Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cornish Town Races (With apologies to Stephen Foster)

Some 20 years before the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, National League club owners were approached by two gentlemen from that beautiful village on Otsego Lake who wanted to sell them the baseball history equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge - the land where Abner Doubleday supposedly laid out the first baseball diamond.  Secure in the "definitive" conclusions of the relatively recent Mills Commission, the baseball magnates took the idea seriously enough to authorize league president John Heydler to look into the matter.  The idea of a farmer's field in Cooperstown being baseball's birthplace or the existence of any such sacred site has by now, of course, been thoroughly discredited. Anyone with an interest in honoring the location of an historical baseball first, might better use their time on the site of the first organized match (a game played between two competing clubs) which, let it be said one more time, didn't take place on June 19, 1846 at Elysian Fields in Hoboken.  Rather, based on current research, that honor belongs to the grounds of the Union Star Cricket Club at the corner of Myrtle and Portland Streets in Brooklyn where on October 10, 1845, a team of eight (no shortstop) from Brooklyn defeated a like number from New York.

There's always the possibility, some enterprising researcher (please Lord, let it be me) will find an earlier match at a different location so it's impossible to be certain the claim for Brooklyn will never be challenged.  Certain beyond any doubt, however, is another base ball field first, the location of the first game played on an enclosed ground, a game played on July 20, 1858 at the Fashion Race Course near the village of Flushing in Queens County, New York, the first of a best of three match series between select or all-star teams from Brooklyn and New York. Anticipating the future heart break of Brooklyn teams playing their New York counterparts, the Manhattan team took the series by winning the third and decisive game.  With a total capacity of 50,000 including 10,000 seats, the race course was not only capable of accommodating the anticipated large throngs, but also facilitated charging admission, another first for these historic matches.  The story of what are known to history as the Fashion Course games, is well chronicled in Robert Shaefer's essay in the Fall 2005  issue of Nine: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture.  In typical baseball irony, the race track was built on land purchased from one Samuel Willets, who probably had little interest in base ball, but will always be associated with it since the subway stop for Shea Stadium and now Citi Field bears his name.

New York Clipper - July 24, 1858

What brought all  of this to mind was the Neshanock's visit to Maine this past weekend to take part in the 2016 New England Vintage Base Ball Festival held on the race track at the historic fairgrounds in Cornish, Maine.  Owned by the town of Cornish since 1994, the fairgrounds hosted regional fairs going back into the 19th century with the racetrack and the grandstand apparently built around 1900.  Although no longer used for competitive racing, harness horses are still trained at the facility, continuing one of the community's oldest traditions.  The vintage base ball event featured five out of state clubs, three from Massachusetts, one from Rhode Island and the Neshanock.  The sixth club and host team was the Dirigo Club of Maine which got assistance on the base ball side from the Essex Base Ball Organization.  The event itself was sponsored by the Cornish Historical Society as well as the Cornish Fairgrounds Committee which along with the two base ball organizations did a great job.

While I've been to racetracks before, this was the first time  on the "infield" itself which was large enough to host two games simultaneously with more than enough room to spare for parking and other amenities.  Flemington's first match on Saturday morning was against the Mechanics Club of North Andover, Massachusetts, the newest of the six club sponsored by the aforementioned Essex Base Ball Organization (https://essexbaseball.wordpress.com/).  After winning the coin toss (as it would in each of its four matches), the Neshanock took the field only to lapse once more into the unfortunate pattern of giving the opposition extra outs (three in this case) early in the game.  In spite of the three first inning muffs however, the damage was limited to two Mechanics' runs which Flemington more than matched, putting five tallies across in its half of the first. After the three errors in the initial inning, the Neshanock defense clamped down, making only four more over the next eight innings and holding the North Andover club to only three more runs.  Flemington erupted for 10 runs in its half of the third, to break the game open, but in spite of the final 22-5 score, the lead never felt quite secure.  The Neshanock were led at the plate by Dan "Sledge" Hammer and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, both with four hits while "Jersey" Jim Nunn and Ryan "Express" Pendergist added three each.

With one game in the books, the Neshanock had a break, allowing ample time not only to get out of the hot sun, but also to restore the "inner man" at the concessions thoughtfully provided by the hosts.  Rested and refreshed, Flemington's second match was against the Mudville Club from Holliston, Massachusetts, with the Mudville name providing all the incentive Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw needed to honor them with a special recitation of "Casey at the Bat."  The Neshanock's offensive production fell off dramatically during the second match with only nine tallies, less than half of the 22 tallied in the first contest.  One Neshanock who experienced no drop off was "Sledge," who had another four hit performance, this time earning a clear score.  "Express" had another three hit game, joined in that category by Chris "Sideshow" Nunn while "Thumbs" and Dave "Illinois" Harris added two apiece.  Much more impressive, however, was the Neshanock's defensive performance, not only playing without a muff for eight innings, but limiting Mudville to three batters in six innings and four in the other two.  Some sloppiness in the top of the ninth plus a few Mudville hits put two tallies across the plate, for a 9-2 Flemington triumph.

Photo by Jonmikel Berry Pardo

With the first day behind them, the Neshanock dispersed for the evening, preparatory to an early 9:30 first pitch on Sunday morning against the Essex Club.  The Essex Club is the travel team for the Essex Base Ball Organization and, in my opinion, one of the best vintage teams in the country.  Games against that level of competition are both challenges and opportunities and what happened on Sunday morning was more than worthy of the occasion.  Flemington had another strong defensive performance with only two muffs, which as impressive at was, was bettered by Essex with only one miscue.  That kind of defense usually means a tight low scoring game and this contest was no exception.  Essex used some aggressive base running to score one run in the top of the first which Flemington matched in their half and then added another in the second for a 2-1 lead.  The lead proved short lived when the Massachusetts club tied the game in the third and added one more in the fifth for a 3-2 lead going to the bottom of the sixth.  Now, however, it was the Neshanock's turn and Flemington scored twice in the sixth and added four more in the seventh for what against almost any other opponent would have been an insurmountable 8-3 lead.  No one, however, expected Essex to go quietly and the Bay State contingent scored once in the eighth, added another in the ninth and had runners on base on when Flemington closed out a hard earned 8-5 win.  As noted the Neshanock defense was stellar behind the pitching of Danny "Batman" Shaw with the offense keyed by the hitting of "Sideshow," "Illinois," Doug "Pops" Pendergist, "Thumbs" and Joe "Mick" Murray.

As intense as the Neshanock - Essex game was, and it was plenty intense, the match lasted just a little over an hour so that Flemington had some time to catch their collective breath before the final game against the host Dirigo Club.  It's risky to draw conclusions about a club from just one match, but the local team seems to be ideally built to play the 1864 or bound game which favors strikers who can hit the ball into the gaps between the fielders which the Dirigo players to a man did with great consistency.  In addition, the Maine team played strong defense making only two muffs over the course of the game, all of which suggested another close game, much more so than anyone on the Neshanock bench wanted.  Flemington took leads of 6-3, 9-6 and 11-8, but Dirigo kept chipping away.  Finally in the top of the ninth, the Maine men scored twice and put the tying run on third with two out.  The striker then hit a ball that was deflected by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, the Neshnock pitcher, to "Thumbs" at short, whose strong throw into the sure hands of "Illinois'" at first was just in time to secure the Neshanock's fourth win of the festival, insuring a happy, albeit long, ride home.

Photo by New England Base Ball Festival 

In my seven years with the Neshanock, I've had enough experience at festivals and tournaments to know the New England event was a great success by any standard.  Playing on such an historic venue, of a type connected to the game's early history, was great, and the hosts did a wonderful job on both the base ball and non base ball aspects of the event.  All of those involved should be very proud of their efforts.  The Neshanock especially thank Doug "Pops" Pendergist and Ryan "Express" Pindergist who played with us during the four games and were an important part in the Neshanock's hard earned success.  With the four wins, Flemington now stands 12-3 on the season, probably the club's best start ever.  Things don't get any easier, however.  After a well earned weekend off for the July 4th holiday, Flemington visits New Bridge Landing near Hackensack, New Jersey on July 9th to take on the Eckford Club and then its off to Gettysburg for some very challenging match ups.  If you are anywhere near either venue, do yourself a favor and stop by, you won't regret it.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mustaches, Firemen and Hard Luck in the World's Series

On Saturday, the Neshanock made their third annual visit to South Bound Brook to take part in an event organized by Flemington's own Harry "Cappy" Roberts in support of the local fire company of which "Cappy" is a proud member.  This year Flemington took on a team made up of members of the fire company who worked hard at picking up the differences between today's game and the 1864 version.  The locals played well in the field, but not surprisingly Flemington was in charge throughout on the way to a 15-3 victory.  One of the highlights for the Neshanock (or at least for one member) came before the game even started, during the inaugural "Mr. Mustache" competition which was won by our own Dave "Illinois" Harris.  The accomplishment, which "Illinois" assured me came amidst very heavy competition, led to a number of suggestions for a new nickname for the veteran Neshanock first baseman, but it sounds like there will be no change in that department.  The match was also graced with the presence of Marjorie Adams, great granddaughter of the legendary, "Doc" Adams of the Knickerbockers who played such an important part in the early development of organized competition.

Sherry Smith in the 1916 Brooklyn Superba uniform

In the match itself, Flemington was led offensively by Danny "Batman" Shaw, Dan "Sledge" Hammer and newcomer Brian "Spoons" LoPinto.  Going into his last time at the striker's line, "Batman" was flirting with his second consecutive clear score only to be turned away on a fly ball to left field, one of his longest hits of the day.  "Sledge" had another multi-hit game and was never retired by the opposition successfully earning his second clear score of the season, after just missing last weekend in the second Elkton match.  "Spoons" playing for the second time with Flemington had three hits and scored all three times.  Flemington again played solid defense behind the combined pitching of "Batman" and Bobby "Melky" Ritter.  Next weekend the Neshanock will head far north for the New England Vintage Base Ball Festival in Cornish, Maine.  A good turnout is expected and everyone is looking forward to the trip with matches on both Saturday and Sunday.  Pictures and details of the matches will be available right here no later than the following Tuesday.

Dave "Illinois" Harris 

In addition to working on the Ebbets biography, I have been finalizing my contributions to some other projects.  For one of them, I've been looking at contemporary newspaper accounts of the 1919 World's Series, (that's how it was spelled in those days) looking specifically at how sportswriters who didn't know the fix was in, accounted for the questionable play of the White Sox.  One interesting pattern was how some writers claimed that two of Chicago's pitchers and co-conspirators, Ed Cicotte and Claude Williams were hard luck losers.  In Cicotte's case it was due to losing a game where all the Red's runs were scored in one inning while for Williams it was because he allowed only four hits in each of his first two starts and still lost both times.  Of course, after almost a century of 20-20 hindsight, we know hard luck had nothing to do with it, but it was interesting that some writers actually considered the two to be among the hardest luck pitchers in the first two decades of the World's Series.  Thinking about that while working on the 1920 fall classic for the Ebbets biography made me think of a far better candidate for the pitcher with that dubious distinction, both before and since, one Sherrod "Sherry" Smith of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a player probably unknown to most.  This opinion is based not on a scientific study, in fact it's not based on any study at all, but just knowing about Smith's misfortunes in the 1916 and 1920 fall classic makes it hard to believe anyone got less support from his teammates.

After pitching briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1911 and 1912, the left handed Smith joined Brooklyn for the 1915 season winning 14 games both in his initial season and in the pennant winning 1916 campaign.  Winning the pennant in 1916 brought Brooklyn into the World's Series against the defending champion and heavy favorite Boston Red Sox.  After losing a tough 6-5 decision to Boston in the first game, the two teams took a mandatory Sabbath break before the second game on October 9th.  On the mound for Boston was a young left handed pitcher named Babe Ruth, making his first World's Series start.  Most writers thought Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson would counter with Larry Cheney or Jack Coombs, but supposedly because of the cloudy, overcast weather, the Brooklyn manager opted for Smith believing or hoping his fast ball would be more effective in the almost twilight like conditions.

Hi Myers of Brooklyn homering off of Babe Ruth in Game 2 of the 1916 World's Series

After Ruth retired the first two batters in the first, Brooklyn center fielder Hi Myers hit one that got in between Harry Hooper and Tilly Walker rolling all the way to the wall in spacious Braves Field, allowing Myers to circle the basis and give Smith a 1-0 lead.  The Red Sox's home games during the series were played at Braves Field because of the greater seating capacity.  Interestingly, the supposedly money obsessed Charles Ebbets was urged to make a similar arrangement for the Polo Grounds, but declined.  The 1-0 lead lasted until the third when Boston matched the Brooklyn tally aided and abetted by some sloppy fielding by the Superbas second baseman George Cutshaw.   That was all the scoring in regulation although Boston threatened in the ninth, putting 1st and 3rd with none out, only to be denied when Myers again played the hero, throwing out Hugh Janvrin at the plate attempting to score on a sacrifice fly.

Hi Myers throws out Hugh Janvrin at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning to save the game, for the moment.

As a result the game headed to extra innings with neither team able to score as the game went into the bottom of the 14th.  By this point even though the game had taken less than three hours, it was getting dark and this would clearly be the last inning.  Since a tie game would be replayed the next day, all those who had checked out of their hotels preparatory to an overnight train trip to New York were getting more than a little nervous.  Fortunately for them, but not for Smith and Brooklyn, Boston pushed across the winning run in what is still tied for the longest series games in terms of innings played, but took only 2 hours and 32 minutes.  All Smith had to show for his day's work was a loss even though he pitched 14 innings against the best team in baseball, allowing only seven hits and two runs while striking out Babe Ruth twice.  It has to be one of the hard luck losses of all time, but Smith was just getting warmed up in that regard.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - October 10, 1916

Fast forward to 1920 when Brooklyn again won the National League pennant with Smith winning 11 games with an ERA of 1.85.  1920 was the second of three consecutive World's Series which were best of nine affairs.  After the teams split the first two games in Brooklyn, Smith took the mound for the third contest at Ebbets Field.  After his 1916 experience, Smith probably felt he had to pitch a shut out to win, a feeling strengthened earlier that season when he pitched 19 innings against Boston and lost 2-1.  Smith didn't quite get a shut out against the opposing Indians, but he did limit the American League champion to three hits and one unearned run, just good enough to win when his teammates produced two runs, both in the very first inning.  At that point, Cleveland manager Tris Speaker pulled his starting pitcher, Ray Caldwell, replacing him with Duster Mails who held Brooklyn scoreless for the next 6 2/3 innings which should have been a warning to Smith and his teammates.  At least, however, the Brooklyn left hander had one series win to his credit.

A crucial double play in Smith's only World's Series victory - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 8, 1920 

The scene then shifted to Cleveland where the Indians won the next two games to take a 3-2 series lead.  The second of those two Brooklyn losses, the fifth game, is the one game of the 1920 series that most people know about since it saw two World's Series firsts, the first grand slam home run and the first, and thus far only, unassisted triple play by Cleveland second baseman, Bill Wambsganess.  However, Cleveland still needed two more wins and a Brooklyn win in game six would have tied the series and insured a return to Brooklyn.  So in this crucial spot, Sherry Smith more than rose to the occasion, allowing only one run even though according to Tom Rice of the Eagle, Smith's "fadaway was not dropping properly."  Smith was opposed by Duster Mails who in spite of a good year in 1920 had a remarkably mediocre major league career, but on this day shut Brooklyn out only three hits, thereby allowing Brooklyn no runs in 15 2/3's World's Series innings.   To make things even more frustrating for Charles Ebbets and Wilbert Robinson, they had released Mails after two ineffective seasons with Brooklyn.  But that was nothing compared to the frustration that Smith must have felt when he looked back on his three World's Series appearances.  The Brooklyn left pitcher had pitched 31 innings in the fall classic, allowing three earned runs for a .87 ERA, but had only one win to show for it because his teammates only scored three times..  Bad enough that once was against baseball's greatest player in Babe Ruth, but Duster Mails?  Talk about hard luck!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

History Repeats Itself, Except When It Doesn't

Photo by Mark Granieri

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned one of the ways that history repeats itself, at least in terms of vintage base ball compared to the original.  The issue was the importance then, and now, of who shows up for a match.  In discussing the 19th century, I used the example of how when the Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark finally defeated the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, four of their best players didn't make it because of work commitments.  This week the Eureka feature in another example of historical repetition, in this case as the 19th century example of how some teams have opponents they just can't seem to defeat no matter how hard they try (or perhaps because of how hard they try.  For the Eureka that was the self-same Atlantics, a club, the premier New Jersey team of the 1860's managed to defeat just once suffering some especially heart breaking losses along the way.  In 1865 for example, the Eureka suffered two one run losses to the defending champion Atlantics, first when a ninth inning rally fell one run short and another where they couldn't hold a five run lead against the Brooklyn club.

Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark - Collections of the New Jersey Historical Society

The Neshanock, who no one would or should confuse with the Eureka, have more than one opponent in that category, but the Elkton Eclipse, Saturday's foe at the Howell Living History Farm near Lambertville, New Jersey, is right up at the top of the list.  This is my seventh season scoring for the Neshanock and never once has Flemington prevailed over the Maryland team, one of the country's consistently best vintage clubs.  Initially the losses were seldom close, but in recent years its gotten even more frustrating because of close games that always seem to come out the wrong way, at least from the Neshanock's point of view.  A 12 inning loss in the Philadelphia Navy Yard Classic a few years ago, after Flemington led going to the bottom of the ninth is just one example.  Hope springs eternal, of course, and the Neshanock had a strong line up for today's two games, a nine inning affair followed by a seven inning game both under 1864 rules.

Tom "Schoolboy" Duffy (left) and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst - photo by Mark Granieri

Elkton struck quickly in the top of the first, tallying twice, but the Neshanock quickly countered with three in their half and after four innings, it was a close game with Elkton up 4-3.   In the top of the fifth, however, came one of those innings that always seems to doom Flemington against Elkton, when Neshanock muffs, effectively gave the Eclipse six outs opening the door for four runs for the Maryland club and an 8-3 lead.   Flemington also did nothing to help its own cause when on two separate occasions, the Neshanock had men on second and third, but failed to score.  The Neshanock did have one rally left in them, however, scoring four times in the bottom of the eighth to trail by only one heading into the last inning.  Considering how things have gone in these games, it shouldn't have been surprising that with two out, Elkton broke the game open scoring nine times for an 18-8 victory, much closer than it looked and, therefore, no less frustrating for Flemington.  The Elkton attack was led by Steve "Smiles" Pogue and Erik "Dubs" Myers, each with three hits and as per usual the Eclipse played solid defense behind the always entertaining pitching of Tom "Schoolboy" Duffy.  Flemington was led on offense by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with three hits and Rene "Mango" Marerro and Jack "Doc" Kitson with two apiece.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

After a break for "Casey at the Bat," sustenance for the inner man and other necessities, the two clubs went at it again, this time with the Neshanock first at the striker's line.  Flemington wasted no time taking charge as consecutive hits by Danny "Batman" Shaw, Dan "Sledge" Hammer, "Thumbs," and "Mango," followed by a two out hit by Joe "Mick" Murray gave the Neshanock four tallies, all the offense, the Neshanock would need.  Flemington added two more in the third on back-to-back doubles by "Batman," "Sledge" and a single by "Thumbs."  Elkton rallied for two in their half of the third, but it was the only time the Eclipse crossed the plate for the match.  Flemington broke the game open with four more in the fifth and shut Elkton out the rest of the way behind the pitching of "Batman" and Bob "Melky" Ritter who added two hits of his own.  "Batman" had a clear score for the match, with "Sledge" only a put out on the bases away from a clear score of his own.  "Thumbs" chipped in four hits while "Mick" and "Jersey" Jim Nunn added two each.  Elkton only managed eight hits in the match, three by "Smiles."  Late in the match,"Schoolboy" was struck by a hard line drive off the bat of "Mango" and everyone on the Neshanock wishes him a speedy recovery.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Why didn't history repeat itself on this occasion. On reflection, there have been common threads in the multiple frustrating losses to Elkton, patterns that were repeated in the first game, such as giving a very good team far too many outs or chances.  That changed in the second game and so did the result, perhaps there is a lesson there about how to avoid the frustrations of the past.  It's perhaps just one instance of how we can learn from history by going deeper inside the result to understand what needs to change so the result itself can be changed.  Perhaps, I'm more conscious of that at the moment, because of thinking about how returning to some better practices of the past, can lead to better results in the present.  This came to mind a few weeks ago, when the New York Mets were in the process of tying a very dubious record for baseball futility.  Over the course of 13 innings, the Mets were the beneficiary of 13 walks, yet managed to score only one run in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox.  This matched only the equally inept offense of the Brooklyn Dodgers who on May 19, 1953, could score only one run in 10 innings again with the benefit of 13 walks, of this more later.

Photo by Mark Granieri

By coincidence, Carol and I were listening to the game on the car radio when the Mets came up in the bottom of the 12th with their 2-3-4 hitters, Ashdrubal Cabrera, Michael Conforto and Neil Walker coming to the plate.  Probably to no one's surprise, Cabrera walked, bringing up Conforto, whose five fruitless appearances at the plate featured four strike outs.  Immediately the conversation between the announcers, Josh Lewin and Howie Rose turned to the possibility of Conforto bunting.  They checked and unsurprisingly found that in over 200 minor and major league games (admittedly a small sample), Conforto had never attempted a bunt even once.  Lewin then went on to speculate that it was probably unlikely that the Met outfielder had ever been asked to bunt in either high school or college.   Naturally, of course, no one was going to go against history in that situation so, equally naturally, Conforto hit into a double play and the Mets went on to lose the game in the 13th.

I was more than a little surprised to find that any Brooklyn team from the 1950's shared that dubious mark and even more so that it was the 1953 team.  Although that club gets less attention than the other three of Brooklyn's 1950's pennant winning squads, Dave Anderson, the long time New York Times writer told me in an interview for our Ebbets Field book, that the 1953 team was the best of the bunch and that the players felt the same way.  I also had a long interview with Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine and as I recall (there's that memory thing again), he said the same thing.  The 1953 team won 105 games, hit 208 home runs with a team batting average of .285, but on that May night in 1953, could manage only run in spite of the wildness of Bud Podbielan, the Reds pitcher.   Cincinnati finally won the game in the 10th inning on a Ted Kluszewski home run off of Preacher Roe.  Looking at the play-by-play I found three opportunities where a lead off walk set up a possible bunt scenario.  Only once did a Dodger try to bunt and, ironically, it turned into a double play.

Somehow Bud Podbielan walked 13 Brooklyn Dodgers, but held them to one run in 10 innings

There was, however, another situation, with far more at stake that the Dodgers took a very different approached and it's the one of the reasons, I find what happened or what wasn't tried in the Mets game so frustrating.  On October 4, 1955, the Dodgers and the Yankees played the 7th game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium and after five innings, Brooklyn was clinging to a 1-0 lead as hope built throughout the Dodger faithful that this might finally be next year.  In the top of the sixth, Pee Wee Reese singled bringing up Brooklyn' s number three hitter, Duke Snider, the same Duke Snider who in 1955 hit .309 with 42 home runs and 136 RBI's, the same Duke Snider who had already hit four home runs in the World Series.  Did Snider try to hit one over the short right field fence at Yankee Stadium?  He did not, instead he bunted and when Yankee first baseman made an error, Snider was safe and Brooklyn had first and second with no one out.  That brought up Dodger cleanup hitter, Roy Campanella who was the 1955 National League MVP with a .318, 32 and 107 in the relevant categories.  Did Campy go for the big inning?  He did not, like Snider he bunted, moving both runners up and and a few minutes later, Brooklyn got the badly needed insurance run on Gil Hodges's sacrifice fly.

October 4, 1955 - Next Year arrives in Brooklyn

Think about it, two famous players who earned their way to Cooperstown, in large measure because of their power hitting were not only directed to bunt in the biggest game of their lives, but did so successfully.  What this piece of history suggests to me is that Michael Conforto and countless other players have been ill served throughout their baseball careers by not being expected to learn how to bunt.  And that's not to excuse the players themselves, for all the time they spend playing baseball on their way to the major leagues, why can't they use some that time to develop a skill that can be the difference between winning and defeat.  Some will say that I am advocating "small ball," but frankly I hate that term because it seems to denigrate one part of baseball as being unworthy or to suggest one must choose one strategy over another.  What happened in the climatic game of the 1955 World Series, on baseball's biggest stage reminds us, I believe, that one of the many great things about baseball is the multiple paths to success.  It seems a shame, therefore, to discard one that has made the difference between failure and success before and can do so again.