Mitchell Page R.I.P. (1951-2011)

pageSame old song…
Just a drop of water in an endless sea…
All we do,
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see


One day in 2002, I was checking out the Oaks Card Room in Emeryville, Ca. (Named after the Oakland Oaks of the old Pacific Coast baseball league) This is a unspectacular place in an even more unspectacular neighborhood. It’s a card club that’s open 24 hours and is characterized with a lot of sketchy derelicts , thugs, degenerate gamblers and damn-near homeless geezers throwing away their retirement funds. This is the type of place where employees have been mugged early in the morning by broke losers who are angry enough to pull a knife on you. At night, people have been shot by patrons who lost money and want more. Their unofficial slogan should be: Don’t walk in to play cards and end up going home with crabs!

The Oaks Card Room is the last place you would expect to see someone who played with the A’s from 77–83 and had acquired the nickname “Swingin’ Rage;” when in walks Mitchell Most of the folks knew who he was, as they were all A’s fans. He eventually ended up playing stud poker at the table I was at. The dealer was a big fan of his, and when Paige sat down the dealer blurted out “Mitchell Page!” Page proceeded to win a big pot and busted some monstrous looking Hells Angel who left in a pissed off state. When Page racked in his chips he looked around at everyone at the table and said, “I don’t need the money.” I bought Page a 7 and 7, (this was before he checked into an alcohol treatment facility in 2004) and talked to him a bit about his days playing with the A’s and his beef with Charlie Finley. I had to leave, and after shaking his hand he gave me a bit of advice about the joint next time I came back:

“Dont try to beat the 1-2 – you have to get lucky to win.  Almost every hand will go to the river and most of the table will stay in on their draws despite your raises and the probabilites of their hands hitting.  Focus on 6-12 or 100 max for making money and 1-2 if you have time to kill.  Good Luck and don’t play 2-7.” And with that, that was the first and last time I ever saw the man. R.I.P.

“Mudcat” Grant

My girlfriend and I made a trip the Pasadena library in 2012 to honor a couple of ex- major leaguers who were to be inducted into the Baseball Reliquary hall of fame…..Jim “Mudcat” Grant and Luis Tiant.  Grant and Tiant had just been elected to the Shrine of the Eternals by the Baseball Reliquary. The Shrine, based in Southern California, serves as a kind of alternative Hall of Fame, with criteria predicated as much on a candidate’s place in social and cultural history as on what he does on the field.

 Rollie Fingers famously said he had learned how to become a reliever thanks to “Mudcat.” “I learned how to become a reliever from Grant,” Fingers told a reporter for Baseball magazine many years later. Fingers watched Mudcat attack opposing hitters by mixing his pitches, rather than relying on one dominant pitch. Fingers also observed the different ways that Grant warmed up in the bullpen, depending on the game situation and the inning.

To his discredit, owner Charles Finley did not value Grant’s influence on Fingers, nor his ability to pick up outs in the late innings. So in a cost-cutting maneuver that smacked of his tendency toward cheapness, he released Grant. “Mudcat” later signed with the Indians, his original organization, and agreed to pitch at Triple-A in hopes of returning to the big leagues. But the promotion never came, and Grant called it quits after the 1972 season.

I approached Grant and asked him for a couple autographs. He was kind and seemed genuinely humbled by his induction into a Hall of Fame that would receive little or no attention. I felt awful that he had to endure racism and an altercation with his bullpen coach in Cleveland because of it.  I also felt elation that I was receiving an autograph from a great MAN instead of someone who could just simply throw a ball hard or hit a ball far. One of my favorite baseball cards of all time had new meaning to me.