Friday, June 21, 2019

EXTRA: Return of “the Vulture,” and of past, to baseball in 21st Century

'The Vulture' returning to baseball
Something I’ve noticed about being a fan of professional baseball these days – following a ballgame has the ability to make me feel like an antique.

Not only are all the guys who I followed as ballplayers when I was a kid back in the 1970s long-gone from the playing field, they’re no longer really employable as managers or coaches.
Now most definitely a part of baseball past

MY OWN PERSONAL favorite ballplayer as a kid was Lou Piniella of the New York Yankees who went on to a lengthy managerial career with a championship in Cincinnati, a decade’s worth of contending ball clubs in Seattle and even a stint as head of the Chicago Cubs. Yet at age 75, his day in baseball is done.

More typical is Chicago White Sox manager Ricky Renteria, who at age 57 is barely older than I am. With most of today’s ballplayers having barely been born in the final years of the 20th Century.

So it was with a bit of joy that I read the reports Friday about Phil Regan – the old relief pitcher of the 1960s and early ‘70s who got hired as a pitching coach with the New York Mets.
Even Ozzie has become a relic

Regan turned 82 back in April. Considering that one-time star shortstop and manager Ozzie Guillen is now considered an antique at age 55, it feels comforting to know that baseball has someone who was once a teammate to pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale – and was even a part of that Cubs’ ballclub of 1969,

AS IN THE one that managed to fall behind the New York Mets, who went on to win the World Series that year, and give Cubs fans tales of how a black cat (rather than tired, worn-out ballplayers) caused them to lose,

Of course, Regan was the ballplayer remembered best for his nickname – “the Vulture!” Which he got during his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he often managed to come into a ballgame and do something that cost his team the lead (and the starting pitcher credit for the “win”), but because his team would recover and win the game, Regan himself would wind up credited with the victory.
Joy in vulturing a victory

Which makes me wonder if we’ll get a return of talk of relief pitchers “vulturing” wins? Which I certainly would consider more interesting than constant speculation about the exit velocity (how hard the impact on the ball by a bat is) every time a home run is hit!

I still remember Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, where Mark Buehrle of the White Sox pitched 7 solid innings and was on his way to a World Series win when relief pitcher Bobby Jenks came in and blew the lead. The look of relief on Jenks’ face the following inning when the White Sox managed to recoup the lead and win (with a Scott Podsednik home run) was one of joy I’ve never seen duplicated on a ballfield.


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