Results tagged ‘ Minnie Minoso ’

Fordham to honor memory of Gil McDougald

With the Yankees not playing until 8:05 p.m. Saturday in Texas (on YES), why not take in a game in the Bronx in the afternoon? Former Yankees infielder Gil McDougald, who died last Nov. 28 in Wall Township, N.J., at the age of 82, will be honored prior to Fordham’s 4 p.m. game against Saint Joseph’s at Houlihan Field.

Family members and former players will be on hand to salute McDougald, who reached the World Series eight times in his 10 seasons with the Yankees (1951-60) and won five rings. He was Fordham’s head baseball coach from 1970-76 and led the Rams to a 100-79-4 record.

That the tribute will be held May 7 is a sad piece of irony. On that date in 1957, a line drive hit by McDougald struck Indians pitcher Herb Score in the face in one of baseball’s most tragic accidents. McDougald vowed to quit the game if Score did not recover, which he did but was never again the imposing pitcher he had been in 1955 and ’56. It is fair to say that McDougald was not quite the same after that incident, either.

Later in life, long after his major-league career, McDougald fought a long battle with deafness. Below is a copy of the blog I wrote for The Cutoff Man after McDougald’s death. For those who may not have had a chance to read it, here it is again.

In memory of the late Gil McDougald, who died last week of prostate cancer at the age of 82, I would like to share a piece I wrote on the five-time All-Star Yankees infielder back in 1997 when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award.

For a long time, Gil McDougald lived in a noiseless world. Embarrassed by his deafness, the former Yankees infielder withdrew from his friends, turned away from all but his immediate family and settled into a chamber of silence.

The lively sounds at Yankee Stadium were once music to McDougald’s ears. A hearing disorder stemming from a concussion McDougald suffered in 1955 during a batting practice accident worsened to the point that in 1976 he resigned as Fordham’s baseball coach because of communication difficulties. In 1985, he felt compelled to sell his building-maintenance business. His suburban New Jersey home had become more a place of exile.

An article in 1994 by New York Times columnist Ira Berkow drew attention to McDougald’s situation. He was contacted by Dr. Stephen Epstein, a Yankees fan who directs the Ear Center in Maryland and recommended McDougald consult Dr. Noel Cohen, chief of otolaryngology at New York University Medical Center. That November, in a 3-hour operation, McDougald received a cochlea implant of a microcomputer that helped restore his hearing. McDougald lectured around the country on the benefits of the procedure.

“There’s a real need to build awareness of the technology,” McDougald told Sports Illustrated. “When you’re fortunate and something good happens, even though you weren’t expecting anything, that’s when the payback comes. When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”

That was one of McDougald’s career highlights, a grand slam off the Giants’ Larry Jansen at the Polo Grounds in the 1951 World Series. The honor bestowed by the writers is most appropriate for McDougald because Stengel was the only manager he played for in his 10 major-league seasons, all with the Yankees, from 1951 through 1960 before he quit rather than go into the American League expansion draft.

McDougald was among the most gifted of the tough, heady infielders who were integral figures on Stengel’s teams such as Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer.

The Ol’ Perfessor would have loved Derek Jeter.

That brings us to the “You Can Look It Up” part, which refers to one of Casey’s pet expressions. Among Jeter’s accomplishments in his Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award season of 1996 was a .314 batting average. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, you have to go back 40 years to find a New York shortstop – Yankee, Met, Giant or Dodger – who hit .300 over a full season.

And that shortstop was Gil McDougald. True, Kubek hit .314 in 1962, but he played in only 45 games that year because of military duty and a back injury. McDougald’s .311 mark for the Yankees in 1956 was the highest for a fulltime shortstop before Jeter topped it in ‘96.

The AL Rookie of the Year Award is another link between the two Yankees shortstops. McDougald was the first and Jeter the most recent of the eight Yankees who have won the award. McDougald wasn’t a shortstop when he won in 1951 by two votes over White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, 13-11. The more heralded Yankees rookie, Mickey Mantle, did not receive a vote.

McDougald played third base and second base until 1956 when Stengel tabbed him to succeed Rizzuto at shortstop. In the 10 years McDougald played for the Yanklees, they won more than 90 games nine times, eight pennants and five World Series, including ‘56, which made him a precursor to Jeter as a .300-hitting shortstop for a Series champion.

In that ‘56 Series, McDougald made an alert play that helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a line drove to third that glanced off Carey’s glove to McDougald, who threw out Robby at first base.

Hitting out of an unorthodox, open stance which he moderated midway through his career, McDougald compiled a .276 career average with 112 home runs before retiring at age 32 after the 1960 World Series rather than play for the expansion Los Angeles Angels or Washington Senators.

McDougald was an unwilling participant in a baseball tragedy May 7, 1957. Indians lefthander Herb Score, then in the third year of a career that might have led him to Cooperstown, was struck in the face of by a liner off McDougald’s bat. Score was never the same pitcher again.

Less known is the incident two years earlier in which a BP liner by Bob Cerv hit McDougald above his left ear. It was diagnosed as a concussion, and McDougald was back in uniform in several days. He later learned that he had inner ear damage from an undetected fractured skull, which began McDougald’s quiet retreat.

“Except for playing golf, Gil had really become a recluse,” said former AL president Bobby Brown, one of McDougald’s oldest and closest friends. “But now since he can hear again, he’s his old self and able to contribute. It’s an emotional thrill for all of us.”

McDougald’s struggle against silence

In memory of the late Gil McDougald, who died last week of prostate cancer at the age of 82, I would like to share a piece I wrote on the five-time All-Star Yankees infielder back in 1997 when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award.

For a long time, Gil McDougald lived in a noiseless world. Embarrassed by his deafness, the former Yankees infielder withdrew from his friends, turned away from all but his immediate family and settled into a chamber of silence.

The lively sounds at Yankee Stadium were once music to McDougald’s ears. A hearing disorder stemming from a concussion McDougald suffered in 1955 during a batting practice accident worsened to the point that in 1976 he resigned as Fordham’s baseball coach because of communication difficulties. In 1985, he felt compelled to sell his building-maintenance business. His suburban New Jersey home had become more a place of exile.

An article in 1994 by New York Times columnist Ira Berkow drew attention to McDougald’s situation. He was contacted by Dr. Stephen Epstein, a Yankees fan who directs the Ear Center in Maryland and recommended McDougald consult Dr. Noel Cohen, chief of otolaryngology at New York University Medical Center. That November, in a 3 -hour operation, McDougald received a cochlea implant of a microcomputer that helped restore his hearing. McDougald lectured around the country on the benefits of the procedure.

“There’s a real need to build awareness of the technology,” McDougald told Sports Illustrated. “When you’re fortunate and something good happens, even though you weren’t expecting anything, that’s when the payback comes. When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”

That was one of McDougald’s career highlights, a grand slam off the Giants’ Larry Jansen at the Polo Grounds in the 1951 World Series. The honor bestowed by the writers is most appropriate for McDougald because Stengel was the only manager he played for in his 10 major-league seasons, all with the from Yankees, from 1951 through 1960 before he quit rather than go into the expansion draft.

McDougald was among the most gifted of the tough, heady infielders who were integral figures on Stengel’s teams such as Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer.

The Ol’ Perfessor would have loved Derek Jeter.

That brings us to the “You Can Look It Up” part, which refers to one of Casey’s pet expressions. Among Jeter’s accomplishments in his Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award season of 1996 was a .314 batting average. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, you have to go back 40 years to find a New York shortstop – Yankee, Met, Giant or Dodger – who hit .300 over a full season.

And that shortstop was Gil McDougald. True, Kubek hit .314 in 1962, but he played in only 45 games that year because of military duty and a back injury. McDougald’s .311 mark for the Yankees in 1956 was the highest for a fulltime shortstop before Jeter topped it in ’96.

The American League Rookie of the Year Award is another link between the two Yankees shortstops. McDougald was the first and Jeter the most recent of the eight Yankees who have won the award. McDougald wasn’t a shortstop when he won in 1951 by two votes over White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, 13-11. The more heralded Yankees rookie, Mickey Mantle, did not receive a vote.

McDougald played third base and second base until ’56 when Stengel tabbed him to succeed Rizzuto at shortstop. In the 10 years McDougald played for the Yanklees, they won more than 90 games nine times, eight pennants and five World Series, including 1956, which made him a precursor to Jeter as a .300-hitting shortstop for a Series champion.

In that ’56 Series, McDougald made an alert play that helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a line drove to third that glanced off Carey’s glove to McDougald, who threw out Robby at first base.

Hitting out of an unorthodox, open stance which he moderated midway through his career, McDougald compiled a .276 career average with 112 home runs before retiring at age 32 after the 1960 World Series rather than play for the expansion Los Angeles Angels or Washington Senators.

McDougald was an unwilling participant in a baseball tragedy May 7, 1957. Indians lefthander Herb Score, then in the third year of a career that might have led him to Cooperstown, was struck in the face of by a liner off McDougald’s bat. Score was never the same pitcher again.

Less known is the incident two years earlier in which a BP liner by Bob Cerv hit McDougald above his left ear. It was diagnosed as a concussion, and McDougald was back in uniform in several days. He later learned that he had inner ear damage from an undetected fractured skull, which began McDougald’s quiet retreat.

“Except for playing golf, Gil had really become a recluse,” said former AL president Bobby Brown, one of McDougald’s oldest and closest friends. “But now since her can hear he can hear again, he’s his old self and able to contribute. It’s an emotional thrill for all of us.”

Long stay at shortstop

Derek Jeter turned 36 Saturday. That may not be an age that is considered a milestone, but I have always thought it was. After all, once you’re 36 for the first time in your life you’re closer to 50 than 20. You may not be starting the back nine of your life, but the halfway house is clearly in view.

As for a professional athlete, 36 is definitely on the back nine, unless you know anyone playing in the pros in his or her 70s, excluding Minnie Minoso, of course. Yet in this day and age of dedication to conditioning and nutrition, the pro athlete can endure far long than his antecedents, and there are few in baseball in better shape than Derek Jeter.

It is hard to think of him as getting old. Other than natural maturity, I have not seen any great change in his approach or demeanor from the 21-year-old kid who came to the Yankees’ spring training camp at Tampa, Fla., in 1996 ready to assume the role of shortstop.

The plan was for regular Tony Fernandez to move to second base and be ready to switch back if Jeter did not handle the job. Fernandez got hurt and was out for the year while Jeter went on to win Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year honors and help the Yankees win their first World Series championship in 18 years.

Long ago and far away, sure, but all these years later Jeter is still a main cog on the Yankees at one of the sport’s most demanding positions. And he is in no mood to think about playing someplace else, not in a different city and not at a different position.

Yet Jeter has reached that age which historically players at his position often move to another position. No better example exists than Cal Ripken Jr., a player Jeter admires and emulates, who was shifted to third base in 1997, the year he turned 36. He played only three games at shortstop after turning 36, not counting the 2001 All-Star Game.

Two other Hall of Famers, Ernie Banks and Robin Yount, were moved from shortstop in their early 30s due to arm injuries that hampered their effectiveness in the middle infield. Banks went to first base, and Yount to center field.

A couple of years ago, I sat down with Jeter and talked to him about the Yount move. This was a time when Bernie Williams’ career was winding down, and I queried whether he had given any thought to playing center field in the future.

Not a word, just a blank stare from those piercing green eyes. “I just thought maybe we’d talk about it,” I said.

He grinned and said, “Then I guess you’ll have to find someone else to talk to about that.”

Needless to say, I never brought the subject up again, and I am not going to do so here, either. I have been of the opinion since that day that shortstop is where Derek Jeter belongs for as long as he wants to play it. If he was not coming off shortstop for Alex Rodriguez, he wasn’t coming off shortstop for Jack O’Connell.

And why should he? It is not as if he is Phil Rizzuto, who hit .195 at age 36 and was a part-time player the next year and a half. Or Pee Wee Reese, who won a World Series with the Dodgers at that age in 1955 but was moved to third base two years later. Or Joe Cronin, who played very little shortstop after the age of 35. Or such Hall of Famers as Joe Tinker, Travis Jackson, Arky Vaughan and Lou Boudreau, who were retired as players before they turned 36.

Further research shows plenty of evidence that moving off shortstop is not all that warranted. Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Luke Appling played more than 130 games at shortstop when each was 41. Rabbit Maranville, another Hall of Famer, finished 10th in the National League MVP race when he was 36 in 1928. Dave Concepcion was the Reds’ regular shortstop until he was 38, and as late as the age of 40 Omar Vizquel played 143 games at shortstop.

There are two shortstops that really stick out to me and with whom I hope Jeter will keep company – Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith. They share an amazing distinction. Shortstop was the only position they played in their entire careers – 2,518 games for Little Looie and 2,511 games for the Wizard of Oz. Each made the All-Star team playing shortstop at age 36, which Jeter will do next month.

Aparicio’s last year was 1973, the first year of the designated hitter but he was never used in that spot, and Smith spent his whole career in the DH-less National League. Jeter has been a DH in 17 games, but the only position he has played in the field is shortstop. He celebrated his 36th birthday with game No. 2,193 – and counting.

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