A 'green' day in baseball

A 'green' day in baseball

In less than three weeks, Khalil Greene will start at shortstop for the defending National League West champion Padres against the Giants at PETCO Park. Shawn Green will lead the Diamondbacks into Colorado's Coors Field that same day. Another Opening Day will be upon us.

Before that, though, fans had a chance to enjoy another St. Patrick's Day, a chance to celebrate all things green, the primary color in the game of baseball:

Hank Greenberg. Baseball's greatest of green genes, he hit 331 home runs in a career that included a three-year World War II hiatus, spending all but the final season with the Detroit Tigers. Greenberg hit 58 homers in 1938 and is the only player ever to reach 100 RBIs by the All-Star break. His power and glove at first base (later outfield) made him a Hall of Famer in 1956.

It's Scott Podsednik's game-worn, autographed Half-Way to St. Patrick's Day jersey that he styled on Sept. 9, 2005. You can bid on that at the MLB.com Auction, and proceeds go to Chicago White Sox Charities.

Jeff Francoeur. Brian McCann. Adam LaRoche. Jorge Sosa. All those "Baby Braves" who are now the future in Atlanta -- they came up through Greenville, S.C., then home of the Double-A Braves of the Southern League. It's where Grady Little learned to manage. It's where Shoeless Joe Jackson used to live. The Braves relocated to Mississippi for the 2005 season, but that town of Greenville now is the Sally League home for the Red Sox organization, and you also can find Minor League Baseball with the Greeneville (Tenn.) Astros and Greensboro (N.C.) Grasshoppers.

Another Greenville, this one in Texas: A nearby farm is where White Sox pitcher Monty Stratton was hunting rabbits after the 1938 season. His gun accidentally went off and cost him a leg, yet he came back with a wooden leg, took the mound in a charity game sponsored by the Sox in 1939, and in 1946 won 18 games in the Minors. His heartwarming story was made into a fictionalized 1949 film starring Jimmy Stewart: "The Monty Stratton Story." Still one of the greatest baseball movies ever made. Stratton died of cancer in Greenville in 1983 at the age of 70.

Wally the Green Monster. Named for a landmark in Boston that is ready for its 60th season as the slap-happy sentinel of Fenway Park. In his 1990 autobiography, "Yaz: Baseball, The Wall, and Me," left-field legend Carl Yastrzemski documented his adventures with the Green Monster and the civilized relationship they developed:

"The first 25 feet or so was concrete. It got interesting from there. Then you came up to the tin part. Then it had steel girders behind it, rivets that were holding the tin in, two-by-fours. This was crazy. If someone was trying to drive a left fielder nuts, this was just the way to do it. You had to make a decision as soon as that ball hit in the rivet area if you were going to move to your right or your left, but you had to take into account if the batter who hit it was right-handed or left-handed. Whichever batter hit the Wall, it would bounce differently off the rivets -- sharply -- one way or the other. Then you also had to make a decision as soon as the ball was hit whether it would hit the cement or go above it to the tin. If it hit the cement, you had to back up from the Wall because it would come back hard. If you thought it was going to hit the tin, you had to come in close, maybe up to the dirt track, because it would come straight down. Also, you had to wonder whether it was going to hit a two-by-four, or a steel girder behind the tin. If it did, it would carom over your head. So you'd run back to the warning track, then follow the flight of the ball again to determine whether it was going to hit the two-by-fours or just the tin and drop."

In 1976 -- just months after Carlton Fisk's World Series Game 6 shot had cleared it -- the wall was given a fiberglass covering that provided true bounces. In his book, Yaz took the purist's view of that change: "I hated that," he wrote, "because so much of the Red Sox tradition involves the Wall. . . . It's practically playable." Another important change would follow much later: Seats on top of the Green Monster.

It's those green eyes of the two men who occupy the left side of the starting infield for the New York Yankees.

Where do you go to learn how to use wood bats in professional baseball? A place like Eugene, Ore. -- home of the Emeralds in the short-season Class A Northwest League.

Dallas Green, back for his sixth consecutive season as special advisor to the general manager with the Philadelphia Phillies, the club he managed to its only world championship in 1980. And one particularly wonderful third baseman who played for him, remembered now with a Mounted Memories Philadelphia Phillies Mike Schmidt Autographed Green Jersey. It's right there in the MLB.com Shop, with the Hall of Fame slugger's signature on the front in silver ink.

You would be amazed how many things you can find there if you search for the word "Green" at the Shop, and here are the results. Included is a Majestic Athletic Tampa Bay Devil Rays Youth Custom T-Shirt, which seems appropriate considering the brighter future that so many people now expect to see around Tropicana Park. Just ask Nick Green, one of their infielders.

The Devil Rays aren't the only ones with green in their 2006 uniform color scheme. Others who will wear varying shades of green this season will include the A's, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Marlins. No team has showcased the color green more resplendently than Oakland, making one harken back to the days of Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando on Charlie Finley's dynasty that won titles from 1972-74.

On this special day, all sartorial rules are made to be broken. Look for the usual breakout of St. Patrick's Day Jerseys across the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. With matching green caps.

There is plenty of green on the most colorful Web page in sports. It's one of the colors that Mexico proudly wore in knocking Team USA out of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, and it's one of the colors in the tournament logo itself. South Africa wore the color for a while, and it's in the flag of a team from Italy that graced the event as well.

Greenfly: A baseball colloquialism derived from insects that swarm around livestock, a derogatory reference by baseball people toward over-zealous media types. Example: "That writer was greenflyin' me the whole series."

It's the green peppers on top of a pizza from Little Caesars, the company owned by Michael Ilitch -- owner of the Detroit Tigers since 1992.

It's the Sporting Green that readers of the San Francisco Chronicle have turned to for Giants and A's news for decades and decades. The Chronicle named it that in 1921, after finding out that the Examiner, then the dominant morning paper in San Francisco, was about to introduce the "Peach" as the name of its new sports section. Ty Cobb's fame was so widespread at the time that the "Georgia Peach" was about to be honored in that way, but the Chronicle's idea for one-upsmanship was to print its sports section on green paper. In 1987, the green paper disappeared (to much dismay), but the name "Sporting Green" remains a staple on that sports section.

Green is everywhere you look around baseball. It is the beautiful color that unfolds before your eyes as you walk from the stadium concourse through the opening to the grandstands. It is 30 Major League Baseball fields, just waiting for players like Khalil Greene and Shawn Green to return to their homes for the summer.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.