Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Baseball's Browns were St. Louis' colorful, lovable losers

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/16404285/baseball-browns-colorful-lovable-losers-were-first-franchise-leave-st-louis-behind (full story with removed photos)

Eddie Gaedel's pinch-hitting appearance -- he walked, of course -- was just one of the stunts Bill Veeck pulled when he owned the St. Louis Browns. AP Photo

With the Rams rebooting in Los Angeles, ESPN.com presents a series exploring the remnants departed teams have left behind in the cities they abandoned.
St. Louis has been jilted by the professional sports world yet again.
The Rams have returned to Los Angeles, reuniting with their ex after a two-decade fling in the Gateway City. St. Louis enjoyed a Super Bowl victory and five postseason appearances from 1999-2004, but the divorce ingloriously capped a decade of playoff-free football for the city's NFL fans.
Worse, the Rams are the fourthmajor sports franchise to abandon St. Louis. The NFL's Cardinals bolted for Arizona in 1988. The NBA's Hawks relocated to Atlanta in 1968. MLB's Browns pulled up stakes for Baltimore after the 1953 season and became the Orioles. That doesn't even count the decommissioning of the Spirits of St. Louis prior to the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
The baseball Browns played 52 seasons in St. Louis, not far off the sum of the Rams (21), football Cardinals (28) and Hawks (13) combined. That fact alone makes the Browns unique among franchises to defect from St. Louis -- but it's a colorful legacy as lovable losers that places them in a sentimental category of their own.
"It's not just that they're bad -- they're comically, lovably, absurdly bad," said sportscaster Bob Costas, who lived in St. Louis for years and still owns a home there. "So I think the reason why they're remembered nostalgically isn't just because they once existed and then left, or because they were bad. It's because they were interestingly bad."
More than six decades after their departure, traces of the star-crossed Browns remain in St. Louis.
A display of Browns memorabilia exists as part of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame exhibits at Scottrade Center, home of the NHL's Blues. It contains vintage photos, uniform articles, a bat used in the 1944 World Series, a baseball used in the team's final game and a custom pair of cowboy boots bearing Browns logos that belonged to onetime owner Donald Barnes. The centerpiece is a video documentary about the team's history, narrated by Costas, who helped fund the display.
A sign at the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club commemorates the site where Sportsman's Park stood in various iterations from 1881 to 1966. It lists star players who competed there and notes World Series contested at the location. There are still approximately 20 living former Browns players. Chuck Stevens, 97, is the oldest. J.W. Porter, 83, is the youngest.
The Browns held primacy over the rival Cardinals early in the 20th century, serving as landlords in Sportsman's Park to their National League counterparts. In 1922, the Browns enjoyed a landmark season, winning 93 games but finishing one game behind the New York Yankees for the American League pennant. That year, future Hall of Famer George Sisler established a franchise record by batting .420, and Ken Williams became the first major leaguer to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season.
But it wasn't long before the Cardinals would take over the town, and they won their first World Series in 1926 by defeating the Yankees in seven games. From that point until the Browns departed for Baltimore, the Cardinals won eight NL pennants and five World Series. Meantime, the Browns topped the .500 mark just five times in the next 27 seasons -- and three of those came during World War II, when MLB's ranks were depleted of star players.
The Browns' only AL championship came in 1944 with a wartime roster. They won two of the first three games in the World Series, only to lose in six games to, of course, the Cardinals.
While the Cards were writing history, the Browns had to settle for footnotes. Pete Gray, who had lost his right arm in a childhood accident, played 77 games as an outfielder in 1945. Roy Sievers, a St. Louis native, was named 1949 AL Rookie of the Year and later became an All-Star for the Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox. Then there's the unlikely tale of Bobo Holloman, who pitched a no-hitter in his first career start on May 6, 1953, only to be permanently demoted to the minors 2 1/2 months later.
It was during the Browns' final three seasons, under the eccentric ownership of Bill Veeck, that they established themselves as a team for the ages. Veeck and the Browns created myriad spectacles during the second half of the 1951 season alone. A sampling:
  • July 2: Veeck purchases the club.
  • July 14: The team signs legendary Negro Leagues pitcher Satchel Paige, thought to be 45, although his true age was debatable. Paige would compile an 18-23 record in three seasons with St. Louis -- pretty good for a team that lost 292 games during that span.
  • Aug. 19: Eddie Gaedel, at 3-foot-7 and 65 pounds, draws a walk as a pinch hitter in his only career plate appearance. Detroit Tigers catcher Bob Swift is reputed to have offered this sage advice to pitcher Bob Cain prior to the encounter: "Pitch him low."
  • Aug. 24: The team holds Grandstand Managers Night, whereby fans made actual game decisions by voting with flash cards.
  • Sept. 30: On the final day of the season, Ned Garver becomes the first pitcher in modern baseball history to win 20 games for a team that lost at least 100. He remains the only major leaguer to do so.
"In a weird way, it was almost better for the long-term memory of the Browns that we didn't win any pennants except the asterisk pennant of 1944," said Emmett McAuliffe, vice president of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society. "It almost cements us in the public mind."
Don Larsen is known best for the perfect game he threw as a Yankee in the 1956 World Series, but he began his career with the Browns. He was a rookie during the team's woebegone 1953 season, and he closed out the final Browns victory by pitching two innings in relief of Paige. That game, a 7-3 win at Detroit on Sept. 22, also turned out to be the final victory of Paige's career.
Larsen recalls traveling by train on road trips and the willingness of veterans to help him acclimate to the majors. He also remembers participating in spring training in San Bernardino, California, alongside a young left-hander named Tom Lasorda, whom the team eventually couldn't afford to keep under contract.
Larsen compiled a 7-12 record in 1953 and threw a team-leading 192 2/3 innings. He also hit three homers and drove in 10 runs. The team infamously went 54-100 that year while drawing only 297,238 fans -- an average of 3,860 per game.
"Of course, we didn't do all that well," Larsen said. "We didn't draw for crap, but I liked St. Louis. I enjoyed it, especially with the guys we had. It was my first year. They all treated you well, and we were just trying to do our job the best way we could and hang in there."
Larsen remembers Veeck, who once lived with his family in an apartment under the Sportsman's Park grandstands, regularly mingling with players. Larsen can picture Veeck and catcher Les Moss regularly playing cards during the owner's frequent visits to the trainer's room to receive treatment on his right leg, which was injured and amputated at the knee in World War II.
"I liked him very much," Larsen said of Veeck. "He was a good man. I think the other owners didn't like his showmanship, per se, but I think he tried to give something back to the fans."
The Browns Historical Society curates the Scottrade Center display and has since become de facto caretakers of a trove of memorabilia and countless recollections of the bygone franchise. It holds an annual reunion luncheon for players and fans, although only two former Brownies -- Porter and Sievers -- were able to attend last year's event. The group, also known as the Browns Fan Club, published a three-part book titled "Ables to Zoldak" of the team's historical numbers years before statistics were readily available online.
Although the ranks of the living Browns are inevitably shrinking, the historical society dutifully endures "to keep the memory alive of this odd duck," McAuliffe said.
"When we started in 1984, there were a couple hundred living Brownies," McAuliffe said. "It was mainly an effort by us to get as many of them as could come back, kind of like a college reunion. We would get dozens of Brownies back then. As the players have gotten older and there's gotten fewer and fewer, it's turned into like a last man's club."
St. Louis is widely considered second to none as a baseball town, so McAuliffe pitches a wild idea. Maybe the city could lure a relocated or expansion team to share Busch Stadium and become the new Browns. If a rekindled team attracted even half the 3.52 million who attended Cardinals games last season, it would outpace the 2015 totals of four MLB clubs. So what if ...
"No, no, no, no," Costas said, bringing reality back into focus. "That is a sweet notion that comes from a good place and has no practical justification."
Unlike the Rams, the Browns never won a championship. But unlike the Rams, the Browns had a spirit that leaves them remembered fondly by the city they left behind.
"It's one thing just to suck and to fail," Costas said. "It's another to fail colorfully, nobly and unforgettably -- which brings up the question: Did they really fail? Here we are [talking about it] 60 years later. ... Their place in history exceeds their accomplishments about 10 times over."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Eddie Gaedel Mayoral Proclamation Featured on Fox 2 News

Don't forget to get your tickets for the Eddie Gaedel Bobblehead Night Pregame Party with Don Larsen and other Browns players (see info in post below)!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Double Down with Don" September 9th... Exclusive 'Eddie Gaedel Night' Engagement

Don Larsen felt so bad about missing our June luncheon due to a scheduling snafu, he offered to come back and do an event with the fan club as soon as possible.

"Why wait til next year?", we decided, "when the biggest publicity-generating event in fan club history is September 9?".  As you know, at Busch Stadium on that Friday night, 30,000 fans will pass through the turnstiles with a box under their arm containing a limited-edition Eddie Gaedel Bobblehead. And 30,000 fans will have conversations among their family, "Who were the St. Louis Browns??"

Granddads will explain to grandkids. And so on. And the memory of the St. Louis Browns will have been preserved in one great leap. (And just in the nick of time while we are down to only 19 living Browns players).

So we decided to "Double-down with Don".  We're bringing Don into town (from Idaho).  Don will be representing the Browns on the field and in the broadcast booth that evening on KMOX radio.

But first, Don will be appearing at a special event JUST FOR BROWNS FAN CLUB members.  And you are invited! 

But due to the last-minute confirmation plus exclusive nature of this huddle with a world series perfect game pitcher, we are recommending (nay, pleading with you) to get your RESERVATIONS IN NOW. First come first serve!  Space is limited.

In other words ... DONT THINK!  It's Don Frickin Larsen and a free Eddie Gaedel Bobblehead!  ACT!  And when you hear the special venue where this pregame party will be taking place (SEE BELOW) ... I know you are going to flip.  And when you hear how you will be riding in style to be dropped off directly at your stadium gate you are going to flip (plus breathe a sigh of relief knowing that downtown hassles will be at a minimum).
So here are the dirty deets:  

Location: The Tiny Bar (Eddie Gaedel-themed bar voted The Riverfront Times Best New Bar of 2015
1008 Locust at 10th Street 
Downtown St. Louis

Friday, Sept. 9
2:30 to 5:30pm 
Deluxe trolley to the ballpark (gates open at 6:00 p.m). The trolley service provides roundtrip transportation from the Tiny Bar to Busch Stadium and back to your parking location.

Two convenient surface lots and one garage available within two blocks.

Here's what you get:
    Image result for don larsen browns color
Meet & Greet Don Larsen & Corrine Larsen
Live Interview of Don by a well-known baseball authority plus Q & A
World's only Browns-themed bar
Appetizers and two (2) not-so tiny drinks from the Tiny Bar 
Your photo professionally taken with Don Larsen (may be charge)
Two (2) autographs (your item)
Round-trip deluxe trolley ride
Short video presentation on the only perfect game in the 111-year history of the World Series 
Just $60 tax-deductible!!!*
For the ballgame and the Eddie Gaedel Bobblehead and to sit with fellow Browns fan club members, make reservations direct with the Cardinals at: www.cardinals.com/browns  or call 314-345-9000. Ballgame ticket is only $25 per person for BFC members.  7:15pm start time.  

For the meet and greet with Don and Corine Larsen: The tax deductible reservation is $60 per person.

Make your tax deductible reservation with a check of $60 per person payable to the “St. Louis Browns Historical Society” and mail to:

     John Rappold
     St. Louis Browns Fan Club
     13525 Chatham Manor Dr.
     St. Louis, MO   63128
     E – mail   Jrjr21937@yahoo.com

Vicki Martin  -  314-852-1402
Bill Rogers  -  314-892-8632
e-mail  -  stlbrowns@swbell.net

Don Larsen . . . . Eddie Gaedel
Two guys with a couple of things in common -  they both played for the St. Louis Browns, and they both achieved baseball immortality from ONE GAME.

Cut and paste the following reservation form to a blank sheet of paper and then print.  

Make ________ reservation (s) for the Larsen Meet & Greet gathering @ $60 each.                             $_______

Your Name:        ___________________________________________________________

Address: _________________________________________________________________

City: _______________________________ State: _____  Zip:________________________

e-Mail: ___________________________________________________________
We'll be waitin for ya!

Mail check payable and mail to: 
                          St. Louis Browns Fan Club
John Rappold
                          13525 Chatham Manor Dr.
                          St. Louis, MO   63128
                          E – mail   Jrjr21937@yahoo.com

Generous donation to Don and Corine's travel expenses provided by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Please note that the Double Down with Don will take place at the Tiny Bar plus the 2nd floor breakout space.  Elevator service inside the Tiny Bar to the 2nd floor.

October 6, 1956  -  On this day in 1956, baseball history was made. Don Larsen pitched the first perfect game in the World Series against the rival Brooklyn Dodgers. Yogi leaped into Don's arms as the game ended, and now this image is one of the most iconic in history and will be shown at our reception on September 9.  Join us!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

Achieving Baseball Immortality

Don Larsen and Eddie Gaedel have a couple of things in common: they both played for the St. Louis Browns, and they both achieved baseball immortality because of their participation in a single game -  Eddie with his pinch hitter appearance in St. Louis, and Don with his unparalleled World Series performance.

"A perfect night to remember the St. Louis Browns" would be a perfect theme for the evening of
September 9, 2016, when Eddie Gaedel's short career (which culminated in his recording a perfect lifetime on-base percentage!) is being recognized through the release of 30,000 bobbleheads.

It marks the 65th anniversary of the only 65 pound player in MLB history, and it occurred right here in St. Louis as part of a desperate attempt by Bill Veeck to save the team. The event will, hopefully, also direct some attention to a 9 year old kid named Billy who "loaned Eddie Gaedel the shirt off his back" to make baseball history, and went on to become owner of the St. Louis Cardinals as part of one family's three generation commitment to Major League Baseball in St. Louis.

Don Larsen should be included in all this. I think a serious effort needs to be directed toward weaving the Don Larsen appearance into this narrative, rather than have it occupy a parallel track on an unrelated and disconnected story line that weekend, where it could become a distraction from a long planned event honoring the "littlest Brownie of them all."

Click on Photo to Enlarge
From what I have read, Larsen's largely unremarkable career, both in St. Louis and afterwards, was totally and rightfully obscured by a perfect, one-day date with destiny in the World Series, in a Yankee uniform, that  guaranteed his immortality. One game, lasting fame: just like Eddie Gaedel!

Mark your calendar for the weekend of Friday, September 9. You can join the Browns Fan Club for special seating and a great discount ticket offer to see the Cardinals host the Brewers.

It’s Eddie Gaedel Bobblehead Night at Busch Stadium for the first 30,000 fans entering with a ticket.  You can purchase a ticket today for the Right Field Loge seats for just $25 each.

To purchase these exclusive tickets, visit cardinals.com/browns or call 314-345-9000.  The deadline to purchase is August 9th.

Watch for more details on how, when and where you can meet Don Larsen over the September 9 weekend. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

May 16, 1954. Memorial Stadium in Baltimore was packed for the Sunday afternoon doubleheader between the Orioles and the Yankees. Don Larsen went the distance for the Birds in the second game to garner his first win of the season, holding the Yankees to three hits in a well-pitched 6-2 victory. 

Maybe the New York powers-that-be recalled that victory when they later acquired Larsen in a 17-player off-season trade. Win or lose, the Baltimore fans were excited to be watching Major League baseball in their new stadium.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Browns Exhibit to Undergo a Move with Renovation of Scottrade Center

What will be done to Scottrade? Walls behind concession stands will be cleared out to allow for a view of the ice, the team store will be beefed up, and... and this may be the nicest part... there will be an outdoor biergarten that may very well be open year round on Clark. If Clark wants to become main street for St. Louis sports any more so than it already is, this'll help.

Taxpayer funds being spent on sports stadiums is a hot button topic, and them being

spent on building new stadiums for teams that can damn well afford it is a waste. Scottrade, however, is city owned and its bonds are paid off. The Blues can't afford $160 million worth of renovations, and since it's not their building (they do manage it) it's not technically their responsibility. Renovations could bring a ton of new events to downtown St. Louis and the neighboring hotels and establishments. Could it be a wash?

Yes. Is it better than plunking down over a billion or so bucks for a football stadium along the north riverfront? Probably so.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cardinals Chairman DeWitt to Speak at St. Louis Browns Banquet

Cardinals Chairman DeWitt to Speak at St. Louis Browns Banquet

Annual Baseball Luncheon set for Thursday, June 9 at Sheraton Westport

St. Louis, MO May 17, 2016 -

The St. Louis Browns Fan Club announced that Bill DeWitt, Jr. will address fans at their annual luncheon scheduled for Thursday, June 9 at the Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel in St. Louis. DeWitt, managing partner and chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals, won two World Series - in 2006 and 2011 - during his time as owner.

As son and nephew of Browns’ owners, DeWitt  grew up in and around the Browns clubhouse as a young boy and has numerous stories about the Browns of that era which he will share for the first time at the annual luncheon of die-hard “Brownie” fans.

The luncheon will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the DeWitt family’s first involvement in St. Louis baseball.  

In 1916 DeWitt’s father, William O. DeWitt Sr. began with the Cardinals selling soda pop and later, under the mentorship of Branch Rickey, moved up to become treasurer and assistant secretary of the club.  In 1936, DeWitt Sr. jumped at a chance to join the Browns in senior management, switching front offices at Sportsman’s Park.  DeWitt stayed with the Browns in various capacities as both employee and for a short time, owner, until the team left for Baltimore in 1954.  DeWitt’s 18 years with the team makes him the longest-serving executive in Browns history.  Together with his brother Charles, who served 14 years as traveling secretary and scout, the DeWitts gave 32 years of their lives to Browns baseball.  In addition, Mr. Dewitt Jr.’s great uncle, Jay Sowash, was a prominent figure in the early days of the Muny (high school-age) League in St. Louis.

DeWitt, Jr. had his own moment in Browns history on August 19, 1951 when as a Browns’ batboy he was called upon to lend his uniform to midget Eddie Gaedel, for a pinch-hitting stunt.  Gaedel was secretly signed by the St. Louis Browns and put in DeWitt’s uniform (with the number "1/8" sewn on the back). Gaedel’s one official at-bat was a walk on four pitches.  

DeWitt/Gaedel’s uniform is currently on display at the St. Louis Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Ballpark Village next to Busch Stadium.

Bill Rogers, President of the Browns Historical Society and Fan Club, said "We're excited that Bill can join us. Out of 6 surviving players of the Eddie Gaedel ‘small person’ event, only 2 survive - Frank Saucier, the batter he replaced, and Bill DeWitt, Jr., bat boy. Ned Garver and Roy Sievers were both in the ballpark but not playing in that particular game.

“Former Browns player, Don Larsen, is unable to attend our June lunch due to a program conflict. We're working with Don to attend an event later this year." Rogers added. Sievers will attend the luncheon, however.  

In addition to the Cardinals, DeWitt also owned or invested in four other major league franchises: Baltimore Orioles, the Cincinnati Reds, the Texas Rangers and the Cincinnati Stingers hockey club.

DeWitt’s son, Bill Dewitt III, is currently President of the Cardinals.

Tickets are available for the June 9, 2016 luncheon at $48 per person. To order on-line, go to http://2015browns.blogspot.com . By mail, send a check and payable to St. Louis Browns Fan Club, PO Box 510047, St. Louis, MO 63151-0047.

St. Louis Browns Historical Society & Fan Club
Bill Rogers
PO Box 510047
St. Louis, MO  63151-0047
Tel: 314-892-8632
Blog: http://2015browns.blogspot.com