Friday, December 28, 2012

Browns Billboard Display

Click on Photo to Enlarge
Thanks to Harster Heating & Air Conditioning for sponsorship of the Browns billboard. The sign is at the intersection of Gravois and Rock Hill / Tesson Ferry in Affton in South St. Louis County. This is a digital sign with the ads changing every 8-10 seconds. The ads also rotate on different days. Just pull into the convenience store across the street and park for a few minutes to catch the Browns ads.

And if you're in need of heating and air conditioning, give Harster Heating a call and tell them you're a member of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club.

You know, next to Ted Drewes and Imo’s, Harster Heating and Air Conditioning is a pretty well known St. Louis tradition – even if you can’t eat a furnace. After 60 years in the business, they've seen pretty much everything.
They absolutely respect their customers. That’s why they're still in business. But, even so, they've had a couple interesting customer experiences that would make you smile. For example, they learned to bring  their own hoses to rinse out AC units. Why? Well, people, you see, have a very definite way of rolling up their hoses. One of their customers noticed they rolled his hose up clockwise instead of counter clockwise.

Yeah…well, these things do happen. They now make it a point to pay attention to the little details. That’s just the way they roll…hoses, that is.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Oldest Browns Club Members Deceased; Chuck Diering, Former Cardinal, Oriole

Within the past month we lost two of our oldest members of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club.  Jim Green, age 95 of Pacific, MO died on October 30 while Rev. Msgr. Jerome O. Sommer of St. Louis passed away on November 18, 2012 also at age 95. Both gentlemen were born in 1917 two days apart on September 15 for Jim Green and September 17 for Msgr. Sommer.

 Jim's first wife passed away sometime ago.  After being a widower for many years, Jim remarried at age 89 to Betty Gustafson, a widow age 83. Little did Jim know she had 10 kids - all grown, of course. Little did she know that Jim at 11 kids - all grown. So between them, their families suddenly exploded to 21 children plus all the grandkids and other relatives.

Jim served in the U.S. Army during WWII and fought in The Battle of the Bulge. He remained active in the Veterans organization and was involved in school presentations on educating children about The Battle of the Bulge. Jim was an avid golfer, charter member of Forest Hills Country Club and life time member of Franklin County Country Club.

 Msgr. Sommer was ordained a Priest on June 9, 1940. He served as Chaplain in the United States Army 1945 to 1974, then as pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine parish, St. Robert (Waynesville), Mo., 1974 to 1986.

Chuck Diering, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1947 to 1951, died Friday November 23 at the age of 89.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the elderly former outfielder fell in his Spanish Lake, MO home on Thanksgiving and was later found by his son, Bob. He passed away at a hospital a few hours later from cerebral hemorrhaging.

Diering began his professional baseball career over 70 years ago. After losing three years in the military to World War II, he still played in over 750 major league games.

Spending over half of his big league career with the Cardinals, Diering was a serviceable backup outfielder to the likes of Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial and reliable cog Terry Moore.

In 396 games with the team, he hit .252 with eight home runs, 75 RBI and 127 runs scored. He knew how to draw a walk, posting a .367 on-base percentage in his five-year St. Louis career, with a high mark of .388 in 1949.

In fact, 1949 was the only season he received significant time as a regular while in a Cardinals uniform. He played in 131 games that season, starting 78 of them, with 123 of his appearances being in centerfield.

 Not a slugger, the then 26-year-old still hit .263 with 21 doubles and eight triples in 369 at-bats that year, scoring 60 runs and driving in 38.

 The following year, he started 50 of the 89 games in which he appeared.

World War II took a major chunk out of his playing career. In 1941, he began his professional career as a Cardinals farmhand at age 18. In 1942, the up-and-comer hit .305 with 25 doubles in 126 games with the Class-D Albany Cardinals.

 Then the military called.

 He was a private-first class in the Army who served in the United States and the Pacific Theatre of Operations from 1943 to 1945, but Diering's career was not entirely stunted as he continued to play while enlisted. According to Baseball in Wartime, he led one league with a .524 batting average and eight home runs in just 12 games.

He returned to professional baseball in 1946, spending the entire year in the minor leagues—in his first year back, he stole 19 bases for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

After that year of re-acclimation, he made his major league debut on April 15, 1947, thus beginning his five-year skein with St. Louis.

On December 11, 1951, Diering was traded to the New York Giants with aging pitcher Max Lanier for similarly aging second baseman Eddie Stanky. He spent a year with the Giants before playing all of 1953 in the minor leagues. From 1954 to 1956, he was with the Baltimore Orioles, wrapping up his big league career.

Overall, Diering hit .249 with 14 home runs, 149 RBI and 411 hits in nine major league seasons. He played 752 games, scored 217 runs and had 76 doubles.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Need Help Identifying Players

We need some help in identifying the players in the photograph below. We recognize the three in the middle as Dizzy Dean, Francis Ettinger (in middle) and Rogers Hornsby . . . but who are the two guys on each end

The photo was taken in 1937 at Ray Doan's baseball school in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Ettinger had been selected to "The Sporting News" allstar team and earned a trip to the school. He later went on to play for the Ottawa Braves in 1938 and 1939 with the Ottawa Senators.
(Click on Photo to Enlarge)

Click on COMMENTS and let us know if you recognize the two players on the end. The gentleman on the left looks older and could possibly be a coach.  Thanks for the help.

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus.

(Read the rest of Virginia's letter at:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lee MacPhail, oldest Hall of Famer, dead at 95

Baseball's Hall of Fame says former American League President Lee MacPhail has died at 95. He died Thursday night at his home in Delray Beach, Fla. He had been the oldest Hall of Famer.

MacPhail was part of one of baseball's most famous families. He followed his father into the Hall and his son became a top executive for several major league teams.

MacPhail was the son of Larry MacPhail, who was president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, CEO and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and co-owner, president and GM of the New York Yankees.

Lee MacPhail was GM and president of the Baltimore Orioles and general manager of the Yankees before serving as AL president from 1974 through the 1983.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Browns Fan Club Caption Contest

On the left is Browns ace pitcher and 20-game winner Ned Garver at the St. Louis Browns historical society /Browns fan club 2011 reunion luncheon.  On the right, Browns rookie of the year Roy Sievers. Think of a clever caption, and you will win a commemorative St. Louis Browns/patriotic Flag Day Pin.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Election-Year World Series Trivia Quiz

       Every four years the US presidential election and the baseball season reach a crescendo at roughly the same time.    See if you can answer these baseball election-year trivia questions without checking a source.  (All questions include the World Series that took place between the American Association of the National League from 1884 through 1890).  This quiz will test both your baseball knowledge and your knowledge of US politics and the Constitution!

  1. Which team has the most World Series wins in a presidential election year?  How many??
  2. Excluding defunct franchises, which teams have *only* won the World Series during a election year? (Hint: They've both won it twice).
  3. Which of the original 16 teams of modern era major league baseball has never played in a World Series in an election year?
  4. Name the one original 8 National League team and the one original 8 American League team that has lost every time it has played a World Series during an election year.
  5. Excluding Canadian teams (which aren't governed by the US elections) which expansion teams have won a World Series title in an election year?
  6. Which team has lost the most election year World Series?
  7. The San Francisco Giants won the World Series this year. When was the last time the Giants won a World Series during a presidential election year?
  8. On four occasions, the winner of the World Series and the winner of the presidential election were from the same state.    Name the years and the candidates/teams.

EXTRA CREDIT:  In what year or years did teams named "St. Louis Browns"  compete in an election year World Series?

Email your answers below.  Your name will appear in this blog, if you're the first one to get all the correct answers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Travel Days, Shmavel Days

Union Station -  Obsolete during '44 World Series

Argghhh!  No NLCS baseball to watch today!!

Even though St. Louis to San Francisco is a mere two-hour flight these days, it is a "travel day" as per the contract with the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the National League Championship Series is idle.

Imagine, the World Series being played on consecutive days with no rest.  That's the way it was played all the way up through 1956.  Of course, in the 1944 World Series, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Browns, it was not a problem!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Last Great St. Louis Browns Player

One of the most respected players of his era, Ned Garver broke into the big leagues as a 22-year old rookie for the lowly St. Louis Browns in 1948 and quickly established himself as one of the best and most durable pitchers in the American League.

In his first four years he was arguably the best (and most valuable) pitcher in the AL and easily led all pitchers with a 20.4 WAR. In 1951, he became the first pitcher in modern baseball history to win 20 games for a team that lost 100 games. With renown stamina, he completed 42 of 49 starts in a stretch spanning 1950-52 and led the AL in complete games in 1950 (22) and 1951 (24). Runner-up to
Yogi Berra as American League MVP in 1951, Garver played for some of baseball's worst teams in his 14-year career, finishing in the bottom three 11 times and never better than fifth place. Hampered by arm and knee injuries in the second half of his career, Garver retired with 129 victories (157 defeats) and logged almost 2,500 innings.

Down-home with an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, 86-year old Garver reminisced recently about playing baseball in the 1940s and 1950s. His stories about playing conditions, travel, teammates, coaches, owners, and the reserve clause showed the passion he had to play the game and the dramatic changes the sport has experienced.

Wolf: Could you tell me about growing up and playing baseball in Ney (population 300) in northwest Ohio in the 1930s and '40s?

Garver: I was born and raised on a farm. We farmed by horses. It was a lot of manual labor which was good to develop your physical strength. It was in the Depression and nobody had any money to do things or go places. Every little community had their own baseball team. We called these "town teams." You didn't have to go far to play games. That what we did for recreation—play baseball. I started playing town ball when I was a freshman in high school. That was an excellent experience. Many of the players were older and more experienced than I was and it was a challenge.

Wolf: When did you start playing baseball?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Orioles Clinch!

Congratulations to the Baltimore Orioles on clinching a playoff berth yesterday.    May they make it all the way to the World Series!

The Orioles have appeared in the World Series seven times:  once in the 80s, three times in the 70s, twice in the 60s, and of course once in the 1940s as the St. Louis Browns.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Satchel Paige's dazzling debut left a great impression on his opposition

Just two days after the record books said he turned 42, Satchel Paige made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1948 in front of a crowd of 34,780 at Cleveland Stadium. The sheer magnitude of the situation shouldn’t have fazed the legendary hurler, who once while pitching in the championship game of dictator Rafael Trujillo’s league in the Dominican Republic, was ordered to win the game under the threat of the machine gun toting militia. Yet, for Paige, toeing the rubber on major league soil brought a sense of high drama, shaking one of baseball’s most experienced moundsmen. “I felt those nerves … they were jumping every which way,” Paige recalled.

Standing at the plate for the St. Louis Browns was 29-year-old first baseman Chuck Stevens, who entered the game sporting a .252 batting average with one home run, certainly not the type of numbers that would rattle fear into opposing hurlers. While Paige admitted his nerves, Stevens on the other hand saw a familiar target. Back in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, Paige would come out to Stevens’ California hometown of Long Beach to play winter ball. The two squared off many times before that fateful day. “I played against him about ten times before that night. I played against him when he could really smoke it,” said the 94-year-old Stevens from his home in California.

 “When Satch relieved against us [in Cleveland], he was just spotting the ball around. [It seemed like] he had lost 60 mph off of his fastball. He threw his breaking stuff and he had great control so you knew he was going to be around the plate all the time. He wasn’t going to overpower you like I had seen him in his earlier days,” he said.

Stevens wasted no time against his old friend and promptly laced Paige’s offering into left field. “The ballgame in Cleveland was not a big deal for me because I was just hitting off of Satch. I singled into left field, between [Ken] Keltner and [Lou] Boudreau. … I always had pretty good luck off of him.” Stevens dates his success against Paige back to a meeting they had a few years prior, just as he returned from his service in World War II. “One of the longest home runs I had ever hit in my life was off of Paige. I had just gotten out of close to four years in the service, and we played an exhibition game in Long Beach and Satch pitched against our ballclub. The ball I hit, I guess it must have been well over 400 feet. I wondered where all that power came from when I was rounding the bases.”

Stevens’ teammate Ned Garver was a 22-year-old rookie relief pitcher. Only in the major leagues for two months, he found himself right in the middle of this historical event. “There was never a time when there wasn’t a bunch of hoopla around Satchel because he was such a colorful guy,” said the 85-year-old Garver from his home in Ohio. Garver pitched two and one-thirds innings of scoreless relief for the save that day, but his clearest memories from that game started before a pitch was even thrown.

“We had a man on our team who hit cleanup and played left field [Whitey Platt]. He was from Florida. He told the manager he wasn’t going to play,” Garver recalled. “Zack Taylor was our manager, and you know back in those days, you didn’t tell somebody you weren’t going to play. You didn’t get away with that kind of crap. [Taylor] said, ‘No, you’re gonnna play.’ So he put him in the lineup.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Dying Franchise

One of the saddest things in all of sports is to witness the end of a franchise.

Now unless the franchise is in a defunct or moribund league, such as the several incarnations of world football or women's soccer, only the team dies in a specific city but the franchise moves on to a new city with some of the same identity. One of the inherent beauties of baseball history has been its relative stability.
From 1903 through 1952, a full 50 seasons, its map remained cosmically frozen. Every young fan experienced two eight-team leagues. With few exceptions these easily identifiable teams had the same names for all those years. Only the players changed and that's why fans needed scorecards.

That radically changed in 1953 when the Boston Braves fled the sparseness of Beantown for greener pastures in Milwaukee. When that ran out in 1967, they moved again to Atlanta.
In 1954 the Philadelphia A's left their not so friendly confines for Kansas City. Like the cheers in Milwaukee their welcome swiftly ran out and they moved to Oakland where the Oakland A's are considering another move as I write.

After the 1957 season, both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the N. Y. Giants left Gotham for the sunshine and starlets of L. A. and the wind and rain of San Francisco.
Expansion completely obliterated the stability and security of the baseball map by adding a total of 14 new teams to the major league mix.
I left out one team.
Like Philadelphia, Boston and New York---all cities with more than one team,---St. Louis had another team that for many years was better than the reigning world championing Cardinals. The St. Louis Browns, who chose their cognomen from the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball history, departed the city, not for the West Coast or South but for the East Coast. This change in direction was significant for a number of reasons.
To me it showed a rebellion of sorts against the directional trend in major league baseball. Metaphorically, the Baltimore Orioles severed virtually every connection they had with their St. Louis forbears.
Legend has it that the new team executive burned everything with a Browns' name  or logo on it as if in some sort of purification ritual that would shake them of the Browns inimical past of being first in shoes, first in booze and last in the American League.
Of the original 16 teams, the Browns had the worst record in baseball over these years. In their American League they had a losing record against all of the seven other teams.
They were the last team in both leagues to win a pennant. And that they did that just one time and that was in 1944.
Most of their great ball players had played before the Great Depression.

Of all the moves above, they were the only team that had its total identity removed. I am not counting the short-lived Seattle Pilots, an expansion team, who had moved to Milwaukee in 1970 to become the Brewers from Sick Stadium after their initial season.
Ironically the original Brewers had become the Browns after the former's first major league season in the inaugural American league season in 1901.

As if in some literary time warp, all of the above states categorically that the Browns were not only a moveable feast they were now a team without a city or a county. Baseball had in effect abandoned them and their 52 years of history.
And even worse of their original 796 players, only 30 have survived to this date. Most of these former players are in their 80's and 90's. Only J. W. Porter, who was born in 1939 still remains in his 70's and that should change next year.
So it can said with a saddened accuracy that the St. Louis Browns are a dying franchise. It has taken me a while to realize the depth of hubris and Angst that goes with that statement.
Twenty-eight years ago, I fulfilled a promise I made to nobody in particular--just myself to go to Cooperstown if Pee Wee Reese was ever inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. In 1984 he was and I did.
After a health-challenging long week of little sleep, poor food and much excitement, I had an epiphany on the tarmac of the Albany Airport. Two things clicked in my head. I was traveling with the late Ron Gabriel, an old friend from my days in the Society of American Baseball Research.  (SABR) He was the self-appointed president and CEO of the Brooklyn Dodger Fan Club.
The second idea came from the HOF Yearbook, which pictured Rick Ferrell, along with fellow inductees, Pee Wee, Harmon Killebrew, Don Drysdale and Luis Aparicio. Ferrell’s picture showed him in his 1929 rookie uniform with the Browns. All the other inductees were having their respective numbers retired.  I thought it a shame that Ferrell's Browns' number would never be retired.

Of course the Browns did not have a number that year and so it would have had to be more symbolic than anything else.  But it was the idea that bothered me.
When I returned to St. Louis, I called a friend and we decided to organize a meeting of interested old Brownie fans, to one start some sort of club to honor this team that was in the process fading behind the woodwork of history.

The meeting took place in the Mid-County YMCA of which I was a board member on October 4, 1984 with 28 people in attendance, including Ed Mickelson, the last player to knock in a run in St. Louis Browns history. The Browns Fan Club (BFC) eventually grew from that small seed to over 500 members, many of them former players.
Later we registered as an official historical society since our goal has always been to resurrect and maintain the historical memory of a team that even history has nearly forgotten. Since then we have had 30 dinners, roasts and luncheons.  To demonstrate the popularity of the club the last three luncheons have had Hall of Famers, Bob Costas, Tom Lasorda, who could have been a Browns' pitcher in 1953, Whitey Herzog and announcer Milo Hamilton.

In 2012 the club saw its historical exhibit open at the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame. To date the only missing jewel in this crown is a research center for our growing archive of historical materials.
Then maybe this dying franchise will finally enjoy the respect and honor its historical past deserves.

This fan club will not rest until the Browns' past has its historical presence duly recognized.

Browns Hope to be Part of Ballpark Village

Click to Enlarge

Monday, September 10, 2012

Milo Hamilton: 59 Ballparks & Counting

By: Frank Jackson
September 07, 2012

Milo Hamilton: Browns First TV Announcer

As birthday parties go, it would have been a huge turnout. For a major league baseball game on a weekend, it was a small gathering. The number in question is 17,291. That was the head count at Minute Maid Park last Sunday to see an afternoon contest between the best (the Reds) and the worst (the Astros) of the National League Central—and to celebrate broadcaster Milo Hamilton’s 85th birthday.

It would have been nice to see more people on hand for Hamilton’s big day, but the same would be true for just about any other Astros game this season. The Astros had a sellout against Colorado on April 6, the last National League Opening Day in Astros’ history. They had another sellout on May 19 for a game against the cross-state rival Rangers. No other game has been close.

As of Milo Hamilton’s birthday, the Astros were averaging 20,605 per game, which is just a smidgen over 50 percent capacity, last in the National League and 27th out of 30 in major league ball. It's interesting to note that if Houston were already in the American League, the bottom eight slots in attendance would all belong to American League teams. If the American League still had a president, he would doubtless be concerned.

After last year’s 106-loss season, expectations were low this year in Houston. Respectability would have been a big step forward, and at the season’s outset, it appeared .500 ball was a possibility. As late as May 26, the Astros were 22-24.

Then the wheels came off. The Astros made nationwide baseball news when they lost 34 games out of 38, the worst showing for a National League team over such a span since 1899! And that team, the Cleveland Spiders, was a special case, as the team was purposely gutted by the owners, who also owned the St. Louis franchise and transferred the best players there. True, the Astros have sold or traded their most recognizable players, but at least they got prospects in return.

Predictably, manager
Brad Mills was fired and Tony DeFrancesco, manager of the Oklahoma City Redhawks, the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, was named interim manager. That’s a backhand way of saying that the Astros have kissed off the season but wanted to look as though they are doing something. My guess is that the Astros will go with a new manager for their American League debut in 2013 and DeFrancesco will be back at Triple-A or be offered another job in the organization.

The Astros stood at 41-92 on Milo Hamilton’s birthday. With another month in the season from that point, another 100-loss season is all but assured. Surpassing last season’s 106-loss season—the worst in franchise history—is likely. Even in the franchise’s earliest years as the Colt .45s (1962-1964), a Houston team never lost 100 games.

On Hamilton’s big day, the first 10,000 fans received a Milo Hamilton bobblehead, and Hamilton received a birthday cake. Also, he was granted a place on the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor. A plaque honoring him will hang in the press box at Minute Maid Park.

Of course, it would have been nice if the Astros could have come up with a victory to cap off the festivities. Not that Hamilton hasn’t seen plenty of losses. After all, he has broadcast more than 4,000 games, counting spring training and postseason contests.

Actually, victory was within the Astros’ grasp. Starting pitcher
Bud Norris held the Reds scoreless for six, José Valdez added another scoreless inning, and the Astros were up 3-0 after seven. Then the bullpen melted down, and the Reds scored five in the eighth inning off Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeño and Wilton Lopez. The big hit was a three-run homer by Jay Bruce. And so the score remained Reds 5, Astros 3. It was a come-from-behind win for a team hoping to win 100 or more, and a late-inning loss for a team looking to lose 100 or more.

In fact, the Houston Chronicle is monitoring the Astros’ losses daily. The paper tracks the number of losses, the projected total at the end of the season, and how far the team is from tying the 1962 Mets’ record of 120 losses.

“Not with a bang but with a whimper” is the way the Astros are going out—and 2012 season marks the end of an era in more ways than one. It’s the conclusion of the first half-century of major league ball in Houston, the conclusion of the team’s National League history, and the end of Milo Hamilton’s 28 years of broadcasting Astros’ baseball.

Unfortunately, the team’s losing ways make it difficult to celebrate anything, and all the games in throwback uniforms, all the giveaways—bobbleheads, retro jerseys, caps and T-shirts, et al.—can’t take away the stigma of the current season. In a sense, a 100-loss season would bring Milo Hamilton full circle, as the St. Louis Browns went 54-100 in 1953, his first year broadcasting major league baseball.

Now for those of you keeping score at home, Hamilton is actually a little older than Vin Scully (Hamilton DOB: 9/2/27; Scully DOB: 11/29/27). Scully got an earlier start and has spent his entire career with the Dodgers, starting in 1950. His 63 seasons with one team is another of those baseball records that may never be broken.

Scully's 63 seasons with more than one team is also unlikely to be equaled, but Hamilton’s record isn’t too shabby. After breaking in with the Browns during their last year in St. Louis, Hamilton went to work for the Cardinals, among other teams. He had a few years when he wasn’t doing baseball, so his baseball career stands at 57, not 60 years.

Perhaps most remarkable, Hamilton’s longevity in the broadcast booth has come despite being fired from a number of his jobs. There aren’t that many broadcasting jobs in big league baseball, so if you can readily find another job after being canned, then you must be pretty good at what you do.

In addition to the Browns and Cardinals, Hamilton has worked for the Cubs (twice), the White Sox, the Braves, the Pirates, and (since 1985) the Astros. Since 2006, he has worked only home games and select away games.

Hamilton’s lengthy career has enabled him to broadcast from 59 big league ballparks. Considering there were only 16 teams when he started and, even now, only 30 teams, that is an impressive career achievement. It encompasses the classic ballparks, the doughnut-shaped, multi-purpose stadiums, and the retro/modern parks of the last 20 years.

And Hamilton isn’t finished yet. He’s planning to visit the broadcast booth at Comerica Park in Detroit when the Astros play there next season. That will bring him to an even 60 ballparks—a Ruthian number for a man who was born the year Ruth set his record! In fact, at some point when Hamilton is on the air in Detroit, he should repeat the statement Ruth made after he hit his 60th home run: “Sixty, count ‘em, sixty! Let’s see some son of a bitch match that!” After all, it’s not like Hamilton has to worry about job security.

Ruth, of course has been matched, but I doubt that Hamilton will be. I don’t know if broadcasts from different major league parks is tracked by any of the game’s official record-keepers, but it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing Hamilton. With new American League parks in the offing for Oakland and Tampa Bay, he may hit 62 if he can maintain his health to, say, his 90th birthday. 
To put Hamilton’s role in baseball history in perspective, consider that he was already 35 years old when
Jamie Moyer was born. Moyer didn’t quite make it to age 50 on the mound this year; Roger Clemens did, albeit for an independent league team. That’s impressive, but I think broadcasting baseball at age 85 is just as remarkable. Hell, just working—doing anything—at age 85 is remarkable. Now that I think of it, just living to age 85 is pretty good, though I might feel differently if I make it to 84.

Ideally, every major league team should have a long-term broadcaster like Hamilton to provide continuity. Some of the radio and TV announcers may change, but ideally every team should have one voice that is familiar to more than one generation. Players, managers, owners, and ballparks come and go, but good broadcasters go on ... not quite forever but close to it. With all the unfamiliar names in the Astros’ lineup in September, 2012, the sound of Milo Hamilton’s voice on the radio must be reassuring to hard-core Houston fans.

As you might expect, Hamilton has been honored with more than a bobblehead and a birthday cake during his career. For starters, a street in downtown Houston has been named Milo Hamilton Way. Also, he has been inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, the Iowa Baseball Hall of Fame (he is a native of Fairfield, Iowa), and he is the recipient of the Ford Frick award presented by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. To give you an idea of how long he’s been around, that last award, which would be the ultimate tribute to any play-by-play announcer, was bestowed on him 20 years ago!

Like every legendary broadcaster, Hamilton has a pet phrase, namely “Holy Toledo!” When he goes to Detroit in 2013, he really should consider a side trip to Toledo. He owes the town that much and it’s only about 50 miles from Detroit. Besides, Hamilton has been so busy broadcasting major league ball, he’s missed out on a lot of minor league action—and if he’s never seen the Toledo Mud Hens in action, he really hasn’t touched all the bases!

Frank Jackson has published previous baseball articles in National Pastime and Elysian Fields Quarterly. He was weaned on baseball at Connie Mack Stadium.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Less Moss: Deceased

John Lester "Les" Moss (May 14, 1925 - August 29, 2012) was an American professional baseball player, coach, scout and manager. He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher for the St. Louis Browns for the most significant portion of his career.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Moss began his professional baseball career in 1942 at the age of 17, playing for the Americus Pioneers of the Georgia-Florida League. In 1943 he moved up to the Class A Elmira Pioneers of the Eastern League where he posted a .308 batting average in 96 games. He missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons while serving in the Merchant Marines. He would play for the Toledo Mud Hens in 1946, hitting .297 in 121 games before, being called up late in the season to make his major league debut with the Browns on September 10.

Moss platooned alongside left-handed-hitting catcher Jake Early in 96 games during the 1947 season.  He caught the majority of the games for the Browns in 1948 while his hitting improved with a .257 average along with 14 home runs and 46 runs batted in.  In 1949, the Browns acquired 24-year-old Sherm Lollar from the New York Yankees and, Moss became the second string catcher. Moss' hitting continued to improve with a .291 average and an impressive .399 on base percentage.

On May 17, 1951, Moss was traded to the Boston Red Sox.  After producing a .198 batting average in 71 games for the Red Sox, he would be traded back to the Browns on November 28, 1951. He continued as the Browns' second string catcher backing up Clint Courtney. Moss was the Browns' catcher on May 6, 1953 when Bobo Holloman pitched a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics.  In 1954, the Browns relocated to Baltimore where Moss played one full season in Baltimore before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in June 1955, where he once again served as a back up to Sherm Lollar.  He played three more seasons with the White Sox before ending his major league career after 1958.

Moss returned to the minor leagues, appearing in two games for the Indianapolis Indians in 1959 and then, appeared in three games for the San Diego Padres in 1960, before retiring as a player at the age of 35.

In a 13 year major league career, Moss played in 824 games, accumulating 552 hits in 2,234 at bats for a .247 career batting average along with 63 home runs, 276 runs batted in and a .333 on base percentage. He ended his career with a .978 fielding percentage.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

St. Louis Browns/Cardinals: A Hotbed of Activity in Early 20th Century

St. Louis was a hotbed of baseball activity in the early 20th century. Two of baseball's great wars played out here-the rise of the American League and the rise and fall of the Federal League. No pennants flew over the city from 1900 to 1925, yet St. Louis teams were involved in a number of torrid pennant races.

 Here is the heyday of the St. Louis Browns and the emergence of the Cardinals, as well as a vibrant scene for semi-pro and black teams. The city had two of the greatest hitters in baseball history- George Sisler and Rogers Hornsby-and one of the game's most influential executives - Branch Rickey. Twenty-one members of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown played baseball in St. Louis during these years.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ruth Taken Out for Pinch Hitter

While the following baseball event does not involve our Browns, it's a bit of baseball lore of interest. It is about Babe Ruth and the Yakees, who almost always beat up on our Browns.

On opening day of the season in 1927, the Yankees entertained the Philadelphia Athletics. It was a strong rivalry then against the beginning of Connie Mack's last great team with Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Ernshaw, Mickey Cochran, Al Simmons, Jim Dykes and others.

Ruth had held out signing that spring, and he did not show up for spring training. He waited until a day or so before the first game in early April before coming to terms. Not having batted since the 1926 World Series games against the Cardinals, Ruth was rusty. He struck out in his first 2 plate appearances. The Yankee manager, Miller Huggins (I think it was) put in a 3rd string catcher to pinch-hit for the Babe.

In 1944 I wrote to John Wray, then sports editor of the Post, about this.  He featured the incident in his column the next day. It was a rarity for anyone to pinch-hit for the great Bambino. Wray commented that Ruth was shocked. Also that he so recovered that he hit 60 homes runs that year of 1927.

(Sent in by Monsignor Jerome Sommer, St. Louis, MO)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mighty Kratz Has Spoiled the Day

The outlook was brilliant for the Cardinal nine that day...
The score stood 7-4, only six outs in the way...
And good old Zeppo coming in, he'll get those lefties out...
But Zeppo can't locate home plate and Matheny is in doubt...
Two on, no outs, what should a manger do now?...
Mitchell Boggs will douse that fire, no runs will he allow!...
And just like that two outs ensue!...
The Philly fans are restless and some begin to boo...
And then advancing to the plate is Mighty Erik Kratz...A second string receiver with only a few at bats...
From the grandstand filled with fanatics there went up a muffled roar...
"NO, not that bum" the Philly fans implore...
With a smile of Christian charlty great Kratz's visage shone...
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on...
And now Boggs holds the ball and now he lets it go...
And now the air is shattered by the force of Kratz's blow......
Oh! Somewhere in America the sun is shining bright...
A band is playing somewhere and in Philly hearts are light...And somewhere folks are laughing and somewhere children play...
But there's no joy in Cardinal Nation...
Mighty Kratz has spoiled the day.....

Bud Kane 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thomas Phelps, Deceased

Tom Phelps died this past Thursday, August 9, 2012 at the age of 68 of cancer. Tom's wife, Trent Barnes Phelps of St. Louis, is the granddaughter of Donald L.Barnes, owner of the St. Louis Browns from 1936-1944.

Tom served as trustee for the Donald L. Barnes Foundation charitable trust and for over fifteen years he served as trustee for the Brehm Preparatory School, Carbondale, Illinois, serving students with learning disabilities.

Mr. Phelps made a sizable donation to the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in the name of the Donald L. Barnes family. In addition he donated 7 boxes of STL Browns memorabilia, much of which is on display at the Browns exhibit at the Scottrade Center.

 Friends are invited to attend the Memorial Service to be conducted at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 101 N. Warson Road, at Ladue Road, Ladue, on Friday, August 17, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.

More information is available at:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Browns Display Part of Urban Beautification Project

Last November Jacob Schmidt took out the trash. It was not for the first time; Schmidt, 18, has been taking out the trash of his Compton Heights home for years now. But this trip was different.

"I don't know what made me really notice it that day, but it just struck me how Dumpsters are everywhere, and they are incredibly ugly," Schmidt said. "I started looking at all of these ugly things —Dumpsters, billboards and I realized these are normal and accepted in city life.

Schmidt decided to do something about it. With permission from the city, he painted two Dumpsters in his alley. From there, he met with St. Louis streets officials. Schmidt wanted to paint 100 alley Dumpsters, but streets officials worried some folks wouldn't be able to tell the difference between their recycling and trash Dumpsters. And inevitably some residents would grouse that they prefer their army-green Dumpster to a brightly colored work of contemporary art.

Bill Rogers, Browns Fan Club President, contacted Schmidt and Megan Rieke to see if we could put some St. Louis baseball history on display as part of the project. Megan did the work personally. Pictured is her rendition of the St. Louis Browns recognizing their winning the American League pennant in 1944.

The Dumpsters are 20 feet long by 8 feet tall, with protruding ribs and bars — not exactly a flat canvas. Schmidt's team of professional and amateur artists have transformed the Dumpsters into panoramas of racing cyclists, bursting fireworks, the Milky Way and abstract street scenes.
"It becomes a traveling art show," Schmidt said. (Click on photos to enlarge)

The working conditions are miserable; they've been laboring daily on the scorching blacktop of a streets department parking lot all month. The pay is lousy; Schmidt chose to forego summer in New Hampshire to run the all-volunteer project. Schmidt raised about $4,000 to pay for 80 gallons of paint and 150 cans of spray paint through an online Kickstarter campaign.

Artist Megan Rieke of Kirkwood donated to the campaign, and then offered to help and get her friends involved. (Click on photos to enlarge)
"I like the idea of free beauty," said Rieke, who painted the cyclists as well as a mural of a VW bus. "As an artist, I know artists need to sell their work to survive, but I also like the idea that art can and should be anywhere, even on a trash Dumpster."

Flake hopes to bring Schmidt back next summer to paint the city's truck beds. He thinks colorful trucks would bring the same whimsy to city streets as the popular Cardinals, Rams and Blues street sweepers do.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
At the start below