After Further Review

Lee Smith’s Hall Omission Hard to Figure by thad mumau

The all-time major league saves leader is not in the Hall of Fame. That is only because his mandatory five-year waiting period since retirement is not complete. But you can be sure Mariano Rivera’s plaque is in the back room at Cooperstown.

The greatest reliever ever will be eligible next year, and his 2019 induction is about as certain as tomorrow’s daybreak. The New York Yankees’ closer will lead the voting for the new class. Heck, he might even be a unanimous selection.

Trevor Hoffman, No. 2 in career saves, is already in the Hall, having joined Chipper Jones and four others in the large group of inductees this past summer.

Rivera finished with 652 saves, Hoffman with 601.

There probably aren’t many folks, other than hard-core followers of baseball, who can name the No. 3 saves guy. (without Google, I mean.) He’s Lee Smith, who amassed 478 saves over an 18-year career that saw him pitch for eight teams. Read more

Cooperstown Elections Not Totally Objective by thad mumau

The numbers usually tell the story. But not always.

As mentioned in this space recently, there are certain numbers that pretty much guarantee entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, not every member of the Cooperstown club has a 300 or 3,000 or 500 on his resume.

The rub with this is that without so-called “requirements”, subjectivity replaces objectivity in the selection process. As is the case in almost every walk of life, what that boils down to is politics and personalities.

Voters, therefore, are sometimes influenced by whether they like a candidate. Many of the same baseball writers who fill in Hall of Fame ballots also decide winners of awards such as Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. The voters are not always fair.

The best example of what I’m talking about here is Ted Williams, who was snubbed twice in MVP voting. Looking at his sensational stats those two seasons, there is no other explanation for his failure to be chosen. Read more

Knees Blocked Oliva’s Path to Cooperstown by thad mumau

Tony Oliva really did have it all. Except for good knees.

 The only modern-day player to win batting titles in his first two years in the majors, the tall left-handed hitter with the sweet swing limped through the final five seasons of his career.

 Several knee surgeries reduced Oliva to a designated hitter role during that time and also took away the speed that had made him a stolen-base threat. It should be remembered that knee operations were not as sophisticated back then, and neither were the results.

Oliva came to the United States from his native Cuba when he was almost 23 years old. A couple seasons in the minor leagues included a stop at Charlotte where he hit .350 and knocked in 93 runs against Class-A South Atlantic League pitching.  Read more

Claytor Endures ‘The Grind’ in Seeking PGA Dream by thad mumau

Daniel Claytor shares a dream with hundreds of other young men. Like many of them, he has the capacity for making that dream come true, enormous potential rooted in the ability to hit a golf ball. To hit very good golf shots frequently.

Earning a PGA card is an elusive quest. Daunting at times. So close and yet so far, as the old saying goes. Because it’s not simply a matter of playing well. WHEN you play well is the ticket.

Claytor, 27, is a native of Rocky Mount, NC, where he graduated from Northern Nash High School. At Barton College, he was a three-time All-America, the first athlete to accomplish that in school history. He won six NCAA golf tournaments.

He was the points leader in the Swing Thought Qualifying School Scholarship Race last year, placing third in Player of the Year points and second in money earned in National Series tour events. He was named the 2017 Daniel Converse Award winner. The honor is based on performance, integrity and exceptional professionalism on and off the golf course.

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Thinking About Cooperstown Numbers by thad mumau

For years there have been magic numbers regarding entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Career numbers like 3,000 (hits by a batter, strikeouts by a pitcher); 500 (home runs), 300 (pitching wins).

Such numbers were not required, mind you, just thought of as “guarantees” that a plaque would be hung of players who amassed them.

Then along came chemicals men ingested (by swallowing or absorbing), causing heads and statistics to swell beyond normal proportions. (see Barry Bonds on both counts.)

Hence, some of the numbers once considered automatic ticket punches to Cooperstown have not been viewed so reverently. Because, of course, cheaters were recording those numbers.

As a result, those who receive Hall of Fame ballots these days must adjust their thinking.

For other reasons, too. Today’s pitchers are not ringing up as many victories. Pitch counts – also known as babying hurlers – reduce innings, which means guys aren’t around long enough to pick up as many decisions. Read more

Book is a Love Story of Baseball in the ’60s by thad mumau

Maz to Yaz to Amazin’ was a natural as far as I was concerned. The idea of writing a book about baseball in the 1960s was exciting. Doing it was a bunch of fun.

The ’60s were the pinnacle of major league baseball, a decade overflowing with sensational players, sizzling pennant races and spectacular feats. It was marked by change as the landscape of the game was altered dramatically. There were new rules, new teams, new stars and a new makeup, as leagues were broken into divisions and playoffs preceded the World Series.

It was a decade filled with fluorescent memories, beginning with the first-ever World Series-ending home run long before walkoff was a trendy baseball term; closing with a truly amazing Fall Classic; with one of the most fantastic individual stretch runs sandwiched in between.     Read more

MY OLD BASEBALL by thad mumau

I have this old baseball. It has turned a yellowish color despite being stored in a plastic bag, but you can still make out the names even though they were signed more than 60 years ago.

The autographs of Wynn Hawkins and Danny Osinski stand out for me. Partly because both pitchers made it to the major leagues, but also because they “adopted” a small boy who idolized them.

Jim Pokel was the most popular local autograph back then, and my daddy and other men who knew baseball talked a lot about an infielder named Donnie Montgomery.

Those names and others scrawled on my treasured ball were listed on the roster of the Fayetteville Highlanders. I was nine years old when the 1956 Carolina League season began.

My daddy worked at a tire store, and one of the co-owners had purchased two season tickets to support the team. But he didn’t care much for baseball, and knowing that Dad loved it, he gave the tickets to him. Read more

The Highlanders of 1956 by Thad Mumau

It was 62 years ago when Fayetteville won the Carolina League baseball championship. The Highlanders finished fourth in the regular-season standings, then surged through the playoffs by knocking off two teams led by future major league stars.

A Cleveland Indians affiliate back then, the Highlanders boasted a terrific starting rotation comprised of five right-handers. They anchored a pitching staff that finished second in the league in earned run average.

All five starters won 10 or more games, Larry Dressen leading the team with 17, followed by Wynn Hawkins with 16, both posting sub-3.00 ERAs. Danny Osinski, Ray Konkoleski and Ted Fowler rounded out that outstanding rotation.

The Highlanders were a fine team. They had Donnie Montgomery, a .300 hitter who could play several positions. Long-time Fayetteville resident Bob “Rabbit” Mayhew was the shortstop. Ed Cook and Dick Hofleit were power-hitting outfielders.

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THE ORIGINAL TITO by thad mumau

Collecting baseball cards, discovering the wealth of baseball information in The Sporting News and buying a Street & Smith’s Baseball Yearbook every spring helped me get to know big league players. Not just the stars, but the other guys. And writing about some of those other guys from the 1950s and ’60s is one of the things I like to do.

John Patsy Francona comes to mind. The original Tito, the Cleveland Indians’ manager’s dad. Particularly his 1959 season, when he had the highest batting average in the majors but did not win a batting championship.

 Tito Francona won the center field job with the Baltimore Orioles during spring training in 1954 and played well enough (.258, 9 home runs, 57 RBIs, 11 stolen bases) that he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. A misleading honor, however, as White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio received 22 of 24 first-place votes. Read more

The Minor Leagues Are a Crystal Ball by thad mumau

As the Fayetteville/Buies Creek Astros embark on their second season, dirt is being moved to begin building a baseball stadium for the team. Not just any ball yard. A multi-million dollar tabernacle with all the fixin’s.

I’m excited! I love baseball and having our own ball club downtown is very Americana. Families finishing supper, driving to town and watching a game. Root, root, root for the home team. Vendors hawking hot dogs, peanuts and Crackerjack.

Take me out to the ballgame.

Minor league baseball is special. Anyone following the game knows that. You see a kid pitcher firing speedballs, some of them maybe hitting the backstop, and some day down the road, you see him on your television screen.

The chance to see prospects develop. From the home team and the visitors. To do this, you’ve got to attend games on a regular basis. Catching a game here and there, you might miss it. Miss that gangly outfielder getting hold of one and sending the ball into orbit.

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Sports Flash

The Game of the Week »

Listen Friday night to our Game of the Week as we enter week 2 of the NCHSAA State Playoffs.  Our Pine Forest Trojans will... READ MORE »

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DANIEL CLAYTOR »

Mid-South  Sports, Inc. is proud to help sponsor pro golfer, Daniel Claytor.  Daniel is from Rocky Mount, NC and was a... READ MORE »

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