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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Yankees Are Coming!

What's the past tense for coming? Caming? I'm kidding. 

February 18, 2014 is actually the second day of Spring training for MLB (Major League Baseball). Baseball is my second favorite sport to watch after hockey (ice hockey), and was my second favorite sport to play after soccer.

My eight-year-old son Hudson played his first year of soccer last year - and I coached his team, and dammit but they improved so much... which to me bodes well... they learned a lot and got better... which was special because I had the smallest team in the league.

Despite Hudson having fun and actually being one of the leagues better players, if not one of the more coachable kids (that's saying a lot considering I had a total of 13 very coachable kids - one wasn't), he has decided to try his hand at baseball.

Heck.. I never played organized baseball until I was 24. I played the hot corner - third base and could catch anything, hit anything and hard, but couldn't make an accurate throw to first base. I still have an erratic arm.

So... no coaching for me... instead, I'm going to try and bury my head in a book so I don't yell. It was okay to yell as a coach, but I want the baseball coach to be the one in charge.

When it comes to sports or small crowds, I can dominate a situation... beats me where that came from... probably those years in Japan.

Anyhow... here's something to celebrate Spring Training and my son's upcoming foray into baseball.

It's a newspaper article from the Nippon Times, October 20, 1955. It's actually taken from the International News Service.

16 Games Scheduled Here Before Trip To Okinawa
The New York Yankees are scheduled to arrive in Japan today on the first leg of a barnstorming tour through Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines.
Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick and Yankee co-owner Del Webb are accompanying the 56 baseball players, coaches, managers, wives and secretaries making the trip.
Practically the entire Yankee team headed by manager Casey Stengel will play 16 scheduled games in 27 days in Japan before flying to Okinawa November 16.
Baseball-crazy Japanese enthusiasts have been snapping up tickets for the exhibition games at a furious pace. A Tremendous reception is expected when the first Japan Air Lines plane bearing Yankees lands at Haneda Airport at 1:10 p.m. a second planeload is scheduled to arrive 30 minutes later.
Sponsors of the trip plan a giant cavalcade through Tokyo streets.
Two of the Bombers, outfielder Mickey Mantle and third baseman Andy Carey, celebrated birthdays while still over the Pacific. Mantle's birthday is today, while Carey's was October 8.
Three of the ball players are on the their honeymoons: Carey, Johnny Kucks and Eddie Robinson.
The entire team will stay at the Nikkatsu Hotel while in Tokyo. Their first game will be played Saturday with the Mainichi Orions at the Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo.

Well... and I thought I wrote poorly. I apparently I could have been a publisher back in the 1950s... if I was born... and if I was white.

Mickey Mantle's birthday was indeed October 20 - the day of the article... and Carey's was October 8th... so how were they flying over the Pacific that long? They weren't. Mantle would be IN Japan on his birthday - not over the Pacific as the article claims... and Carey... he probably celebrated in Hawaii... not quite a US State in 1955 - that happened in 1959 - but odds are good he also was NOT OVER the Pacific for his birthday, because traveling by plane from any point in the US to Hawaii is not a 24-hour trek. Yeesh.

Anyhow... here's the caption to the photo above, taken by the International News Photo
COMING TODAY--Baseball Commissioner Ford C. Frick, Yankees General-Manager George Weiss and Manager Casey Stengel, pictured above, left to right, are scheduled to arrive today with players of the famed New York Yankees baseball team. The first two JAL "Yankee Special" DC-6B's carrying 33 members of the New York delegation will be due at Tokyo International Airport from Honolulu at 1:10 p.m. today. The second plane with 30 aboard is scheduled to arrive at 1:45 p.m. The Yanks made a clean sweep of five games in Hawaii, winning the last one with the Armed Forces All-Stars, 5-2, Monday night.

Is it just me, or is there almost more information in the photo caption than in the story? Anyhow, this is quite the contrast to new New York Yankee pitcher Tanaka Masahiro (surname first), a Japanese all-star in 2013 who went 24-0 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles (30-0 including the play-offs), who actually chartered his own Boeing 787 Dreamliner for himself and five other passengers to fly from Japan to New York... all at a cost of US$200,000. That's chump change for a guy who will be paid $155-million over the next seven years to play a kid's game.

By the way... the other passengers included his pop star wife Satoda Mai (surname first), personal manager Sato Yoshiki, and Tanaka's toy poodle Haru.

Yeah, boy-yyyyyy. That's why everyone hates the Yankees now. At least back in the 1950s, they did it on talent alone... as opposed to now when it's money that continues to buy the talent. It doesn't mean the Yankees aren't a great franchise, but it does suck to be every other team most of the year.

The New York Yankees of the 1950s were a dynasty. They had won the so-called World Series in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953. They lost in 1954 and 1955 (they lost the 1955 World Series to those bums known as the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-3 in games)... so you might wonder if Japan was getting them on a bit of a downward swing, but... then they won 1956 and 1958. The Milwaukee Braves won the World Series in 1957 over the Yankees - also 4 games to 3.

So... yeah... the New York Yankees only failed to make the World Series in 1954... that was the year the Cleveland Indians went an astounding 111 Wins against 43 Losses (.721 winning percentage), while those horrible Yankees "only" went 103-51.

No one wins 100+ games and does not make the World Series. Any other year.... and the Yankees would have been in the World Series for 10 straight years between 1949-1958. For the record, the Yankees sucked in 1959, finishing third in the American League with a record of 79-75.

I have one more baseball tale to tell you... but not tomorrow. Tomorrow it's food or something weird.

Andrew Joseph

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