Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lake Erie Crushers' Ballpark Naming Rights Available

Press Release from the Lake Erie Crushers: (July 25, 2016: Avon, Ohio)-  The Lake Erie Crushers have announced that they are accepting bids for a new stadium naming rights partner.  The Crushers will immediately initiate scheduling appointments with those parties interested in putting their name on the ballpark, located along Interstate-90 in Avon, Ohio.

All Pro Freight, the original naming rights partner since 2009, will continue its partnership with the team, however the naming rights deal has expired as a result of the February change of ownership.  All Pro Freight CEO Chris Haas stated, “We still support the Lake Erie Crushers and will continue to partner with the team going forward.  The new owners, Tom and Jacqueline Kramig, have brought great energy to the organization and have the Crushers headed in the right direction.”

Co-Owner Tom Kramig thanked Haas for his support during the first eight years of the franchise. “Chris Haas and All Pro Freight have been outstanding partners during the first eight years of the Lake Erie Crushers. We thank and applaud them for taking the lead when the franchise was started back in 2009, and supporting the organization in good seasons and bad.  We look forward to continuing our partnership and bringing another Frontier League Championship back to Avon.”

            The team has already been approached by several organizations, and has several more on a short list of naming rights candidates. Kramig went on to add, “With the current and upcoming stadium improvements, visibility on I-90, addition of numerous, new, non-baseball events, and all sales figures up over last year, it's a great time for a business to secure such a prominent marketing opportunity.  Naming rights opportunities don't come around very often.  They've proven to be a tremendous tool to drive branding campaigns, customer service programs, employee retention, and new sales.”

The team will spend the next sixty to ninety days meeting with interested parties and discussing terms for a new, long-term agreement.   The plan is to have a new naming rights partner in place, including new stadium branding, prior to the start of the 2017 baseball season in May of next year.  Around the nation, naming rights partners are heavily represented in banking, car dealerships, grocers, medical centers, telecommunications, utilities, and major employers in the area.  

Interested parties can contact Tom Kramig at 440-934-3636 or tkramig@lakeeriecrushers.com

********************************
You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, July 24, 2016

David Ortiz and Great Final Seasons

At the age of 40, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is playing in his final and perhaps best season of a 20-year major league career. He is providing a grand finale for what may well end up being an eventual induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Although such impressive exits from the game are rare, there have been others who retired with a bang instead of a whimper.

If the 2016 season were to end today, it could be reasonably argued that Ortiz truly did go out on top. Thus far, in 89 games, he has hit .332 with a league-leading 35 doubles, 24 home runs, 81 RBIs and a 182 OPS+, which represents a career high. He also leads the league in on base percentage (OBP) and slugging, all while walking (52) more than he has struck out (45).

Keep reading for some other outstanding final seasons. Eligibility was determined by players who voluntarily retired, as opposed to those like Shoeless Joe Jackson (who hit .382 in 1920 with 218 hits, 121 RBIs and just 14 strikeouts but never returned to the game after being suspended for life); injury (Sandy Koufax and Kirby Puckett had tremendous final seasons before retiring suddenly for health reasons), or death (like Roberto Clemente, who hit .312 and won a Gold Glove in 1972 but was killed during the offseason in a plane crash).

Ted Williams, 1960: Any comparison to Ortiz has to start with his Boston counterpart. Although he was unable to play every day, The Splendid Splinter made the most of his 19th and final season for the Sox, appearing in 113 games and walloping .316 with 29 home runs. For added emphasis, his final at-bat resulted in a home run off Jack Fisher and the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.

Barry Bonds, 2007: Although the outfielder’s career likely ended more because of controversy surrounding him and PEDs, he was never technically suspended, so he belongs on this list. Reaching his 42nd birthday by the end of the season, he played in 126 games for the San Francisco Giants and produced a .276 batting average, a league-leading .480 OBP (helped by 132 walks), 28 home runs and 66 RBIs. Interestingly, he had nearly as many intentional walks (43) as strikeouts (54), showing off his laser-focused batting eye.

Roy Cullenbine, 1947: Batting just .224 while playing first base for the Detroit Tigers in his final season, one might wonder why the switch-hitter is on this list. It’s because the 33-year-old set a career high with 24 home runs and 133 walks. Partly because hitting well was held in higher regard than the simple ability to get on base, Cullenbine was released following the season. Although he was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies, he never made it into another official game and retired being able to say he went out on a high note.

Mike Mussina, 2008: There are few pitchers who provided as much consistency throughout their careers as the right hander. Pitching for the New York Yankees in his final season, he led the American league with 34 starts and went 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA. He not only finished sixth in Cy Young voting but also won a Gold Glove—the seventh of his career. It also represented the 17th consecutive year he contributed a double-digit win total; a run only made imperfect because he had just 12 starts during his rookie campaign.

Will Clark, 2000: The first baseman with the sweet left-handed swing battled injuries during the second half of his career. However, as a 36-year-old in his final season, he was healthy enough to appear in 130 games between the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals and compile a .319 batting average, .426 OBP, 21 home runs and 70 RBIs. He was particularly lethal after joining the Cards in a mid-season trade, posting a staggering .345 batting average and 1.081 OPS in helping them reach the postseason.

Mariano Rivera, 2013: It would be a tall task to find an athlete in any sport that played so well and so long as the former closer of the Yankees. Coming back from a serious injury that occurred in 2012, the right-hander never missed a beat in his last season in the Bronx. Making 64 relief appearances, he continued to shut down hitters to the tune of a 2.11 ERA and 44 saves.

Honorable Mention

Joe Adcock, 1966: The massive slugger definitely saw a dip in production as he grew longer in the tooth but he was able to go out with a bang because of being used intelligently during his final season. Playing for the California Angels, he platooned at first base with veteran left-handed hitter Norm Siebern. Although he played in just 83 games, he was by far the team’s most productive hitter (the entire squad combined to hit just .232), mashing .273 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs. His 167 OPS+ was the best mark of his career. Some have pointed to a cozy home park for his success but a look at the numbers show his home/road OPS split was actually .854/.1.021.

********************************
You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Thursday, July 21, 2016

THE BLACKWING 56 – A SALUTE TO JOE DIMAGGIO

Blackwing Luxury Pencils has released a pencil salute to New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio, called the BlackWing 56. Paying tribute to the 75th anniversary of the Yankee Clipper's 56-game hitting streak, the new model has all the details down, including the quality of the item and the pin stripes. For more keep reading on their website.



********************************
You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Black Prince of Baseball- Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game: A Review

Before Babe Ruth, another mega star dominated the baseball landscape.  His name was Hal Chase and he was a supremely talented and flawed athlete and human, who was ultimately overtaken by his demons and unceremoniously cast out of the majors because of his penchant for gambling and allegedly throwing games—which possibly included involvement in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Detailing his rise and fall is Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella, with their excellent The Black Prince of Baseball: Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game (University of Nebraska Press, 2004/2016).

Chase was a first baseman who spent 15 seasons (1905-1919) in the majors with five different teams; rising to stardom with the New York Highlanders/Yankees. Known as one of the slickest fielders the game has ever seen, he was no slouch at the plate, hitting .291 with 941 RBIs and 336 stolen bases during the final decades of the Dead Ball Era. Off the field was another story, as he was an inveterate gambler and womanizer; thought nothing of jumping contracts if the money was right; and was an alleged frequent flyer when it came to making a couple of bad plays to keep the score close, or even orchestrating outright dives for a price.

Dewey and Acocella have done a first-class job in researching and writing about Chase’s life. Always a shadowy figure, it was surely no easy task, but the reward is massive, as they have produced a seminal work on the first sacker.

Trying to track the movements of the nomadic Californian must have been quite an undertaking but The Black Prince emerges with a coherent timeline that takes the reader throughout his life. His exploits on the field are fun (he was a bonafide gregarious star who by all accounts had the hands of a magician in the field) to read about but the real star of the show, sad though they may, be are all of his transgressions. One cannot possibly take delight in his wrongs, yet when splashed across the pages, they keep the reader from looking away, much like a car crash.

In addition to the suspicions of intentionally playing poorly and recruiting others into his nefarious schemes, he also frequently held out or jumped to different teams in order to extract the most money. This included stops in the Federal League and a bushel of professional and semi-pro circuits in California, Arizona and Mexico. Although the fans adored him, his reputation within the game was something less, given his constant focus on making a buck or gaining an angle.

Although he was not officially thrown out of baseball, nevertheless, a cloud of impropriety continues to hang over Chase’s head to this day. The book is rife with accounts from opposing players and former teammates who claim they were witness to his transgressions. There was also substantial suspicion that he was among those who conspired to rig the 1919 World Series in an effort to make a financial windfall by betting. No formal charges were ever proved against him, but he never played or coached in another major league game after the 1919 season, despite still being a productive player.

Utilizing thorough research, the authors paint a complete picture of Chase. While he cut a dashing and brash figure as a player, despite his schemes, things were quite different in his personal life. He was a serial philanderer, who once erroneously accused his first wife of cheating on him so he could secure a divorce in order to marry his second wife (with whom he had been having an affair). He was an absentee father, who alienated many of his family members because of his dishonest and boozy ways. 

Ultimately, once his body began to betray him, and baseball of any kind was no longer an option, his life spiraled into a pathetic end. A memorable passage in the book has an acquaintance recalling how Chase was so down and out that he used to emulate his baseball swing with a pool cue in Arizona border town bars in exchange for drinks.

Chase can best be summed up as the extremes in baseball that came to be because the games popularity outgrew its leadership and infrastructure. He lived and played as to be a lesson to those who came after him. That’s not a great legacy to aspire to but it’s the best the flawed first baseman has nearly a century after he departed the game in disgrace.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free advanced copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review

********************************
You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew