The Baseball Cleat Tongue

February 26, 2010

Here’s a random question I can’t seem to find an answer to, but has been bugging me for years. A free Art of Catching Sticker to anyone who either knows the answer or makes up a really good story. The question is this…why do baseball cleats have extended tongues? What is their origin? What do they do/accomplish?

I honestly have no idea. I never cut them off my cleats like many players did because I just liked the way they looked. As Billy Crystal used to say, “It’s better to look good than to feel good darling.” Other than that, I can’t say they made a difference one way or the other.

Tony Gwynn's "5.5 Hole" cleats.

Tony Gwynn's "5.5 Hole" cleats.

I do remember a trend back in the 90’s where guys would get their numbers stitched on the tongue of the shoe. Guys like Wade Boggs and Eric Davis. I also vaguely remember some custom Nike’s that Tony Gwynn had that featured the number “5.5 Hole” on them. This was in tribute to the fact that 99% of Tony’s hits went through that hole between short and third. (On a scorecard the shortstop is “5″ and third baseman is “6″…a ball between the two is 5.5 hole.)

That's my boy.

That's my boy.

The funniest thing I ever saw on the tongue of a ball players cleats belonged to Jason Giambi. It took me a while to figure out what it meant (I’m not real smart). After he came up to bat for about the fifth time and I had a chance to get a close look, it finally dawned on me. What did it say? “G .” Translation…G spot. Very fitting for Jason in his heyday.

That’s all I know…get back to me with some answers and your free sticker.

Akadema’s Yogi Berra Replica Glove

February 22, 2010

While I was at the Texas High School Baseball Convention I ran into the good folks of Akadema Sporting Goods. Akadema is a company out of New Jersey that specializes in cutting edge baseball glove design. During my playing days, I never got a chance to try their products because I was under contract with Wilson to use their catching equipment; however, over the years I’ve watched their explorations into glove hinges and materials with great interest.

To me, it seemed like Akadema was the only company who was making an effort to improve the design of catcher’s gloves. They were definitely the only company doing anything different. Well, they’re doing something different again. This time they’re going backwards and reproducing replicas of famous past gloves.

The tag on the replica glove.

The tag off the replica glove.

They were kind enough to give me their version of Yogi Berra’s 1952 Reach glove. I need to do some more research into the subject, but it seems with this Reach model, Yogi was one of the first receivers to ever use a hinged catcher’s glove. I was under the impression that the hinge didn’t come along until the late 60’s, but obviously I’m wrong.

Yogi with his well oiled glove.

Yogi with his well oiled glove.

Anyway, it’s a great glove and a lot of fun to play catch with. It’s a challenging piece of equipment and it blows my mind that someone could use it in a game. Playing catch with this pud really drives home the point that equipment limitations and technique go hand in hand. There’s only so much you could have done with that thing.

As I said, playing with this glove is a blast, but it also reminds me to be grateful for the catchers that came before me (Johnny Bench, Randy Hundley) and the companies (Rawlings) that had an influence in creating the modern day catchers glove. So thank you folks of the past, and thank you to companies like Akadema for looking both forwards and backwards.

By the way, in an unrelated development, there have been a couple nice articles and reviews recently about myself and The Art of Catching. This one is from ex-Dodger GM and writer for MLB.com, Fred Claire. And this one is from Baseball Digest.

Also, check my act out Thursday mornings at 6:35AM PST on Sirius radio channel 210 or XM 175. I’ll be a regular guest for a while. Give it a listen if you get a chance and let me know what you think. Seriously, I’ve got thick skin…I wanna get better so lemme have it. Thanks.

More Streaking Please

February 18, 2010

This is just an uninformed observation, but where have all the streakers gone? Is it just me, or has there been a dramatic decrease in this amusing act? I for one, am hoping that the 2010 baseball season has a few more naked runners. And would it be too much to ask for the majority of them to be female?

There’s obviously a fine line between fun and sinister in this arena. I’m not rallying for someone to rip through a school yard naked or anything. I’m just calling for a few brave souls to dash across the diamond with only a rally monkey covering their privates.

As a player, I never got annoyed by such an event. Matter of fact, I think I speak for almost all the players and say we loved it. Nothing like a streaker to spice up a long 10 day road trip. Especially one through Cleveland or Milwaukee. Ditto that as a fan. A streaker now and then is a good thing. Once again though, let me reiterate that we need a few more of the female species.

Ouch. As a streaker, you're going to take enormous risk.

Ouch. As a streaker, you're going to take enormous risk.

For those of you out there thinking of doing it…know the penalty is gonna be stiff. You might get tackled by 5 smelly guys on the grounds crew. Your wallet is definitely gonna be lighter when it’s all over. People are never gonna look at you the same. They’ll probably laugh at you, especially if you’re a guy and you choose to streak in cold weather.

But that being said, stop thinking about yourself so much. Think of all the bored ball players. Think of the police with nothing to do. Think of the young fans who, if not for you, might very well go to their grave without witnessing this rite of passage. Swallow your pride, save up your money, and get on with it.

Here’s my vote for a few more streakers this baseball season.

P.S. If you’re interested, check out this blog I wrote about Morganna “The Kissing Bandit” back in January of last year. I wouldn’t exactly classify her as a streaker, but she’s pretty close.

Dip, Chew, Baseball and Golf

February 12, 2010

By no means am I supporting or promoting this, but what is it about baseball and golf that makes guys gravitate towards tobacco?  Last week I wandered around the PGA tourney at Riviera and I was amazed how many guys had big ol’ dips in.

Maybe one reason is both baseball and golf have a lot of open area to spit. I mean, you’re not going to see too many chewing tennis players (the court would get a little slick, right?). I don’t see Shaq or Kobe throwing one in for the same reason. Bicyclists…nope. Lance Armstrong would have the whole side of his face pinstriped, not to mention the guys behind him. Nascar? Ever try spitting out of a car going 250MPH? Messy.

Football – mask. Gymnastics – mat. Ice skating – spins. Skiing – speed. Water polo/swimming/diving – gross. Boxing – swallow it. Sumo wrestling – eat it.

So that leaves baseball, golf, and maybe archery. And maybe speed walking. I guess I answered my own question.

Umm, sorry?

February 10, 2010

Oops, I really screwed up my “JT Snow-gave-the-pitch-away story.” Turns out I really am The Jerk. Please forgive me. In my defense, I was hanging out with George Brett a lot those early years, so my memory is all pops and crackles. It’s tough to remember on two hours of sleep a night.

The fact is, I should do some research and double check my stories before I post. Nah, I’ll just tell it how I remember it and let you call me on it if I get it wrong. Deal? It’ll be funner that way. You can get the hard facts anywhere…but you can only get the tall tales here!

So now that my story has been statistically debunked, where does that leave us? Rest assured, I didn’t lie to you on purpose. I really did remember it going down like that. Obviously, I got the circumstances and the outcome wrong. But I pinky promise you I got the event (giving the pitch away) right. This is classic…me defending my claim that I did something wrong. Kind of like, “honest judge, I really did rob the bank.”

I know for sure that he was playing for the Yanks. I know for sure it was towards the end of the season. I know for sure it was JT! So I’m thinking one of two things. One, could it have been in New York instead of KC? Or two, I told him the pitch and he lined out instead of doubled. I may have twisted a line out into a double in my memory (it does make it a little better story.) What I really need to do is contact JT and find out if he remembers anything.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

So on the flip side of the coin, I can see a bunch of positive upshots of all this. One, I can rest assured that I’m not responsible for JT’s first hit. Two, maybe I can be reinstated into the Hall of Fame. And three, I love all of the reader response…I honestly didn’t know if anybody was reading this thing.

So until next time….sorry. I’ll keep posting, you keep correcting. I gotta run, TMZ is outside my front door.