Long before Aaron, baseball had a Judge

JoeJudgeNew York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge is having a breakthrough rookie season, belting prodigious home runs and exciting fans across the country as his #99 soars to the top of the MLB best-selling jersey list and he becomes the early leader in the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year races

However, more than four decades ago a guy named Judge was a shining baseball star. No, not Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who served as baseball’s first commissioner from 1920 to 1944 and is famous for handling the Black Sox scandal.

The other ballplaying Judge, Joe Judge, was a stellar first baseman who played nearly his entire 20-year career with the Washington Senators before retiring in 1934. This Judge compiled a .298 lifetime batting average and hit better than .290 for 11 straight seasons beginning in 1920.

Although Judge was not a home run hitter (he had just 71) he finished his career with 433 doubles, 159 triples, 2,352 hits, 1,034 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .420.

Joe Judge was known as one of the best fielding first baseman of his era, the Keith Hernandez of his day. Just 5’ 8 1/2” tall, Judge led AL first baseman in fielding six times and finished second in five other seasons. He retired with a .933 fielding percentage, a record that stood for 30 years. The lefty still ranks among the all time first base leaders in games (2,084), assists (1,301), putouts (19,264) and double plays (1,500).

JoeJudgeGoudeycardIn 1920, Judge made a great stop and flip to Walter Johnson on the final play of the game to give the great Senators Hall of Fame pitcher his only career no-hitter.

The Brooklyn native had one of his best years in 1924, hitting .324 and helping the Senators win their only World Series. Judge batted .385 in the seven-game Series victory over the New York Giants.

Despite several injuries he batted .314 in 1925 as the Senators won their second straight pennant but fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates in another seven-game World Series.

Judge played the final two years of his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, and later coached baseball at Georgetown University until 1958. He died at age 68 in 1963 after suffering a fatal heart attack while shoveling snow at his home in Washington, DC.


Can Judge hit one out of Yankee Stadium?

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That is the question. It’s never been done, either at the new Yankee Stadium or the old ballpark — The House that Ruth Built — right across the street.

Seems like a super human feat. Mission impossible. Perhaps, but after Yankees’ phenom Aaron Judge cleared the left-center field bleachers with a 495-foot home run, it seems like a legitimate question.

Judge’s latest moonshot blast certainly opened some eyes. Consider that his home run would have landed in the corridor in front the Yankees retired numbers, under the Bank of America sign, if not deflected by a fan. Now look to the left of that spot, perhaps 25-30 feet, near the flagpoles. Notice the alley. Under ideal circumstances, with the wind blowing out, who’s to say Judge couldn’t clear that back wall. Not impossible.

There have been some monster shots in the new Stadium, but none as monstrous as the one Judge hit. Alex Rodriguez hit several bombs deep into the bleachers, and Philly’s Raul Ibanez and Cleveland’s Russell Branyan hit titanic shots.

But judging by the results, Aaron Judge has the best chance to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium

Original Yankee Stadium Blasts

Nearly 16 years ago, July 22, 2001, Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams hit a ball that left the old Stadium, over the old Yankee bullpen in right field and onto the elevated tracks of the 4 line.But that was in batting practice.

I was at the ballpark with my family that day, a hot summer Sunday afternoon. We were sitting on the third base side, box seats. My son Dan, a teen-ager at the time, swears he saw the ball go out

“I saw it,” he said. “It went out in that little gap, over the wall and right onto the railroad tracks. “People noticed it, they were clapping. You didn’t believe me.”

Well, it was hard to believe.

“I didn’t see it,” Williams told the New York Post. “But I noticed that it never came back, so that should have been some indication it was out. Batting practice is a great relief and release of tension for me. I’ve had a lot of tension this year, so it’s kind of like hitting a punching bag. I always try to hit the ball hard, but that’s as hard as I’ve ever hit one. That’s a long way.”

It’s a feat that no Yankee slugger had ever accomplished before — not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Reggie Jackson.

Twice, Mantle came within several feet of hitting one out of Yankee Stadium, off Pete Ramos of the Washington Senators on Memorial Day, 1956, right, and against Bill Fischer of the Kansas City A’s on May 22, 1963. Both times the ball was still rising when it struck the façade in right field. Mantle later said the 1963 HR was the hardest ball he ever hit.

Josh Gibson and Frank Howard, among others, were reputed to have gone out of the Stadium, though neither has ever been proven.

Gibson, the great Negro League catcher, is said to have hit several moonshots in the his day, including a ball that traveled 580 feet in the 1930s.

Babe Ruth may have hit some balls out of the original Yankee Stadium before the upper deck in right field was built, but none have ever been documented. The upper deck in right was extended in 1937.

But Bernie Williams did it for real….even if it was BP. He even hit a home run in the game, a solo shot in the first inning, to help lift the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bernie finished his career with 287 home runs, 22 more in the playoffs. And one that didn’t count but went out of Yankee Stadium

Bernie goes Boom!


My favorite Yankees — 25-man roster

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Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage (54) celebrate playoff win over Red Sox in 1978 at Fenway.

I’ve been watching Yankee baseball since I was a kid. My earliest memories go back to the 1957 World Series, when the Yankees lost to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games.

I always wanted to pull together a 25-man team of my favorite Yankees. Not necessarily the best, but the Yankees I liked the most.

You’ll note Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio are missing; that’s because I never saw them play. And there are no current Yankees on this team, they’re for future consideration.

Here are the starters and reserve, including seven starting pitchers and three relievers.

REGULARS

CYogi Berra – Got rings? Yogi has 10, most of any player in history.

1B – Don Mattingly – Hit a record 6 grand slams in 1987, the only grand slams of his career.

2B – Willie Randolph – Quiet leader, member of the 1977 and 1978 World Champions.

3B – Graig Nettles – His play at the hot corner was a turning point in the 1978 World Series. 

SS – Derek Jeter – The Captain is #6 on the all-time hit list with 3465.

OF – Mickey Mantle – The switch-hitter, #7, hit some of the longest HRs in MLB history.

OF – Bernie Williams – Another in a long line of great Yankee center fielders.

OFBobby Murcer – He wasn’t the next Mantle, but he was damn good.

PITCHERS

P – Whitey Ford – All-time Yankee leader with 236 wins and a .690 wining percentage.

P – Mel Stottlemyre – Arrived at the end of a dynasty, had 40 career shutouts.

P – Ron Guidry – Enjoyed one of the great seasons ever in 1978, 25-3 with a 1.78 ERA.

P – David Cone – Helped put the Yankees over the top in 1996, was perfect in 1999.

PAndy Pettitte – Clutch lefty, his 19 post-season wins are the most by any pitcher.

RPMariano Rivera – Simply the greatest closer in history with 652 saves.

RPGoose Gossage – Fearsome bullpen presence, saw his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

RESERVES

C Thurman Munson – Hit safely in 28 of 30 post-season games, died in a plane crash in 1979.

1B – Bill Skowron – The Moose hit a home run in my first game at Yankee Stadium

IF – Bobby Richardson – Only World Series MVP on a losing team, 1960 vs. Pittsburgh.

IF – Gil McDougald – Utility man, Rookie of the Year in 1951, later coached baseball at Fordham.

OF – Roger Maris – Still holds the American League single season HR record with 61 in 1961.

OF – Reggie Jackson – Mr. October, hit three HRs vs Dodgers in 1977 World Series clincher.

OF – Paul O’Neill – The Warrior, a mainstay of Yankee championship teams in 1996, 199-2000.

P – Jim “Catfish” Hunter – George’s first big free agent signing, won 23 games in 1975.

P – David Wells – Saw him pitch a perfect game in 1998 against the Twins.

RP – Sparky Lyle – Stolen from the Red Sox, provided pomp and circumstance out of the bullpen.

NEXT CALL-UPS

1B Chris Chambliss; 3B Clete Boyer; OF Lou Piniella; OF Roy White; P Orlando Hernandez; P Jim Bouton


The Bullets and the amazing comeback of 1948

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The Cleveland Cavaliers recently engineered the greatest second-half comeback in NBA playoff history when they rallied from 25 down at the half to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-114.

Amazingly, that broke a record that stood for nearly 70 years, ever since the Baltimore Bullets came back from 21 down to beat the Philadelphia Warriors 66-63 in the 1948 NBA Finals.

In an era without the 24-second clock and a three-point line, the Bullets came all the way back to win, on Philadelphia’s home floor no less. And it remained the largest comeback for 70 years, a lifetime of games. None of the great Celtics or Lakers team or Jordan’s Bulls or the Spurs or anyone else ever made a bigger comeback,

In 1948, the defending champion Warriors, fresh off their Game One victory, rolled to a 41-20 halftime lead over the Bullets. “In those days, if you got behind that far, the game was over,” Baltimore player-coach Buddy Jeannette recalled years afterward. “There was no 24-second clock to help you come back. But somehow we did. We took our time and made our shots and caught ’em. I don’t know if we were so good or Philly was so bad.”

Philly’s leading scorer Joe Fulks helped matters by continuing to shoot — and miss. And the Bullets helped themselves by driving to the basket for good shots. The home crowd sat stunned. The Bullets cut the gap to 48-40 in the third quarter. Then, in the last period, it was all Baltimore. “We were up by one with four seconds to go, and I tipped in a missed free throw,” Bullets forward Paul Hoffman recalled.

Connie Simmons led the Bullets with 25 points that night, Hoffman had 12 and Kleggie Hermsen 10.Joe Fulks led the Warriors with 27, most of them in the first half. 

The 66-63 victory was one of the more impressive comebacks in sports history. Unfortunately, nobody paid much attention to pro basketball then. The story received a few paragraphs on the back page of The New York Times. Still, it gave the Bullets the momentum they were looking for.  

The Bullets went on the win the series in six games for their only NBA championship. The Bullets were, in effect, an expansion team in the 1947-48 season having come over from another league, the American Basketball League to the Basketball Association of America, which would become the NBA beginning in 1949. The Baltimore franchise folded in 1954, and the Bullets remain the only defunct team to win an NBA championship.

The Baltimore Bullets returned to the NBA in 1963, after two years in Chicago as first the Packers and then the Zephyrs. They became the Capital Bullets in 1973, the Washington Bullets in 1974 and the current Washington Wizards in 1997. The Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games in 1978 to win their only NBA title.


Dead man drafted in FLAKS fantasy baseball

Picture 056Do you do fantasy baseball?

I play in a 16-team league called FLAKS (Fantasy League All-Stars, Kontenders and Slackards) which this year is celebrating its 24th season. FLAKS is made up primarily of communications professionals. Many of us are former journalists who worked together at IBM at certain points. In the early years, before the Internet, we literally kept our own stats. Now every pitch is recorded.

Many years back FLAKS became an auction league. Each year, shortly before Opening Day, we gather together to draft our teams. Do the math. 16 teams, 25 players per team, that’s 400 players. And we bid on every player, one player at a time, one dollar at a time.

The draft normally takes up the better part of 12 hours. This year, for the first time, a dead man, the former Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, was drafted. And we had an epic bidding war for Kris Bryant of the Cubs, which wound up in a league record $60 price.

Following the draft, CBS Sports evaluates our draft. My team, SportsLifer, received a D this year, but fear not. Those grades are based on a snake draft, not auction. Last year CBS gave me an A, and yet a week into the season SportsLifer was in the basement. Eventually, after a series of trades and pick-ups, we managed to climb into a tie for seventh place and finished in the money.

This is my 2017 squad. Although not a superstar-studded roster, it appears to be a well-balanced squad. And it will evolve over the course of the season, one week a time. We’ll see what happens.

SPORTSLIFER 2017

C — Gary Sanchez, NYY

1B –- Eric Hosmer, KC

2B — Jonathan Schoop, Bal

SS – Jonathan Villar, Mil

3B – Nick Castellanos, Det

OF – Dexter Fowler, StL

OF – Adam Jones, Bal

OF – Hunter Pence, SF

DH – Brandon Moss, KC (1B, OF)

RESERVES

1B – Josh Bell, Pitt

OF – Howie Kendrick, Phil

OF – Nick Markakis, Atl

OF — Tyler Naquin, Cle

OF – Josh Reddick, Hous

PITCHING

SP – Gerrit Cole, Pitt

SP – Johnny Cueto, SF

SP – JA Happ, Tor

SP — Rick Porcello, Bos

SP – Blake Snell, TB

RP – Mark Melancon, SF

RP – Jim Johnson, Atl

RESERVES

SP – Brandon Finnegan, Cin

SP – Mike Montgomery, Cubs

DL – Didi Gregorius, SS, NYY; Collin McHugh, SP, Hou


Jesuit All-Stars: A team for the ages

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It was a battle for Jesuit supremacy when Marquette and Xavier met in the West Regional Final of the NCAAs last week. Marquette and Xavier are two of the 28 Jesuit universities in the United States, many of whom boast a proud and rich basketball heritage.

Jesuit schools have fared well in the tournament, winning six championships since the NCAAs began in 1939. In fact, five of the previous six Jesuit entrants in the Final Four wound up winning titles. The University of San Francisco, centered by Bill Russell, above, took back-to-back championships in 1955 and 1956. Holy Cross won in 1947, Loyola of Chicago in 1963, Marquette in 1977 and Georgetown in 1984. Santa Clara made the tournament in 1952, but failed to reach the finals.

Gonzaga became the seventh Jesuit Final Four entry by beating Xavier, and could become the first Jesuit school to win the championship in 23 years.

The list of outstanding Jesuit college basketball players, many of whom went on to win the NCAAs, would stack up well against any competition.

All-Time Jesuit All-Star Five:

C – Bill Russell, San Francisco

F – Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

F – Elgin Baylor, Seatle

G – Bob Cousy, Holy Cross

G – John Stockton, Gonzaga

Jesuit Reserves:

C – Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown

C – Dikembe Mutombo, Georgetown

F – Tommy Heinsohn, Holy Cross

F – Maurice Lucas, Marquette

F – David West, Xavier

G – Allen Iverson, Georgetown

G – KC Jones, San Francisco

G – Dwayne Wade, Marquette

G – Sleepy Floyd, Georgetown

G – Dana Barros, Boston College


‘Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character’ is latest must-read from author Marty Appel

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Marty Appel has hit another home run with his latest undertaking “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.” Appel, whose credits include “Munson” and “Pinstripe Empire,” the definitive history of the New York Yankees, digs deep into Casey Stengel’s life and uncovers multiple aspects of a life in baseball that spanned more than 50 years.

In 2009, MLB Network ran a series that highlighted many areas of the game. Stengel finished first in a category called “Characters of the Game.” He beat out luminaries such as Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher and Satchel Paige.

Upon Casey’s death in 1975, Richie Ashburn, who played for Stengel with the original Mets, said: “He was the happiest man I’ve ever seen.”

Casey loved the writers who covered his teams – ‘my writers’ he would call them. He was a showboat and a rabble-rouser who wasn’t afraid to mix it up in a fight. He was a .284 hitter as a player, and managed the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Mets, achieving his greatest fame with the Yankees who won five straight World Championships between 1949 and 1953.

Here are 10 amazing factoids and associated Stengelese witticisms found in Casey’s bio:

1. Casey hit the first home run in Ebbets Field when the Brooklyn Superbas (soon to be called Dodgers) christened their new park with an exhibition game against the Yankees before the 1913 Series. Generous scoring ruled Stengel’s inside-the-park blast a home run.

2. A decade later, in 1923 Stengel hit the first World Series home run in the history of Yankee Stadium. This was also an inside-the-parker, and gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win over the Yankees. Stengel also homered in Game 3, and this blast into the right field seats gave the Giants a 1-0 win.

3. In 1933, Casey served as a pall bearer at the funeral of legendary Giants manager John McGraw. Other pall bearers that day included George M. Cohan, DeWolf Hopper (who wrote ‘Casey at the Bat’’), Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, Will Rogers, and football Giants owner Tim Mara.

4. One year, Stengel managed the Boston Braves to a sixth place finish, coming on the heels of four seventh place finishes. Early in the 1943 season Casey was hit by a taxi cab in Kenmore Square and broke his left leg. Acerbic Boston Record columnist Dave ‘The Colonel’ Egan wrote that “the taxi driver who knocked Stengel down and put him out of commission until July” should be voted the man who did the most for Boston baseball in 1943.

5. Before the first game of the 1952 World Series, Stengel, then manager of the Yankees, took Mickey Mantle out to right field in Ebbets Field to give him a tutorial on the angles of the concrete wall. Mantle looked at Casey as though he was screwy. “Guess he thinks I was born at age 50 and started managing immediately,” said Stengel.

6. “The secret of managing is to keep the five guys who hate you caseyaway from the guys who are undecided.” – Casey Stengel

7. After guiding the Yankees to 10 American League pennants in 12 years, Stengel was let go by the team after losing to the Pirates in a thrilling seven-game World Series in 1960. “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again,” Casey said.

8. In 1962, Casey took over the reigns of the expansionist New York Mets. The Mets were lovable losers (they lost 120 games in the inaugural season), but Stengel quickly made them popular. Take for instance Marvin Eugene Throneberry (whose initials were MET). In the first inning of a June game against the Cubs, Marvelous Marv steamed into third base with a triple. However he was called out when the umpire ruled he missed second base. When Casey came out to argue, the ump, Dusty Boggess, said, “Don’t bother Casey, he missed first base too.”

9. Casey invented his own form of speaking, called Stengelese. One of his favorite sayings was “Most people my age are dead at the present time.”

10. Just days before he passed away in the hospital at the age of 85, Casey decided to rise from his hand, stand barefoot in his hospital gown, and put his hand over his heart as the national anthem was played. Near his gravesite is a plaque that reads: “There comes a time in every man’s life and I’ve had plenty of them.”