Latest Leaders – June 2013

Very cool to see Hoppers Fan make the monthly “Latest Leaders” list for June 2013, I think for the first time. It’s also great to see our friends over at Bill On Baseball representing the Hoppers on the MiLB Pro front as well. Thanks to everyone who follows the blog, leaves comments, interacts with our FaceBook page, and hunts us down at the ballpark!

-greg

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

MLB.com Blogs Central

ONE WAY TO MAKE THE NEXT LATEST LEADERS >

Latest Leaders logoAs we hit the midway point of the 2013 regular season, the All-Star Game takes center stage. The recently completed Fan Voting saw a lot of debating and campaigning in our community, and you can expect that to continue with the Final Vote looming. The biggest news around here is the return of the Trade Deadline megablog, amassing the reporting excellent of MLB.com’s team of writers to provide the very latest on the trade front ahead of the July 31 deadline. Make sure you’re following it to stay in the know this month and try out WordPress’s reblogging feature!

Latest Leaders ranked by page views from June 1-30:

MLB PRO
It was a great month for USA Baseball youth blogs and photography blogs…
1. The USA Baseball 17U Blog
2. MLB.com Fantasy 411
3. The USA Baseball 15U Blog
4. Brandon…

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Guest Post from Bill Hass: Jackie Robinson And His Ties To Greensboro

Jackie Robinson swinging a bat in Dodgers uniform, 1954.

Jackie Robinson swinging a bat in Dodgers uniform, 1954.

Over the last couple decades Greensboro has seen some incredible, sometimes historic ballplayers grace the diamond. Andy Petitte, Derek JeterMariano Rivera, Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Bryce Harper, Brian McCann, and Ryan Howard have all brushed through Greensboro. Some of the ballplayers were on the Greensboro team that was affiliated with the New York Yankees, others played for the Marlins affiliate. Some even played on opposing teams that gave us a chance to get a glimpse at a major leaguer in a minor league ballpark. Before the season started Greg and I went to go see the movie “42” together. It tells the story of Jackie Robinson‘s entry into Major League Baseball. Phenomenal movie. I realized during that movie, that I didn’t know that much about good ol’ Jackie.  So I started doing some research and anything that had his name on it, I was intrigued to read it. It wasn’t too much longer, Bill On Baseball‘s Bill Hass wrote me a message to check out his article in the Greensboro Grasshoppers game day program. It was about Jackie Robinson and his ties to Greensboro. Bill has been so gracious to give us permission to share with you guys his story on baseball’s Hall Of Famer, Jackie Robinson, and his connections to Greensboro.

Jackie Robinson And His Ties To Greensboro
by Bill Hass

Jackie Robinson’s impact on the game of baseball and society in America was immense.

I don’t think I fully understood to what extent until I wrote a story in 2004 for the News & Record of Greensboro. It focused on how the stands were segregated in War Memorial Stadium, which didn’t change until the early 1960s.

One of the people I interviewed was Spencer Gwynn, the long-time voice of football and basketball at North Carolina A&T, who summed up what Robinson meant to African-Americans in 25 words.

“Black people all over the country identified with him,” Gwynn said. “When Jackie struck out, we struck out. When Jackie stole a base, we stole a base.”

Many people don’t realize that Robinson played three times in Memorial Stadium. Or they may remember two games, in 1950 and 1951, when the Brooklyn Dodgers played the Greensboro Patriots in exhibition games as they traveled north from spring training in Florida.

But the largely forgotten game, and the first time Robinson played here, came on Oct. 14, 1949. Robinson had a team of barnstorming all-stars that came to town to play against a local team of black all-stars.

Segregation of Memorial Stadium’s stands was suspended for that day. An advance story in the Greensboro Daily News noted that “a special section of box and reserved seats has been set aside for white spectators.”

That meant black fans, instead of having to sit in “their section” down the foul line behind first base, could sit anywhere.

Robinson’s presence created what Gwynn called “an electric crowd.” The official attendance was listed at 6,620 and Robinson was quoted as saying, “I know 3,000 crawled over the fences that weren’t counted.”

Robinson’s team won, 11-5. One of the opposing players was James Tonkins, a second baseman for the Greensboro Red Birds, a semi-pro team that played its games in Memorial Stadium.

“I remember he went sightseeing on old East Market Street, meeting people,” Tonkins told me. “It seemed like he went on campus (at N.C. A&T) that day.

“What fascinated me so much was how pigeon-toed he was, almost like he was walking on the tips of his toes. He was quite a guy, real outgoing. His appearance created quite a bit of interest.”

So did Robinson’s second appearance, on April 11, 1950. The Dodgers crushed the Patriots 22-0 and Robinson had three hits and two RBIs and scored twice. Attendance was 8,434, the largest crowd up until then to watch a baseball game in North Carolina.

The crowd probably was larger. Patriots owner Rufus Blanchard estimated that 1,500 youngsters slipped over the fence. One account told of 500 people “clinging perilously to tree branches and rooftops outside the stadium.”

For some reason I did not document, at least in that story, Robinson’s third appearance here. It came in April of 1951 and it’s likely the Dodgers won and the crowd was large.

I started thinking about all this after recently seeing the movie “42,” an account of 1947, the year Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues. For the most part, it was well done and a fitting tribute to what Robinson endured that season, set against the background of the social changes he helped set in motion.

The movie strived to be as authentic as possible — the physical resemblance between Robinson and actor Chadwick Boseman is uncanny — although it took some dramatic license with incidents and characters.

Two characters in the movie, both of whom are cast in a bad light, have a Greensboro connection. Dixie Walker, Robinson’s teammate, played with the Patriots in 1928 at age 17, although he appeared in just six games.

Walker is accurately depicted as one of the Dodgers who signed a petition — rejected by team president Branch Rickey — saying they would not play if Robinson was a member of the team. Although the movie implies otherwise, there is no evidence Walker gave Robinson a hard time during their season together.

In his biography “I Never Had It Made,” Robinson uses a quote from Walker that appeared in The Sporting News: “Dixie Walker summed it up in a few words the other day when he said: ‘No other ballplayer on this club with the possible exception of Bruce Edwards, has done more to put the Dodgers up in the race than Robinson has. He is everything Branch Rickey said he was when he came up from Montreal.”

Another “villain” in the movie is Pittsburgh pitcher Fritz Ostermueller. Unlike Walker, he didn’t just pass through Greensboro. He pitched for the Patriots in 1931, going 15-9, and in 1932, when he was 21-9.

In the movie Ostermueller, who died of cancer at age 50 in 1956, is shown as hitting Robinson in the head with a pitch and saying “You don’t belong here.” But there are several problems with the scene.

First, he was a left-hander, not right-handed as the movie shows. Second, research by several sources indicates that while Robinson was hit by Ostermueller’s pitch, it wasn’t in the head. The pitch may have been up and in, but Robinson was struck in the left forearm that he raised to protect himself, then fell to the ground. And there is no account that says Ostermueller shouted at Robinson.

The Dodgers are shown rallying around the fallen Robinson and shouting at Ostermueller, and accounts of the day bear that out.

Ostermueller’s daughter, Sherrill Duesterhaus, has publicly criticized the directors for unfairly portraying her father as a racist. Robinson didn’t seem bothered by the incident. In his book, the only mention of Ostermueller, whom he referred to as “Fitz,” is that during a game in Pittsburgh, Robinson noticed the pitcher had become “a little careless and relaxed.” So he stole home with what turned out to be the winning run.

Make what you will of Walker and Ostermueller. I just found it interesting that two players with Greensboro backgrounds played important parts in “42.”

There are two more indirect connections between Jackie Robinson and Greensboro. One came in 2002, when the second baseman for the Greensboro Bats was Robinson Cano, now a star for the New York Yankees. Cano told me his father named him for Jackie Robinson.

The other connection concerns Mariano Rivera, the great Yankees closer who played for the Greensboro Hornets in 1991 and 1993. Rivera, who will retire after this season, is the last player in the major leagues to wear the number 42, which was permanently retired several years ago for all teams.

It seems a fitting legacy that the now-famous number of Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson is being worn for the last time by future Hall-of-Famer Mariano Rivera.

That is one thing that makes Greensboro such a spectacular place to watch a game. You never know who you are watching make history. With storied names like Robinson, Jeter, Stanton, Petitte, Fernandez, it just makes Greensboro all the more fun. If you looked back in the history pages you would see that it has been and forever will be… A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!!!

-jordan

Once again, we offer a sincere thank you to Bill Hass for sharing this incredible story. You can check out all of Bill’s stories on his “Bill On Baseball” blog. This story about Jackie Robinson is also set to run again in the Greensboro Grasshoppers program during their June 24-30 home stand against the Asheville Tourists and the Delmarva Shorebirds, so be sure to check it out in print when you’re at the ballpark next week!

Father’s Day At The Ballpark

Last year, for my first Father’s Day as a father, I instituted a tradition with my daughter: go to a baseball game. Rorie was only a few weeks old and still in the NICU, so I went without her. I’ve been looking forward to Father’s Day all year so we could go together. This was Rorie’s first trip to a ballgame, and she really seemed to enjoy herself.

Rorie At The Ballpark

Rorie’s happy that she finally has a hat like Daddy.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers were playing the West Virginia Power, and due to an excessively long after-church nap (don’t wake a sleeping baby, even for baseball!), we didn’t make it out to the park until the seventh inning. That actually worked great — all the activity at the ballpark is a lot for a one-year-old to take in, and I don’t think Rorie’s up for a full game yet. A couple of innings was just about the right length for her.

When we got to the park, the Hoppers were up 7-5, which turned out to be the final score. Check out the official box and recap for all the details. There weren’t any remarkable plays in the last few innings and it was just nice to watch the Hoppers wrap up a win to finish things out before the All-Star break. Bill Hass has a great write-up of the game, including thoughts about how the Hoppers finished overall for the first half of the season. Things seem to be turning around a little, so there’s hope that the team can buckle down and secure a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

Hoppers Win

The Greensboro Grasshoppers leave the field after beating the West Virginia Power 7-5.

All in all, it was a great day to be at the ballpark. It was fun watching our boys secure a win. I loved catching up with a handful of my ballpark friends. But the highlight of of the trip for me was definitely after the game, when they have “Kids Run The Bases.” Rorie and I went out and ran them. She laughed and giggled the whole time. With the breeze flowing through her hair, she thought she was flying. When we got to the end, I made sure her feet hit home plate.

I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity I have to take my daughter to the ballgame!

-greg

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

Top 100 MLB.com Blogs

Thanks to everyone who reads Hoppers Fan, we ended up on the top 100 MLB.com Blogs list for all of 2012! With family obligations and trying to keep up with the Hoppers themselves, keeping track of the blog standings just kinda slipped past us. When MLB.com announced this in January, we simply didn’t notice. It’s great to know that there are lots of folks out there enjoying what we write and the photos we share. It’s also great to see that a blog devoted to a Single-A Minor League team in North Carolina is as popular as blogs devoted to Major League teams. From Jordan and me, to all of you, thank you!

-greg

See ya at the ballpark!
Email: hoppersfan@gmail.com
Twitter: @HoppersFan
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HoppersFan

MLB.com Blogs Central

595x416_MLB_Blogs_Top100

Baseball fans aren’t going to forget 2012 any time soon. We saw the debuts of phenomenal young talent, we marveled at historic feats and we held on through truly memorable Postseason moments. Bloggers were there every step of the way, and now is the time to honor those who made the annual Top 100 MLB.com Blogs list. Once again the Hot Stove/Trade Buzz two-headed monster finished as the overall most-visited MLB.com Blog, powered by the only network of 30 traveling beat reporters, with Better Off Red finishing off a very impressive season in second place in the PRO category. The Baseball Collector has bragging rights again among Fan blogs, with the reborn and resurgent Rays Renegade right behind. Carrie Muskat held off Jason Beck to grab top honors among the MLB.com Beat Writers.

Congratulations to everyone who made the Top 100! If you’re on the list, make sure…

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Hoppers Found Something To Buzz About…

I had pinned this series “The Battle Of The Bugs.”  This series is between the Augusta Greenjackets and the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  With all the buzz about today’s game, I made it out there hoping to see a stinger of a game.  And that’s what I got. It was a very low scoring defensive affair.  Lee Clark and Josh Royster, two of my friends at the ballpark, did the between inning Sumo Wrestling match.  It was a tough match, but Josh won all three rounds to come out victorious!  I got to looking around during the match and realized the day game crowds are much different than at night.  The crowd today of 4,051 was mostly compiled of Senior Citizens and School Children/Day Cares.  I saw a group of Seniors posing for a photo with Guilford the Grasshopper.  They looked to be having a great time.  Which got me to thinking… Is it the day game “BASEBALL BINGO” they were coming for?  Because I know my grandma really loves her Bingo games.  That could be.  Whichever the case may be, it is great to see children of all ages, young and old enjoying America’s greatest pastime.

Sumo Wrestling between innings is always a fan favorite. Photo credit: Jordan Stowe

Sumo Wrestling between innings is always a fan favorite.
Photo credit: Jordan Stowe

On to the game… I was sitting up in the Papa John’s K Zone for most of the game with Lee Clark. Lee as you may remember was one of the SuperFans we highlighted earlier in the season.  He is a great guy, as well as being avid fan of the Hoppers.  While out there I saw a cruise missile of a ball hit to the far left field wall. Cody Keefer doubled on that line drive to Rafael Rodriguez. Matt Juengel would score on that play.  That made the game 1-0.  Viosergy Rosa came to the plate that same inning and smashed a Home Run off the Marriott Hotel in Downtown.  That home run made number 11 for Rosa on the year.  The score was then 2-0 heading into the fourth inning.  Then Mitchell Delfino hit a home run for the Greenjackets making the score 2-1.  The Hoppers would make the defensive stand to go on to win, 2-1.  The Hoppers are currently 27-30 on the season and in fourth place in the Northern Division.  Games one and two of this three game homestand, The Battle Of The Bugs, go to the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  The Hoppers look to sweep the series tomorrow night in Greensboro.  The first pitch will be slung at 7:00pm.  Till next time… IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!

For all the details, check out the full recap and box score of today’s game.  And also don’t forget that since the Hoppers recorded 5 Strikeouts today, you can go to PAPAJOHN’S.com and order Pizza 50% off using promo code: HOPPERS. Please stop in and check out our friend Bill Hass, as he does the official “BILL ON BASEBALL” blog for the Grasshoppers.

-jordan

HoppersFan Food Review; Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Just recently the minor league baseball website, milb.com, hosted a “Food Fight” between all the stadiums in the minor leagues. This rumble featured items like the BBQ Sundae, the Nuke Dog, and our very own Homeplate Burger. Watching this little competition the last couple weeks got me thinking. To those of you that don’t know me on a more personal level, I’m a Chef by profession. I have made food my life  and source of passions. I am a former Food Service Director for a Multi-Million dollar assisted living facility. So, naturally this caught my attention. I decided to do a food review of my own in regards to the stadium concessions.

t477

Greensboro Grasshopper’s 1/2 lb  Homeplate Burger

To start with… where is Patrick Taylor and why is he not popping at the ballpark? He became a staple at the park. You had Guilford, Spaz, and Taylormade Kettle Corn. You have kettle corn in the ballpark, but it just isn’t the same.  If you just want popcorn its there. But if you want to support a local business that happens to be a supperb guy, Taylormade was the way to go. I would be all for a rally to speak to Donald Moore about renegotiating his contract out there. He seems to have sacrificed quality for profit. And the new kettle corn people are cheaper, but as in most things, you get what you pay for. Until Pat is back in the ballpark serving up good quality corn, I say skip the kettle corn for now.

Pita Delite is in the ballpark now.  Okay, let me clarify that. Pita Delite has two items on a concessions stand window. You have the Chicken Salad Pita and a Steak and Cheese Pita. I was skeptical at first, however the steak and cheese was very refreshing. It was also nice to add a little variety to the mix, not just another ordinary hot dog at the ballpark.

The BEST VALUE IN THE BALLPARK this season is probably the Grasshopper Dogs. The stadium guys pick out one hot dog to showcase and feature during each home stand. The Grasshopper Dog is my personal favorite. This monster of a dog reminds me of my trip to Charleston last year to cover the All Star Game for you guys. Charleston had 86 different types of hot dogs and ingredients for your dogs. The Grasshopper Dog boast a large bun, a mound of slaw, squirts of mustard, stadium sauce, and baked beans  all piled high on a gorgeous made hot dog bun.  Bring your bib, this one’s messy, you won’t need a napkin because this one is finger licking good!

I spoke to Derek Hart just recently. He’s the warehouse manager at the stadium. His favorite concessions are the Giacammos sausages and the walking taco. I have had niether of those. I’ll have to try them my next trip out to the ballpark.

One thing I would like to see out at the stadium more is better support of the local businesses. The cost to advertise is so high that you weed out all the local guys and end up with a corporate ballpark. Taylormade Kettle Corn, here in greensboro, was dropped and a food distributor from Michigan is offering Kettle Corn with their Sno-Cones instead. Jets Pizza “k zone” is now corporately sponsored by Papa Johns. Jets Pizza is located off New Garden Road less than 5 miles from the stadium.

Like a fine wine, the concessions only enhance the dinner portion of the evening, which is baseball. If you find yourself at a Grasshopper game this week, try a Grasshopper Dog. Let us know what you think.  Whether its a cheese steak in your hand or a nice cold beer on a hot summer day, ITS A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!

-jordan

Note: We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment letting us know your favorite snacks at the ballpark. Or perhaps your least favorite?

Hoppers Go Bird Hunting!

image

Today was my first day back at the ballpark in several weeks. My first real trip out to somewhere other than the hospital since Addie was born. I knew our great friends, the Shaw family, was going to be at the game today. On my way in to the stadium, I called Don Moore. He’s the co-founder of greensborosports.com.  He told me there were only around 800 people there.  Not a good Sunday crowd. Sundays are usually big days at the stadium because the families can go play catch on the field and afterwards they let the kids run the bases. Always a fun day out there.  Anyways, I get there and the line to buy my ticket was a 30 minute wait.  What happened to the 800 number? Turns out they were sold out today except for general admission lawn seats.

image

Dylan Shaw, seen above, is my little buddy.  His dad and I are great friends. Seeing him have fun at the stadium today reminded me what this is all about. I’ve said it many times before, but when you ask someone the next day about the game, the score, or the two run homer hit out that looked like it hit the Marriott hotel. Odds are to the vast majority of the fans there, today was about good, wholesome, quality time with their family. To guys like me that are avid fans of the Hoppers can tell you stats, rosters, fun facts, ect. This is why its America’s pastime. Baseball brings families and friends together like no other sport can. The excitement of home runs, Babe and Yogi retrieving the bats, the crazy between inning games, and the excitement of spending this time with your family, makes the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the best entertainment value in Greensboro.

Today was a fantastic game on the field as well. Hoppers beat the Delmarva Shorebirds 11-2 ending their current 4 game losing streak. There was a very nice two run homer by Jesus Solarzarno in the sixth that seemed to hit off the Jefferson Pilot building in downtown. The Hoppers also started a rally to make Shorebird stew scoring 7 times in the 8th inning.

So whether you are sitting at home, at the beach, or at a cookout this memorial day, remember IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A HOPPER!

-jordan

Bill On Baseball has a great article about today’s game. And check out the box score and game recap for the official summary.