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Saturday, 11 May 2019 16:26

Baseball Like It Ought To Be?

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The game has obviously changed. I never thought of baseball as a dangerous game. I thought of football as a dangerous game, but not baseball. I learned how to take out a second baseman to break up a double play in Little League. I learned how to barrel into a catcher if he had the ball and was blocking the plate. And I learned that I was going to GET BARRELED INTO if I was blocking the plate when I was catching. I got some of the eight broken noses I suffered over the years that way.

There are things that were just a part of baseball. There are things that were not in the rule book. It was just understood. It was the “code.” One thing I was always good at was stealing signs. It helped that I had a photographic memory. But I paid attention while everyone else was jerking around. I didn’t have to guess what pitch was coming when I was hitting, I often knew what was coming. And, no, I didn’t always peek back at the catcher, I wouldn’t do that. I picked up on the odd habits and, perhaps, tics that a pitcher might have that would give away what he was about to do. In fact, if a batter peeked back at MY signs, he got buzzed behind the ear on a throw back to my battery mate.

Jacob Rhame recently got hit with a suspension for throwing behind the back of Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies. Well, actually, throwing behind the HEAD of Rhys Hoskins. Can you imagine what someone like Don Drysdale or Bob Gibson would have done in their day. But that’s the key – THEIR day.

I recently finished the book, “After The Miracle” written by Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman. It was an exceptionally good read. In it, a number of Mets players from the 1969 team share intimate stories about the events and details of that famed season. Included among those stories are a lot about the shenanigans and antics of Jerry Koosman, the No. 2 pitcher behind The Franchise, Tom Seaver.

One of the great stories is regarding a game at the beginning of September when the Mets began to really take off to blow past the fading Cubs. The Cubs pitcher Bill Hands started off the bottom of the first inning by trying to intimidate the Mets and on the very first pitch threw a high hard one, up and in tight, to Tommie Agee, sending him sprawling to the ground. Little did Hands realize that that pitch would send Agee on a one-man rampage. However, Koosman, who was pitching that night, wouldn’t have any of that. And when the Cubs star third baseman and future Hall of Famer Ron Santo came to the plate, Koosman sent a clear and convincing message…he drilled him. No warnings. Not a single player was ejected from the game. No fines. Nothing.

In “After The Miracle,” Koosman is quoted as saying, “When Hands knocked Agee down, we absolutely knew it was on purpose…It was like Hands was trying to show us who’s boss. The Cubs were still flying high, still in first, Santo was still clicking his heels after they won, and they were still doing all kinds of stupid things like that. All they did with knocking Agee down was wake up a sleeping dog. It really pissed us off. Well, I always felt like I had to protect my teammates. Gil (Hodges) had a deal where he would never tell you to knock ‘em down, but in a meeting one time, he said, ‘You should know how to do your job out there.’ That’s all he said. He didn’t say go out and kill somebody. So when Hands knocked Agee down, I knew right away I was going to go after their best hitter. You mess with my hitters, I’m going to go after your best one. I’ll go after him TWICE if I have to!”

Can you imagine if someone actually said those words regarding a pitch thrown today? Things have changed an awful lot. At least back then that pitch did “wake up a sleeping dog.” What is it going to take to wake up this Mets team?

Read 1129 times Last modified on Thursday, 19 May 2022 22:07
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About New York Mets Mania

Alan Karmin is an award-winning journalist and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and spent most of his life growing up in the New Jersey suburbs. Alan's family were avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and when the Dodgers moved west, the Mets became the team to root for. The Mets have always been a true focal point, Alan even wrote a term paper in high school to analyze what was wrong with the Mets. While at the University of Miami, Alan honed his craft covering the, gulp, Yankees during spring trainings in Fort Lauderdale for a local NBC affiliate, as well as the Associated Press and UPI. He broadcasted baseball games for the University of Miami, and spring training games for the Baltimore Orioles and Montreal Expos. New York Mets Mania is a forum for Alan to write about his favorite team and for baseball fans to chime in and provide their thoughts and ideas about New York's Amazin' Mets.