politics, hypocrisy and meanness in public affairs, alligators, anti-empire-ism, occasional personal stuff

Monday, December 13, 2010

On this day of Brett Favre's streak ending -

I'll mention some of sports heroes:

1. Bill White - Cards First-baseman 1959-65 - His arrival in 1959 caused Stan Musial to move back to the outfield because White was the best-fielding 1st baseman in the NL; he won the Glove Glove 1960-65, was always a gentleman, always played the game right, showed up every day - focused, hit for average & power, drove in runs, played with the highest intelligence. He was my favorite player during his whole career with the Cards - from my age of 11 to 17 ... and this on a team with Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer (who'd be in the Hall of Fame if he'd played on the East Coast) and Lou Brock.

He is the only athlete to whom I ever wrote a fan letter - (1) when the Cardinals traded him and (2) upon his retirement.

Bill White showed us how to play the game, and how to be a man, a gentleman and a baseball player ... every day of his career.

2. Curt Flood - He was simply the best centerfielder I ever saw, and I saw him in a Cardinal uniform from 1958 through 1969. He won seven straight Gold Gloves, in a consistent Gold Glove trio of outfield winners during those years of Curt,  Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays.

As with White, Curt Flood showed us - every day - how to play the game: with excellence, focus and a complete lack of self-aggrandizement.  He could bunt, hit to the right side, hit for average and drive in runs. But his outfield play was unsurpassed. Twice, I saw him run up the concrete wall (in cleats, one or two steps) and catch fly balls. Steel cleats hitting concrete results in quite a jolt, but I was there and saw him do it.

And then, it was Curt who set the stage for free agency of pro athletes when he refused a trade in the winter of 1969, after 12 seasons as a Cardinal, saying, "I am not a piece of meat." In a disgraceful 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that he was, in fact, a piece of meat; but the dam broke soon after. As with Jackie Robinson, Curt died of a broken heart before age 60. But he had shown us how to live.


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