Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia’

1957 World Series

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Milwaukee inaugurated the Braves ball club to its new home city just a couple of weeks before the 1953 season began.  Acclimation from its previous location of Boston did not present a problem, given the enthusiasm showered by Milwaukeeans on their new major league ambassadors.  Four years later, the Braves powered through their National League competition to face the august New York Yankees in the 1957 World Series—it went seven games.

Initially scheduled to pitch Game Seven, Warren Spahn got sidelined by the flu, forcing Braves skipper Fred Haney to tap Lew Burdette for the deciding game, played at Yankee Stadium.  Burdette went the distance, blanked the Yankees 5-0, and notched his third victory in the ’57 series.  And he did it on two days rest, scattering seven hits and walked one batter—an intentional walk.  Burdette received the World Series MVP Award, predictably.

Milwaukee erupted in a celebration reaching from the citizenry on the streets to the power brokers in government.  Richard J.H. Johnston of the New York Times wrote, “Mayor Frank Zeidler burst from his office in City Hall and rushed to the building’s bell tower.  He and his laughing aides took turns at the bell rope to set in motion a great booming that was heard all over the city.  The first signal sent up from City Hall was five ear-shattering clangs of the bell, one for each of the Braves’ five runs in their 5-to-0 victory over the New York Yankees.”

Sid Gray of the New York Herald Tribune quoted Yankee star Mickey Mantle on praising the Braves:  “And that [Eddie] Mathews, they told me he was no gloveman.  They must have been kidding.  He was great.  So was their entire club on defense.”

Hank Aaron, the 1957 National League Most Valuable Player, assessed Burdette’s momentum combined with a sense of vindication in his autobiography I Had a Hammer:  “The way he was going, I think Burdette could have pitched if he’d been up all night working in one of those coal mines back in West Virginia.  Burdette had been traded by the Yankees before he ever got a chance to really pitch for them, and he hadn’t forgotten it.”

Burdette overcame a Yankee threat in the bottom of the ninth, a pure storybook opportunity for the boys in pinstripes to reverse the game’s course.  Yogi Berra fouled out, but Gil McDougald followed with a single.  Then, Yankee rookie Tony Kobe flied out to centerfield, governed by Aaron.

Two outs, one man on base.

Jerry Coleman singled.

Two outs, two men on base.

Tommy Byrne singled.

Two outs, bases loaded.

Burdette faced fearsome Yankee slugger Moose Skowron, upon whose shoulders the hopes of Yankee fans stood.  Alas, another World Series victory was not to be for the boys from the Bronx.  Bob Cooke of the Herald Tribune described the play and its impact on Yankee manager Casey Stengel:  “And then came the end, but not peacefully.  Moose Skowron shot a grounder to the right of [Braves third baseman] Eddie Mathews.  The latter scooped it up with a great, backhand catch, and danced to third where he forced Coleman for the final out.

“Stengel had disappeared.  He was on his way to the clubhouse and a long winter.”

Pitching the seventh game of a World Series at Yankee Stadium did not faze Burdette, an example of calm.  In his 2012 book Bushville Wins! The Wild Saga of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the Screwballs, Sluggers, and Beer Swiggers Who Canned the New York Yankees and Changed Baseball, John Klima wrote, “Burdette looked utterly unbothered on the mound.  He was so laid-back, yet so determined to win, that even the guys who had played with him for years, marveled at how the pressure that would kill other men couldn’t touch him.”

That night, upon the team’s landing at Billy Mitchell Field, approximately 12,000 Milwaukeeans greeted, cheered, and celebrated their baseball heroes.

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on October 12, 2015.

Baseball in Appalachia

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

A minor league baseball treasure resides in the heart of Appalachia.  West Virginia may be known for its natural resources—coal, logging, natural gas—but its roots in baseball date back more than 100 years.  Charleston began its professional baseball history in 1910 with the Statesmen, a Class D team i the Virginia Valley League.  The following year, the Statesmen played in the Class D Mountain State League.

The latest incarnation of professional baseball in West Virginia is the Power, a label that began with the 2005 season.  Concurrently, the team created five mascots—Axe, Gusty, Pyro, Hydro, Charlie.  In 2010, Chuck replaced all five.  A yellow creature with a bowler and an eye patch, Chuck is a hallmark of Power baseball.  The eye patch is highly significant because it pays homage to the Power’s parent team—the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the Charleston Daily Mail article “New Power mascot dons bowler”—dated September 1, 2010—Zack Harold describes Chuck’s initial appearance:  “After weeks of anticipation, the West Virginia Power baseball team debuted its new mascot—a furry, yellow, bowler-hat wearing creature named Chuck—during Tuesday night’s game.

“Chuck made his grand appearance in the middle of the second inning, riding into Appalachian Power Park on a Suzuki four-wheeler.  The Davisson Brothers Band welcomed him to the stadium with a special adaptation of their song Big City Hillbilly.

Appalachian Power Park houses the Power.  Noting the financial realities demanding a change in venue for Power home games, the team’s web site states, “Modern baseball economics could not survive in Watt Powell Park and several groups worked to preserve the game in Charleston.  From political support and work with the Economic Development Grant Commission to WVWINS, a community action group that mobilized local fans and businesses to back the project, an East End ballpark was put on the map.  Appalachian Power would quickly agree to take on the naming rights to the new 23 million dollar facility.”

Change continued with the team’s branding.  Charleston’s professional baseball history has several labels, though there are gaps:

  • Statesmen (1910-1911—Virginia Valley League in 1910, Mountain State League in 1911)
  • Senators (1913-1916, Ohio State League)
  • Senators (1949-1951, Central League)
  • Senators (1952-1960, American Association)
  • Marlins (1961-1964—International League in 1961, Eastern League in 1962-1964)
  • Charlies (1971-1983, International League)
  • Wheelers (1987-1994, South Atlantic League)
  • Alley Cats (1995-2003, South Atlantic League)
  • Power (2004-Present, South Atlantic League)

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on May 7, 2015.

How the Great Falls Voyagers Got Their Name

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

More than a moniker, the name of a sports team may reflect local history, culture, and myth.  Baseball, certainly, has contributed to this linguistic equation.

San Diego is the site of the first Franciscan mission, hence the name Padres.

The West Virginia Power, the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, honors the Mountain State’s energy roots, including coal, hydro-electric, and natural gas.

Baltimore’s Orioles pay tribute to Maryland’s official bird.

The Sugar Land Skeeters ball club of the Atlantic League draws its name from the Texas pronunciation of “mosquitoes,” those pesky insects indigenous to the Houston area.

A UFO incident inspired the name of the Pioneer League’s team in Great Falls, Montana—Voyagers.  It happened in August 1950, when two objects in the Great Falls sky diverted a routine inspection of Legion Park—the home field for the Great Falls Electrics, a minor league team in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

Nicholas “Nick” Mariana, the general manager of the Electrics (or Selectrics, as the team was briefly known for the 1949 and 1950 seasons), had the duties of checking out the ballpark.  Accompanied by his secretary, 19-year-old Virginia Raunig, he saw two bright, silvery objects in the Great Falls sky.  Mariana fetched a 16-millimeter movie camera from his car to document the event.

A 2008 article on OurSports Central titled “Historic sighting spawns new image for Great Falls ball club” states the sighting’s impact:  “Media from across the nation reported on the sighting, and over the next two decades the film was examined and studied by UFO buffs, prominent scientists and engineers, the Air Force and even the CIA.  Often disputed but never refuted, the ‘Mariana Incident’ remains to this day one of the strongest cases supporting the existence of UFOs ever captured on film, and Great Falls, Montana maintains its place as one of the most active locations for UFO sightings in North America.”

The article also quoted Vinney Purport, the team president, who explained the reasoning behind the Great Falls baseball team choosing Voyagers as its new name beginning in 2008.  “The community owns the team—and it has for the past 60 years.  But it’s been hard to capture that feeling of ownership rooting for the Dodgers, Giants, or White Sox.  Now the team will continue to be the Great Falls Voyagers even if our major league affiliation happens to change.”

Did Mariana document voyagers from another planet, galaxy, or dimension?  Was it a hoax?  Is there a reasonable explanation?  Project Blue Book researched, catalogued, and analyzed thousands of UFO reports.  Mariana was not alone in witnessing or claiming to witness a UFO traveling across Earth’s skies.  The National Archives web site states, “On December 17, 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the termination of Project BLUE BOOK, the Air Force program for the investigation of UFOs.

“From 1947 to 1969, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Project BLUE Book.”

So, are we alone in the universe?  The National Archives summarizes the project’s findings.  “As a result of these investigations and studies and experience gained from investigating UFO reports since 1948, the conclusions of Project BLUE BOOK are: (1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security; (2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge; and (3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ are extraterrestrial vehicles.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on September 3, 2014.

Attorney, Cop, President

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Jimmy Smits was a cornerstone on prime time television in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

In the 1980s, Smits played Victor Sifuentes on L.A. Law, working in the Public Defender’s office before Michael Kuzak recruits him to the private sector, specifically, the law firm McKenzie Brackman Chaney & Kuzak.  Initially, Victor handles the firm’s pro bono cases and other matters burdening the firm’s workload; he soon tackles other litigation.

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Mascot Power

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Coal.  Logging.  Natural gas.

West Virginia is more than a state rich with natural resources.  It is, in fact, a minor league baseball treasure.

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