Friday, October 23, 2015

Dan Bankhead Puerto Rican League Baseball Card

I came across the above 1949-50 Toleteros Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball card above at a auction and decided to share it.  It is currently available on auction.  Check that out here.

It features former Dodger pitcher Dan Bankhead as a member of Caguas Criollos.  As you may know, he was the very first African-American pitcher in the Major Leagues; having joined Brooklyn just a few months after Jackie's debut.  At the time, the Dodgers were hurting for pitching, so the team scouted the Negro Leagues for an immediate filler.

Sometimes compared to Bob Feller, he was a well-known commodity with a blazing fastball, but a penchant for being wild.  Still, he had the "can't miss" label stamped all over him, so the team was thankful to have signed him.

Since Brooklyn needed his arm right away, Bankhead was immediately tasked with joining the big club.  Unfortunately, his first Major League game was not a good one.  He came in out of the bullpen against Pittsburgh in late August 1947, and got pummeled.  I don't mean that in a physically violent way, although by some accounts this was a worry for Bankhead.  What I mean is that the Pirates knocked out ten hits in his 3.1 innings of work; driving in eight earned runs.  Certainly not a great beginning for Dan.

What's interesting about this game, though, is not how poorly he pitched.  What's interesting is the outcome of an single at-bat that happened in the fourth inning against Pirate outfielder Wally Westlake.  On the very first pitch to Westlake, with two men on, Bankhead threw a fastball that got away from him.  Dan's pitch had launched itself hard and fast, and struck Wally square into his left elbow.

Based on certain accounts, Dan Bankhead was scared to death of this possibility.  Per Buck O'Neil, as told by Rory Costello at the SABR Biography Project:
“See, here’s what I always heard. Dan was scared to death that he was going to hit a white boy with a pitch. He thought there might be some sort of riot if he did it. Dan was from Alabama just like your father. But Satchel became a man of the world. Dan was always from Alabama, you know what I mean? He heard all those people calling him names, making those threats, and he was scared. He’d seen black men get lynched.”
Can you imagine what was going through his mind after that?

I can only guess that glimpses of past horrors rushed to him like a hurricane in the Pacific.  As O'Neil intimated above, having witnessed the worse society can offer, I'd be willing to bet that Dan Bankhead was in the midst of fearing for his life.  Instead, a better outcome ensued.

Wally Westlake brushed it off like it was any other hit-by-pitch.  He took his base to load them up without any fanfare.

And with that the game of Baseball, in the span of a single season, had witnessed not only its first integrated game but also a hit batsman that didn't invoke a race riot.  I know that in today's eye's this notion seems silly, but in 1947 this was a real concern... And a major societal advancement for the country.

If you're interested in knowing more about Dan Bankhead I suggest checking out Rory Costello's fantastic biography at the SABR Biography Project here.  It's well worth your time to read.

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

Vintage LA Dodger Pennant from the Teams First Year

I've never been much of a pennant collector, but the one featured above and currently available for sale at Worthridge Auctions is too cool not to mention.  Check out the auction here.

Here is a 1958 Los Angeles Dodgers pennant from the teams first year in California that includes a fantastic graphic of the LA Coliseum.  Best yet, the lovable Brooklyn Dodger "Bum" is seen with a halo over his head and the following caption:
"A New Home"

I have no idea what something like this is valued at, but I bet it would look great on the wall of Dodger fans sport cave.

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

Blog Kiosk: 10/23/2015 - Dodger Links - Breaking Up is Hard to Do

They sure do know how to pack them in.  Above is a view of the Dodger press room for yesterday's press conference to discuss the departure of manager Don Mattingly, and it was filled to the brim.  Even with the World Series on the horizon the Dodgers became the talk of Baseball, and I suppose we fans would want nothing less.  The photo above via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2015.  Also, you can watch the entire press conference here.

There isn't much more that I can add to what's already been said and written.  Donnie is gone, and the impression given by all parties is that it was an amicable split.  Of course, that's like any breakup with a significant other that didn't end with screaming expletives and broken bottles.

"Sure... It just didn't work out... Let's just be friends... No, it's me... Really, it's me, not you."

Nevertheless, that's the story they are telling and nothing in the world will change their narrative.  Via Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider:
“If there was a reason that this happened, we would share it,” Friedman said during a 45-minute session for him and Zaidi at Dodger Stadium. “There’s not. It was a collection of a lot of different conversations over many days that got us to this point. So it’s not so black and white here. There is a huge middle, and it’s gray, and that’s how everything played out.”
Mattingly expressed similar words, as shared by Mark Saxon at ESPN:
"I can't sit here and say I'm just bubbling over," Mattingly said. "There are a lot of emotions that go into this, a lot of discussion, a lot of talk, but it gets back around to the same thing as we kept talking and going over it. We all came to the same conclusion. This is best for both parties."
Wow!  It's amazing how much this does sound like a high school breakup. 

Below are more links to check out:

  • Via Eric Stephen at True Blue LA, with Mattingly now out of the picture, "Dodgers coaching staff told they are free to look elsewhere for jobs."
"We talked to them this morning. Obviously we wish that we had more answers to provide but we don't. This process is just getting underway," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Thursday. "We told them they are free to look elsewhere."
In fact, Eric wrote earlier that, "Tim Wallach interview(ed) for Nationals' managerial opening."
  • To the surprise of no one, Mattingly's players come to his defense.  Via Ken Gurnick at "Dodgers players hold Mattingly in high regard."  
"I loved playing for Donnie," said Clayton Kershaw, Opening Day starter for each of Mattingly's five seasons. "He has and will always have my utmost respect. I have nothing but positive things to say about him as a person and a manager. He will be missed."
Via Mark Saxon at ESPN, "A.J. Ellis has strong words of support for Don Mattingly."
"From my experience, rarely does a player you grew up idolizing come close to even meeting your expectations. To say Donnie exceeded mine is an understatement. Donnie is the most consistent, optimistic person I have ever been around, on or off the field. It was an honor playing for him, and to embrace each other as we did these past three years after clinching a division title are cherished memories. I have no doubt he will be a world champion manager some day, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to play for him."
  • Former Dodger pitcher Dan Haren has called it quits.  He is retiring from the game, via his tweet:

  • Um.... What?  Keith Hernandez told Dan Patrick that the Dodgers front office created an essay test for their scouts, and whoever didn't pass was fired.  It starts at the 6:18 point.  I want to know what the three test questions were.

Video Link:

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *