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September 16th, 2009
11:29 AM ET

Thank you to a Hall of Fame voice

Paul Caron
CNN

How do you say good-bye to a broadcasting legend, who had impacted millions for almost 50 years? Over 41,000 people made up baseball fans, current and ex-players, coaches and other officials will probably have a collective cry together tonight, at Detroit’s Comerica Park, when the Detroit Tigers will honor baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who announced recently he has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

Like many native Detroiters, Ernie Harwell was the voice I grew up with listening to Tiger baseball games on the radio, for decades. Not only was he on my own radio, but anywhere you went at times, you heard him. He was on radios playing at the beach, on a radio on your neighbor’s front porch, or on a car radio during a road trip. His voice was of course smuggled under the bed sheets at night, for those late starting West Coast games, via my transistor radio.

And his voice would be heard from beyond your neighborhood. For most of those years, the Tiger’s flagship radio station was WJR-AM, that had a 50,000 watt clear-channel signal, that could be picked up in the evening as far as St. Louis in one direction, north Florida in another direction, and as far away as Bermuda. Tiger fans could always get their ‘fix” almost anywhere, and it was Ernie’s voice behind that.

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Filed under: Paul Caron • Pop Culture
September 1st, 2009
10:30 AM ET

It’s time for Little League Baseball to ban the curveball

Paul Caron
CNN Producer

The Little League World Series is over and one thing, if you watched, you saw more than a dozen times a game: a Little League pitcher baffling a hitter with a curve ball, with no idea the damage he could be doing to his arm and his baseball future.

For the past several seasons, sports medicine researchers at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta have tracked every single pitch of the televised Little League World Series (LLWS) games. They found that the use of the curve ball goes up every year, and so do the number of youth pitcher arm injuries.

A few years ago, I attended a coach’s clinic put on by Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Braves. The Braves’ team doctor was there, as well as the best known arm surgeon to athletes – Dr. James Andrews – from Birmingham, Alabama.  The evidence they laid out was clear: more curve balls were thrown every year, year by year, in the LLWS.  And the number of arm surgeries needed for youth pitchers went up along with that (although no one has tracked how specific LLWS pitchers fared after their Little League pitching days).

In a recent New York Times Magazine story, Dr. Andrews described an "epidemic" of arm and shoulder injuries to young ballplayers.  Andrews says in 2001 and 2002 he performed a total of just 13 shoulder operations on teenagers. Between 2003 and 2008, he did 241.

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April 14th, 2009
01:20 PM ET

For Motown, The Bird was the word

Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych #20 of the Detroit Tigers prepares to pitch to the Minnesota Twins during a regular season game on June 20, 1976 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych #20 of the Detroit Tigers prepares to pitch to the Minnesota Twins during a regular season game on June 20, 1976 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Paul Caron
CNN Producer

There was another time in Detroit history when a bailout was needed. In the mid-1970s, the Big 3 American automakers were humming along in a heyday never to be seen by them again, but the Motor City’s baseball team was old and stinky.

In 1975, they were the worst team in baseball, with 102 losses and a roster filled with many players well past their prime. But along came Mark Fidrych, a 21-year-old goofball lanky kid with a heavy Massachusetts accent, who won over a city in just a few months. And uncommon back then, the athlete morphed into a celebrity, for one brief, albeit magical season.

He made the Tiger regular season roster after only two seasons drafted out of high school, not projected to be much of an impact player immediately. He was making the major league minimum salary at the time, $16,500, probably a player’s weekly per diem these days. One of his minor league coaches called him “The Bird,” as his blond curly locks that protruded from his baseball hat looked a little like the coat of Sesame Street’s “Big Bird.”

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