Monday, October 19, 2009

History Makers--The Picture Of The Day

There is so much Major League Baseball History represented in this one photo from a late season game between The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals played on September 16th, 1963. With two weeks left in the '63 campaign, The Dodgers were holding on to a slim one game lead for the National League Pennant. Yet the outcome of this game (an L.A. Win) played at the soon to be replaced Sportsman's Park in St. Louis is not what is compelling. What is remarkable about this otherwise mundane in-game photo is that all but one person clearly depicted in uniform played a significant historical role in baseball history. And the one that didn't eventually became The Captain of The Washington Senators--and was involved in the best trade the Expansion Nats ever made. The one that brought My Favorite Player Of All-Time!!, Frank Howard, to the Nation's Capital in 1965.

I love this photo for the History Makers depicted. And not all of the sagas they represent are pleasant ones.

Here's why.

Number 11 with his back to the photographer in this shot is none other than Ken McMullen, the heart and some would say, the soul of the Washington Senators from 1965 through early 1970. The team of my youth. McMullen was a good third baseman with good pop in his bat. And when Senators Owner Bob Short traded Ken away for Aurelio Rodriguez and Rick Reichardt to The California Angels--the official dismantling of Washington's Major League Team truly began.

But wait--there is so much more to follow.

Bending over on the mound picking something up is Johnny Roseboro. The very Dodger catcher who replaced Roy Campanella behind the plate in 1958 when Campy was involved in the horrific car accident which paralyzed the three time NL MVP and ended his career. Roseboro would also be involved in the most violent ON-FIELD incident between two players in Major League History. A well known fracas documented in a special television program currently running on the MLB Network. On August 22, 1965 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco--Roseboro was upset with San Francisco Giants Pitcher (and eventual Hall Of Famer) Juan Marichal. Earlier in that game, Marichal had thrown brushback pitches to Dodgers Maury Wills & Ron Fairly. Roseboro wanted his pitcher--eventual Hall Of Famer Sandy Koufax--to throw his pitches directly at Marichal standing at the plate. The gentlemanly Koufax refused. Upset about no retaliation and taking business into his own hands, Roseboro whizzed his return tosses to Sandy RIGHT PAST Juan Marichal's face. Not taking kindly to Roseboro's too close for comfort throws, Marichal, out of nowhere, raised his baseball bat above his head and proceeded to pummel Roseboro's noggin.

Three times Juan Marichal pounded Roseboro's head with his baseball bat, opening up a huge gash that required 14 stitches and started one of the biggest brawls in baseball history. Roseboro survived, played for five more seasons, and ended his career in 1970 as a catcher for The Washington Senators. Marichal was suspended for nine games in 1965 by The National League and fined--what is today--a ludicrously small amount of dollars ($1750) and was banned from playing at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the remainder of that season.

Number 6 standing on the mound is none other than Ron Fairly himself. Roseboro's Dodger Teammate and eventual unwilling participant in The Marichal Beaning. But what is interesting about Fairly is that in 1969 he would be traded by Los Angeles to The Expansion Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) for none other than Maury Wills. The other unwilling participant and his one time teammate in The Marichal Beaning Game. Ron Fairly would play 21 seasons in The Major Leagues. Fairly would become the very first player to ever play for both Canadian Franchises (Montreal & Toronto). And be the only player EVER to be an All-Star for The Expos and The Blue Jays.

The Dodger Pitcher on the mound is Johnny Podres. The winning pitcher in Game 7 of The 1955 World Series. The only time The Brooklyn Dodgers won The World's Championship. The most satisfying moment for any Brooklyn Dodger Fan and The Boys Of Summer. A long awaited Series victory over their arch rival in the American League--The New York Yankees.

Number 24 in Dodger Gray Away Wool is Walter Alston. Hall of Fame Manager who led The Brooklyn Dodgers to their only World Series Championship. Then, led The Los Angeles Dodgers to three more World Series Wins and five total National League Pennants after The Dodgers headed west to Southern California after the 1957 season. Alston would manage The Dodgers Franchise their last four years in Brooklyn and their first 19 in Los Angeles.

The St. Louis Cardinals player wearing Number 21 is Curt Flood, one of the most important figures for player's rights in Baseball History. A Gold Glove Outfielder, Flood was traded by The Cardinals to The Philadelphia Phillies in late 1969. Flood refused to report claiming Baseball's Reserve Clause (which retained a player's right in perpetuity to the team that originally signed them) was tantamount to slavery. When then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn declined to allow Curt Flood Free Agency (an unknown territory for baseball players at that time), Flood filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball and sat out the entire 1970 Season. Eventually, Curt Flood would lose his case 5-3 in The Supreme Court of The United States. But ground had been broken and a new era of rights for baseball players was soon to follow.

Flood would NEVER receive any of the fruits of his hard fought labor war. Yet every single baseball player that followed in his footsteps did. In 1975, The Reserve Clause was struck down for good by Federal Arbitrator Peter Seitz. A new era had begun in Major League Baseball. Higher and Higher salaries for players was just around the corner. To really understand Flood's importance, a must read is the excellent book written by Brad Snyder that covers Flood's plight and life: A Well-Paid Slave.

As for Curt Flood, he would finish his baseball career in 1971 after 13 games with, yes, The Washington Senators. Feeling he was no longer capable of playing and having lost the passion for the sport, Flood skipped out on The Senators and took a flight to Spain--where he stayed for a number years while running a bar in Mallorca. Curt Flood battled alcoholism for a number years before turning his life around. But sadly, died of throat cancer in 1997 at the age of 59. Every single baseball player today owes Curt Flood homage for giving up everything in his life--leading to all the benefits players receive today.

Finally--Ken McMullen, Johnny Roseboro, Ron Fairly, Johnny Podres, Walter Alston and Curt Flood--all pictured in the above photo--won a total of 16 World Series Rings between them. And when this game was played that late September night in 1963--The Great Stan Musial was winding down his illustrious Hall Of Fame Career. He would retire at the end of this season. And just three batters before this picture was taken, "Stan The Man" had cranked out the 475th and FINAL Home Run of his wonderful career off Johnny Podres.

And oh--one more thing. The 1st Baseman for The St. Louis Cardinals this night (but not pictured here) was Bill White. The seven time Gold Glove Award Winner who would become the very first African-American President of The National League in 1989. The highest ranking minority executive in sports--at that time.

History Makers--The Picture Of The Day.

Life Magazine Photo Copyright--Time, Inc. (Photographer--Robert W. Kelley)

1 comment:

3rdStoneFromTheSun said...

awesome pic and interesting idea