9/9/09: A Tribute To Bill Mazeroski, Roger Maris and Ted Williams

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Oh yeah. It's 9/9/09, a good day for people like me who like to cross their eyes when they look at stuff. There are other people like that, right? Anyway, last year on 8/8/08 I paid tribute to Yogi, Yaz and Bo. It was one of my favorite pieces and it came out well because I had genuine affection for all three players.

This year we'll be paying tribute to one guy I love (Williams) one semi-tragic hero I find endlessly interesting, and one guy whose shining moment eclipses the rest of his Hall Of Fame career. So here are those 3 guys, back to front.

Bill Mazeroski: Last year was Yaz, this year it's Maz. One of the most impressive defensive infielders of his era, the 2001 Hall Of Fame inductee made 7 All-Star Teams and won 6 Gold Gloves. In 2163 GP he collected 2016 hits and was always a tough strikeout.

But it was the 1960 postseason in which he made his name. He slugged .640 in 7 playoff games that year including his Walkoff Ding Dong in game 7 against the Yankees, the first and only until Joe Carter did it again in 1992. It was one of two championships for Maz, who also played on the 1971 championship team with Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente.

Roger Maris: Maris is another guy, who for better or worse is known primarily for one thing, his 61 Home Runs in 1961. It was a monumental achievement forever tainted by the fact that we have to listen to Billy Crystal talk about it. Most people know the story. Maris and Mantle are neck and neck in the home race all through the summer. Everyone is rooting for Mantle until he gets hurt and the stress of the spotlight causes Maris' hair to turn into a flattop.

The years have made it seem like nobody appreciated what Maris that year since the whole country was full of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle worshipers. Whatever the prevailing sentiment was at the time, Maris was still awarded the MVP, his second straight. It's hard to ignore 366 TB, no matter how you feel about a guy.

While he would never again reach those lofty heights, the rest of Maris' career, both in New York and St. Louis, was respectable. Although to me his subsequent home run dropoff screams STEROIDS. Look at those numbers! His head grew! Maris retired to Gainesville (bad) where he ran a beer distributorship (good) until he passed away in 1985.

Ted WIlliams: There is absolutely nothing I can say about Ted Williams that could contribute to the conversation about him in any meaningful way. Aside from Ruth, there has never been a more discussed and dissected ballplayer. Partly because, aside from Ruth, there was never a better hitter. But Williams' life and career, both in baseball and in the Service, has come to serve as a symbol of Wartime, Post-War, and then War-again America in the middle of last century. His status as "the real life John Wayne" is now repeated to the point of cliche but serves to help illustrate his legacy. When you investigated that era's phony heroes like Wayne you found out there wasn't much there. Frauds mostly. In a life of tough, and sometimes incorrect decisions Williams was never a fraud. But for me, more that anything, it's the numbers.

The numbers are insane. A career OPS of 1.116 fleshes out his 521 HRs, all while playing a total of 495 games from 1950 through 1955. Williams was only 32 in 1950, and had arguably his best season in 1949. To celebrate 9/9/09 today, do me a favor and just look at these stats. Compare them against Gehrig, DiMaggio, Felix Jose or whomever. Numbers transcending sentimentalism and sensationalism show us the real reason for a player's legacy, and it's no wonder that WIlliams' is still so large.


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18 Comments

Ken Jennings thinks we should watch this video in honor of Mazzie, Roger, and Ol' Frozen Head.

I missed the 06-06-06 tribute to the anti-Christ.

btw Rob, we need one more team for the fantasy football league.

What, no tribute to Benito Santiago, number 09?

Enos "Country " Slaughter, career .300 hitter for 19 seasons, famous for the "Mad Dash" and possible racism.

Do we still need FFL team? Send me the link to register, I have someone.

We're back to full again, thanks to Juancho.

Juancho? Sweet!

Awesome. Have fun with the draft tonight, fellas - If it goes late enough, I might be able to join yous for the last round or two.

Ted Williams is so large even the Bear Jew is a fan

Eli Roth: least convincing bad-ass, or least convincing bad-ass ever?

Ed, you in? We'll draft Brandon Marshall and JaMarcus Russel for you with your first 2 picks.

Yeah, I'm in. My team is called "The Welcome Mat". I host an open mic on Wednesday nights, so who knows - Yahoo might auto-pick those guys for me while I'm listening to the millionth cover of Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into The Dark"...

Your mothers are all tramps.

Nobody cares about our fantasy league.

I certainly don't. That must be why I NEVER FIND OUT ABOUT THEM UNTIL THEY'RE FINISHED.

Ted Williams: baseball's hip thrust to stat-heads.

I'm in a fantasy league with Benito Santiago.

Numbers transcending sentimentalism and sensationalism show us the real reason for a player's legacy, and it's no wonder that WIlliams' is still so large.

And don't forget sentimentalism, too.

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