(Willie Mays, who turns 80 today, is presented a World Series ring last month by current Giants’ outfielder Andres Torres. Photo by Associated Press).
Here is today’s Mariners’ minor-league report. Taijuan Walker, the Mariners’ top draft pick last year, made his Midwest League debut for Clinton and was roughed up a bit. Peoria scored four runs off him in four innings (actually, all their scoring came in the first two innings, including three in the first). He gave up seven hits, walked two, and threw a wild pitch, but Walker did strike out five.
Today is Willie Mays‘ 80th birthday, which makes those of us who were fortunate to watch him play feel very old, indeed. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle did an outstanding feature on Mays earlier this week. I figure it’s a good time to drag out my own “brush with greatness” story about the Say Hey Kid. I’ve told it before, but indulge me. This occurred while I was the Giants’ beat writer for the San Francisco Examiner. Bonds had been named the National League’s MVP in 1993, his first season with the Giants after signing as a free agent. On opening day 1994, Mays was fittingly asked to present Bonds the MVP trophy at soldout Candlestick Park. Bonds was also to receive that day a much less lavish plaque from the Bay Area chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which had voted him its own Player of the Year award.
The Giants decided to combine the two presentations, asking the local BBWAA chapter chairman to accompany Mays onto the field. That would be … me. The introduction came over the loudspeaker, “Please welcome Larry Stone of the San Francisco Examiner, and Hall of Famer Willie Mays!”
I strolled onto the field, alongside Mays, enjoying the first and (still) only standing ovation of my career.
Meanwhile, this video really tickled me, for some reason. It’s from Lee Judge, who blogs about the Royals for the Kansas City Star. After he wrote that Wilson Betemit should have taken one for the team and allowed himself to get plunked by an 81-mph slider with the bases loaded, rather than get out of the way, Royals catcher Jason Kendall challenged Judge to step into the batting cage to see how it feels to get hit by an 81-mph pitch. Judge agreed. Word spread around the clubhouse, and several players ended up going to the cage to watch the festivities. Judge got the whole thing on video, and it’s pretty funny. The Royals’ players certainly thought so. Let’s just say that the pitch ended up being a lot faster than 81-mph — but I give Judge full marks for not even flinching.
Here’s an interesting story, from Bloomberg. It states that Dodger players could technically file to become free agents if the Dodgers don’t meet payroll at the end of the month, as has been predicted. No way MLB allows that to happen, but it’s fascinating to imagine the likes of Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley hitting the open market in the middle of a season. I’d think the Mariners could use one or two of those.