Lawrence Richards, Writer-Producer
Mr. Richards conceived, wrote and produced, the feature-length documentary, “When Comedy Went to School”, distributed theatrically world-wide. He recently co-produced another doc, “In Search of Francis of Assisi”, scheduled for release 2nd Quarter, 2016. In the summer of 2015, he joined the production team of “Alive 55+ and Kicking”, a new musical recently featured on “60 Minutes”, re-opening April, 2016 in Manhattan. Richards produced “The Man Who Would Not Die”, an action-adventure feature film, which played in theaters domestically and internationally. It later aired on ABC-TV as a Movie-of-the-Week. In theater he produced the drama, “A Question of Loyalty” Off-Broadway. He also wrote the libretto for “Valadon”, an original musical. He served as Account Executive for Oovision, writing and producing video commercials for corporations in the Tri-State area. In Radio, he wrote and produced, “Empowered Learning”, a one-hour live weekly program, broadcast along the Atlantic Seaboard. He’s written numerous magazine articles and essays and is a frequent contributor to The National Pastime Museum as a baseball historian. Richards is a member of The Writer’s Guild, The Player’s Club, and a Dramatist Guild associate. He’s served as a judge on several Emmy Award Blue Ribbon Panels.
Mickey Cochrane’s final at-bat was on May 25, 1937. He hit a home run. That landmark ending concluded a glorious career as a catcher; a singular triumph as player-manager. His baseball tenure was characterized by myriad accomplishments as well as periods of deep depression and physical hardships. He was a man of intense emotional swings, yet regardless of his mental state, he remained an inspirational leader for teammates, a hero and a role model for millions during the Great Depression.
I always thought “Pee Wee” referred to Reese’s stature. Not so. A “pee wee” is a small marble, a nickname bestowed when Reese was marbles champion of his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. At the same time, it came to my attention that scooter, as in Honda, wasn’t the basis for Phil Rizzuto’s moniker. It had to do with range—“scoot” around the field. Before this essay was completed, I came to learn much more, all of which increased my admiration for both shortstops.
Allegedly, Union officer Abner Doubleday pulled the cannon lanyard, the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, which started the Civil War. Not that it isn’t noteworthy, but in reality, that’s his only first anything. His anointment as “The Father of Baseball”—still given in some isolated quarters—is fantasy, not even close to being in the ballpark.
In his baseball career spanning almost 50 years, Leo Durocher didn’t always walk the walk, but there isn’t a scintilla of doubt that he could talk the talk. A small, slick-fielding shortstop, he broke in with the Yankees in 1925 for two at-bats and a cup of coffee. He spent the next few years in the minors before joining Murderers Row in 1928. His fiery personality, scrappy play, and benchjockeying prowess compensated for his light hitting.
When I got the green light to write this essay, I immediately began researching. Given his status, excellence, and tenure, I was surprised to find that a biography of Bill Dickey had never been written. Happily, I came across Pinstripe Empire, which contained important information about him, written by Marty Appel—a fine writer and TNPM colleague.
When fans today think about Aloisius Szymanski, which is probably never, an oxymoron comes to mind: underrated greatness. Tired of his name being brutalized by announcers, players, and just about everyone while playing for a minor league team, he saw a billboard advertising Simmons Hardware. Szymanski became Simmons. Far easier to pronounce by any criteria, but name-change notwithstanding, Al Simmons is still relatively forgotten. His manager, Connie Mack, said, “I wish I had nine players named Al Simmons.” I bet Mack was happy with the new name.
On November 27, 2012, a New York Times article was headed, “Marvin Miller, Union Leader Who Changed Baseball, Dies at 95.” A respectful, notable headline by all means, but considering Miller’s transcending influence, not only on baseball, but on all professional sports, it was somewhat tepid. A few other views:
“Marvin Miller is as important in the history of baseball as Jackie Robinson.” —Hank Aaron
Everything about Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis embodied the designation “Squire,” the nickname his siblings bestowed upon him as a boy. Even then he was pompous, starchy, and austere. The future commissioner of baseball had a foreboding countenance, not unlike the look and demeanor of the prototype “Hollywood hanging Judge.” He had epic eye-bags and a perpetual scowl. Journalist John Reed wrote, “He looked like Andrew Jackson . . . three years dead.”