Category Archives: Baseball
Most baseball writers believe that Jack Morris will be elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014, his final year of eligibility. Despite his lifetime 3.90 earned run average and otherwise pedestrian numbers (he does have 254 wins, but that’s more a function of his run support and rubber-armed ability to pitch deep into ballgames.). Stieb’s numbers, when you strip away circumstances beyond his control, are arguably superior to Morris’s, but there is no ground swell of support for his Hall of Fame induction. In his only year of eligibility (2004) Stieb only garnered 1.7% of the vote. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Is HE, not Jack Morris, the best pitcher of the 1980s? Have a listen and make a judgment call!
Dave Stieb: Baseball Reference
Mopupduty: The Stieb-Morris Debate
Dave Stieb Squeezed out of a perfect game?
HuffPo: The Ryan Braun Suspension Timeline
Darryl Kile may not be a Hall of Famer, but I will never forget him.
He was never considered the best pitcher in baseball, but he was very good, and was emblematic of the rise of the Astros in the 1990s. Drafted in the 30th round of the same draft that included Craig Biggio, Kile was called up to the Show in 1991 and went on to be a very good cog in the Astros machine in the early-to-mid 1990s. On September 8, 1993, he pitched a no-hitter against the hapless New York Mets. (an interesting side note – the lineup of that 1993 team that no-hit the Mets included Biggio, Steve Finley, Luis Gonzalez, and Jeff Bagwell. It also included whiff machine/power threat Eric Anthony, who would go on to be traded to the Seattle Mariners for a pitcher named Mike Hampton. As much as I complain about Astros trades, that one was a good one for the rainbow warriors.
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Don Sutton looks, at first blush, like a no-doubt Baseball Hall of Famer. He won 324 games, struck out 3574 batters, and compiled 58 shutouts in his career. He never missed a start and, had the 1981 player’s strike not happened, would have pitched over 200 innings in 21 consecutive seasons. He NEVER missed a start. He struck out 207 batters as a rookie in 1966, and was a model of consistency that the Baseball Writers Association of America elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 with 82 percent of the vote.
So why the controversy?
He was very, very good for a very long time, but rarely considered the best pitcher in baseball. He was an all star four times, and in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting five times, but never the winner or runner-up. He pitched in the Era of the Pitcher, also known as the “Second Dead Ball Era,” so while the numbers he posted seem outstanding, he was only 120th all time in Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement. He was very good. Was he good enough for the Hall? Listen to find out.
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Scott discusses the Hall of Fame case of Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett (1960-2006). Puckett was the face of the Twins franchise during the mid eighties and early nineties, coinciding with the Twins World Series titles in 1987 and 1991 (both World Series rings, not coincidentally, were won in seven game series in which the Twins had home-field (or is it home-warehouse) advantage. Puckett became a more controversial figure after his 2001 Hall of Fame induction (elected with 82 percent of the vote), with allegations of physical and emotional spousal abuse and one allegation of sexual assault and false imprisonment sullied his then-sterling reputation.
What, then, to make of Kirby Puckett’s case for the Hall of Fame? Should he be in? Answer the poll below! For Scott’s take, download the episode. You can email feedback to email@example.com. You can post in the comments below, or you can like us on Facebook. Don’t forget to follow Scott on twitter @scotteiland!
Recently, there have been several incidents of questionable umpiring. Between Bo Porter taking a pitcher out of a game before he faced a batter and Angel Hernandez’s willful blindness disallowing a home run, the pundits in the baseball media have been discussing how to handle bad umpiring. In the Bo Porter/Astros case, the protest was rescinded after the Angels came back to beat them after Porter’s allowed illegal maneuver. This upset me, because I would have enjoyed the eventual resumption of the game after Commissioner Bud Selig (who, according to many Houstonians, has a history of hurting the team) upheld the protest. It also got me thinking about past protests, and the famous one involving FOUR Hall of Famers (George Brett, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Dave Winfield, and Gaylord Perry) from July 24, 1983.
Listen to the show for a breakdown of the 1983 Yankees, the strange place the franchise was in, and how the game affected the 1983 pennant chase. When you’re done, go to iTunes and review the show! Got a deeply-held grievance or comment? Leave it below or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
It’s May 9, and fans of the Astros, Blue Jays, Marlins, Padres, and others are despairing. Their teams are off to terrible starts, and in some cases it’s hard to find hope.
That’s where the St. Louis Browns come in.
The Browns (1902-1951) hold the distinction of being the worst franchise in Major League Baseball history, a team so full of failure that the only time they won a pennant (1944) it occurred when most of baseball’s best stars were fighting World War II. So pathetic were they that a midget was signed as a publicity stunt (in 1951), they employed a one-armed outfielder named Pete Gray (1945), and finished with a winning record so infrequently it’s amazing they actually DREW WELL initially. They moved to St. Louis from Milwaukee in 1902 (they were the American League’s original Milwaukee Brewers) and stayed there until 1951 before slinking off to Baltimore to become the Orioles. They were such an embarrassment that the new Orioles have erased virtually every bit of evidence of their St. Louis past, with the notable exception of retaining the same color scheme.
Notably, the Browns tried to fix the 1910 American League batting title for Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie, orchestrating the infield so that Lajoie could get five bunt hits in six times at bat. When Lajoie reached on an error in the sixth at bat, the manager and another coach tried to bribe the official scorer to give Lajoie another hit. When AL President Ban Johnson found out about the way the Browns tried to fix the batting championship, he ordered the Browns’ ownership to fire both men, informally banning both of them from baseball for life.
Check out the baseball E-Cyclopedia on the Browns and check out their logos therein.
I discuss George Sisler‘s career and note the difference between baseball’s first “Dead Ball Era” (1901-1920) and the lively-ball era that followed, showing the difference in Sisler’s offense numbers.
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Rogers Hornsby (1896-1963) is one of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball. Thanks to Babe Ruth (who was the player who saved baseball after the destructive Black Sox Scandal) and Ty Cobb (another contemporary who is the only player to finish his career with a higher composite batting average), Hornsby is one of those players well known only to baseball junkies and historians. The brash, opinionated Texan was the best hitter in the 1920s not named Ruth or Cobb, and for a six year stretch (1920-1925) was absolutely unbelievable. He led the National League in batting in each one of those years, with averages of .370, .397, .401, .384, .424(!), and .403, an unheard-of run that will never happen again. He was also a power hitter, leading the NL in homers in 1922 with 42 (the second-place guy, Ray Grimes, hit only 21.) He regularly boasted OPS (on base average plus slugging percentage) numbers over 1.000. Because of a steep decline that occurred as the 1920s wore down (Hornsby had his share of injury problems), he finished his careeer with 2930 hits, seventy short of the almighty mark of 3000 hits. (more…)
Billy Williams was one of the best players in the National League in the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s possible many young fans have never heard his name. He was known as “Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams” and “Sweet Swingin Billy from Whistler (Alabama, his hometown)” and was a fixture in Cubs and Athletics lineups from 1959-1976, eighteen full seasons. His numbers were very, very good – Williams was among the league leaders in on base percentage and slugging average, was top five in Most Valuable Player voting twice, won the 1961 Rookie of the Year, and – most impressively – played in 1,117 consecutive games, then a National League record (later broken by Dodgers 1B Steve Garvey). He was steady and productive for most of his 18 seasons, but teams he played for only made it to the postseason once; when Williams was 37, he played for the Oakland Athletics club that faced the “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox juggernaut in the 1975 American League Championship Series (they were swept in three straight games.) I think he’s a Hall of Famer, and I’m surprised it took him six elections to make it (he retired in 1976, and was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. There is a five-year waiting period for most Hall elections.)
Behold, the text of “Casey At the Bat”
The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.
Casey at the Bat
(“Phin is Ernest Thayer, the Harvard-educated “One-poem poet” who crafted that beautiful read.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. My twitter is @scotteiland
Fred Merkle had a long, solid career in the early 20th century, playing primarily for the New York baseball Giants, led by manager John McGraw. A mistake, however, that he allegedly made in his rookie year (1908), unfortunately made his name synonymous with “bonehead” mistakes and baserunning errors.
He probably didn’t deserve the moniker that followed him for the balance of his playing career, but the nickname “Bonehead”. He went on to have a fantastic career, but the chaos surrounding his “mistake” haunted him.
The situation: The Dodgers led the Giants by as many as 14 1/2 games in the summer of 1951, with superlative seasons by Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, and Jackie Robinson leading them to an “insurmountable” lead.
Someone forgot to tell the Giants, who were led by Monte Irvin and Bobby Thomson. They surged after August 10, running off an amazing winning streak to the point where the faltering Dodgers had to beat the Phillies just to tie the Dodgers at 96-58 each at the end of the regular season.
In those days, the American and National Leagues had only eight teams each, and the winners of the respective leagues would then face each other in the World Series; the ALCS and NLCS wouldn’t be invented until 18 years after this game. Under National League rules in 1951, a three-game playoff would decide the pennant winner.
The Giants won Game 1 behind a homer by Bobby Thomson and an excellent pitching performance by Jim Hearn. Brooklyn rebounded to win the second game 10-0 behind four homers by four separate Dodger players. That set up the climactic matchup, which sent Sal Maglie to the mound for the home team Giants to face the Dodgers’ Don Newcombe in front of a huge throng of Giants fans. (more…)