Today is the day that the Baseball Writers of America release the names of the players set to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is also the day when every other baseball writer writes his or her article on what player isn't in the Hall of Fame but should be. I am no exception to this rule.
This year I decided to be very biased with my selection of Newt Allen of the Kansas City Monarchs. Yes he is from Austin, TX and yes he is included in my ongoing Central Texas blackball history research but I feel that his career completely justifies his inclusion and overrides any and all personal biases I have in this regard.
Newt was born in 1902 in Austin but at some point after his father's death in 1910 his family moved to Kansas City. In 1920 J.L. Wilkinson formed the Kansas City Monarchs who would become one of the top Negro League teams of all time. They began to play not far from where Allen lived and the 18 year old worked as their ice boy and even as an extra body at times during practice. He started out the 1921 season in the same capacity before he joined the Omaha Federals and had an excellent season which led him to being asked to play for the Monarchs beginning in the 1922 season. By the time his career was complete, the 5'8" Allen spent the next 23 years manning 2nd base for the team and became their manager in 1941. Sources from baseball ambassador Buck O'Neil to legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw referred to him as the best 2nd basemen in the Negro Leagues with McGraw wishing the league would let him sign Allen to his National League ballclub. In 1931 he spent the season with the St Louis Stars where he joined with fellow Austinite and future Hall of Famer Willie Wells to form one of the best double play combos in baseball history. And while accurate records are hard to come by for Allen, and many other Negro League players, the ones available have his career batting average hovering around .300 which is impressive considering the steep decline in his hitting as he entered his late 30's and 40's.
After he retired he stayed in Kansas City and became a foreman at the county courthouse and passed away in 1988. As with many deserving Negro League players, Allen was forgotten or overlooked on Hall of Fame ballots. With the Special Committee on Negro Leagues this was hoped to be remedied but of the 17 blackball players inducted by the committee, Newt Allen was not one of them.
The Center for Negro League Baseball Research has this excellent .pdf document going much more in depth on Newt Allen's career, statistics, and accomplishments with some great pictures included.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Voices From the Great Black Baseball Leagues by John Holway
George Brett - 3,154 Hits at the Plate from 1973 - 1993, Inspiration for 1 Billboard #1 Chart Hit in 2013
I've already reached that point where I have pretty much given up on keeping up with new music. There is just way too much of it out there, and half the time to me it just sounds like people singing on top of video game noises. I know that this makes me sound about 35 years older than I am, and do you know what, I am completely comfortable with this and I am getting by just fine listening to Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, and a steady diet of both the country & western music genres whenever I am in the car driving.
However, once or twice a year I will hear a new pop song that I just really, really like and the most recent one to catch my year is "Royals" by New Zealand teenager Lorde. The song has sold 3.7 million copies in the United States alone and topped many of Billboards various charts (Hot 100, Top 40, Alternative) for most of the fall as well as similar success worldwide.
In September, Lorde made this statement to VH1 about the songs origin, "I'd been kind of thinking about writing that song for a while and been pulling together a couple little lines here and there, and I had this image from the National Geographic of this dude signing baseballs. He was a baseball player and his shirt said Royals. I was like, I really like that word, because I'm a big word fetishist. I'll pick a word and I'll pin an idea to that."
The picture in question is one of George Brett from the July 1976 issue of National Geographic and is shown above. George Brett is also my favorite non-Ranger player of all time, probably stemming from my Little League team in the late 80's being named the Royals but later growing in appreciation of just how good the first ballot Hall of Fame inductee was on the baseball field. I have a small library of baseball books and movies but when it comes to other collectibles I am somewhat indifferent but I own 4 baseball cards, 1 of which is the Fleer card commemorating Brett's Pine Tar Incident, and 3 autographs, 1 of which is an baseball autographed by Brett that I received for Christmas in 1990. The one moment I am most proud of having attended as a baseball fan was the Rangers vs the Royals on October 3, 1993 which ended up being the final game for both Brett and Nolan Ryan as well the last game played in Arlington Stadium (Turnpike Stadium).
So really what I am saying is, if there is any 60 year old man from Kansas City that deserves a hit song written about him by a teenage pop starlets, it's George Brett.
Grey Flannel on the Silver Screen - LBJ Movie Club Presents: The King of the Hill with Fergie Jenkins
Growing up a Rangers fan in the 80's, we didn't always have the caliber of baseball heroes that other teams did (thanks to the baseball gods for the 1989-1990 offseason for changing that). One we did have was a tall, hockey-loving Canadian that during those post-Watergate years could throw the baseball as well as anyone. And while he may be best remembered as a Cub, we all know his best seasons happened under the Arlington sun.
This hour long documentary by the Canadian Board of Film documents his 1972 and 1973 seasons in Chicago. There is great footage of him and his teammates in Spring Training, at Wrigley Field, traveling around, and just doing whatever mundane day-to-day activities a polyester suit wearing baseball superstar does. This doc is 98.8% appropriate for everyone with the other 1.2% being PG-13 due mainly to Joe Pepitone's overconfidence of his own masculinity in the locker room and as well as hid lack of confidence of an umpire's masculinity in a Spring Training game.
From the official synopsis: "This feature documentary follows the one of the greatest Canadian baseball player of all time, Ferguson Jenkins, through the 1972-1973 seasons. From the hope and innocence of spring training to the dog days of an August slump, the camera gets up close and personal at the home plate and records the intimate chatter on the mound, in the dugout and in the locker room. It provides a glimpse into the rewards and pressures of sports stardom and the easy camaraderie of the quintessential summer sport."