Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Eddie Mathews, Pete Rose and a Trio of Metals

Five bats in need of a new home.
It's been quite a few years since I hung up my cleats. When I was a kid, baseball was a central passion in my life. That was a long time ago.

In the 90's we befriended a street person named Robert Lookup with whom we remained friends the last ten years of his life. He had several passions: trains, movies and baseball. He had all the earmarks of the Dustin Hoffman character in Rain Man. He was a cauldron of statistics, a schizophrenic and a savant.

The last five years of his life I used to watch movies with him on Sunday evenings. When he passed away I ended up with a few of his possessions, among them an encyclopedia of trains, a notebook detailing the movies he had watched every day for many years, several baseballs signed by players from the Duluth Dukes, and five baseball bats.

I've reach a stage in life where it's time to begin downsizing. The bats pictured here have to find a new home. It's my understanding that Robert used to coach softball in the Twin Cities before he came to Duluth. I'm speculating that these bats were his bats from that period of his life. A very sentimental man, it would have been hard for him to part with them.

Two of the bats are Louisville Sluggers, that gold standard for hitters of all ages. Robert was a big man, and these two bats are adult sized bats. I favored a 33-inch bat when I played in high school. The junior varsity team had a Richie Allen bat that I was especially fond of. 

Robert's Louisville Sluggers are 34 and 34-and-a-half inch bats. One is an Ed Mathews and the other a Pete Rose. Both of these players have a special spot in my memories. 

Ed Mathews Louisville Slugger
In the late 1950s we Major League Baseball had a show called Home Run Derby. This kind of home run competition is still carried on in conjunction with the All Star Game, but back then I believe it was a weekly show for a time. The year I rode across the country with my grandparents by train to Nevada--I was taken out of school for three weeks when I was eight--we stayed with my cousins who had some land outside Reno. What I recall is watching Home Run Derby with my cousins Mitch and David, possibly for the very first time. 

If I remember correctly, they would have a slug-off with two hitters each week. I don't remember the second but the first was Eddie Mathews. He had been the 1959 National League home run champion and one of the best third basemen in baseball. The bat I have is signed Ed Mathews, but he was known to fans as Eddie, like me. A Hall of Famer, he slapped 512 home runs in his career, which puts him among the greats.

Pete Rose Louisville Slugger
Pete Rose was the heartbeat of the Cincinnati Reds, a dominant team from the mid-Sixties well into the Seventies. Peter Edward Rose was the archetype hitter, a guy who played with intensity and determination to give 200% every time he was on the field. Before he was banned from baseball Rose surpassed Ty Cobb's career hitting record with 4,256 career hits. 

It's always tragic when someone who has built a heroic legacy falls. I think of Joe Paterno, O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby. For Pete Rose what killed his reputation was gambling. Gambling is a snare that has caused many folk to stumble, but Rose crossed a line by betting on baseball and betting on the his own team which I was working for as a player-coach. 

Whereas it is true that we all have feet of clay, so to speak, there are lines that none of us should cross. 

* * * 

All that to say I have some bats to get rid of. Two Louisville Sluggers and three metal bats. If you have kids that play ball or you're part of a team, send me a note indicating your interest. I will distribute them based on the response I get. Leave a comment or contact me at ennyman3 AT gmail DOT com. 

This last bat below is a prized possession and not being offered. It's part of my Dylan stash, a gift from someone I did business with in Cleveland. Thank you, David. 


1 comment:

DavidAsch said...

Love this article, Ed. I hope you find a good home for the bats.

Before I became a baseball fan, I didn't understand the hullabaloo over Pete Rose's gambling on baseball - I mean, he bet on his team to win, so what's the big deal? It wasn't until I understood a manager's role in strategically building a team for the future that I put the pieces together. Rose may have forfeited a long-term strategy that would have been best for the team because he wanted to ensure his team would win now.

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