Peter Schilling on ERNIE HARWELL

Jeff Kallman on VIN SCULLY

Schilling on the NEW TWINS STADIUM


Kallman says HIS FAREWELL

In Memory of My Father

Peter Schilling Sr.


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"I might have been a small part of your life, but you've been a big part of mine, and it's my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all." —Ernie Harwell

I suppose that it was fitting that the news of Ernie Harwell's passing came in between the seventh inning of a Twins-Tigers game, just before the stretch. Despite knowing he was sick with cancer and wouldn't live long, the news came as a complete surprise to this fan. The game went on, as it should, and it was a crack contest: the Tigers tied a 3-2 game in the ninth, with a solo homer by Brennan Bosch, only to give it away an inning later with a wild pitch that scored J. J. Hardy from third. Though feeling profoundly blue, I shouted and screamed… for the Twins, because I've come to understand and accept my betrayal to the Detroit squad, and know that the locals are now my team. Though I still root for both clubs.

In a small way, it is also fitting, for me anyway, to close Mudville Magazine after eight erratic years with a tribute to the man who personified baseball more than any player, manager, or even team. If you lived in Michigan, Ernie Harwell was baseball. And he was a part of the memories we associate with baseball.

That night, I rode my bike home from Twins Stadium, by the railroad tracks, and thought about Ernie. There was a strange mix of emotion, a twinge of happiness fluttering beneath the melancholy. When I got home and read the tributes online, Tigers' manager Jim Leyland summed up Ernie's passing perfectly. He said, "This is one where you rejoice. I hope nobody takes me out of context here. The passing of Ernie is really a celebration of his life. It's not a tragic thing."

If there was ever a life to celebrate, it was Ernie Harwell's. He wasn't a hero, in the sense of a person who saves lives, or pulls the country from a depression, or blasts a home run in game seven to bring a championship home to a beleaguered town. No, Harwell's gift was simple and profound: he broadcast baseball games, and in the process brought joy. And there are few people who have brought so much joy to a city or state than Ernie Harwell.

Harwell was a master of calling a game, and his absence—he's been retired since 2002—has been palpable. The lack of an Ernie Harwell made the Tigers hard to bear, even when they were good. Distance didn't help—living in Minnesota, with a great team that actually reminds me more of the the Tigers of the late 70s and early 80s (a nice admixture of young and old, home-grown talent and scrap-heap signings.) Not having a radio that picked up Detroit broadcasts, I followed the Tigers from afar.

For one, there was the silence. Ernie's take on a game had little fluff. It was very calming, very simple, very straightforward. There was a description of how the players in the field were situation, the count, the batter readying themselves, the pitcher preparing. And then, often, silence. The sound of the ballpark would come through your radio for just a moment, just long enough to know that you're sharing in this baseball game with however many thousands of people were there at Tiger Stadium.

My own memories of Ernie always involve my Grandma, my Aunt Mary, and my brother, John. We'd spend a week or two at my Grandma's cabin in a town called Lake (which always made for confusion—no we did not have a cabin on Lake Michigan, but in Lake, Michigan.) Our nights were spent playing canasta or euchre, and listening to Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey broadcast Tigers' games. This was the late 70s and early 80s, and the Tigers were a mediocre team on the rise. Fidrych came in but his career ended, and we followed the exploits of Trammell and Whitaker, then Jack Morris, then Kirk Gibson, until the team became the powerhouse that wrecked the American League all the way to the title in '84.
I remember driving through the back roads en route to canvassing small towns to goad people into giving money (and, consequently, commission) to save the environment or institute auto insurance reform. The whole van of self-loathing canvassers, beaten by our failures or guilty over successfully making people feel like crap, would listen to Ernie, including my good friends Joe and Jon. There was nothing better than listening to the Tigers with the windows down, Ernie on the box, and just the night sky hovered over some county road on the way home.

For that's the beauty of radio—you enjoy one another's company when you enjoyed Ernie's. From cabins up north, to factories, to a couple of old men loafing on their driveways, to all the cars with their windows down, you'd hear Ernie throughout Michigan. Every summer.

As time went on, and Harwell retired, I've been searching for something to replace that soothing voice. The local mouths, Dan Gladden and John Gordon, aren't bad, but they talk, talk, talk too much, often about nothing, like Harely-Davidsons or complaints about how much better baseball was when Gladden was playing. I could buy a copy of one of Ernie's broadcasts, but that's about as effective as having a conversation with a picture of a loved one—it's unreal, the product of a melancholy imagination. It was only when he broadcast live that he was really with us, and you knew that far away, Ernie Harwell was sitting in cramped booth watching the game and telling me about it, like you might call someone on the phone.

But as Leyland pointed out, let us rejoice. Harwell called games for over forty years; personally, I had the privilege to follow the Tigers for twenty-six of those years. He lived to be 92, with his beloved wife, Lulu, at his side. I'd say that he was the most perfectly realized Christian I've encountered: deeply devout, unjudgmental, unwilling to shove his faith in your face, and living with a true humility. He was a beautiful man. Those close to him claim that even if you only heard him on the radio, really you knew him.

My brother mentioned that with the death of Ernie Harwell, a part of his childhood died. That's true, but it's also true that we move on, and that there's hope for the next generation. They have their Ernie Harwell (in whatever incarnation that may be), just as we had ours. Ernie knew that. He was, as he put it just a few weeks before his death, "ready for his next adventure."

So I'm glad to say I knew him. But he was wrong about one thing: he was a much larger part of our lives than he would ever know.—Peter Schilling Jr.


When the results came in for ESPN's "Faces of the Franchises" poll, a few years ago, some results were jarring and some were not. What does it tell you, I wondered then, that five of those faces were not players, two were not managers, and one was neither?

But nobody pondering the Face of the Dodgers could think seriously enough, in mass enough, of any player, coach, or executive? According to the ESPN tally, the Face of the Dodgers proved to be . . . Vin Scully.

I couldn't think of any other baseball broadcaster who'd have come anywhere close to winning any poll as the Face of their franchise. Not even Mel Allen, Red Barber, Curt Gowdy, Bob Prince, or Phil Rizzuto.

Could you imagine Gowdy, or Ken Coleman, beating out Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, or (an untainted) Roger Clemens as the Face of the Red Sox?

What odds would you have given that Mel Allen would have turned aside Joe DiMaggio, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, or Whitey Ford as the Face of the Yankees?

Not even Red Barber might have overthrown Dixie (The People's Cherce) Walker, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, or Don Newcombe in Flatbush.

Even Ernie Harwell and Herb Score might have had battles on their hands trying to obstruct Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Mark (The Bird, God rest his soul) Fidrych, Ron LeFlore, Kirk Gibson, or Jack Morris in Detroit.

I'm pretty sure I can think of only one broadcaster who might—might—have outpointed any player, manager, or executive to become his franchise's Face. Even Harry Caray, God rest his soul, might have set his own self-importance aside just long enough to tell you he wasn't fit to be in the same area code as Vin Scully. Just as Vin Scully—for whom there should have been a law mandating he shall broadcast the World Series until he a) retires; or, b) dies, whichever comes first—probably would turn the results away and set to convincing you this player or that player should have been chosen over himself.

"It may sound corny, but I enjoyed listening to Vin Scully call a game almost more than playing in them." Thus said Sandy Koufax—himself the face of the Dodgers, if not (juxtaposed to Willie Mays) the face of all baseball for a brief but shining era—once upon a time. That sweet man yielded just another sweet affirmation of Scully's iconic position, for a franchise whose names and faces have included two luminous Robinsons (Jackie and Uncle Wilbert), a Stengel, a Mungo, a Rickey, a Reese, a Campanella, a Snider, a Drysdale, a Koufax, a Lasorda (who wouldn't have had it any other way, anyway), a Valenzuela, a Guerrero (Pedro, that is), a Hershiser, a Nomo, and a Gagne.

"Of course, Vin Scully is the Dodgers' most beloved personality," purred Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman, in declaring his support for Martin, prior to the final tally, "but now that Scully mainly broadcasts on television, he's the best reason to stay home from the games, not go to them."

Oh? Then, and even today, there remain Dodger fans who still carry old, small, portable television sets into the park. They turn down the picture but turn up the sound, even as they're watching the field action. No matter the view, no matter the acuteness of their vision and perception, no matter the surreality (such as the night four straight Dodgers, against two San Diego relievers including Trevor Hoffman, hit four consecutive pitches into the seats), they still want to hear it from Scully before they'll believe it.

Or, not hear it—as they didn't the night Scully, only too well aware of the electricity in the ballpark when interleague combatant Bernie Williams squared off against Eric Gagne, with every last Yankee including The Mariano himself hanging over the dugout rail to watch Gagne on the job, told his listeners, "You really ought to just see it for yourself, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut." Which is precisely what he did, right up to the moment Gagne tied Williams up with a soap-bubble changeup for strike three.

So the vote made sense, after all. —Jeff Kallman


In what must account as the greatest April in Minnesota history, the new Twins Stadium opened to tremendous fanfare Monday, the 12th. Count yours truly as one of the rooters—aside from the very amazing fact that it is quite literally just under twenty-five minutes from my back door to my seat by bike, Twins Stadium is the most beautiful, easily accessible, sunniest, windiest, oddly-angled ballpark I've ever seen. No stadium is perfect, but after ten games with packed crowds, you've got me beat to try and come up with a negative. Simply put, it's perfect.

But that doesn't mean I still can't complain. And complain we should.

For the new ball has me thinking about my Dad. Dad would have been 66 this October, and by the plans he made before he died in July of 2008, we had hoped he would move to the Twin Cities this very summer. My family hails from Michigan, and my parents split in 1975, so it would have been 35 years since I lived in the same town as my pop. At times I'm reminded of this dream of ours—as I visit the St. Paul Farmers' Market, the Trylon microcinema, the Heights Theatre, the Mid-Town Global Market, the Greenway, and many of the great places the cities have to offer. I'm proud of this town, and honestly it pains me still to think that he isn't here to share it with me.

Truth be told, my father and I did not share a love of baseball. Readers of this site know that I fell for the nation's pastime in 1976, June 28 to be exact, when Mark Fidrych beat the Yankees on ABC's "Game of the Week". Dad dutifully endured my rants on baseball, and bought me Go Bird Go! by Free Press scribe Jim Hawkins, and wondered how in the hell any son of his got so involved with a sport of all things. He hated pro sports, and didn't much care for athletes, either, save those few precious souls who used their fame to elicit change in the world—Jackie Robinson, Jim Bouton, Mohammed Ali (though he felt boxing was cruel and racist.)

Over the years he softened his stance—I guess when my passion for the sport finally hit the three decade mark and I'd published a novel about same he finally relinquished. He admired my book and Hano's A Day in the Bleachers, which I'd bought him just after he read my novel. I think he would have enjoyed going to see a game with me had he lived to make it to Minnesota.

But he also would've said "Hmph." Friends of his are no doubt nodding appreciatively. For Dad would do that often—a knowing "hmph", a way to get in a little dig about something even when he knew not to be a jerk when others were enjoying themselves. That's "Hmph," though, was very important to him. Just as it is to me.

I would have heard that "hmph" at the Twins Stadium on Opening Day. In fact, I made that little noise myself when I got there. Because I've got a lot of my Dad in me, and one thing he taught me is that it's not enough to be beautiful, to be amazing. Really, you should also be fair.

How much easier it would have been for me if the Vikings had twisted the collective arms of the populace and built their stadium with our hard-earned dollars. Then I would have complained but moved on. It doesn't do any good to keep griping after something's been built—it's not like war, which you can fight to hasten its terrible end. But at least with a stadium built for a sport I loathe, it wouldn't be rubbed in my face with every contest.

Baseball, even during the summer, is a fleeting delight. Yes, there are 162 games in a year. But of course there's 365 days in a year, the countless hours and minutes, and life grinds on. The game isn't really so overwhelming as to blot out life itself. I come home after every game to a wife who teaches, who is losing good colleauges to a lack of funding. I live across the street from a nurse who probably makes hundreds of times less money than Joe Mauer, and yet who performs feats greater than anything that guy will every perform—after all, he only hits a ball, while she saves lives in her burn unit who knows how many times a year. I don't have to tell you about our state's troubles (or our nation's troubles for that matter). If our Republican governor had used the same means to pay for the stadium as for health care for the poor, we wouldn't have had the recent budget fight on the subject.

So I remain conflicted. I have to—it's in my nature. I'm stunned by the majesty of the place as I ride my bike to the golden confines of Twins Stadium, and yet I can't get these notions out of my head. "Someone has to," a friend said. Dad certainly would have wanted it that way.

I do believe that he would also have told me to move on and enjoy myself as well. He disliked folks who were rude and felt that sanctimoniousness was more important that simple human kindness. "Damn it all," Vonnegut said, "You've got to be kind." Dad believed that, had a sign (with Vonnegut self-portrait) hanging over his desk. That kindness means not spoiling an afternoon at the stadium for myself and others. That's good policy, too.

And so I go to enjoy baseball in the sun, my favorite player, Denard Span, chasing down flies in front of a row of white pine trees. With mixed feelings, the Stadium has really helped drive home the reality that the Twins are my team, now, in part because I never realized how important a great stadium was to me—Tiger Stadium was a wonderful place, and I was proud to call it my baseball home, but the new Tiger digs quite nearly suck. But there's also the fact that I love this town, and the Twins are here. They're the team covered in the paper. Back in 2006, when the Tigers roared into the series, I felt a touch of melancholy, in part because I didn't really know those guys. I knew the Twins more, because I saw them live twenty-plus times a year, listened to them on the radio another fifty or so times, and read about them every day in the paper all year long. When I think of the Detroit Tigers I think of Ernie Harwell and Mark Fidrych and Trammel/Whitaker and Cecil Fielder and Tony Phillips and the teams of the late 1970s through the early 1990s, when I left Michigan, probably forever.

Twins Stadium is a real gift to a fan like myself, a sort of a welcome to the fold. It's accessible by bike... in fact, it's easier to take a bike than a car or bus (for me, anyway.) The first game was Monday, and I've been to three contests since then, riding each time, and once through the rain. I'm not sure I've ever seen a stadium so easily accessible. You walk right and can get to your seat quickly and easily—and this at what have probably been the most congested games the Twins will see.
The park is squeezed into what might be the craziest configuration of warehouses, freeways, parking garages, and a garbage burner and yet it is… beautiful. The neighborhood is great—old warehouses in the distance, nothing too distracting. Trains run to the North and West, and the bike path curves up and over to the South.

I could go on about the open concourses, the white pines in center field, just the fact that the damn place is open, but those words are abundant in the papers and online. What I love is that the place is a living thing, and that we'll be treated to a number of surprises over the years, like the owl who perched on the right field foul pole through most of a night game against Cleveland. He sat, looking around, just a dot far off, and then every so often he'd spread his wings and fly about before returning to the same spot to watch the game.

In few years this place will start to get a bit worn, and I look forward to its aging. I look forward to sitting in the relentless sun in mid-August, when the Twins dynasty has long been broken and only the die hards are around to watch. By then, perhaps the place will have been paid for fully, and the feelings of guilt will have subsided. But I'll still hear a quiet, "hmmph." And that's OK, too. —Peter Schilling Jr.


Granted that it would be while he inflicted punishment upon my hapless, embryonic New York Mets, in the ballpark I learned in due course had been the crib of his baseball childhood.

But I saw Willie Mays play when he was still very much in prime. And I know of no other baseball player, in all my years of loving and watching the game, who really was what the mythology would come to have him. He really did have a baseball mind that seemed to snap into place at the mere crack of a bat. He really did care not two pins for breaking records, ruthsrecord (so help me God that's the way they described the single-season home run record in that era) or otherwise. He really did turn center field into a circus ring, a scampering part hunter, part acrobat, who ran down flies destined otherwise for oblivion and stopped or cut down advancing baserunners in a whipsaw-fast motion after running one down or hauling one in. He really was a marksman at the plate whose wide stance cranked into a shotgun line drive stroke or a lofty power swing.

And, he really was an eager-to-please kid who learned the hard way that children will never betray you while their parents just might run a shuck-and-jive on you, and learned the harder way that the life of a baseball player is finite.

Mays has not been immune to close study, at least as close as one can ever study him, but not until former New York Times' James S. Hirsch has Mays himself authorized any such study, never mind the warts and all treatment Hirsch affords while straining to keep the very real image of Mays alive and reasonably well. Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend (New York: Scribner, 2010; 628 pages, $30.00) has the virtue of presenting the sorrows that buffeted Mays as profoundly as the pleasures that burnished him with both a genuine affection and a genuine empathy for his subject.

Did you know that even Ty Cobb, who wasn't necessarily to be remembered as one of nature's noblemen, admired Mays? Hirsch exhumes the commentary, first published in The Sporting News, in which Cobb thought Mays might revive the running game Cobb had evoked and enhanced in an earlier time. It fits. Mays the baseball player was a hybrid of Cobb and Ruth; he blended Cobb's basepath recklessness and hitting precision with Ruth's surrealistic power (as did Mickey Mantle until the leg injuries sapped his speed) but bore neither man's personality flaws. He wasn't even close to being at war with the world, the way Cobb had been; he'd been raised in far gentler circumstances, by a far more loving family. And he wasn't as rapacious or as self-congratulatory as Ruth had been; in part because of his race, they would have murdered Mays if he'd had even a fraction of the passion Ruth had for gambling, boozing, and women not necessarily identifiable as Mrs. Ruth.

Mays preferred to get along, and it caused him a headache or three when facing the bigots. When he and his first wife sought to buy a home in San Francisco, as the Giants relocated there, they were shocked to discover that a city with San Francisco's reputation for progressivity could still yield up cadres of racists who would obstruct their househunting actively. Hirsch does a splendid job of recounting that disgrace without mounting a soapbox.

As his subject would not have wanted him to do. Jackie Robinson may have considered him an Uncle Tom for his trouble, and perhaps Robinson's late-life frustrations got the better of him in that regard, too, but Willie Mays preferred to beat you the old-fashioned way—with his bat and his glove and his legs on the field, with his personality (he is, at heart, a good-humoured man who has struggled to sustain his belief in the good) and his warmth (Hirsch discloses a number of heretofore undetected stories of Mays's spontaneous generosity with great but understated affection) off the field. Even the bigots had to admit in due course that you could do a lot worse than having Willie Mays as your neighbor, or your friend.

He couldn't be Willie Mays forever, and it finally ground him down. Others have written of the hour but few have done so with Hirsch's sensitivity. A bit player for the Mets, albeit an occasionally useful and even exciting one (the first time he saw action as a Met, in a series against the Giants, of all people, he managed to crank one out late in the game—though he almost ran into the Giants' dugout after crossing the plate, out of all those years' habit—and send New York into a nostalgic meltdown), Mays came around slowly to the idea that his time was done. His knees were sending him messages; manager Yogi Berra—struggling to keep an injury-addled team pennant competitive—didn't really want whoever this was masquerading as Willie Mays.

Neither, at last, did Mays. "I just feel that the people of America shouldn't have to see a guy play who can't produce," he told The Today Show down the stretch in 1973, as the Mets were in the thick of their remarkable from-the-basement surge to the National League East title. Five days later, he said it with poignancy almost unheard from a baseball player since Lou Gehrig's wrenching, spontaneous farewell speech.

This is a sad day for me, to hear you cheer me and not to do anything about it, he told the crowd. I hope you go on to win the flag for the New York people. This is your night as well as mine, he told his fellow Mets. I also want to thank the Montreal ball club. I know this is a delay for you, he told the Expos, whom the Mets were about to face.

But this is my farewell, he said, returning to the full gathering. I thought I'd never quit. I see these kids over here, and I see how these kids are fighting for a pennant, and to me it says one thing: Willie, say goodbye to America.

He may have gone home frustrated but he went to the Hall of Fame grateful. He weathered Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's banning of him (and of Mickey Mantle) from the game so long as he worked as a Bally's casino greeter, a nebulous ban at best. He bore up stoically as his godson Barry Bonds refused his counsel to humanize himself a little more, and he kept an uncomfortable silence as the spectre of actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances swarmed Bonds and he simply could not bring himself to criticize any player. He continues reaching out to youth in and beyond baseball. And, as he cared for his father over long years, so does he care for his second wife, Mae, stricken with Alzheimer's disease but loved by a husband who refuses to allow her to die.

And he is still Willie Mays. Who has found one of his least fawning but most sober biographers, and who has allowed America to say hello all over again.—Jeff Kallman


There is no joy in Mudville. The mighty Schilling is striking out. In search of deeper greens, of course, for which we wish him as well as he wished us who had the pleasure and, yes, the honour of writing for his singular journal and, as did I, cultivating his singular and delightful friendship.

The thinking person's sport had no more amiable portal for thinking aloud, whether while watching a game or reflecting upon the mirth, mischief, and mind behind or around the game. And this thinking person's portal had no more amiable shepherd than the gentleman who accepted no coin but affection, laughter, thought, and pleasure from those he invited to join.

Or, from those who deigned to approach cold, as did I in 2003, when I whipped out my first entry caught up in the surrealities of that newborn postseason. For my chutzpah I received a cheerful admonition: If you're serious and you're going to write every day, okay. If you're not, don't waste my time. I think it was probably the single time the mighty Schilling was ever stern in his communications.

The poor man didn't know what he was getting himself into. By the time I got through with that postseason and him, and in that order, I think he must have concluded that at long enough last he had found his match for cheerful insanity.

We were bound to be kindred, having in common a lifelong affection for baseball teams rich in occasional triumph and habitually triumphant disaster, an oxymoron that can only make sense, one supposes, to fans of the New York Mets since the day they were born or the Minnesota Twins since they escaped the nation's capital of organised crime.

Of course he had no clue that his newest and most persistent case of arrested envelopment was also a Boston Red Sox fan since the 1967 pennant race. The proprietor of this portal had engaged the man singlehandedly responsible for sinking Omaha, Nebraska's pharmaceutical market in October 1986.

And we were off to share some transcendence, many letters, many books, and many spirited brainstorms. I like to think that between us we were at our absolute best in 2004's postseason surrealities, the ones that did what we thought couldn't be done a year earlier: made 2003's resemble a comic script spurned as unworkable by Fred Allen.

This is not to say we had been horrible otherwise, but any Red Sox fan will tell you that great pain has a tendency to return in more exaggerated guise while great, unexpected, and extraterrestrial pleasure can only arrive once.

Our man Schilling has been a generous soul, with knowledge, with enthusiasm, with encouragement, with flattery, and with spreading the wealth. I'm convinced that several were the books he floated my way that he hankered to read and review himself, and I'd like to think that if the roles were reversed I'd have done likewise. It would have been impossible to resist. When Peter Schilling grabs you into an enthusiasm none but an automaton could refuse him. My lone regret is that, for reasons strictly economic, I haven't been even close to repaying or reciprocating his generosities.

Make that one of my two lone regrets. The other is that, among the outlets who have been kind enough to open their pages to my baseball brainstorming over the past decade, my personal favourite, the one in which I felt more than anything not like a writer but, rather, like fraternity, is about to become a memory. A pleasant memory, of course, but a memory regardless. Those who were fortunate to be part of it should never feel less than having been edified and matured, even as the game we love seems anything but off the field or in the business offices.

Nor should we feel less than a loss. Not of our man Schilling's delightful friendship, but of a journal which I like to think upheld Andujar's Law: "In baseball, there's just one word—you never know." You never knew quite what the game would bring to you; you never knew quite what would be said above and beyond your own role therein; and that was the great joy in Mudville. The only thing you knew was that it was edited and presented with a love of the game that, to my absolute astonishment, has rivaled and even overmatched my own, once in awhile.

That was one of many things I thought impossible until I had the honour of knowing and working with the mighty Schilling. He never struck out in these pages, and if you were lucky enough to become one of his contributors, he made you feel invariably as if you'd hit the nastiest curve ball in town across the state line. As a writer, as an editor, and most of all as a man, he has been a blessing to know. That may transcend the innings of Mudville, whose final out is about to be nailed but whose play will stay alive in the hearts of those who had the honor to be in the game.—Jeff Kallman

Movie of the Week

Big Hair and Plastic Grass
Cardboard Gods

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