Thursday, December 20, 2012



Today I want to make a few points about the league that I see the most, the league the Montgomery Biscuits play in. The Southern League has a long history, one that sparkles with big names and great teams.

It also has the reputation of being a really harsh league for decades in terms of racist and bigoted fans and owners and players and teams. Its a reputation that continues today in the minds of players and fans.

Its a matter of history, the Southern League is made up mostly of teams that were in the Southern Association - a league that folded when faced with integration. Being told to accept blacks or die, the S.A. chose the latter and the void was created that the Southern League now fills. (Nat Peebles played in two games for the '54 Crackers while the Atl team was on the road in Mobile, but Nat was then sent down before the team began its next homestand, integration efforts didnt continue after that)

Just for the record... Montgomery fielded teams in the Sou.Assoc. league only twice after 1914, in 1943 and 1956.

I point this out now so that the current Southern League will realize that it is up against a fairly rotten legacy as concerns its own history. The onus is upon the new league President to steer the league in a direction that is positive and to show a steady hand guides the organization.

Lack of new impressions means that fans and players can only draw conclusions from what has already occurred. From what we see above, its aint a pretty picture being drawn. A message will be sent with the new name at the top of the offices, what message that is will be determined by the new League Prez.


Things need to be fixed - and not just patched or handed off as it has been in the past three to five years. Remember, this is the league that has had the same poll on its website for three seasons... I think by now we could get a good idea of what the visitors to Southern League websites like best, food or entertainment or the game.

Also, the content on the website has dropped off a cliff since they let take over the design. Its like they fired their staff reporter and have just linked to whatever article is written for MLB by one of its writers, often including information that is not current, misleading or flat out mistaken. The league seems to take a backseat to other minor leagues, even on its own website!

Its been at least two full seasons since the league newsletter was put out. Southern Bases is a good concept but has been killed by whoever was sending it out. So much for actual information from the league, which now relies on the website alone.

At least put the new presidents name on the ball, sheesh!


You can add Chris Rearick to the litany of names that begin with the title "former Biscuit" as the reliever was sent packing in a deal to the Padres this week. Rearick was good but not stellar for the home team and should far even better in the new uniform.

The just-turned 25yr old lefty is very stingy with walks which I love from a reliver, but gave up some hits in big spots which hurt his overall numbers. He should bounce back to be the usual "go to guy" lefty reliever he was for Charlotte and Bowling Green the past two years. I suspect he may have been a little overwhelmed his first trip to Double-A and will have a better grasp on what he has to do this coming year. Its a good acquisition by the Padres!

In return the Rays pick up Vince Belnome.

The soon to be 25 year old utility man has a .300 batting average and hit a career high 17 homers for Double-A San Antonio in 2011. A right-handed thrower who bats lefty, Vinny plays first and second base. He spent most of his time last year at triple-A Tuscon, playing 80 games for them. He likely provides the dreaded "organizational depth" for the Rays, which means he fills the roster in Durham or Mgm. I think he would eat up Double-A pitching and hope we get to see him to start the year. He seems to be coming off injury and could show more ability than his stats show.


College Hill Park, Montgomery?
Its where The Montgomery Grey Sox played in 1932, listed alongside Cramton Bowl as their home park
Its also where Montgomery became a Major League team
Its also not listed on any map, and I dont know where it is located. I have a couple guesses, but not sure yet

The Grey Sox are listed as being terrible on B-ref, but known to the press as being a formidable team of the era, in 1921 on Sept 12th, getting an invite to Chicago to play the American Giants.

The Negro league teams of Montgomery are greatly under studied in spite of being very capable teams with famous and interesting characters. At some point an image of the game in Montgomery has to take shape, and it will include Turkey Stearns and Steel Arm Dickey, as well as unknown marvels of the diamond like Fred Bell or even executed accused murderer Jim Hugh Moss.
"Steel Arm" Dickey, Ace of Montgomery GraySox

The team here played host to the Negro Southern league, the highest level of play at the time and recognized as being Big League ball, although by default. After the stock market crash, teams had a hard time financing themselves and their leagues started to collapse. Eventually only the Negro Southern League was left standing, and the teams that could still keep heads above water financially joined and brought the talent level up to top notch.

Montgomery was in the same league as the KC Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Memphis RedSox, Atlanta Black Crackers, Cuban House of David, and many other of the famous great names of the heyday of barnstorming baseball. Their record was good, a .564 W-L%.
Montgomery baseball legend "Turkey" Stearns

Luis Tiant Sr was the main man for the Cuban House of David, who along with other independant barnstorming teams held games against Negro League teams. The Atlanta Black Crackers and the Bham Black Barons were also of the independant affiliation in 1932.

Tiant Sr "here kid, hold my jacket while I show you how its done"

The 1932 KC Monarchs were led by Cool Papa Bell who hit a very cool .373 that season for three teams combined, cause you cant afford to tie Cool Papa down to one team all season right?

That year the other Monarchs were embroiled in controversy when the Monroe La Monarchs took the NSL title by just percentage points over the second place team and engaged in a series billed as the Negro World Series against the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In fact, the Chicago American Giants walked away with the best record in the league, so good were they that even the team with the second best record didnt challenge them to a postseason series. This left the next two teams down to take up a series to say there was a playoff series and pump up the fans into thinking there was more on the line. Even then they were trying to figure out how to get the fourth best team in the league a backdoor to a championship!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


In my last blog post I stated that the Amazing Alexander wasn't very amazing. In fact it was the Amazing Christopher who the Biscuits had appear at a game, and it was he who was not very amazing. Something about his plane being late kept him from performing before until mid-way through the game.

The Amazing Alexander may indeed be amazing, or not, I have not had the opportunity to know. Apologies for any confusion caused. The Amazing Johnathon is someone else entirely.


Otani chose to sign with a team in Japan that says they will let him develop as both a pitcher and a cleanup hitting DH. hmmm....


I think its a good move for both sides, but a tough trade to make for both teams since they are swapping quality for quality. Fans will cry about it but this works for the Rays now who need to replace Bj Upton and get a lefty for the bullpen while the Royals get a nice upgrade in the rotation.

We see so many questionable contracts, salary dumps and shady deals in baseball that its nice to finally see a real baseball trade. Both sides gave up alot, but also stand to gain plenty as well.


I get down on the local team, but they do plenty of things right other than just having the bright idea to position themselves a few blocks from my home.

Among such things seems to be choosing announcers, as we have had a nice long string of listenable voices calling games. I appreciate that we have gotten younger announcers and enjoyed that we have avoided rehiring someone from another Southern League team. I am looking forward to a full season of Aaron Vargas, who seems to have a good handle on the radio after steering the ship solo while our usual guy was off getting a bigger gig with ESPN.

I liked Joe Davis, but honestly felt he was less of a baseball guy than other sports.

I do still think the team should have give Jim Tocco whatever it took and solidified the Dynasty behind the microphone. If we could get him back we should do so, if even for a few games, that guy is fun to listen to!
Jim and Jesse - the golden era of montgomery baseball radio

Thursday, December 6, 2012




Who's turn is it to write checks?

The winter meetings are taking place in Nashville, where teams at the major league level are trying to decide if they are in a position to add or subtract. Not just players and payroll for their own team but for the other teams in the league as well. In an afternoon a few high paid stat guys can impress a rich GM to make an offer that swing the balance of power in baseball. However more often than not it is a change for the worse and the balance is changed by the over-worked numbers cruncher suggesting a stinker.
Monty Hall encouraging MLB GM's

Very few moves made at the winter meetings by MLB teams are prudent, and even more rare is the swap that benefits both sides. It can take years for the full effects to be known after a trade or contract signing. The bulk of teams that sign big name players during press conferences at the winter meetings end up dealing that player later.

Also high on the percentage list of these players is injury, though any high paid player with an injury is going to come under heavy scrutiny. It just seems like a bad idea, and that the best of the signings and trades happen when there are no cameras rolling in the lobby.

I suppose its basically the MLB effort to have a Media Week, generate some interest in the offseason, pump up the press and have a way to remind fans of the marketed products for holiday shopping. But for me the whole coverage seems tacky. The only thing worse than having rich guys divide up the pile of money is to have a hotel full of media types glorifying the whole terrible scene.


Also on hand are the minor league teams, where the action is probably really heated and competitive. I have never been to a winter meetings, but I have the mental image of a convention of baseball interns -  a sea of solid color shirts with collars, waves of blazered jr execs orbiting the high dollar owners and buffering sales reps who offer various upgrades to facilities or in game promotions.

What a circus it must be to see all the potential acts for hire vying for business - where teams of costumed performers battle to the death for gigs. The faux fur flying and inflatables punctured, it is a cutthroat line of work!
MiLB mascot deathmatch promotion, coming soon!

I know our team has had some pretty bad performers - The Amazing Alexander wasnt very and somehow Black Elvis didnt go over as well as one would think. I liked it, the guy even did his Elvis for the National Anthem!
Black Elvis TCB'd for the Biscuits

The art of in game clowning has become a lost one perhaps in part due to the performers trying to simply do too much. The great baseball clowners of the old days were naturals because they were players first and being funny was just their way of fitting and and dealing with the stresses of daily life in the game. 


The great Emmett Kelly was the unofficial 56 Dodgers mascot
Some of the serious clowning in baseball began as players were called upon to recite their exploits in Vaudeville houses and theaters in the offseason. It became a great way to supplement the income and continue to travel during the winter months. A great many players were essentially side show acts, telling tales and embellishing their stories became essential to keeping their appearances profitable.

Players were known to add music to their acts, strumming banjo or plucking a ukulele and telling jokes. The ligher side of the stories always popular, spawning in part, the clowning aspect as players would play up the laughs from the crowds.

Also important to the development of baseball clowning was the sight gag. The theater audiences enjoyed a good retelling and a song, but a crowd at the game was a different beast. For the players who built up a reputation as funnymen in the offseason, appearing in person during the year soon meant that the crowds had expectations. They had heard the stories and wanted to see the comedy unfold in person. At that point, the baseball clown was born.


Most of these guys are fringe players - clowning as a way of getting ahead. They were usually better players than minor leaguers but most often not great big leaguers. Utility guys who were doing what they could to keep from being cut from the team, being funny might keep them around in case of a losing streak - they could lighten the mood a little as well as add to the total at the gate.

One of the earliest players who catered to the crowd, Herman Schaefer loved to get attention for his efforts. This future clown was a fine defender and decent at the plate. He came from a tough chicago neighborhood, played in the first Tinker-Evers-Chance game Cubs before moving on to captain Detroit where he was one of the few friendly to rookie Ty Cobb.
The Great Germany Schaefer

His desire for pranks was legend, and he paved the road for future loose nuts by setting a standard for being thrown out by umpires for being mischievous. He pioneered stealing first base, eventually forcing a rule to be made outlawing the practice. Herman helped perfect the hidden ball trick, using it successfully in the 1907 World Series.

Always working for the laugh!
Germany was often asked to re-enact his famous home run, which he did happily. From SABR article:
Schaefer was called on to pinch hit with two outs in the ninth, a runner on base, and his Tigers down by a run. According to teammate Davy Jones in The Glory of Their Times, Germany announced to the crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are now looking at Herman Schaefer, better known as 'Herman the Great,' acknowledged by one and all to be the greatest pinch-hitter in the world. I am now going to hit the ball into the left field bleachers. Thank you."
Facing Chicago's Doc White, Schaefer proceeded to hit the first pitch into the left field bleachers for a game-winning homer. As he made his way around the diamond, Germany supposedly slid into every base, announcing his progress as if it were a horse race as he went around. "Schaefer leads at the half!" and so on. After hook-sliding into home, he popped up, doffed his cap, bowed, and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes this afternoon's performance. I thank you for your kind attention."


Not that they aren't great athletes, they have amazing abilities. Johnny Price could toss three baseballs in the air and hit the first one forward toward the pitching mound, the second one toward the backstop on the backswing and the third - still on the fly - forwards toward the mound with a simple one-two-three swing!

Price was a baseball wizard in acrobatics and hitting/fielding drills

I have seen the footage of him driving a jeep in an orange orchard during spring training, fielding fly balls hit to him. He even sits on the hood facing backwards on the jeep wheel, steering to catch balls hit to him, or while doing a complete headstand. Not hit like, easy here ya go, hit well and go chase it! He just reaches out and grabs the ball in his glove, right out of the air, jeep in full motion with no driver! Insane stunt, I was slack jawed when I saw it on Turner Classic Movies as a baseball themed short. Havent seen it since, but it is incredible to witness.

Johnny ready to shag flies

Al in his usual attire - waiting at third

One of the forerunners of modern In-Game Entertainment Industry, Al barnstormed for decades across the country performing for anyone who had a grandstand of baseball fans. His book "Clowning Through Baseball" is a delightful read, full of anecdotes from his playing days as well as his later work as a coach and then as a professional clown.
Schacht (kneeling) and Altrock (seated) perform for the World Series crowd as Babe and John McGraw look on

Among his best work: shadowing umpires and impressions, he could mimic other players windups and batting stances, as well as being a pitcher himself.
Other great exploits include his mistakenly hiring a chauffeur who didn't know how to drive, accidentally dousing his new manager with ice cold water and entering a game on horseback - he is a fantastic character worth looking into! Hopefully we can do more on him and his partners in crime - Nick Altrock, the infamous Moe Berg and Joe Cronin.

Al Schacht performing at the 1939 World Series, super rare color video of his act between innings Al is seen beginning at 2:23 or so.

Max Patkin inherited the moniker Clown Prince of Baseball, and deservedly so. Patkin was built to be more clown than player, with a face that inspires laughter and his uniform ten sizes too large.
Coaching first or third was a chance to clown

 Seen in the movie Bull Durham towards the end of his career he made clowning in baseball a lifelong existence, inspiring todays generation of baseball performers while offering a connection with the past.


Other players were instrumental in creating the baseball clown, offering more than just baseball as their main talent was being themselves, while some took on roles thrust upon them.

King Tut - The King of Baseball Clowns, a Negro League barnstorming performer
I mentioned Dave Barnhill a few weeks ago and his grease-paint Impo persona from his time with the Miami Clowns. Obviously by the 1940s the Negro Leagues had figured out clowning was profitable and attracted crowds.

Awesome ad shows Impo Barnhill as the Zulu Cannibal Giants take on the Ethiopian Clowns

Negro league teams had a knack for going the extra mile to entertain, already paving the way by proving night baseball to be profitable. Some of the stunts seem outlandish by todays standards, but by the same token many of todays acts seem really lame when held up next to the classics!

The Famous Chicken at Riverwalk

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Biscuits need Homes

Christmas for Biscuits

I consider myself in touch with what the average Biscuit fan is after from their ballgames, and as such i have taken it upon myself to compile a list for the team to hand over when Big Mo sits on Santas lap!

1.Southern League title. This is the numbero uno present for Biscuits, be they fans, players or office workers. This is the one to get under the tree, everybody loves the ring!
(see photo on right of league trophy being hoisted by Biscuits)

2. Prospects - putting good players on the field has to happen, or the fickle biscuit fan will stray from the yard. Getting a team full of roster fillers that can't muster more wins than losses is the same as getting coal in our stocking. But werent we good this year, Santa?
Is this guy coming back?
3. Affordable concessions.
If we can't win at least we can drink our sorrows away! Monty had a few markdowns this past year but we need more from the bipedal biscuit than a quarter off of the cheese fries.

 I know I keep coming back to this on the blog, but it can't keep up the way it has been going. The Biscuits succeeded by offering more entertainment for the buck and now that we are host to more competition in that market the team has to adjust or fail. 

This is make or break time and having not just a baseball team but a sports marketing and food service operation means we are being squeezed by two different corporate entities. The team has to cut prices or lose fans and become what the Rebels were at the end, a sad overpriced and underfunded farm team with a losing record.

4. Cool it down!
Man it is hot out there, and the only thing the team has done so far is to drag a hose to the upper deck and spray down whole sections twice during day games! Only the Heatmiser can take it. Seriously, do something before someone dies of heatstroke out there. Teams in places that average temps ten degrees cooler do more to ease the fans who are staggering from the heat.
Only one of these guys can handle the july games!
5. Elbow Rubbers.
The fans of Biscuits are, for the most part, Montgomery people. As such they respond well to being complimented and having their ego stroked. Getting the occasional celeb helps to that end, allowing them to peacock their way through a visit by whatever notable. Its been a few years since we had Jenny Finch, Dale Murphy, the Swamp People or even the Swamp Thing.
seriously, he makes appearances!
6. Free WiFi - Hook me up Santa! There is no excuse to keep the peeps from the tech.

7. Free Game. This idea was proposed to me by Jimmy B, who felt that it would be awesome to just open the gates and say thank you to Montgomery for footing the bill for the park. Have faith in your product, Biscuits, and make money on concessions while bringing in fans who wouldn't otherwise come.

It was put into practice by the Jackson Generals who gave FREE ADMISSION to their playoff games. That would knock out two things on our christmas list at once if it came on the night the Biscuits won the pennant, Santa!
This shoulda been us!

Former Skits find new homes

John Shelby signed with the White Sox, the former Biscuit spent this past year in independent ball.

Nevin Ashley signed with the Cinci reds. Another sign the Rays have no clue about catchers.

Derek Dietrich and his ever present grin have been dealt to the Marlins for Yunel "Tu ere" Escobar.
What it takes to get run out of Canada
Just grin and bear it

Former Skit staying put

SP Matty Buschmann will return as a Tampa Bay Ray, tho its yet to be seen if he will again anchor the Mgm staff. He had a great season and was a stiff competitor for our hometown nine. He was one of several late season moves that rewarded players with a promotion to Durham, which also effectively punished them by removing them from the chance for playoff experience. Not to mention punishing Biscuits fans by wrecking a great team .
found this great pic of Matt, who needs to put new pictures online so this one will be buried farther down the search

Former Skits needing homes

I see Scott Kazmir has been scouted by the Indians, I also think he would work well as an Oriole, though thats my own opinion and no reports connect the two.
Kaz just before the deal that brought him to the Biscuits for one home start and nobody took a picture

Delmon Young not signed yet. I am looking forward to seeing who he finds a job with, as he can be a tough fit in the clubhouse. The Mariners seem interested and they may be far enough from civilization for Delmon to not be noticed if he gets grumpy. Or he could tear the cover off the ball, its hard to know which guy shows up on any given day! 
Ain't he sweet?

No word on Wrigs signing, yet.

The Caracas Crusher had yet another monster game for the Leones, plating five runs to retake the VBL lead. This is Henry's last week in Venezuela and the fans in Caracas are begging him to stay longer, he has been a solid leader for them as well as swinging perhaps the hottest bat in winter ball. He is batting at a .311 clip and has 89 total bases in just 43 games, driving in 34 and scoring 33 times himself.
Henry Wrigley making his point known for Caracas

His ten homers don't tell the whole story of his power, he was in contention for the league lead when pitchers stopped giving him pitches to drive over the fence. Wrigs has made the adjustment and taken care of business as the Caracas cleanup hitter, providing the Leones with reliable at bats and productive outs. He has hit late inning game winning rbi's and driven in runs via the sacrifice fly, even moving over to play second base when the 50 man roster somehow came up short on middle infielders!


The Fighters met with Otani and his parents on December 3rd at Otanis request -he may inclined to sign with the Fighters.
Otani at a recent press conference

Not sure I agree with that if its the decision, and suspect the Fighters may have slanted the info they have given the young prospect. I guess time will tell, but I sort of hope he is going to tell them to get stuffed and sign with a team in the states where I believe he would get some of the best coaching available.


originally supposed to be a mausoleum for baseballs greatest cadavers, for some unknown reasons the Gehrig family didnt go along with the idea and it became a shrine instead


Hank O'Day
Hank O'Day also managed the Cubs

One of the most famous of umpires, second in games called behind the plate and an obvious no brainer to enshrine. How has he not already been inducted?

Deacon White

Awesome choice, more on this guy in a later blog when I can dedicate to him alone! A catcher from the era of real men who wore mustaches and not gloves!

Col Ruppert
Just this alone should be enough, how many can say they signed The Babe?

The guy owned the yankees during their best era, and built Yankee stadium. How was he not already inducted?

From the candidates on this years ballot, one of my faves tops the list for me.

Craig Biggio
With over three thousand hits and being an all star for the Astros at three different positions he is a first ballot no doubter. A fine catcher who moved to second to save his legs, then again doing what was best for the team by learning center field CB is easily among my fave players.
Even the replica giveaway is dirty!

He had the filthiest helmet in baseball history. Classic.

Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmiero,
They all have the numbers but I cant enshrine them - at least not yet. Maybe time will change the minds of the social group, but I cant  do it now. Just too soon, and that is largely the fault of the commissioner. It is his job to have taken care of this years ago, and he simply keeps ignoring it.
The main thing wrong with baseball the past twenty years

That being said, I think there needs to be more players in the hall. There are guys who have already been passed over I think should be in. Guys like Lee Smith and Tim Raines. I think Fred McGriff should be in with his 493 homers, also Larry Walker who was a hit machine with over 200 steals to go along with a career avg of .313.

There are guys I would vote for who had no hope of getting in, but would surely appreciate getting a vote or two in recognition of their efforts. If a few more eligible voters felt that way it would make the debate of who gets in a little less contested than who has been kept out.

I would go in on several first timers on this years ballot - I would put a vote in on Julio Franco just to tip the cap to his eternal youth. His WAR is 39.7 which is also about how long his career lasted!
Gotta lot of candles on that cake, Julio!