Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
Find him on Twitter
Last night's home-run derby went on far too long, and yielded a final between Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier.
But last night's derby offered an easy-to-find clue about how to fix the event.
There were two outstanding moments last night: The ovation that greeted Justin Morneau, and the home run that almost left the ballpark.
Giancarlo Stanton hit a shot estimated at 510 feet that reached the last handful of rows in the third deck of leftfield. That's what people will remember, and therein lies the lesson:
The Derby shouldn't be about hitting the most home runs. It should be about hitting the longest home runs.
Want to fix the derby? Make it quicker. Give each player 20 swings, with the guy who hits one the longest winning the whole thing. Then every swing would count, and every swing would be taken with the intent of hitting the ball out of the ballpark.
Kent Hrbek said the All Star game gave him a chance to meet up with old teammates who came to town for the game. They ate at J.D. Hoyt's the other night. The guest list: Hrbek, Greg Gagne, Scott Erickson, Tim Laudner, Randy Bush, Scott Leius, Rick Aguilera and Roy Smith.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 tomorrow.
When I visited Jose Berrios at Class A Fort Myers a month ago, he said he had two goals: To pitch in the Futures Game, and get called up to Class AA New Britain.
Sunday, he started and pitched one inning for the World Team in the Futures Game, striking out one while retiring the side in order, and he was recently called up to New Britain.
So what's next? ``Hope I can get called up to the big leagues,'' he said.
Berrios was just one of a dozen power arms that impressed USA manager Tom Kelly.
``Oh, my, it was relentless,'' he said. ``That was very impressive. One great arm after another. I went out to the mound to make a change, and I'm standing there talking to the infielders, saying, `Fellas, I don't know how anybody gets any hits today.' ''
Twins prospect Kennys Vargas played the whole game at first base for the World Team, hitting a double and striking out twice in four at-bats. Top pitching prospect Alex Meyer pitched one inning for the US. He threw four pitches, all clocked at about 97 mph, yielding a line out, a line single, and a double play.
``I went to write on the lineup card, and turned around, and he was coming in,'' Kelly said.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 every weekday with Mackey&Judd. Thanks to everyone who came by the booth today at FanFest.
If you haven't picked up a copy of our All Star special section in the Sunday paper, please do. A lot of talented people put in a lot of work to make it special, and Patrick Reusse's story on Willie Mays is a must-read.
In 1999, I spent a few days in Kansas City doing a story on baseball lifer Don Zimmer, who passed away on Wednesday.
Here's the piece, from his days as the Yankees bench coach:
By Jim Souhan
His is the face of baseball, symmetrically seamed and smooth. His
has been a life of baseball, a Forrest Gumpian romp through the
game's history, his mementos ranging from a ball Babe Ruth signed
in 1947 to the ring he won in the House that Ruth Built 51 years
Don Zimmer earned Ruth's autograph when his American Legion team
won a national tournament. Zimmer, now the Yankees' interim manager
who will direct the defending World Series champions against the
Twins tonight to start a three-game series, played with that
precious artifact on the sandlots of hometown Cincinnati. He would
never again trifle with baseball history.
"My wife keeps a scrapbook," he said this weekend, sitting in the
dugout in Kauffman Stadium. "We have a cupboard on the floor below
the trophy case. I would say that cupboard is probably as long as
from here to that wall," he says, pointing to the end of the
dugout, 10 feet away.
"There are doors that open up here, here and here, and she's got
scrapbooks starting in 1948, when I was in high school, all the way
up 'til today. Somebody wants to see something about 1949, all they
have to do is pull it out."
Zimmer's longevity reveals itself in a couple of his nicknames -
ranging from one of the original, crude, cartoons ("Popeye," given
to him as a young man for the size of his forearms) to a high-tech
special effect ("Yoda," for his posture and mentoring on the
Yankees' bench). His scrapbooks span the same timeline, from faded
black-and-white to florid color.
"It's amazing what she's done, amazing," Zimmer said of his wife,
Jean, nicknamed "Soot." "I'll get my grand-kids in there and we'll
start looking at '55, '54, '56 when we wore those bloomers. Oh,
they start laughing. `Pops, you didn't really wear those kind of
uniforms, did you?' "
Zimmer laughs, and those bright blue eyes that have seen
everything from Ruth's wizened grin to Jackie Robinson's glare to
Sandy Amoros' catch to Bucky Dent's homer to a Yankee team winning
125 games emerge from the cheeks and jowls.
"That's all we wore," he says, laughing, the punch line more in
the delivery - leaning forward, eyes wide - than the line.
Zimmer's baseball life has spanned from flannels to double-knits,
those tight-fitting pants that today reveal the outlines of a brace
wrapped around Zimmer's right knee. He's 68, and he might have both
knees replaced, which is why his days as interim manager might soon
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner begged him to run the team
while Zimmer's friend, Joe Torre, recovers from prostate cancer.
Zimmer has defiantly fought off Steinbrenner's meddling attempts,
which has been easy because he has nothing to fear - his knees hurt
so much a firing would be an act of mercy.
He doesn't take the lineup to home plate or visit the mound to
change pitchers. All the miles he has traveled around the bases and
on buses, trains and planes, playing in a handful of countries and
for teams now defunct and forgotten, and suddenly a 90-foot stroll
Wednesday, frustrated and pained, Zimmer told the Yankees players
he was "going home." Then Torre told him he couldn't return yet,
and Zimmer agreed to stay on indefinitely.
When Torre returns, Zimmer will indeed "go home." He hasn't
committed to retirement or returning, only to spending time with
Soot and surgeons.
"I've had a lot of people tell me, no big deal, I had it done,"
Zimmer said of knee replacement surgery. "I asked, `How long'd it
take?' Six months. I said, `That's nothing?' My days are numbered."
Someone told Zimmer he might as well get both knees replaced.
"Very good," Zimmer said, nodding. "Put me to sleep and get it
done, and then I'll go dancing."
And he laughs again, and runs a hand over the face that has
appeared in so many of baseball's climactic scenes, and sighs,
"What a life." It is neither complaint nor proclamation, just a
sigh from baseball's accidental tourist.
Zimmer is sitting on the bench in Kansas City, and Yankees
shortstop Derek Jeter, 30 feet away, calls out "Zim-mah!"
"You hear him call me that?" Zimmer says with a wink. "He's heard
me tell stories about Boston."
Zimmer managed the Red Sox in 1978, when they blew a 14-game lead
to the Yankees, then forced the most infamous playoff in New
England history, when Dent's pop-fly homer cleared the Green Monster.
"I'd take one step out of the dugout to go get the pitcher, and
it would be `You bleeping bum Zimmah!' " Zimmer said. " `You're a
bum! Pahk the cahr! You're still a bum!"
Were those the toughest fans he has faced? "Well, it's very
easy," he said. "If there are 28,000 in the stands and 27,999 are
booing you, I guess that would be the spot."
Was his wife the lone dissenter? "That's it," he said. "But
sometimes I think she was in there, too."
He got booed again the first time he returned to Boston as the
Texas manager, on Opening Day at Fenway Park. Ralph Houk was the
Red Sox manager.
"I bring out the lineup," he says. "My players are waiting
because they know I'm going to get booed. I take one step out . . .
`Booooo.' As soon as I got to home plate I took my hat off [he
doffs it]. That's when I said to the umpire, `Tough town. Here's
Mr. Ralph Houk, The General, war hero, and people are booing him."
With Zimmer, there's not only a tongue-in-cheek story, there's
the story behind the story.
He didn't just get victimized by Dent's homer - he later rented
Dent's house - and called Dent to tell him he was taking all the
pictures of his famous home run and turning them to face the walls.
He not only played for perhaps the worst team in history - the
first-year Mets - he served as the bench coach for perhaps the best
- last year's Yankees.
Zimmer didn't just marry his high school sweetheart, he held his
wedding on the baseball diamond at Elmira in 1951 and his wedding
party strolled under a calliope of crossed bats.
He was in the dugout when Don Larsen pitched his perfect game,
and in the third base coaching box when Pete Rose, playing third
base for the Reds in the '75 World Series, said, "Zim, I don't know
who is going to win this game, but it might be the greatest game
I've ever played in," and then Carlton Fisk waived his home-run fair.
He is the last member of the Dodgers who won the World Series in
Brooklyn who's still in uniform, just as he is the last of the
original Mets still active.
He hasn't earned any money outside baseball his entire life,
except for the one social security check he cashed in '95, when he
thought he was retired. Then Torre called, and the two scripted two
World Series championships.
His first major league at-bat? A triple off Curt Simmons. His
first American League at-bat? A two-run homer for the Washington
Senators. His first game with the Cubs? A homer off Don Drysdale at
the Los Angeles Coliseum.
He can take credit for the only World Series the Brooklyn Dodgers
ever won, because Amoros replaced him in the lineup and made maybe
the most famous catch in Brooklyn history.
One Opening Day at Wrigley, when Zimmer was managing the Cubs,
Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams frightened the faithful before securing
a save, just as he had the previous Opening Day.
A writer and Zimmer were sitting in Zimmer's office when a TV
crew came in, asking about Deja Vu. Zimmer gave a perfunctory
answer, the crew left, and Zimmer asked the writer, "What's all
this about Ronja Vu? Why don't they ask me about the game?"
Zimmer doesn't follow baseball's mythical and omniscient "book."
What's the use of spending a life studying baseball, then using a
crib sheet on the test?
He has hit-and -run with the bases loaded. He walked Kent Hrbek
with a one-run lead in the ninth and nobody on.
"He was on a home run streak," Zimmer once said. "The next guy
was a good hitter - I forget who - but I didn't want Hrbek to tie
the score. The next guy hits a two-run homer . . . I'm fired."
But the pitcher came through.
"It took me a year more to get fired," he said.
"He was the best manager I ever played for," said Red Sox manager
Jimy Williams, who played for Zimmer in the minors. "He's an
old-school guy - who can communicate."
One time Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill popped out, then
started tossing bats and helmets. Zimmer went to him, and O'Neill
yelled, "That's it, Zim, I quit, I'm going home."
Zimmer put on his Yoda face and said, "That's good, we're both
from Cincinnati, I got a guy in the cement-block business who can
give you a job."
When Zimmer's status was in doubt last week, O'Neill said, "What,
is Zimmer going home to take my job?"
Twins bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, a Chicago guy, never got to
know Zimmer well. "But my Mom did," Stelmaszek said. "She works at
Ah, off-track betting - Zimmer's second-favorite type of betting,
right behind on-track betting. Once, when Zimmer was in a previous
incarnation as a Yankees coach, he told writers he had experienced
the best day of his life. He had visited three tracks in one day.
He was asked how much money he had won, to make it the best day
ever. "Nothin'!" he said. "But I got to bet on 37 races!"
In early April, the trumpeter Chuck Mangione appeared as a guest
on a Cubs broadcast.
After he played that fanfare heard before every horse race,
Mangione said, "Every time I play that at Yankee Stadium, Zim
levitates off the bench."
There's a remote chance Torre could replace Zimmer this week,
raising the possibility Zimmer's last days in uniform could come in
Minneapolis, 46 years after the Brooklyn Dodgers thought their
successor to Pee Wee Reese had played his last game in St. Paul.
In 1953, Zimmer was playing for the St. Paul Saints, a Dodgers'
farm club, and leading the American Association with 23 homers when
he was beaned.
He went into a coma for two weeks. His season was over.
"And then the next year, I got to go back to St. Paul, because
the Dodgers have to see if I can play, if I'm afraid of the ball,"
Zimmer said. "Real quick I hit 17 homers, and I got called to the
Dodgers and stayed."
In '56, he had his cheekbone fractured by Hal Jeffcoat in
Cincinnati. He missed the rest of that season, too. Two beanings,
and his promise as a future star faded. He once stole home 10 times
in a minor league season, but never got to recreate those heroics
in the majors.
He outlasted Reese, but lost the shortstop job to Maury Wills.
With more luck, Zimmer could have been a star, could have become
part of the Dodgers' pantheon with Campy, Hodges, Reese, Snider.
Zimmer treats regrets the way he has treated tobacco chaws,
spitting them anywhere there aren't white shoes. This weekend, as
he limped about and told stories, someone asked Zimmer if he has
spent time thinking about his life in baseball.
"Tremendous," he says, those eyes emerging again. "Tre-men-dous.
How lucky can a guy be, to be in the game all of his life?
"It boils down to this: Anything and everything I have I owe to
baseball. I owe the game everything. I've had a great ride."
Donald William Zimmer
- Age: 68
- Birthplace: Cincinnati
- Residence: Treasure Island, Fla.
- Married: Jean Carol Bauerle (nickname: Soot)
- Teams played for: Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers
(twice), Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Washington
Senators, Toei Flyers (Japan)
- Teams coached for: Yankees (three times), Boston (twice),
Giants, Rockies, Cubs, Expos
- Managed: Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs, Yankees (interim)
- Managerial record: 885-858
- Notable: Stole home 10 times in one minor league season. . . .
Hit 23 homers for the St. Paul Saints in 1953 before being beaned,
and he hit 17 homers for the St. Paul Saints in 1954 before being
called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers. . . . Career .235 major league
hitter, as he so often reminds people.
- Plans: "Going home," meaning he will go to his home in New
York, visit his grandchildren, probably have knee surgery and
recuperate. It might also mean retirement, but nobody knows for
sure but Zimmer - and maybe Soot.
Justin Morneau, a former hockey player, wore what looked like a hockey number and almost got into a brawl on Wednesday night.
Morneau donned No. 66 because the Pirates have retired his traditional No. 33, which belonged to the great Honus Wagner. He came to the plate after Andrew McCutchen hit a home run to left field and didn't run hard to first base.
Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta thought McCutchen was showing hhim up. McCutchen said he lost track of the ball. Morneau seemed to pay for the difference of opinion.
Peralta's next pitch almost hit Morneau in the head. Morneau took the pitch off his shoulder or forearm. Morneau motioned in anger and bewilderment, and the benches and dugouts emptied, although there were no punches thrown.
I asked Morneau if he took offense to that pitch. ``That's an interesting way to phrase it,'' Morneau said. ``It's one of those things where you're not sure. Is it a coincidence that it happened after a home run, or not? It's hard to say. If I hadn't hit the ball hard the other way the first two times I really would have been mad. I believe in pitching inside. The only thing that really gets you is when you get up around that head area, and that's what I took exception to.
``Getting hit is part of the game. When you get up in that danger zone, that's when I think tempers will get a little flared. They said they didn't do it on purpose, so...''
Morneau took note of his teammates rushing to his defense. ``That's a lose-lose situation for us,'' he said. ``I go out there (to the mound) and we get someone hurt or get someone suspended and we're missing guys in a playoff race. You don't go, then you have to let them know that that's not all right, but what do you do? I think it's kind of selfish if you charge the mound in that situation, where you can hurt the team.
``It's strange to say sometimes, but sometimes when crazy things happen that really brings a team together.''
I spent three days in Milwaukee following former Twins Morneau and Francisco Liriano. Liriano pitched poorly Wednesday but has salvaged his career. Morneau, while saddened by the way his tenure with the Twins ended, looks thrilled to be playing meaningful games in September again.
Remember, because of injuries, Morneau has played in only two playoff series, and in seven games - in '04 and '06.
I now have a team to watch in September and October. Morneau is one of the best people I've covered in baseball, and I love the Pirates' story. The lifelong baseball fan in me would love to see him fully recovered from the concussion symptoms that threatened his career, and leading the Pirates to their first World Series title since 1979.
Had a long talk with Justin Morneau that provided the basis for today's column. I couldn't fit all the good stuff into the newspaper, so here are Morneua's responses on a few other topics of interest:
Do you leave the Twins bearing a few regrets?
Morneau: ``Yeah. A World Series would have been the No. 1 thing. We got to theplayoffs and couldn’t find a way to get it done. It seemed like a key player was injured every time we got there, and when you’re matching up with a team like the Yankees that has so much depth, you need every guy that you have. In '06 we’re missing Frankie (Liriano), who was the best pitcher in the game at the time. And then in '09 and '10 I was hurt, and who knows what happens? I couldn't control the injuries. It’s part of playing the game. That’s something you wish didn’t happen but that’s part of the game.''
What was it like to be traded and wind up walking into the Pirates' dugout during a game?
Morneau: Crazy. Crazy. Really weird. For a few innings I looked out there, being on a different team, it took a little while to settle in. Once I made a few plays and atook a couple of at-bats, it started to sink in, and I started to realize it’s still baseball. Different team, but still baseball. It’s odd. At the same time, it was exciting.
Can you see yourself playing for the Twins again?
Morneau: I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. That’s too hard to answer that right now.
What was your favorite moment as a Twin? Maybe the game-winning home run off Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in 2006?
Morneau: That one went through my head. The favorite one for me would probably be sitting in the dome the last day of the season in 2006, watching the game in Kansas City up on the screen, when nobody left the stadium. That’s not something you could ever script or plan. That just kind of happened. That was something we all shared with the fans and our teammates. That was insanity. That was probably my favorite thing I can think of.
Did you consider retiring when you were dealing with concussion symptoms?
Morneau: I had to think about it, but to say it was considered, no. To say it was close, no. But was it a realistic possibility? Maybe. It’s hard to say. Going through it, it felt like I wasn’t getting better. If I physically wasn’t able to go out there, to be cleared by a doctor to play…
Will you still live in the Twin Cities?
Morneau: Well, we live in Arizona during the winter. Corey Koskie came back. It might turn out to be a good thing. You go somewhere else and see what it's like, and you realize how great the Twin Cities are.
You've started hitting homers like your old self in the last month. Have you found your swing?
Morneau: My swing felt more like my swing. It's hard to put a finger on it. Those pitches I was missing or popping up early in the year, I felt like I was squaring up. I hit them in some of the right ballparks to hit them in, too. I just hope it continues for this month and next month and we have some fun.
Do you have any reassessed career goals?
Morneau: Winning. Just winning. Hopefully I get to play a few more years and enjoy wherever I'm at. Right now this is a good place to be.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow from Milwaukee. Sunday on the station we'll have the Gardenhire show from 9:30-10, then Sunday Sports Talk with me, Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann from 10-noon. I'll be calling in from the Vikings game in Detroit.
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