Tag Archives: Baseball History

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kirby puckett

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 scott@thebaseballexperience.com. You can post in the comments below, or you can like us on Facebook. Don’t forget to follow Scott on twitter @scotteiland!

Kirby Puckett’s Baseball Reference Page


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rogershornsby

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…)


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billy williams

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.

“Phin”

Casey at the Bat

(“Phin is Ernest Thayer, the Harvard-educated “One-poem poet” who crafted that beautiful read.
Email us at scott@thebaseballexperience.com. My twitter is @scotteiland

Billy Williams career stats


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Roger Maris
I was PLANNING on breaking down both Maris and the player to whom he will forever be tied to, Mark McGwire, today. However, the amount of content available for both players is so vast I decided to make two episodes. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the Hall of Fame case of Yankees, Athletics, and Cardinals outfielder Roger Maris.

Roger Maris’s reasons he SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame

-One of only three two-time MVP winners to not make the Hall of Fame (Barry Bonds and Dale Murphy are the others)

-He hit 61 home runs in 1961, breaking a record many said would never be broken.

-He hit his 275 career homers before the advent of steroids. His 61 home run season is also apparently blameless.

-In his short career, he participated in seven World Series

-He was considered the best corner outfielder in the game during his prime

Roger Maris’s detractors will point to the following:

-Career batting average of .260, the lowest of any Hall Of Fame outfielder.

-Only twelve seasons of major league service, plus only four years where he played more than 140 games.

-Without 1961, there’s no way he’d be featured on this podcast.

I really thought that, after looking at the data, I would look at the back-to-back MVP seasons, plus the single-season home run record (under tremendous media scrutiny, death threats, and a frustratingly antagonistic New York fan base that revered Babe Ruth but treated Maris like a carpetbagger)

The case is much more difficult than I expected it to be. On one hand, the 61* movie by Billy Crystal colored my judgment and made me believe that Maris was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Sabermatrician Rob Neyer wrote last year that Maris isn’t a Hall of Famer. and it isn’t close. The question, of course, is what is MY verdict? Tune into the episode to find out. You might want to revisit Bill Simmons’ mythical five-level Hall of Fame as you listen to the show.
Links:
The 1961 Major League Expansion Draft
Why Isn’t Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame (Moran)
Neyer: Nope, Roger Maris Isn’t a Hall of Famer
61*


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musial
One of the top ten players in baseball history passed away over the weekend, as Stan “The Man” Musial died Saturday at the age of 92. The hero to millions of baseball fans west of the Mississippi River in the era before the “Western Expansion” (when the Giants and Dodgers moved from New York to California), Musial was the St. Louis Cardinals’ stalwart left fielder for 23 glittering seasons. He was the key player on four pennant winning clubs and the best player on the team for all 23 years he played – from his rookie season in 1941 until he finally retired at age 42 in 1963. Musial captured the imagination of a generation of baseball fans, many of whom listened to Harry Caray describe the action.

My own father was a huge Stan Musial as an adolescent; the Houston Astros weren’t founded until 1962, so the Cardinals were the closest team and Dad’s rooting interest. Musial was a hero to millions of boys in my father’s era, and his numbers certainly back up his first ballot hall of fame status. Read ’em and weep:

3630 hits (the most ever in the National League until Pete Rose broke the record in 1981.)
Seven batting titles
Three MVP Awards
725 doubles (3rd all time)
6134 total bases (2nd all time)
1951 RBI (6th all time)
123 Wins Above Replacement (9th all time)
1949 runs scored

In the last segment, I make the case that Marvin Miller deserves to be in baseball’s Hall of Fame, and it’s a perplexing tragedy that he’s not in the Hall today. Miller, a former economist for the United Steel Workers, became the executive director of the Major League Player’s Association from 1966-1982. Largely because of his leadership in helping players gain free agency and

Dave Schoenfeld says that Musial may have been the best left fielder of all time
Stan Musial’s Baseball-Reference page
Bill Simmons Hall Of Fame Pyramid Scheme
Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame