Today's thoughts

Category: Sherm Lollar (Page 1 of 6)

Chicago White Sox Catcher

Old Sport Shorts: Let The Games Begin #1821

Let the Games Begin! The Playoffs are finally underway, while the Cubs have been put out of their misery. It’s hard to believe the late season success of the Cardinals or the fact that it could all for them end in one Wildcard game. My focus is now primarily on the SOX and their 76-year old manager, Tony La Russa. It’s been 16-years since they last won the World Series, but only 10-years for him in the same role with St. Louis. The White Sox lost two out of three to the A’s in last year’s Playoffs while La Russa was still enjoying retirement. Let’s hope for a deeper run in 2021.

I’m starting today in Tampa after four days in Pittsburgh. It’s a Sunday, but I actually wrote this yesterday on the plane, knowing that I would be crunched for time. I will be trading my family for my wife’s over the next three days as we make our way back to Venice. I’m glad the Braves made the Playoffs since we’ve moved into their Spring Training neighborhood. There will be some watch parties at the Stadium near our home, a great way to start a relationship with my new team. Maybe they’ll even have an afternoon game that I can stay awake to watch. Former baseball home favorites have included Chicago, St. Louis, Texas, and Seattle on our moves across the country over the past 25-years. However, the SOX will always be my favorite thanks to Sherm Lollar and the 1959 crew that become my first childhood baseball love.

It took 54-years of my lifetime for the White Sox to win a World Series and 65-years for the Cubs to claim a crown, although they were primarily my dad’s and son’s favorite. My dad originally tried to coax me into being a Detroit Tiger’s fan, that would have been even more frustrating. He did pry my allegiance away from Mickey Mantle like every other kid my age back then, but I chose the White Sox because he insisted that I support someone closer to home. If I hadn’t followed his advice, I could have been an obnoxious Yankees fan.

The Damn Yanks are slipping in the Playoff race, but the SOX are solidly in the field. The Cubs are on the outside looking in, while my dad sadly died before his Chicago team finally won it all in 2016. I’m ready for some Playoff baseball where the SOX will finally face some competition. They’ve been playing most of this injury plagued season with a firm grip on the AL Central. If they can stay healthy, they have a strong chance of winning it all. If they can’t do it, maybe the Braves can, so Let The Games begin.

Old Sport Shorts: Baseball Cards #1799

The last few days I’ve taken a step back sixty years, sitting on my floor sorting baseball cards. I had some unopened packs from 1991 and 1992 to open, including The Babe Ruth Collection. There was a time when I would have left them in their wrappers, hoping they would have more value, but why deny myself the joy of opening them and organizing them into teams. In this case, there was no bubblegum involved. It was fun, until I realized that I was just one card short of completing the Babe Ruth set of 165. Card number 134 was missing, but the next day I found it stuck to another card, just before I was ready to order it on E-Bay. All the Cubs and White Sox players are placed in a special binder while all the others are lumped together in separate books. I can’t bear to throw any of them away regardless of duplicates, knowing that my entire childhood collection disappeared due to good housekeeping. 

I’m certain that my now valuable Mickey Mantles were part of that loss, but if everyone had held on to their cards they all would be worthless. #7 Mickey was once my favorite player and his Yankees my team, but they were somehow replaced with #10 Sherm Lollar of the White Sox. I now have a massive collection of Sherm stuff that is only valuable to me. Mickey has made many men rich by simply investing in his memorabilia, or being lucky enough that their mom didn’t toss out their card collections. Right now, I’m even bidding for a Cancer Foundation medallion with the likeness of Sherm on one side and teammate Nellie Fox on the other. Hall of Famers like Fox drive up the value and increase bidding, which makes me think that I will probably not be the winner of this trinket. They both died at young ages due to cancer. The cheek-full of tobacco that became the shortstop’s trademark look probably didn’t help. Most ballplayers were smokers in that era, with little to do in the confines of the dugout. 

There is an organization founded by Marv Samuel, a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns in the late 40s and perhaps a Lollar teammate, known as Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. It is “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit using sports to give back by helping fund cancer research and patient care programs at Chicago-area hospitals, and supporting services to empower kids with cancer.” Billy Pierce, White Sox pitcher and teammate of Fox and Lollar, led the organization after the death of Samuel in 1993 from Leukemia. “Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities has since its founding in 1971 donated more than $11 million to fund cancer patient care, education and research programs at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hospital.” I’m assuming that the medallion was part of the fundraising elements of this organization.

I just ran across a Billy Pierce baseball card last night. He lived to be 88 and was on two World Series runners-up teams, the 1959 White Sox and 1962 San Francisco Giants. It’s amazing what you learn about the good that players do during and after their time in baseball, although Lollar died at age 53 and Fox even younger at 47, so they did not get the opportunity to give as much back. Every card and piece of memorabilia has a story. Collecting is more than just child’s play – it’s part of our history that I enjoy!

 

Old Sport Shorts: Sherm Day #1781

I drove to Tampa with my son to watch the White Sox play the Rays yesterday afternoon. Along the way, I reunited with a fellow Sox fan, who last went to a game with me at then named Verizon Wireless Stadium fourteen years ago. We hadn’t seen each other since. The Cubs beat the Sox that May day in 2007 11-6 and proceeded to be blown out by the Rays 9-0 in yesterday’s encore. I’m suddenly not sure if we’ve ever seen them win together, but we’ll probably keep trying now that we only live an hour apart. 

In  1962-1965 the White Sox were the home town Florida favorites, known as the Sarasota Sox, long before the Rays and Marlins became the Sunshine teams to support. White Sox Spring Training has moved to the West Coast and the Cactus League, so it’s mostly old timers like me that are White Sox fans in this area. My love of the White Sox began in 1959 with a catcher named Sherm Lollar. I was 8 years old when the Sox played the Dodgers in the televised World Series and #10 became my favorite jersey number. I wore it yesterday in honor of Sherm, even though it has belonged to a worthy Yoan Moncada for the last five years, as well as Pete Appleton in 1940 and Red Wilson 1952 before Sherm joined the team. Lollar has worn it the longest, eleven years, from 1953-1963. Since that time, it’s changed hands many times, including J.C. Martin (2), Tommy Davis, Chuck Brinkman (2), Jay Johnstone (2), Sam Ewine, Ron Santo, Jack Brohamer (2), Ron Blomberg, Joe Gates, Steve Lyons, Fred Manrique (2), Shawn Jeter, Mike LaValliere (3), Dave Steib, Darren Lewis (2), Chris Snopek, Mark Johnson (2), Royce Clayton (2), Shingo Takatsu (2), Bob Makowiak (2), Alexei Ramirez (8), and Austin Jackson. I proudly display in my personal collection, Sherm Lollar’s 1955 game worn jersey #10. 

The number 10 should have probably been retired by the White Sox, along with Nellie Fox #2, Harold Baines #3, Luke Appling #4, Minnie Minoso #9, Luis Aparicio #11, Paul Konerko #14, Ted Lyons #16, Billy Pierce #19, Frank Thomas #35, Mark Buehrle #56, and Carlton Fisk #72. The White Sox once had a team Hall of Fame but put it in mothballs in favor of an expanded gift shop. He is a member of the Chicago White Sox All-Century Team. At this point, he’s probably too far down the Cooperstown list to ever be included, despite his stellar 18-year .992 fielding percentage. However, I continue to collect his memorabilia, the latest being a vintage 1959 Rawlings baseball bearing his likeness that is still in the box. 

In an article written by Brett Kiser twelve years ago, he mentioned that the great Ted Williams claimed the Pale Hose never would have made it to the 1959 World Series without Lollar. Kiser also pointed to his three Gold Glove Awards and the fact that he was named to seven All-Star squads (playing in nine games). Despite the loss to the Dodgers in 1959, he earned two World Series rings as a player with the Yankees 1947 and as a bullpen coach for the Baltimore Orioles 1966. I have made my case for his Hall of Fame induction. (See Post #5)

I honor Sherm Lollar today on what would have been his 97th birthday. He died in 1977 at the age of 53. Although I never met the man, I somehow feel compelled to collect articles, press photos, cards, merchandise, and gear related to his career. He lives on in my office, along with his Hall of Fame teammates that certainly believed that he belonged beside them in the Hall, as the field general in their 1959 title quest. I was disappointed with the effort of yesterday’s White Sox in Tampa and noted that the 2005 World Series patch on my #10 jersey was now 16-years old. As a lifelong Sox fan, it’s been too long of a wait again for that elusive title. 

Old Sport Shorts: Lollar Biography #1606

I’ve added several magazine clippings to my personal Lollar collection over the past month. These are mostly photo panels from True, a men’s publication in operation from 1937 until 1974. To additionally honor Sherm, I found this excellent article on-line by John McMurray that summed-up his career. It’s based on Lollar’s biography that was included in the book “Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees”(University of Nebraska Press, 2013), edited by Lyle Spatz. An earlier version originally appeared in SABR’s “Go-Go To Glory: The 1959 Chicago White Sox” (ACTA, 2009), edited by Don Zminda.

Soft spoken and self-effacing, Sherman Lollar provided a strong defensive presence behind the plate during his eighteen-year Major League career. Lollar spent twelve seasons with the Chicago White Sox, after spending all or parts of six seasons with three other American League teams. An All-Star catcher seven times, Lollar won American League Gold Glove awards from 1957 through 1959, the first three years it was given. 

Though Lollar played well and received awards during the 1950s, he did not receive as much national recognition as did fellow catcher Yogi Berra, who won three Most Valuable Player awards. As Red Gleason wrote in The Saturday Evening Post in 1957, “It is the fate of some illustrious men to spend a career in the shadow of a contemporary. Adlai Stevenson had his Dwight Eisenhower. Lou Gehrig had his   Babe Ruth. Bob Hope had his Bing Crosby. And Sherman Lollar has his Yogi Berra.” 

John Sherman Lollar, Jr. was born on August 23, 1924, in Durham, Arkansas, to John and Ruby (Springfield) Lollar. When Lollar Jr. was three years old, he moved with his family to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where his parents opened a grocery store. Lollar’s interest in baseball began at an early age, and he remembered playing catch with his father outside the store as a six year old. When he was eight, his father died unexpectedly during surgery. At that early age, Lollar, who was the oldest of four children, including two girls (Bonnie and Pat) and a boy (Jerry, who was born after his father’s death), had to take on additional responsibilities at home. His mother sold the grocery store and began working in a nursing home for the Veterans Administration. She told Gleason, “Sherman took a large share of the responsibility of looking after the younger children. He was both a big brother and father. Our being left alone so soon created a sense of oneness in all of us that remains even now.” 

Despite his additional responsibilities, Lollar’s interest in baseball never waned. In 1936, shortly before he turned twelve, Lollar became a batboy for the Fayetteville Bears in the Arkansas-Missouri League. After graduating from Fayetteville High School, a school that had no baseball team, the sixteen-year-old Lollar took a job with J.C. Penney in Pittsburg, Kansas. He played with a team affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce in the Ban Johnson League while also studying at Pittsburg State Teachers College (now Pittsburgh State University). Two years later, after the Ban Johnson League folded, Lollar both played for and managed the semipro Baxter Springs (Kansas) Miners, working as a brakeman in a local mine when he wasn’t playing baseball. 

The Baltimore Orioles of the International League signed Lollar in 1943, when he was eighteen. His pay was $20 a month. He batted just .118 in twelve games, but improved to .250 with fifteen home runs in 1944. He also drove in seventy-two runs, one of the highest totals for any catcher in organized baseball that year. Lollar won the International League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1945, tearing up the league with thirty-four home runs, 111 runs batted in, and a league-leading batting average of .364.

Baltimore had a working agreement with the Cleveland Indians and was forced to sell its top slugger to the Major League team for $10,000. After making his big league debut on April 20, 1946, Lollar played infrequently behind veteran catchers  Frankie Hayes and Jim Hegan. He asked to go back to Baltimore so he could play regularly. Back in the International League, Lollar was unable to duplicate his previous year’s batting success. He batted just .234, but he did hit twenty home runs in only 222 at-bats for the Orioles. His biggest plus that year was meeting his future wife, Connie Mattard, whom he married in 1949.In December 1946, Cleveland included Lollar in a five-player deal with the New York Yankees. The Indians had been willing to trade Lollar because of concerns about his attitude. According to writer Bill Roeder, “The Cleveland complaint was that Lollar displayed insufficient dash and spirit. He had the ability all right, but no inclination to exploit it. Within a month, he was homesick for Baltimore, and Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau sent him back. Now Sherman belongs to the Yankees, and they hope he will react favorably to the fresh start.” 

In New York he was caught in a catching logjam that included Ralph Houk, Charlie Silvera, Aaron Robinson, Gus   Niarhos, and Yogi Berra. As a consequence, Lollar spent most of the 1947 season with the Newark Bears, the Yankees’ farm club in the International League. Lollar appeared in only eleven regular-season games for the Yankees in 1947, but he did play in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, getting three hits, including two doubles, in four at-bats. About Game Three, sportswriter Dan Daniel wrote, “A secondary standout was Sherman Lollar, who started the game as a surprise entry.  Manager Bucky  Harris benched Berra in favor of the right-handed Lollar against the southpaw  Joe  Hatten. Lollar got a single which became a run in the third, and in the fourth drove in a run with a double.” 

A contemporaneous article called Lollar “a Charlie Gehringer type,” adding, “He appears a colorless, dispassionate individual, on and off the field, but he gets his job done effectively. If Lollar hits as well as Gehringer did, no one will care if he doesn’t say a word all season.” In parts of two seasons with the Yankees, Lollar saw action in only thirty-three games. Yogi Berra was on his way to becoming a star and Lollar’s playing time was further reduced by a hand injury caused by a foul tip, requiring him to get stitches on two fingers of his throwing hand.

In August 1948, Dan Daniel wrote, “Sherman Lollar, right-handed hitting catcher, is another who has possibly had his last big opportunity with the Bombers. Now that Yogi Berra is available again, Gus Niarhos will handle all the receiving duties against left-handed pitching.” Not surprisingly, Lollar was soon traded, this time to the St. Louis Browns on December 13, 1948, with pitchers Red Embree and Dick Starr and $100,000 in return for catcher Roy Partee and pitcher Fred Sanford. In St. Louis, Lollar took over for Les Moss as the team’s regular catcher and batted .261 in 1949 with eight home runs. For three seasons, Lollar stabilized the catching position for the second-division Browns while earning All-Star honors for the first time in 1950. 

After the 1951 season, the Chicago White Sox were looking for a replacement for incumbent catcher Phil Masi, and on November 27, they received Lollar from the Browns in an eight-player deal. According to his son, Lollar’s salary was increased to about $12,000 when he was traded. Arriving in Chicago was the break Sherm Lollar needed. Unlike the Browns, who had won only 52 games in 1951, the White Sox had finished eight games over .500 and were considered a potential World Series contender. But the 1952 season was a disappointment for Lollar, who endured additional stress when his wife fell ill after childbirth. While he batted only .240, his work with manager Paul Richards helped turn the young catcher’s career around.

As Gleason recounted in The Saturday Evening Post, Lollar later said: “When I was having that terrible year in 1952, Richards called me into his office late in the season. He told me that my natural style of catching lacked appeal and I would have to be more of a holler guy. Paul said he understood my problem because he had been the same kind of catcher that I was. I feel that I’ve always hustled in baseball, but until Paul talked to me I probably had a misconception of what ‘hustle’ meant. I hustled to first base on a batted ball, and I hustled when the ball was around me. Richards made me see that something more was expected. “Paul told me to show a little more animation. He wanted me to be a little more agile in receiving, and to show more zip in returning the ball to the pitcher. He recommended that I run to and from the catcher’s box between innings, instead of just strolling out there.” Gleason wrote that Richards recommended Lollar’s distinctive style of catching, with his left knee on the ground, because, according to Richards, “This moved him up – closer to the plate – and down – closer to the ground.” 

Lollar caught 100 or more games in each of his twelve seasons with the White Sox, and he was an American League All-Star six times (1954–1956 and 1958–1960). As evidenced by his Gold Gloves, he developed into perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game. In 1957 he played without making an error in his first eighty-nine games before throwing wildly to second base on September 14. Years after trading for Lollar, White Sox general manager Frank Lane said, “It was one of the best trades I ever made. Sherm turned out to be one of the best catchers in the American League, behind only Yogi Berra and maybe Jim Hegan.” Paul Richards told Gleason that Lollar was a better handler of pitchers than Berra.

Throughout his time in the American League, Lollar was compared to Berra, whose offensive numbers and championships outshined Lollar’s. Wrote Gleason in The Saturday Evening Post, “Where Berra is distinctive looking, to put it mildly, the brown-haired Lollar is a sad-faced, sad-eyed individual. In most of his pictures, he looks as though someone has stolen his favorite catcher’s mitt. In his ‘smiling’ pictures, the smile seems forced. Berra is celebrated for malapropisms. Lollar is seldom quoted. An unobtrusive workman, he is obscured on his own club by crowd-pleasers such as Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Jim Rivera, and Luis Aparicio.” 

On April 23, 1955, against Kansas City during a 29–6 rout, Lollar accomplished the rare feat of getting two hits in an inning twice in the same game. He had his finest offensive season for Chicago’s 1959 pennant winners, batting .265 with twenty-two home runs and eighty-four RBIs. In both 1958 and 1959, he finished ninth in the American League’s Most Valuable Player voting. Perhaps most importantly, Lollar was instrumental in handling the team’s pitching staff in 1959. Although he batted only .227 in the World Series, he hit a three-run homer in Game Four off the Dodgers’ Roger Craig with two outs in the seventh inning to tie the game at 4–4. Other than the three home runs hit by Ted Kluszewski, Lollar’s home run was the only one hit by a White Sox player in that Series. However, a key point of the Series came in Game Two, when the slow-footed Lollar was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from first base on Al Smith’s eighth-inning double, which helped ensure a 4–3 Chicago loss. 

Lollar’s overall offensive performance began to decline in 1960, and the White Sox released him on October 4, 1963. Although he was not known as a power hitter, the six-foot-one, 185-pounder had 155 career home runs among his 1,415 hits. Lollar committed only 62 errors in 1,571 games behind the plate in his Major League career, finishing with a .992 fielding percentage. In his 2001 Historical Baseball Abstract, historian Bill James rated Lollar as the thirty-first best catcher ever. James wrote” “[Lollar] led his league in fielding percentage five times, in double plays three times, also has the lowest career passed ball rate of any catcher listed here.” – The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press, 2001. P. 394.

After his playing career ended, Lollar sought a minor-league manager’s job. Al Lopez remarked, “[Lollar] had tremendous ability with young pitchers. I think he shows great ability at handling men, which is the most important part of managing in the game.” Lollar coached with the Baltimore Orioles from 1964 through 1967 and with the Oakland Athletics in 1968. He managed two Oakland farm teams: the Iowa Oaks of the American Association from 1970 through 1972 and the Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League in 1973 and 1974. He left the Toros after the 1974 season reportedly because of a dispute with Athletics owner Charley Finley. Lollar barely escaped serious injury while managing in Iowa in 1970. He was sitting in his car at a red light after a game, when a nearby building suddenly collapsed. “I was just sitting there listening to the radio when—wham! It was like the sky falling,” he recalled. “What made it worse was that I had no idea what was happening. I couldn’t see a thing because of the dust and debris.” Luckily, he was unhurt. In the last few years of his life, Lollar operated a bowling alley in Springfield, Missouri, and refereed high-school basketball games. After a long battle with cancer, he died in Springfield on September 24, 1977. He was fifty-three years old. Lollar was survived by his wife, Connie, and a son, Sherman III. He is buried in Rivermonte Memorial Gardens in Springfield.

My personal recap of his career is titled “Who Was That Masked Man? (Post#5). 

 
 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Lost Socks or Sox #1580

It’s “Hump Day” in Hawaii, the half-way point of our South Beach retreat. Sunshine has been the common theme since we arrived in Florida last week, with more blue skies in the forecast. Meanwhile, back home in Portland there have been signs of snow in Facebook posts. As a side note, I was reunited this morning with my lost sock, left behind in efforts to do laundry in a few days ago. I think I left more socks at my son’s house last week, like a trail of bread crumbs throughout the state. 

Florida has put in a bid to host the Olympics in six months, citing their success with other sporting events during this pandemic. Tokyo may not be able to handle this commitment that was already delayed from 2020. Another year setback would jeopardize the ability of some athletes to compete. With all the uncertainties, it must be difficult to maintain focus and be motivated to train. Regardless, I will once again not be competing. It was hard enough to complete my 3.1 mile run this morning, but day #4,316 is officially in the books. On our way to dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab tonight, I may even get to see the start of Robert Kraft’s bid on 16,829 consecutive days. 

On a frustrating note, there will be no one elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year for the first time since 1960. Curt Schilling fell sixteen votes short. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to be excluded from this club despite their credentials and will have one more chance next year. Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson were not on the ballot. They need to add a “bad boys” wing of the Hall to accommodate these controversial personalities. There are also so many others that could have been added like Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso of the Chicago White Sox and other Negro League players that were crippled by discrimination. A friend just sent me an article claiming that “it is utterly inconceivable that “Minnie” Minoso is not in the Hall of Fame.” The same can be said for Satchel Paige and countless others. 

I once again make a plea to the Hall of Fame to reconsider the “Lost Sox” like Minoso, Sherm Lollar, Shoeless Joe, Billy Pierce, Harold Baines, Dick Allen, and Tim Raines. It still bothers me that a majority of HOF players are pitchers, while their supportive catchers and fielders have been overlooked. Their accomplishments have been forgotten over time and their votes misplaced like my running socks – missing soul mates!

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Home Inspection #1563

This morning was about as exciting as it gets these days. The money was deposited in our savings account to cover all the closing costs on our new Florida home and the builder took us on a detailed tour of the exposed wiring, plumbing, and structure. Our new home is slowly coming together based on the model we selected and the modifications that we arranged. Ten-foot ceilings, eight-foot doorways, a larger garage, upgraded appliances, and a pool are gradually becoming reality. I will share the floor plan and some photos with my friends shortly in a Zoom “Leadership Meeting.”

This afternoon, I will then put together a plan for to tomorrow’s baseball card show. I want to fill in some lineups for the 1954-1972 White Sox teams. I also added some photos to my Sherm Lollar collection this past week with some E-Bay purchases. Switching back and forth between hobbies keeps things from getting too routine. Card collecting, genealogy, and writing have been the mainstays of retirement. It’s been frustrating not being able to travel, as well, but at least a trip to Florida is only a week away. We’ll check out the house in person, visit with friends & family, drive down through The Keys, and spend a week in Miami. Florida is the one place that has been consistently open this past year, so we’ve managed three visits, including the cross-country drive. 

It was another frustrating finish for I.U. basketball last night. A chance to beat Wisconsin in Madison for the first time in 23 years fell short in double overtime. We were on the verge of winning in regulation and overtime, but the second extended period was all Badgers. The next game is Sunday at Nebraska, with must-win expectations. The new year has not been kind to the Hoosiers with key losses in both football and basketball. At least, I have a new home to look forward to in March since Madness may not happen again for this very average BIG team. Today’s home inspection, however, has lifted my spirits about the future. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Christmas Story #1546

Another long day of doing nothing. I’m beginning to notice little things like there are no receipts in my wallet yet my credit card bill still goes up. I did receive  my new calendar from our financial advisor, but it’s words this year not pictures. It will be a relief to tear off that final page of 2020 and turn over that first of 2021. The calendar has been a desk-top tradition for many years now and an inspiration for an occasional blog post. Everything in my life tends to be digital so to have something to hold on to is somehow comforting. 

I watched A Christmas Story yesterday, rekindling some childhood memories. I never had a BB gun, but nearly once poked my eye out with a sharp stick. I was running through the woods and did not see the broken limb that knocked me off my feet. It’s disturbing to think about all those close calls in life. This time of year we often stayed in a Marriott hotel near the Indiana Welcome Station that features a permanent display of A Christmas Story, including a flagpole out front with Flick’s tongue stuck to it. I would run by and give him “five” before we made the drive to pick up my wife’s mother and head to Indianapolis for the holidays. 

I did receive a childhood memory in the mail yesterday. I ordered a tattered, felt Chicago White Sox pennant on e-Bay that was similar to one that hung on the wall of my bedroom as a kid. It arrived in a package that brought back a similar excitement to opening that long-awaited Ovaltine decoder ring. On the other hand, I was disappointed, however, to be out-bid on a rare Banty Red Sherm Lollar baseball card from 1952. It’s now in someone else’s collection, that probably isn’t as big of fan of the White Sox catcher. At least, I made him pay more for it, while he used an auction snipe app to cheat me by a buck at the buzzer. What fun is that?

I did not get to see the Christmas Star or Jupiter/Saturn conjunction last night because of overcast skies here in Portland. It was all the buzz on Facebook for those fortunate enough to capture pictures of the once-in-a-lifetime event. We’re lucky to even see the moon this time of year, and by the same token have not witnessed any of the key astronomical occurrences this year. It rained again this morning just before my run, with more on the way. We certainly won’t see white – just wet! For that matter, other than a couple of family Zoom calls, there won’t be much of a Christmas Story for me to talk about this year! 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Favorites #1463

Baseball and cold pizza, two of my current favorites, came together for lunch yesterday, before the yard work started. The White Sox were up against the higher-seeded A’s and playing on their home turf. I’ve never been a fan of the once Kansas City now Oakland A’s, but since childhood the White Sox have always been my favorite. Catcher Sherm Lollar has perpetuated this relationship since 1959. Granted, I’ve strayed to the Cubs at times when they were winning, following suit with my son and dad. I’ve been fortunate to see both Chicago favorites first-hand in World Series victories. 

Lucas Giolito pitched seven innings of perfect baseball and the Sox bats were hot in a 4-1 victory. The lucky socks proved their worth. Today, I’ll wear a Cubs sock on one foot and the Sox sock on the other, hoping for the Chicago sweep. There will be no fans to interfere with any Marlin foul balls, reminiscent of Steve Bartman in 2003, so there should be no excuses for anything less than a Cubbies “W” at Wrigley.   

I do have a busy today with a second moving estimate, Cubs & Sox baseball, dinner to cook. and the first game of the NBA Finals, in addition to the eight televised MLB playoff games. LeBron has oddly become a basketball favorite of mine, even though he’s never played for the teams I support, with the exception of the Olympics. Part of this is the lack of respect he gets, especially from Michael Jordan fans. In my opinion, they are equal greats from separate eras. Comparisons are unfair, especially considering that there wasn’t nearly as much free agency in the Jordan era and contact rules were vastly different. 

While championship match-ups were being determined in baseball and basketball, the Tampa Bay Lightning claimed their second Stanley Cup title. I’ve officially adopted them since we now own property in Florida, along with the Rays, Buccaneers, and Rowdies. Having now owned homes in six states, I’ve amassed quite a collection of teams, improving my chances to win something…anything. Chicago is still my favorites sports town, with the exception of the Bulls. Michigan teams don’t count. The Portland Trailblazes have now replaced the Pacers as my favorite NBA team. When it comes to college football, I lean to the Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks, even though my pigskin favorite will always be the hapless Indiana Hoosiers. Soccer favs are the MLS Portland Timbers and Indiana University, while my vote for college baseball goes to the Oregon State Beavers. College basketball is hands down Indiana, as well. I do enjoy sports of all kinds and genders, but do not have as strong of allegiances. I also know the teams and players I hate in any given league – but this is all about favorites. 

I still have fond memories of watching a White Sox playoff game back in 1983 from a motel room in Indianapolis. I was down there from Ft. Wayne on an overnight business trip and played hooky for the afternoon game. It was players like LaMarr Hoyt, Floyd Bannister, Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, and Ron Kittle, as I check the memory banks of Wikipedia. Tony LaRussa was the coach of this team that won their division and made it to the American League Championship, losing to the Orioles after winning the first game of a series of five. The Orioles went on to win the World Series. It was the first time the Sox were in the postseason since the 1959 World Series, featuring for me a home run by Sherm Lollar. They wore the patriotic uniforms with SOX in block letters on a blue stripe, trimmed in red, across the chest. They’ve brought them out on several occasions this year – one of my least favorite looks!

2008 was the last White Sox postseason win, falling 3 games to 1 against the Rays in the opening series. They did win the division that year. The team featured Ozzie Guillen, Jermaine Dye, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, John Danks, and Mark Buehrle, along with Manager Ozzie Guillen. The Sox were eliminated on the day I started work in Austin, Texas, one of my least favorite jobs. 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Sherm Lives-On #1439

I got a surprise e-mail the other day and was pleased to find out that there are people who take the time to read what I write. There are indeed rewards to my ramblings other than just personal therapy.

I came across your blog earlier today and wanted to drop you a note. Sherm Lollar was my grandfather. Much like you, I never met him but he’s a hero of mine. Guess I just want to say thanks for your kind words. And I need to know more about your Sherm Lollar t-shirt.”

When I first began writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame regarding John Sherman Lollar, (See Post #5), I reached out to one of his sons through Messenger. Kevin was a career writer, so I felt he should review my first draft, offering some great suggestions. I was relieved that he didn’t write me off as some star-struck baseball lunatic.

Kevin is my uncle. I forwarded your blog links to my dad as well. He loved your ‘Ode to Sherm’ (See Post #1189).   I look forward to seeing pics of your memorabilia.”

Several years have now passed and I’ve written several tributes to my baseball hero as a component of my daily diary that covers running, sports, adoption, retirement, travel, poetry, and pets. It’s an important part of my retirement routine that anymore keeps me sane in these pandemic times.

It’s crazy how a person I’ve never met has become such a personal influence. The closest I’ve ever gotten to him was a seat at Comiskey Park, where I watched several White Sox games as a child. His #10 was barely visible from the cheap seats, let alone his face.  His was the first card I usually searched for in a fresh pack of Topps cards. His jersey digits became mine in any sport I poorly played, and continues to be my lucky number.

I get daily memorabilia notifications from E-Bay and auction houses on items pertaining to Sherm’s career. I buy what I can afford and keep a scrapbook of his cards, photos, and accomplishments. I’m glad to have a contact with his family because my collection will mean little to my heirs.

It’s doubtful that Sherm will ever become a Hall-of-Famer, although the White Sox organization has honored him as one of their greatest. There are too many catchers that have been slighted by the Cooperstown committees that don’t seem to recognize defensive and leadership achievements. He was one of the best defenders in the game and a skilled field general. I would challenge modern-day players to be as effective using the cumbersome, heavy gear he was forced to wear, and the poorly padded mitt designs of yesteryear. Sherm indeed lives-on in my office and in the hearts of his family. 

                                      

 

Old Sport Shorts: Lollar 10 #1419

A friend sent me an early birthday present. It’s a custom mug made from a hollowed-out baseball bat and engraved, “Michael L Johnston #1 fan of John Sherman ‘Sherm’ Lollar, Jr.” It also has the Sox logo on the barrel. It’s made by Dugout Mugs, a division of the Thompson Mug Company. I don’t know if I’m Sherm’s biggest fan, especially since he still has family, but I continue to recognize his achievements when most people have forgotten. 

I have a substantial collection of his memorabilia, including a 1955 game-worn jersey, catcher’s mask, cups, glassware, pins, postcards, ball, newspaper clippings, press photos, autographs, and baseball cards. Until somebody proves me wrong, I will continue to boast of the largest collection in the world. The new mug and “Sherm Freakin’ Lollar” t-shirt that I occasionally wear make my collection unique. I’ve also written a letter to the Hall of Fame committee on his behalf. 

August 23rd would have been Sherm’s 96th birthday. He died at age 53. Sherm Lollar was behind the plate for 18 seasons with four different teams – Indians, Yankees, Browns, and White Sox. He was a member of the “Go-Go Sox” who played in the 1959 World Series. I became a fan as a young boy of eight, watching him hit a home run against the Dodgers on black & white TV. His number 10 became my lucky number. When I joined a baseball card club here in Portland about 5-years ago, the other members asked me what I wanted to collect. I said I would start by getting any items associated with Sherm Lollar. At least, it was an affordable hobby, unlike the pricey Mickey Mantle cards. I’m now known in those circles as the “Sherm Guy.” (See Post #1328).

Sherm was apparently a quiet, humble man. We shared big ears and little else. I never got to meet him, but saw him play many times in Chicago throughout the years. He always seemed to be upstaged by Berra from the minute that Yogi replaced him in the Yankee’s starting line-up back in 194 7. His on-base percentage was actually better than Yogi’s, and he was a much better defensive back-stop, but cavernous Comiskey Park where Lollar spent most of his career was not designed with hitters in mind, unlike the Yankee right field porch that favored the lefty Berra. Sherm earned 7 All-Star selections and was the first catcher to receive a Golden Glove. His lifetime .9921 fielding percentage is ranked 60th all-time for catchers, but he played more games with a primitive equipment handicap than anyone else on the list. I have some of that gear in my collection and it amazes me that he could maintain that level of play with little padding, a smaller mitt, and bulky, heavy body protection.

Sherm Lollar’s playing career ended with a fractured thumb in 1963. I have a ticket stub from that game on September 7th. He went on to coach for the World Champion Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, plus managed the Iowa Oaks and Tucson Toro’s before retirement. He earned two World Series rings in the process. I maintain a scrapbook of his career, along with other White Sox greats. Lollar is buried in Rivermonte Memorial Gardens in Springfield, Missouri. Happy Birthday – Sherm!

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