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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Milwaukee Brewers Prospect Seth Harvey Pushes On

Baseball is a game of perseverance. Skill is necessary to succeed, but so is possessing the will to get past whatever obstacles get in your way—both on and off the field. Nobody knows this better than Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect Seth Harvey.

The right-hander was originally drafted in the 43rd round of the 2009 draft out of Washington State University by the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, he decided to go back and finish what he had started academically and athletically with the Cougars. The decision was a good one, as he wound up being taken by the Brewers the following year in the 37th round.

A reliever, Harvey has enjoyed success during his first five professional seasons when he has been healthy. He has gone a combined 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA and 30 saves in 102 games. He has also struck out an impressive 179 batters in 144 innings while permitting just 129 hits and four home runs. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery has delayed his progress and made his road all the more difficult. Nevertheless, he continues to push forward in an attempt to reach the majors and ply his craft on the biggest stage.

A couple of years ago I was able to connect with Harvey and ask him some questions about his career. You can also keep up with him on Twitter. All the best to him as the 2015 season approaches!

Seth Harvey Interview:

If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: Without hesitation, only one guy comes to mind. Mariano Rivera. I believe he is one of the best pitchers of all time and one of the most mentally strong performers in the game. I would love to ask him about his thought process and his overall development as a player and person throughout his career and parallel that to my career.

Leading up to the 2010 MLB draft, what kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams?: Quite honestly, I was not getting too much contact or recruiting from any teams. There was a point during the draft that I was preparing for a future without baseball after I missed the second day of the draft. However, I was blessed with an opportunity on that final day to join the Milwaukee Brewers organization and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Can you run through what your draft was like?: It began on the final day of the draft. I received a phone call from the scout that signed me, Brandon Newell, early in the morning. Basically, he told me that I had been selected in the 37th round and was congratulating me. From there, we got the contract faxed and ready to go, and I was signed into it about five hours later and preparing for the report to Arizona.

What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: Currently I have a three pitch mix. Fastball, change-up, and slider. I’ve been developing a cut-fastball and will have that dialed in by the time I report to spring training. I would like to improve the consistency of my pitches, more-so than the actual pitch itself. If I am able to repeatedly control my pitches and throw them where I want
in all counts, that is a great foundation for success.

What do you enjoy most about playing for the Milwaukee organization?: Milwaukee is a great organization and it starts at the top with great management and staff. The coaches have all been helpful and are very knowledgeable about the game, so combining those two huge factors; it’s made for an incredible experience. I cannot leave out the teammates. The group of guys in this organization 
is incredible and I have made some lifelong friends for sure.

What is one thing you would change about your professional career if you could go back in time?: As you gain experience and knowledge year after year, you find yourself learning how to prepare yourself better. My first offseason, I don't feel that I prepared the way I should have. I was working hard, in great shape and ready for spring training, but there were a few things I could have done different that would have benefitted me come spring. The way I prepared early in my career would be the one thing I would have changed.

Why did you decide to go back to school instead of signing with the Angels in 2009?: There were two main factors that influenced my decision. One was my education. Here was an opportunity to complete my degree in Criminal Justice and finish what I had started three years prior. The second was my team at Washington State University. The program was on the rise and we had a great chance to do something special that next season. This was something that I would never get to experience again, a run at a national title with a very special group of guys. The combination of finishing my degree and being a part of WSU Baseball led to the delay of going pro. 

What kind of mentality do you have to have to be a closer or reliever?: I don't know if there is one word to describe the mentality you need to be a closer or a reliever. You must be able to live in the present moment, not hold onto the past pitch or past outing. A constant confidence and trust in yourself, your pitches and your team. Emotionally constant, having the ability to control your passion and erasing your fears and doubts. All of these attributes allow a pitcher to focus one pitch a time, and by doing that, you are allowing yourself to have the opportunity to have success. 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bernie Carbo, Ripped Pants and Selling Chevrolets: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of January 25, 2015

The legacy of baseball is built brick by brick with the contributions and passion of its players and contributors. One of the greatest was Chicago Cubs shortstop and first baseman Ernie Banks, who sadly has passed away at the age of 83.

“Mr. Cub” began his career in the Negro Leagues but gained his success in the Windy City, plying his trade for 19 seasons (1953-1971). Although his teams famously never reached the postseason, it was certainly never because of him, as he combined to hit .274 with 512 home runs 1,636 RBIs. He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, gaining admission in 1977, and has since served as a true ambassador to the game. Baseball has truly lost one of the greats.

And now, with heavy heart, on to the notes for the week…

*One of baseball’s most positive and indelible phrases is Banks’ “Let’s play two,” which has taken on a life of its own over the years. This excerpt from The Cubs: The Complete Story of Chicago Cubs Baseball (Text by Glenn Stout) breaks down the possibilities of when and where this was first uttered. Like many baseball legends, there is no clear-cut answer to this question, but there are a number of possibilities that help deepen the mystery.

*Here’s a baseball art classic. This 1909 issue of Baseball Magazine advertises the opponents of that year’s World Series (the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates) in interesting fashion. It’s certainly a much more intimidating rendering than if were teams with more modern names (for instance, if the Padres played the Angels)…

*Babe Ruth is best known for playing with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox but he also played for other teams in his career. This included a brief stint with the Boston Braves in 1935; his last year in the majors. This picture shows the Bambino with some extra pounds and a few wrinkles but handling a pile of bats, his weapons of choice throughout his legendary career.

*Longtime Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione is being inducted into a Hall of Fame for his years of some of the best work the airwaves have ever heard. MassLive.com’s Ron Chimelis has the story. About to enter his 33rd year in the booth for the Sox, the velvet-throated Castiglione has more than earned his status as one of the best in the business.

*It used to be in baseball that if you blinked you might miss a play. However, the innovation of instant replay in 1963 gave fans the ability to analyze plays just moments after they occurred. Sadly, Tony Verna, who is considered the father of sports broadcast instant replay, recently passed away at the age of 81. His work made it possible for fans at home to have a more intimate experience with each game, and has no doubt helped spread the popularity of the sport in subsequent years.

*Crosley Field was the home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1912 until 1970 but became a casualty to the boom of modern ballparks. Although it is gone it is not forgotten, and plans are in full force to have a historic site commemorating the venue in place in time for the 2015 MLB All Star Game, which will be held in Cincinnati.

*Outfielder Ty Cobb is one of the most controversial figures in baseball history with amazing play combined with his often unsavory reputation. This interview with Herschel Cobb, an author and the legend’s grandson, tells a different story about the man often portrayed as one of baseball’s most flawed stars.

*Bill Schroeder spent six of his modest eight-year career as a backup catcher with the Milwaukee Brewers. However, he has gone on to be a face of the franchise, about to enter his 21st year as one of their television analysts. Because of his contributions, it was recently announced that he was named as the newest member to the Miller Park Wall of Fame.

*Major League Baseball has had a barnstorming influence in Japan for decades, going back to All Star teams being sent over to raise awareness and interest in the game. This 1955 Sports Illustrated article by Curtis Prendergast details how the Yankees served as baseball’s ambassadors that year, and had a great time playing so far away from home.

*Fans collect many items as souvenirs to commemorate their experiences and love of the game. Ticket stubs of well-known games and those that were personally attended have always been popular collectibles. However, there has been a growing trend of teams embracing digital tickets and making the paper versions obsolete. One team that has given up sending paper tickets to their season-ticket holders is the Toronto Blue Jays, who will go fully digital for the first time in 2015.

*Finally, I was able to recently meet former outfielder Bernie Carbo, who played for six teams during a 12-year major league career. One of the most colorful personalities to play the game, his greatest fame came from the dramatic home run he hit for the Red Sox during the 1975 World Series. He encountered significant difficulty with substance abuse but has been able to turn his life completely around.

During our recent conversation, he mentioned former teammate Carl Yastrzemski’s enjoyment of “tailoring” new clothing for anyone foolish enough to leave it laying around in the locker room for his devious scissor work. He also recalled a television spot he did in the 1980s for Casey Chevrolet, and wondered if footage of that still exists. Luckily, it does, and here it is.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ken Griffey, Jr. Gets a New Job: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of January 18, 2015

The 2015 baseball season is nearly here. The reporting dates of pitchers and catchers are literally just a month away. Once those players start arriving in camps, things start happening rapidly. But until then, there is still much work to be done around the majors.

Although many free agents have signed their new deals, there are still a number of available players who could be real difference makers, including highly coveted pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields. Waiting this long to sign in the offseason can be a risky move but it can also pay off big time—for the players and the teams. What is certain is that there will be a flurry of activity in the coming weeks, and until spring training actually starts it will be difficult to get a true sense as to where each team really stands.

Now, on to the notes for the week…

*Wrestling legend Randy “Macho Man” Savage is becoming a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. The boisterous grappler, who passed away in 2011, was one of the best of all time but it wasn’t his first love. Before he became famous, he was Randy Poffo, a minor league player for the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds in the early 1970s.  This Sports Illustrated piece details his desire to become a professional ball player and some of his exploits on the diamond before he moved on to the ring.

*The 1985 Cardinals were one of the most unique teams in baseball history. Although they hit just 87 home runs as a team, they stole an astounding 314 bases. Led by Hall-of-Fame manager Whitey Herzog, they won 101 games in the regular season before succumbing to the Kansas City Royals in seven games in the World Series. In this article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatches’ Rick Hummel, the old skipper fondly recalls that squad being the best he ever managed.

*Speaking of Hall-of-Fame managers, Sparky Anderson is right up there with the greatest to ever lead a team. He could also act a little and rock a suit so plaid it would make a frat house’s couch blush. This 1979 episode of WKRP in Cincinnati shows all those talents rolled into one tight performance.

*Steve Garvey enjoyed a lengthy career as a first basman who could hit and field—and boy did he have great hair! He was also a prolific pitchman, including these vintage commercials for SegaVision televisions and Chevy, which both ran in the late 1970s.
*Negro League star Herb “Suitcase” Simpson has passed away at the age of 94. Playing first base and outfield, his successful career was altered by his military service and the segregation of the major leagues.

Although he played three minor league seasons from 1952-54 and hit a combined .324, he was never given a chance at the big leagues, as already being in his 30s and gradual  integration of the majors prevented him from being seen as a legitimate prospect. In later years he worked in maintenance and served as an ambassador for the game and his Negro League brethren.

*Carl Long, the man who broke the Carolina League color barrier, also recently passed away at the age of 79. The former Negro Leaguer still holds the circuit’s record for most RBIs in a season with the 111 he posted in 1956 with the Kinston Eagles. Despite hitting .275 with 57 home runs over four minor league seasons, the outfielder/third baseman never broke into the majors.

*Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully is a true baseball treasure. Working for more than half a century, he has helped countless fans fall in love with the game because of his butterscotch-smooth voice and ability to describe the action. The Transistor Kid was a 1964 article by Robert Creamer in Sports Illustrated that followed the legend in the earlier stages of his career. Even then, he was as essential to baseball as a glove or ball, and finding out about some unique aspects of his work (including an unusual way to wish happy birthday to an umpire) makes one appreciate him all the more.

*Turns out New Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson isn’t the only Seattle Mariners legend to take up photography as a major interest following his playing career. “The Kid,” Ken Griffey Jr., has begun doing sideline shooting for college and professional football games for ESPN. Simon Pollock has the story. It’s an intriguing turn for the legendary former outfielder. It seems a safe bet he will need to put his equipment down for a little bit next in the summer of 2016 when he should be enshrined in Cooperstown if everything goes the way most expect.

*Warren Spahn was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history, compiling 363 victories in 21 major league seasons. Raised in Buffalo, New York, and spending his career pitching in major hubs like Boston and Milwaukee, he wound up settling in the small burgh of Hartshorne, Oklahoma. The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson wrote about what led the southpaw to this place he ultimately called home.

*Here’s an announcement that should make all fans of baseball history happy. The entire Ken Burns Baseball documentary series is now available for free on YouTube. It’s a great opportunity for those who have never seen the terrific series before, or for those wanting a second or third pass through.

*Bob Feller was a dominant pitcher, winning 266 games during an 18-year career with the Cleveland Indians. In his right arm, “Rapid Robert” was also know to possess one of the best fastballs the game has ever seen, estimated at over 100 MPH during its peak. Playing before the age of advanced measurement equipment, there were attempts made to measure exactly how fast he threw, including this elaborate test against a policeman’s motorcycle.

*Baseball History Daily has the curious story of Homer Hausen, who was blacklisted from the Western league following a 1900 incident where he nearly killed catcher Bill Wilson with a bat because of their competing affections for a woman.

Hausen got the girl, Wilson lived and both players ultimately resumed professional careers. However, in a bizarre twist, Hausen was himself attacked with a bat during a game just a few years later. Another tremendous find by BHD.

*Left-hander Bill Lee was known as much for his personality as his hurling ability during his 14 years in the majors with the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. This brief set of clips from his younger days is just as eclectic as the southpaw, and definitely worth a look!

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rambling On: Will the New England Patriots Beat the Indianapolis Colts?

Ron Juckett and I break down this year's AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. Who will advance to the Super Bowl? We chat about the game, the factors and make our final predictions.


Check out the podcast HERE.
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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew