January 3, 2008: 'Wrong' Was Oh, So Right In Giants 'Pen
Reading Time: Two Minutes. Or, as some of my colleagues at the late, great Evening Sun used to insist, “Preparation Time: Two Minutes.”
If you hang around in sports long enough, you hear enough stories to fill the Library of Congress. Twice. So here’s one, contributed by ex-big league manager Bill Rigney, either when he was managing the Angels in the early ’60s or the Twins in the late ’60s.
Rig played infield for the old New York Giants in the ’40s and ’50s, and he recalls how the team had a fairly dramatic turnaround in the pitching department. It led to their winning the National League pennant and knocking off a great Cleveland Indians team in the World Series. You might remember a certain center fielder making a rather nice catch in the Polo Grounds.
Anyway, the “Jints,” as they used to call them in the New York tabloids, were short of pitching when they picked up Johnny Antonelli from the Boston Braves in exchange for their all-time hero from “Shot Heard ’Round the World” days, Bobby Thomson.
The lefty was joined by starters Sal Maglie, Jim Hearn and Ruben Gomes. Just as important were a pair of relievers, Hoyt Wilhelm and, as Rig called him, “The Wrong” Grissom. He was asked why they called Marv Grissom “The Wrong.”
“You haven’t heard that story? What’s wrong with you?” Rigney asked. “OK. Here’s how it goes. The [Cincinnati] Reds had a good pitcher named Lee Grissom, and he used to talk glowingly about a kid brother, so the team invited him to spring training.”
“Not him,” Lee Grissom told the ballclub when his older brother Marvin showed up in Tampa. “He never played ball. I meant my other brother.”
Somehow, Marv held on, learned to pitch in the minors, and a few years later he turned out to be an excellent relief pitcher. And he later turned in a pretty good career as a pitching coach, too.
Note to Andy MacPhail: See, your job can’t be that tough. You just have to get a little lucky.
It’s fortunate that with no playoffs to worry about, the Ravens and their fans will have an extended offseason. This works out well, trying to figure out what Coach Gobble D. Gook was talking about recently when he said, “You don’t want to lose the last game of the year. You don’t want to lose the last two games of the year regardless of what preceded it. You just don’t think of it that way.”
Wait, there’s more: “Frankly, I don’t think the players, and I don’t know that this is a positive or a negative, that whatever happens the next two weeks, once the season is over, as it pertains to next year, will give much thought to what happened before regardless of what the circumstances are. I don’t mean that in a negative way that they won’t care, but there is no value in thinking about it or considering it."
Here’s a New Year’s resolution to replace those you might have broken already: Make sure and view a couple of hour-long sports documentaries that have been playing on cable for the last month or so.
“Ice Kings” is a terrific story about a high school hockey team in Rhode Island (Mount St. Charles) that won 26 straight state championships (through 2004). That’s not a misprint, 26. Some might figure with Rhode Island being the smallest state there’s not much competition. Wrong. There are at least a half-dozen teams that put out two or three Division I players each year. One runner-up had six such players, including one kid who ended up winning the Hobie Baker Award, given to the top collegiate player in the nation.
Another worth seeing is “Michigan vs. Ohio State.” Sure, everyone has heard that this is the greatest college football rivalry, bar none, but this classic pretty well proves it. Having watched most of the matchups going back to when we got our first TV back in the late ’40s and having seen other games in the Horseshoe and the Big House, I knew it was big. But you have no idea until HBO goes about clueing you in.
With all due respect to Tom Matte and the rest of the Buckeyes and Wolverines quarterbacks who have passed through town, one thing you take away from this rivalry is that neither team seems to over-emphasize the importance of the quarterbacks. Maybe that’s why they’re so good decade after decade.
You know your stuff, buckaroo, if you can come up with the name of the last National Leaguer to win the “Triple Crown.” First name is Joe. That helps, right?
Issue 3.1: January 3, 2008