Monday, July 16, 2018

Tom Jordan Live in St. Louis! And a Rogers Hornsby story.

98-y.o. Browns catcher Tom Jordan, the second-oldest living major league baseball player.  With my son and his friend. In the Rogers Hornsby Room at Busch Stadium, July 13.

Rogers Hornsby is significant because of a story Tom told me. It was spring training with the White Sox in 1946. The coaches were Mule Hass and Rogers Hornsby. Tom’s roommate was Dario Lodigiani. Dario told Tom that he overheard the two coaches talking. Hass told Hornsby, “I think I’m going to work with Jordan on his stance today. Hornsby told Hass, “There’s nothing wrong with that boy’s stance. Leave it alone!”.

[Jordan had hit .350 his previous season splitting time between the White Sox, Milwaukee and Kansas City].

Friday, March 16, 2018

The greatest pitcher in 'Orioles' history ... was a Brownie!

Jack Ogden

As a Brownie....
...and as an Oriole.
We all know the story by now.

In 1954, having moved the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore, the new owners ditched, effectively, their Browns history, saying that the team and the city already have a proud history from the  International (minor) League, the National League of the 1890s, and the American Association of the 1880s all named “Baltimore Orioles” (the ill-fated American League team that played two yeas and became the New York Highlanders… not so much ... that's truly the "Team Baseball Forgot").

The Oriole team yearbooks and media guides from the 1950s reflect this. But let's have fun with that, shall we fam?  This means that the most successful Orioles pitcher in history is not HofF Jim Palmer, but Jack Ogden.  Who was also a Brown!

Palmer W-L% .638
Ogden  W-L% .700
Ogden's other accolades include:
  1. Pitcher with the most victories in International League history
  2. The Baltimore Orioles won six of its seven consecutive International League pennants during Ogden’s tenure. 
  3. Four of those Orioles teams were ranked among the minor leagues’ 19 best ever in the twentieth century.
  4. Ogden won more than 20-games six times for the Orioles, with seasons of 31, 28, and 27 victories. (Season totals never approached by Palmer, who averaged 14-wins per year).
  5. If he were included in the Orioles stats, he would be #2 in most innings pitched, between Palmer and Dave McNally.

You see why he is arguably "the greatest 'Oriole' pitcher ever" and certainly the most-successful in terms of winning percentage.  And the Orioles of the IL were a minor league club in rank only. Their roster regularly included 85% players who had - or were about to have - major league experience.

Oh .. and Ogden was 15-16 for one of the better Browns teams in history: the 1928 team that finished in third-place and was 10 games over .500.  The next year he fell off to 4-8.  In 1930 he was claimed off waivers by the Reds.

Ogden stayed in pro baseball until the 1970s with great success wearing several hats.  His life story is fascinating and tragic.  A recommended good read at SABR.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Nevers Say Never

Ernie Nevers, who played his entire career with the St. Louis Browns, and just caught the tail end of the George Sisler-Ken Williams-Baby Doll Jacobson era, is the only major league baseball player to have a football team named after him. Read all about it in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune. The team was called “Ernie Nevers’ Eskimos”.  

So when you see Vikings fans swooning over Case Keenum or Sam Bradford, realize that Minnesotans four generations ago were rooting for Ernest Alonzo Nevers, the pride of Willow River, MN.

Nevers was also later a Cardinal.  A St. Louis Cardinal?  No not that kind of Cardinal.  A Chicago Cardinal.  Confused yet??

Nevers was also signed right out of Stanford by manager George Sisler.  The Sporting News of Thursday, January 7, 1926 speculates it was a one elite college man to another thing” which enabled Sisler to outbid the New Giants who had already announced in late 1925 that they had Nevers all-but sewn up.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Happy Birthday J.W. Porter! The 'baby Brownie'.

This day in St. Louis Browns' history - January 17: a very special "Happy Birthday" to one of baseball's greatest characters and human beings - JW Porter. All fans who attended the Browns' dinners and luncheons over the years remember JW's remarkable wit and story telling. JW was a Brownie in 1952 before losing two prime years to military service before coming back and playing for Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How Browns' GM Approached Winter Meetings: 'Trade Whole Team'

But trade Buck Newsom they did, after "Bobo" got off to an 0-6 start in 1935.  Jack Knott fared better, leading the league in saves, and stayed with the team the whole year. The Browns dropped from 6th to 7th place in the A.L.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

By invitation of the St. Louis Cardinals, The St. Louis Browns Fan Club will be presenting a reminiscence of the team and their authored book:  The St. Louis Browns - The Story Of A Beloved Team all three days at this year's Winter Warm Up:  January 13 - 14 & 15.  If you are going to the Winter Warm Up, put this on your schedule and attend.  We will also have books available for sale.  Times of the Browns session will be posted later this week.  See you at the Winter Warm Up.

Monday, December 18, 2017

CONFIRMED for '18 Reunion in St. Louis: 1948 Brownie Tom Jordan. 98 Years Old!

Tom Jordan had a career .337 minor league batting average but still was unable to parlay more than 101 plate appearances in the Major Leagues.  Still technically a rookie at age 28, in a mostly back-up catcher role in 1948, he received only one at-bat with the Browns.  Nevertheless Tom has a rich history, as both a player and gentleman farmer (only coaxed out of a two-year voluntary retirement from baseball in his twenties by Browns General Manager Bill DeWitt Sr.).  Watch this fascinating video biography and plan a trip to St. Louis in 2018 to meet this riveting speaker and third-oldest living major-league player (behind his former teammate Chuck Stevens and Fred Caligiuri of the Philadelphia A's).

Friday, December 15, 2017

Browns documentary underway

Browns documentary underway. The recent publication and overwhelming success of the book: St. Louis Browns - The Story of a Beloved Team has triggered the development of a film on the Browns baseball team's history that will be televised in the spring. Ed Wheatley of the Browns Fan Club has been working with the film's production team to turn the Gateway Grizzlies' stadium into 1930's and 1940's Sportsman's Park for scenes within the film. The scenes will include actual Browns uniforms, bats and other memorabilia. Stay in touch with this site as more information on the documentary's launch will be detailed. It is shaping up to be an excellent piece of baseball lore.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

18th Last-Place Finish in Franchise History

Here I thought the Orioles were in a resurgence under Buck Showalter.  Then I look up and see that the O's actually finished in last place. Hmmmn.  Well, for the record, that's the 18th last place finish for the franchise: 

7 with Baltimore
10 with St. Louis
1 as Milwaukee

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Yankees' Managerial Shift Recalls Days of Sis' and Sis' Jr.

Although there have been scores of sons who have followed their fathers in playing major-league baseball, there are surprisingly few who have followed their fathers as managers.  According to Elias Sports Bureau, Aaron [new Yankees skipper] and Bob Boone will be just the third father-son duo to both manage big-league teams. The others were George (St. Louis Browns) and Dick Sisler (Cincinnati Reds), and Bob (Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres) and Joel Skinner (Cleveland Indians).  Nerd Note: Dick Sisler coached Bob Skinner while on the Cardinals in 1966.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wow = What a gift and finish your Christmas shopping today.

Wow - what a gift! That's what people keep telling us about the St. Louis Browns' Historical Society's recently published book: The St. Louis Browns - The Story Of A Beloved Team. It is becoming a great Christmas present for people of all ages: it takes parents and grandparents back in time to the memories of Browns baseball as well as stories the Browns' rich history for new generations. The book can be attained online, at local books stores, big box stores like Costco, or through the Browns Fan Club. You can even get a copy signed by the authors. Relive baseball with the Browns with this tremendous Christmas gift.  And remember all proceeds from this book go to the Browns Fan Club and preserving the legacy and memorabilia of the Browns.

Friday, November 24, 2017

RIP Jim Rivera. Great bio/interview from his local paper

Former Chicago White Sox “Jungle Jim” Rivera dies at 96

FILE - In this May 6, 1953, file photo, Manuel "Jungle Jim" Rivera, of the Chicago White Sox 1953, poses in a batting stance. Rivera, an outfielder on the 1959 "Go-Go" White Sox pennant-winning team, has died Monday night in Fort Wayne, Ind. the team said Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. He was 96. (AP Photo/File)
“Jungle Jim” Rivera, an outfielder on the 1959 “Go-Go” White Sox pennant-winning team, died Monday in Fort Wayne. He was 96. The AL leader in triples in 1953 and steals two years later, Rivera played for the White Sox from 1952 to 1961. He was part of the 1959 team that — led by Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio and Early Wynn — captured the franchise’s first pennant since 1919. Rivera batted .256 in a career that included short stints with the St. Louis Browns and Kansas City Athletics.
The following is a 2012 interiew with Rivera, who went on to own Captain’s Cabin Restaurant at Crooked Lake in Angola after retiring from baseball.
He once chided President John F. Kennedy for an illegible autograph on a souvenir baseball, telling him, “You certainly have to do better than this, John.” Another time, he boasted to former first lady Bess Truman, “I’m sure sorry my home run beat your club, but it was a helluva wallop, eh Bess?”
For 10 seasons, “Jungle Jim” Rivera played major league baseball, with most of his career spent playing outfield with the Chicago White Sox. The irrepressible Rivera, known for his speed, huge cigars, headfirst slides, and humor was often fodder for sports writers who delighted in his genial unpredictability.
Retirement from baseball saw him take up the reins at Angola’s venerable Captain’s Cabin — a role he relished for 26 years. Now, at age 90, he reflects on a life well-lived.
Your parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. Describe your childhood.
When I was about three years old, my mother died, and my sister Mary and I were put in an orphanage. When we came out, I was 15, going on 16.
It was a Catholic home for boys and girls. My father would come up and visit once in a while. We had a place in the middle of the convent where you could sit and eat fruit, candy — whatever the parents would bring. They would visit for a couple hours and then go home. Every other year he would show up. I was glad… glad to see him.
After you returned home, you began boxing and continued in the Army.
I loved boxing. I was in the Golden Gloves in New York City. I got the h— beat out of me, but I loved it. I went to the finals one time.
In the Army if you won [the match] on Friday nights, you either got cigarettes, tickets to a movie, or you didn’t get KP. And I didn’t want KP!
You were also a judo instructor and played baseball in the Army before signing a contract to play major league baseball in 1949. Where did you play?
I was signed by the Atlanta Braves, and they sent me to Gainesville, Florida, Class D. I played there, and we won everything — play-offs, batting champ… Then I went to Pensacola, Class A, and won everything there. Next was Seattle, AAA, under Rogers Hornsby.
Hornsby signed you to the St. Louis Browns in 1952, where you played before joining the Chicago White Sox. How did that transpire?
Rogers Hornsby liked anyone who would hustle, and he said one day that he would pay $2 to see me play. I was with the Browns about a month and a half, and then the White Sox bought me.
I started in center field, but when we got Jim Landis, I went to right. Minnie Minoso was in left.
You set several records with the Sox. What were they?
Every time I stole a base, I had to deal with Frank Lane, the General Manager. When I stole a base, I got $100, and when I got thrown out, he’d take $100 off. That was good incentive! I had 25 that year (1955). My 16 triples held up for a long, long time.
Your birth name is Manuel Joseph Rivera. Where did the “Jungle Jim” moniker originate?
We were playing the Dodgers in an exhibition game in Florida, and Don Newcombe was pitching. I got a single off Newcombe — right through the box. When I got on first base, instead of leaning, I was [demonstrates a chimpanzee-like stance]. The announcer says to the newsman, “Look at him! He looks like he’s in the jungle!”
So, I took off for second base, dove headfirst, and they threw me out. It was in the Chicago Sun-Times the next day: “Jungle Jim”. Ah, well, it was better than some of the things I’ve been called.
You became famous for that headfirst slide.
I just did that automatically. If you dive headfirst you can see where the ball is coming from. It doesn’t hurt to slide like that if you do it right. I would rather have a broken finger than a broken ankle.
Colorful, unorthodox, bold, brash… what antics earned you those descriptions?
One night I had a home run to beat Kansas City. Bess and Harry Truman always sat between first and home in the upper deck. You could see the Secret Service guys all around them.
After the game we saw a big crowd at the front of the stadium. Harry Truman was in the middle. I walked up and said, “Hi, Harry. Jim Rivera and George Kell… Where’s Bess?”
There was this big black Cadillac, and Bess was in the back seat. I went over and said, “Hi, Bess. I’m the one who hit the home run and beatcha.”
Describe the encounter with JFK during a Washington Senators game.
I knew that every year on opening day, the president would throw the ball out, and I knew from watching films of him playing touch football with the family that he had a pretty good arm. Everybody was on the pitcher’s mound, but I went back further.
So here comes the ball… and I caught it.
It was later reported that you “danced a hilarious jig and then raced to the presidential box in quest of an autograph”. That autograph was barely legible. What did you say?
Something like, “what’s this? Is that your signature? It’s just a scribble!”
After 10 years in the majors, you retired to start a new chapter. What brought you to Captain’s Cabin?
My first wife lived in Angola, and her brother Bill and I bought the restaurant. It was a new role for me.
Besides the view of Crooked Lake with it’s stunning sunsets, what are some of your favorite memories of the Cabin?
On weekends a combo played for dancing. I had a box full of “instruments” I passed out, and everyone played along. Spoons was my specialty. Every year on a Sunday before Christmas, I fixed a chicken dinner for the residents of the County Home. New Year’s Eve was a big event, starting with a decorating party and ending with breakfast.
Customers from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio… euchre games… relaxing on Doc Nesbitt’s pontoon on Lake James… I loved my time at the Cabin, and I loved the people there. I wish I could do it all over again.
Life sometimes tossed you a curveball. Reflect on your experiences.
I’ve met so many people, from Presidents to ballplayers to fans and little leaguers, and the good things in life outweigh any hardships along the way. I have the two most important things in life — a wonderful wife and great friends — and, I might add, great memories.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

With the death today of Red Sox Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, former Brown Chuck Stevens is now the oldest living major leaguer at 99 years and 127 days old. Stay healthy Chuck!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Great Coverage Of the St. Louis Browns Annual Reunion Luncheon by the St. Louis Cardinals for their program The Cardinals Insider.

Great segment from the St. Louis Browns Annual Luncheon captured by the St. Louis Cardinals for their TV show: The Cardinals Insider. Really shows what a great time had by all and a great turnout. Bottomline, it shows the tremendous vitality and commitment of Brownie Fans and how they turn out even 64 years after the team left St. Louis. The Fan Club welcomes all to attend. Here is the clip introduced by Ozzie Smith on the show:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Big News! Save the date for the very first St. Louis Browns Fan Club Quarterly Roundtable to be held Saturday January 20, 2018 from 1:30PM to 3:30PM at the Carondelet Historical Society building. The topic will be George Sisler and the great Browns teams of the 1920s. Members of George Sisler family will be attending as well as the Browns Fan Club. It will be an open discussion and all are invited to participate and bring items to show and discuss as part of the presentation led by the Browns Historical Society. Admission is free to all current Fan Club members and $15 for non-members. Full details of the event will posted around December 1, 2017.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A New 'Brown' to Make Hall Of Fame?

(Blattner, left, Carl McIntire, right)

(UPDATE 12/12/18: Buddy did not make the Hall this time around bit good friend of the BFC, Bob Costas did make it.  Congrats, Little Bobby Costas!) There are 14 players who played for the St. Louis Browns who are in the  National Baseball Hall Of Fame.  In addition, there are another eight inductees who had a connection to the Browns either by being on the Browns roster as a player, or coach, or by being the everyday broadcaster of Browns games.

Frankly, we at the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Fan Club were not expecting ever to have another inductee. But one has arisen on the horizon: Buddy Blattner.

Blattner is one of the nominees this year for the broadcaster wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Broadcasters who are "inducted" receive the Ford C. Frick Award.

Blattner was the Browns radio broadcaster for four full seasons (from 1950 through 1953).  He was also the Browns television broadcaster in 1953 on KSD-TV and by mid-August, on "the Home of the Browns", WTVI (present day KTVI or "Fox 2").  On both radio and TV, Blattner's job was to handle play-by-play while a sidekick did "color" commentary (in 1952 and '53 the color man was Dizzy Dean).

Blattner was a fine broadcaster who later went on to greater fame in the broadcasting world than calling the lowly Browns.  But being required to make Browns games exciting on radio gave Blattner the "chops" he would need to rise to the level of being considered for the Hall Of Fame.

The Browns also gave Blattner the chance to get into TV sports reporting.  TV viewers wrote letters to the Post-Dispatch in protest when Blattner's and sidekick Howie Williams' hot stove league program recapping the week's Browns' escapades interrupted the center portion of Your Show of Shows, a Saturday evening staple and the fourth-ranked program in the ratings for 1951.  The Browns and Blattner were scheduled to broadcast every game in 1953 on WTVI.  Broadcasting games every day was a practice that was only found in the big markets of New York and Chicago.  Unfortunately, the new station, on Ultra High Frequency, couldn't get its signal together until early August.    Nonetheless, Blattner hosted a program previewing the Browns 1953 season on the only TV station on the air at the time, KSD-TV*.

Since Blattner was rehearsed for the nuances of TV description in 1953, but with no regular station, he was tapped to televise the Major League opening day game in Washington D.C. for the Game of the Week (Yankees vs.  Senators). But the game was washed out.  Blattner's first known Browns play-by-play telecast was Saturday, June 13, a contest against the Philadelphia Athletics on KSD.

Blattner was slated to be part of a Bill Veeck stunt that, if it had come off, might have made his name come up for consideration in the Hall of Fame a whole lot sooner, simply because the notoriety gained from the stunt would have made him something of a journalistic pioneer (and his name a household word almost on par with Eddie Gaedel's.)

Here's that scoop:  In 1951, Veeck was planning to activate Blattner on the Browns' roster, send him onto the field with a walkie-talkie strapped to his back, and have him broadcast a game while playing. (Much like the annoying little league right-fielder who gets bored and starts pretending he is a baseball announcer!).  Blattner had appeared in 272 major league games before retiring, and was only 31-years old, so the gimmick even had competitive plausibility.

But the experiment died when the Phillies, who still owned Blattner’s contract even though he was retired, demanded $10,000. Veeck couldn’t afford it.

After the Browns moved, Blattner became the play-by-play man for another pro sports franchise that moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis when the NBA’s Hawks moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis in 1955.  (The Hawks didn't last nearly as long as the Browns, though: just 14 years.)

* That season-opening TV appearance was April 10, 1953 on KSD-TV with "a studio program featuring Marty Marion, manager of the Browns, other Browns players" and Blattner as "m.c.".

Former Royals announcer Bud Blattner up for Ford Frick Award - Royals Review clock menu more-arrow no yes

Former Royals announcer Bud Blattner up for Ford Frick Award

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He was the original Royals broadcaster

Former Royals announcer Robert “Bud” Blattner is one of eight finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize longstanding excellence in broadcasting. The other candidates are Joe Buck, Bob Costas, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, Al Michaels, Joe Morgan, and Pee Wee Reese. Denny Matthews won the award in 2007. Blattner was paired with Matthews for the original broadcasting team in Royals history back in 1969.
Blattner grew up in St. Louis and played for his hometown Cardinals for a season before serving his country in World War II in the Navy. The second baseman returned for a few years with the Giants and Phillies before turning to broadcasting, working with the St. Louis Browns. He was teamed with Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, known for his folksy sayings and mangling of the English language (he would frequently say runners “slud” into the base.) Blattner was the straight man to Dean’s mania, commenting, “People liked (Dean) giving everything but the score, but wanted me to restore sanity.”
Blattner and Dean were picked up nationally and eventually did TV broadcasts for ABC. They were the first team ever to do a weekly national broadcast. Blattner was known for “a sunshiny voice and his Rotarian of the Year personality.” Eventually, Blattner and Dean split up acrimoniously and Blattner returned to St. Louis to do Cardinals games.
After two seasons in St. Louis, Blattner moved on to the expansion Los Angeles Angels, where he served as their broadcaster from 1962 to 1968. In 1969, he again joined an expansion team, becoming the first broadcaster in Royals history, along with a young, fresh-faced Denny Matthews.
Despite being 23 years his senior, Blattner meshed well with the 26-year old rookie broadcaster from Peoria. Blattner became enormously popular, broadcasting games on 980 KMBZ, with games occasionally simulcast on KMBC Channel 9 in Kansas City. Blattner worked for the Royals until 1975, when he decided to retire and hand things over to Fred White, who paired with Matthews for the next two decades.
Blattner was also a very accomplished table tennis player, winning a national championship, and being inducted in to the U.S. Table Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1979. He passed away from lung cancer in 2009.
The winner of the Ford C. Frick Award will be announced December 13, with a ceremony for the honoree at next year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony next July.