February 28, 2006


No father-son picnic (JON HEYMAN, February 28, 2006, Newsday)

We'll assume that Roger Clemens would never have brushed back his beloved mother, Bess. But when stepping into the batter's box against him, other family members shouldn't feel too relaxed.

After a surprise home run by Koby Clemens off his Hall of Fame-bound father yesterday, Clemens let loose with a fastball that moved Koby far off the plate.

Obviously armed with inside information about his father's pitching habits, Koby, 19, quickly turned away from the inside fastball just before it popped the catcher's mitt.

"I've been throwing at him since father-son games," said Clemens, who might have been kidding about that. [...]

Said Koby: "He was like, 'Sorry about that pitch inside. I was trying to change the view of the ball a little bit.'

INTERVIEW: Roger Angell, Still Throwing Strikes (Dave Weich, Powells.com)
Dave: Even the minor details in your profile of Bob Gibson are fascinating. I had no idea that he played for the Harlem Globetrotters. We hear a lot about Gibson these days; for example, when people talk about pitchers throwing on the inside half of the plate. He's also associated with major league baseball deciding to lower the mound.

Angell: In 1969, they lowered the mound because of him.

I see him once in a while. He's still the same, an exceptional guy. He's very quiet and reserved. I spent a lot of time with him doing that long piece.

He's something. He really didn't like fraternizing. He thought all batters were a pitcher's enemy. I think he half-thought that maybe, somehow, by some weird chance, this weird, forty-year-old, balding writer with eyeglasses would come up to bat against him some day. I told him that, and he said, "Yeah, that could happen." Old time players say that of all the guys, he was the most ferocious. He had a burning concentration and the most powerful sense of competition.

I'd first noticed him after he struck out seventeen batters in the opening game of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, which is still a record. Well, we went to the clubhouse in St. Louis, and black athletes, we didn't know them as well as we do now. He was silent and scary. He wasn't smiling. Someone said to him, "Were you surprised by what you did today, Bob?" He said, "I'm never surprised by anything I do." You could see the reaction going back in the rows of writers, saying, "What did he say?"

I hung around, as I often do, and most of the writers went away. I asked him, "Have you always been this competitive?" He looked at me, and he said, "I think so. I've got a four-year-old daughter and we've played about three hundred games of tic-tac-toe, and she hasn't beat me yet." And he meant it! He meant it!

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 28, 2006 12:16 PM

The 1968 World Series between the Cards and Tigers was one of the all time greats. Besides Gibson, it also included 31 game winner Denny McClain. Too bad it was between two midwestern teams, I'm not sure if the coastal media mavens covered it or not. Incidentally, it was Mickey Lolich who beat Gibson in game 7. It was also my first exposure to the obnoxious Harry Carey, the Cards broadcaster.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at February 28, 2006 12:42 PM

One. Really. Baaaaaad. Dude.

Posted by: jdkelly at February 28, 2006 12:46 PM

Early Wynn once famously said that he'd brush his mother back if she crowded the plate. When asked about it he said, "You have to understand, mother was a pretty good curveball hitter."

Posted by: jeff at February 28, 2006 12:54 PM

So Roger grooved one to his kid, then "brushed him back" so the media would have a nice little story to write. Yawn.

Posted by: b at February 28, 2006 1:01 PM

Channeling your inner jerk correctly can give athletes a big competitive edge, though once in retirement, those same people are probably awful to have as neighbors unless they find a new outlet to focus their hostility.

Posted by: John at February 28, 2006 1:15 PM

Bob Gibson is a troubled man. He was arrested for road rage and assault about two or three years ago (in Oklahoma?).

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 28, 2006 1:18 PM


IIRC, we had to rush home from school to catch the last couple innings of the weekday daytime games?

Posted by: Rick T. at February 28, 2006 1:34 PM


According to Bill Veeck, in an incidnet similar to the Clemens story, Early Wynn actually DID plunk his teenage son in the ribs after he had leaned across the plate to hit a ball of the wall.

And, when Mantle once got a cheap single off of him by diving into a low outside pitch, Wynn hit him when he took his lead off of first base.

Posted by: Dan at February 28, 2006 1:59 PM

I'm old enough to remember Bob on the mound live and in living color.

As a little league wanna be imitator and intimidator Bob's motion was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen on the mound. His only flaw was his perfection. The batter knew Bob wouldn't hit him any other way but on purpose and so he lost a little bit of the fear factor due to his uncanny control. Not that it mattered as anyone knows who watched those 17 guys go down in '68.

By the way I didn't have to rush home to watch the games in the afternoon. My Dad LOVED the CARDS, and kept me home the first couple of days.

Posted by: NC3 at February 28, 2006 5:31 PM

We forget that before the days of free agencies and agents and overpaid salaries, many baseball players did not make a lot of money, and many had other jobs in the off season. Some wound up destitute. There's a terrific fundraising organization called BAT (Baseball Asssistance Team) that has an annual dinner. It includes a chance to get autographs, and a baseball great sits at the table. When I worked at the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, the Sports Illustrated sales representative was a real pro and a great guy who graciously invited me to sit at the table that Sports Illustrated had bought at the dinner. I remember approaching one of my heroes Sandy Koufax to ask for his autograph with the polite request, "Mr Koufax, I'd be honored if you would sign this." One year I sat next to Bob Gibson who pummelled my beloved Red Sox in the '67 "Impossible Dream" World Series and who I respectd a great deal. I can vouch that even at the dinner table Gibson was combative and funny and in some shoebox in my closet I think I have a photo of Gibson and I face to face arguing over something.

Posted by: Jim Siegel at February 28, 2006 10:46 PM