Wednesday, November 23, 2016

EPILOGUE TO PERFECTION: How Perfect Game Pitchers Fared After Their Moment of Glory (Part III--From the Expansion Era to the End of the Century)

MAY 8, 1968

Aside from the performance itself, there are two remarkable features that set Hunter's perfect game apart. First, he was only twenty-two years old--the youngest pitcher of the modern era to accomplish the feat. Second, he put forth an amazing offensive display that day, going 3-for-4 with a double and 3 RBIs. Playing in his fourth season, Hunter would later forge a Hall of Fame career that included a Cy Young Award and eight All Star selections. After completing his perfect game against the Twins at Oakland Coliseum, Hunter received a phone call from A's owner Charlie Finley informing him that he had cost the team $5,000. "I'm sorry," said Hunter politely. "Who got it?" "You did," replied Finley. "It'll be in your next contract."

MAY 15 1981

A right-hander, the twenty-five year old Barker was an unlikely candidate for a perfect game. Though he had won 19 games the previous season and led the AL with 187 strikeouts, he had never posted an ERA below 4.17 as a full-time starter. Barker struck out 11 Toronto hitters at Cleveland Stadium and used 103 pitches to record the eighth perfect game in modern history. Only 7,290 fans were in attendance. In Barker's next game, he gave up 3 runs on 8 hits and was charged with his second loss of the season. Beset by arm problems, he missed most of June and July, going 3-4 with a 6.00 ERA after the All Star break. 

SEPTEMBER 30, 1984

Tall and lanky at six-foot-seven, 187 pounds, Witt packed his best seasons into a five-year span. Between 1984 and 1988, he posted a 77-59 record for the Angels. During his last start of the '84 campaign, he out-dueled Charlie Hough of the Rangers for a 1-0 perfect game victory. Hough held the Angels scoreless for 6 innings before giving up an unearned run on a fielders choice. Witt retired every batter he faced, using 94 pitches while striking out 10. The game was played in a remarkably brief 1 hour and 49 minutes. After his perfecto, Witt made his next regular season appearance in April of 1985. He lasted through 7.2 rough innings, giving up 10 hits and 4 runs in a 6-2 loss. A few years later, Witt came out of the bullpen to close out a no-hitter for Mark Langston.

SEPTEMBER 16, 1988

The left-handed Browning won 34 games for the Reds in 1985 and '86 before losing his effectiveness the following season. He got back on track in 1988, posting an 18-5 record with a 3.41 ERA. On June 6 of that year, he narrowly missed a no-hitter, shutting down the Padres for 8.1 innings before giving up a single to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Three months later, Browning etched his name into the record books with a perfect game against the Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium. The game was interrupted by a two and a half hour rain delay. The Dodgers ended up winning the World Series that year. Browning ended up winning both of his next two starts, allowing just 3 runs in 16 innings. He broke his arm warming up before a game in 1994 and never successfully rehabbed. 

JULY 28, 1991

Nicknamed "El Presidente," Nicaraguan hurler Dennis Martinez was a fifteen-year veteran entering the 1991 campaign. On July 28, he became the first major leaguer born outside the United States to throw a perfect game. He used 95 pitches to mow down 27 Dodger hitters in a row, reaching a 3-ball count only once. Interestingly, the Dodgers hold the record for most perfect game losses with 3. Only the Rays have been victimized as many times. Martinez won an ERA title in 1991 with a 2.39 mark. He hung around the majors until he was forty-four years old, winning 245 games--among the top totals of the modern era. 

JULY 28, 1994 

Rogers posted a mediocre 4.46 ERA in 1994 and gave up more than a hit per inning. But during this particular outing at the Ballpark in Arlington, he was unhittable. The left-hander used 98 pitches and struck out 8 Angels batters. Rogers owed a debt of gratitude to center fielder Rusty Greer, who made an amazing diving catch on a hard liner off the bat of Rex Hudler in the ninth inning. Rogers was awful in his next two starts, yielding 12 runs in 10.1 innings. He lasted twenty seasons in the majors, pitching until he was forty-three years old.

MAY 17, 1998

Wells tarnished his perfect game after the fact by claiming he was "half drunk" when he threw it. Suffering from an alleged hangover, he retired all 27 Minnesota batters he faced, using 120 pitches while striking out 10. "It couldn't have happened to a crazier guy," he said after it was over. Comedian Billy Crystal, who was in attendance, walked into the Yankee clubhouse at the game's conclusion and said to Wells jokingly: "I just got here. What happened?" Wells was spectacular in pinstripes throughout his career, posting a 68-28 regular season record and a 7-2 postseason mark.

JULY 18, 1999

On a personal note, I remember this game vividly because a friend of mine offered me a ticket and I declined. Don Larsen--author of the only perfect game in World Series history--was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Cone was masterful against the Expos, using just 88 pitches and striking out 10. In his next start, Cone gave up 6 hits and walked 4 in four innings. He finished the season at 12-9 with an efficient 3.44 ERA. He followed with a dreadful a 4-14 mark the following year.      

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Latest Fiction Project: Scarecrow on the Marsh

Please forgive me for taking a brief diversion from baseball. I would like to share an article I wrote to promote my latest novel, a mystery/thriller entitled Scarecrow on the Marsh. This is a posthumous collaboration with my father, who passed away last March. He was able to complete a rough draft before he succumbed to Merkel Cell Cancer, a rare and insidious disease for which there is no cure. As he lay dying, I promised him I would complete the project and find a publisher. I am proud to say that I accomplished both tasks. All author royalties will be donated to the WGY Christmas Wish fund, which benefits sick and underprivileged children in the Capital Region of New York State. The charity drive is sponsored by 810 WGY--the radio station my father worked at for 30 years.


 Unless you’re an editor, it’s not very often that someone drops a partially completed manuscript in your lap and expects you to finish it. This is a daunting task for anyone, but when the project represents the lifelong dream of a deceased loved one, there’s even more pressure. That’s the situation I found myself in last year when I offered to complete my father’s novel.

            Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining. It was something I wanted to do. It was the least I could do for a man who had served a dual role as my mentor and best friend for most of my adult life. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
            I spent more than six months researching, editing and writing new chapters for Scarecrow on the Marsh. Every paragraph reminded me that my father was gone. Every addition or alteration invoked profound feelings of guilt and self doubt. There were countless tears. There were bouts of anger and frustration. And though it’s something I would never want to go through again, I feel that I have grown as a writer and a person.
            Basketball great Michael Jordan once said: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. When you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.” In the case of Scarecrow on the Marsh, there was a great deal of climbing and circumnavigating before the final draft was complete.  

Thoughts don’t always flow smoothly from brain to page. My Father felt that his ideas were more lucid when he wrote them longhand. The manuscript he left me was entirely handwritten. The margins were crowded with tiny notes. In some cases, there were notes about the notes. The pages were filled with scribbles, cross-outs and insertions. Some of the pages had subtitles—Page 157a, Page 157b and so on. Though I’m sure it all made perfect sense to my Dad, I found it puzzling at times.     

My father chose Cape Cod as a setting for his novel because he had been there many times and was intimately familiar with the place. I myself was not. For months, my desk was littered with street maps and travel brochures. I used Google Earth to examine the physical characteristics of various towns and beaches. Since a significant portion of the novel deals with terrorism, I had a lot to learn. I knew very little about the language, religious beliefs or customs of terrorists. I knew even less about how they go about blowing things up. I performed so many Google searches on the topic I actually became a little paranoid about drawing the attention of Homeland Security.         

Let’s face it—a rough draft is far from perfect.  This was my Dad’s first book so he was still finding his way as a writer. I had never worked on a mystery novel before, but I had read plenty and it definitely helped. My father’s premise was solid.  Unfortunately, there were elements of the story that didn’t quite work. I struggled to determine which passages needed to be omitted or rewritten. This was a grueling process that caused me immeasurable grief. At times, I felt as if I was betraying him. I wanted to keep his ideas intact. I wanted to make him proud. And though I managed to preserve every nuance of the story, the final product is drastically different from the original manuscript. I hope that’s okay with him.                  

Ask any writer and they will tell you that this is the most difficult part of the process. There are roughly 2 million books released every year. Most are self-published works that fail to sell more than fifty copies. I felt that my father’s work deserved a better fate. I could have published directly to Kindle, but I knew he would have preferred paperback over a digital format. There aren’t as many traditional publishers out there nowadays and, without a literary agent, most of the major publishing houses were closed to me. The submission process can be brutal. You wait months for a response and consider yourself lucky to even get a rejection letter. Due to the high volume of submissions, most publishers employ the “if you don’t hear from us in three to six months, we’re not interested” model. After shopping my father’s manuscript around to thirty different editors, I got a few bites. In the end, I opted for a Print-On-Demand format, which reduces publishing costs and allows authors a higher royalty rate.

For three decades, my father worked hard to raise money for the annual WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a wide variety of causes in the Capital Region of New York State. I didn’t want to keep any of the profits from his book and figured that Christmas Wish would be an ideal fit. All author royalties will be donated to this year’s campaign. Won’t you please help me honor my father’s memory by picking up a copy of Scarecrow on the Marsh?    

Thursday, November 3, 2016

10 Interesting Facts About The Last Time The Cubs Won the World Series

It's been a long time since the Cubs called themselves champions of major league baseball. To illustrate just how long it's been, consider the following facts about the year 1908.

1. The Life expectancy was 47 years.

2. A majority of homes were without a telephone.

3. The speed limit in cities was 10 mph.

4. Workers were paid 22 cents per hour and the average annual salary was $300.

5. Doctors did not have to attend college to practice medicine.

6. Canada had a law on the books prohibiting poor people from entering the country.

7. The U.S. flag had only 45 stars.

8. Marijuana, heroin and morphine were available over the counter.

9. The murder rate was 230 for the entire U.S.

10. There were only 16 major league teams, eight of which would become defunct, move to other cities or change their names. 
ON A FINAL NOTE: The Cubs' World Series victory was forecast in an early scene from the movie Back to the Future II, which came out in 1989. The screenwriters were over-optimistic, however, predicting that Chicago would win in 2015.