Lagniappe and Marse Joe McCarthy

Lagniappe is a word I learned during my graduate school years at Tulane in New Orleans. Spanish in origin, it basically means anything you give to another person as a little something extra. It pretty well conveys the same idea we embrace in English as the “baker’s dozen.” In lagniappe, the reward is in the giving itself. – How’s that for a novel idea?

At any rate, my lagniappe addition today to my usual lagniappe column, anyway, is to point out or try to clarify my transferential association of Astros new first baseman Brett Wallace in physical appearance to a certain comic from yesterday.

Am I wrong, or does Brett Wallace sort of look like a youthful version of Harpo Marx, before his hair turned white with the help of a fright wig? Check out these comparison photos and let us know what you think in the space below. Please.

Brett Wallace

Harpo Marx

Now for a few comments on Marse Joe McCarthy, the manager who capitalized the “D” in Dynasty when he took over the club’s field reins in 1931. Over the next thirteen seasons, the modest, unselfish McCarthy would lead the Bronx Bombers to eight AL pennants, seven World Series titles, and the first run for any team through four World Series championships in a row (1936-39).

How unattached was “Marse Joe,” a racist-sounding nickname for his plantation slavedriver status in the New York Yankee baseball killing fields, – how really attached was McCarthy from his own needs for ego attention during this several season melee?

The answer: plenty. Joe McCarthy didn’t even wear a uniform number on his back.

Joe McCarthy

Lacking the need for personal attention isn’t to be construed as an assessment of Joe McCarthy as an angel. He had some ego needs all right, and they just happened to mesh perfectly with the man who hired him, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert. You see, Joe McCarthy lived to destroy his opponents by as big a run margin as possible. McCarthy would have loved walking around in Astros Manager Brad Mills shoes last night. He loved scores like 18-4 – as long as the heavy first figure favored his Yankees.

It’s no wonder the  world hates the Yankees. Owner Ruppert cared little about close individual game outcomes. He just wanted to know how soon the club was going to clinch the pennant each year. Jake Ruppert hated finishing second and so did Joe McCarthy.

In Talmadge Boston’s excellent work, “1939,” he outlines Yankee manager Joe McCarthy’s Ten Commandments of Baseball:

(1) Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.

(2) You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.

(3) An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.

(4) Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.

(5) When you start to slide, slide. He who changes his mind may have to change a good leg for a bad one.

(6) Do not alibi on bad hops. Anybody can field the good ones.

(7) Always run them out. You never can tell.

(8) Do not quit.

(9) Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.

(10) A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

In spite of his demands for excellence, Joe McCarthy was not a screamer. He believed in giving pats on the back and nurturing the best from his players in his own grandfatherly way. A player simply had to go all out and show signs of excellence to get any long-term support from Joe McCarthy. The player didn’t put out was quickly dumped. When ace reliever Johnny Murphy finally convinced Joe McCarthy that he was concerned more about himself than the Yankees, the club shipped Murphy off to Cleveland.

Most players can have a big league career winning some and losing some. To play for Joe McCarthy, and just about every other New York Yankee club that’s come down the pike ever since, you had to win some and then win some more – just to stick.

Joe McCarthy was one of the strongest early links in the Yankee chain of winning. As a player, you didn’t have to like him. You just had to play on a level you may never previously have realized you had in you to stay on the Yankee roster.

Stay out of the Houston heat today, folks. It literally sucks the life out of you, if you push it too hard.

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8 Responses to “Lagniappe and Marse Joe McCarthy”

  1. David Munger Says:

    The TEN COMMANDMENTS OF BASEBALL should be displayed in every clubhouse starting with T-Ball. Those “Old Timers” would have a stroke
    if they saw some of the player mindsets of today.

    Bill, how in the hell did we play all day in this heat as kids? In my case
    I guess it was a “cleaner” life style than today. How ’bout them ‘stros!!!!!

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      David:

      Your question about how we survived as kids playing every summer day in the killer heat of Houston is one of my favorites. I only have one answer – and it’s the same answer as to how we lived here in houses without a/c back in the day.

      Answer: We didn’t know any better. And we weren’t softies. And, oh yeah, we had attic fans. Remember?

      Bill

  2. bbprof Says:

    Bill:

    Thanks for the new word and some keen insight to Marse Joe. At first I thought you were writing about the Stros’ new Croatian SS. Did not know he didn’t wear a number. Ol’ Brownie Burt Shotton of Dem Bums didn’t either—of course he never wore a uniform while managing.

    And many thanks for the new word–lagniappe. I plan to wrap it and give it to my sesquipedalian daughter for her collection. I hope she doesn’t already have one. BBPROF

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Bill:

      Amazing to hear about your sesquipedalian daughter. There aren’t many people left these days that go everywhere on foot. Does she even bother to maintain a driver’s license?

      Keep smiling and walking straight, unless you hit a dead end. In that case, don’t just stand there. Go left or right – or turn around and go home.

      Bill McCurdy

  3. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Actually, disregarding the Harpo hairstyle, having seen him bat now, he reminds me of a somewhat lighter version of Prince Fielder. I think he’s gonna be a keeper.

    Incidentally, I consider writing this as a lagniappe.

    Mike

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Mike:

      Anything you ever say or write about baseball is always generous lagniappe to the subject at hand.

      I like your Prince Fielder comparison. Let’s just hope that young Brett Wallace can keep his weight down. You really can tell from his body type that weight could be an issue for him in years to come. Here’s another area where the Jeff Bagwell influence may help. Plus, Baggy made the same shift from third to first when he joined the Astros.That’s got to help his status as a role model here.

      Bill McCurdy

  4. Bud Says:

    Bill, the Cardinals might have to do a Groucho imitation for getting rid of Wallace. BK

  5. Oscar S. Says:

    Could it be Harpo’s great grandson or great great grandson?
    What a resemblence!

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