This Week in Milford

May 18, 2022

Time, Limp!

Today’s baseball history lesson is the story of Jackie Hayes. Hayes, a shortstop on Wallace Wade’s Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team (yes, Wade coached baseball in addition to football at the time), got his start in the majors in 1928 as a utility infielder for the original AL Senators. Having been awarded the starting second base job for 1929 by the Nats’ new manager, future Hall-of-Famer Walter Johnson, Jackie would lose that job to Buddy Myer, a .300-plus hitter who Washington had reacquired after an ill-advised trade to the Red Sox. While Hayes was the better glove man, Myer was the better hitter and baserunner (he led the AL in stolen bases in ’28 for Boston and would win the AL batting crown in ’35 for Washington). After two more seasons playing sporadically for the Nats, Hayes was traded to the White Sox in a multi-player deal.

While still a great fielder, Hayes struggled with injuries on the South Side, including several beanings; in two seasons where he managed to stay healthy, he hit over .300. Things would take a turn for the worse during spring training 1940. After a shower one afternoon, he felt as if he had soap in his right eye. The next day his vision was blurry, and the club sent him back to Chicago for treatment. After several misdiagnoses and no relief from deteriorating vision, Jackie Hayes would be diagnosed with glaucoma.

Hayes wouldn’t give up. He played in a handful of games, but didn’t start for the first time until August 21 when, wearing a makeshift helmet with ear flaps and closing his right eye when he stepped into the batter’s box, he went 2-for-3. Hayes batted .195 in 18 games for the White Sox and retired after the 1940 season. He would go blind in his right eye soon thereafter and went completely blind in 1943, but he did manage to have a productive life after baseball, serving as a county tax collector and occasional visitor to local and regional schools for the blind as a motivational speaker. Still, Jackie Hayes will always be remembered as the first major league baseball player to wear a protective helmet.

The Hammer’s apparent obliviousness to the comebacker whizzing past his right ear made me wonder if wasn’t already completely blind in his right eye, which triggered my memories of Jackie Hayes. Wonder if Gil could track down one of those padded caps offered to MLB pitchers a few years ago for Gregg, the ones that made them look like the Great Gazoo. I think only Alex Torres ever wore one in a regular season game, so there’s probably a bunch lying around some equipment manager’s cage somewhere.

Finally catching a clue that something is wrong with the Hammer on the bump, Gil quickly tells the suddenly popular Morrison to hit the showers and wait for him with a loofah to get hot fast. Without adequate warmup, there’ll soon be another Mudlark pitcher out with an injury, and Gil’s 10-3 record will be gone quicker than you can say “lemonade on the back porch.” Of course Gil will lay into Gregg before realizing the true extent of the situation and turning his wrath to Papa Hamm. Why Kaz is being spared for letting Scooter Pie talk him out of fielding practice for the Hammer is beyond me, and yet another of the gaps in this plot as massive as the ones left after an infield shift.

May 16, 2022

Heather Burns Is Impressed

Filed under: actual action, baseball, freak hands, Gil Thorp, Mimi Thorp, New Thayer — nedryerson @ 8:35 pm

The Thorps are relaxing at home with some coffee and the morning paper. Hey Gil, your team is off to a ten and three start! Say, that’s pretty darn good. Yeah, Heather Burns thinks that’s hot! Oh no! My pinky is looking weird again and I can barely hold on to this supposed newspaper and neither one of us can focus our eyes, so let’s go back to bed until say, June. Sounds good. Wake me up when it’s time for lemonade.

Meanwhile, Half Blind Hamm is back on the bump against New Thayer. It’s a chopper to the left side. Is that good or bad for Hamm? As long as he’s not trying to field it, so what. Guys are going to hit choppers, and dribblers, and squibs, and grounders, and bloopers, and comebackers. It depends on what you do with them. We’ll find out what happens to the chopper later.

May 11, 2022

“Know Who Else Had Trouble Handling Balls? My Mom!”

Filed under: actual action, Bad Jokes, baseball, talking hand, Valley Tech — teenchy @ 9:03 am

Today’s baseball history lesson is the story of Bert Shepard. Bert Shepard’s major league career lasted all of one game, a relief pitching stint for the Nationals/Senators on August 4, 1945 against the Red Sox. It was his journey to the bigs that made Bert’s career all the more memorable.

Shepard, a lefty, had played semipro and was playing sandlot ball when he was discovered and signed by the White Sox in 1939. He struggled with control problems, was released, finished high school, and then signed another pro contract in 1941, this time with the Cardinals. In their famed system, Bert again showed flashes of talent at the C and D level but still struggled with control. At the beginning of 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he attended flight school, earned his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. In early 1944, Shepard joined the 55th Fighter Group in England and was soon flying P-38 Lightnings over the continent.

On May 21, 1944, Bert was flying his 34th mission over Germany when, after having destroyed a train and an oil tank on a strafing run, his P-38 was taken down by flak. He was knocked unconscious when a shell grazed his chin and his plane hit the ground at full speed. Miraculously, Shepard wasn’t killed, but soon faced another threat when the angry German farmers who found him turned their pitchforks on him. A Luftwaffe doctor, Ladislaus Loidl, and two armed soldiers soon arrived at the scene and held back the farmers at gunpoint.

The Luftwaffe doctors amputated Shepard’s leg 11 inches below the knee. He was later transferred to a prison camp where a Canadian medic fashioned an artificial leg for him. Shepard began playing catch with a cricket ball and then resumed pitching a baseball. In February 1945, Bert was involved in a prisoner exchange and returned to the US. He began practicing baseball with some players from a local semipro team. Realizing that he was still able to throw his familiar pitches, Shepard became determined to resume his professional baseball career. Shepard went to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington to be fitted with a new prosthesis, where he was visited by Robert Patterson, the Undersecretary of War, who presented him with a commendation for his service, valor, and courage. Patterson asked Shepard what his goal was, and the former flyer replied he wanted to play baseball. Undersecretary of War Patterson called his good friend Clark Griffith, owner of the Senators, who then offered Shepard a tryout.

Griffith signed him to a major league contract, but had no intention of using him in a regular game, figuring to keep him around to serve as coach and batting practice pitcher. In addition to pitching BP Bert visited veteran’s hospitals, offering encouragement to other wounded veterans, and made a training film for amputees returning from the war. Finally on August 4, with the Nats down 14-2 in the top of the fourth, and the Red Sox with the bases loaded and two out, Washington manager Ossie Bluege brought Shepard in to try and stop the damage. The Nats were playing their fourth consecutive doubleheader, and an already thin pitching staff was getting battered by Boston. Shepard struck out the first batter he faced, George “Catfish” Metkovich. He stayed in the game and, for the remaining five innings, gave up only one run on three hits.

With the Nats battling the Detroit Tigers for the AL pennant in 1945, Bluege was reluctant to use Shepard again. His only other on-field highlight occurred on August 31 when he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross between games of a doubleheader. Washington released him on September 30; he was resigned in 1946 but, with the return of so many pleyrs from the war, Shepard failed to make the team and would never play in the majors again. He would, however, meet Ladislaus Loidl, the Luftwaffe doctor who saved his life, at his home in Austria in 1993.

The reason I’m posting the Bert Shepard Story is because, unlike Gregg Hamm, Shepard could field bunts.

Of course, you need to see bunts to be able to field them but, once fielded, you should be able to make the throw to first. Why Valley Tech baserunner feels the need to share his insights with Scooter is beyond me; he should have saved them for the bench. Now Scooter will have to come up with signals for the Milford infielders to play in for the bunts. His Nolan Ryan reference implies that the Hammmmer will start striking out a bunch of Techsters but still lose the game anyway.

Today’s post title, of course, a reference to Regular Show‘s Muscle Man, who never was able to get the mom joke format down pat.

May 9, 2022

Big Floppy Hats Are SO 2016

Filed under: actual action, baseball, Pantheon of Mysterious Objects, Valley Tech — nedryerson @ 6:14 pm

Remember when we thought we were going to get way more Scooter Borden than we could handle and possibly want to stab ourselves in the eyeholes with rusty farm implements? Well maybe I still feel that way, especially if Scooter’s going to use terminology like compadre, fired up and on the bump. But Scooter’s stupid jibba jabba has so far been nothing compared to the sheer, unrelenting monotony of Gregg Hamm’s old man, Mr. Incognito.

It looks like Ruth Hamm is getting tired of her husband’s crap, too. She’s clearly snarking at him about the measures he’s taking to avoid being identified in public. That would suggest that she doesn’t think it’s a matter of life and death if someone spots him watching his half blind kid on the bump. Maybe after another couple weeks of big, flappy hat talk, we’ll find out what the big mystery is, but I’m bored with it. I’d rather deliberate on the mystery of what the heck the thing is on the Hamm’s counter. Is he packing a lunch in a customized Bento box? Maybe he is going to put on a mask that he keeps in an old Steak & Shake carryout box.

Let’s watch some baseball, shall we. One would presume that we’re looking at a Valley Tech player attempting to lay down a bunt, but the colorists never know which end is up, so we can’t be sure. If it is a Valley Tech player at the plate, will blind Gregg kick the ball all over the infield or will one of the other infielders commit an error because he’s too distracted by Gregg’s dad in the stands sporting a big, floppy hat?

All I can think about are big, floppy hats.

May 4, 2022

From a Slick Stop to a Meal Stop

Time for a break from the Milford Witness Protection Program for some actual action.

Central tries to mount a late rally against the Mudlarks by putting on Milford’s uniforms and crowding the plate. This ruse fails as Gonzo Aceves gets the batter in disguise to ground into a game-ending double play. Surprising that Gil and Kaz left Gonzo in to pitch a complete game; maybe they were also too busy watching Mama Hamm take a bullet for Papa Hamm to pay attention to the action on the field.

Menawhile Marty’s in his crate, calling the game using the CB radio he pulled from under the dash of his car and taking notes using a carpenter’s pencil. Guess Marty got it from Heather that everyone’s calling Aceves “Gonzo” now. Though he and his butter knife are long gone The Mayor has left his mark, at least for the rest of this season.

Now it’s off for postgame junk food, either at Ricozzi’s or The Bucket. Will the Hammmmer walk into a pane of glass as he joins the rest of the team? Will Papa Hamm be stuffed in the trunk of the Hammmobile when Mama Hamm comes to pick Gregg up? Will Scooter be too busy bragging about the twin killing he turned to bore everyone to tears with baseball trivia? So much to anticipate for the rest of the week!

May 2, 2022

They Shoot Video, Don’t They?

Filed under: actual action, baseball, Brown Hair, Colorist Error, Heather Burns — nedryerson @ 3:44 pm

So, what have we got going on today? It’s still Heather Burns inexplicably shooting video for the Milford Star. That’s right. This dying media enterprise that dumped Marjie Ducey’s salary to hire this dolt is trying to stay relevant by putting video on its website. It’s also diluting it’s all ready craptastic prep sports coverage by replacing garbage reporting with a shaky video of people in the stands? Notice that Heather isn’t using a tripod and she’s holding that “beast” out in front of her. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Visitors to the Milford Star website have been clamoring for this kind of content. If you can’t get a video of a kid sitting in a tree*, the next best thing is randos watching the Mudlarks!

Oh, yeah, there’s a baseball game going on and Gonzalo Aceves is throttling Central. I assume panel 2 indicates that Central batters can only manage weak grounders against Gonzo’s dazzling stuff. Huzzah!

Of course, all this is mostly in service of our A plot, the mysterious Mr. Hamm, who is camera shy for some undisclosed reason. Ruth Hamm is even throwing herself in front of Ol’ Hamm to shield him just in case Heather manages to get a clear, in focus shot of the mysterious bastard. Ruth Hamm may be so afraid of being identified that she changed her hair color since the last game.

*Kid stuck in tree refers to a strip from many years ago where the storyline was about this kid Andrew Gregory who was running around Milford taking videos of exciting things (like a kid sitting in a tree) and selling them to the Star. I was going to try and embed the images from Jason’s posts back in 2008 as it might be more dynamic than just linking back to the posts, but it’s an ordeal to scroll back through fourteen years’ worth of images used in this blog. Links will have to suffice. I think Andrew had a better camera than whatever relic Heather found down at the Star.

April 29, 2022

Singing the blues

Bad enough that we have a blind pitcher nobody knows about. Now we have another guy who can see just fine bitching about the umps calls. Nomar is blaming the ump for his pitiful performance. Wah wah wah. What a bunch of freakin losers on this team. Of course Chief One Eye didnt notice and has to be warned on the bus postgame about it, so he can bitch about calls when its his turn to draw Blue Narrow behind the plate. Nothing like team camaraderie the wrong way. Didnt Atherton have the same ump? Hey we scored 5 runs.

That bus must be as narrow as Blues’ strike zone with only one ass to a seat.

This team is so mentally weak I have no idea how they survive the season anywhere near the playoffs unless Gil has a meeting to address the whole thing. But we havent seen Gil lately.

April 23, 2022

Can You Fist Bump in Braille?

The grand scheme is in full swing, and with only three players in on it (oh, and a tennis player but who’s counting? Is she even gonna get a story this spring?) it seems to be working. The big question: how long before someone picks up on it, who will that someone be, and how will they know?

Probably not Marty; he’s too busy with his own chatter. Did he get a new set of choppers after basketball season, or has he been sucking on the sugar cubes he’s been muddling with bitters to make his sippy cup Old Fashioneds?

How about Noah Syndergaard Kaz? Gregg’s awkward return of his fist bump might be a clue. Oh wait; it’s his right-angled approach that’s making it awkward.

Maybe another Mudlark who isn’t in on the plan will figure it out, especially if one of them calls Hamm by name while out in the field. Guess it’s a given he can distinguish Scooter’s voice from his other teammates in the heat of the moment.

You know it won’t be Gil; he’s always the last to know and the pissiest when he finds out.

Nice graffiti by the Chief on the dugout there, BTW.

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