Molina by Bengie Molina–A Review

Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty by Bengie Molina with Joan Ryan (Simon and Schuster, 2015), 255 pages.

 An autobiography of Bengie Molina, the oldest son of Pai and Mai. Their home was a small town in Puerto Rico. The family produced three sons (Bengie, Jose, and Yadier) who were major league catchers who each won two World Series championships. The book honors his father, Pai, for coaching them to learn the game, and his mother, Mai, who managed the home.

Pai was a talented baseball player and an effective trainer of ball players. He taught one skill at a time. He taught respect for everyone involved in the game. He never became a major league player and near the end of the book Benji reveals the reason.

 

Bengie writes “My baptism and communion were pretty much the extent of my church experience. My parents weren’t even married in a church. Church weddings cost too much. As a child, on the few occasions I found myself in the Vega Alta church, I didn’t feel that God would live in such a place. The door was thick and heavy, and when it closed behind me, I imagined being sealed inside an enormous crypt, cut off from everything alive.”

I was disappointed Pai practiced and taught his boys that baseball was his religion. I also found it disappointing that Benji began a relationship with another woman while he was still married.

I enjoyed the many stories about the Molina family and baseball. I have followed Yadier Molina and the St. Louis Cardinals since 2004. While the book has little about Yadier, I was glad to learn about the Molina family and the culture of their community.

If These Walls Could Talk: St. Louis Cardinals, Stan McNeal–A Review

Product Details

If These Walls Could Talk: St. Louis Cardinals, Stories from the St. Louis Cardinals Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box, Stan McNeal (Triumph Books, 2015), 217 pages.

McNeal records personal stories and information about Cardinals in the 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 seasons and some Cardinal legends. In these four seasons, the Cardinals averaged 99 wins per season including winning a World Series, two National League pennants, and reaching four National League Championship Series. The Cardinals transitioned from Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russia to Mike Matheny and lost the future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, yet they continued their winning ways. The closing chapter features stories about Cardinal greats, including Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, and Stan Musial.

Cardinal fans who followed the Cardinals during this “Golden Age” in their history will enjoy this book. It is a great book to read when you have only a few minutes since the stories are only two or three pages. The book helps the reader see the players as persons, not just baseball celebrities. The readable style of writing makes If These Walls Could Talk and enjoyable book to read.

Review of Intentional Walk, a book about the Christian faith of St. Louis Cardinals

Rob Rains, Intentional Walk: An Inside Look at the Faith that Drives the St. Louis Cardinals (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).

Intentional Walk describes the role of the Christian faith in the lives of several Cardinal players and staff members. The book covers the Cardinals through the 2012 season, Mike Matheny’s first year as manager.

The Prologue gives insight into Matheny’s philosophy of managing by quoting a letter to wrote to parents of a little league team he coached.

Each chapter is devoted to a person showing how his faith has influenced his baseball life and personal life. Current Cardinals profiled include Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Trevor Rosenthal, Jason Motte, and Matt Holliday. Chapters cover Manager Mike Matheny, Announcer Rick Horton, and Equipment Manager Rip Rowan. Chapters also cover persons no longer with the Cardinals including David Freese, Lance Berkman, Barret Browning, Kyle McClellan, Mitchell Boggs, Jake Westbrook, and Carlos Bertran.

Chapel, Bible studies, and discussions about eternal matters occur regularly with the Cardinals. The commitment to Christ surpasses the commitment to baseball for these men. Their Christianity does not make them weak or uncompetitive. It makes them committed to excellence and doing their best as players. Their faith enables them to cope with victories and successes as well as with failures, losses, injuries, and disappointments.

The players make clear in their testimonies that, though they have a special fellowship with other Christians, they respect players who do not share their faith. Matheny said, “I don’t want to be anybody’s excuse to not find Christ.” He told his players of his commitment to Christ but he assured them he would never force his faith on others. He stated that he wanted to manage the team in a way that glorifies God.

The 204-page book inspires as the reader sees how these prominent sports figures seek to live their Christian faith as baseball players and in everyday life.

Baseball Lingo

 

I played baseball as a youth and have been a baseball fan all my life. Now that I am retired I watch Cardinal baseball games for relaxation. My wife frequently indulges me and watches with me. She knows a lot of the terms but unfamiliar ones come up periodically.

 

A person uninitiated to baseball may think that baseball people use a foreign language or at least use words with strange meanings. These definitions can help one understand the meaning of these baseball terms.

 

Pitchers and Pitches:

 

Ace—the best starting pitcher on a team.

Ball—a pitch thrown outside the strike zone.

Breaking ball—a pitch that does not go in a straight line but jumps, drops or moves to the left or right.

Backdoor slider—a pitch that appears to be out of the strike zone, but then breaks back over the plate.

Beanball—a pitch thrown at the batter’s head.

Brushback pitch—a pitch that nearly hits the batter.

Cheese or Good cheese—a good fastball.

Chin music—a pitch high and inside on the batter.

Closer—a team’s relief pitcher who closes the game when the team is leading by three runs or less.

Complete game—a pitcher is credited with a complete game when he pitches the entire game.

Curve—a pitch that moves down, across, or down and across, depending on the rotation of the ball.

Cutter—a cut fastball with a late break.

Fastball—a pitch thrown as hard as possible.

Fireman—a team’s closer or late inning relief pitcher.

Forkball—a pitch thrown with the ball placed between the first two fingers, usually results in a sinking movement.

Gopher ball—a pitch hit for a home run.

Heat or Heater—a good fastball.

High and tight—a pitch that is up in the strike zone and inside on the hitter.

Hold—a relief pitcher is awarded a hold who comes into a game in a save situation, records at least one out, and exits the game without allowing his team to give up the lead at any point.

Knuckleball—a pitch that is grasped with the fingernails or knuckles and thrown without a spin. It moves in an unpredictable manner.

Left-handed specialist—a left handed relief pitcher who is brought in to pitch to a left handed batter.

Meatball—a pitch that is easy to hit, usually in the center of the strike zone.

No hitter—when a pitcher pitches a complete game without allowing the opposing team reach first base with a safe base hit.

Painting the black—a pitch thrown over the edge of the plate.

Perfect game—a game in which the pitcher does not allow any batter of the

opposing team to reach base.

Picasso—a control pitcher who can paint the black (hit the edges of the plate).

Pitching rotation—the order in which starting pitchers pitch, usually with three or four days rest.

Pitchout—a pitch that is thrown wide of the strike zone in order for the catcher to be better able to throw a runner trying to steal a base.

Punchout—a strikeout.

Relief pitcher—a pitcher brought into the game to replace the starting pitcher or another relief pitcher who is not effective in getting batters out.

Right down Broadway—a pitch delivered in the center of the strike zone.

Save—a relief pitcher is credited with a save when he enters the game with his team leading by three runs or less and preserves the victory or if he pitches at

least three innings without allowing the opposing team to tie the score or win the game.

Set-up man—a relief pitcher who comes into the game in the 7th or 8th inning.

Sinker—a fast pitch that breaks downward.

Southpaw—a left handed pitcher.

Spitball—an illegal pitch with a foreign substance (saliva or grease) placed on the ball to cause the ball to make a greater break.

Starter—the pitcher who starts the game and continues until the game is over or he is replaced by a relief pitcher.

Strike—a pitch thrown in the strike zone. The first two foul balls not caught count as the first and second strike.          

Uncle Charlie—a curve ball.

Whiff—a strikeout.

Whitewash—when a team is shutout, kept from scoring any runs.

Wild pitch—a pitch so far from the strike zone that the catcher cannot catch or block it allowing a runner to advance to the next base.

Yakker—a curve ball.

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New York “Bankees”

New York Yankees Baltimore ... A couple years ago my ten-year-old grandson, Luke,  said  he heard that the New York Yankees were the best team in baseball.                                                          

I responded, “They are the best team money can buy.”

He answered, “They should not be called the New York Yankees. They
should be called the New York Bankees.”

I believe his label still fits.