As the title of our blog suggests, our blog is about one thing: our family’s baseball adventures. I don’t write about trades or trade rumors, MVP debates, player values, or Hall of Fame elections. I have strong feelings about all of those things. But I’m not a sportswriter. It’s not my job to tell people what I think they should think about the current happenings in our great sport. There are hordes of paid sportswriters for that. I’m here to document my family’s personal baseball history, and that’s about it.
This makes the offseason pretty quiet around here.
But there is baseball and baseball stuff going on in the Cook household year round. I recently wrote about Tim’s first winter clinic for his little league. There will be another clinic in a couple weeks, and we’re eagerly looking forward to it.
In my downtime, I’m still working away updating our Baseball Logs (which I get behind on during the season) and our online Baseball Museum, and planning our 2013 season (fyi, be on the lookout for three generations of Cook boys in the Lone Star state in 2013). But lately, there are two additional baseball items taking up some of my time and, since they fall in line with the concept of documenting our personal baseball history, I thought I’d do a short update about them.
Spike Owen was my original all-time favorite baseball player. I have two distinct “where was I when” memories about Spike. I was standing right here…
…at my elementary school (there used to be a baseball field there) when my assistant baseball coach explained that Spike Owen played short stop for the Mariners (fyi, I played short stop for the Sherwood Eagles!) and he wore number 7 (fyi, I also wore number 7!). From that very moment, Spike was instantly my favorite player. Several years later (1986), I was in the basement of my family home (sitting on a cabinet/desk thingy to be exact), when my buddy, Dan Mosely, called to tell me the unthinkable: Spike Owen was traded to the Boston Red Sox! By this time, I was already a huge Mariners fan, but had never paid any attention to the postseason. As a result of Spike’s traded to the Red Sox, I watched the World Series for the first time ever and REALLLLLY wanted Boston to win.
After 1986 (with no internet), it became pretty hard to follow Spike Owen, particularly during his years in Montreal. Basically, all I could do was read box scores in the newpaper (people used to do that in the 1980s).
While Spike became my absentee-favorite ballplayer, over the next several years, I never officially announced a new favorite Mariner. In retrospect, it was clearly Harold Reynolds. That is, it was Harold Reynolds until 1989, when Ken Griffey, Jr. showed up on the scene. Since 1989, Griff has held the title of my all-time favorite player and, unless Tim and/or Kellen make the pros, I assume he always will be my favorite baseball player.
So, why am I spending time thinking about Spike and Harold all of these years later? Let’s start with Spike.
I have been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for a number of years now (4 or 5 years, I guess). But I’ve never been an active participant in SABR. However, recently I have been chatting with another local SABR member who is active in the SABR BioProject. Through the BioProject, SABR is trying to have its members write 1,500+ word biographies of EVERY MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER EVER!!! (plus, managers, umpires, owners, etc., etc.) They have a loooooooooooooong way to go to reach that goal. So, I decided to get involved.
When I first considered getting involved, I quickly realized that the only way it would interest me is if I could have my participation in the BioProject compliment my efforts to document our family’s personal baseball history. My first assignment of choice became clear: I would volunteer to write the BioProject biography of the man who played a foundational role in my life-long love of baseball and the Mariners, Spike Owen.
Shortly after putting in the request, I was officially assigned the Spike Owen biography by the BioProject Committee. Lately, I have been researching Spike’s career (and life) via the internet and I have learned a whole lot of stuff I never knew about Spike. I thought I would share a few interesting things I have uncovered. My favorite old article I have found (from shortly before Spike’s call up to the Mariners) highlights the relationship between Spike and his minor league roommate and double play partner, Harold Reynolds:
Two other interesting notes, (i) Spike was the short stop for the Expos during Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez’s perfect game in 1991 and (ii) Spike was the Captain of the 1982 Texas Longhorns baseball team where his teammates included his future 1986 Red Sox teammates, Roger Clemens and Calvin Schiraldi.
Spike’s relationship with Harold Reynolds extended beyond the minors. Spike was called up to the Mariners before Harold. Spike played about 60 games for the Mariners in 1983 before Harold was called up and played his first game on September 2, 1983. Interestingly, Harold made his Major League debut as a pinch runner for Ken Phelps following an at-bat when Phelps pinch hit for Spike. Three days later, Harold started his first game for the Mariners. Spike hit lead off with Harold in the nine-hole, meaning that Spike was on deck when Harold had his first career at-bat in the Major Leagues. Twelve years later, Harold played his final game in the Major Leagues as the starting second basemen for the California Angels. His teammate and starting third basemen for the Angels that day: Spike Owen.
Let’s talk some Harold Reynolds.
Harold played almost his entire career for the Mariners. He was awesome. People in Seattle loved him (at least that was my perception at the time, I certainly loved the guy). He collected over 1,000 career hits for the Mariners, he was a 2-time All-Star and 3-time Gold Glove winner for the M’s. Plus, he won the 1991 Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable efforts.
It has never made sense to me that Harold has never been inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. He is an obvious choice to me.
So, last year, I created a Twitter account called @HR4MarinersHOF with the intent of posting pro-Harold tidbits as a sort of grassroots campaign to get Harold enshrined in the Mariners Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, almost immediately after I created the account and started posting a few Harold factoids, the Mariners announced that Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson (both great choices, as well) would be enshrined as new Marines Hall of Famers during the summer of 2012. So, I decided to put @HR4MarinersHOF on hold until the 2013 Major League campaign.
Now is the time. If you’re a Mariners fan and appreciate what Harold did for the Mariners, please give @HR4MarinersHOF a follow, a tweet, a retweet, or whatever you want to do to voice your feelings about Harold Reynolds and the Mariners Hall of Fame.
Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2013!
I’ve been looking through some old photo albums lately and found a bunch of old Mariners photos I figured I would share. Most of the following photos are from “Camera Day” (the best promotional night ever) at the Kingdome. The first set are from 1986, the second is from 1987, and the third is from 1990 or 1991 (my hunch is its 1991).
The picture quality of these photos is pretty shabby because I literally just took digital photos of actual printed photographs (my scanner is out of order right now).
During the 1986 season, I was ten years old and I was a huge Mariners fan. And in this pre-Griffey era, there was no Mariner (an no ballplayer period) more important to me than the Mariners sure-handed short stop, Spike Owen. This is the only picture I ever got with Spike.
Later this season, I was dealt a major blow when the Mariners dealt my all-time favorite player to the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox then moved on to the World Series and, for the first time ever, I watched the World Series and was pulling hard for Spike to win a championship. Spike had a great post-season in ’86. He hit .429 in the ALCS and .300 even in the World Series.
After 1986, Spike went on to have a solid career. He wasn’t an all-star and he won’t be in the Hall of Fame, or even any team’s Hall of Fame, but he had a career of which he should be proud. He had over 1,200 hits and was recognized as a quality short stop (although he never won a gold glove).
Interestingly, in the final at bat of his career, Spike hit a fly ball that Ken Griffey, Jr. caught for the first out of the ninth inning of the Mariners 1-game playoff against the Angels in 1995. Two outs later, Spike’s career was finished and the Mariners had won their first A.L. West Championship and made the playoffs for the first time in team history.
How about some more 1986 Mariners. Here I am with Al Cowens:
Phil Bradley was a quality Mariner. Over five seasons, he hit .301 and was an all-star in 1985. In ’86, Bradley hit .310.
I never realized this until right this second, but Yeager is apparently the reason that Spike Owen changed his number from 7 to 1 in 1986. I became a big Spike Owen fan initially because we both played short stop and we both wore number 7. I can tell you that M’s jersey I’m wearing in these pictures has a big number 7 on the back, and it was for Spike Owen, not Steve Yeager.
Of course, Ken Phelps is famous in Mariners history for two things he did involving other teams. First, Phelps was famously traded to the Bronx for future Mariners Hall of Famer, Jay Buhner. Second, as an Oakland Athletic, Phelps hit a homerun with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to break up Brian Holman’s bid for a perfect game.
Hendu was traded to the Red Sox along with Spike Owen. While he only had one hit and batted .111 in the ALCS against the Angels, Dave’s only hit was huge. With the Red Sox down to their potential final out of the series in the ninth inning of game five, Hendu delivered a two-run homerun off of Donnie Moore. The game when into extra innings, in the 11th inning, Hendu delivered the game winning RBI with a sac fly (also off of Donnie Moore). The Red Sox won the game, and then won games 6-7 to advance to the World Series. In the series, Hendu hit .400 (10 for 25) with 2 homeruns.
Hendu can be heard from time-to-time broadcasting Mariners games and seems to be a great guy.
Our catcher in 1986 was the one and only, Bob Kearney.
In 1987, I wasn’t about to miss Camera Day. Again, we were along the third base line. This season, I decided to sport my green and gold Sno-King Youth Club baseball uniform. Here I am with “Mr. Mariner,” Alvin Davis:
I don’t even remember the next guy, Bill Wilkinson:
The 1987 Mariners catcher of the future, Dave Valle:
We weren’t the best team in 1987, but we did have a (future) Hall of Famer at the helm: Dick Williams:
Next up, in the only picture of me holding a bat on a big league field, I posed with Mariners coach, Phil Roof:
Coming off of the bench, we had Rich Renteria:
Who could forget Scott Bankhead?
Our primary catcher in 1987 was this man: Scott Bradley:
Another guy I don’t remember was Steve Sheilds:
Here I am with Mariners coach Ozzie Virgil:
And finally, it was Hendu’s replacement: John “Johnny Moe” Moses:
Here I am in the Mariners dugout during a Spring Training game in 1991 — I was the batboy for the game:
Here I am retrieving a bat (possibly Ken Griffey, Jr.‘s) as Jay Buhner strides to the plate:
By the way, Griffey went 3-3 with 3 singles, Randy Johnson got the win, and Cubs 2B Ryne Sandberg a solo homerun.
This experience was one of the coolest I’ve ever had in baseball. Griffey was incredibly cool to me. He was easily the most chatty with me in the dugout. Harold Reynolds warmed up before the game using my first basemens glove. Randy Johnson pitched at had to use Edgar Martinez’s bat. At one point, The Big Unit bunted a pop up to the Cubs pitcher and never left the batters box. The Cubs pitcher totally booted the ball and it rolled into foul territory over by the Cubs dugout. But Randy was still in the batters box and was thrown out at first. Finally, I went from really disliking M’s first baseman Pete O’Brien (I’m not sure why I had not liked him previously) to really liking him (because he was incredibly cool to me in the dugout).
After this game, I got my first and only picture with Ken Griffey, Jr.
Our last Camera Day was in 1990 or 1991. We just took pictures of players as they stopped by to shake hands. I’m not in any of the pictures. I’m not sure if it was because it was too packed or if I felt like I was too old (I was 14 or 15) or if the players were just shaking hands and not posing for pictures. Who knows?
In a couple years, I was never able to get a good picture of (or with) Harold Reynolds, which is really unfortunate because I regard him as one of the top players in Mariners history. A great player and a great guy.
Ken Griffey, Jr. stopped by, but we got a really terrible picture that isn’t even worth posting.
Finally, we got this shot of Dave Valle:
Next stop is Pittsburgh in 2004. Colleen and I headed to Pittsburgh for the weekend to see the Mariners in their first and only appearance at PNC Park. Colleen and I had been together almost five years at this point and were engaged, but because I had been in law school for three of those years and hours away from any Major League team with no son to travel around with she didn’t really fully know me as a baseball fan yet. Primarily, she knew me as a guy who watched a ton of Mariners games on TV and occassionally took her to a game in Philadelphia or Baltimore. This was her first real baseball roadtrip.
Here is another (poor quality but) interesting picture from our Pittsburgh trip: Ichiro wearing (i) a brown glove and (ii) long pant legs:
In middle school and high school, I played first base and left field. When I was stationed at first, I used a Rawlings RFM14 (Wally Joyner signature model). I Iiked it. It was a good glove. In fact, it helped me set a school record for consecutive put outs without an error in 8th grade at old College Place Middle School.
Here, in the only known picture of me during one of my high school baseball games…
Back in 1991, I went to Spring Training. For the final spring training game of the year, the Mariners let me be their bat boy for the day — a Mariners win over the Cubs behind the pitching of Randy Johnson and hitting of Ken Griffey, Jr. That day, the much-loved Harold Reynolds actually used my RFM14 to warm up before the game. So, it was definitely a good glove with a rich history.
Then came 1994 and my playing days were finished. But for some of my lucky friends, there was more organized baseball to be played. A contingent of my best friends went on to play at junior colleges and a couple four-year universities. One of those guys was my good friend since Sherwood Elementary School, Brian “The Amazing Speed” O’Neal. “The Amazing Speed” was a joke nickname in 5th grade. Later on, one of the guys would bestow upon Brian the nickname “Butch,” and for me it has stuck.
Anyway, Butch went on to play college ball in Oregon. He was a pitcher, and later a first basemen. With my playing days behind me, it made sense for me to loan my trusty RFM14 to Butch. And so, I did.
Fast forward 15 years to Monday, December 7, 2009. Butch and I have exchange thed occassional email and we spoke briefly on the phone once this past season. But for the most part, we’ve been out of contact for probably 12-13 years. But on Monday my wife called me at work to inform me, “You received a package in the mail today…from Brian O’Neal!”
Alarms instantly went off in my head. “Oh, my god,” I thought, “ITS MY GLOVE!”
Although I have never made any effort to retreive my glove or ever really been concerned about getting it back, I’ve never forgot about that glove. It has crossed my mind from time-to-time as the years have passed.
Could this really be the day? I didn’t know why else Butch would be sending me a package.
Colleen asked if she could open the package.
“No way,” I responded! “How big is it?”
“Like a package from Amazon.com,” she replies.
“Hmm…” Now, I’m not so sure.
On the drive home after work, I continue thinking. Brian and I made a bunch of home “movies” — most notably, “The Hound Of The Edmondsville” — when we were…hmm…sophomores, I’d guess. Maybe this Amazon.com sized box was a VHS copy of the “‘Brian & Todd: Come Jam With Us” video we shot at the little kid hoops at Sherwood? That seemed more the size of an Amazon.com box.
Finally, I walk into the house and see the box. “Hey, that seems glove sized,” I though. I shook the box like it was a birthday or Christmas gift. “Hmmm…that doesn’t seem very glove’ish. And it does sort of have a video cassette’ish sound to it.”
Colleen walked in and I declared to her that “I have two ideas of what this is…otherwise, I have no clue.”
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:
And, Butch included a note:
That’s just too funny…and thoughtful. I’m sure he figured I had given up on any thought of ever seeing the glove again. So it was very cool of him to take the time (and postage) to send it across the country to me.
Anyway, I was pretty excited to see my old friend again. I did some inspecting and found that the years hadn’t been kind…so, after typing out a quick “thank you” email to Butch, Tim and I headed to “The Baseball Store,” our local Rawlings outlet. I decided the glove could use some new laces, and I figured that it would be fun to do them in dark green, which is the primary color of our high school baseball team.
Here are some photos from the last twenty four hours.
As you can see in the upper left, the sewn connection at the top of the webbing tore off. Hopefully Butch didn’t take a hard liner to the eye due to that. I had to fix that and, as you can see at the bottom right, it now looks much better.
Here are some comparison shots of the back of the glove…
Although Brian’s “fix” was creative, I think mine will hold up a little bit better.
Finally, you can see that my old friend was a little tired and flat from his 15 year journey…
Its good to have my old friend home again.