Diamonds in the Desert

I’ve just experienced Baseball Heaven: Four games in 4 days in the Arizona desert. Imagine Cactus League action filled with blue skies, green grass and game temperatures of 90 degrees at first pitch. Somebody please toss me an ice-cold beverage.

It seemed surreal because Willie Mays was there signing autographs. And in my desert dream, Rollie Fingers, Blue Moon Odom, George Foster and Bert Campaneris were also there putting their imprints on cowhide.  And as I awoke, I witnessed current stars compete on the field – guys like Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Jose Abreu, Jason Heyward, Josh Reddick and Jonathan Lucroy.

For my first two days in the desert, I teamed up with my friend Marty Gonzalez, who flew in from the Bay Area.

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With Marty Gonzalez at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona

Together we experienced one of the most bizarre baseball games ever. On Day 1 in the desert, the Oakland A’s blew an 8 run lead in the 9th inning, allowing the Seattle Mariners to tie the score at 11. The A’s couldn’t muster any offense in the bottom of the 9th, so the score remained locked at 11 all.

And then everybody walked off the field.

What? There are no ties in baseball.

Well apparently there are ties in Spring Training – where 9 innings is all you get, no matter the score. Since when did MLB become more like Little League? That’s a first for me.

That night, Marty and I feasted in the atmosphere at Don and Charlie’s in Scottsdale, where you’ll find the best ribs in town and a full diet of signed baseballs, pennants and jerseys from Hall of Famers.

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Baseballs galore at Don & Charlie’s in Scottsdale

On Day Two, we traveled to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, home of the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. The complex features 12 practice fields, 5,000 plants and trees including an orange grove and a five-acre lake that separates the Dodgers and White Sox team facilities. At 141 acres, it’s the largest venue in the Cactus League.

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Camelback Ranch in Glendale

Marty’s favorite feature was the life-size Tommy Lasorda bobblehead: a living shrine to the legendary Dodger manager.

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Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda

The Dodgers weren’t even playing that day, but that didn’t stop Marty from paying tribute to the man who guided the Dodgers to four National League pennants and World Series championships in 1981 and 1988.

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Together we saw the White Sox beat the Cubs 3-2 in a game in which the Northsiders produced only one hit. The White Sox have a much improved lineup, adding Todd Frazier and Austin Jackson to the mix, along with non-roster invites Jimmy Rollins and former Giant Travis Ishikawa. John Danks got the win for the Pale Hose, surrendering no earned runs in five innings pitched. Kyle Hendricks looked sharp for the Cubs, giving up just one earned run in five innings with three strikeouts and no walks.

Marty left that night and my son Matt flew in from Southern California. On Day 3, we discovered Tempe Diablo Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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Baseball Between Us

Matt took a lot of heat from his friends on social media for wearing a Los Angeles Clippers cap. I couldn’t resist joining in the fun.

“Why are you wearing that ugly blue Clippers hat? I asked.

“I’ve have always liked the Clippers,” he explained. “They are my second favorite basketball team after the Sacramento Kings,” he said. “Plus all my baseball hats are at home in Sacramento,” he added. “Maybe you can bring them next time you come to visit.”

Great. I’ve always wanted to be a hat chauffeur.

The Tempe Diablo Stadium seats 9,315 people and overlooks the scenic Marriott Buttes Resort. The playing surface is Bermuda natural grass. The Angels have been training there since 1993.

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Home of the Angels

In the 3rd inning of our game, the Angels batted around the order with Albert Pujols crushing two home runs in the frame to lead the Halos to a 15-7 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

After the game, we headed to Scottsdale for my second visit to Don and Charlie’s. The ribeye steak was delicious, but even sweeter was watching Willie Mays sign autographs in the lobby. The Giants Hall of Famer was mobbed by fans who stood in line 30 deep to pay $200 for a signed baseball or $500 for a signed bat. The prices were too steep for me so I took this free picture instead:

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Willie Mays signing autographs

Next it was on to Old Town Scottsdale for a look at the historic downtown, which features scenes from the wild, wild West. Scottsdale is also my wife’s hometown, so we had to make a visit.

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Scottsdale, Arizona

Old Town has a scenic walking path that takes you to the Performing Arts Center, museums and other attractions including a trio of bronze horses.

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Horses in Scottsdale

On Day 4 of our adventure, my wife called to recommend a road trip. “You have to visit Desert Botanical Garden,” she said. “You’ll love it.”

Located in Phoenix not far from the zoo, Desert Botanical Garden is an outdoor museum with five trails that wind through more than 50,000 living plants. Since 1939, the Garden has showcased wildflowers and conservation with a fabulous display of cactus from around the world.

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We hiked the desert trails early in the morning to avoid the heat, then headed to Mesa to see the Oakland A’s once again, this time hosting the Chicago White Sox. Outfielder/1st Baseman Jerry Sands hit two home runs to lead the Sox to victory 6-2. Sands may benefit from the sudden departure of Adam LaRoche, who retired from baseball because the White Sox wouldn’t let him bring his 14-year old son to team workouts every day.

Hey I know it’s Spring Training, but what if all 40 players brought their kids to work – it would get crowded in a hurry and somebody would probably get hurt. LaRoche walked away from a $13 million contract to spend exclusive quality time with his family. That’s heartwarming but come on Adam – how many businesses can you name that allow employees to bring their kids to work every day? You don’t think that might be a distraction to other players who are trying to focus on baseball?

At Hohokam Stadium, it was fun to see former A’s players Rollie Fingers, Blue Moon Odom and Bert Campaneris signing autographs, along with George Foster of Cincinnati Reds fame.

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Rollie Fingers

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Fingers, Foster and Campy ready for autographs

Fans were eager to get a signed baseball for $50 a pop, far less than what Willie Mays commands, but then Willie is in a league all by himself.

After the game, Matt and I drove to the airport and said goodbye to our diamonds in the desert. Hopefully we’ll be back again next year to visit some different parks in the Cactus League. And who knows – perhaps there’s a sequel to Baseball Between Us in the future!

 

 

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KC Royals Takes The Crown

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals – your 2015 World Champions. They were resilient – never say die. They were relentless – the comeback kids. Down 2-0 in the top of the 9th against Matt Harvey and somehow scored two runs to tie the game. Only to score 5 more in the top of the 12th.

The Royals came from behind 8 times this postseason. They beat the Mets in 5, after this blogger incorrectly predicted New York in 5. It just goes to show Yogi Berra was right. “In baseball,” he said – “You don’t know nothin’.”

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World Series Prediction

Mets Will Mash the Royals in 5

Good pitching always beats good hitting.

Madison Bumgarner proved that last year by clinching three of the four victories San Francisco needed to win the World Series against Kansas City.

Now the Royals are back, hungrier than ever after leaving the tying run on third base against the Giants in 2014. This year, the Royals are resilient. They scored three come-from-behind victories against the pesky Houston Astros in the American League Division Series. But the Royals are about to get flushed.

That’s because the New York Mets have the best pitching staff in the world. In their first seven postseason games, Mets pitchers lit up the radar gun at 95 mph exactly 41% of the time, according to baseballsavant.com. Most Major League teams have one ace. The Mets have three:

Matt Harvey, who will start Game 1:

matt harvey

followed by Jacob deGrom in Game 2 and the six-foot six Noah Syndergaard in Game 3. All three throw high heat. In fact, baseballsavant.com notes they hit 95 mph 22% of the time they pitched. By contrast, no other MLB team could hit 95 mph even 15% of the time.

The Mets will be well rested and well tested this World Series, having handily beaten two formidable teams – the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Do the Royals have a chance against the best arms in baseball? Well consider this: the Royals hit .284 against pitches thrown at 95 mph or higher – the best in baseball – according to baseballsavant.com. But even if Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain are able to make contact against the mighty Mets, they can’t get past the guy who is arguably the best closer in baseball – Jeurys Familia, who appeared in 76 games this year, shredding hitters with a miniscule 1.85 ERA.

Kansas City has solid relievers in Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. But their starting rotation of Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura and Johnny Cueto don’t match up to the top three for the Amazin’ Mets.  New York has yet another weapon in 24-year old Steven Matz. The rookie pitcher was 4-0 this year with a 2.27 ERA and he’s scheduled to start Game 4.

And then there’s this guy named Murphy. The Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy is the first player in MLB history to homer in six consecutive postseason games. The Mets have all the MoJo this year.

I can see the Mets sweeping the Royals in four games – but KC is too scrappy to get shut out. So I’ll say the Mets in 5 games. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Can Cubs Go Back To The Future?

The last time the Cubs won the World Series was 1908. That’s 107 years ago for anyone counting. But hey – anyone can have a bad century!

But can the Cubs break the Curse of the Billy Goat this year? The curse dates back to 1945 when a Chicago bar owner by the name of Billy Sianis was banned from the Wrigley Field ballpark when he tried to sneak in his pet goat into a World Series game. Fans complained about the stinky goat and the team kicked Billy out of the park. The owner of the Billy Goat Tavern vowed revenge, declaring, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

The goat wasn’t the only thing that stunk up the place. The 1945 Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers and have never been back to the World Series ever since that fateful encounter with a goat.

In 2015 the New York Mets stand in the way of a Cubs team making the World Series. But one thing going for Cubbies is a movie prediction. In the 1989 movie, “Back to the Future Part II”, the Cubs actually win the 2015 World Series.

Ironically, the screenwriter was a guy named Bob Gale – a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Gale tried dreaming up the most improbable scenario for a movie about the future and realized that the Cubs winning the 2015 World Series was a plot no one could ever predict or would ever believe. See movie clip below:

Back To The Future

In a recent interview with ESPN, Gale said, “It’s a double joke because they win the World Series against Miami – which didn’t have Major League Baseball in 1989…but we were predicting there would be a Major League team in Miami.”

By the way, Universal Pictures is releasing the 30th anniversary Back To The Future three-pack on Tuesday, October 20.

It would be fun the see the Cubs break the Curse. The 2015 Cubs have an important Sacramento connection on their roster – pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Chris Bosio Photos - 2013/02/18 @ Mesa, AZ

 

Bosio played ball at Cordova High School and Sacramento City College. In the Majors, he threw a No-Hitter  for the Seattle Mariners on April 22, 1993. He began coaching baseball in 1998 and taught my son how to pitch when Matt was in Arden Little League.

So for all those reason I’m rooting for the Cubs to win it all.  Maybe this is the year the Cubs will go Back To The Future.

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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

 

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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.

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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