Countdown to Spring Training – 11 Days

I’ll take Idioms for $100, Alex.

This phrase sums up the timing of the All Things Ed blog post on the number of days until pitchers and catchers report. It’s also a summary of his high school track career.

What is “a day late and a dollar short?”

Winner!
jeopardy

My apologies for being late on this one. For me, it seems to be a chronic issue, dating back a long way. Someone wrote in my junior high yearbook, “To someone who was born late and still is, when it comes to crossing the finish line.” My high school track coach was given a poster once with a photo of a mountain goat high up on a rocky mountain, with the phrase, “I’m so far behind, I think I’m first.” He took one look at it and said, “Prescott, that’s you!” For the next three years, I was affectionately called the goat. And no, it doesn’t stand for Greatest Of All Time. But I never let my lack of athletic prowess stop me. I wouldn’t trade my track and cross country memories for anything. Even though I was the slowest on the team the first couple of years in high school, one day in December of 1979, I stuck it out for almost five hours and completed a marathon, just because I was too stubborn to quit. Of the six of us that started that day, I was one of only two members of our team to finish. So while I may be a bit slow on posts, don’t worry, I’ll get them done! Now, on to the countdown!

What today’s post lacks in quality, it makes up for with quantity. And of course, there’s always a little story behind each one.

Tim McCarver

McCarver is the only one in today’s countdown that actually had a stadium named afer him. Yep, it’s true. Tim McCarver Stadium was a stadium in Memphis, TN built in 1963, and was home to the Memphis Blues, the Memphis Chicks, then the Memphis Redbirds. In 1977, the Chicks renamed Blues Stadium to Tim McCarver Stadium, who was a Memphis native. I actually attended a Memphis Chicks game in the summer of 1978, and it was batting helmet night. I really wish I had saved that batting helmet! In addition to having a stadium named after him, McCarver is also known as one of the most polarizing color commentators in MLB history. You either loved him or hated him! I’m reserving judgement. As a player, McCarver played 21 seasons, was a 2x All Star, and won 2 World Series rings. A piece of trivia: in 1966, McCarver became the first catcher ever to lead the NL in triples, banging out 13 three baggers for the Cardinals. Pictured here is his 1980 card, his last season in baseball before retiring. He only appeared in a handful of games in 1980, making him one of only 29 players in major league history to appear in four different decades.
11 mccarver

Ralph Garr

Garr played 13 seasons in the majors, including 8 in Atlanta, where I remember him most. When I growing up in Florida, we didn’t have a team to call our own. We would listen to the Braves on the radio (it was either WSUN or WDAE), then later, with the advent of cable tv, we would watch them on superstation TBS. Garr was one of their top players in the mid 70’s, even if he did have a bit of a rocky, error prone career. Garr did win a batting title in 1974 with a .353 average, and also lead the league in hits with 214. Garr was voted into the All Star game that year. His last year with the Braves was 1975, then was traded to the White Sox. In September of 1979, he was purchased by the Angels, but was released in June of 1980. While he wasn’t a particularly dominant player during his 13 year career, I will always remember seeing him on the radio. Note: he only wore number 11 one year, his second year with the Braves.
11 garr

Toby Harrah

Harrah’s major league career started with the Washington Senators with a cup of coffee in 1969, then joined the club full time in 1971, the year before they moved to Texas and became the Rangers. Harrah played 17 years and was a 4x All Star. He had a good eye at the plate, and ended his career with more walks than strikeouts. In 1977 he lead the American League with 109 free passes. According to his Wikipedia page (so take it for what it’s worth), one sabermatician actually ranks Harrah as the 25th best third baseman ever to play the game, above many hall of famers. In fact, his career WAR of 51.4 does rank him above the likes of Bobby Doerr, Kirby Puckett, Orlando Cepeda, and Jim Rice, just to name a few. Pictured here is his 1976 card.
11 harrah

Hal McRae

McRae was a 19 year veteran and a 3x All Star. He was primarily a designated hitter, and in 1976, he was locked in a battle with teammate George Brett for the batting title. In the last game of the season, Brett went 2 for 4 and beat out McRae by less than .001. McRae lead the league in OBP (.407) and OPS (.868) that year, while hitting .332. I always liked Kansas City back in the day, and enjoyed watching McRae, Brett, Frank White, Amos Otis, John Mayberry, Freddie Patek, and others. Although keep in mind, back then we didn’t have MLB At Bat, where you can now watch almost every game every day of the season! Fortunately, the Royals were a pretty good team, and would make it on NBC’s Game of the Week on Saturdays enough times where I could get my cards out and follow along. Side note: McRae was also the manager of my beloved Tampa Bay Devil Rays for two seasons, finishing with a record of 113-196.
11 mcrae

If you have made it this far, I thank you! Here are just a few other random players that had decent to very good long careers that include multiple All Stars, World Series winners, and sadly, one that has fallen from grace and was recently convicted of insider trading. But that’s a story for another day.

Bill Freehan – 11 time All Star, 5 time Gold Glove winner, and a member of the 1968 World Series champion Detroit Tigers
11 freehan

Darrell Evans – played 21 seasons, was a 2 time All Star, and was on the 1984 World Series winning Tigers team. Wore number 11 while with the Braves in the 70s.
11 evans

Doug DeCinces – 15 year veteran, primarily with the Orioles and Angels, was an All Star in 1983, and is a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.

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