Touching a few bases this week while dealing with some stuff straight from the “How Time Flies” department:
When the University of South Carolina introduced its new football coach, I had to do a double-take.
Shane Beamer? Son of Frank Beamer, former Virginia Tech coach and before that a Hokie roommate of former Orioles manager Johnny Oates?
Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that the young Beamer wrote a letter to Oates’ son Andy, alerting him to the challenges that come when your father has to make decisions others might not like?
Yes, in some ways it does seem like that, but in actuality it was almost 30 years ago, 1991, when Shane Beamer and Andy Oates were ninth- and tenth-graders, teenagers about to become wise beyond their years. They would spend some time together at Virginia Tech, but like their dads, eventually went their separate ways.
Young Beamer, a long snapper and special team player for his father, moved into coaching, using a variety of assistant jobs as building blocks before getting the job at South Carolina, where he had previously served on the staff of Steve Spurrier.
Johnny Oates told me the story about the letter connecting the teenagers in 1994, three years after it was written — and a couple of weeks after he had been fired by the Orioles and hired by the Texas Rangers. It was a particularly stressful experience for Andy, and a time when another teenager’s words of wisdom came into play.
The kid who wrote the letter is all grown up now and is the head football coach at the University of South Carolina. You think maybe he’s been preparing for this for a long time?
Here’s the story I wrote for the Evening Sun, Dec. 27, 1994.
When Phil Linz passed away last week it hardly came as a surprise that his harmonica playing ability, or lack thereof, overshadowed his baseball career.
Which is a shame, because you don’t come off the Baltimore sandlots, win a minor-league batting title and spend a half dozen years in the big leagues by accident.
Not that Phil himself would have been surprised. He was always a free-spirited guy who enjoyed a laugh and had no problem even if it was at his own expense. And, of course, the harmonica story always carried the day.
There are various versions of the story and the ensuing “disagreement” with manager Yogi Berra, but the bottom line was Linz playing the harmonica and somebody telling him to put it where the sun doesn’t shine … or something like that. When Phil asked, “What did he say?” Mickey Mantle supposedly replied: “He said, play louder.”
Suffice it to say it didn’t end well. The story carried the day instead of the Yankees’ four-game losing streak, while Yogi and Phil got over it and maintained a good relationship throughout the years.
Almost forgotten was the fact that Linz played shortstop in all seven games of the World Series that year (1964) and hit two home runs. One of them came off Bob Gibson, which was “man bites dog” news.
Years later Linz, whom I had the pleasure of coaching in American Legion ball, told me it was third base coach Frank Crosetti, not Berra, who actually called him out, but as manager Yogi felt it was his place to handle the discipline.
“I got a $250 fine,” Linz said. “And the harmonica company gave me a $10,000 endorsement.”
His salary that year was $14,000, and the loser’s share of the World Series was $5,309.29.
Couldn’t afford to pass up this note: Kyrie Irving, who I guess is a superstar for the Brooklyn Nets, was fined $25,000 for not meeting the media responsibility established by the NBA.
After noting that he hoped the fine went to one of many deserving charities, Irving explained his absence from one of those group therapy sessions the NBA apparently arranges on the schedule by saying: “I do not talk to pawns. My attention is worth more.”
Just a wild guess here, but apparently Irving didn’t qualify for a communications degree. Look, I don’t really care if you don’t want to talk to us … but you don’t have to call us pawns. “Knights of the keyboard” (that was a Ted Williams original) would work.
One final thought on this subject. These “deals” that professional sports make with various media associations guaranteeing participation are a sign of the times — and generally not worth the effort. If it’s an obligation, it’s not worth the time.
Another guess — that’s what Irving is really saying — “it’s an obligation, and I’m not interested.” Which is all well and good. Just don’t bother me when you have a point to make — I’m not interested.
Some pertinent or not-so-pertinent thoughts, questions as we plow toward the end of the year:
*Here’s the pop trivia question of the pandemic: Who was the highest paid player in baseball last year? (Hint, he’s an ex-Oriole). No cheating — answer below.
*With all due respect, do we really need a Military Bowl this year? Or, for that matter, any bowl game not associated with the College Football Playoff? Or even the Final Three Plus Alabama?
*MLB and the MLBPA are shadow boxing now over possible compromises for a shortened 2021 season. Don’t expect it to go as smoothly (?) as a year ago, when everybody was in panic mode just trying to save some of the mammoth guaranteed salaries.
*And you don’t even want to think about the possibilities for negotiations at the end of the year, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
*For a guy who often looks like a pitcher with a sore arm when he throws a football, Lamar Jackson may be the most exciting show we’ve seen in this area since Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Gus Johnson were in their prime.
*I don’t have a field of expertise so this is definitely out of my wheelhouse, but doesn’t Buffalo’s Josh Allen deserve a little more respect when it comes to QB ratings … and MVP consideration?
*I think Maryland’s football team is on the verge of turning a corner in the Big Ten … but fear the basketball team may be making the same turn in the wrong direction.
*Here’s one thought from the sidelines about baseball’s makeover of the minor-league system: It’s a unique case of restructuring — from the bottom up. There is a method to the madness, which started when the amateur draft was moved to midsummer and will gradually come to light moving forward. As was said before — stay tuned.
*The answer to today’s pop trivia question: Wei-Yin Chen, who got a five-year, $80 million contract from the Miami Marlins the same offseason the O’s gave Chris Davis his $161 million deal, was paid $22.1 million last year. He was released after the 2019 season and thus earned his full salary of $22 million for 2020. During the last two years of his contract, Chen made $42 million while pitching 68 innings out of the bullpen. He also got another $100,000 from the Seattle Mariners, who signed the left-hander in June and released him before the season started a month later.
Hey, it’s only money and it’s not ours, so who cares?
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Courtesy of South Carolina Athletics