Sure enough it rained all afternoon and the Phils-Orioles were canceled at Bright House. The nasty forecast panned out preventing only the hardiest of stir-crazy spring breakers from venturing onto the beach, which looked more like a lunar surface than the pristine white sands that normally attract tourists here. Even though both teams have the day off tomorrow, there will be no makeup game. That’s the way it goes in Spring Training. Just like both clubs can agree to end in a tie after 9 innings, which never occurs during the regular season, both teams can agree not to make up a rained out game. Nah … we’re looking forward to our day off … let’s just skip it.
No problem — I’ll be back in Jersey with an interlude for a wedding tomorrow night in Brooklyn anyway. This way we’ll roll over the tickets to next year. It did give me a chance to linger in the Barnes & Noble off Route 19 today and browse a new baseball suspense thriller by T.T. Monday, The Setup Man. T.T. is a delightful writer, though that’s not his real name – neither the T.T. nor the Monday. It’s a pseudonym for Nick Taylor, and he explains why in this revealing blog. The book’s narrator is Johnny Adcock, the name calling to mind Joe Adcock – a player for the Milwaukee braves in the ’50s who used to kill the Philadelphia Phillies.
The murder opening this novel is of a different variety, and the victim is Frankie Herrera. Nick, aka T.T., apparently didn’t realize that Frank Herrera was a ballplayer who played in the same era as Joe Adcock. Frank’s full name was Juan Francisco “Pancho” Herrera Willavicencio. In the 1950s it was common for Latino players to experiment with anglicizing their first names, and much like Roberto Clemente briefly became Bob, Francisco became Frank. He ultimately reverted to Pancho, displaying prodigious power but also prodigious strikeouts and a questionable glove as a first baseman. He only lasted a couple of years for the Phils, so T.T. gets a free pass for presumably violating a rule for the drafting of fictitious names – Rule 5, I believe.
All this came to mind today on a day off, reading a short piece on the Phillies website about about how the road to the major leagues is filled with adversity. After being drafted in the 30th round by the Phils in ’07, Jacob Tanner Diekman flubbed his debutante ball in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. That’s putting it mildly. By his own admission, he was awful. As rarely but occasionally happens, the Phillies gave Jake another shot at the AFL in 2011 and he shined. Still it wasn’t until his showing last Spring Training that the Phillies were comfortable enough giving him a shot in the major league bullpen. The path to the bigs can be a mystery that writes its own narrative, its chapters unclear until the book is finally closed.