Tag:Yogi Berra
Posted on: May 31, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 10:31 pm
 

This Nixon not on Griffey Sr.'s enemies list

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Yes, Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson was one of the most visible managers Ken Griffey Sr. ever had, and surely is influencing in some way what Griff is doing as a manager today.

But Griffey's most influential manager?

That would be Russ Nixon, whom Griffey was blessed to have come across during his second year of professional baseball, perhaps the most difficult of his career.

It was in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the early 1970s, and Griffey was the only married player on the team.

Worse, Griffey says, "there were not many black folks in Sioux Falls. We were the only black family around."

Concerned over this, Griffey said he phoned his wife at the time, Birdie, and tried to tell her not to come to South Dakota with their five-month-old son -- Ken Griffey Jr. But she already was on a plane.

As Griffey remembers it, the team opened with a homestand of about nine or 10 days, and Birdie arrived on day six or seven. They were rebuffed on a couple of rental attempts while looking for a place to live, Griffey says, adding that he knew it was because of their race.

"I told Russ Nixon that if I didn't find a place to live by the time the team left for the trip, I was going home," Griffey says. "Russ was staying at the team hotel and knew the guy who owned the hotel, and the guy's nephew was in real estate.

"He found us a place to live."

Sometimes in the low minors, managing isn't just about teaching hit-and-run techniques and bunt defenses.

"You learn quick," says Griffey, who was Cincinnati's 29th-round draft pick in 1969.

From Nixon, Griffey learned the value of persistence and the human touch.

From Sparky, Griffey learned the value of aggressive play and the art of handling different personalities.

Over his 24-year professional career, Griffey Sr. also played for many skippers, including John McNamara, Vern Rapp, George Scherger, Yogi Berra and Billy Martin. He hated Martin -- especially when Martin was drunk (he was a mean drunk) -- but still marvels at how shrewd and skilled a sober Martin was.

Likes: The Diamondbacks (!) in first place in the NL West, and Seattle surging in the AL West. What a month. ... Thanks to all with the Bakersfield Blaze. Very nice visit there with Ken Griffey Sr. and so many others late last week. Clubhouse manager Eddie Vasquez rocks. ... Griffey's Big Red Machine stories (George Foster has been in touch the most since Griffey took the Bakersfield managing job). ... Griffey chuckling about how he got along fine with Billy Martin in 1983 shortly after joining the Yankees "until Billy realized I was on the Reds team that kicked their ass in the '76 World Series." ... Mama Roomba Caribbean restaurant in Bakersfield. The salmon with mango salsa, mmm. ... Moo Creamery, also in Bakersfield. Go for the Toasted Almond and Strawberry Shortcake ice cream. ... Merle Haggard. ... The countdown to the final day of school.

Dislikes: Hall of Famer Gary Carter's battle with malignant brain tumors. Colleague Danny Knobler updates Carter's condition here. Prayers to Carter and his family.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I came here looking for something
"I couldn't find anywhere else
"Hey I'm not tryin' to be nobody
"I just want a chance to be myself
"I've spent a thousand miles of thumbin'
"Yes I've worn blisters on my heels
"Tryin' to find me something better
"Here on the streets of Bakersfield"

-- Buck Owens, Streets of Bakersfield



Posted on: March 3, 2011 9:23 am
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

VIERA, Fla. -- Outtakes from hanging out with the Nationals and, among other things, talking Tommy John with Stephen Strasburg and wondering whether Nyjer Morgan will keep it together this summer. ...

-- One thing that heartened free agent Jayson Werth after he signed with the Nats: The club's pursuit of ace pitcher Zack Greinke before Milwaukee stepped in and acquired him from Kansas City.

"I don't feel like anybody feels we're done looking," Werth says. "I feel Riz [general manager Mike Rizzo] is still out there looking for the right pieces, like trying to get Greinke. He's an aggressive guy. This is starting to turn into a win-now situation."

-- Before there was Stephen Strasburg, there was Jordan Zimmermann. High draft pick, potential ace pitcher, Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. ...

Zimmermann, 24, is projected to start the season in Washington's rotation in what will be his first full summer back following the Tommy John procedure. Not only are the Nats thrilled that Zimmermann is about ready to pitch in, he's able to serve another purpose, too.

"It's nice to have somebody to talk to," Strasburg says. "Somebody to see if what you're feeling is the same way he felt as the process goes on."

But, Strasburg noted, "you talk to three different guys who have had the surgery, you get three different answers as to how fast you can come back.

"It's more a matter of how you're going, how your strength is."

-- A year ago, Strasburg was all the buzz. Now, it's the Nats' second consecutive No. 1 Pick of the Century, outfielder Bryce Harper. Difference is, Harper is only 18 and has as much a chance of seeing the majors this summer as Ted Williams does of managing another Washington team in D.C.

Still, he's in major-league camp because he's on the 40-man roster, and the Nationals sure have enjoyed having him so far.

"It's been great for him," general manager Mike Rizzo says. "He's going to learn a lot from this. He's a sponge. He's a student of the game. He's a baseball rat. He keeps his mouth shut and his ears open. We have some veteran leadership now, and it's a credit to Bryce that he's [soaking it up].

"It's much like with Strasburg last year. They've really embraced Bryce as one of their own."

Among others, Werth has made sure to deliver various tips and pointers to Harper.

"He's young," Werth says. "But he's a lot further along at that age than I was. He's a special talent."

-- Rizzo on Nyjer Morgan and his troubled second half of 2010: "I think those were isolated incidents, out-of-character incidents. He's a very positive person and he plays the game hard. Sure, at times last year he got himself into trouble. But in his career, now, I think the extracurricular stuff will be eliminated.

"He's a big piece for us. His defensive presence in center field, his defensive range, he's a pest at the top of the lineup and he's capable of stealing 50 bases a year."

Sunblock Day? About two hours of light rain in Florida here in the past two-and-a-half weeks. If you're coming, bring the sunblock. If you're already here, get some more.

Likes: Talking to Yogi Berra in the Yankees' dugout the other day at Steinbrenner Field. ... Talking to David Wells in the Yankees clubhouse. He's never dull. ... This beautifully done story on Mets media relations man Jay Hortwitz from Jeff Pearlman. ... Caught the last half of the PBS American Masters series on the musicians of the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles -- James Taylor, Carole King, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and many others. Great documentary. Very well done. Sure hope I can catch up to the entire show in the near future. ... A new Lucinda Williams disc, Blessed. Haven't picked it up yet. Will soon. She's great.

Dislikes: The middle-aged man in the hotel workout room the other day who was using the exercise bike right next to me -- and riding barefoot. I get it, it's Florida, where bare feet and flip flops are perfectly acceptable. But come on. If you're going to work up a sweat in a workout room, have some respect for those around you. Disgusting. Thank goodness I was running on a treadmill and had no intention of using the bike.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well in the town where I was raised
"The clock ticks and the cattle grazed
"Time passed with amazing grace
"Back where I come from
"You can lie on a river bank
"Paint your name on a water tank
"Or miscount all the beers you drank
"Back where I come from"

-- Mac MacAnally, Back Where I Come From

 

 
 
 
 
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