web analytics
October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Farewell To Four Baseball Legends


            Ernie Harwell, Bob Sheppard, George Steinbrenner, Ralph Houk – four legendary men long associated with baseball, all of whom died during this baseball season.

 

Harwell, who voiced baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, died in May at 92. Sheppard, who became the voice of Yankee Stadium in 1951, was almost when his voice fell silent in July. Steinbrenner, who had great timing, turned 80 on the Fourth of July and died nine days later on the eve of the All-Star Game.

 

Houk was 90 when he died last month and would have made the most interesting book. Each was worthy of separate columns and maybe over the course of time we’ll do just that. For now, though, a few memories.

 

Last November at the Yankees fantasy camp in Tampa, Florida, Paul Olden, who replaced Sheppard as the voice of Yankee Stadium, asked me for Harwell’s phone number. Besides catching up with Ernie, who was told by doctors he had only a few months to live, Olden wanted to arrange a conversation with the two iconic voices of Harwell and Sheppard. I called Ernie to see if was okay with him. It was and the conversations took place more than once.

 

Steinbrenner’s group bought the Yankees early in 1973. The Yankees had drawn fewer than a million fans in 1972 for the first time since the war year of 1945. It didn’t take long, however, for Steinbrenner to turn the franchise around and make it a baseball and financial powerhouse.

 

The first time I met Steinbrenner was during spring training in 1976 when the Yankees were based in Ft. Lauderdale. I was the head of a national baseball monthly at the time and picked up press credentials for the field, dugout, clubhouse and press box from public relations man Marty Appel.

 

As I left Marty’s office trailer, I spotted the Yankees principal owner and his manager Billy Martin. I introduced myself and had a lengthy chat with both New York media stars. The following year I saw Steinbrenner at the All-Star Game festivities in New York and again in 1985 in Detroit.

 

Steinbrenner came to my town for a dinner honoring his friend Jim Campbell, a longtime Tigers executive who rose to the presidency of the club and was my big boss at the time. Steinbrenner was relaxed and jovial when he was with me. “Irwin,” he said, “I’m not such a bad guy like the press says. I operate by the Golden Rule. And since I have the gold, I make the rules.”

 

Steinbrenner changed the rules of the game. His group paid less than $10 million for the franchise, with Steinbrenner depositing only $100,000 of his own money into the Yankee pot when the group bought the club and had less than a half stake in ownership, but by the time everything was signed, he was principal owner and called the shots.

 

At the time of his passing from baseball’s bimah, the Yankees were worth well over a billion dollars. He created the highly profitable Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES) and kept ratings high by signing the best available players regardless of the cost and blowing his top at opportune times.

 

He was bullish, bombastic and charitable. Besides being famous for firing people, he also made some gutsy hires. One of them, Suzyn Waldman, who is part of the Yankees play-by-play team, knows more about baseball than most men who populate the broadcast booths. But what other owner would have hired her?

 

Outside of family, winning was the most important thing to him. The Steinbrenner-built Yankees organization should keep on winning – and it will do so in The House that George Built.

 

Ralph Houk was my favorite manager. He began managing the Tigers in 1974, the first year I started my baseball writing career. He sort of adopted me and we had long chats in the Tigers dugout prior to most Sunday home games.

 

Houk came up to the Yankees in 1947. “I never saw a big league ballpark before I came up to the majors,” he recalled as we sat in the dugout with the tape recorder running. “Before the season we played the Brooklyn Dodgers a set of three exhibition games. The first game was in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. I couldn’t believe it. It had two decks. I was amazed. I was in awe. I thought the people in the upper deck would fall out. The next day we played in Yankee Stadium and I was really amazed as it had three decks and held more than twice as many people as Ebbets Field did.”

 

Two years earlier Houk didn’t know if he would ever see a big league ballpark. He led several dangerous missions during World War II. On one, he brought back nine prisoners of war. On another, he brought back his helmet with a bullet hole but wasn’t seriously injured.

 

He rose to the rank of major (the nickname he would carry throughout his baseball career). Because of his bravery and service during the war, Houk was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star.

 

The Major took over the Yankee managerial reigns from Casey Stengel after having served as the club’s third base coach. He managed the ’61 Yanks of Mantle and Maris to a championship and eventually moved up to vice president and general manager. He went back to managing the Yankees in the mid-1960s, but the club was in a state of deterioration in those years under the ownership of CBS and suffered one disappointing season after another.

 

Houk left the Yankees after Steinbrenner’s first year as owner, wary of his overbearing ways. The Major came to Detroit to manage the Tigers, a team in transition. It was Al Kaline’s last season and Houk would preside over the departure of many the 1968 World Series heroes. Under his patient service, young stars like Mark Fidrych, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Kirk Gibson made the big leagues.

 

Houk confided in me during those dugout chats. One example came early in the 1977 season. Slugger Willie Horton was taking batting practice and Houk said, “He used to hit them in the second deck and now most of the time he’s just clearing the fence in the lower deck. It’s time to trade him before the scouts catch on.”

 

 That was Horton’s last day in a Tigers uniform as a player.

 

Whatever uniform the Major wore, he had the respect of those around him.

 

 

Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, headed a national baseball publication before earning a World Series ring in a front office position. Cohen, who is the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author: The author of 10 books, Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and interviewed the legendary Hank Greenberg. He went on to work for a major league team and became the first Orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring. He can be reached in his Detroit area dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Farewell To Four Baseball Legends”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) meets with Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon in Halifax, Canada on November 22, 2013.
Ya’alon Scraps Purchase of US Aircraft
Latest Sections Stories
Part of the reconstructed Gwozdziec Synagogue.

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is designed to tell the whole thousand-year story of the Jews in Poland.

Nimchinsky-102414-Flag

This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]

Schonfeld-logo1

Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).

The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from three companies that do business with Israel.

How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?

My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.

Students in early childhood, elementary, and middle school were treated to an array of hands-on projects to create sukkah decorations such as wind chimes, velvet posters, sand art, paper chains, and more.

It is important for a therapist to focus on a person’s strengths as a way of overcoming his or her difficulties.

Sadly, there are mothers who, due to severe depression are unable or unwilling to prepare nourishing food for their children.

More Articles from Irwin Cohen
War hero Lou Brissi’s card was a much-sought-after one in Topps’s inaugural 1952 collection.

Many former baseball players who left us with happy memories also passed away in the past year.

Derek Jeter

“No kid is worth a million dollars to sign,” Newhouser said, “but if one kid is, it’s this kid.”

Zimmer was popular with veteran teammates like Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider – and with a rookie lefthander named Sandy Koufax.

I’m sure readers noticed those full-page advertisements that ran prior to last month’s meeting about the situation at the Brooklyn home of Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, rav of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin. Avrohom chaired the even along with his brother Menachem, a prominent askan and the president of Lubicom.

I spoke twice during Pesach. The first topic was the Holocaust and Jewish ballplayers and the second was how I, a frum-from-birth Jew, ended up in major league baseball.

Even if a player reaches the big league level, there’s still no guarantee he’ll remain with one team for long. Former Jewish outfielder Richie Scheinblum comes to mind.

The snow has melted in most parts of the country and here in Florida, where I have my winter dugout in the Orthodox enclave of Century Village in West Palm Beach, I had the opportunity to take in several spring training games.

If you’re visiting spring training sites, Arizona has two advantages – fewer games are rained out and the facilities are much closer to each other than is the case in Florida.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/farewell-to-four-baseball-legends/2010/08/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: