Monday, May 13, 2019

Montgomery Mauls Mississip in Mothers Day Massacre


Robbie Tenerowicz
On Saturday the Biscuits were handed a victory by Mother Nature when a wet field gave the Braves a case of butterfingers.

Sunday the Skitz wasted no time in piling on the Ms. Braves, driving their starting pitcher from the game before the first inning ended. Scoring early and often, the Braves circled the wagons and raised the white flag in game two.

Monday, day game.

Not usualy a huge fan of day games but they do offer nice light for photography. I thought my days as a photoblogger were over when my camera stopped functioning at Sundays game, but thankfully I had invested in a second battery and thusly live to blog again!


Opening Act: Zombro The Great


BULLPEN STORIES
I rarely venture to the visitors bullpen but Sunday I was called over by former Biscuit Jordan Harrison, now with the Braves, to tell his new teammates some stories of my fave old-time players.

I spent a couple innings regaling the MBrave relievers with some tales of Boss Schmidt's bear wrestling and fist fights with Ty Cobb and Mo Berg the catcher/spy. Also I touched on the Connie Mack A's spring training here and the history of Cramton Bowl and Paterson Field.

If you know me, you know once I get going I can talk up a storm on the topic of baseball!



BISCUITS V BRAVES
Classic Caps at work
The Ms. Braves always bring extra fans out to the games, we are in Braves country after all. One of my fave aspects of this series is the Braves throwback hats, every day they wear the lids the Milwaukee Braves wore to their first World Series. Its a classic look.

The Braves are loaded with prospects but have seemed overwhelmed by the Biscuits in the first couple games.

Montgomery had some issues on the basepaths this weekend, getting caught off guard and making them look bad, but the overall total of runs scored has offset any damage to the team ego. Coach Gary Redus simply won't put up with bad baserunning, so don't expect it to continue.

Jesus Sanchez came out of the game on Saturday and was out of the lineup on Sunday, blame a sore shoulder. Getting him a rest could also help him regain his focus at the plate.

If you haven't had your chance to open, make sure to let pitching coach RC Lichtenstein know, everyone else has had a turn at getting the first six outs. I am not sure how the Skipper and his staff determine who will be the next opener, but "names in a hat" and "dartboard toss" are options I would not yet rule out.


CONTEST
The team is running a contest to name the character who is obviously related to Mr. Met that fans have informally called Mr. Biscuit since he first appeared on Gump Night.

No matter what the winning name is, I will probably still call him Mr. Biscuit, which indeed was my suggestion for the contest.

If I win the contest I'll donate any prizes or proceeds to charity, its just such an obvious choice I would feel guilty. Well, except that bobblehead, it looks pretty sweet!



#BULLPENLIFE

THIS WEEK IN

MONTGOMERY BASEBALL HISTORY

heck yeah, new graphic!

MAY 15 1867 
The Memphis Appeal reports that the “Pelham” Base Ball Club was organized at Montgomery “last Thursday.” It is one of the first known baseball teams in Alabama, following the formation of the Mobile Dramatics which organized in April.

An article in the Montgomery daily paper a few weeks later (seen here) hails the existence of three clubs. These are the Montgomery Base Ball Club, the Merry Nines and the original Pelham Club.

This team is not from Pelham the city, this is a team local to Montgomery named after a popular secessionist of the era. Consisting of 54 members from which a starting nine is chosen for each game, membership is quickly filled to capacity. In a matter of a few short weeks, these other clubs spring up and games begin locally. Baseball has arrived in Montgomery.


MAY 15 1976 
Pitcher Steve Trella throws No Hitter for Rebels against Jacksonville, winning 1-0 in a seven inning game.

Rebels teammate Sheldon Burnside would throw a similar seven inning no-no in June for the second no-hitter in front of Paterson Field fans that season.

MAY 16 1906
article from Seattle Times:

"Ike Rockenfield, Seattle's native son and one of the best ball players that ever wore a spiked shoe is going to play second base for the St. Paul Club in the American Association...

Although Ike was one of the best hitters on the Seattle Club he did not play up to his best form this year for he was not in the best of condition. He did not have the benefit of training that the other men had and as he is naturally pudgy he was considerably overweight, which slowed him up a bit.

If Ike takes care of himself he can play in any company. If he does not pay attention to training rules his finish will come quick... Although he played second base like a cigar store sign last Sunday, his hundreds of friends in this city know what he can do when he is right and he will take to St. Paul their best wishes for his success." 
Not specifically Montgomery, but a fabulous baseball insult laid out on a future Montgomery infielder, Ike Rockenfeld, that I couldn't resist including.

MAY 16 1908 
Bad Baxter
In a home game against Nashville, Montgomery first baseman Moose Baxter is tossed from the game for talking back to umpire O'Brien. Baxter refuses to leave and tussles with the Umpire.

During the fight, Baxter threw the umpire to the ground and pummeled him in the face. Both umpire and player are arrested. Umpire O'brien was quickly released from jail, but Baxter is held for trial. He was convicted of assault and fined $25. 


May 16 1955
Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Morris born. 

Morris (r) with Trammel
In 1976, Montgomery was the first pro stop for the future resident of Cooperstown, winning two and losing three in twelve appearances.

Morris returned to Paterson Field for the first time this offseason, a nice pilgrimage to the place where he started before heading to view his HOF plaque later this summer. Jack had great things to say about Paterson Field, home of the Rebels, when I met him.

"It was a great place to pitch" he told me, obviously forgetting his 6.25 ERA and 36 bases on balls in 36 innings against just 18 strikeouts!

MAY 17 1920 
"Negro Hurler Goes to One-Hit 'Ledger'

Hurling big league baseball, Moss for the Montgomery Grey Sox held the New Orleans team of the Negro Southern League to 1 hit yesterday afternoon and the home club won the contest 5 to 4. The visitors' runs were due largely to errors."

This is pitcher Jim Hugh Moss, a well traveled veteran player who would later be sent to the electric chair for murder based on obviously
questionable testimony.




Friday, May 3, 2019

Adios Mobile, The Legend of HenWrigs, Great Day In History, What to Look For

ADIOS MOBILE
or
I CALLED THAT ONE

One should not be above claiming an occasional victory or cheering a successful prediction. If you can't get excited about your own work, you can't expect anyone else to do it for you. But this one kinda hurts, accurate as it may have been.


In this blog on April 12, 2014
"If I were a BayBears fan I would be worried, the only other team in the league that doesn't have cameras for online broadcast is Huntsville!"

By July 18th of 2014 in a post titled Red Flags for BayBears Fans
"its a matter of when, not if. ...the real question to be asked is "where?"

Those posts prompted emails from a few of said BayBears fans asking what I knew about a possible move. My response was that I only know what I see, a Baybears club with money troubles, attendance issues, trouble attracting MLB affiliations, two new nearby ballparks and no expectations of improvement.


Now we find that same Mobile club in its final regular season visit to Montgomery, a sad state of affairs for the city with the oldest baseball history in Alabama. Mobile beat Montgomery to baseball by a matter of weeks, forming the Mobile Dramatics in April of 1867.



CAN THEY REBUILD IT?
Perhaps a new ballpark would attract a Southern League team, maybe poaching Jackson's team and restoring Mobile to double-A. Mobile fans have voiced such optimistic hopes.

However a new Mobile team will likely have to obtain permission to enter the area market from both Biloxi and Pensacola. Both the Wahoos and Shuckers had to obtain such permission from the Baybears, who were probably not in much position to win if faced with a league vote. It would be unlikely a new team could obtain two such permissions at once, a situation which could negatively influence financial backers decisions to put money into a new Mobile team.

And then there's that whole "build and pay for a new ballpark" thing.

Barring a natural disaster or MILB reorganization, Mobile's time in the Southern League is likely done for a long time.

Nutella is a Dugout Essential for Mobile



WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The Baybears are playing with the attitude of a .600 team and the stats of a .400 team. Which makes them a .500 team. Perhaps they are still looking to make a first half run by vaulting the three clubs ahead of them.
this bear swings and misses alot

Either way, their paltry .215 team batting average is lowest in the league by a wide margin. Also last in home runs and runs scored, among others. If the BayBears are going to compete with the Biscuits they will need to look for more hits than what they have been getting.

Pitching-wise, the BayBears keep the ball in the park and have respectable digits on the stat sheet. However, at some point the Mobile hurlers will get tired of looking down their bench and not seeing anyone who can provide run support.


Look for two-way players. Mobile has two, former top prospect Kaleb Cowart and Bo Way. Coward got into a game in relief and then played the field the next day, providing plenty of versatility. Way hasn't pitched yet in this series but is listed as a two-way guy in the media handouts.

Look for the Biscuits to get on top of the BayBears in the first inning, the BayBears have a habit of allowing first inning runs. Conversely, the Biscuits can also look to put up late runs as Mobile has been badly outscored in the last three innings.
   


FORMER BISCUIT IN FEATURE FILM
Former Biscuits first baseman Henry Wrigley announced on Instagram that he was to make his feature film debut in a movie that will premiere this summer. Wrigs said in his IG post that he spent time last week shooting with actor/director Michael Fredianelli, whose current film "Through The Ashes" is due for release soon.

When I told him I wanted to hear more, Henry said he would have more details about his first filming experience for us later, promising me as early a scoop on the film as he can give!


"I loved all my fans in the Gump." said Wrigley and the feeling was returned in kind. The handsome first baseman was a very popular player with Montgomery fans.

Which leads me to tell the story here for the first time.

Many were awed by Henry's slick defense and ability to bat baseballs over fences as well as his good looks. Montgomery fans found him so irresistible that the team held a Win A Date with Henry Wrigley contest. At the time they thought they were winning a date with a future big leaguer, instead they won a date with a future movie star!



THE LEGEND OF WIN A DATE WITH HENRY WRIGLEY
As I pieced it together, perhaps the statute of limitations has expired on this one. The facts may be hazy, but thats how legends go.

Fans really loved to see Henry Wrigley. They loved to cheer when hit hit a homer, which he did often, dug out a low throw at first or simply flashed his winning smile.

It became apparent to me in the second inning of an August evening game. An assortment of young female fans behind me broke into a group giggle that built up, gaining steam for a few moments before erupting into "okay, one... two.. three! HAPPY BIRTHDAY HENRY WRIGLEY!!!!!"


This must have become obvious to the front office as well, for it wasn't long afterwards we saw the promo...



And so it was.

Actually, the event was pretty popular for a minor league Ladies Night, bringing a good crowd on the appointed evening. Ten or fifteen hopeful women were on hand for the Win A Date promotion, from which Henry would select his chosen one. After answering questions each mid-inning, Henry would be giving a rose to the girl of his choice in the seventh inning.

The winner would be whisked away on a date night to have dinner with the handsome first baseman, enjoying a night on the town courtesy of the team and its sponsors.

While it was not general knowledge that Henry was in fact, seeing someone at the time, the front office made arrangements to have his girlfriend quietly slip in among the contestants so that Henry could make the right choice and avoid a potential relationship issue. The fix was on.

Well, maybe not.
Biscuits being Biscuits, something happened and I was told the girlfriend wasn't able to attend the game. Perhaps someone was able to warn him, but when the seventh inning rolled around and Henry came out of the dugout to choose a winner, Wrigs probably realized he should have paid more attention to the answers the girls had been giving.

Henry come out to face a group of hopeful contestants who had no idea there was a fix much less that it had gone wrong. He did pick a winner and the girl was really excited about it. I was told they went on the date that fulfilled the contest. But I always wondered how it went for Henry with the girlfriend...




This Day in Montgomery Baseball History

 
Hey, it really is this day in history and its got a BIG one! 


MAY 3rd 1867
Montgomery Baseball Club organized. A group of over two dozen men organize by electing officers and introduce the first base ball team to Montgomery as reported in the Montgomery Daily Advertiser.



MAY 3 1954
Prisoners use a baseball game to escape during a contest between Atmore and Kilby prison ball teams.

With a tight game going, the Atmore team sent nineteen men to the bullpen to warm up but none of them got into the game. One by one they slipped through a hole in the fence while a tower guard napped above them. Guards could have prevented the escape but were too interested in the close game to notice.

*this is my pitch for a baseball movie, how great could this be?!*





MAY 4 1958 
Max Burleson assigned to Rebels, will play third base for Montgomery. Former Florence State tailback recently signed with Detroit Tigers.

Article mentions the trouble Montgomery has with attendance, attracting only 300 patrons per game. Article states that other teams in league have the same trouble and cites 1955 Census figures of White/Negro population and states Ala-Fla league maintains segregation and eliminates "Negro draw".






Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Biscuit Pitchers,Those Starters!, Who's in the 'Pen?



So the Biscuits had a good five games against the Bham Barons, dispatching the Brummies with four L's added to their column. Now as the calendar flips to May the Biscuits have the top spot in the division and welcome the Mobile BayBears to town for the last time in the regular season. Ever. No more BayBears after this series, but more on that later.



LOOK AT THE BISCUITS PITCHERS!
I promised a look at the pitching staff a few weeks ago, once the roles got sorted out and well, here we are. We have some excellent starting pitching, highlighted by Brendan McKay's electric arm, augmented by a bullpen that has shown an ability to bend but not break more often than not.

THOSE STARTERS!
BISCUITS STARTING ROTATION
listed in no particular order

Brendan McKay
This guy can flat out pitch, have I said that before?

McKay is dominating southern league hitters just as he did to FSL guys. "They should have him give up hitting" some say, but having seen him at batting practice I would agree with the Rays to give him a little more time before asking him to put away the bats.

As a pitcher, McKay has been quietly overwhelming and only occasionally working with men on base.

Engaging but soft spoken, intelligent and polite in conversation off the field, McKay puts his head down and gets down to it at game time the same way any professional does. And he excels at it.


Kenny Rosenberg
Who is this guy? Lefty comes in here and makes his first month of double-A ball look easy.

An eighth round pick by the Rays from Cal State Northridge, Rosey has been a reliable fixture in the rotation early.

Whatever pitches he's throwing, I want two cases for each of my generals.



Ricardo Pinto
The Biscuit pitching Pinto, no he is not tossing bread.
 
Formerly of the Phillies, Pinto Bean has made two starts for Montgomery this season and once been the main man after the opener tossed the first inning.

Pinto was lit up in his first appearance, as a reliever, and took a few lumps in his first start but his last two outings have been solid.


Josh Fleming
As good as Fleming has been its a testament to the Biscuits hot start that he hasn't gotten more notice.

Completing six innings in each of his starts this year makes pitching coach RC Lichtenstein happy, and fans appreciate a pitcher who can carry his team into the later innings.


Arturo Reyes
This guy, just dealin in four starts. He has plenty of triple-A experience, so don't expect him to hang around too long.

Arturo was drafted in the 40th round by the Cardinals, where he was until joining the Rays this season. After spending most of the last few seasons at Memphis, Reyes is just having to prove himself to the new club, which he is doing with some solid work and fine numbers thru the first month.

OPENERS
 Its kinda like little league where everyone gets a chance to play. Moats, Krook, Disla, Pelaez, Sanders, everybody gets a turn to start a game and it fills out the rotation. Perhaps until Benton Moss gets back?


BULLPEN LINEUP



Blake Bivens
Bivens had a bad against the Barons, making his early totals look bad at the end of the first month, but overall his five appearances show a reliable arm that can handle multiple innings.

Taken in the fourth round of 2014, Blake's only two bad outings came at home but after getting a taste of double-A last year, Bivens is an important part of the bullpen going forward.


Matt Krook
Krook-Daddy returns to Montgomery after his AFL experience and looks like the reliable lefty that he became during the last few weeks of last season.

A former first round choice by the Marlins, and then a fourth round pick by the Giants, the California kid is bigger, stronger and more experienced now.

Lefty Krook has been having trouble with runners in scoring position this season, mostly due to bases on balls, but has the ability to pitch out of trouble and it will be fun to watch him develop that talent with the Biscuits.

Sam McWilliams
I wasn't sure if I should include Sam with the relievers or the starting pitchers. In each of his games this year he has pitched at least four innings, twice starting games and once taking over after the opener had departed. However he goes to the bullpen before games and is available between starts for relief.

Either way, this lefty from Tennessee is what one teammate called "a good one" for Montgomery and fans wouldn't argue the fact. The hard-throwing righty was an eighth round choice by the Phillies and has been traded twice - once for Jeremy Hellickson and once for Stephen Sousa. He was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Royals this offseason, but they couldn't fit him on the MLB roster and so he was returned to the Rays.

Sam has been particularly tough on right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .156 batting average.

Phoenix Sanders
Great baseball name, the tenth round pick by the Rays in 2017 is the first German-born Biscuit. Sanders played at two levels last year and also in the AFL, with Montgomery Phoenix has been excellent at home and better on the road. His BABIP indicates he isn't fully bulletproof but so far he has proven to be a shut down guy, especially with two outs.

Eight games, getting one start as an opener and one save in four games finished. Offering a strong arm and missing bats, Sanders has been one of skipper Morgan Ensbergs choices for closing games.

Tyler Zombro
Undrafted out of Mason University in Virginia, where he is second in career wins, Z wrapped his collegiate career as one of the top hurlers in the Atlantic 10. Not long afterwards, Zombro was asked by a scout "are you still interested in pitching?" and answered yes.

Suffice it to say that Zombro didn't get to double-A by being handed a big money bonus, a prospect label and being whisked along the development chain. Hard work and a chance to hone his craft as a professional are what motivates this righty and it shows.

Zombro the Great's stock and trade is the ground ball up the middle, a beauty of a trick when performed correctly with a runner on first and the middle infielders ready to turn a double play. Its a feat he has improved with each season, allowing fewer fly balls and fewer opposite field line drives, and looks to perfect with Montgomery this summer.

Ivan Palaez
The handsome mustachioed lefthander, born in Miami and schooled at local Faulkner University, bring an old-school style to the relief corp.

After mowing down two levels of hitters last summer, Pelaez finally ran into a challenge at double-A. On Sunday he ran into a line drive comebacker, taking a firm smack on the throwing arm. Hopefully he is okay, no word yet though.

Pelaez had a turn at opener, at closer and middle relief in the month of April. After a string of nice outings, Ivan was unimpressive against the Ms.Braves before being struck on Sunday. Pelaez brings good heat and locates the ball well, expect him to return to form once he gets back on the bump.


Dalton Moats
Moats outgoing nature and cheerful smile make him a favorite among players, staff and fans of all ages, in spite of his 5.35 career ERA with Montgomery. Moats ERA this year is 5.40, both on the road and at home. But those April numbers don't tell the true tale of Dalton Moats, who offers a durable arm and bulldog mentality on the mound.

The Delta State product has excellent stuff and the high BABIP tells us he is headed for much better days wearing Biscuits raiment.

Moats is simply too good to struggle for long and will figure out how to execute his pitches low in the zone to return to his usual ground ball ways.


Curtis Taylor
C.T. has had some great moments already, including the Canadian National team in the WBC. The righthander from Vancouver is a long way from home but fits right in with the Biscuits bullpen. Affable and easygoing when face to face, the tall hurler is a dominant presence on the mound that no hitter feels comfortable digging in against.

So far in his two seasons with Montgomery Taylor has been excellent, allowing less than one baserunner an inning and keeping hitters offstride by changing speeds well. Taylor is one of the few Biscuits yet to serve as an opener but he did earn his first save of the year this week.

Taylor is one of two pitchers I don't have a photo of in action this season, so last years pic will have to do for now. Sorry, C.T.!


Ian Gardeck
The veteran righthander signed with the Giants back in 2012 out of Alabama. Missing the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Gardeck returned to baseball and appeared in 14 games at three levels last summer. At 28 years old, Ian has a chance to show the Rays what he can do in a sink or swim opportunity.

Currently on the shelf with a minor ribcage strain, Gardeck will be back soon and likely figures to be in the mix for saves once he proves fully recovered.

Guess who that second pitcher I need a photo of is?

CLOSER BY COMMITTEE
Who is our closer? See *opener* strategy above.While roles have been mostly established, the closer role is a full on committee situation. Bivens, Sanders, Gardeck, Taylor and Zombro all garnered saves in April. Ah, well, that's bullpen life for you!

#BULLPENLIFE


NEXT TIME 
I ran out of room for the Mobile What To Look For, I hope to get that up in a day or so!