDs creates a competitive imbalance within the game and puts an athlete’s accomplishments into question. But does using PEDs put innocent lives at risk the way driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol does? While Alex Rodriguez brings embarrassment to himself, the New York Yankees, and baseball as a whole, did he endanger lives the way Todd Helton did a couple of weeks ago?

Simply put: no.

When the longtime Colorado Rockies’ first baseman decided to get behind the wheel of his Ford F-150 truck at 2 am on February 6, 2013, he put lives at risk. His driving was so erratic that police were rightfully called. His mugshot now belongs in the Celebrity Mugshot Hall of Shame. Helton’s iconic moment – fists raised to the sky, shouting in triumph as he catches the final out of the 2007 NLCS – has been sullied with photoshop images of him guzzling wine from an Igloo cooler instead of celebrating the Rockies’ lone trip to the World Series.

Let’s be clear on one thing: no one was injured or killed as a result of Helton’s appalling decision. Thank heavens for that. But it does not excuse his appalling lack of judgment. His apparent motivation for this dangerous drive was lottery tickets and chewing tobacco. Is that worth a human life?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 30 people in the U.S. die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The CDC says that translates to one death every 48 minutes. In statistics reported by MADD, Colorado drunk-driving deaths increased 9% from 2010 to 2011. In fact, 36% of Colorado traffic-related deaths in 2011 were drunk-driving related.

Being arrested for a DUI has devastating effects on the offender. Typically, by the time one pays for bail, court fees, penalty fines, and insurance costs, the price tag is about $10,000 – and that’s if you didn’t hit anything or injure anyone (hat tip: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

This doesn’t even begin to take into account the devastation visited on a victim. I can’t and won’t even begin to quantify something like that. Ten thousand dollars is pocket change to Todd Helton, who has made over $150 million in his major-league career.

Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock foolishly drove while drunk and died in a 2007 crash. The Angels’ Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. So, sadly, there is tragic precedent between drinking and driving and baseball players.

You might think the media would be critical of Helton, similar to how the media excoriated former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa or outfielder Delmon Young after their alcohol-related incidents.

Sadly, they were not.

Not comparing Helton to Young (who is, by many published accounts, a terrible human being), but local Denver Post writers practically fell over themselves to EXCUSE Helton for his crime. One columnist flippantly began a column thusly: “So now the statistical line for Rockies star Todd Helton reads: 354 home runs, .320 batting average and 1 DUI arrest. Helton is sorry, Denver.” Another has completely glossed over the seriousness of what could have happened in favor of emphasizing that Helton is a “prideful” man who is contrition was obvious before he uttered a single word of explanation to his fans.

When Helton did finally address the media this past Sunday (11 days after his arrest), he was apologetic, but gave no explanation for the delay. Helton refused to discuss why he decided to drink and drive that night, and no media members pushed for an explanation. Helton claims that he has “gotten help” for his “monumental mistake,” yet he would not elaborate what sort of help he is getting. Is it because the investigation is ongoing? If so, then say so.

And is it just me, or did he seem irritated that he had to speak about his DUI at all? Local TV stations also reported that this would be “the first and the last time” that Helton would address this matter. That sound contrite to you? Me either.

No one asked Helton if it ever occurred to him that he could have injured – or killed – a child wearing a Helton jersey or t-shirt. Has Helton considered what such an unspeakable tragedy would do to his legacy? I’d like to know the answer to that question, yet the media has not asked it. Why? Could it be that it is easier to screech and preach about intangible things like the “spirit of the game” or “integrity” than it is to deal with all-too common occurrences in life like drinking and driving, alcohol dependency or automobile crashes? I don’t have an answer. I just wish someone were willing to ask the question.

No questions will be forthcoming from Major League Baseball. Bud Selig has offered no comment whatsoever on Helton’s DUI. The Denver Post has reported that the Rockies do not plan to discipline Helton for his crime, but they did issue a STRONGLY WORDED statement the day after Helton’s arrest. The team used phrases like “extremely disappointed,” “full accountability,” and “severity of the situation.” But an organization that has for years trumpeted how much it values “character” in its players, coaching staff and management, will take no further action other than issuing a statement that essentially says “STOP! Or I’ll say stop again.” Three cheers for hypocrisy, everyone!

Here’s a question for the media, Rockies management and fans: what if it had been a player other than Todd Helton, the franchise icon? What if it had been one of the Rockies’ many young pitchers? A 20-something, perhaps single guy, trying to establish a major league career? Would everyone be so quick to come to that player’s defense, espousing deep insights into his psyche and rationalizing a horrible decision? Or would they be raking him over the coals, demanding his release and entry into a rehab program? Interesting question, isn’t it? The cynic in me has a guess what the answer would be, and the answer is disappointing.

Check out these numbers tweeted by Anthony Witraudo of The Sporting News: “By Sporting News’ count, 12 MLB players, an exec, a bullpen catcher, an announcer and a HOFer have been busted for DUIs since start of 2011.”

Pardon the turn of phrase, but that’s a sobering statistic. The way so many baseball writers harp about PEDs, you’d think the ratio of PED users to DUI arrests was 50-to-1. Again, I ask, where are the priorities of baseball writers? Shouldn’t the DUI issues at least get equal time?

In fairness, the National Football League has a much higher number of players who have been arrested for driving under the influence. But no one grandstands about the prevalence of PEDs in the NFL, either.

Helton said Sunday he is taking “all the right steps to make sure (drinking and driving) doesn’t happen again.” Let’s hope it doesn’t. He played Russian roulette with his massive pick-up truck and got lucky. If it were to happen again, the end result might be a tragedy far more heartbreaking than an athlete caught using steroids. I hope that is something members of the baseball media come to realize sooner rather than later.

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