Growing up a kid in America is synonymous with being a dreamer. We’re taught that anything is possible if we’re dedicated, if we work hard. And we often model ourselves after those we look up to, our heroes.
I always had two: my dad, whom I got to see everyday, and St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop, Ozzie Smith. Many a summer afternoon was spent in the backyard… swinging like Ozzie, diving like Ozzie, smiling like Ozzie.
“I want to be Ozzie Smith,” family members recall me saying, “I want to be Number One.”
So what does one say when he finally gets to have a conversation with his boyhood hero?
“My grandpa had Musial. My dad had Gibson and Brock. I had you, Ozzie.”
And Ozzie’s response?
Of course, I expected nothing but the coolest things from the man who gave us reason to Go crazy, folks, go crazy! Heck, it’s been nearly 25 years since that homerun prompted Jack Buck to give us his iconic call, but I promise you this: to a Cardinals fan, it never gets old.
“It never went away,” chuckled a candid Ozzie Smith, “and as a matter of fact, it’s still reverberating today. I have little kids coming up to me, reciting that. So yeah, it’s pretty cool.”
Indeed it is pretty cool and so is Ozzie Smith, the man: 15 time All-Star, 13 time Gold Glove Award Winner, Hall of Famer and all around good guy.
The seriousness of prostate cancer cannot be overstated. In fact, 1 out of every 6 men will experience the disease, as it is the second-leading cause of male cancer-related deaths in the United States.
“I’m just here to encourage all men 50 or older (40 or older for African-American men and those with a family history of the disease) to get involved, talking with their doctors about prostate health. Because with early detection, prostate cancer isn’t only treatable, it’s beatable.”
As was Ozzie’s signature game plan on the field, the best way to beat this disease is with strong defense. And if anyone knows anything about defense, one need look no further than The Wizard.
After a decade plus of abnormal offensive numbers in baseball, Ozzie sees the current renaissance of pitching and defense themed ball-clubs as a natural, cyclical part of the game.
“It’s the way the game is supposed to be played. You can get a lot more out of playing the game the proper way than just building your team from an offensive standpoint.”
If you’re looking for an example of such managerial strategy, Ozzie suggests we look at those teams at the top.
“The Atlanta Braves in the East, I think they’re one of those teams. Not a whole lot of power, but they certainly do the little things that it takes to win. The Cardinals have always been one of those teams that have done that and I think it’s part of what’s allowed the Cincinnati Reds to lead their division this year.”
Such game theory often begins with the manager and Ozzie Smith was lucky enough to serve under one of the best, one of this summer’s Hall of Fame inductees: Whitey Herzog.
“As a manager, the goal is always to make players better than they are. Whitey was certainly one of those people. The relationship we had was of admiration and respect. A good manager, like Whitey, only has two rules: be on time and give a hundred percent. As a professional athlete, that’s all you can ask, to be given the opportunity to do what it is you do. If you can’t abide by those rules, then you shouldn’t be playing.”
And as we gear up for the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, it’s a pretty safe bet that the players involved abide by those rules. One cannot be the best without giving his best. As a 15 time All-Star himself, Ozzie was quite comfortable being at the top of his game. When asked to describe his fondest All-Star memories, he was quick to answer.
“The first one I had a chance to go to in 1981 and then my final one in 1996, those two really stand out. The first one simply because of the excitement of going to your first All-Star Game and the festivities, the lockering, visiting with guys you admired from afar and played against, having a chance to play with them was very special. Then the reception I received in Philadelphia for my final one was very, very special.”
Yep. It sure was. In fact, I fondly remember… crying. I was 17 years old, my hero was retiring and I was morbidly afraid of baseball without Ozzie.
But I quickly learned: no one can take away memories, no one can take away dreams. The game continued on and Ozzie never really went away. The moments he created are remembered today. His work ethic is passed down. His desire to help those in need, to educate, to make life better wherever possible through public service, as he’s doing with the Depend Campaign, all these things make him forever an All-Star.
Forever a hero.
Forever a reason to go crazy, folks.
Written by Jeffery Lung
Special thanks to
Kristin Adams of Taylor PR for arranging the interview.
Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s interview with Dave Winfield.
to read Jeff’s interview with Ken Griffey, Sr.
And there is no doubt. Hall of Famer Dave Winfield gives. A lot.
From being the first active professional athlete to establish an official 501(c)(3) charitable organization (The Winfield Foundation) to funding the Dave Winfield Nutrition Center at Hackensack University Medical Center to providing entire blocks of game tickets for underprivileged youth in San Diego, giving back to the community has always been a high priority for the 12 time Major League All-Star.
“I think part of it comes from the area of the country I’m from in St. Paul and Minneapolis, major corporations used to always give a part of their pre-tax dollars to charity. For some reason, that’s just always sunk in.”
“And with my Winfield Foundation, we try to give to things that deal with health and education; I’ve used sports as a kind of carrot to lead people into these areas.”
But as Winfield admits, the strongest inspiration for his remarkable spirit of philanthropy comes from his mother, Arline, a selfless woman who tragically passed away from breast cancer after seeing her son play in the 1988 All-Star Game. In an effort to further educate the public, Winfield has teamed up with Ask.com and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation to form “Answers for the Cure”, allowing baseball fans and people everywhere to get involved in the fight against breast cancer.
For every person who goes to Ask.com/ForTheCure and uses the search engine, Ask.com will donate ten cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Contributions will help fund life-saving research, education, screening services and community outreach projects.
“Early detection is the most important thing,” Winfield remarks. “There is no cure, but if you detect it early on, you can combat it. If you’re late, there may not be a second chance.”
In his mother’s case, there was no second chance; but by giving back to the community, Winfield keeps her spirit alive. And he is not alone.
In fact, many current Major Leaguers have adopted Winfieldian philanthropic lifestyles, donating their time, money and efforts to educating the public on important health and educational issues. Nick Swisher, Mariano Rivera, Mark Teixeira… these are just a few of those giving back.
“Derek Jeter,” says Winfield, “he stands out as a person who has been totally committed, using his career and his life to be a role model and a good example for others to follow. He has a great foundation. He’s raised millions of dollars. He has helped so many kids. One day, when he retires, he will have affected tens of thousands of people for sure.”
Indeed, Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation and Jeter’s Leaders Program have both done incalculable work inspiring young people to live active, healthy, substance free lives, rewarding academic achievement and promoting social activism. And Jeter’s inspiration for establishing such charitable work?
One might even say Winfield inspires us all to give back to our respective communities. Who else could turn an unfortunate (and inadvertent) 1983 Toronto seagull killing into a charitable endeavor that raised over $60,000 by donating two paintings to an Easter Seals auction?
Whether it’s hitting a World Series winning double off Charlie Leibrandt in extra innings or educating the public through selfless charity work, one thing is certain:
Dave Winfield is clutch.
And now you can be too. Join Dave and RSBS in the fight against breast cancer. Make a difference today.
Written by Jeffery Lung
Special thanks to Zack Nobinger of Taylor PR for arranging the interview with Dave Winfield.
(Below image courtesy of Padres Nation)
We all knew it was coming.
And yeah, it probably came later than most of us had hoped.
But all of that is over now… wee memories that will promptly dissolve into suggestions of things we’ll soon forget. Forever.
A true American hero is hanging it up.
Ken Griffey, Jr., you will be missed.
All told, he’s the greatest ballplayer I’ve ever seen. Maybe someday Albert Pujols will take his place in the hallowed halls of my fond baseball-lovin’ regards. But today is isn’t someday; today is the day I stand and applaud the career of an absolute legendary icon — the man I wanted to be, the man every little boy with a glove and a bat wanted to be, the man whose smile could infect an entire stadium.
Ken Griffey, Jr… saying goodbye to you is like saying goodbye to summer: I know everything will be okay… just a little less fun.
I tip my cap… and can’t wait to see you in Cooperstown.
Don’t forget to check out the LATEST RSBS Podcast!
This has been a week of upheaval in both the physical and existential sense of the word. We continue to be bombarded by images of Haiti and even today a new quake brought new fear. And in the US, both minor and major tremors shook us as McGwire admitted what we had always suspected and the Democrats lost what was supposed to be a sure thing.
In times of upheaval people search for solidity, for something they can cling to as their world is dashed to pieces. For Haitians this is an ongoing search as even their government and their public services have fallen apart. And for baseball fans, even though we knew what McGwire was up to, we go back to the basics and try to rediscover again why we love this game.
For the Democrats, they are in much the same spot as the Haitians. I remember standing on the lawn between the capitol and the Washington Monument a year ago as President Obama gave his historic inauguration speech. But a year later his star power has faded to the point that a virtual unknown was able to take the seat held by Ted Kennedy, the Liberal Lion, for nearly the past five decades.
The real question before all of us is what happens next? Is it possible for Haitians to go back to living a normal existence when even the ground betrays them? Can we trust any of our baseball heroes anymore or do we have to assume that they are all lying? And does the promise of a universal health care system fade away for another 20 years until we once again realize how broken and rigged the current system is?
Upheaval forces us to answer difficult questions. And whether major or minor, these answers take time. Me, I’m a realist and always have been. I expect people to take the easy route. In another two weeks, Haiti will disappear from the news and we won’t hear about it again until the next time a disaster strikes. Despite the nearly universally accepted realization that health care is broken, our leaders will shy away from making us taste the bitter medicine and unfortunate people (who, luckily for the politicians, don’t tend to vote) will continue to fall through the cracks. And Mark McGwire, a self-confessed liar and cheater, will continue to make an exorbitant salary as a hitting coach while Pete Rose is banned from baseball. That, my friends, is reality.
For today is January 15! And that means today is Mr. Allen Krause’s 31st birthday!
And since it is my jaded pal’s special day, I thought it best not to rip on how he looks like like a young (albeit more intelligent) Joe Maddon; so instead I am going to go against the RSBS norm and actually do something nice for him!
That’s right, folks. Y’all know that Al is a huge (sometimes annoying) Detroit Tigers fan… so today, to help Mr. Krause celebrate his very own life, I would like to present three awesome Detroit Tigers facts that I researched all by myself (with the help of the RSBS interns).
Happy Birthday, Al old buddy!
Awesome Tigers Fact #1:
Since the birth of Allen Krause, the Detroit Tigers have lost 2,546 games! And that fancy schmancy fact includes four whole seasons with 103 or more losses, like that stellar 2003 season when the Tiggers lost a mind-blowing 119 games!
Awesome Tigers Fact #2:
Despite being Mr. Krause’s boyhood hero while boasting impressive numbers over 20 Major League seasons, good old Alan Trammell is NOT in the Hall of Fame! For real! I’m serious!
Awesome Tigers Fact #3:
This fella made $10 million in 2009 while putting up these gaudy numbers: 1 W, 7.49 ERA, 7.5 BB/9
I have known Mr. Krause for over twelve and a half years now and I can honestly say — without even a smidgen of doubt — that one couldn’t ask for a better friend than Allen.
And I mean the hell out of that.
Happy Birthday, brother!
A few days ago I was at a Christmas party thrown by a client of my employer, and just like at any other social event, I tried to curb my baseball talk as much as I could because, well, not everyone is as enthusiastic about baseball as I. Some people even think I’m a weirdo.
But then I got to talking to a high school kid — a kid who has drawn attention in the Chicago area for perhaps having what it takes to someday get to the big leagues — and before long we were discussing the finer points of pitching. Like the Cardinalphile that I am, I had no choice but to reference the gutsiness of one Bob Gibson.
“Who?” the kid asked.
It took a lot out of me to not deck this kid in the face for not knowing who Bob Gibson was, but I took a deep breath and decided to educate him on the Hall of Famer the best I could: by telling a story.
“By 1975, Gibson had already lost much of what made him the baddest, scariest, most dominating pitcher in the National League, but he still had guts. Still had pride.
“The last batter he ever faced in the big leagues was a pinch hitter by the name of Pete LaCock. The Cardinals were playing the Cubs and LaCock came in with the bases loaded.
“LaCock hit a grand slam.
“Years later, in an old timer game, Gibson is on the mound and guess who comes to the plate to face him. Yep. Good ‘ol Pete LaCock.
“Gibson drilled him in the back.”
I finished my story and looked at the kid, waiting to see what kind of reaction I’d get, knowing that I had just hit a homerun in conveying what kind of bad^ss Gibson really was.
But the kid was laughing — a snicker at first, then a chuckle, then an all out cackle.
“What?” I asked. “What’s so funny?”
“Dude,” said the kid, “That guy’s name was LaCock?! LaCock! Hahaha! LaCOCK!”
Gotta admit: I snorted a little when I joined in the laughter.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
The 2010 Hall of Fame ballot is out and the names are all there for our relentless ridicule. Meh. Let’s not make this too difficult now, shall we? There is only one nominee who is a surefire lock to be a first ballot Hall of Famer and that man is Barry Larkin.
Not so much.
But these decisions need to be weighed with ample baseball knowledge and ruthless number crunching, which is why we turn to the always accurate Google Oracle to see whether or not these fellas are Hall of Fame worthy. (click on the images for a closer view)
When your one claim to fame is getting your a$s beat by a man old enough to be your father in what was probably the most embarrassing basebrawl of all time, no, you may not enter the Hall of Fame, sir.
But please, somebody — baseball writers, Oprah, Jesus, anyone — please put Andre Dawson in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be there. And I am getting very, very sick of having to lobby for this ex-Cub who made a living making my life miserable as a child.
Buck up, fellas. The Hawk was better than Jim Rice.
Hate me ‘cuz I tell it straight, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I”m right.