Sunday, July 10, 2011

To my friends who are Red Socks fans..Thinking of you all today.

Where Does Derek Jeter Rank On The List of Greatest Yankees Ever?

Now there are six.

The greatest New York Yankees have long been counted on one hand. Babe Ruth is the unquestioned No. 1, after which the order is debatable but not the names: alphabetically, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle.

Add Derek Jeter to the mix.

Jeter became the first Yankee to accumulate 3,000 hits in pinstripes when he hit a solo home run off Tampa Bay lefty David Price in the third inning Saturday in the Bronx. Jeter, who just returned after spending three weeks on the disabled list with a calf injury, singled in the first inning for No. 2,999. In his next at-bat, Jeter ripped a full-count slider from Price into the leftfield seats. And despite the recent cyber-trend to disparage Jeter's game and accomplishments, he deserves mention alongside the best to play for baseball's most storied franchise.

Precisely where does he rank? From a poetic standpoint, No. 2 would be the perfect perch. Cue a tape of Bob Sheppard to make the announcement:

"The shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2."

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But that's a difficult case to make. To eclipse every Yankee except Ruth, Jeter would need to bounce back offensively through 2013. He'd need to change positions so his deficient range at shortstop recedes into memory. And the Yankees would need to win two more World Series with Jeter a driving force through those postseasons.

Today, though, Jeter has gained entry into the land of the elite. A Fab Five is now a Sparkling Six.

Here's our list, in reverse order. Class, grace and a certain "Yankee-ness" count. So do stats. Only accomplishments with the Yankees are considered.

It all adds up to "greatness," an admittedly imprecise blend of hard numbers and subjective notions. Cast your vote in poll.

6. Yogi Berra

Berra was part of a major league record 10 World Series champion teams, was named American League Most Valuable Player three times and played the most demanding position on the field. He also developed an iconic oracle-like persona with his fractured speech and hilarious yet astute observations. And at 86, he's not only the lone living member of the Sparkling Six besides Jeter, he still wears pinstripes. Berra anchored the team during its late-1940s and 1950s heyday, succeeding Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey at catcher and playing alongside DiMaggio and Mantle. He has the fourth-highest Wins Above Replacement of any catcher in history.

5. Derek Jeter

Jeter's stature and leadership are unsurpassed. His production in the media hellfire of the Bronx has been phenomenally consistent. His five World Series titles and overall postseason excellence set him apart from other active players. In 2001, his flip of a relay throw to home plate and his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the World Series are among the most memorable moments in Yankees history. Of course he's slipping at 37: Mantle, DiMaggio and Gehrig were retired at that age. Yes, he's made more outs and hit into more double plays than any other Yankee and he'll probably pass Mantle for most strikeouts. One milestone begets others for the player with the most plate appearances, official at-bats, hits and stolen bases. Each category speaks to longevity, durability, toughness and resilience.

4. Mickey Mantle

Like DiMaggio, Mantle retired at age 36. Like Jeter, his defensive skills eroded with age and -- in Mantle's case -- injury. But like Berra, Mantle played 18 Yankee seasons because he broke in at age 19. He and Willie Mays vied for the title of best player on the planet through the 1950s and much of the '60s. The switch-hitting Mantle was AL MVP three times and he led the Yankees to 12 World Series, winning seven titles. He might have had more natural ability than any player ever, but he frittered away some of his talent partying. Who knows the numbers he could have amassed had he not been such a carouser? That question need never be asked of Jeter, who by remaining productive for two more seasons could swap places with Mantle.

3. Joe DiMaggio

The Yankee Clipper was the team's most majestic player, and only Gehrig and Jeter approach his stateliness. DiMaggio's greatest accomplishment is his record 56-game hitting streak. A close second is his nine World Series titles, behind only Berra in Yankee history. DiMaggio's offensive numbers across the board are exceptional per season, but his career totals are lacking because he retired after 13 seasons, at least four fewer than the others on the list, primarily because he missed three years serving in World War II. At age 35 in 1950 DiMaggio had a stellar season that mirrored his career numbers. A year later his performance declined because of nagging injuries and he hung 'em up after helping the Yankees to one more World Series championship.

2. Lou Gehrig

As he was in the Yankees lineup from 1925 to 1934, Gehrig is immediately behind Ruth on the list of Yankee Greats. When the measure is a blend of batting statistics, World Series titles, impact on baseball, impact on New York, larger-than-life persona and unforgettable nickname, The Iron Horse noses out the rest of the pack. Gehrig's greatness was perhaps best displayed after Ruth left the Yankees. Gehrig led the team to three more World Series titles for a total of six, and he batted .361 with a staggering 1.208 OPS in the postseason. His career was tragically cut short at 36 after 17 seasons because of the rare disease that bears his name.

1. Babe Ruth

Besides singlehandedly introducing home run power as the game's most lethal weapon and gate attraction, Ruth also made the Yankees the greatest team in baseball. Before his arrival in New York in 1920, the franchise had a losing record. In Ruth's 15 seasons with the Yankees, and for the next 30 years beyond his departure, they had only one losing season. His career offensive Wins Above Replacement of 143 is easily the franchise best and he holds the trifecta of highest batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.484) and slugging percentage (.690). Ruth won fewer World Series titles with the Yankees (four) than any of the others on this list. But he delivered, hitting 15 homers in 117 at-bats. .

Fan returns 3,000th hit to Jeter, team rewards his generosity

As a 23-year-old cell phone salesman, Christian Lopez had thousands of reasons to hold out for the highest bidder on the baseball from Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit. In fact, some estimates put the ball's worth at $250,000, money that the recent graduate from St. Lawrence University could have certainly used.

And yet when New York Yankees officials found Lopez after he corralled Jeter's historic home run, the only thing that the big Yankees fan wanted was to return the ball to the man who had hit it.

Watch an interview with Lopez on YES

Yes, Lopez was willing to just give away what seemed like a sure lottery ticket

"No, not really," Lopez said when Yankees announcer Michael Kay later asked him if he asked for anything in return. "He deserves this, he's worked hard for this ... I'm not the type of person to take this away from him."

That's a pretty nice gesture, no doubt. But lest you think the Yankees were just going to take the ball away without any compensation, they rewarded Lopez's generosity with a pretty nice package. According to Kay, Lopez will receive four tickets to a suite for every remaining game at Yankee Stadium this season (including any possible playoff games) plus first row Legends Suite tickets to Sunday's game. He will also receive an assortment of bats and jerseys, plus the opportunity to meet Jeter.

Update: And, topping it off, a 5-4 Yankees victory in which Jeter drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth to cap a 5 for 5 day in the batter's box. Lopez was a guest of honor at one the best Yankees games of the season.

Not a bad haul for someone who was at the game on birthday tickets he received from his girlfriend. And while there are going to be plenty of people who question his decision, I'm guessing that the integrity Lopez showed in returning the ball to Jeter is going to benefit him in his life and future career as well.

What would you have done?

Jeter homers for 3,000th hit, goes 5 for 5 in win

NEW YORK (AP)—Derek Jeterhomered for his 3,000th hit and raced right past the milestone in a scintillating performance Saturday, going 5 for 5 with a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning that gave the New York Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jeter doubled and had three singles while starting a pair of Yankees rallies and finishing off their last one. He bounced a single through the left side his first time up to give him No. 2,999, then sent a no-doubt drive into the left-field seats off Rays ace David Pricein the third inning.

That made Jeter the 28th major leaguer to get 3,000 hits, one of baseball’s biggest milestones, and the first to do it with the Yankees. Former teammate Wade Boggs was the only other player to reach the plateau with a home run.

It also set off quite a celebration in the Bronx, with teammates mobbing Jeter at home plate in a pack of pinstripes before he took a curtain call and saluted the sellout crowd of 48,103. The game was held up for 3-4 minutes, and Jeter also acknowledged the Rays players who applauded from their dugout.

Moments later, a montage of messages from ex-teammates, including Andy Pettitte, was shown on the big video screen in center field. By the fourth inning, the screen showed DJ3K merchandise flying off the shelves at Yankee Stadium souvenir shops.

The home run was Jeter’s third of the season and first at home since an inside-the-park shot July 22, 2010, against Kansas City. But the 37-year-old captain was just warming up in a turn-back-the-clock performance—and the Yankees needed all of it.

Eduardo Nunez, perhaps Jeter’s heir apparent at shortstop, doubled to start the eighth against Joel Peralta) (2-4). Brett Gardner dropped down a sacrifice bunt to push Nunez to third and up stepped Jeter again, looking to cap his big day in style.

Tampa Bay brought the infield in and Jeter poked a two-strike pitch up the middle, giving New York a 5-4 lead and prompting another round of “De-rek Je-ter!” chants.

Mariano Riveragot three quick outs for his 22nd save in 26 chances, his first outing since blowing a save Sunday against the Mets. Rivera was out of action for three days because of a sore right triceps before pronouncing himself available to pitch Thursday night.

Curtis Granderson caught Kelly Shoppach’s long drive at the center-field fence for the second out in the ninth.

Granderson also had an RBI single to drive in Jeter in the fifth, and A.J. Burnett struck out nine in 5 2-3 innings. He left with a 4-3 lead, but Tampa Bay tied it in the eighth against David Robertson (2-0).

Jeter matched a career high with the first five-hit game for any player at the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.

The last player to reach 3,000 hits, Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, did it with his third hit in a five-hit game on June 28, 2007.

Jeter’s run-up to 3,000 turned into a winding, drawn-out journey, beginning with a calf injury June 13 that landed him on the disabled list for 20 days.

Six hits shy of the milestone, he returned in Cleveland on the Fourth of July and managed three hits in a three-game series.

Back home Thursday against Tampa Bay, Jeter laced the first pitch he saw for a double but then came up empty the rest of the night, disappointing a sellout crowd that came to see history.

The teams were rained out Friday and settled on a Sept. 22 makeup date because the Rays didn’t want to play a split doubleheader this weekend. That left Jeter with only two more home games to reach the milestone before the All-Star break—the Yankees begin the second half with an eight-game road trip.

Lined up to pitch for the Rays? A pair of aces in Price and James Shields

Pressure on Jeter, even in July? You better believe it.

But he delivered all day, even stealing a base Saturday after entering the game in a 4-for-18 slide.

“Nobody better in the clutch,” said good buddy Jorge Posada the first to greet Jeter with a bearhug after his home run. “He looks forward to that moment and today was a perfect example.”

Before the first pitch, thousands of fans lined up at ticket windows outside Yankee Stadium hoping to get in—even though an electronic sign read: Today’s game is sold out. Many of them were trying to exchange rain checks from Friday night, but there was no room in the packed house.

B.J. Upton(notes) hit a two-run homer for Tampa Bay, and All-Star outfielder Matt Joyce(notes) also went deep. Price lasted only five innings, giving up four runs and seven hits.

Jeter was destined to be a Yankee hero

NEW YORK – The Armitron clock high above the left field stands said 2 p.m. as Derek Jeter’s(notes) 3,000th hit dropped into the seats below. Typical Jeter, always perfect at just the right moment.

Somehow we should have known it would happen this way, with a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium chanting his name “Dehhhhrick Jetah. Dehhhhrick Jetah.” He had gone nearly a year in this stadium without a home run and then on a Saturday afternoon with everyone anticipating the hit that would seal his Yankee legacy, he drove a 3-2 pitch high toward left field and there was no doubt where the ball would land, his second of five hits on the day. He dropped his head as he always has, trying to stifle the smile that was spreading across his lips. His teammates spilled from the dugout, led by the two he played with the longest here – Jorge Posada(notes) and Mariano Rivera(notes).

With his second hit on Saturday, Derek Jeter became the 28th player – and first Yankee – to reach 3,000 hits.
(Getty Images)

It was as if the whole thing had been scripted from the beginning.

In these times where offensive records seem to fall with regularity, there is still a magic to 3,000 hits. Jeter, the sole Yankee to achieve the feat, is only the 28th player to achieve the milestone and the line of potential candidates to join him in the near future includes just his teammate Alex Rodriguezand Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. And while Rodriguez is a superior hitter with a real chance to someday own the all-time home run record, his 3,000th hit (which should come in 2013) won’t have the same impact as Jeter’s.

Rodriguez is a representative of his era. He was a baseball mercenary who abandoned his first team to seize the bounty offered him by the Texas Rangers and then manipulated a trade to the New York Yankees after a deal to the Red Sox didn’t work out. There is no sense of loyalty from A-Rod. He is just another great player without a home. And no matter how much he outshines Jeter at the plate and on the field, he will never be beloved here the way Jeter is. Jeter is different. Jeter is immune to the vacillations of the city’s sports fans.

Jeter was born to be a Yankee. And while such a line would come off as a trite cliché if used about any other player, it’s actually true when it comes to him. As a child growing up in Kalamazoo, Mich., he adored the Yankees, who were the favorite team of his grandmother Dot. Each summer he visited his grandparents in New Jersey and Dot would take him to Yankee Stadium where the young Jeter gazed at the giant ballpark around him and dreamed of someday wearing the same pinstriped uniform as the players running across the field below him.

According to the book “The Captain” by Ian O’Connor, Jeter announced to his fourth-grade class that he was going to play shortstop for the Yankees when he grew up. And as he got older the obsession only strengthened. O’Connor’s book portrays the adolescent Jeter as something of a dork when it came to his favorite baseball team. He came to school wearing a Yankees cap with a Yankees pendant around his neck. Former teammates from a travelling basketball team say he even wore Yankees boxers.

It became a source of ridicule among his childhood friends, especially in the Midwest, where all things New York were not beloved. But Jeter never wavered. He forever told his teammates he was going to be a Yankee. And so it was fitting that a Cincinnati Reds official named Julian Mock overruled his scouts and chose a now long-forgotten outfielder named Chad Mottola with the fifth pick of the 1992 draft, leaving Jeter to be picked by the Yankees.

But even after Jeter’s dream came true and he became the Yankees’ shortstop, he played as if he was still that kid back in Kalamazoo wearing his Yankees cap and pendant, playing through injuries that would have sidelined other players. He was forever a constant in New York’s lineup, hitting first or second for most of his more than 16 years with the team. The other day manager Joe Girardi, a former teammate, talked about the comfort of always knowing Jeter would be there. If nothing else Jeter brought consistency to a franchise often embroiled in tumult. Players came and players went. George Steinbrenner raged. The games kept getting bigger and bigger and the only thing anyone could say for sure was that Jeter would be at the top of the lineup, playing shortstop and lining singles to right field.

He is not the player he was. He came into the game hitting .257, his range at shortstop diminished with age. In recent days, as the attention intensified, he tried to smile but also looked weary. When he led off Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay with a double, he seemed hopeful two more would come that night, getting him to 3,000 and ending this chase. Failing to do so disappointed him.

“Sure I want it to be over,” he said on Friday afternoon before that game was rained out.

Then on Saturday, with a blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds as if the afternoon had been painted by Norman Rockwell, Jeter delivered as only he has all these years. He hit a single to left in the first inning and came up in the third to an enormous roar from a crowd that sensed something big. As soon as his bat made contact with the changeup from Rays pitcher David Price(notes), the crowd began to scream. Jeter, the kid from Kalamazoo who longed to be a Yankee, did exactly what would be expected of a Yankee in such a situation. He dropped his head and ran. He was already to first base when the ball finally disappeared into the seats.

Just like Jeter. As if this was going to happen any other way. The perfect moment from the perfect Yankee.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Rangers fan dies after falling over fence at Rangers Ballpark

G.J. McCarthy / Staff Photographer
Players and fans look on after a man fell trying to catch a baseball during the Texas Rangers game against the Oakland Athletics Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Arlington.

Man was reaching for ball tossed into stands by player

A fan reaching to catch a ball died after he fell over the left-field wall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during the second inning of Thursday night’s game.

The man had been reaching over the rail for a foul ball tossed into the stands by Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton during the game against the Oakland A’s.

The city manager of Brownwood confirmed that the man, Shannon Stone, was a firefighter there, the Brownwood News reported late Thursday.

Stone, who was sitting in the left-field lower-level reserved seats, fell about 20 feet in the area behind a wall supporting a scoreboard.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that the man who fell has passed away as a result of this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Nolan Ryan, Rangers CEO and president.

It is routine for players to throw balls that are out of play into the stands.

“As anyone would be, Josh is very distraught about this, as the whole team is,” Ryan said.

Stone was treated by Rangers medical personnel before being taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

The Rangers’ TV broadcast did not show the incident, but the A’s broadcast did, returning to it during a break in the action on the field.

Ronnie Hargis was sitting next to Stone, who was at the game with his young son. The men had been talking to each other before the accident.

“He went straight down. I tried to grab him, but I couldn’t. I tried to slow him down a little bit,” Hargis said.

Witnesses said the victim’s head was bleeding badly.

David Dodson was at the game with his daughter and saw the fall.

“Just as the ball hit his hand, it kind of threw him off balance and he just went head-first,” Dodson said. “It looked awful because you knew there was no way he was going to land on his feet. … The way he fell, it looked like it was just straight on his head.”

Oakland relief pitcher Brad Ziegler said he thought Stone was going to be OK after the fall because he was telling medical personnel to “please check on my son up there.”

Rangers manager Ron Washington said several players saw the incident unfold. The Rangers played the rest of the game, winning 6-0, without knowing the spectator had died.

“We knew about it, but we didn’t know exactly what had happened,” he said.

On July 6, 2010, a fan plunged 30 feet from the upper deck at the stadium while trying to catch a foul ball during a game between the Rangers and the Cleveland Indians.

That man, 25-year-old Tyler Morris of Rio Vista, landed on several people below, suffering a fractured skull and a sprained ankle.

Ryan said after last year’s accident that he thought the stadium’s railing heights were adequate.

“The ballpark was built above specs, and we feel good about that,” Ryan said.

In 1994, 26-year-old Hollye Minter of Plano fell 35 feet from the upper deck during the home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Minter suffered fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and teeth, and shoulder and leg injuries.

After that incident, the Rangers raised some of the stadium’s railings and added warning signs.

Staff writer Gerry Fraley, WFAA-TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Man dies after falling out of stands at Rangers game

This kind of thing isn't supposed to happen at the ballpark.

But it has.

A man attending a Texas Rangers game with his young son died after falling out of the left-field stands and about 20 feet to the ground Thursday night.

He was trying to catch a ball flipped into the stands by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton but apparently lost his balance and fell head-first in a space between the 14-foot outfield fence and the grandstand near the Oakland Athletics bullpen.

"We had a very tragic accident tonight and one of our fans lost their life reaching over the rail trying to get a ball," team president Nolan Ryan said. "As an organization, and as our team members and our staff, we're very heavy-hearted about this, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."

The Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin identified the man as Shannon Stone, a lieutenant in that town's fire department and a fireman for 18 years.

The accident happened in the second inning after Oakland's Conor Jackson hit a foul ball that bounced back onto the field.

Horrifying TV replays from the Oakland broadcast show Stone positioning himself to catch Hamilton's throw, then tumbling over a railing as his young son watched. A man next to Stone tried to hold onto him, but couldn't.

It's the second fatal fall at a major league ballpark this season. In May, a fan at Coors Field fell down a stairwell and died. Also, last July at Rangers Ballpark, a fan fell 30 feet from the second deck of seats while trying to catch a foul ball and suffered a fractured skull and sprained ankle.

Ryan said Hamilton and the rest of the club were made aware of what happened.

"We spoke to the ballclub, they understood what has happened and we spoke to Josh," Ryan said. "I think as any of us would be, Josh is very distraught over this, as the entire team is."

What must be going through the mind of not only the boy, but also Hamilton? Obviously, what happened wasn't his fault but it would only be human nature to feel guilty. And, as most fans realize, Hamilton is quite human.

The other players were taking it hard as well:

Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler was in tears after the game when he found out the man had died.

"They had him on a stretcher. He said, 'Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.' The people who carried him out reassured him. 'Sir, we'll get your son, we'll make sure he's OK,"' Ziegler said. "He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough."

This has to be the saddest possible event at a baseball game. A man goes to a ballgame with his son — it's the ultimate American experience — and he dies trying to catch a ball. It's hard to comprehend.

As for the need to raise the railings, or not throw balls into the stands ... that's the crazy part. How many thousands of games happen where nobody gets hurt, and now this?

Maybe more cogent thoughts will come to me in the morning.

Fan dies after falling from stands at Rangers game

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—A man attending a Texas Rangers game with his young son died after falling out of the stands and about 20 feet to the ground while trying to catch a baseball tossed his way Thursday night, the Rangers and Arlington fire officials said.

Arlington Fire Department officials said in a statement that another fan nearby tried unsuccessfully to grab the man to keep him from falling. They said the victim’s son did not fall.

“We had a very tragic accident tonight and one of our fans lost their life reaching over the rail trying to get a ball,” team president Nolan Ryan said. “As an organization, and as our team members and our staff, we’re very heavy-hearted about this, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”

A very somber Ryan didn’t get into details about the accident or release the man’s name.

Ronnie Hargis was sitting in the stands at Rangers Ballpark next to the victim. The men were talking to each other before the accident.

“He went straight down. I tried to grab him but I couldn’t,” Hargis said. “I tried to slow him down a little bit.”

TV replays showed the man falling head-first and landing behind a 14-foot-high wall supporting a video board for replays and scores. The area where the man fell is out of sight from the field.

It is the second fatal fall at a MLB ballpark this season. In May, a 27-year-old man died after he fell about 20 feet and struck his head on concrete during the seventh inning of a Colorado Rockies game. Witnesses told police that the man had been trying to slide down a staircase railing at Coors Field and lost his balance during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The accident in Texas occurred in the second inning after Oakland’s Conor Jackson hit a foul ball that ricocheted into left field. Josh Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP, retrieved the ball and tossed it into the stands. Replays on Oakland’s television broadcast show the man reaching for the ball and apparently catching it before tumbling.

“We spoke to the ballclub, they understood what has happened and we spoke to Josh,” Ryan said. “I think as any of us would be, Josh is very distraught over this, as the entire team is.”

The Rangers clubhouse was closed to reporters after the game.

Replays on Oakland’s television broadcast show the man reaching for the ball and apparently catching it before falling.

The visitor’s bullpen at the stadium is in left-center field. Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler was in tears after the game when he found out the man had died.

“They had him on a stretcher. He said, ‘Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.’ The people who carried him out reassured him. ‘Sir, we’ll get your son, we’ll make sure he’s OK,”’ Ziegler said. “He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he’s not, it’s just tough.”

There was an audible gasp in the stands when the man tumbled over the rail, eerily similar to an accident last July when a man fell about 30 feet from the second-deck of seats down the right-field line while trying to catch a foul ball.

Before the Rangers batted in the second, manager Ron Washington spoke briefly with one of the umpires. Michael Young, who was leading off the inning, could be seen talking to A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki and pointing toward the area where the previous accident happened.

Former president George W. Bush was sitting in the front row with Ryan near the Rangers when the accident happened. Ryan left moments later while Bush remained in the seats.

Ryan said the former president, who used to be the team’s managing general partner and is a frequent visitor to Rangers games, was aware of what was happening.

Hargis’ daughter said the victim’s head was bleeding badly.

Safawna Dunn, who was sitting behind the victim, said he appeared to have injuries to both arms and was conscious when taken away on a stretcher.

“Josh Hamilton tried to throw (the ball) up to the guy because they were yelling for the ball,” Dunn said.

Last July at Rangers Ballpark, a fan fell 30 feet from the second deck of seats at Rangers Ballpark while trying to catch a foul ball. That fan, Tyler Morris, suffered a fractured skull and sprained ankle.

After Morris was hurt last year, he called the incident a “100 percent, total accident that could have happened to anybody.” He said he didn’t blame the Rangers or the ballpark.

Ryan said it was too early to talk the two accidents and what evaluations the team might make about railings at the stadium.

“Tonight, we’re not prepared to speak about anything further than the accident and the tragedy,” Ryan said. “That’s where I’m going to leave it.”

AP freelance writer Ken Sins contributed to this report.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

July 4, 1939 -- ALS, Lou Gehrig and Me

By Fay Vincent

On July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium, before a full house, Lou Gehrig stood in front of a microphone and announced he was “the luckiest man alive.” His somber teammates were lined up behind their captain and stellar first baseman. One of them, Tommy Henrich told me Gehrig had not planned to speak but changed his mind and broke the hearts of all who heard him. Henrich never forgot seeing Babe Ruth crying openly when he came over to hug Lou after the brief talk.

Just a few months earlier Gehrig had been forced to break his remarkable record of consecutive games when his powerful frame began to fail. His speech is still well known as the defining act of a remarkable baseball legend. Gehrig’s talk was emotional because everyone knew he was seriously ill—fans were told he had a form of “polio”-- and though his disease was then not as well understood as it is today, the public and his teammates knew he was not ever going to play again.

When he died a few years later, the disease-- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-- was named and is still known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Ever since then, baseball and that debilitating disease have been closely linked.

My school classmate and friend Franz Opper was born on that Fourth of July in 1939 and many years later, in the midst of a busy career in Washington as an official at the SEC and on the staff of Congress, he learned he had ALS.

He and his wife Barbara stoutly confronted the illness and for many years Franz kept up a lively correspondence with me in which his letters never betrayed his declining health. When I was elected baseball Commissioner the letters took on a baseball flavor as Franz began to give me baseball advice. The letters were fun to read, full of wit and wry comments. And then came one with a serious request.

Franz asked me to try to arrange for him to come to Yankee Stadium for one final baseball game. He and Barbara knew their request was a challenge in light of what had become by then his complete disability. He was totally inert on a respirator unable to move any part of his body. He could only blink. He was able to communicate as his nurse help up the alphabet and pointed to the letters in turn until he blinked at the one he wanted to use to spell out a word. His letters were the product of determined and tedious effort.

I agreed to try to help and turned to George Steinbrenner the owner of the Yankees for assistance. And here comes a story about George that is witness to his generosity to those with acute needs. When I explained what Franz had asked and the many complexities the Yankees organization and I would have to face if we were to proceed, George was immediately supportive. “It is not going to be easy for us and him,” he responded, “ but we will help all we can.”

That was all I needed and with the deft cooperation of the Yankees, we brought Franz to a final game at the Stadium. His bed had to be tilted so he could see the field from the owner’s office Steinbrenner had made available but somehow we managed. The logistics effort was considerable but the touching letter I later received from Franz made it all worthwhile.

When I called George to thank him, he shrugged off my profuse appreciation –“I am glad it worked out for him.” I had the sense he was a bit embarrassed by letting me see his gentle side. This was not as well-known as the tough guy side. But I never forgot what he had made possible for my friend Franz.

Not long after the baseball visit, Franz died. He had endured many years of total paralysis, but never lost his good cheer.

It is impossible not to think of Franz when I see a tape of that memorable Gehrig speech at Yankee Stadium on the day he was born.

Interestingly, George Steinbrenner was born on the fourth of July as well.

It is often said baseball brings generations together. In baseball, Franz, George and I came together briefly. On this Fourth of July I will remember them and Gehrig and ALS. Presiding from the poet-- Life like baseball is a series of tragedies separated by times of sheer joy.

Fay Vincent is a former CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries and from 1989-92 served as the Commissioner of Baseball

Monday, July 04, 2011

Thanks Runs Forever” — Korean War Photo Exhibit in Daejeon

There’s a Korean War photo exhibition outside Daejeon Train Station which thanks the 67 UN member governments that supported the Korean War (16 nations sent troops to Korea; another 5 provided medical assistance).

This is a period of remembrance, this past Saturday was the 61st anniversary of the start of the Korean War and next Tuesday is the 61st anniversary of The Battle of Osan and Task Force Smith. Next month, on July 27th is the anniversary of the Armistice.

It was something to see all these flags flapping in the breeze today as well as all the photographs of significant moments during the war (with English and Korean captions).