Satchel Paige: One of a kind, unfortunately

Satchel Paige

Clarence “Ace” Parker died earlier this month at age 101. Parker was not only the oldest-living member of the NFL Hall of Fame, he was also one of the oldest-living former Major League baseball players.

Parker, who would gain fame on the gridiron between 1936 and 1941, and again after World War II in 1945, played under Connie Mack for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1936 and 1937.

While he enjoyed minimal success in the big leagues, at his passing he was noted for being one of just two individuals still alive who played on the same major league baseball field as Yankees great Lou Gehrig and the last living person to play on the same field as Rogers Hornsby, another baseball Hall of Famer.

Hornsby, who began his career in 1915 for the St. Louis Cardinals and would go on to compile the second-highest career batting average in Major League history at .358, was playing for the St. Louis Browns in one of his last games on May 7, 1937, when he took the field against Parker’s Athletics.

Hornsby, nicknamed the Rajah, made it back to the majors more than a decade and a half after his last game when he was hired by the inimitable Bill Veeck to manage the woeful Browns in 1952.

Among players that Hornsby, a cantankerous sort who didn’t smoke, drink or go the movies because he believed they could harm a batter’s vision, had on his roster in St. Louis was Satchel Paige, the former Negro Leagues star who, despite being in his mid-40s, was still quite effective.

Paige was the antithesis of his manager in just about every respect.

Continue reading

Bill Buckner: Much more than a single play

There’ve been several stories this week noting the 25th anniversary of Bill Buckner’s infamous missed ground ball in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

The miscue by the Boston Red Sox first baseman on a weak grounder off the bat of Mookie Wilson allowed the New York Mets to score with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning and take a 6-5 win, keeping the Red Sox from their first world championship since 1918.

Two nights later, the Mets rallied to beat the Red Sox, 8-5, to take the Series, forever lumping Buckner alongside the likes of Fred Merkle, Mickey Owen, Ralph Branca and Mitch Williams.

Labeling Buckner as one of baseball’s greatest goats has always seemed one of sport’s great injustices.

For one thing, by the time he retired in 1990, he’d amassed 2,715 hits over a 22-year career that included a National League batting title.

Beyond that, Buckner was far from the only reason the Sox lost the ’86 series.

Continue reading