yes, it's St. Patrick's Day, and that actually means something well past the color green here in New York.
and yes, it's the first day (and right now the first thirty minutes) of the NCAA men's basketball tournament (and yes, I know they played two games on Tuesday and two games on Wednesday, but Thursday noon is when you have to have your bracket in) and that actually means a lot inside the walls of my apartment.
and yes, I promised a few days back that I'd write about something over than people dying one day, and one day that will happen.
but . . .
today is the one-year anniversary of the death of Alex Chilton in New Orleans. and less than 48 hours ago the Voice posted my oral history about the upcoming live re-creation of Big Star's Third led by Chris Stamey and Jody Stephens.
and not too long ago I posted links to the Deadspin remembrance of Alex's time in Tuscaloosa and the piece I wrote for the Voice on the night that Alex died.
but the sun's out, and if you're not stuck inside (voluntarily or not) watching basketball or trolling bands who will be making their own sounds in Austin, Texas, it feels like a really good day to do some driving, windows down with some Big Star cranking through the loudspeakers.
it's also time to remember Marty Marion, the National League's Most Valuable Player for 1944 who passed away last night at his home just outside St. Louis, Missouri.
Marty "The Octopus" Marion's entire career orbits the city of St. Louis. he played 11 years, including his MVP season, with the Cardinals, then parts of two seasons with the Browns (pictured above from the beautiful 1953 Bowman series) and served as a player-manager for three of those 13 years.
my great-uncle, Virgil "Fire" Trucks, played for him, alongside Satchel Paige and Don Larsen and Bobo Holloman, on that 1953 Browns team (and soon after the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles, but that connection will be strengthened later).
which how I managed to visit Mr. Marion, a kind and gracious man, in his home just about nine years ago, his MVP Award just over my left shoulder as I talked to him about his life and career.
Marty Marion is not in the Hall of Fame. and for whatever reason (though it absolutely has to everything do with the long-held belief that baseball was "watered down" during the war years) even his MVP Award is discounted by most. but keep in mind that Stan Musial was a teammate in 1944 and batted .347 that year. and whatever sportswriters who saw Marion play in 1944 also saw Musial play that season, but it was Marty Marion who went home with the trophy (more like a platter, actually).
but let's put the MVP aside for a minute, because Marty Marion's contribution to baseball history is much larger than what a platter can hold.
Marty Marion stood 6 feet, 2 inches tall, a comparative giant among shortstops of the 1940s (or '50s or '60s or even '70s), but he displayed great range defensively (remember, he was nicknamed "The Octopus") and proved that yes, you could be a big man and play shortstop.
it is said that Earl Weaver saw Marty Marion play. it is said that watching Marty Marion play shortstop is what gave Earl Weaver the idea to move Cal Ripken, Jr from third base (where he had played his entire minor league career) to shortstop.
Earl Weaver's in the Hall of Fame. Cal Ripken, Jr's in the Hall of Fame. and that experiment, to move a big man, against all conventional baseball wisdom, to shortstop, opened the door for not only Ripken but players like A-Rod and Derek Jeter and Troy Tulowitzki and . . .
it all started with Marty Marion.