It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Yogi Berra was one of my Yankee heroes. As a kid, I loved watching him play at Yankee Stadium, anchoring my beloved Bronx Bombers behind the plate, or slamming a bad pitch over the short right field fence.

Yogi won ten World Series championships – more than any other player in baseball history. Even the great Joe Dimaggio sported just nine rings, while the legendary Lou Gehrig had but eight. Mickey Mantle matched his number 7 with with seven world titles, the same as Babe Ruth.

But I loved Yogi most for his witty “Yogisms” – even more than his on-field exploits. Who could argue the logic of “You can observe a lot just by watching,” or “If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.”

One time Yogi was asked what he would do if he found a bag with a million dollars in it. “Well I’d find out who it belonged to,” said Yogi, “And if he was poor, I’d give it back to him.”

Yogi was always a mentor in the Yankee clubhouse, offering sage advice to the rookies. He told them, “Never answer an anonymous letter.” And “Never buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.”

But my favorite Yogi story goes something like this. Yogi was home with his wife Carmen and she asked him, “Yogi where do you want to be buried?”

“What do you mean?” Yogi asked.

“Well,” she said. “You were born in St. Louis. You played for the New York Yankees. And you live in New Jersey. So where do you want your final resting place to be?”

Yogi pondered the question for a moment. “Carmen,” he said, “Surprise me.”

There’s a hole in the universe now that he’s gone. As Yogi would say, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

I will miss his wit, his dedication to the Yankees and his love for baseball. MLB network put together this nice tribute to Yogi. It’s called “8 minutes In Honor of Number 8.”

Enjoy – Or as Yogi once said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”

Click on the link below:

8 Minutes In Honor Of Number 8


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Cubs No-Hit Dodgers

I’ve never seen a No-Hitter in person.

After attending more than 500 live baseball games in my lifetime, I’ve never actually been to  a No-No. But tonight I got to experience one vicariously.

Because as Jake Arrieta of the Cubs was striking out 12 batters tonight en route to a No-Hitter against the Dodgers, my daughter Sarah and my son Matt were in the crowd. They were in different parts of Dodger Stadium, but we were all in touch throughout the game, sending pictures as history was unfolding. Matt snapped this picture of the sun setting on the Dodgers from the first base side:

Sunset view of No-Hitter from Dodger Stadium.

Sunset view of No-Hitter from Dodger Stadium.

Sarah captured this view from high above third base as the Cubs recorded the final out for a 2-0 victory.

Cubs celebrate history.

Cubs celebrate history.

Chase Utley was the Dodgers’ last hope in the 9th to break up the No-No but instead he went down on strikes:

Utley strikes out to end the game.

Utley strikes out to end the game.

And then the celebration began:

Cubs cheer while Dodgers lament their 2nd No-No in 9 days.

Cubs cheer while Dodgers lament their 2nd No-No in 9 days.

Jake Arrieta now has the most wins in baseball with 17. Arrieta hurled the 293rd No-hitter in Major League history – 249 of those are from baseball’s so-called “modern era” dating back to 1901.

Jake Arrieta now has 17 wins, the most in baseball.

Jake Arrieta now has 17 wins, the most in baseball.

Sarah told me, “I was really hoping he’d do it. It was pretty awesome to see something like that – I’m proud of his perfection, it made me feel stronger.”

Matt said, “I can’t believe you’ve never seen a No-Hitter before.” The rest of his words were cut off by the subway train as he descended underground.

Arrieta’s No-Hitter is the 6th one this year. Yet somehow I’ve never been lucky enough to be in the right stadium at the right time to witness history.

Now both kids have one up on me and I couldn’t be prouder.                                                  We will always have Baseball Between Us.



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cubs No-Hit Dodgers

Renfree Field To Come Alive Again

A revival is under way in Sacramento. A team of baseball enthusiasts from Sacramento’s past is working hard to revitalize a park that could be a big part of the city’s future. Renfree Field, once a jewel in Sacramento’s baseball history, today sits abandoned by time and desecrated by vandals who tried to steal copper wire from the electrical lines. A 2012 fire burned the press box and concession stand, leaving just a shell of a ballpark.

Renfree Field Today

Renfree Field today.

But that is about to change, thanks to the vision of Leon Lee, a Sacramento baseball legend who played seven years in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system before becoming a star in Japan. Lee also served as a consultant for the 1992 movie Mr. Baseball, starring Tom Selleck: Mr. Baseball Trailer

Lee’s vision to revitalize Renfree Field is no Hollywood dream. It’s rooted in Sacramento.

Renfree Field is now just an essentially abandoned city park.

Renfree Field is now a virtually abandoned city park.

Lee told me about his plans during a recent visit to the Limelight – a restaurant that celebrates Sacramento’s baseball history. “The reason I was interested,” he said, is because of “council member and now vice mayor Allen Warren.” Lee explained that Warren asked him to take over the Renfree rebuilding project. “The main interest is just the history behind Renfree Field,” Lee said.

Harry Renfree Field was born in 1967 as Sacramento’s first ballpark with lights and it quickly became a showcase for area talent, featuring Derrek Lee (Leon’s son) of Sacramento’s El Camino High School, who later won a World Series championship with the Florida Marlins in 2003. Former L.A. Dodger Steve Sax (James Marshall High School in West Sacramento) played there too, along with one-time New York Yankee Nick Johnson (McClatchy High School in Sacramento).

Renfree Field today, in need of repair.

Renfree Field to get big makeover.

“And once we got the investors involved, it looked like we could build a really family-friendly community baseball field for higher-level competitions,” Lee told me. “And now it’s getting ready to come to fruition.”

Sacramento baseball legend Leon Lee.

Sacramento baseball legend Leon Lee.

“The groundbreaking right now we’re projecting to be right around mid-June,” Lee explained. Look for the park to be completed in early November, said Lee. “And we’ll be ready to operate for all the high schools and spring activities in the spring. And we’re planning a Minor League fall program there. They’re going to have a developmental fall league for 35-40 games in the fall,” Lee told me. “Hopefully the fans will come out and enjoy it and have a good night and not even eat a hot dog – they might even eat a steak,” he said with a laugh.

“So what’s the field going to look like?” I asked.

“Well when you drive up you’ll see a beautiful plaza,” Lee said. “There’s going to be a street lined with nice palm trees. It’ll be a nice facade out there. You almost get a feeling like you’re walking into the old Wrigley Field.”

Rendering of the new Renfree Field

Rendering of the new Renfree Field.

Lee told me the park would have more than three thousand seats for the fans. The stadium will include “premium seats behind home plate,” Lee said, along with “outfield bleachers for the bleacher bums.” Imagine a venue with music, mascots and a majestic baseball diamond that will keep Sacramento’s legacy alive.

“At one time,” Lee told me, “we had five Major League managers in the big leagues from Sacramento at the same time.” Baseball legends Dusty Baker, Larry Bowa, Jerry Manuel, Jerry Royster and Buck Martinez all have roots in Sacramento.

Lee’s dream includes a museum honoring the Sacramento region’s biggest baseball stars. “Well you can remember guys like myself,” Lee laughed. You can add Leon Lee’s brother Leron to that list, along with his son Derrek. Throw in Greg Vaughn, Roland Office, Steve Sax, Jermaine Dye (Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville) , Dustin Pedroia (Woodland High School) , Darren Oliver, Chris Bosio, Butch Metzger plus the aforementioned player/managers and you’ve assembled a top-notch team.

So who’s involved in the project besides Lee? Start with Phil Swimley, the long-time baseball coach at UC Davis.  Also, Dusty Baker, Jerry Manuel and Greg Vaughn are all on the advisory board for Renfree Field.

The history museum will connect kids from today with names from the past. “We want to recognize all the old ex-professional players that actually went through Harry Renfree,” Lee said. “This is what this field is going to be all about.”

And if you’re interested in baseball history, I’ll have some fun stories to tell and also a book signing for “Baseball Between Us”:

Baseball Between Us

at Sacramento’s Limelight (1014 Alhambra Blvd.) on Friday, June 12 from 5-7 p.m.

Or you can catch me at Barnes & Noble/Arden Fair Mall on Saturday, June 13 from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.

Just in time for Father’s Day.

Hope to see you there!






Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Renfree Field To Come Alive Again

Sacramento’s Limelight: A Slice of Baseball Heaven

Sacramento’s baseball history runs deep, going back to 1899 when a team named after a local brewery, known as Ruhstaller played in the Capital City. Today you can taste Ruhstaller beer while drinking in stories about local legends at the Limelight, where Sacramento’s baseball history comes alive on Alhambra Boulevard.

A new baseball exhibit at the Limelight is drawing patrons hungry for a place to talk about Sacramento’s rich roots in hardball that date back to the 19th century. Owner John Mikacich has added dozens of vintage photographs and artworks celebrating Sacramento’s baseball origins.

Sacramento baseball celebrated at the Limelight

Sacramento baseball history comes to life at the Limelight

Mikacich collaborated with his good friend and baseball buddy Joe McNamara in launching the baseball exhibit. Both of their fathers loved to play baseball while growing up in Sacramento. Joe McNamara has a strong personal connection to the game – his uncle John McNamara, a Sacramento native, was a big league manager for sixteen years.

“He managed six different teams,” McNamara told me over a delicious lunch of Snapper tacos at the Limelight.

Angels skipper John McNamara and Reggie Jackson

Angels skipper John McNamara with Reggie Jackson

“And he sums up to me what baseball’s all about. Baseball’s about heartbreak,” McNamara said. “You know only one team wins in the end. And my uncle for all his success is remembered chiefly for one play.”

That play is one of the most infamous in baseball history – an episode that Red Sox fans, despite winning three World Series championships this century, still curse to this day.

“He was managing the Boston Red Sox in 1986,” McNamara explained. “They were one strike away from winning the World Series (against the New York Mets). One strike away – foul ball, foul ball, ground ball, wild pitch – before you know it the ball’s going through (Bill) Buckner’s legs and they lose Game 6.”

Red Sox fans are all too familiar with what happened next. “They go on to lose Game 7 as well,” McNamara added. “But everyone remembered that play. And most baseball people believe that John should have taken Buckner out and put a defensive player in as he had done in the past.”

But of course, that’s not what happened. “He didn’t do it for a number of reasons,
McNamara told me. “And he’s always going to be remembered for that and that’s sad.”

But baseball fans can hear a different story at the Limelight. “So part of what we want to do at the Limelight is to show that huge career he had,” McNamara said passionately. “And the impact he had on so many people coming up playing baseball.”

At the Limelight you’ll find a 1968 photograph of John McNamara in an Oakland A’s uniform, along with the legendary Joe DiMaggio, who served as a consultant to the team, in order to remain eligible for Major League Baseball’s  maximum pension.

Oakland A's Manager John McNamara with Joe DiMaggio

Oakland A’s Manager John McNamara with Joe DiMaggio

It’s part of the baseball history that McNamara and Mikacich are hoping to share with Sacramento. “If you come into the cafe side of the room, “McNamara noted, “you can take an entire tour of the history of Sacramento baseball, going back to 1899. The first team was actually named after a brewery, so it fits that you’re in a bar like this. And they even sell Ruhstaller beer in her too.”

McNamara pointed to the vintage photos on the wall.

Vintage photos of Sacramento's baseball history

Vintage photos of Sacramento’s baseball history

“So you can walk around and see all the incredible legends that played for the Solons,” he said. “And remember the Solons had different versions of the team over the years. They were the Cardinals for a while, then the Solons, and then they were even playing at Hughes Stadium, if you recall in the 70’s and they wore shorts.”

And inside the cafe room are the “amazing artifacts that exist – baseball cards, programs,” McNamara said. “Back in the day when people took the time to do stuff correctly because they loved it. And it really manifests itself in the beautiful artifacts and the art.”

Baseball programs and other artifacts

Baseball programs and other artifacts

“And I have to say that Jane Mikacich, who is John’s sister, is also a local artist,” McNamara said. “She did an amazing job putting together these (programs), which were originals – she made copies of them but actually made them better. And they all tell stories about Sacramento baseball.”

A big part of the Limelight’s transformation involves baseball writers. The goal is invite them in for book signings and have them tell stories about baseball. Baseball writer Andrew Baggarly was the Limelight’s guest speaker last Friday, May 8 and he entertained more than 100 fans who were enthralled by his inside story of the 2010 San Francisco Giants, the team that  won it all. His book, “A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants”, chronicles the team’s unlikely ascent to baseball’s top spot (see link to book here): A Band of Misfits

Baggarly ended up selling about 70 books. “He wanted to say thank you too,” McNamara said. “Because a lot of those Giants people really appreciate the support they get from Sacramento. And that’s part of it.”

As it turns out, Baggarly’s timing was perfect because two Giants – Hunter Pence and Travis Ishikawa were playing with the River Cats that night – on rehab assignments.

Baggarly is the Giants beat writer for the Bay Area News Group. “It’s his day off,” McNamara told me. “He comes to Sacramento to sign books. Hunter Pence gets a start at Raley Field and Travis Ishikawa. So it’s great timing for him – meant to be.”

Storytelling is just part of the Limelight magic that McNamara and Mikacich are trying to recreate. “It is an historic joint,” McNamara stated. “This place has been here since prohibition. It was across the street from the great Alhambra Theatre.  It was actually called the Alhambra Café at one time and another connection – Larry Bowa, the baseball player – his uncle owned this place before Pete and Barbara (Mikacich) bought it in the 1970’s.”

McNamara added, “The food is tremendous.  It’s terrific and it’s always being revised. It’s a good place to have a beer because it’s right on the cusp between downtown and East Sacramento. It’s very classy when you come in here. A lot of people used to call it ‘The Slimelight’.  And it had a bad reputation for a while. But no longer. It’s as clean as a whistle and it’s almost like eating in a museum.  But people can come down here and feel a connection to Sacramento. A connection by – instead of just having a picture of the Capitol on the wall – stories about Sacramentans. So you really feel you’re in a Sacramento joint. And if people are visiting they feel like they are in a Sacramento place.”

The Limelight has invited me to be a guest speaker next month and do a book signing for “Baseball Between Us,” just in time for Father’s Day: Baseball Between Us.

Hope you can join me at the Limelight in June (tentative date Friday, June 12) for a chance to talk baseball.





Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Sacramento’s Limelight: A Slice of Baseball Heaven

Jerry Manuel Voted Into Sacramento’s Baseball Hall of Fame

Hundreds of baseball fans and many former players cheered Saturday night, as legendary manager Jerry Manuel was inducted into Sacramento’s Baseball Hall of Fame. Manuel played ball for Cordova High School under longtime coach Guy Anderson before becoming the number one draft pick for the Detroit Tigers in 1972. His five year Major League career also included stays with the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres.

But Manuel is perhaps best known as a Major League manager for the Chicago White Sox from 1998 – 2004 and then the New York Mets from 2008 – 2010. He also established the Jerry Manuel Foundation to offer baseball training and schooling to kids who need a fresh start in life.

Image 2

Manuel was the keynote speaker at the La Salle Club’s 61st Annual Hall of Fame Dinner at Christian Brothers High School, where he spoke of the importance of giving back to the Sacramento community. “It’s a tremendous passion and it’s life’s lessons,” he said.  “I mean we grow in baseball. We love it. It feeds itself . It humbles us, just like regular life.”

Manuel was inducted into the Class of 2015, which includes former New York Yankee great Joe Gordon,who later became a  player-manager with the Sacramento Solons. He died in 1978 and was honored posthumously at Saturday night’s ceremony. Also honored was Greg Orr, a scout for the New York Yankees and Don Lyle, a scout for the Cleveland Indians.

Six other Sacramento area players were also added to the Hall of Fame: Joe Viega, Manny Perry, Leon Brown, Eddie Cervantes and Randy Zanze.

“It is quite an honor to be connected with this city and to be inducted into such an exclusive class, ” Manuel said. “It’s tremendous to see all the old players.  Friends that you grew up playing with.”

Manuel gave a special shout out to his good friend Leon Lee, another Sacramento baseball Hall of Famer.  “We golf all the time,” Manuel said. “I let him win,” he added with a smile.

Manuel also paid tribute to his friend and fellow Sacramento Hall of Famer, Dusty Baker. “It’s like Dusty said to me, ‘When you’re from Sacramento, you’re a homey.'” Manuel noted, ” So I’m going in with some pretty good homeys. We will challenge anybody – right homeys.”

Manuel told the crowd he was appreciative of being recognized as one of Sacramento’s best in the world of baseball. “To go into the Hall of Fame in baseball in Sacramento,” he said. “You’re (really) going into something, so thank you.”






Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jerry Manuel Voted Into Sacramento’s Baseball Hall of Fame

A baseball legend passes away

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub has died at the age of 83. I remember watching him play both in person and on TV.  He played with heart and passion every single game. We will miss you Ernie Banks.

Major League Baseball has the story of one of the greatest shortstops ever:

Ernie Banks Bio

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A baseball legend passes away

World Series Prediction

It’s hard to handicap the World Series. After all, who can predict the unpredictable? Both the Giants and the Royals defied expectations and the odds to make it here as Wild Card teams – the first time that has happened since 2002.

The Royals have momentum. They’ve won 8 straight postseason games this year – something no team has ever done before. But the Giants have magic. They won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, so if you believe in patterns, then this is their year.

Kansas City has speed on the base paths in Lorenzo Cain, who hit .301 this season with 28 steals. Jarrod Dyson swiped 36 as a reserve outfielder.

But San Francisco has power pitching in the fab four of Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy. Bum hasn’t given up a run on the road in 26 and 2/3 innings. This season has been most improbable. Who would ever believe the Giants could win the pennant without Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum throwing a pitch in the playoffs?

However, if the Royals bunt, steal and sacrifice their way to a lead  after 6 innings, they will be tough to beat. Their bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland have been lights out in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

The Giants will counter with the Killer P’s: Posey, Pence and the Panda. Throw in DH Michael Morse and you’ve got a lineup with some real pop.

Here’s a look at how the two teams match up, player to player:

Position by Position Comparison

My prediction: the Giants over the Royals in 5. Kansas City could surprise everyone, but that would be odd. After all, it’s an even year.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on World Series Prediction

Post Season Predictions

The Oakland A’s can breathe a sigh of relief. They made it to the postseason, although just barely. Fans in Seattle were hoping for a face-off on Monday against the boys in Green and Gold, but there will be no Game 163 at Safeco Field.


Back in April, I picked the A’s to meet the Cardinals in the World Series. Both teams are in the postseason hunt, but it doesn’t feel like the A’s have the magic this year, after a colossal second half collapse. Still, I like the prospect of Jon Lester on the mound against the KC Royals, in a one-game play-in. But that’s as far as Oakland will go.

Can the Giants pull off another even-year miracle (as in 2010, 2012) or will the Pirates make them walk the plank? I don’t see the Giants advancing very far and while some baseball analysts are picking Washington to win it all: World Series Winner  I’m not one of them. Sure they’ve got a guy who just pitched a No-Hitter in Jordan Zimmerman: Nats Pitch First No-No Ever But the Nationals have never even been to a World Series before and I don’t seem them winning it all. Too much inexperience.

In the National League, I’m sticking with the Cardinals and their fearsome foursome of Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn. Over in the American League, I’ll take the Angels to win the pennant with their balanced lineup featuring Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and David Freese. The latter two helped St. Louis win a World Series in 2011. The Angels have two solid starters in Jared Weaver and C. J. Wilson, along with a fantastic relief corps in Jason Grilli and closer Houston Street.

As for the World Series, I’ll take the Cards over the Angels in 6.

Busch Stadium

Busch Stadium

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post Season Predictions

Baseball Team Rallies ‘Round Player Whose Mom Was Murdered

In near triple-digit heat Heather Frederick and Carlton Walker were 
staying cool in the shade of a fireworks stand on Rio Linda's M 
Street. Both are team parents of teenagers under the guidance of the
Jerry Manuel Foundation, a baseball charter school in Elverta. 
JMF has been actively training urban kids to be leaders both on
and off the baseball field.
Fireworks Fundraiser

Fireworks Fundraiser

All this week, the fireworks stand is also providing relief to the 
family of Jaelyn Williams, a player whose mother was murdered in her 
Sacramento home last April. Jaelyn's father is not in the picture, 
so the young man moved to San Diego to live with his grandfather. 
But the team - and the Foundation have not forgotten Jaelyn or
the loss of his mother Alyssa Williams, who also served as the 
team mom.

"It was devastating," Walker told KCRA 3. "My son and Jaelyn were 
good friends and he said, 'Dad I can't believe what just happened,' 
and I said, 'it's part of life son. You know we don't wish those 
types of things on people but things happen,'".

But Walker, Frederick and other parents are now trying to turn a 
negative into a positive, by holding a fireworks fundraiser to 
benefit Jaelyn. "So we're giving back to the community, which is 
Jaelyn," Frederick told KCRA 3. "The profits we are going
to give to him to help offset the costs for the tragic loss. 
Our mission is child, family, community."
Jerry Manuel Foundation

Jerry Manuel Foundation

And so far, business is good. "As of right now we've raised about 
$1,200" Frederick said. "The goal is to raise $10,000, which we can 
donate $5,000 to Jaelyn" after expenses to TNT for the fireworks are 
paid off, Frederick explained.

When the team learned of Alyssa Williams' death back in April, 
"the boys were very shocked because all the boys knew her," 
Frederick told KCRA 3. "So it was really sad but they went to 
Jaelyn's aid and Jaelyn went to them for help."

But the fireworks fundraiser is part of JMF's mission, 
"to give back to the community," Walker said. "Jerry Manuel has 
given back to the community. He's been a tremendous help to a number 
of kids in the community that come from all over. And
it's a great program to be involved in."

Jerry Manuel was a baseball prodigy at Cordova High School who 
later managed the Chicago White Sox from 1998 - 2003 and the 
New York Mets from 2008 - 2010. In addition to working with 
Sacramento area teens, Manuel is also launching a baseball
program at William Jessup University in Rocklin, where he is the 
director of baseball operations. His wife Renette and son Anthony 
are both on the board of directors for the Jerry Manuel Foundation.

The fireworks fundraiser is sending an important lifeline to Jaelyn 
and his teammates. "Definitely life's lessons," Walker said. 
"To help somebody else when they need help," Walker told KCRA 3.

The fireworks display is located at 416 M Street in Rio Linda and 
will be staffed by volunteers from the Jerry Manuel Foundation 
through the 4th of July.
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Baseball Team Rallies ‘Round Player Whose Mom Was Murdered

Baseball’s Zip Code Wars

Who do you love?

In baseball, zip codes can reveal with surprising accuracy, which team has the most local fans, as this article from the New York Times reveals in colorful detail:Zip Code Wars

The interactive maps are right on target, showing the dividing line in California between Dodger fans and Giants Fans is Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County:Giants/Dodgers

In the Bay Area, the Giants dominate of course, even in Alameda County, home of the Oakland A’s. The Giants are more popular than the A’s by a 59% – 18% margin even in the neighborhoods surrounding the O.Co Coliseum:  Giants/A’s

In New York of course, the Yankees own the town, with more fans than the upstart Mets in all 5 boroughs, even Queens, where the Metropolitans play: Yankees/Mets. The Yanks have a 53% -25% margin of victory even at Citi Field, home of the Mets.

And growing up in Connecticut, I can tell you the state is deeply divided between Yankee fans and Red Sox faithful. As this map shows, Yankees/Red Sox,  Red Sox Nation includes eastern Connecticut where my sister lives, while the Bronx Bombers dominate western Connecticut, where my brother lives.

In Chicago the Cubs may rule, but the White Sox don’t drool. In fact they have solid support on the south side as you’ll see here: Cubs/White Sox.

It’s fun to see baseball’s rivalries in living color.




Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Baseball’s Zip Code Wars