Friday, July 25, 2014

Kershaw Joins Koufax as a Hickok Belt Winner - Check Out My Vintage Photo Featuring Koufax Winning Same Award in 1963

Sometimes luck is all about timing.

For instance, I recently won a couple of vintage photographs through RMY Auctions, one of which features Sandy Koufax winning the Hickok Belt for his accomplishments in 1963.  As luck would have it, once that photo arrived in my hands, a press release was issued naming Clayton Kershaw as a monthly winner of the Hickock Belt for June 2014.

How about that, eh?

It's like the cosmos momentarily aligned to give me inspiration for a new blog post.  Or, maybe it's just dumb blind luck.

Anyway, first to the Kershaw announcement. Through voting conducted by a select panel of members of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, they chose Clayton Kershaw as the June 2014 winner of the Hickock Belt. This should come as no surprise since he was clearly the most overwhelming sports athlete in the country last month. Via a press release:
Kershaw's selection as the Hickok Belt Award winner for June 2014 recognizes him as "the best of the best" in professional sports for the month and makes him the sixth candidate eligible to receive the 2014 overall award, joining previous 2014 monthly winners Kevin Durant, Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Bubba Watson, and Nelson Cruz.
I'm sure you're wondering, what the heck is a Hickock Belt? 

Well... The Hickock Belt was initially founded in 1950, and was known as the S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year Award.  It recognizes the top American professional athlete of the year, and they awarded a belt (much like a boxing championship belt) to its winner.  For the next 27 years some of the greatest American athletes were awarded the prize; including Phil Rizzuto, Rocky Marciano, Willie Mays, Ben Hogan and Joe Namath.  Also, a couple of Dodgers have won the award.  Maury Wills won it in 1962, and Sandy Koufax won it twice (1963 and 1965).  Now, after a 36 year hiatus the award returns to honor the countries best.  Unlike in years past, monthly award winners are named with a single annual overall winner named at years end.  You can visit the Hickock Belt website here.

As indicated on the write-up on the reverse of the vintage photo of Sandy Koufax (as seen below);
"Sandy Koufax of the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers tries on the $10,000 jewel-studded Hickock Belt awarded him January 20 as Professional Athlete of the Year."
If you look closely at the vintage photo you'll notice that it is an alligator-skinned belt with a solid gold buckle, a 4 carat diamond and various gemstones.  I have no idea if today's winner receives a similar pricey award.  I get the impression that it is no longer as high-profile and prestigious as it once was.  Still, to be named along with other greats of American sports past is quite an accomplishment.

Congrats, Clayton!

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Hanley's Disgusting 2013 Batting Helmet is on Auction

I still remember last season like it was yesterday.  That excitement and awe still resonates in my mind.  When the Dodgers, shockingly, rattled off a cavalcade of winning unmatched in club history, I thought that this could not be really happening.  Was I living a dream?  Were we all?

Some folks believed that the emergence of Puig and the continued brilliance of Kershaw was the reason for our rise.  I think Hanley Ramirez's powerful right-handed bat, finally healthy, was the final rock that caused the avalanche. 

2013 proved to be unforgettable, and the thing I most remember about Hanley and his season was that pine-tar laden batting helmet that looked like a mixture of snot, feces and chocolate.  It's like it had magically coalesced to insure that all who stared at it too long would be too disgusted to go on.  Opposing catchers were sickened by it, pitchers could not possibly concentrate and umpires were too mesmerized to pay attention.  If not for a careless pitch that knocked Ramirez out for the playoffs, I think that helmet would have taken us to the promised land.

Seriously... I'm not joking!

Anyway, Huggins & Scott Auctions has the real batting helmet Hanley used that season up for sale.  Check it out below.
(Auction Link)

It has all of the gunk, dirt and grime we all remember.  There is even a 2013 Post-Season sticker attached to the back of it.  Go here to check out the auction.  The starting price is steep at $1,500.00.

Via the auction description:
Already a veteran of nine big league seasons, superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez reached his first-ever postseason in 2013 and powered the Dodgers to an NLDS triumph over Atlanta with a home run, six RBI and a .500 batting average. As he posted those astounding numbers in the October spotlight, Ramirez wore this batting helmet. The blue plastic shell features a left ear flap, while an “LA” decal is adhered to the front center. At the back, Ramirez’ number “13” is displayed in white-on-blue decals and accompanied by a “2013 Postseason” logo decal. The interior is home to leather-covered padding (with a “Rawlings” label) affixed along the perimeter, back, crown and ear flap. The outer shell is caked with a generous amount of pine tar, which is photo matched in the October 28, 2013 edition of ESPN Magazine.
Below are more photos of the helmet.  Click any pic to embiggen.

Pic at the very top via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2013.

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

Blog Kiosk: 7/25/2014 - Dodger Links - AJ's Bobblehead, Pederson and what to do with Haren

Here's a great vintage pic of former Dodger slugger Raul Mondesi with his son Raul Mondesi Jr. from 1985, pic via @Dodgers_History on twitter.
From the front office to the manager’s office, the Dodgers have faith that Beckett can make the necessary adjustments in the coming weeks and months. The organization does not perceive that his first-half success was a fluke.

Haren is a different story. His next turn in the rotation will almost certainly be skipped, since the Dodgers have off-days today and Monday.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Haren moved before the trade deadline; especially considering he is about 58 innings short (at 180 innings) of his option automatically vesting.

  • Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports writes, "Free Giancarlo Stanton."
  • In honor of the Baseball Hall of Fame's 75th Anniversay and Inducation weekend MLB ballplayers will be wearing the patch on the left on Sunday in its honor, pic via @MLB_PR on twitter.
  • This is both crazy and cool.  Via Nick Schwartz at USA Today, "A Korean baseball team is filling the stadium with robot fans."  There's a video so you can see it in action.
  • Via Extra Mustard at Sports Illustrated, "We pranked a minor league baseball crowd with some free stuff that no one wanted."  There's an funny video at the link above.

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *