Category Archives: Baseball

Ronald Reagan – Summer of Strikes

President Reagan’s first few months in office was anything but uneventful. Immediately after taking office, hostages were freed from Iran. Then there was the assassination attempt. This was followed by 2 major labor strikes in the summer of ’81 – one of which, President Reagan got heavily involved in.

Major League Baseball Strike

First was the Major League Baseball strike, which began on June 12. This was the first baseball strike I remember. There had been a strike in 1972, but I was way too young to know about that one. The strike in the 1981 season was pretty significant, as it lasted almost 2 months. That’s a big chunk out of the season.

However, this strike did not affect my baseball viewing to badly. The Triple-A level did not go on strike. Being from Rhode Island, I got to see the Pawtucket Red Sox more often. I enjoyed watching them more than the Boston Red Sox, so it was pretty cool that I finally got to watch the Pawtucket Red Sox on television.

On July 31, 1981, a compromise was finally reached. Major League Baseball resumed on August 9 with the All-Star Game in Cleveland’s Municipal stadium. Regular season games started the next day.

Since there was such a big gap in the season, a unique situation occurred. The owners decided to split the 1981 season into two halves, with the first-place teams from each half in each division (or a wild card team if the same club won both halves) meeting in a best-of-five divisional playoff series. The four survivors would then move on to the two best-of-five League Championship Series. It was the first time that Major League Baseball used a split-season format since 1892.

This format ended up screwing the Cincinnati Reds (National League West) and St. Louis Cardinals (National League East) as each failed to make the playoffs. This was despite the fact that they had the two best full-season records in the National League that season (and would have won their divisions under normal circumstances). St. Louis made up for it the next season by going on to win the 1982 World Series.
Not only did the Cardinals and Reds not make the playoffs, with their good records, but the Kansas City Royals made the playoffs even though they had a losing record overall. Here are the post-season results:

In the first round, the New York Yankees beat the Milwaukee Brewers (3 games to 2), the Oakland Athletics swept the Kansas City Royals (3 games to 0), the Montreal Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies (3 games to 2), and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Houston Astros (3 games to 2).

In the League Championships, the Yankees swept the A’s (3 games to 0), and The Dodgers beat the Expos (3 games to 2).

And then the Dodgers won the World Series by beating the Yankees 4 games to 2.

Air Traffic Controllers’ Strike

As the Major League Baseball strike was coming to a conclusion, another one was starting up.
On August 3, 1981, federal air traffic controllers went on strike. They were seeking better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. However, by the union declaring a strike, they were violating a law that banned strikes by government unions. Ronald Reagan declared the PATCO strike a “peril to national safety” and ordered them back to work under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Only 1,300 of the nearly 13,000 controllers returned to work. Reagan held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, where he stated that if the air traffic controllers “do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.”

Even though members of President Reagan’s cabinet were worried about political backlash, Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored his order to return to work, busting the PATCO union. He banned them from federal service for life. According to Charles Craver, a labor law professor at George Washington University Law School, the move gave Americans a new view of Reagan, who “sent a message to the private employer community that it would be all right to go up against the unions”.

The FAA then had to hire and train enough air traffic controllers to replace those that had been fired. This was challenging because it normally took 3 years to train a new controller. The fired controllers were initially replaced with nonparticipating controllers, supervisors, staff personnel, some nonrated personnel, and in some cases by controllers transferred temporarily from other facilities. Some military controllers were also used until replacements could be trained. The FAA had initially claimed that staffing levels would be restored within two years; however, it would take closer to ten years before the overall staffing levels returned to normal. PATCO was decertified on October 22, 1981. Some former striking controllers were allowed to reapply after 1986 and were rehired; they and their replacements are now represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which was organized in 1987 and had no connection with PATCO.

The lifetime ban that President Reagan placed on the striking air traffic controllers was rescinded by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Here are Ronald Reagan’s Remarks and Question and Answer Session held on August 3, 1981.

Daily Trivia – 5/19/12

Question: What cola had the slogan, “All the sugar, twice the caffeine”?

Last Question: What public figure helped announce a 1988 Cubs game saying: “In a few months I’m going to be out of work and I thought I might as well audition”?

Answer: President Ronald Reagan (Great job Jim!)

Born in Tampico, Illinois and raised in Dixon, Ronald Reagan grew up a Chicago Cubs fan. Before he became an actor, Reagan was a radio sports broadcaster. In the 1930’s, he announced the University of Iowa’s home football games. Then he moved to WHO radio in Des Moines as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs, creating play-by-play accounts of games that the station received by wire. Then while traveling with the Cubs in California, Reagan took a screen test in 1937 that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers studios. And the rest is history.

1988 was quite the historical year for Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs. It was the last Major League field to install lights. In August of 1988, the first night game was held at the field. On September 30, 1988, just a few months before President Reagan left office, he made his last stop at Wrigley Field. He threw out the first pitch, and spent some time in the broadcast booth alongside Harry Caray.

Daily Trivia – 5/18/12

Question: What public figure helped announce a 1988 Cubs game saying: “In a few months I’m going to be out of work and I thought I might as well audition”?

Last Question: What apocalyptic 1983 TV movie aired its second half commercial-free, when sponsors declined to run ads after the nuclear war?

Answer: The Day After

Ah, how many of us remember getting “The Talk” in the ’80s? No! Not that “talk”! Not the one that you learned about in NOVA: The Miracle of Life! I mean the talk about nuclear war. In 1983, we were in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. There had been a huge fear of nuclear war for decades, and that fear was at a fever pitch in the ’80s. Remember these signs:

We constatly felt like World War III could break out at any minute, and did not know what would happen if it did. Then we found out the a television movie was going to show what nuclear war could look like.
So on November 20, 1983, over 100 million of us were glued to our television sets to watch The Day After.

The movie starred Jason Robards as well as newcomers JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg, and John Lithgow. The story centered around citizens of Kansas City. The beginning of the movie introduced the characters and their backstories. Then the middle showed the nuclear disaster, and the rest of the movie showed the effects of the fallout.

According to Daily Press, President Reagan himself wrote in his diary that the film was “very effective and left me greatly depressed.” Historians have speculated that the film encouraged Reagan to redouble his push for a missile-defense program despite critics who derided the notion as “Star Wars.”

Here is the nuclear disaster part of the movie:

Luckily we never had to experience this in real life.

Daily Trivia – 10/24/11

Question: What short lived TV series starred John Ritter as a cop who inherited a decrepit apartment building?

Last Question: Who sat beside Vin Scully in the broadcast booth for the last time during the 1988 World Series?

Answer: Joe Garagiola

Joe Garagiola, Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully
Vin Scully is best known for being the play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1950, and is still going. His 62 seasons with the Dodgers is the longest of any broadcaster with a single club in professional sports history. Outside of Southern California, Vin Scully is probably best remembered as NBC television’s lead baseball broadcaster from 1983 to 1989. Besides calling the Saturday Game of the Week for NBC, Scully called three World Series (1984, 1986, and 1988), four National League Championship Series (1983, 1985, 1987, and 1989), and four All-Star Games (1983, 1985, 1987, and 1989). After the 1989 season, NBC lost the television rights to cover Major League Baseball to CBS. For the first time since 1946, NBC would not televise baseball. After leaving NBC, Scully returned to CBS Radio baseball in 1990, calling the network’s World Series broadcasts through 1997. On August 26, 2011 during the Dodgers game against the Colorado Rockies, Scully announced that he would return in 2012 for his 63rd season with the team.

Joe Garagiola began his baseball career as a player. In 1946, his rookie year, he played in his first and only World Series as a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Garagiola batted a 6-for-19 in five games against the Boston Red Sox, including a Game 4 where he went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs. But, that was the peak of his playing career. He played for several other teams in a 9 year career – Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and New York Giants.

Garagiola then turned to broadcasting, first calling Cardinals radio broadcasts on KMOX from 1955 to 1962. Then he moved to NBC, and began doing national baseball broadcasts for the network in 1961. Garagiola alternated play-by-play duties with Curt Gowdy on NBC until 1976, when he assumed the role full-time. He teamed with color commentator Tony Kubek from 1976 to 1982; in 1983, he shifted to color commentary as Vin Scully joined the network as lead play-by-play announcer. After calling the 1988 World Series with Scully, Garagiola resigned from NBC Sports. NBC was on the verge of losing the television rights to cover Major League Baseball to CBS. Garagiola claimed that NBC left him “twisting” while he was trying to renegotiate his deal. Garagiola was replaced on the NBC telecasts by Tom Seaver.

After leaving NBC Sports, Garagiola had a brief stint as a television commentator for the California Angels. In recent years, he has performed some color commentary duties for the Arizona Diamondbacks, where his son, Joe Garagiola, Jr., served as general manager.

The 1988 World Series, which was the last broadcast that the two legendary announcers announced together, is best known for this:

And here is the opening of an NBC Game of the Week in 1984:

Daily Trivia – 10/3/11

Question: What poison was found in Extra Strength Tylenol capsules in 1982, leading manufacturers to take stronger steps against product tampering?

Last Question: What American League team won a World Series despite a 29-52 regular-season road record?

Answer: Minnesota Twins

In 1987 the Minnesota Twins won the World Series for the first time since moving from Washington in 1961, marking the second time that the franchise had won the World Series. (The Washington Senators had won it in 1924.) Tom Kelly managed the rare feat of winning the World Series in his first full season as manager. The Twins were 85-77, first in the American League West. The team had one of the lowest winning percentages ever for a World Series champion, at .525. It also had the remarkably bad road record of 29-52 (.358 percentage) but made up for it winning 56 home games. Fortunately for the team, the Twins played in the weak American League West Division, where first and last place were separated by only ten games.

In order to get into the World Series, the Twins had to get by the Detroit Tigers who finished the 1987 regular season with the best record in all of baseball, at 98–64. Minnesota won the Series, with relative ease, four games to one.

The Twins played the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, which was won by the Twins in 7 games. This was the first World Series in which the home team won every game. This was the first World Series games played in an indoor stadium (the Twins’ Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome). The 1987 Twins were the first team to ever enter the World Series having been outscored in the regular season. Although this World Series featured a lot of firsts, it also featured one bi “Last”. It featured the final Series game to start earlier than prime time in the eastern United States (Game 6, with a 4 p.m. ET start). Now, it is past my bedtime by the time a World Series game reaches the second inning! 🙂

Daily Trivia – 8/26/11

Question: What delivery company aired ads featuring a fast-talking executive named Mr. Spleen?

Last Question: What sports announcer was nominated for an Emmy in 1989 for his coverage that began: “I’ll tell you what, we’re having an earth—-“?

Answer: Al Michaels

On October 17, 1989 Al Michaels was in San Francisco, California, preparing to cover the third game of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and fellow Bay Area team, the Oakland A’s. ABC’s network telecast began with a recap of the first two games, both won by Oakland. Then Michaels handed off to his broadcast partner, Tim McCarver, who started assessing the Giants’ chances for victory in the game. as he was doing this, the Earthquake struck (at 5:04 local time). This is what happened:

Here is the broadcast leading up to that moment:

When ABC restored audio via telephone 15 minutes later, Michaels quipped, “Well folks, that’s the greatest open in the history of television, bar none!”. Michaels then reported from the ABC Sports production truck outside Candlestick Park on the earthquake, for which he later was nominated for an Emmy Award for news broadcasting. Michaels relayed his reports to Ted Koppel, who was stationed at the ABC News bureau in Washington, D.C.

Fairly new readers may not know that I was living in the area at the time, and surivived the Quake. You can read my story, that I posted last year, over here.

Daily Trivia – 7/13/11

Question: On My Two Dads, who played the two dads?

Last Question: What Major League Baseball team began the 1988 season with a record 21 straight losses?

Answer: Baltimore Orioles

In the previous season, the Baltimore Orioles finished the season with 95 losses. So, expectations weren’t too high for the 1988 season. But I don’t think anybody was expecting a record-setting display of futility. After all, the team did have Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Fred Lynn, and a pretty good pitcher in Mike Boddicker. However, they did stink it up for the month of April.

They got off to a bad start in the first game, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers 12-0. After the team lost its 6th straight game (combined with the fact that the Orioles lost 42 of their final 56 games the previous year), Cal Ripken Sr. was fired as manager. Frank Robinson, who was a legendary player took over.

But, the results did not change. The Orioles became the first team to lose 14 games to start the season. They then broke their franchise record by losing their 15th straight game. Before game 19, the team got a call of encouragement from President Reagan. This did not help, as they lost again. After losing game 21, The broke the American League record for consecutive losses.

On game 22, they finally won – and won big – by a score of 9-0 against the Chicago White Sox. They lost the next day giving themselves a 1-22 record for April, the worst single month in major league history.
They finished the season with a record of 57-107.

**Repost from Last Year** – A Look Back: 1983 MLB All Star Game

This was originally posted last year the day after the All-Star game:

Congratulations to the National League for winning last night’s All Star game. They ended a drought where they had not won since 1996. This brought me back to the 1983 All Star game where the American League ended a drought. The game was the first American League win since 1971, and only their second win since 1963.
However, the American League won in a more convincing way than the National League did yesterday – The AL had won 13-3 in 1983, and the NL won 3-1 in last night’s game.

1983 was the year that two of my favorite players of all time were retiring – Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Bench. Both players were added to the All Star roster for their respective leagues. I seem to remember that there was a tribute to them before the game. From what I remember, “Yesterday” by the Beatles was playing while video highlights were being shown. I cannot find any video of this, so if anybody can confirm this for me, that would be great!

The game was held on July 6, 1983, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois, the home of the Chicago White Sox of the American League. It was 50 years to the day that the original All Star game was held.

The most memorable part of the game was the 7 run 3rd inning, highlighted by the Fred Lynn’s grand slam. It is still the only grand slam in All Star history. Poor Atlee Hammaker, of the San Francisco Giants, was charged for all 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning.
Fred Lynn was named the game’s MVP.

The 13 runs scored by the American League set a new record for one team in All-Star Game history, and was the most runs scored by a single team in All-Star competition since the 11 runs scored by the American League in 1954. The ten run margin of victory was the largest since 12-0 American League victory in 1946.

The 13 runs scored by the American League set a new record for one team in All-Star Game history, and was the most runs scored by a single team in All-Star competition since the 11 runs scored by the American League in 1954. Since then, the American League tied that record by scoring 13 runs in 1992 and 1998. The ten run margin of victory was the largest since 12-0 American League victory in 1946.

Daily Trivia – 6/6/11

Question: On The Golden Girls, what fictional Minnesota town was Betty White’s character from?

Last Question: What was the catchphrase in Bo Jackson’s Nike ads?

Answer: Bo Knows

Bo Jackson, the first athlete in the modern era to play professional baseball and football in the same year, was the spokesman for Nike’s cross-training shoes. The campaign ran in 1989 and 1990.

Coincidentally, the first time the commercial aired was during the commercial break immediately following Jackson’s lead-off home run in the 1989 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 1985. He was drafted first overall in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, Tampa Bay gave Jackson an ultimatum to choose wither baseball or football. So, he decided to play baseball for the defending champion Kansas City Royals.

Since he did not sign with a team, he was eligible for the next football draft. he Los Angeles Raiders selected Jackson in the 7th round with the 183rd overall pick. Raiders owner Al Davis supported Jackson and his baseball career and got Jackson to sign a contract by offering him a salary that was comparable to a full-time starting running back but allowing Jackson to join the Raiders only after the baseball season ended.

He was very successful in both sports, until he had a hip injury in 1990. This ended his football career, and he needed to have hip replacement surgery. Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and in his first at-bat, against the New York Yankees, he homered on his first swing.

For the 1994 season, he was signed as a free agent by the California Angels for one final season, where he hit another 13 home runs in 201 at bats, before retiring during the strike.

Daily Trivia – 4/18/11/The Longest Game

Question: In iThree Amigos!, who played the title characters?

Last Question: Who drove in the winning run the winning run in baseball’s “Longest Game” between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings? Also, who scored the winning run?

Bonus: Can you name 2 Hall of Famers that played in that game?

Answer: Dave Koza drove in the winning run, which was scored by Marty Barrett. The Hall of Famers that played in that game were Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr.

30 years ago today, April 18, 1981, The Rochester Red Wings (the Baltimore Orioles Triple-A team) came to McCoy Stadium to face the Pawtucket Red Sox (the Boston Red Sox Triple-A team).

[Let me take a moment to say that I know you’re not from Rhode Island if you pronounce Pawtucket as PAW-tucket. It’s pronounced Patucket. However, you can pronounce the ‘W’ when you call the team the Pawsox. Now that you’ve been initiated, let’s continue]

It was not uncommon back then for me to ask my dad to go to McCoy stadium to see a game, or for him to say “Let’s go to McCoy”. 30 years ago, I was throwing a tennis ball against the garage to practice my pitching and fielding. It got me in the mood for a game. So I asked Dad if we could go. Any other day, we would have gone. But today, I could see that he was struggling, thinking it over. And he said that we can’t tonight. Tomorrow is Easter, so we have to get ready for that. I was a little disappointed, but I knew that we would be back again in no time anyway. On one hand, we missed out on seeing baseball history being made in person. On the other hand, my dad may have gotten in trouble for having his 10 year old son out until 4:00 in the morning in these pre-cell phone days!!! And if anybody knows me and my dad, you know we would have been there until the very end!

I’m not upset for missing that game. If you have ever been to McCoy Stadium, you can’t help but feel like you were at that game. They have the 33 inning memorabilia all over the place. Every season since that game, you could get your 33 inning souvenir cup with your soda. It has the line score wrapped around the cup. And towards the end of each game, there would be some kids running around the stadium grabbing the empty cups that people left behind. I don’t know how much the 33 inning game would be hyped up in Pawtucket if Rochester won instead of the Red Sox. But the Red Sox won, and we have bragging rights for winning the longest professional baseball game in history.

The Game

I don’t mean to sound like Yogi Berra, but this was a long game before it even started. The game started 30 minutes late due to problems with the stadium lights. So, the game started at 8:25 p.m.

This almost ended up being a quick game with Rochester leading 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning.
But, Designated Hitter Russ Laribee hit a sacrifice fly to score one of my all-time favorite Pawsox players – Chico Walker.

There was not another run in the game until Rochester scored in the top of the 21st inning. But, at the bottom of the inning, Wade Boggs drove in the tying run. Later he said, “I didn’t know if the guys on the team wanted to hug me or slug me.

Although most leagues have a curfew rule that would have suspended the game—the International League’s triggers at 12:50 a.m.—the rule book that the home plate umpire Dennis Cregg had that night did not contain one.

So the game continued.

By 4 a.m. the players were “delirious” from exhaustion; Rochester’s Dave Huppert had caught the first 31 innings before being replaced, and Jim Umbarger pitched 10 scoreless innings from the 23rd inning, striking out nine and giving up four hits. The president of the league, Harold Cooper, was finally reached on the phone sometime after 3 a.m.; the horrified Cooper ordered that play stop at the end of the current inning. Finally at 4:07, at the end of the 32nd inning and more than eight hours after it began, the game was stopped.

The game resumed when the Red Wings were back in town on June 23, 1981. At this time, the major leagues were on strike. This magnified the attention that this game was already getting.

The game ended after just 18 minutes when Dave Koza drove in Marty Barrett.

Here are the records that were set in the game (from the International League website):

Innings played – 33

Time – 8 hours 25 minutes

Putouts, One Team – 99

Putouts, Both Teams – 195

At Bats, One Team – Pawtucket 114

At Bats, Both Teams – 219

Strikeouts, One Team – Rochester Batters 34

Strikeouts, Both Teams – 60

Assists, Both Teams – 88

Most Times At Bat – Lee Graham, Dave Koza, Chico Walker; Pawtucket – 14 each

Most Plate Appearances – Tom Eaton, Dallas Williams, Cal Ripken; Rochester – 15 each.

Here are the references I used to refresh my memory:

The International League Web Site

The Providence Journal (aka Projo)

The Washington Post

Fox Sports