When the Royals leave Chicago after Thursday’s day game, they will have played the Sox 12 times in 38 days. During those that time, the Royals have played a total of 10 series (four against the White Sox) and had a four-day break for the All-Star festivities..
These two teams are getting to know each other well (and they may not like what they’re finding out?), but have just one matchup left after this week (Chicago comes to town September 19-21). To take a look at the next Sox series and the nine-game, three-city road trip the series starts, let’s go Around the Horn…
The 28-game stretch against .500 clubs that started on July 18 has just two stops and six games left (three against the White Sox and three with the Yankees over the weekend). Despite the tough schedule, the Royals have come away with a respectable 11-11 record.
The Royals can still do some damage in their final two series and despite their position in playoff hunt, they can play spoiler. The Sox are tied in the loss column with the Twins and are a half game back from the division leaders. The Sox, who have controlled the Wild Card and the Central Division at times this season, are two games off Boston’s pace in the race for the final American League playoff spot.
Meanwhile New York had started surging to make a push for the A.L. East, but have now lost four in a row and sit nine games back from first-place Tampa Bay. The Yankees are five back in the Wild Card standings. Time is of the essence for them.
As for the Boys in Blue, we had a good run in each city last time we were there. The Royals split with the Yankees back in early June (and could have had at least one more), creeping back into the final game and slapping future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera a loss, thanks to homers by Miguel Olivo and a game-winner from Jose Guillen. In fact, Guillen blistered the Yankees with four homers, 10 RBI, two doubles and a .563 average over the four games.
Billy Butler was the story last time the Royals were in the Windy City. Butler helped lead the Royals to a 2-1 series win, homering twice and knocking in seven with a .386 average.
It’s tough to know what the Royals will get in either town. Both teams have been riddled with injuries lately. The most notable losses for the two were starters Jose Contreras (White Sox, out with a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon) and Joba Chamberlain (Yankees, out with rotator cuff tendinitis in his pitching shoulder). Both teams are trying to cope with their losses while trying to stay in the playoff picture.
Around the Horn needs to clean up a few loose ends we’ve neglected the last few days on the pitching side of things. If you haven’t heard, Zack Greinke dropped his appeal. He began serving his suspension (five games for hitting Nick Swisher after a bench clearing incident versus the White Sox) on Sunday and is scheduled to miss his start on Friday. He will be pushed back one day and start Saturday’s day game in New York.
The Royals also traded Horacio Ramirez to the White Sox late Saturday night. In return, the Royals got outfielder Paulo Orlando. Orlando was playing for the Carolina League Winston-Salem Warthogs (the Sox’ Class A Advanced affiliate). Last night he made his Wilmington debut and went 3-for-4 with a double and a triple against his former mates. The Brazilian native is the Carolina League’s leader in triples and he upped the speed quotient of the Blue Rocks.
You might remember Around the Horn posting a while back about the Runnin’ Rocks. Well, Orlando just adds more speed to their lineup. Derrick Robinson leads the Carolina League with 55 steals, followed by teammate Jarrod Dyson with 37 swipes and in third is Orlando with 28. Wilmington has six of the top eight base stealers in the Carolina and six of the top eight triples hitters as well.
The Royals are riding a five-game winning streak on the road and start a nine-game road trip tonight…Mike Aviles has 23 multi-hitters in 55 career games (42 percent of his games)…Lefty Josh Newman was called up Sunday to replace the traded Horacio Ramirez. Newman is wearing No. 63…Tony Pena broke a 0-for-17 slide with his two hits on Sunday…Pena is one of four players to enter a game as a pinch runner this season and deliver a walk-off winner…Joakim Soria tied a career high with four strikeouts in a single outing.
We have some housekeeping of our own to do here at Around the Horn. The long-awaited renovations update is coming as is our Clubhouse photos sneak peak. The media relations staff held a hard hat tour yesterday of the stadium, so we’ve got plenty of material. And as for the sneak peak, the pictures are taking a little longer to edit than we’d hoped (plus the Olympics are distracting!).
Speaking of the Olympics, have you guys been watching? We have. We’ve been watching Team USA basketball rolling and seen Michael Phelps break three world records already. We’re also excited for USA baseball to start tomorrow (TV schedule). Unfortunately the Royals don’t have anybody on this version of team USA or any of the other Olympic teams, though we have in the past. In fact, pitchers Neal Musser and Matt Wright, who are with Triple-A Omaha right now, were members USA Baseball team which won the gold medal over Chinese Taipei during the 2007 World Cup. And Billy Butler helped the USA in a qualifying tournament following the 2006 season.
One final note: The Royals have put together a new ticket package which sells for $40 and includes four View Level tickets (valued at $15 a piece) and a $20 QuikTrip card. The card can be used on gas or merchandise and the retail value of the entire package is $80, but you only pay $40. Is there anything better than getting a deal on both baseball AND gas?
We’ll have a lineup for you later.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Tony Pena, Jr. is under that pile, being mobbed by his teammates. Pena delivered the Royals’ second walk-off win of the season yesterday and Around the Horn is hear to say, those are just fun. You can’t help but smile watching wins come together like that.
What’s more Jose Guillen was intentionally walked to get to Pena. Around the Horn would like to point out yet another example of an IBB coming back to haunt a team. No matter how good setting up the force at second is, a few of us here at Around the Horn remain unconvinced. Sorry for the rant…
Teahen scored fairly easily from second after he doubled earlier in the inning. Teahen drew a throw but it was all over when Pena made contact and the ball shot by Breslow straight up the middle of the field and into center.
Couple fun facts about the walk-off:
Pena is 2-for-2 as a DH in his career.
The walk-off was the ninth game-winning RBI and 13th go-ahead RBI of Pena’s career.
The Royals are 10-5 in powder blue.
Stay tuned for a sneak peak at the Royals clubhouse later tonight.
Zack Greinke returns to the hill tonight, looking to return the starters to form and extend his career high win total to 10…Mike Aviles grabbed his fourth four-hit games in his short career last night and raised his average to .341, which leads all MLB rookies…Aviles is also a scoring machine (the picture at right is him beating a play at home last weekend versus the White Sox). He’s plated 12 runs in his last 11 games…David DeJesus returned to the lineup last night and knocked in the Royals’ run. He tied his RBI total from 2005 and 2006 and needs two more to reach his 2007 total of 58…DeJesus’ RBI also upped is Major League leading RISP average to .437.
Vote now for Joakim Soria’s nickname. The choices are El Lobo (The Wolf), El Castigador (The Punisher), The Mexicutioner and The Terminator. It’s up to you.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
The Royals woes have been nothing compared to some teams, who’s pitching staffs have been shredded to bits like the Cardinals, the Orioles or the Yankees. And the K.C. position players have been relatively healthy with only two players actually going on the Disabled List this season. But these are the dog days, so let’s go Around the Horn…
The latest development was Ron Mahay. Mahay is day-to-day with plantar fasciitis, a bruise to tissue that supports the arch of the foot, on his left foot. The bruise causes pain in the arch and heel on each step as the tissue transmits weight across the bottom of the foot.
David DeJesus, who had a sprained ankle and sore back, is back in the lineup tonight after missing five games. He, as well as Mark Teahen and Jose Guillen, have been fighting back stiffness and other bumps. With the month of August rolling along, it’s not surprising the wear of playing everyday is getting to players.
The most recent serious injury was to Mark Grudzielanek, who was placed on the D.L. last Saturday after a collision with Ross Gload while chasing down a pop-up. Earlier this week, the team found that he has a torn deltoid ligament on the left side of his right ankle. Grudzielanek should be out four to six weeks, which might cost him the rest of the season.
Some good news on the injury front though, two players are in Triple-A Omaha on rehab assignments. Jimmy Gobble pitched earlier this week and throws again on Monday. Joey Gathright joined the O-Royals today and is most likely a lock to play until he’s ready to re-join the big club.
Also on the D.L. is John Bale, who will miss his 100th game tonight. Bale had a rehab assignment which he completed but he is still having some problems and is being re-evaluated.
Billy Butler is back at DH tonight. But not because he played poorly at first
base over the last few days. In fact, manager Trey Hillman said Butler’s play was outstanding. He commented on Butler’s good glove work and a few plays where he showed good footwork moving around the bag as well.
Hillman said he wants to field the best offensive and defensive lineup he can. With Jose Guillen able to play the field tonight, that puts Ross Gload at first and Butler at DH.
The Royals have a chance to even their record out to .500 on trifecta days (like 08/08/08). They won last year on 07/07/07 but lost the two previous years on 06/06/06 and 05/05/05 (they didn’t play on 04/04/04)…If you haven’t noticed, the Hall of Fame building in left field is taking shape with two stories of steelwork completed now…From Trey Hillman’s press conference: Opposing managers have commented that the 2008 Royals are fulfilling some of Hillman’s wishes, they are more fundamentally sound…Also from Trey: As an organizational stance, players who can play multiple positions like Mike Aviles, Esteban German and Ross Gload have a high value and are great options to have on the bench…On the Farm: Lefty Danny Duffy and Juan Abreu combined to throw a no-hitter last night for Single-A Burlington (IA).
It was just brought to Around the Horn’s attention today, but the Royals had another All-Star in New York. Danielle Menzel was honored as the 2007 Designated Driver of the Year. Menzel frequents Kauffman Stadium and signs up for each game’s Good Sport drawing. By signing up each game, she unknowingly entered herself into the Responsibility has its Rewards drawing. She was selected to be the Royals DD of the Year. She won an all expenses paid trip to New York for the 2008 All-Star game.
Around the Horn might smell a Touch ’em All interview, who knows. But regardless, huge congratulations to Danielle. Hope you had a great time in the Big Apple!
One final All-Star note today. Your 2008 Royals All-Star currently has a vote going on. The Royals are letting you pick his nickname. The choices are El Lobo (The Wolf), El Castigador (The Punisher), The Mexicutioner and The Terminator. Around the Horn isn’t ready to support one of the candidates just yet. We need to hear the debate and weigh the options. So it’s all up to you.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Around the Horn snapped this photo last homestand on Frank White powder blue t-shirt night. It was late… very late after the rain delay and these four guys stuck it out. David DeJesus was battling Detroit’s Fernando Rodney and we happened to see these guys from the pressbox down behind homeplate and so we snuck down got this.
You ever notice how 20 = 4 x 5? Around the Horn isn’t sure what that means but we’re pretty sure it can only be good.
Twins in town tomorrow for the last time this summer. Bobbleheads and Sluggerrr T’s Saturday and Sunday. See ya out there.
Last night was a good example of why the Red Sox are the World Champions. They were efficient with their baserunners and only one Boston player failed to reach base. That’s a balanced offense and coupled with a pitcher who commands “electric stuff”, the Sox are a team playing for another championship.
But the Royals played hard the whole way through, as evidenced by Mitch Maier robbing a home run in the seventh in one of the oddest plays this season (seriously watch this video). For a peak at tonight’s matchup, let’s go Around the Horn…
This series with Boston puts into perspective how tough the Royals current stretch is. Beginning on July 18, the Boys in Blue started a 28-game run in which they would play seven separate teams in nine series (Chicago for three games, Detroit for three, Tampa Bay for four, Oakland for three, Chicago for three more, Boston for three, Minnesota for three, Chicago for three again and New York for three).
On July 17, those seven teams featured two division leaders, the Wild Card team and the top three contenders for the Wild Card with a combined record of 368-297 (.553 winning percentage). With 10 games left, KC has done well, going 10-8, going 4-2 vs. Chicago and helping push them into second in the Central (for a time), splitting with the first place Rays and sweeping the A’s in Oakland for the first time in 20 years. Their only major losses came at the hands of the surging Tigers who swept the Royals.
The last ten games of this stretch start tonight with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield throwing for the Wild Card-leading Red Sox.
Speaking of knuckleballers, manager Trey Hillman has a knuckleball in his repertoire. In fact, he’s been toying with it for 13 years. Who knew? Hillman will throw batting practice tonight for the team to prepare them for Wakefield’s unconventional pitching.
Hillman told the media in his pre-game press conference that when he was with the Yankees minor league system, he’d be told every September they were going fly him to New York to throw batting practice before Wakefield pitched, but it never happened. He also said that in Japan, he’d always toss BP when his team was scheduled to face the few knucklers over there. Currently in the Majors, only Wakefield and Seattle’s R.A. Dickey are considered true knuckleballers.
Tonight, Wakefield will face the Royals Luke Hochevar, a sinkerballer. The keys for Hochevar to succeed are control and keeping his sinker down in the strikezone. Hochevar has done both well lately, limiting his walks to 1.5 per nine innings over his last 10 starts, compared to a 5.5 mark during his first nine. He’s also getting the ground balls he needs, recording a 1.77 ground ball/fly ball ratio. That’s fourth-best among A.L. hurlers with as many starts as Hochevar. If the Sox are hitting in the ball on the ground tonight, look for a solid outing from Luke.
So it’s sinkerballer versus knuckleballer tonight at the K.
Lefty John Bale has rejoined the Royals after completing his rehab assignment, but remains on the Disabled List…The Royals first hit tonight will be the first in support of Luke Hochevar versus Boston. If you’ll recall, his last start versus the Sox was Jon Lester’s no-hitter on May 19…Yasuhiko Yabuta cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Omaha. He pitched a scoreless inning today in rejoining the O-Royals…Jimmy Gobble started today for Triple-A Omaha to begin his rehab start. He went 2.2 innings, allowing four hits and two runs with a walk and three K’s, throwing 44 pitches…From Trey Hillman’s pre-game press conference: David DeJesus will get one more game off tonight, giving him two more days to recover from an ankle sprain before Friday’s game versus the Twins.
It’s College Night tonight, so it’s discounted tickets to all those with a valid student ID (high school or college).
Finally, don’t forget about the Larry Gura bobbleheads and Sluggerrr t-shirts this weekend.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
The Royals are running, not on the base paths or away from opponents. But right at them…with their arms. The pitching is showing fans what they should be able to expect for several years with three 24-year olds, a second-year pitcher who drew Rookie of the Year consideration and a 2007 All-Star who’s signed for three more years after this one.
Gil Meche (the 2007 All-Star) went right after the Red Sox last night and the Royals won their third in a row and eighth in their last 11, dating back to Meche’s win on July 24 over Tampa Bay. To catch up with the rolling Royals rotation, let’s go Around the Horn…
The starters are starting their third lap around since the pitching surge began. Gil Meche has compiled three victories, allowed just four earned runs in 20 innings (1.80 ERA) and struck out 21 during his three turns. Meche’s win last night put him over .500 for the first time this season, thanks to his 7-1 record and a 2.66 ERA over his last 11 starts.
While Meche has been the horse, the rest of the rotation has done its work as well. Their composite record over the 11-game stretch is 7-2 with a 3.03 ERA. Meche, Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Luke Hochevar and tonight’s starter Brian Bannister have allowed 22 earned runs in 65.1 innings with 52 K’s.
Tonight Brian Bannister is looking to extend the stretch and get a win for himself. Bannister recorded a career-high for strikeouts last Wednesday in Oakland, but settled for a no decision in a game the team eventually won in extras. He’ll face a Boston team which fell one K short of its season high (13) last night.
Mike Aviles may not qualify for the official batting title, but he qualifies for the rookie title and he sits 30 points higher than any other first year player – in either league. The White Sox’ Alexei Ramirez entered today at .308 compared to Aviles’ .338.
With his honors as Royals player of the Month for July and Co-American League Player of the Week being announced yesterday, Aviles officially announced himself to the rest of the Majors. But he’s been hurting opponents for virtually all of his two-month career. Once he got his feet settled under him, he busted out.
As always, the League adjusted. He slumped briefly (his average never dropped below .273) and then he adjusted back. Around the Horn overheard hitting coach Mike Barnett talking about Aviles earlier today. He said he told Aviles what pitchers were doing to him to frustrate him by pounding him with fastballs inside and then getting him to chase sliders out of the zone, down and away. Barnett told Aviles to return to what he does best. Aviles went out the next day in Tampa and, in a 10th inning at bat, laid off three fastballs up and in. All were called for balls. He laid off another slider down and away which caught the plate for a strike. Then he made the Rays’ Dan Wheeler pay by depositing the next pitch – a mistake to Aviles’ power zone – into the stands.
Within a few days, Aviles was back to doing what he has established his does best, praying on opponent’s mistakes and spraying the ball all over the park.
The Royals were notified of their pending suspensions for Sunday’s incident with the White Sox. Zack Greinke and Miguel Olivo are both appealing their five-game suspensions…Manager Trey Hillman, however, will serve his one game suspension tonight. Bench coach Dave Owen will take his place at the Royals helm…Mike Aviles has scored at least one run in eight straight games…Joakim Soria has at least one save versus every American League team after picking up his 32nd of the season last night over Boston.
This week is the 16th annual Royals Blood Drive. Around the Horn is planning on donating Thursday during the team’s off day. Needles? We’re not scared of needles!
As for promotions this week, Larry Gura will be in town Saturday, both as a Bobblehead (it’s the giveaway that night) and in person (signing autographs from 4:30 to 5:15 on the Royals dugout). Then Sunday is Sluggerrr kids T-shirt day. Hope to see you out here.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Well, Around the Horn’s predictions yesterday was right. We threw the same lineup out as the day before and we got a season high in runs (14) and picked up 19 hits for the second straight day. So hey, let’s give Miguel Olivo a day off and see if we can make it three straight.
Tonight’s lineup: We’ve had some solid pitching and Gil Meche looks to bring the heat again for the Royals on another steamy August evening at Kauffman.
Today’s Official Game Notes.
Touch 'em All: Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson on inventing the batting glove, playing against the Mick, and the glory of halibut in Seattle
Today marks the finale of the White Sox second trip to Kansas City. The last time they were here, Around the Horn was fortunate enough to sit down with Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson, the longtime broadcaster for the South-siders. Harrelson has had one heck of a journey. He played for four Major League teams, including the Kansas City A’s. He served as General Manager for the White Sox. He was a professional golfer and even gave rise to a piece of baseball equipment you see everyday. He played from 1963-71 and was teammates with some of the biggest names in baseball history, including the late Royals Hall of Fame manager Dick Howser, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and his pitching coach Dave Duncan, Kansas City A and Royal Moe Drabowsky and Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk.
Around the Horn caught Hawk just after dinner to sit down for a Touch’em All interview. He was good enough to squeeze us in before he went on-air to call the Sox-Royals game on Wednesday July 9. With the Sox finishing up batting practice and the broadcast booth getting set for the game around us, the Hawk gave us 20 minutes of his undivided attention before we “grabbed some bench.” We were more than grateful. Here’s what we got, hope you enjoy…
Around the Horn: Thanks for letting us steal a few minutes. Let’s start with your Kansas City connection. You played for the Kansas City A’s for a few years. A lot of Kansas City fans have very fond memories of those A’s teams and Municipal Stadium.
Ken Harrelson: It was great. Great place to play, great town, great ballpark. Of course your first year in the big leagues is always exciting. But I played nine years and they were all exciting except for one year. A lot of people don’t understand what a great place Kansas City is to play. A lot of players do obviously, but that’s the reason the players stayed here and lived here. But this was one of the best places in baseball to play. I enjoyed it.
We had some (terrible) teams when I first started. But then all of a sudden because of Whitey Herzog, the scouts went out and found a lot of good young players. And then the draft came along in ’66 and we drafted Rick Monday, I think that was the first guy ever drafted in the history of the draft. About ’65, we started getting some good young players in there. I was at first base, Dick Green was at second, (Bert) Campaneris was at short, Sal Bando was at third. We had Joe Rudi in left, Rick Monday in center and Reggie Jackson in right. We had some good young pitchers – Catfish (Hunter) and Blue Moon (John Odom) and Lew Krausse.
And then I got into an argument with (owner Charlie) Finley in ’67 and he released me. That’s when I went to Boston. Then in ’68, that’s when the Athletics went out to Oakland and that became a great ballclub – five consecutive divisional titles, three consecutive World Championships in ’72, ’73 and ’74. When I went to the Red Sox in ’67 and helped them a little bit to win the pennant. We played in the World Series and got beat in seven games by the Cardinals.
But I always, like right now, love coming back to Kansas City. We’ve got two more trips in here. I just love it. I have a few good friends who still remain here but a lot of good acquaintances. I get a ton of fan mail and e-mails from Kansas City. A lot of people watch the games on WGN.
In fact, my favorite cities to go to are here and Boston, Seattle and Toronto, those are my four favorite cities.
ATH: Since you mention it, why Seattle and Toronto? You didn’t play for either of those teams. (in fact both were expansion teams in 1977, after the Hawk retired, but we didn’t mention that to him)
KH: No. It’s just I love Toronto. I love Seattle. Seattle is the most beautiful city in the world to fly into. You’re flying over Puget Sound and it’s just majestic.
And I’m a seafood freak. I love seafood. They’ve got some of great seafood out there. Especially when this friend of mine, the dentist that I used to see out there… ummm.
(to his broadcast partner Darin Jackson) What’s the name of that fish out there in Seattle?
When it’s in-season and they catch ’em. (and before Jackson can react) Halibut. (almost tasting the fish as he says it) Halibut. You get a piece of Halibut about that big, (he gestures with his hands the size a little bigger than a baseball) square about like that. His wife would cook it up. I’d go buy a couple of bottles of port, you know three or four hundred dollars a bottle, aged. It don’t get any better than that.
Plus, I was playing a lot of golf and the golf courses out in Seattle are just beautiful They’ve got Douglas Furs that look like they go up a thousand feet. And I hit every one of them.
I love Toronto because it’s just a neat city. It reminds me a lot of Chicago. Very clean, they’ve got some great restaurants and some great golf courses. And of course Boston, having played there and then broadcasting there – spending a lot of time in Boston, 14 years in Boston, altogether living there.
Last year I went back for the 40th anniversary of the ’67 team. It was the first time I’ve ever left the Club. I hadn’t seen some of those guys in 40 years. So it’s been something that, I’ve always said I’ve been the luckiest guy in the world. I’ve been able to have fun my whole life, never worked a day in my life. Everything I’ve ever done I’ve loved, playing baseball, playing golf. It’s been a great ride.
ATH: You spoke at the Legends Luncheon and you talked about how you weren’t getting paid much playing in Kansas City, but you were able to go out and augment you’re cash flow a little playing golf and playing pool.
KH: Well, when you’re making $6,000 a year and spending 30, you’ve got to supplement your income. And what I said was the truth. I actually made more money from golf and pool than I did my first couple of years playing Major League Baseball. I would go to the ballpark, play the game. And I only lived about a mile and a half from here – we knew this stadium was going to be built way back then. They had plans for it and this was the area they were going to build it in. A lot of the players lived out here in Raytown and that little bit.
But there was a pool room, I forget where it was, but I’d go to the pool room and I’d shoot pool until about 12:30, 1 o’clock. Try to pick up $40, 50, a hundred bucks, whatever I could make. And then I’d go home.
I’d get up early and I’d go to the golf course. We used to go to Staten Meadows – we called it the rock pile. They were great out there. The pros were great. We’d play all over, but mostly we went out there and we’d play 18. And if I wasn’t playing (in the game) that day, sometimes we’d play more. But usually Ted Bowsfield and I would play Gino Cimoli and Sammy Esposito. We’d play ’em and beat ’em everyday and I’d pick up $100-150 a day there. And then we’d go on the road and I’d play pool because we couldn’t take our golf clubs on the road.
But no, I had to do it and it was fun.
ATH: You’re credited with inventing the batting glove (some dispute that Hawk just re-popularized it, but we’ll let you be the judge). It has to come from your golf background, right?
KH: Yep, from here in Kansas City. We went out to play one day and I played 27 because I wasn’t supposed to be playing that day. And I changed my grip around a little bit. I went right from the golf course to the ballpark and I looked at the lineup card and I was in there. The Yankees had made a change. They were supposed to start Jim Bouton, I think it was, who was a right-hander. Anyway, they switched to Whitey Ford. I went out and took batting practice and I had a blister from changing my grip, right on my left hand. But I remembered I had my golf glove up in my jeans.
So now the game’s started and I put my golf glove on. It was a red All-Star golf glove. And when I went to the plate the first time in the bottom of the first inning, the Yankees were (all over me). “You (bleep). You, you…” I mean they were relentless, because back in those days bench-jockeying was common. So anyway, Whitey hung me a curveball first time up. I hit it about 450 in left-center field. But they stayed on me. Then later in the game, I hit another one out.
ATH: (extremely excited) Off Whitey again?
KH: I think it was off Whitey. I think it was off him again. It was off a left-hander.
The next day, all the Yankees came out of the clubhouse and were taking batting practice and they all had red golf gloves on. Mantle had the clubbie go out and buy a couple dozen read All-Star golf gloves. And that’s how the batting glove started. I never hit without one again.
But it was fun. It was fun. Mantle was a great guy. We were talking last night about speed. We’d mentioned that Joey Gathright was clocked at 3.4 (seconds) on a bunt down the first base line. Well they got Mickey Mantle at 3-point flat… a lot. He was the fastest guy to this day, I’ve ever seen.
Bo Jackson was the fastest right-handed hitter I’ve ever seen. I saw Bo get his first hit right here off Steve Carlton. He hit it down to Ted Hulett at third base and Hulett was too late and Bo was (makes a whooshing noise) across the bag.
But that’s how the batting glove got started. A lot of things, you know the stuff under my eyes and the foot off the ground – started all that stuff. Let’s put it this way. I was not a person of inhibitions. It didn’t bother me to do something out of the norm. In fact, I enjoyed it. You know when you’re hitting 12, 15 home runs, they call you a flake. Then you go and hit 35 and that’s charisma. That’s the dangers of perception.
(Around the Horn cannot completely verify this story, but it found a box score from September 4, 1964, a game versus the New York Yankees when Harrelson hit two homers in a 7-9 loss. Hawk hit one off Ford, and one off Pete Mikkelsen, the game’s winning pitcher that day) (as an extra note, Ford went 17-6 in 1964 with a 2.13 ERA, allowing just 10 homers).
ATH: Would you say that the game has changed a lot?
KH: Oh, yeah. The game has really changed a lot. Over the 49 years I’ve been in it, the game has changed a lot. Right now, the biggest change in the last 50 years is bullpens. Today, it’s just battle of the bullpens. I don’t care how good your starters are, I don’t care how good your team is, if you don’t have a good bullpen, you’re gonna lose. The managers, the guys have tried to shorten these things up. These guys are caring 12, 13 pitchers. We used to carry nine and 10. Some of these managers need 14, 15 the way they manage.
But it’s interesting to me to see the change in the evolution of the game because of the way it’s played. These guys physically are better players than we were. But they don’t have better teams that we had. Our teams knew how to play. We had 16 teams in the big leagues. There are 30 today. These kids are rushed up here before they learn how to play the game and some of them never do. Because they have a good year and all of a sudden they are making $8 million a year. And once they start making that big money, you can’t coach them anymore, because they’re not going to change because they’re making $8 million a year.
Everything in the game today is harder than when I played. Managing is harder, being a general manager is harder. Playing the game is harder because of the media pressure. The media pressure on a scale of one to 10, is a 10. Compared to when I played, it was a one or a two. Some guys just can’t handle the pressure. There would have been a lot of guys in my era, with that kind of media scrutiny, who would have folded like a tent because they couldn’t handle it either.
So I am not saying that we were right and these guys are wrong. I’m just saying the game has changed. We talk about starting pitching and they talk about trying to pick up 200 innings. That’s two-thirds of what it was when I started. When I first came up, it was close to 350. Then it went to 300, then 250 and now it’s at 200. And with agents involved in the game it’s going to keep going down. There were no agents when I was in the game. Agents have been a big part in the change of the game and they are just going to keep getting more powerful.
The greatest thing that’s happened to the game in the last 10 to 15 years has been Bud Selig. Bud has done an unbelievable job. There’s only been I think nine commissioners in the history of baseball. I’ve been through seven of them. I’ve been in this game all or parts of six decades and come 2010, it will be all or parts of seven. Not many guys have done that. Bud Selig has been one of the greatest assets this game has ever had. He’s been the greatest commissioner I’ve ever been involved with. He’s got everybody making money. Players are making terrific money. Owners are making terrific money. There’s not a one team that’s losing money in baseball. When he came in, there were 30 teams with 30 different agendas. He’s got them all on the same page. He’s the only guy to ever do that. They ought to put a gold statue of him in Cooperstown.
ATH: Well we know you need to get back to work. Thank you so much for your time, maybe we can get together again when you guys are back in town?
KH: Yea, I’ve got to mic check. But sure that’d be fine.