Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Down, but not out

My internet is down right now and I can only get to a cafe occassionally. I'll be back up as soon as I have access again.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Perfect Game

One of the great baseball events of the year is always the Little League World Series, held in August in Williamsport, PA. It started as an American tournament, featuring teams from all over the United States. Now it has grown into an international tournament, maybe the only truly "world" championship in baseball. Countries from all continents participate, and the there is an international division to face the winner of the American division. This year, for the first time, an African team will play.

It's not about the contracts, its about the love of the game, and representing your country in a manner that a lot of adult professionals don't understand. More importantly than playing for their home country, however, is the fact that they represent their home town, which in many cases means much more to the players. They haven't yet become jaded about the world, and the quest for money.

This story, though, isn't about this year's tournament. It's about the past, but what a story:
In 1957 a rag-tag, shoeless, poor group of kids from Monterrey, Mexico shocked the world by winning 13 games in a row and the Little League World Series in the only perfect game ever pitched in the Championship. These kids, led by their priest and a down-and-out former major leaguer embark on a journey through the southern US and up into Williamsport, PA for the Championship game.
"The Perfect Game" is the story of the kids, and what they were able to accomplish. Standing out among the players is one who had a unique style, to say the least:
In the final game against La Mesa, Calif, (a team that averaged 5 ft. 4 in., 127 lbs.), Coach Faz tried something far more spectacular than extra sleep. He called on his best pitcher, ambidextrous Angel Macias, a twelve-year-old 88-pounder with a fine assortment of curves and sliders, plus a plain, old-fashioned fast ball under disciplined control. Against Bridgeport, Angel had played a flawless game at shortstop. He can, in fact, play any position on the team—becomes a southpaw on first base, a righthander in the rest of the infield, whatever he happens to feel like when he switches to the outfield. At bat, says he, he is a "turnover" hitter like his hero Mickey Mantle
I haven't seen the movie yet, and I'm impressed.

The 'Bad News Bears' taught us about baseball, and winning and losing, as kids. It was a look at the lighter side, but a honest one. Nothing can get more honest than this.
Back in Monterrey loudspeakers in the public squares reported a running account of the game. For the rest of the year, Angel and his teammates will go back to shining shoes on the streets after school, working in the local foundry for 50¢ a day. Until two years ago, they played baseball barefoot.
If this isn't a baseball movie for the ages, then one will probably never be made again.
H/T to 1-800-Beisbol

A farewell to Tuffy Rhodes?

Tuffy Rhodes is looking for a job, but it probably won't come. After 6 seasons in major league baseball, and 13 in Japan, he doesn't have a job, and probably won't get one. Even though he was productive:
At age 41, he was released in November after finishing his third season with the Orix Buffaloes, batting .308 with 22 home runs, 62 RBIs in 295 at-bats in just 84 games.
Contemplating what his life will be without baseball, Tuffy talked to Baseball Happenings for an in-depth interview.

Tuffy talks about his career, his accomplishments, what it's like to play in Japan vs the United States, and what he has in store for the future.

Tuffy put up some good numbers in Japan:
He played 13 seasons in Japanese baseball, amassing 464 home runs, 1,269 RBIs and 1,792 hits, all of which are the highest totals ever produced by a foreigner in Japan. He became fluent in Japanese, which added to his popularity during his career. He became such a fan favorite that he could not travel publicly without being besieged with autograph requests.
Please check it out, as it is a good interview with a good player, who still wants to. I don't blame him. I would want to keep playing also. Sadly, he won't be able to.

H/T to Baseball Happenings

Hector Espino for the Hall of Fame

Major League Baseball is the premier league in the world. Although there are very good leagues in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Cuba, and Mexico, as well as leagues in countries all over the planet, MLB is the top of the line. Because it is the best league around, this is where most players strive to get to. We assume that those who have come to the states are the best players, and we are generally correct in that. However, we do forget that some of other leagues provide us some outstanding players who never get the chance to play in the states.

Among those players are Martin Dihigo, whom many consider the greatest all-around player of all time, Sadaharu Oh, and Hector Espino. Most of you, I am sure, have heard of Oh, and many have heard of Dihigo. I'll bet a lot of you are asking who the hell is Hector Espino. Well, that's easy:
Who is Espino? Well, here a list of accomplishments for a ballplayer who has been called the “Babe Ruth of Mexico.” And, his lofty achievements compare favorably with many baseball legends who have received baseball’s highest honor.
The achievement:
Batting Titles – Won a staggering 18 batting titles(winter/summer leagues) which is six more than the 12 batting crowns Hall of Famer Ty Cobb captured.

Most years with one team – Spent 24 years with the Orange Men from 1960-85. Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (Orioles) and Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) are tied with 23 years of service in one uniform.

 Oldest man to win a batting title – Espino was 43 years-old when he batted .316 in 1983. Ted Williams was 40 when he hit .328 in 1958.

Most Home Runs – Swatted 481 homers in Mexico, and another 453 in the Mexican League. His 937 home runs are more than Oh and Josh Gibson, Hall of Famer who played in the Negro Leagues, who hit 814 homers.
For those who don't know, Mexico has a summer and a winter league. There might be some who want to downplay his numbers, but how can you? 24 years playing professional baseball. A batting title at 43. And 937 homeruns is a whole lot of homeruns, no matter where or when you play. Anyway you stack it, Hector Espino is a great player.

There are some that call for the Hall of Fame to expand its membership, and include players from around the world, and not just those who played in the states. I agree. The Hall of Fame is a private organization, and is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. If they want to be the premier Hall in the world, they need to recognize the world.

Martin Dihigo is already in as a Negro Leaguer. A lot of people want Sadaharu Oh in. I agree that we need to look at Hector Espino as well. Maybe one day people in the states will realize that baseball might be the American game, but we gave it to the world.

H/T to baseballdeworld

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Heroes of the Diamond

Not to start any kind of theme, or anything, but I can't deny the influences in my life. They two big ones were baseball, and the military. A fan of one, and member of the other, those two things have defined my life more than anything else. Sports is big in the military, and every company or ship has teams in most of the sports. Sadly, due to the fact that sports are hard on the body, and  the aggressive nature of many people who play, the sports are mostly limited to flag football, softball, and basketball. There are a lot of soldiers who still play tackle football or baseball on a semi-pro level, in various places around the world.

One place where soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines can still play baseball for the service is the with the DoD-sponsored team, Heroes of the Diamond, active duty military on temporary duty playing ball. Don't, however, get the idea that these guys are shirking their duties. Not when they have been serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other far off places. This is a full time job, as they travel the world, playing baseball and acting as goodwill ambassadors. In fact, in April, they have 30 different games and clinics in 5 countries. There is more than one team, but it is a year-round schedule.

What their mission is:
The modern Heroes of the Diamond was founded originally as the U.S. Navy Baseball Club by retired U.S. Navy Commander Terry Allvord in Pensacola, Florida in 1990 before moving to San Diego for the 1993 season. This program is the leader in armed forces baseball in the modern era. Allvord went on to establish over 40 single-service armed forces teams in every branch of the military around the globe. Tryouts are held every year to form the most talented military and first responders team to compete as the U.S. Military All-Stars during the annual "Red, White and Blue Tour" The team features active duty, reserve, Veterans, Delayed Entry Program and First Responders. The continuation of two wars has limited the availability of armed forces players. As a result, beginning in 2010 the team will be known as "Heroes of the Diamond" allowing a limited number of former MLB, current professional, summer collegiate and first responders the opportunity to join the tour. Players interested in the military and willing to support the mission will continue to pay their own expenses while off-duty to compete against the finest professional, independent and summer collegiate programs in the world.
Baseball and the military have a long history together:
Soldiers of the Continental Army played ball at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. U.S. citizens played more modern versions of the British games of cricket and rounders through the early 19th century, often called "town ball". In the 1840s, New Yorker Alexander Joy Cartwright and his acquaintances played a game they called “base ball” that was very similar to the game we know today.

During the American Civil War, soldiers on both sides played baseball to pass the time between battles.
And just a little more about them:
WHO WE ARE: Since 1990, more than 25,000 armed forces personnel have represented their service while paying their own expenses with a philosophy of HUSTLE, THINK, WIN! We are the "Globetrotters" of baseball. As the largest, fastest growing and most successful barnstorming team ever created, delivering competitive, exciting "must see" patriotic entertainment enjoyed by millions visiting over 45 states and 8 countries while competing against the some of the finest organizations in the world including the Boston Red Sox.

WHAT WE DO: Established to compete in 100 games annually at all levels while providing direct support to the State Department, Department of Defense and Recruiting while conducting over 350 appearances including international Friendship Tours on behalf of Major Commands, Military Installations and Command Visits to benefit Veterans and Youth charities.

WHY WE DO IT: The historic “Red, White and Blue Tour" delivers unique patriotic events designed to honor America. We conduct a choreographed pre-game that includes "Passing the Flag" and "Walk of Honor" ceremonies to celebrate American history in a moving tribute to those lost in the 9:11 tragedy. Our MISSION: “To Promote the Awareness of all Americans in Support of the Honorable Sacrifices our Armed Forces make at the Tip of the Spear” is based on the prominent yellow ribbon in the shape of an “S” located "front and center" in our distinctive “USA” logo symbolizes "Support" for our Troops and Veterans.
It's a entertaining web site, but more importantly, it's a great program. Many of these players will be going back to the front lines. I'm glad they're getting a chance bewteen the base lines.

Opening day from a different perspective

One of the places where baseball is getting more popular all the time is in Africa. A lot of countries are playing, and one of the best programs is in South Africa. There have been South Africans who have, and are now, had the opportunity to play minor league baseball, although none have made the big jump yet. South Africa has also participated in both World Baseball Classics. While not performing well, they weren't the worst team and didn't embarrass themselves.

One of the ways for baseball to become more popular in places not normally known for the game is publicity. Especially big press in major papers. While it isn't about South African baseball, The Daily Maverick has a fantastic write-up about the start of the Major League baseball season. The writer, J Brooks Spector, begins the piece with a nice tribute:
Across the big ocean, baseball's many fans are preparing for another mouth-watering season of action. But baseball, like cricket, is also much more than just about hitting and catching a ball. It is a true timeless metaphor for American life.
He then follows it up with the last few stanzas of Casey at the Bat, and writes about the history of the game in the states, some of the stars, some of the issues (segregation) and does a fantastic job of relating what baseball is. Mr Spector obviously knows about baseball, and what the start of the season means:
The umpires yell, “Play ball!” – the crowds roar again and another year of America’s cycle begins anew.
Yep, couldn't agree more. An entertaing read that you should really take a look at.

Uncle Sam's League

In my never ending quest to find all good things baseball, and military, I am always looking at how baseball and the military have mingled and co-existed throughout the years. After all, I'm retired military and baseball is pretty much my life these days. I have been reading about baseball in World War II at the excellent site, Baseball in Wartime, and have done an interview with Gary Bedingfield just last week. Please go check it out.

As much as I like the history of World War II, for some reason World War I has always held more of a fascination to me. Mabye because it really was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Even though it didn't. I"ve probably read more about The Great War than any other. And of course I've read more about baseball than anything else.

So to my great surprise, I found the blog, Uncle Sam's League, which, as the writer Jim Leeke says, is:

Baseball News from World War I

You kind of have to like the simplicity of it. I do. This goes onto my blog roll and is now mandatory daily reading for me.

If you have an interested in history, World War I, or the history of baseball, I highly recommend you check it out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Checked Swings - an interview with Thomas Ogilvie

As I’ve done my best to point out, Baseball is a popular game all over the world, and becoming more so in Europe. The game her doesn’t have marquee names, big television exposure, or million-dollar contracts, but it does have a hardcore group of knowledgeable fans that love the game. Spreading throughout the island, the game is growing rapidly in the United Kingdom. Thee are several leagues, youth programs, and a national team that qualified for the 2008 Olympics.

One of those fans is Thomas Ogilvie, from Scotland. He’s a dedicated baseball follower who blogs about his favorite team at Checked Swings. You might think the Yankees, originally known as the Highlanders, would be his team of choice, but Thomas has wisely chosen the Mets instead. Showing us that baseball truly is an international game, Thomas brings us his perspective of the Mets, and baseball in general.

He has kindly agreed to answer some questions for us.

Tell us a little about yourself?

As you said, I'm from Scotland, and I currently live in the Scottish Borders, about an hour south of the capital Edinburgh, where I went to university. I work in a bookshop, and have frequent arguments about how many baseball books we should stock in our sports section (the total still stands at zero, for now.)

Which team is your favorite team, and player?

The New York Mets, for my sins. Player-wise, I admire Tim Lincecum for his unconventional image, pitching style and attitude, which he gets away with thanks to his incredible ability.

What is your all-time team?

How can I answer that? I can't even begin to choose!

What is your first baseball memory?

Realistically, watching the Yankees get swept by the Red Sox in the 2004 NLCS. Before then it was just another sport. After the drama of that series, I was sucked in.

What is your favorite baseball memory?

I'm torn between two:

Watching the last couple of innings of Mark Buerhle's perfecto last year, and specifically Dewayne Wise's juggling catch in the bottom of the ninth.

The other is watching the World Series in 2008 on TV whilst in the States. Watching baseball on the UK can sometimes be a lonely experience - but watching it in a bar in the States is quite the opposite. The highlight was in Game 5 in the sixth inning when BJ Upton stole 2nd then scored on a sodden field in a game that was obviously going to be stopped after that inning. We didn't know the World Series wouldn't be won on a rain-shortened game so we thought it was do-or-die time for the Rays. Supporting the Rays over the Mets' division rivals, I was deliriously happy to see them survive to fight on, even if they couldn't quite get the job done two days later.

What is your heartbreaking baseball memory?

Being a Mets fan, there's a lot to choose from! Last day of the season in '07, last day of the season in '08, last half of the season in '09...

Luis Castillo's dropped popup against the Yankees last year was pretty traumatic. It drove home how the Mets lacked 'hustle' and epitomized all that was (still is?) wrong with the Mets.

How do you satisfy your baseball craving living in central Scotland?

Without the Internet, I simply couldn't follow baseball. With no terrestrial TV coverage of MLB and no publicity for the local teams, it's hard for new or curious fans to access the sport. It takes a certain amount of dedication to enjoy baseball, either watching or playing.

The Scottish National League, a three-team amateur league unaffiliated with the BBF, satisfies the playing itch. There are two teams in Edinburgh and one in northerly Aberdeen. There's a team in Glasgow, but they play in the BBF league 'AAA North'. It's quite exciting to be involved in Scottish baseball in this fluid time. In five years time there could be a fully fledged Scottish league with teams in Dundee, Stirling, perhaps even the Scottish Borders. Or there could be just Edinburgh and Glasgow both playing in the North of England. My hope is for the former.

Your all-time Mets team?

C: Mike Piazza
1B: Keith Hernandez
2B: Edgardo Alfonzo
3B: Howard Johnson
SS: Jose Reyes
OF: Cleon Jones
OF: Darryl Strawberry
OF: Carlos Beltran
SP: Tom Seaver
CP: John Franco

What is your baseball background?

I remember when I was young and at school, the boys played cricket during the summer. For some reason the sport never held my interest and I would find my gaze wandering to the next pitch over where the girls would be playing rounders. Never allowed to play it, imagine my surprise when I later discovered that the game (I know, it's not the same, but I was young and that didn't matter) was played throughout the USA and by grown men. I can't say I was instantly hooked, but the seeds of my love of baseball were certainly sown on that cricket field all those years ago.

How does someone from Scotland become a baseball fan?

By befriending Americans! That's certainly the route I took, but there are others. Coming home late from the pub and switching on Channel 5 to find baseball on the TV was, until last season, a legitimate option. With that coverage gone the only way someone totally unfamiliar with the sport will see it played is walking past a game in a park and having their curiosity piqued, or visiting a ballpark on a visit to the States.

As someone living in the U.K., occasionally I hear the snide remarks about baseball. Mostly from those who have no experience with the game. How do you deflect the criticism of being a baseball fan?

You need to be a good salesman. I often explain how much baseball jargon is in common usage, even in the UK - "Step up to the plate", "out of left field", "Strike three and you're out." People already have a concept of the game, but often it's been twisted by unfamiliarity. People seem to think that Americans must be wimps with their pads in American Football and big gloves in baseball. Once you explain how hard baseball can be, how even in the top flight, hitting safely three times every ten at-bats is considered very impressive, they begin to see that it isn't just rounders.

Have you won over many converts?

My brother and sister are hooked. My brother follows the Cardinals because they were champions when he started following baseball and also because they have a player whose name is 'poo-holes' (hey, he was ten.) My sister likes the Orioles because they have a bird on their hat (she's an avid ornithologist).

I have a friend who's an avid cricket player. I started throwing a baseball around with him and he refused a glove, saying he'd be better without it. He was fine until I started hitting balls to him. One sharp liner was enough to convince him of the need for a glove. He's since got his own glove and is beginning to follow MLB. I count that as a 'notch on my bat'.

How, or more importantly, why, did you become a Mets fan?

Why oh why would I be a Mets fan? I ask myself the same question all too often. My flatmate is a Yankees fan, and initially I wanted to support them (I suppose I still do, as my AL team.) In the UK, Yankees caps are ubiquitous with baseball caps, so wearing one seemed boring. Also, the Yankees' appeal suffered from having the highest payroll - when they win, it's easy to claim they just bought the World Series rings. I still felt I should support New York, since that's the only place in the US I've been, which left only the Mets. They were helped by exposure on Seinfeld: "He's Keith Hernandez. The guys a baseball player Jerry, Baseball! He was in game SIX - two runs down two outs facing elimination!"

What are the Mets chances this year?

With luck they get third in NL East. The idea that they'll get anywhere with the starting pitching they've got is a joke. It's a shame, because there's the core of a great team there but they didn't build on it. Citi Field is a pitchers ballpark, so why the only big name purchase over the offseason was Jason Bay is beyond me.

Have you attended any games in person?

Only one, in Japan of all places. The Yomiuri Giants and the Yakult Swallows, both of Tokyo, were playing in the Tokyo Dome in May 2005. I went with friends and we watched the Giants shut the Swallows out 8-0. The highlight was back-to-back home runs. There's a photo of it here:


Every time I visit the States it's the off-season!

Why did you start writing a blog about baseball?

I kept discovering things I didn't know about baseball, like 'what's a balk' and 'how do you check a swing?' The sort of questions that people who've grown up with the game probably don't think to ask, but to me were fascinating. I felt I needed a place to talk about these things. The final impetus was the World Baseball Classic last year, which I found myself defending on a number of different baseball blogs. I started Checked Swing as a place to gather those arguments.

What do you hope to get out of it?

I blog for my own sake primarily. I find it fun, and while I continue to do so, I'll keep it up. It'd be nice to have a few more readers, but I still think of it as a 'new blog' so it doesn't bother me unduly.

Bobby Thomson is probably the most well known Scottish player in major league history. Which other players are you aware of with ties to Scotland?

I know there's only been eight in the major leagues. Jim McCormick was the most successful of the rest, pitching for a succession of teams between 1879 and 1887, helping the Chicago White Stockings win the NL pennant in 1885 and 86. He's 11th on the all-time complete games list, which will never be beaten. His page on wikipedia is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_McCormick_(pitcher)

Contemporarily, I know that David Davidson is the most successful Scot, playing professionally in Sweden and Australia - http://www.gbbsa.org.uk/biographies/David%20Donaldson.pdf

It is my hardcore belief that FIFA is the organization most responsible for keeping baseball out of the Olympics. Your thoughts?

I don't really know about FIFA's involvement. I thought it was a bit of a bum deal, given that baseball isn't simply a sport for Americans. The rules governing amateurs in the Olympics meant that teams from all over the world had a real chance to make an impact in the Olympics, but there's no point in looking back. I think it's important to support the WBC and look at ways it can be integrated better with the MLB season.

The British National Team qualified for the 2008 Olympics, but couldn't participate because the British Olympic Committee wouldn’t pony up £25,000 for expense, while other lesser sports were funded. Fair or foul?

Major foul. Nobody expects huge funding for baseball in the UK, but for the British Olympic Committee to ignore the success of the British team was very disappointing. Perhaps they thought that it would be money wasted, what with baseball out for 2012; perhaps they were beginning to cut costs because of London 2012. At the very least, letting British baseballers have a swansong in Beijing would have been decent.

Should Great Britain be a participant in the next World Baseball Classic?

The best way to accommodate GB would be to expand the pool beyond the current sixteen teams, or have feeder tournaments for Europe to give Britain a chance to qualify.

If yes, whom would they replace?

If anyone, South Africa seemed the weakest team at the 2009 WBC, but having teams from Africa seems better than another European team. Perhaps expanding it to 20 teams and including Nicaragua, Thailand, Spain and Great Britain. Or Germany, or the Philippines... where do you draw the line? Happily, the Wikipedia page on the WBC seems to suggest an increase to 24 teams could be on the cards for 2013.

I have dreams of a European Baseball League. Fantasy, or something we might see one day?

I'd love to see it happen. The logistical details might prove troublesome, but the real challenge would be getting funding. I think MLB needs to do more to help the talent pool in Europe, and contributing to the funding of a European League would be a good start. It would give a good national element to rooting for teams as well. Within ten years? That sounds doable.

Commissioner for a day?

Increase international funding would be top of the agenda. Second would be selfishly pushing forward the starts of some evening games to 6.30pm or 6.00pm. I know that messes with people coming from work, but British fans are sick of games starting after midnight! Selig seems to want to eliminate timewasting, so I'll let him deal with that. I'd count that a good day's work.

Anything else you would like to say, about baseball, or any other subject?

Only to thank you for choosing to interview me. It's always a pleasure to talk baseball, and I'm happy to be given the chance to do so with you.

Thomas thanks for taking the time to do this. Very much appreciated, and best of luck in the future.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Baseball stadiums in Asia

Baseball, as well all know, is played around the world. There are major leagues, minor leagues, semi-pro leagues, college leagues, high school leagues, and youth leagues in almost 200 countries. Everywhere you go, and everywhere you look, people are playing baseball. Of course, they need some place to play. Sometimes its a $2 billion stadium in New York, and other times its a cow pasture in Nigeria. No matter where they are, how expensive or how fancy, there is no missing a baseball field when you see it. They all have a diamond, 4 bases, a pitchers mound, and an outfield. Hopefully there is an outfield fence, but it isn't always necessary.

In  Asia, where the popularity of the game is soaring, they have some of all types of stadiums. One thing I can tell you for sure is, for every cow pasture, there is a steel and concrete stadium for someone to play in.

Here we seem of the stadiums around Asia:
Lot more views of stadiums in Asia at the link.

Baseball on televison

Baseball has a long historic connection with Italy. Some of the greatest to ever play (DiMaggio, Berra, Campanella) were Italian, or of Italian heritage. Italy has a strong baseball league, and it's not just a local event either. It big all across the country, and the Italian league has something every league wants, and very few in Europe get. Television coverage. Granted, it's on tape delay, but it is on television. And nothing is more important in helping to increase the popularity of a sport then the opportunity to get it to as many people as possible. There are millions of people in the states who have never been to a major league game, but still watch on a regular basis.

I can't go to a real game, but I watch every day. Since I don't get it on television either, I watch on the web. In Italy, so do a lot of people:
There were 145,962 hits for the second televised game of the 2010 Italian Baseball League. The median number of spectators who tuned into the April 8th Danesi Nettuno-Montepaschi Grosseto game at any given time was 18,333, which translates into 0.17% of the market share.
That's over 18,000 people watching an Italian league game in April. Don't you think the A's and Pirates would like to have that many people watching? I don't know anything about Italian television, beyond the fact that women get naked all the time, so I don't know how the share system works. But I would have to imagine that almost 150,000 people checking out a baseball game in the country is a good thing, and so does the league:
The results are regarded as positive and give a foundation on which to further increase television exposure as the IBL season progresses.
It's not all tape-delayed or webcasts either. It's popular enough that they are getting real-time exposure:
The upcoming Thursday April 22 contest between rivals Rimini and San Marino will be the first game of the season to be telecast "live" on Rai Sport Piu'.
So if you're in Italy, and you want to watch live baseball, and  you don't have MLB.tv, here's your chance.

A new stadium in Switerland

Continuing the theme of stadiums today, we bring you pictures of the new baseball stadium in Zurich, Switzerland. Yes, they play baseball in Switzerland. Haven't you been paying attention? So of course, they need a place to play. As stated many times, a true player will compete in a cow pasture if necessary, but having a real stadium is a lot nicer, and it does give legitimacy to your team and your league. A stadium doesn't really influence the quality of the team, but it can affect the quality of play. A smooth infield and a level outfield are much easier to field in, and having a backstop will give more confidence to pitchers and catchers, and prevents games from turning into beer league softball games.

The first game will tomorrow, and it's an important one. This is not just any baseball field:
The first official pitch at the newly built ballpark “Heerenschürli” in Zurich will be thrown on Saturday, April 17, when the Zurich Challengers face local rivals Zurich Barracudas in the Swiss Nationalliga A for a doubleheader. The new field is the first one in Switzerland to meet the necessary requirements of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF).
This is important. I think the IBAF does a great of promoting the game around the world, and it applies standards that are needed. One of the issues preventing major league exhibitions in Europe is the lack of regulation, major league quality, stadiums. The Heerenschurli doesn't quite meet those standards, but it is a beginning. Europe needs quality fields for its leagues, as they will only make the game better and more popular. As the leagues gain in popularity, and prosperity, they will be able to build more and better fields.

This isn't just some small town ball park built for a local team, either. While small, it is a legitimate stadium:
Additionally to the top-notch field there will be two batting cages, two bullpens, dugouts with running water and lights, a batter’s eye in center, an electronic scoreboard and floodlights. Up to 500 people will find seats in the stands. The distances will be 97m (318ft) along the foul lines and 111m (364ft) in center.
A little short in center, but major league distance on the lines. And the centerfield fence can be extended, as needed. More pictures here.

Baseball is growing. Give a team a nice stadium to play in, and it will improve their play. Give the fans a nice place to come watch a game, with all the amenities, and they will be more likely to attend. We all know the old saying, "if you build it......

Original link from Mr Baseball

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A sticky situation

Baseball, as we all know, is a global game. Many players from many different countries move around in search of a job, or a chance to play in the various leagues. These players are usually called "imports", probably because of the financial aspects of it. Who knows? There is a team, there is a contract, and players come. The Korean Baseball Organization is one of those leagues that is "importing" players from other places. One import from the Dominican Republic, by way of the major leagues, is pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was imported to play baseball. One of the things he imported was steroids:
It turns out former KIA pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez was not let go due to injury. He was let go because he was caught doping. The article doesn't state what he was caught with, but it probably wasn't Flintstones chewable vitamins.
Hey, free trade, right. Its not surprising that a player was caught using steroids, particularly a Dominican player, as they have been hit hard by the testing. This, however, was surprising:
This is the first time a player(non-Korean or Korean) has been caught using PEDs.
The Korean league has been well-established since the 1980's, and been importing and exporting players to the Major Leagues for a few years now. You would have thought this might have happened before, but I guess not. I'm pretty sure it won't be happening a lot more, as the league is doing steroid testings. I don't personally care about the steroids anymore. Let them juice, and damage their health if they want. They are grown men. But the testing is a fact of life, and they need to abide by or be punished. There is one issue I have with the testing, however:
The KBO started mandatory testing of non-Korean ballplayers last year and has random testing for Korean players.
So Korean players are tested differently than the foreigners who come over and play. Odd. But not really. I lived in Korea for a year. I had a good time, and the people are nice. I never had any issues with any of them, but there is one thing I do remember. The Korean people are very xenophobic, and have a marked tendency to look down on non-Koreans. This doesn't really surprise me at all.

The main issue I have is the different treatment for foreign players. I can't see this being allowed anywhere beyond Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. In other words, the Asian leagues treat the Asian players differently than foreign players. Think Orlando Hudson would have something to say about that? It's their country, and they can do what they want. They can even tie it to immigration laws if they want, but they really can't. I'm an immigrant and I didn't have to get tested for steroids to play ball over here.

The Korean league is a good one, and it provides a good product. But while they discriminate against foreign players, they will never be considered a premium league, or a great place to play. The playing field is supposed to be level. So should the steroid testing.

H/T to True Stories of Korean Baseball
Baseball is big in Taiwan, as is the sporting industry. They have a great history, with Little League championships and a Silver Medal in the Olympics. A lot of sporting equipment is made there, and exported around the world. Baseball is not just a sport, but a culture. Lately, that culture has been rocked with gambling and game fixing, and several players and coaches have been banned from the league. In addition to that, teams have folded. The Chinese Professional Baseball League is in danger of collapsing, and the government doesn't like it, and feels that it is a problem:
As baseball is not only the national sport but also a core sporting industry in Taiwan, the collapse of the country's professional baseball league could cause 30,000 people to lose their jobs, Sports Affairs Council (SAC) Minister Tai Hsia-ling said Wednesday.
In order to provide help for the game itself, the government will do the following:
According to Tai, the SAC has mapped out a plan to help resolve unemployment among retired baseball players.

The government also plans to set up 12 amateur baseball teams in the coming four years.
Not to forget the business side, which affect many more people than the game by itself:
The sports sector has received less favorable treatment than many industries in Taiwan, she said, but added that after the launch of the Taiwan Sports Lottery in 2008, an estimated NT$2.4 billion (US$75.95 million) from it will be used to promote sports this year.

Tai also said she will do what she can to foster the development of the sports industry, create more jobs for former athletes and provide preferential loans for them. She said she hoped never to have to see athletes on TV calling on the government to give them jobs.
This is just an plan to help baseball in Taiwan. It's an entire governmental fiscal program:
To encourage people to exercise regularly, the government will increase the annual budget for sports from NT$4 to NT$28 per capita and has already allocated NT$400 million toward a program aimed at building Taiwan into a sports island, Tai said. 
The government will also issue a sports IC card to promote the industry and is scheduled to complete the construction and connection of around-the-island cycling trails in 2013, Tai added
I'm normally against government being involved in baseball, but it is more an industry than a sport. The U.S. government enacts favorable legislation to help all manners of American industry, as does any country. This should be good for the economy, and good for the citizens. Hopefully it will also be good for the league.

The boys are back in town

One of the first foreign players to play major league baseball was Joe Quinn, who was born in Australia. After Joe, it was over 80 years before another Australian, Craig Shipley, would play in the majors. Since then, there has been an explosion of sorts in baseball talent from Oz. 24 players from Australia have played in the big leagues, with 5 of them still active. Good baseball talent is in abundance in Australia, but unfortunately, there is no professional league for them to play in. That, however, is about to change.

Baseball is coming back to Australia. After a 9-year absence, a new league will be starting up, and they're going to have some help:
More than a decade after the demise of the Australian Baseball League, a topflight national competition will return - with a financial boost from Major League Baseball.

The new six-team Australian Baseball League will begin play in November, bankrolled by MLB in the U.S. and the Australian Baseball Federation.
Which will be much better than having one person do it:
The old ABL folded in 1999 amid mounting debts and was purchased by former Milwaukee Brewers catcher David Nilsson, an Australian. The competition created in the wake of the ABL, the International Baseball League of Australia, folded in 2002.
To be honest, it's not entirely the best way to run a league, but they have to do what they can:
Foster said all the teams will be essentially owned by the league, with separate operating staff that will report directly to the ABL. The teams, however, will be responsible for acquiring sponsorships and run local promotions in their cities.
For those of aware of history, this is what the Trujillo brothers tried to do in Mexico after the war, and it failed miserably. I think they will be okay here, as it's not owned as a profit-making entity, but as a true baseball league:
There are three main minor league levels under the majors, Triple A, Double A and Single A. But often major league players looking for extra conditioning during the offseason play in the winter leagues, and Foster hopes to see some established stars head to Australia from time to time
.As of right now, it doesn't matter who owns the league or how it's structured, as long as there is a league. Baseball is popular in Australia, and would have been even more so if the Aussies hadn't got screwed in the last World Baseball Classic. It's  nice to see Bud actually investing some money here, but it's only because Australian players have been in the league for 25 years.

Anyhow, baseball, shrimp, Fosters, and Shiela's. What a way to spend an evening.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Saving the day

As I've stated many times, baseball is truly a global game. Not just because it's played in almost every country on the planet, but because of their are legitimate viable leagues all around the world. Today, lots of players move around the globe in pursuit of a roster spot. From the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean countries, Asia, and in Europe. Players are hopping from league to league, looking for a chance to play.

One of those players, Shingo Takatsu, has made the rounds. He has played in the Major Leagues, the Japanese League, the Korean League, and the Chinese League (Taiwan). In doing so, he has achieved a unique honor:

Shingo Takatsu became the first pitcher to record saves in the NPB (286), MLB (27), KBO (8), and the CPBL (1) when he saved a game against the Brother Elephants on the 31st.
By my count, that's 322 career saves. I don't care what league you pitch in, that's a lot of saves. For what they are worth.

This the only English-language account I can find, as everything else is in Chinese. I'm sure there's a lot more, but this achievement speaks for himself.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Asia Cup

The upcoming Aisa Cup is scheduled for the end of May this year, in Islamabad, Pakistan. It is not, however, what you would think of when you typically talk about Asian baseball. Because Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are not participating. Instead, the following countries will be there:

Sri Lanka
Hong Kong

I guess Hong Kong has a status kind of like Puerto Rico. Didn't know that, so it's a good thing to learn. To me, this is a real Asian Cup. Not to say that the big 3 aren't Asian countries, but the fact that these 7 countries are participating in an international tournament is a good thing for baseball.

For those of you who don't pay attention to international news, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand, Iran, and Pakistan all have a lot of internal and external issues going on. The fact that they can still field baseball teams for the Cup is great. It would be nice to get the Philippines involved as well, particularly since 8 teams is always better than 7.

The main point is, baseball is growing in Asia rapidly, and most people wouldn't even know that these countries play baseball, let alone participate internationally. I'm not going to pretend like the quality of play will awe anyone, but I'll bet they play some good games. It would be worthwhile for some scouts to get out there and see what the players can do. I'll bet they can fiind talent.

Thanks to the Sri Lanka News for the link

The United Countries of Baseball

This isn't really international baseball, but it is a cool picture. And someone interesting. As a Missouri boy, however, I think they are vastly underestimating the influence of the Royals and the Cardinals both.

Royal territory should be expanded west and north both, while the Cardinals should fill in all the unclaimed area.

People forget the Cardinals used to be the western-most franchise for 77 years, and they started the farm system, with minor league teams all over the west.

Nice picture, and I'm happy to see the Yankees get short shrift. I just think the guy doesn't understand the dynamics of baseball in teh midwest very well.

History of Baseball in Taiwan

Baseball, at least professional baseball in Taiwan is in trouble. There are gambling and game-fixing scandals, some of the top players and coaches have been banned, and more players are leaving for South Korea, Japan, and the United States every day. The league has lost teams, and financing is a problem. The government, citing the popularity of the game, and the need for the continuation of the game, has pumped a few million dollars into it. Not just for the pro game, but for youth leagues, fields, equipment, etc. Baseball in Taiwan needs it, but its never a good idea when the government gets involved.

One of the things the government is doing it to promote the game, particularly the history of it, in Taiwan. From Little League champions, to results of international tournaments such as the Silver Medal at the Barcelona Olympics, the Government Information Office has developed the web site, History of Baseball in Taiwan.

There is a section detailing the Who's Who in Taiwanese baseball, as well as a timeline of the game in Taiwan dating back to the games inception in 1906:
In March, the Taiwan Governor-General Office Mandarin School Affiliated High School (now Jianguo Municipal High School) baseball team is established, making it the first official baseball team in Taiwan. Afterwards, the Chinese School Teacher’s College (now the National Taipei University of Education) also forms a baseball team.

Afterwards, the Dongmen School and the Taiwan Learning Association merge to become the Chengyuan School (now Chengyuan High School) and organize a night school baseball team which is known as the Association Team.
Oddly, for a government propaganda information site, it doesn't gloss over recent history either:
Although the international tournaments from 1997 to 1999 satisfied the fans, the in-fighting in Taiwan’s professional baseball league had not improved. In fact, it was worsening. Fans were less and less inclined to go to the stadiums. In late 1997, the China Times Eagles announced their dissolution due to the impact of the gambling scandal.
On March 5, 1999, the Naruwan Company decided to sign player Chen Chih-cheng (陳志誠) even though he was still serving in the military. This action incited the outrage of the CPBL and drew stern protest from the Baseball Association.
The Sanshang Tigers, one of the founding teams of the CPBL, announced its dissolution on January 8, 1999, because the chaotic period of Taiwanese baseball and the gambling scandal made it hard to justify a baseball team as a public service activity to the sponsor. On December 13 of that same year, the Wei-Chuan Dragons, another founding member of the league, also announced its dissolution. These two teams had their many fans, especially the Dragons, which had won three straight titles. The fans of the Dragons mounted an online campaign to save the team, but it was too late to change the minds of the sponsors.
I remember as a kid, growing up in the 70's, the Taiwanese Little League team kicking our butt every year in the World Series. It seemed like factory baseball, and probably was. But they were good, and have been for a long time. Lets hope the gambling scandal doesn't ruin the game over there. If you're interested in teh history of baseball in Taiwan, check out the site. It's not too much information, but it is good.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Baseball in Wartime - an interview with Gary Bedingfield

Baseball is revered as the National Pastime in the United States. Remember, it was baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and some car company. The game captures the enduring image of the American spirit. Hand-in-hand with baseball in shaping the American image is our military. Looming largest in the combined history of the two will always be World War II, when the players united with the fans, and baseball went to war. Some of the lasting memories of that time happened not on the playing field, but on the battle field. Stars on one, they were heroes on the other. Baseball was the greatest game, played by the greatest generation.

As time goes by, those who served and played have begun to leave us, and few remain. The impact of what happened will fade, but will never be forgotten, nor should it. There will always be those who will ensure they that we are always aware of this time. Gary Bedingfield, editor and author of Baseball in Wartime, is one of those people. Gary has kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.

Tell us a little about yourself?

Where do I begin? I’m 47 years old and live in Glasgow, Scotland, although I was born and raised in Enfield, about 20 miles north of London, England. I began playing baseball in the mid-1970s when I was around 11 years old. I played in my first organized league in 1977 and continued to play baseball until the mid-1990s. I had the privilege of playing on one of the best teams ever to compete in British baseball – the Enfield Spartans. I also got to play for the British National team a few times and have played competitive baseball throughout Europe.

In the mid-1990s, as my playing days drew to an end I took an interest in baseball history and WWII-era baseball in particular. Since then I’ve written two books (and co-authored another) and contributed to various magazines and newspapers. I operate the Baseball in Wartime website and Baseball in Wartime blog, produce the bi-monthly Baseball in Wartime e-newsletter and contribute to various online baseball forums, etc.

In my spare time, I work as a freelance training consultant, helping people to develop their employability skills and increase their motivation.

How did a Brit choose baseball as a sport to follow?

Well, we can blame that on my father! He is a musician and as a young man his band toured US Air Force bases all over England. He watched the Air Force personnel playing baseball and enjoyed the sport. He got his hands on a couple of old gloves and taught me to play.

Which team is your favorite team, and player?
My favorite team has always been the Los Angeles Dodgers and my favourite player has always been Steve Yeager, the Dodgers catcher during the 1970s. Like Steve, I always wore number 7 during my playing days but that’s where the similarity ended!

When I first got into baseball I decided I had to follow a major league team. For most Americans I’m sure they pick their local team. Obviously, I didn’t have a local team so I had to find another way to choose. I remember reading an American comic book and on the back cover was an advertisement for baseball cards. Three players were shown – Joe Rudi of the Oakland A’s, Ferguson Jenkins of the Texas Rangers and Don Sutton of the Dodgers. Sutton was standing at Dodger Stadium and I could see the palm trees in the background. I thought it was pretty cool to have palm trees at a ballpark, so I instantly became a Dodgers fan!

What is your all-time team?

If you are referring to a team from a particular year, then I’d have to say the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. That was the year they finally got to win the World Series and what an incredible line-up . . . Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider (whom I met in London in the 1970s), Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, etc.

What is your first baseball memory?

My first baseball memory is playing catch with my dad when I was about 10 years old. We had a couple of old gloves that he’d picked up from a U.S. Air Force base but we didn’t have a baseball so we painted a cricket ball white.

What is your favorite baseball memory?

My favourite baseball memory has to be playing with the Enfield Spartans and, in particular, being Rob Nelson’s battery-mate. Nellie pitched for the Portland Mavericks in the 1970s and I never met a guy who wanted to win as much as he did. I always loved being a catcher but being behind the plate for Nellie brought a whole new dimension to the game. We had some real fun and played some amazing ball games.

Have you ever had the chance to see a major league game in the states?

Not many, but I did get to see the Kansas City Royals play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park back in 1981. I also got the opportunity to meet George Brett in the visitor’s locker rooms before the game. Unfortunately, the last three times I’ve been to the States has been during the off-season.

How do you satisfy your baseball craving living in central Scotland?

It’s not easy. ESPN show a number of games on TV and I keep up-to-date with the Internet. I also have a neat ap on my iPhone which gives me regular updates and allows me to listen to radio broadcasts of all MLB games. I have to admit I don’t follow baseball as closely as I once did. I guess I’m still living in the past and learning about games that took place 60 years ago rather than keeping in tune with what’s happening today.

Now for the heart of the matter

What is your military background, if any?

I don’t actually have a military background myself. My grandfather drove tanks during WWII and my father was in the Royal Air Force Auxiliary for many years but that’s about it.

Of all the areas of baseball history, why World War II?

For me, it’s a perfect marriage of my two passions. Baseball and WWII history have fascinated me since I was a kid and in the mid-1990s I realized I could combine the two.

What do you say to those people who downplay wartime baseball as not being up to the same standard before and after the war?

Well, for one thing they’re right. The calibre of baseball on the field was not as good. How could it be with all the stars in the service? But I don’t see that it was about the calibre of the game on the field but the far more important role the game played in helping maintain the morale of the people.

Do we relegate it to the status of 19th century baseball and the outlaw leagues? Good, but not good enough? Or do we recognize that it was a unique period in history and give it full credit?

I don’t think we need to go that far. It was definitely a unique period but should not really be singled out. OK, the Browns had a one-armed player in Pete Gray, but we should remember that he hit a respectable .290 in the Eastern League in 1948 when everyone was back from military service.

You’ve given full recognition to the Negro Leaguers who served in World War II. How did the war affect minorities in major league baseball? Did it postpone the inevitable? Did it speed the process?

I’m confident it quickened the process. Just as it was in Organized Baseball, military baseball during World War II was a predominantly segregated game. Black Americans were overlooked, avoided and forsaken when it came to military baseball despite the fact that sports such as boxing and football were often integrated. There were, however, exceptions to the rule, especially overseas where civilian prejudice did not exist to the extent that it did in the United States. In Hawaii – a US territory at the time of World War II – at least two high profile service teams featured a black player. In England, where Jim Crow laws were non-existent, a 1945 all-star team featured a black pitcher, and on mainland Europe, Negro League stars Leon Day and Willard Brown helped the OISE All-Stars win the 1945 ETO World Series. It’s pretty shocking to think that at the time Major League teams chose to overcome their player shortages by packing their rosters with youngsters, old-timers, part-timers and 4-Fs, and continued to overlook the many able-bodied black ballplayers that could have helped fill the ranks of wartime rosters. But I’m pretty sure that military integration helped smooth the way somewhat for Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson.

As a former soldier myself, who has seen combat, I know there is always friction between the line soldiers and the REMF’s. A lot of players spent time playing ball, training physical fitness, or doing goodwill tours, while many saw combat, were decorated, or wounded. Should they be looked at differently, or does this make a difference?

It’s an interesting point but I’ve never really detected any great degree of friction between the combat soldiers and the ballplayers who were miles from the front lines. In fact, since I began researching wartime baseball back in the mid-1990s and having communicated with countless vets, I’ve only ever heard one negative comment and that was from a guy who was with the infantry in Italy and said that at the time, “he was up to his ass in mud and too busy to think about baseball.”

As a follow-up to the previous question, what is your all-time military service All Star team?

Good question. I can’t say I’ve given this a great deal of thought but I can make up an all-star team of Hall of Famers that served during WWII.

C Mickey Cochrane (US Navy)
1B Hank Greenberg (USAAF)
2B Joe Gordon (US Army)
3B Jackie Robinson (US Army)
SS Pee Wee Reese (US Navy)
OF Joe DiMaggio (USAAF)
OF Ted Williams (USMC)
OF Stan Musial (US Navy)
RHP Bob Feller (US Navy)
LHP Warren Spahn (US Army)
UMP Nestor Chylak (US Army)

What is your all-time combat All Star team?

Now that’s a tough one and another that I haven’t given much thought to in the past. The following guys were all combat vets to varying degrees.

C Harry O’Neill (USMC) Killed at Iwo Jima
1B Dee Fondy (US Army) Served and wounded in Europe
2B Skippy Roberge (US Army) Served and wounded in Europe
3B Buddy Lewis (USAAF) Flew “The Hump”
SS Cecil Travis (US Army) Fought through the Battle of the Bulge
OF Harry Walker (US Army) Served in Europe and earned a Bronze Star
OF Carl Furillo (US Army) Served in the Pacific
OF Elmer Gedeon (USAAF) Killed while piloting a B-26 over France
RHP Bob Feller (US Navy) Served on USS Alabama
LHP Warren Spahn (US Army) With the Engineers in Europe

UMP Augie Donatelli (USAAF) B-17 tail-gunner

O’Neill and Gedeon both have to be in there because they are the only two players with major league experience who lost their lives during WWII.

Hundreds of players from 1940-1973 missed two years or more for military service, all in their prime. Some, such as Williams, Mays and Spahn were superstars regardless, but missed out on the big numbers, like 3000 hits, 700 homeruns, and 400 wins. Other players, such as Cecil Travis became borderline due to their time. How can we properly evaluate them?

In my opinion, it’s better to look at what they achieved rather than what they didn’t. I’ve never been one for number-crunching to that extent and playing what-if. How do you put into cold statistical terms what these guys went through for their country?

A lot of baseball bloggers and mainstream media types are wanna-be writers, who all have that great baseball book in them. Unlike the rest of us, you actually did it. Brag about yourself, and explain the process and what it takes?

I’ve now written two books and co-written a third. My first book, Baseball in World War II Europe, was published by Arcadia back in 2000. I had already written a number of magazine and newspaper articles on WWII baseball and wanted to put my research together in book-form. I wrote a pretty detailed synopsis and went in search of a publisher, receiving a number of rejections before getting interest from Arcadia. They were a good first-time publisher and guided me through the process. The book did OK but didn’t receive the publicity I had hoped it would. It went out of print pretty quickly and now demands some pretty high prices through book specialists.

When Baseball Went to War, which I co-wrote with some good friends, including Todd Anton, Bill Nowlin and Bill Swank, was the result of a wartime baseball conference held at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. I had the honor of being a keynote speaker at that event and then got involved with the follow-up book project which led to my first trip to Cooperstown to conduct research.

My latest book, Baseball’s Dead of World War II, is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Honoring the professional baseball players who lost their lives during the war is extremely important to me and I am immensely proud of this book. It was published by McFarland (the first publisher I sent the synopsis to) in December 2009 and is available through amazon.com and other major online book sellers.

Tell us about the website, and why you started it?

The website launched in 2000 to coincide with the release of my first book. At the time – and it’s still true now – there was minimal information available online about WWII baseball. I wanted to share what I have so I launched the website as a sort of online depository. It includes biographies of players, team rosters and much more. Somewhere in excess of 1,000 pages.

Talk us through the website, and what we should be looking for?

The website has three main sections – Player Biographies (individual biographies of major league, minor league, semi-pro, Negro League, and amateur ballplayers), In Memoriam (individual biographies of professional, college, semi-pro and high school players who were killed during WWII) and Those Who Served (a complete listing of every major league player who served with the armed forces during the war. Additionally, there are many other sections including Service Team rosters, Service Game details, a Photo Gallery, Book Reviews, and a Bibliography.

You’ve included information on Japanese players who were killed in the war. What else have you been able to find out about other players from different countries?

Not a great deal I have to confess. I would, however, strongly recommend you read Phil Marchildon’s biography on the website. This Canadian-born pitcher was a tail gunner in bombers during the war and was shot down over Germany, spending several grueling months as a POW.

How do you go about finding the information you are looking for, and where do you find it?

The majority of the information I use, comes from old newspapers. I have an annual subscription to newspaperarchives.com which, while rather costly, provides a huge spectrum of information. Once I tap into a topic, say, a fund-raising ballgame in New York, I can then use newspaperarchives.com to pull-up the press reports of the time. I also use the Google News Archive which is expanding a daily basis and now becoming a genuinely useful resource. I check military records (dates and location of induction, etc) using the NARA website, and obtain details of wartime deaths via the National WWII Memorial website. I use baseball-reference.com and Pat Doyle’s Professional Baseball Player Database for major and minor league stats and generally snoop around the Internet for other items. I also have a number of contacts throughout the USA who provide me with information based upon their relevant expertise.

A lot of this research is then followed up with emails/ phone calls to vets or relatives of vets. Snail mail is pretty much a thing of the past these days but is still used occasionally.

Have you got to meet many of the player/soldiers in person?

I have had the honor of meeting Lou Brissie, Morrie Martin, Duke Snider and Johnny Pesky – all WWII vets. I’ve also met a few vets when they’ve been on vacation in the UK. The majority of my communication, however, has been via email and phone calls.

If so, any interesting stories you can give us?

I met Duke Snider in London, many years ago. I’d written to him and given up on expecting a reply when I received a phone call out of the blue. He said, “Hi, Gary, this is Duke Snider and I received your letter but didn’t reply because I knew I’d be in England shortly.”

After I picked myself up off the floor, we arranged to meet. I had a wonderful afternoon with Duke and his wife. One of my treasured possessions is a photograph he signed for me using his wife’s pink Sharpie!

You’ve chosen to focus on World War II. What about the other conflicts, particularly Vietnam? Any plans on expanding the site?

It’s going to take me the rest of my lifetime to even come close to completing the WWII era! I have recently added details of professional players that were killed during the Korean War and hope to do the same for the Vietnam War at some point. I guess, if this were a business rather than a hobby I might find the time to cover all conflicts.

You’ve chosen to focus on World War II. What about the other conflicts, particularly Vietnam? Any plans on expanding the site?

It’s going to take me the rest of my lifetime to even come close to completing the WWII era! I have recently added details of professional players that were killed during the Korean War and hope to do the same for the Vietnam War at some point. I guess, if this were a business rather than a hobby I might find the time to cover all conflicts.

Tell us about the blog, and why you started that?

I started the blog back in October 2009. I wanted to start writing articles that were WWII baseball focused but more current . . . celebrating anniversaries, etc. It’s grown way beyond my expectations and I love doing it. I add a new article just about every day and it gets almost as many hits as the website.

What have you learned from doing this, or more particularly, what do you know now that you didn’t know before?

I now know 133 professional baseball players lost their lives during WWII and Major League Baseball has done nothing to remember them. Do I sound a little bitter? That’s probably because I am. These guys made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. In their eyes they were Americans first and ballplayers second. In my eyes they are heroes first and foremost. Someday, MLB will do the right thing and remember these men.

What’s the most memorable /best thing you’ve learned from doing this?

The most memorable thing has to be being a keynote speaker at the When Baseball Went to War Conference at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. I got to meet Bob Feller, Johnny Pesky, Tommy Lasorda, Lou Brissie, Morrie Martin and Lenny Yochim.

Most amazing story you’ve come across?

For me, it has to be Forrest “Lefty” Brewer. Lefty was a minor league pitcher who won 25 games with St. Augustine back in 1938. He had a couple of spring trainings with the Washington Senators and was working his way through their minor league system when he was called to service.

Lefty served with the 82nd Airborne Division. He was a tough character and was involved in the Battle of La Fiere at Normandy on June 6, 1944. I’m pretty sure he gave the Germans hell before he was killed later that day.

I’m privileged to be in touch with Lefty’s brother and family and also spoke with Bill Dean, the paratrooper who was with Lefty when he was killed.

Lefty, epitomizes the sacrifice that baseball made during World War II. He has become my hero and my latest book is dedicated to him.

Any other projects in the works?

Right now I’m focusing on the blog and website although I am working with a few like-minded friends on ideas for a possible TV documentary.

You’re commissioner for a day. What do you do?

Get rid of the Designated Hitter rule and remember the 133 players who gave their lives during WWII!

What else would you like to add, about baseball, or anything in general about World War II?

Firstly, baseball is the greatest game in the world and nothing even comes close. Secondly, World War II history should be taught in greater detail to kids in school. I believe we have so much to learn from the events of WWII and yet kids are being taught nothing. I work a great deal with kids aged 16 and 17 who have just left school and they can’t even tell me what year the war ended.

Many thanks to Gary for taking the time to do this. Please take a look at his blog and his website. You will end bookmarking them and coming back.

Baseball in Wartime - the best baseball site you'll ever visit

"Baseball in Wartime serves to honor all baseball players who were with the armed forces during World War II, to ensure their service and sacrifice is remembered by future generations."

Baseball is revered as the National Pastime in the United States. Remember, it was baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and some car company. The game captures the enduring image of the American spirit. Hand-in-hand with baseball in shaping the American image is our military.

Looming largest in the combined history of the two will always be World War II, when the players united with the fans, and baseball went to war. Some of the enduring memories of that time happened not on the playing field, but on the battle field. Stars on one, heroes on the other. Baseball was the greatest game, played by the greatest generation.

As time goes by, those who served and played have begun to leave us, and few remain. The impact of what happened will fade, but will never be forgotten, nor should it. There will always be those who will ensure they that we are always aware of this time.

Baseball in Wartime is a website dedicated to the memory and legacy of those who served. Brought to us by Gary Bedingfield, a Brit who is founder and editor of the site. As Gary calls states, it was 'Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice':
World War II was a trying time for the United States and equally so for baseball. More than 4,500 professional players swapped flannels for military uniforms to serve their nation and future Hall of Famers like Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams lost vital playing time in the prime of their careers. This is the story of baseball during World War II.
A little about the website:
Baseball in Wartime is dedicated to preserving the memories of all baseball players (major league, minor league, semi-pro, college, amateur and high school), who served with the military during WW2. More than 16 million Americans and 1.1 million Canadians served with the Army, Navy, Army Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Air Force and Merchant Marine in World War II. This site aims to preserve the memories of baseball during World War II and those whose baseball-playing lives were affected in some way by serving their nation.

This website is the beginning of a long project. The intention is to include ALL information on baseball relating to the Second World war. It's a pretty tall order but I'll certainly give it a go!
At the website, Gary provides history about the war and baseball, player biographies, an In Memoriam section, and the following areas:

Baseball in WW2
Player Biographies
Those Who Served
Hall of Famers
Special Features
Service Games
Service Teams
Battle of the Bulge
Babe Ruth
Photo Galleries

Additionally, Gary has a Baseball in Wartime blog, featuring many player profiles; and a newsletter to keep us updated. Additionally, as any good writer will do, Gary has published a book, Baseball's Dead of World War II.

Who is Gary:
Hi! Welcome to my website - I hope you like what you've seen so far.

As you will have guessed by now my name is Gary Bedingfield. I live in Glasgow, Scotland and moved here four years ago from Enfield, north London. Why move 400 miles north? Well, this is where my wife, Lainy, is from, and Glasgow's a pretty good place to live.

Baseball during WWII has fascinated me for a long time - so much so that I've written a number of newspaper and magazine articles and a book on the subject.

This website is the beginning of a long project. The intention is to include ALL information on baseball relating to World War II. It's a pretty tall order and I doubt I'll see it completed in my lifetime but I'll certainly give it a go!

My intention with Baseball in Wartime is to make the site as interactive as possible. So I would love to hear from you. Tell me what you're interested in and why. I hope the website has what you're looking for, but if not I may well have the information stashed away in my extensive archives. If you're looking for information on something or someone in particular, email me the details and I'll do whatever I can to help.
Gary was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, which appear below.

Gary can be contatcted at gary@baseballinwartime.com