TORONTO - New York Yankees Curtis Granderson wasn’t so much stirring it up than he was stating fact when he spoke about the lack of visible minority fans in attendance at some ball parks.
In an interview this week with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Granderson said he plays a game with teammates at some of their American League stops: They count the number of African-American fans.
“At first, it starts off as a joke (with teammates),” Granderson said. “As the game moves on, you’ll get to 10, or maybe 15. Depends on where you are, too. Places like Chicago or New York, other places it’s easy. (In Texas), it’s hard. So after a while it becomes, ‘Told you so.’ “
The lack of black American’s who are taking up the sport in the U.S. has been well documented and the fact that in some locales they don’t support the local team has also been established.
If you attend most spring training games in March you see more white faces in the crowd than at a Klan rally.
I remember covering the Jays one spring when they had a road game against the Texas Rangers who at the time were stationed in Port Charlotte. Dave Stewart was the Jays assistant GM at the time and was in attendance, sitting in the stands back of the Jays dugout. I remember looking over the crowd and spotting Stewart, noted that he looked like a raisin atop a sea of meringue — he was the lone black face in the crowd that I could see.
“If you poll a lot of African-American guys that are between 20 and 40 years old (and ask) what NBA player did you watch and want to be, they’re all going to say ‘(Michael) Jordan,’” Granderson said. “He was the best player and he looked like us. (In) baseball, you have a group playing right now who could say ‘Ken Griffey Jr.’ but he’s no longer in the game, and there hasn’t been anybody to replace him.”
HEAT STOPS HALLADAY
One of the more incredible streaks in MLB came to an end this week.
Back on Monday at Wrigley Field, the Phillies’ Roy Halladay was the losing pitcher and was taken from the game in the fifth to snap his remarkable streak of making 63 consecutive road starts where he lasted a minimum of six innings.
It was the longest such streak since the Big Train, Walter Johnson, made 82 consecutive road starts of six or more innings from 1911 to 1915.
But the strange thing about Halladay being stopped more or less in his tracks was it didn’t have anything to do with the Chicago Cubs. It was the heat and humidity that drove the right-hander from the mound.
“I felt like I could get through it, and then in the last inning it was just to the point where I felt like I was about to get wheeled off the mound,” Halladay said the following day.
On the mound in the fourth, Halladay was hunched over, gasping for breath and dripping with sweat.
A physical fitness zealot, Halladay was just about the last person you would think would be overcome by the elements. But he became dehydrated and dizzy and was unable to continue.
“It was just one of those odd things,” Halladay said. “I’ve never really had something like that. I’ve got fatigued and I’ve got tired, but nothing like that. I think it was just a combination of everything. I think it all got to me at one point.”
Halladay would suffer the loss, his first in two months. That his streak was stopped at Wrigley was apropos. He has made three lifetime starts there and has had three losses.
His next start is Sunday.
The Chicago White Sox may be an underachieving team this season as they spin their wheels in third place in the wide-open AL Central Division but they always seem to have a colourful Sideshow Bob quality about them.
It stems from their manager, Ozzie Guillen, who can rip his team apart at the drop of a hat, or more precisely, when they drop a game due to what the Oz deems a lack of effort.
Such was the case earlier this week when on Wednesday, the ChiSox dropped a 2-1 decision to the Royals which marked the 49th time this season they have scored three runs or fewer. That didn’t sit well with Guillen.
“(Bleeping) pathetic. No (bleeping) energy,” Guillen started. “We just go by the motions. One day we’re good, three days we’re bad. We don’t have energy in the dugout. A horse(bleep) approach at the plate for the 90th time.”
While that outburst may be old hat to reporters covering the team, free agent bust Adam Dunn brightened the day when he talked about quitting, despite his expressed love of the game.
“If I’m not having fun anymore, I’ll go home,” Dunn told reporters. “Flat out. I’ll go home. I mean that. Swear to goodness. I’ll go. Home. I enjoy playing. Even though I suck. Or have been sucking. I enjoy playing the game. Love it. But as soon as I lose that, I’m gone, dude. It’s true.
“How many games can you play doing this? This is ridiculous. You get to a point, and you’re like ...”
Dunn didn’t need to finish his thoughts as heading into Friday’s game it’s as if he already has quit but he’s stuck in the White Sox lineup.
In the first year of a four-year, $56 million contract, Dunn is hitting .158 (45-for-284), has slugged nine home runs and has struck out 124 times.
In Chicago, the fun never ends.
Kudos to an old pro, Oakland’s Hideki Matsui, who on Wednesday night at Detroit’s Comerica Park, slugged the 500th home run of his two-continent pro career.
It would have been a more magic moment had ‘Godzilla’ swatted it at new Yankees Stadium, having launched 112 of the 168 major-league home runs with the Bronx Bombers.
The bulk of Matsui’s magic 500 — 332 home runs — occurred in his 10 season with the Yomiuri Giants.
Matsui’s arrival with the Yankees back in 2003 was a very big deal indeed as he was Japan’s home run champ and swarms of reporters from Japan covered his every move from spring training through every season in the Bronx.
Although he never achieved the success he enjoyed in Japan where the stadiums are smaller and the overall quality of pitching isn’t on the same level, Matsui proved to be a dangerous and at times lethal force in the Yankees’ lineup.
In his final season with the Yankees, 2009, he was the World Series MVP.
Last season he played with the Los Angeles Angels and now in what may be his final season, he’s with the A’s.
No. 500 was a long time coming as following his 499th it took him 25 games to finally reach the milestone.
“I’m happy to be able to get it out of the way,” Matsui said. “Winning the game made it only better.”
Just where the accomplishment fits into the overall picture is hard to quantify.
“Honestly speaking, the way I look at it, the numbers in Japan and here are separate,” Matsui, 37, said.
Japan or North America, Oakland manager Bob Melvin believes it’s a great accomplishment.
“Five hundred homers is quite a feat,” Melvin said. “I don’t care if it’s split between two different places. It’s the major leagues in Japan and the major leagues here.”
To that we say, Amen.