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AUGUST NEW MATERIAL
From my book Remembering the Greatest Coaches and Games of the NFL Glory Years (released Aug. 16, 2018):
Did you know Tom Landry flew many combat missions in WWII? Or did you know that Bud Grant had ties with the Canadian Football League. George Allen allegedly spied on other team’s practices. This book includes exclusive interviews with many greats and Hall of Famers from Raymond Berry to Mel Renfro, Jackie Smith, Mike Ditka, David Robinson, Gins Marchetti, Paul Warfield, and many others so it provides some insights never before revealed. My favorite chapter may well be the one on the Ice Bowl (or maybe on the stunning Super Bowl III upset by the Jets over the Colts).
Did You Know: The most home runs hit in pro baseball was 72 until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001. Now, as a note of opinion, I don’t count any record set by Bonds as being legitimate because I am convinced he was aided by the use of some sort of performance enhancing substance(s). I read somewhere that a doctor said a human being’s head simply does not get larger at the age Bonds was when his head did expand. I almost thought he was beginning to resemble a character from the t.v. show The Flintstones–you know, the spaceman named the Great Gazoo. By the way, I just now read that his voice was done by actor Harvey Korman. To me, Hank Aaron is still the all-time home run king.
If you care to share your point of view on Bonds, please email me at email@example.com
At any rate, the man who formerly held the record for the most homers in a pro season was a man named Joe Baumann. He accomplished that feat in 1954 as a member of the Roswell team of the Longhorn League. The 6′ 5″, 235 pound slugger actually ran a gas station in Roswell at the same time he was playing baseball–clearly it was a different era than today. He played 1,019 minor league games and, in an odd coincidence, hit 337 HR with a .337 batting average.
The year he hit his 72 homers, he also reached base 55% of the time, hit to the tune of .400, drew 150 walks, and posted a sky high slugging percentage of .916. Despite such great stats, he never made it to the majors.
Second Did You Know Item– For those who remember Bill “Moose” Skowron, a fact I just read in a Bill James book: The 5′ 11″, 195 pound first baseman did not get his nickname from his size. His grandfather thought that as a baby Bill looked somewhat like Italian dictator Mussolini, so he called his grandson “Moose” for short and the name stuck.
Greatest NCAA Hoop Stars Ever
From a book that I read– a committee picked the 50 greatest players in NCAA basketball history (see how many you agree with). At the #1 spot was Lew Alcindor, chosen there because he took UCLA to three NCAA titles (back when freshmen couldn’t play Varsity ball). Lew averaged 26.4 ppg and 15.5 rebounds per game over his career.
2. Oscar Robertson–He was chosen the Player of the Year in each of his three seasons at Cincinnati, averaging a lofty 33.8 ppg. and, even though he was a guard, averaged almost as many reb. per game as Alcindor (at 15.2). He is, as of the 2009 copyright date on the book (ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia) one of just three men to turn in a Final Four triple-double performance. Another man to do this was Magic Johnson but the book did not say who the third man to do this was–if you know, maybe you could make a comment on this site (thanks).
3. Bill Russell—Won two NCAA titles and was one of five players to average 20+ points and 20+ rebounds for his entire college career.
4. Bill Walton-was the national P.O.Y. three years and the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player (MOP) twice. He was instrumental in UCLA’s churning out two straight undefeated seasons.
5. Pete Maravich–LSU sensation was the POY in 1970 and he still has a stranglehold on the Division I records for career points, at 3,667, and lifetime scoring average with an unfathomable mark of 44.2 ppg.
6. Jerry West–In 1959 he was the tourney MOP thanks to his 32 ppg. and to his guiding WVU to the national title. He was good for lifetime averages of 24.8 ppg and 13.3 reg–like the Big O, not a bad rebounding average for a guard (and, yes, I realize the game has changed, but those men were, in fact, strong rebounding guards, period). Even in the NBA, the 6′ 2″ West averaged nearly 6 rpg lifetime, and the 6′ 5″ Robertson yanked down 7.5 rpg.
7. Bill Bradley–was voted the top player in the country for the regular season and for the NCAA Tournament in ’65. Lifetime he scored 30.2 ppg and recorded 12.1 rpg. He set a Final Four record, since beaten, when he poured in 58 points one game.
8. David Thompson–POY in 1975 for his dazzling play, often above-the-rim. A year earlier he was the tournament MOP. Averaged 26.8 ppg for his entire stay at N.C. State.
9. Wilt Chamberlain–The 7′ 1″ (and a fraction more) Wilt was the MOP of the tournament back in 1957 when he averaged 30.3 ppg which was just a shade higher than his career average (29.9) at Kansas. In his two seasons there he swept the boards clean of 18.3 rpg.
10. Magic Johnson–Tournament MOP in 1979, and, as mentioned, he was one of the three players to average a triple-double in Final Four action.
If there are any selections you disagree with–if, for example, you can think of someone who deserves to bump someone else off the Top 10 list, please feel free to make a comment.
If you’d like me to list more of the top players with capsule comments for each, please contact me.
JUNE 2018 ITEMS:
I LOVE BASEBALL, BUT . . . According to a recent Baseball Digest story I read, the average game time back in 1950 was 2 hours and 20 minutes and fielders got involved in 60 plays per game– this does not include strike outs or walks which are mainly plays of inactivity. In 2107, games took 3:05 on average to play and only 50 plays per game involved the defense. That means the ball was put in play for the defense to engage with just once every three minutes and 45 seconds (up from two minutes, 20 seconds in ’50). No wonder critics say games go on too long and have too much inactivity.
Walks, and especially strikeouts come so often now that in 2017 the average amount of pitches per game was almost 300 and that set a record. Of course, the more pitches thrown, the more pitches changes will follow–and THAT adds a ton of dead time to the game. Younger fans’ attention spans are not long enough for them, as a rule, to fall in love with the game.
Batters are striking out at alarming clips. Last year, 21.6 of all plate appearances resulted in strikeouts. The BBD article also pointed out that from the beginning of the live-ball era (1920) until 1932, no batter ever fanned 100+ times (Bruce Campbell of the White Sox struck out 104 times). In 1963, the 150 strikeout plateau was reached. In fact, the 175 strikeout plateau was hit when another White Sox player, Dave Nicholson, whiffed that many times. In 2008, Mark Reynolds, then with Arizona, became the first man to top 200 strikeouts. The next season he went down on strikes 223 times, a record through 2017. Going into 2018, six men have struck out 200+ times.
If anyone is interested, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll go into more depth on this subject (single season highs and so on), but isn’t it amazing that nowadays virtual slap hitters whiff 100 or more times each season, and nobody seems to be ashamed about it. Again, I’ll add more on this topic upon request.
Longer TV commercials, instant replay reviews, and interminable time outs (from batters stepping out of the box to pitchers stepping off the rubber and to defensive conferences (limited, but just a bit, in 2018) slow the pace of play like crazy. What fans are getting is less action in games which take much longer than before. And, a cynic might add, at a much higher cost to fans than in earlier days.
Baseball trivia— Did you know that the Hall of Fame pitcher who set a record by notching at least one win over the most straight seasons, 26, is the durable, hard-throwing Nolan Ryan. I read recently that, contrary to what many believe to be true, as a rule pitchers who throw hard have longer careers than others– and that came from Bill James, a true expert on baseball. It sure was true of Ryan who lasted forever in the majors, from 1966-1993 (minus 1967 when he didn’t appear in a single big league game). That’s 27 years in all. He was 46 when he threw his last pitch.
Did you also know that Tom Seaver was the only future Hall of Fame pitcher since 1903 to win 20+ games during a season in which he played for two teams? He went 21-6 in 1977, going 7-3 for the Mets then 14-3 for the Reds. He was swapped for four players: Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman, and Pat Zachry.
- What Hall of Fame pitcher set the record for the most consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins, doing that 12 years in a row?
- This Hall of Famer won more games than any other pitcher who worked in the 1970s. Name him.
- What Hall of Fame pitcher is the only member of the Hall of Fame to win 20+ games in his final year in the majors?
Answers: 1. Christy Mathewson 2. Jim Palmer 3. Sandy Koufax who went 27-6 in 1966 at the age of 27. He led the NL in wins, ERA at 1.77, shutouts (5), complete games with 27, and strikeouts with a staggering total of 317 (the year after he set the all-time record of 382 since broken by Nolan Ryan. In leading the league in ERA, he had won that title five years in a row–what a monopoly of that all-important category!
BONUS QUESTION: Speaking of an ERA monopoly, what AL pitcher had his league’s lowest ERA four years in a row from 1929-1932 and also won that crown in ’26, ’35, ’36, ’38, and ’39!? NINE TITLES IN ALL! Answer after next item.
50 YEARS AGO: GREATEST PITCHING SEASON EVER?
The year was 1968 and Bob Gibson of the Cardinals recorded what was certainly one of the greatest seasons ever turned in by a pitcher. Consider what he accomplished:
** he went 22-9 with a minuscule 1.12 ERA, the third best in the modern era and only topped by two pitchers from the dead ball era (Dutch Leonard in 1914 and Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown in 1906).
** he threw 13 shoutouts over 304 2/3 innings and gave up only 198 hits over that span. He also enjoyed a 15-game win streak at one point that season.
** he struck out 268 and walked only 62 men while racking up 28 complete games (by way of contrast, lately a pitcher can lead his league in this department with about five or six).
** opponents hit a paltry .184 against him as he won the Cy Young Award and the N.L. MVP– doing all this at a salary of $85,000.
** in the World Series, he won two games, worked 27 innings, fanned 35 and posted an ERA of 1.67. In Game #1, he whiffed 17 Detroit Tigers to set a new record as he defeated baseball’s last 30-game winner, Denny McLain (31-6 in ’68). When a reporter asked Gibson if what he had done surprised him, he replied, “I’m never surprised by anything I do.” With a win in his next Series outing, he set another record–most consecutive World Series wins, 7.
Amazingly, he started the season slowly with a record of 3-5 at one point–even though his ERA then was 1.54. Which brings up a quote about his sensational season which went something like this, “I understand how he won 22 games, [but with his stats] what I don’t understand is how he lost nine.” The answer is relatively simple, he went up against other teams’ aces a lot– men like Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, and Fergie Jenkins. He once lost a 1-0 no-hitter versus Gaylord Perry.
Plus, his Cards didn’t score a ton of runs for him. When he was 3-5, his teammates had provided him with four runs over his five losses. For the entire season, the Cardinals gave him an average of just 2.8 runs per game to work with, almost a full run per game less than they produced overall. Peter M. Gordon, author of the excellent article entitled “Bob Gibson in 1968,” estimated that if Gibson’s teammates had scored their normal amount of runs during his outings, rather than just 2.8, his record would have been a glowing 28-3.
Gibson had another stretch during which he wasn’t able to ring up a lot of wins–in September he went 2-3 and he saw his ERA rise a bit from 0.99 after his 15-game win streak ended, to 1.12.
One seemingly forgotten fact about his season was discussed in Gordon’s article. He wrote that Gibson chalked up 47 scoreless innings at one point in the season, not too far off the record then held by Don Drysdale. However, he surrendered a lone run to the Dodgers on a wild pitch in a July contest which halted his streak. Gordon reported it was a pitch “many observers felt [Gibson’s catcher] John Edwards should have caught.” In his next outing Gibson blanked Marichal and that shutout would have given him a new record for consecutive shutout innings at 65 had it not been for the wild pitch versus Los Angeles.
I don’t have much respect for the stat called a “quality start,” but Gibson registered a quality start in 32 of his 34 appearances (92% rate). Further, as Gordon pointed out, Gibson only gave up four earned runs in a game once and he was never lifted from a game during an inning, therefore “no opposing team ever knocked him out of the box.”
Be aware that 1968, known as The Year of the Pitcher, was an odd season in which hitters were stymied all year long. The American League had just one hitter who topped .300 as Carl Yastrzemski led his league at .301 and the second best average behind him was .290 by Danny Cater. In addition, National League hitters averaged an output of a mere 3.4 runs per game. Still, one thing remains true, even now, 50 years later: Bob Gibson was atop them all in 1968, and his showing that year still ranks as one of the greatest performances of all-time.
SPEAKING OF COMPLETE GAMES: In 1950, when there were only 16 teams in the majors, there were 998 complete games thrown. In 1980 the number was down a bit (856) even though by then there were 24 teams. Astonishingly, in 2000, with 30 big league teams, there were only 235 CG thrown AND in 2017, a mere 59 CG were recorded!
ANSWER TO BONUS QUESTION ABOVE ABOUT ERA CROWNS: Lefty Grove. He won his first five titles with the Philadelphia A’s and the last four with the Red Sox.
I just stumbled across a book which I was interested in for several reasons–here’s the personal reason:
Two of my works are included in Ron Kaplan’s book entitled 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die. One is entitled The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations (with an introduction by famed writer Roger Kahn). This book contains quotes from men ranging from Hall of Famers to the colorful, witty players who may not have been stars but whose words added to baseball’s lore. Writers, star pitcher, hitters, managers– you name it, their words of wisdom, insight, and humor are all covered. (Skyhorse Publishing)
The other book is You’re the Umpire, also put out by Skyhorse. The version discussed in 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die has since been updated with new scenarios to test readers’ baseball knowledge. Real life situations covering easy, medium, and difficult rules are presented to the reader, making the plays really come to life.
THE BOOK PICTURED ABOVE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
REMEMBERING THE GREAT COACHES AND GAMES OF THE NFL GLORY YEARS (Rowman & Littlefield)…See Cover Above…The book gives in depth look at four of the most memorable games from the Golden Age of football: the 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, a contest still called The Greatest Game Ever Played; the Heidi Game, the Ice Bowl, and Super Bowl III.
This book also focuses on nine of the greatest NFL coaches ever, men who paced the sidelines in the 1950s and 1960s (and, in some cases, for many more years). They are: Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown, George Halas, Bud Grant, Hank Stram, and George Allen.
My 2017 Book: Remembering the Stars of the NFL Glory Years
This book came out in 2017 (Rowman & Littlefield) and contains material from exclusive I conducted with NFL stars such as Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, Mike Ditka, Don Maynard and about 30 others. Click here for more on that book and on the autobiography of Raymond Berry, All the Moves I Had, which came out in 2016:
Mike Ditka on this book covers: “. . . everything from the Hall of Famers of the day to the way the league has changed from that era to now. Fans of superstars such as Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, and Johnny Unitas will enjoy reliving the golden age of football.”
Raymond Berry said, “I consider my era to be the glory days of the NFL, and this book provides a detailed look at many of the greatest stars of [the] time period– of all-time, actually. It’s a must-read for any pro football fan. Wayne Stewart gives readers the opportunity to go behind the scenes.”
Don Maynard: “I really enjoyed talking with Wayne. He’s an All-Pro as they say; a class act– and so is his book.”
Tom Matte: “Wayne Stewart has done a fine job of capturing the glory days of the NFL. . . The book is packed with anecdotes and a ton of inside information gained through exclusive interviews . . . Anyone who watched the NFL in the 1950s and 1960s will want to read this book.”
Chuck Mercein: “Wayne Stewart conducted exclusive interviews with a slew of NFL players from the Golden Age of the NFL. . . This excellent, nostalgic book provides some laughs, along with a ton of facts, stats, and inside stories.”
Glory Years Stars (above) is currently in print. It came out in 2017.
Here are the other titles I’ve written:
You can purchase them through the publishers or on line and, as mentioned, if you have any problems finding a title, just let me know.
from Sterling Publishing: Baseball Oddities Baseball Bafflers Baseball Puzzlers
Match Wits with Baseball Experts Basketball Facts
from Lyons Press: Fathers, Sons, and Baseball All the Moves I Had (Raymond Berry autobiography)
from Triumph Publishing: Stan the Man (Musial biography)
from McGraw-Hill: Hitting Secrets of the Pros Pitching Secrets of the Pros
from Sports Publishing: Baseball Dads You’re the Umpire You’re the Ref (football) You’re the Basketball Ref Name that Ballplayer The Little Red Book of Baseball Wisdom
from Potomac: Tales from First Base
from Grayco: (Cleveland) Indians on the Game
from ABC-Clio/Greenwood: Babe Ruth: A Biography Alex Rodriguez: A Biography
Below: a picture of Babe Ruth’s daughter Julia and her son Tom (far left); I’m on far right. Interviewing her for the biography of Ruth, was one of the most enjoyable writing experiences I have ever had. She shared so much history and interesting material about the Babe for my readers.
Above: The biography of Musial I wrote. When I was in the process of interviewing people for this book, it was an enormous plus that, like Stan, I was raised in Donora, Pa. In addition, his former teammates and even opposing players respected him so much, tons of them were more than willing to cooperate on this project.
Below: Another book cover. This book explored the love and baseball bond between many baseball stars including Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. It includes many touching tales. My editor said it is a great Father’s Day gift. All I know is I was surprised at how so many of the players I interviewed opened up to me, unafraid to express their love and devotion to their fathers.
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. in 1951, and grew up in Donora, Pa. which proclaims itself to be the Home of Champions–in fact, it has produced two Hall of Famers in Stan Musial and Ken Griffey, Jr. as well as Griffey, Sr. who was a classmate and baseball teammate of mine at Donora High (although I mostly observed him from the bench). Donora also produced a running back, “Deacon” Dan Towler, who led the NFL in rushing and many other fine athletes.
I began writing for newspapers and magazines in 1978 then wrote my first book, Baseball Oddities, in 1998. I also taught English in middle school/junior high and senior high in Lorain, Ohio, until I retired in 2004. I have lived in Amherst, Ohio since 2012. I am married and have two sons and one grandson.
JANUARY 2018 SPORTS QUIZ:
What legendary NFL coach played outfield for the Yankees one year before Babe Ruth joined the team? By the way, contrary to what some people believe, this man was NOT directly replaced by Ruth. If you can name the man who played Ruth’s outfield position the most the season before Ruth roamed the New York outfield and, in that respect could be said to have kind of lost his job to Ruth, you are a real expert (providing you didn’t look it up–which I had to do when I wrote my book (see below) about great NFL coaches.
Answer: George Halas
Solution for 2018 Unsolved Quiz
Nobody claimed the prize for the quiz which ran early in 2018. Solution below.
QUIZ: Tough one– Writer Marty Appel (quoted in the book Talkin’ Baseball by Phil Pepe, 1998) said that as of the time of his being interviewed for the book, there is just one bat displayed in the Hall of Fame which commemorates not, say, a big hit, but an at bat in which the bat’s owner simply drew a walk. Can you identify the batter and why his plate appearance was so noteworthy?
The bat belonged to Ron Blomberg and it was historic as it was the one he used when he became the first ever D.H. in a big league game.
FEBRUARY SPORTS QUIZZES:
WHO AM I? I played my college basketball for a school which later suffered a tragedy involving football. A prolific scorer, I had the unique habit of shooting jump shots from the free throw line.
Two Hall of Famers were born in the same small town in Pennsylvania and also shared the following items– the same defensive position (mainly), both batted and threw lefty, both were easily voted into the Hall of Fame on their first try, they even share the same birthday, though generations apart. Collectively, they hit more than 1,100 home runs. Name them. BONUS: Name the town they hail from. DOUBLE BONUS: That same town also produced a running back who once led the NFL in rushing (1950s). Name him.
Answers: Who am I? Hal Greer, a member of the 20,000 point club. Two Hall of Famers–Stan Musial and Ken Griffey, Jr. of Donora, Pa. Double Bonus–“Deacon” Dan Towler
FEBRUARY ODDITIES AND BONUS QUIZ:
ODDITY: When Ron Guidry of the Yankees had his sensation Cy Young Award winning season (1978), he posted a sparkling ERA of 1.74 thanks in part to his nine shutouts. Both of those stats led the AL as did his 25 wins and his winning percentage of almost .900! He suffered just three loses. Now, here’s the oddity: each of those three defeats came versus three pitchers who shared the first name of Mike– Caldwell of Milwaukee, Flanagan of the Orioles, and Willis of Toronto. Guidry achieved this stellar season in just his second full year in the majors.
ODDITY: While it’s true that Jones is a very common last name, I still find it incredible that in the long history of the World Series two men (and only those two) were able to talk their way into being awarded first base after being hit by a pitch–even though initially umpires were positive the batters were not struck by the ball–and both men were named Jones– Nippy and Cleon.
In the 1957 World Series, Nippy Jones of the Milwaukee Braves won his case by asking the umpires to inspect the ball he insisted had struck him on the foot. Check the ball, he said, and you’ll find shoe polish on it from my spikes. They consented, found a black smudge on the ball and awarded Nippy first base.
Here’s how the historic inning played out. The New York Yankees had scored a run in the top of the tenth inning to take a 5-4 lead. Warren Spahn went the distance but he was due to lead off the bottom of the 10th. That’s when Jones stepped in to pinch hit (and wound up with a pinch hit HBP). So, Jones led off and reached base and quickly his brush with history ended when the Braves ran for him. A sacrifice and a run-scoring double to tie the game followed. Then, slugger Eddie Mathews hit a two-run blast to give the Braves a dramatic comeback, walk-off win (7-5) to tie the Series against the Yankees at two wins apiece. Milwaukee would go on to win in seven.
In Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, with the Mets up three games to one over the Orioles, it was Cleon Jones who emulated Nippy and won his argument, too. In that contest Cleon also spurred a comeback as a leadoff hitter. After a pitch by Baltimore’s Dave McNally hit Cleon’s foot to open the sixth inning, the ball ricocheted into the Mets dugout and Cleon began to trot toward first base. At first the umpires were not going to give him a free ride until Mets manager Gil Hodges, who had retrieved the ball, went onto the field and showed Exhibit A to the umps, a smudge on the baseball. The very next batter homered to tighten the game up, reducing the O’s lead to 3-2. The Mets tacked on another run the next inning then two more in the eighth to put the game on ice. There would be no need for them to bat in the bottom of the ninth–they won, 5-3, wrapping up the World Series (with Cleon making a catch in the outfield for the games’ final out).
BONUS QUIZ: Name the Met who homered to drive Jones in after he was hit by the pitch.
If you need a clue: the man’s last name contains every letter that appears in the name Cleon, though not in that order.
Answer: Donn Clendenon
BASEBALL ODDITY: New York Yankees Joe DiMaggio not only owns MLB’s longest hitting streak (56 games), but he had a 61-game streak in the minors. Oddities– when he went hitless to snap the 61-game streak, so did all of his teammates as the opposing pitcher spun a no-hitter. Also, as impressive as his 56-game streak was, over the stretch of those contests, he was out hit by Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. That was the year Williams became the last major leaguer to hit .400, yet he lost the MVP Award to Joe DiMaggio. It’s said that he lost because of the ballot which was turned in by a Boston writer. That writer not only felt DiMaggio deserved his top vote, he completely left Williams off his ballot. In other words, since he could have honestly felt DiMaggio had an edge over Williams, he could have given his second place vote to Williams, the player he had witnessed all year long tearing up the A.L. However, apparantely not fond of the sometimes surly Williams, got revenge by leaving him off his ballot.
Stats: Williams hit .406 to .357 for DiMaggio; Slugging Pct.– Williams .745 to .643 for DiMaggio; WAR– Williams 10.6 to 9.1 for DiMaggio. Now, even if any voter honestly gave the nod to DiMaggio for any reason such as his better defensive play or because the Yanks of DiMaggio won the pennant by 17 games over Boston, that’s fine, BUT there is NO WAY Williams didn’t deserve, say at least, a second place vote!
MARCH QUIZZES (Answers Below)
This one is tricky so think outside the box, considering alternatives to one’s usual frame of reference on such questions. What pitcher who made it to the Hall of Fame had a lifetime major league record below .500? In fact, this hurler has a win-loss percentage of just .475, losing three games more than he won lifetime. He, nevertheless, posted a fine career ERA of 3.29 and is a legitimate baseball legend. When I first read this question in a book, I figured the answer would be a reliever, but while it’s true he started just 26 of his lifetime 179 big league games (that total in itself is a clue of sorts), I’d wager everyone thinks of him as a starting pitcher, NOT a relief pitcher. Name this man.
Another tough one (if you get it without the help of, say, the internet): In the 1930’s there was a player who, and this is a “first,” won the Triple Crown yet was traded to a new team the following season. Name him. By the way, the year he won the Triple Crown, the A.L. also had a Triple Crown winner. Coincidentally, both men played for teams in the same city.
Easier one: Men such as George Mikan were responsible for several rule changes such as the widening of the NBA lane. Now, this one is unofficial, but my research seems to indicate that this NBA superstar’s dominance led to more rule changes than any other basketball player. Name this man.
Answers: Satchel Paige is in the Hall of Fame with a .475 winning percentage in the Bigs.
The man who won the Triple Crown and got traded the next season was Chuck Klein of the Phillies. The A.L. Triple Crown winner that year was Jimmie Foxx of the A’s.
The NBA player who caused many a change in rules was Wilt Chamberlain.
The longest game in big league history in terms of innings played was a 26-inning 1-1 tie played between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves back on May 1, 1920. Two things stand out and illustrate how much the game of baseball has changed.
In 1949, Ted Williams lost out on the opportunity to win his unprecedented third Triple Crowns when he led the A.L. in homers and ribbies, but lost the batting title to George Kell by a microscopic .00016 of a point. Williams also led his league that season in many departments including runs, doubles, total bases, walks drawn, on-base percentage, and slugging.
In 2017, over the course of two consecutive contests two Cleveland Indians drilled three baseballs which traveled over the fences. Now, what made this so peculiar is the fact that while the third ball resulted in Austin Jackson being robbed of a homer when Chicago’s Adam Engel leaped high and extended his glove over the center field wall to make a circus catch, the first two blasts resulted in somewhat freakish homers– in both cases the outfielders “gave” away home runs as the balls bounced off their gloves. Plus, in an odd coincidence, both times the recipient of those gifts was Jose Ramirez.
Every time a ball ricochets in such ways, it brings up the topic of the time in 1993 when Jose Canseco had a fly ball bounce off, of all things, his head. That baseball then cleared the fence. I’d have been tempted to give him a four-base error for such an egregious misplay, but a home run was credited to Cleveland’s Carlos Martinez. In a way, Canseco looked more like a soccer player doing a header than a baseball player.
APRIL 2018 ITEMS:
QUIZ: Who was the last N.L. player to hit 30+ HR in a season while also committing 30 or more errors?
30 HR with 30 Errors Answer: I found this item from a book called Baseball on the Brain which came out in 2007. So, unless someone else did it since ’07, the answer is Pedro Guerrero. Remember when he was asked what he was thinking when his Dodgers were in a late-inning very tight spot. He said his first thought was his hope that the batter wouldn’t hit the ball to second baseman Steve Sax who was struggling with his defense. He then said the next thought to quickly pop into his head was, “Please don’t hit it to me, either!”
QUIZ: What Chicago Cub swatted three home runs on Opening Day of 1994? Another Chicago player, this one a member of the White Sox, matched the Opening Day home run feat this season. Can name him, too? FYI: George Bell and Dmitri Young have also done this.
The Cubs player only hit five more homers that year, a single season high for him. For his six-year career he hit just 13 HR, doing so with a sense of symmetry: he hit five homers before his three home run spree on Opening Day of ’94 and five after that day.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL ITEM WITH QUIZ: According to one source I came across, the first NCAA team to average more than 100 points per game was Jacksonville (1969-70), but the excellent website, College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com, indicates they averaged 97.4 ppg. The Dolphins featured Artis Gilmore at 7′ 2″–he averaged an incredible 10.3 blocks per game as a senior to go with 23.2 rebounds–and Pembrook Burrows, another seven-footer. Playmaker Rex Morgan helped with 9.0 assists per contest. Jacksonville went 27-2 on the regular season and reached the century mark in scoring 10 times with a single game high of 121. In tournament play, they scored 109, 104, and 106 points over their first three games. However, they lost in the Final Four to UCLA, 80-69.
Now, I did find a team to top 100 ppg. over a full season, but I’m not sure they were the FIRST team to do this– if anyone knows who did that, please fill me in. Paul Westhead’s Loyola Marymount run-and-gun team of 1987-88 scored 110.3 ppg. and two seasons later they exceeded that output greatly, averaging a whopping 122.4 points each time out! That 1989-90 squad was led by three seniors who provided a collective 87 of those 122.4 points: Bo Kimble at 35.3, Hank Gathers (29.0), and Jeff Fryer with 22.7 ppg. The Lions averaged over 100 ppg. for four consecutive seasons.
Quiz: when Hank Gathers passed away, suffering a heart attack on the court one day, what did Bo Kimble later do to pay tribute to his teammate?
Answer to NCAA Bo Kimble item above: Just 12 days after Gathers passed away, his teammates began play in the NCAA tournament, facing New Mexico State. They would win, 111-92, but one moment is remembered long after the outcome of the game.
Gathers was a notoriously poor free throw shooter. Normally, a right-handed shooter, in desparation he began to shoot with his left hand. Now, in the game versus New Mexico State, Kimble went to the foul line and, to honor his best friend, took the first shot with his off hand, using his left hand–just like Gathers. Kimble later said it didn’t matter if he made it or not, it was the gesture that counted, but he did sink the shot, creating a moment fans would recall forever.
APRIL TRIVIA ITEM: I don’t know who keeps track of such things, but I just read that when Aaron Judge played center field on March 31, 2018, he became the heaviest man to play that position in big league history. While he was drafted as a center fielder, the 282-pound Judge had never appeared there until early in the 2018 season.
Now, that brings up the question: Who was the heaviest man ever to play in a major league game (scroll down for answer). If you get this right without looking it up, chances are you are an Oriole fan as this man played only a few games as a September call up in 2005. He played first base and D.H. (no surprise there) for 13 games. While he hit one homer and had a .303 batting average, he would never again appear in a big league game. He checked in at a hulking 320 pounds.
Answer to Heaviest MLB player: The Baltimore Oriole was Walter Young who died in 2015 at the age of 35.
ODD PLAY: Did you hear about the unusual triple play that took place this year on April the 19th? Houston’s Evan Gattis was at the plate with men on second and third. He hit a grounder on a check swing to third base where Kyle Seager of the Mariners fielded it, stepped on the bag, then threw to second for the second of three outs. Initially, Gattis, who ran through the bag, was safe but, inexplicably, he turned, ready to jog back to the dugout. No, he didn’t think he was out, but he was when Daniel Vogelbach alertly tagged him out. Gattis later stated he really didn’t know “why I started to run to the dugout.” He also said he was upset at having swung at the particular pitch he couldn’t get good wood on, and that he was angry that he had hit into a twin killing. So upset, apparently, that he turned the double play into a triple play! After the game when he spotted writers who wanted to interview him, he greeted them first by asking, “Who wants to ask me about my dumb play?”
ODDITY: Did you realize that Pete Rose got his 4,000th hit on the very same date as he collected his first hit? On April 13th of 1963, Rose, on an early path to winning the Rookie of the Year Award, drilled a triple off Bob Friend of the Pirates for hit number one. Exactly 21 years later another extra base hit, a double off Jerry Koosman, then with the Phillies, put his 4,000th hit on the books.
MAY QUIZZES AND ODDITIES:
- Who was the first player in National League history to put together three consecutive seasons with 30+ homers from his rookie year on?
- What Hall of Fame slugger was the only man ever to blast a grand slam in nine straight seasons. Clue: He played first base, batted lefty, was mainly in the N.L., and he could really stretch for throws from his infielders.
- It’s not true that only one man ever pinch hit for Hank Aaron, but it was rare. However, like any aging star, Aaron did occasionally get lifted from a game for a pinch hitter or a defensive replacement– say in blowouts. What Brave filled in for Aaron on such occasions more than any other player ever (even when Aaron ended his career with the Milwaukee Brewers)?
ODDITY: I just read that Jimmie Foxx once hit more than half of all of his team’s homers one season. He swatted 50 and his team could manage just 58 HR on the year. This took place in 1938 when his Red Sox were powerless without him– the man with the second most homers on the team was Joe Cronin with a mere 17 and nobody else hit double figures for round trippers. Nevertheless, Boston finished second that year (9 1/2 games out of first).
ODDITY #2: Reggie Jackson became the first (and I believe still the only) A.L. player with 100+ HR for three different teams.
ODDITY #3: Unless I missed something, Dave Kingman hit more homers, 35, than any other player during his final season in the majors. He did this with the A’s in his 16th season, 1986. He also struck out 126 times, quite a bit back then, hit just .210, and had a weak on-base percentage of .255. Accused of being difficult to get along with, it’s not so hard to believe Oakland cut him loose and that no other team seemed to want a player who was getting close to being a 40-year-old designated hitter.
QUIZ Answers: 1. Albert Pujols 2. Willie “Stretch” McCovey 3. Mike Lum. Chuck Tanner stated he also hit for Aaron and he homered.
MAY TIDBIT: When I was a kid, I grew up listening to Bob Prince broadcasting Pirates games over KDKA radio. It was either Prince or G.M. Joe Brown who said something on one broadcast which I’ll never forget–even though I’m not positive it still holds true in today’s rock-’em-sock-’em, swing-for-the-fences era. The comment was that in a huge percentage of games the winning team will score more runs than the losing team will score for the entire nine-inning game. Now, my memory may be off a little as the comment might have been about scoring AS MANY or more runs in one inning than the losing team will for their nine innings of work. From time to time I glance through the box scores to see if this holds true and my unscientific, based on a small sampling conclusion is this: I think it is still true for a high percentage of games. Interesting tidbit!
OFFSEASON BASKETBALL NOTE/TRIVIA: If you’re old enough to remember seeing Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, you will, of course, recall how he was such an explosive, stunningly talented player. I knew how good he was, too, but recently I saw these stats from his college, not his NBA days, and I was suitably impressed–I guess I had forgotten what he had done while in college:
As a sophomore at Winston-Salem State he averaged 23.2 ppg. The next season he upped that to a sensation average of 29.8 ppg. Then, in 1966-67 as a senior, he shot lights out, averaging 41.5 ppg. Plus he did that with a sizzling field goal percentage of .607. He then went on to carve out a Hall of Fame career after being drafted by the then Baltimore Bullets as their #1 pick in 1967.
QUIZ: What do the following men have in common: Ron Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Gene Conley, Dick Groat, Danny Ainge, and Chuck Connors?
Answer: All of the men listed above played major league baseball and pro basketball in the NBA. Groat was the first Duke basketball player to have his jersey retired up in the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Most of the athletes mentioned above only lasted a short time in one of their two sports, but Conley, a 6′ 8″ power forward, was in the NBA six seasons and in the majors for 11 seasons. He averaged about six rebounds and six points per game over his NBA days and, as a pitcher, he won 91 games while posting a 3.82 ERA. Michael Jordan, of course, played both sports but never rose above minor league baseball play.
There have been many players who had contracts to play major league baseball and pro football. By far, most of these men appeared in the world of pro football way back around the 1920s and many were far better at one sport than the other. Still, for what it’s worth, here are some of the men from long ago: Christy Mathewson (before the days of the NFL), Jim Thorpe, George Halas, Pepper Martin, Chuck Dressen, and Vic Janowicz, the first Heisman Trophy winner to go on to play both sports.
Which brings us to more modern players starting with another Heisman winner, Bo Jackson. Others include: Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan, Chad Hutchinson, D.J. Dozier, Matt Kinzer, and Drew Henson who I think is the last man to accomplish this. Russell Wilson was hoping he had a shot at making the Yankees during spring training of 2018, but that went nowhere to date, and Tim Tebow, another Heisman winner, has a similar story going for him. The last I saw, he was batting eighth as a 30-year-old outfielder in the Mets organization (with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies).
The Mets G.M. says he is optimistic about Tebow’s chances to eventually make it to the majors, but that doesn’t seem too realistic as he’s battling other talented people much younger than he is. Plus, consider his stats through his first 39 games: He’s hitting a mere .242 with 4 HR, 18 RBI, a slugging percentage of just .398 and a low on-base percentage of .326. He has also struck out 61 times. If you multiply his stats by four, you have him playing almost 162 games, giving full-seasons stats of 16 homers and 72 RBIs at Double A ball coupled with his low averages.
Bottom line: it isn’t easy to excel in one sport, let alone two, so to have the skills to make it to the top level in two sports as men such as MLB All-Star and NFL Pro Bowl running back Bo Jackson did, is an amazing feat.
June 2018: Did You Know Items
- There was once a time when a pitcher could not qualify for the ERA crown unless he had thrown 10+ complete games during a given season. In 1940, Bob Feller had an ERA of 2.61 to go with a won-lost record of 27-11, but a rookie, Tiny Bonham, who didn’t get called up to the majors until August, had an ERA of 1.90 with a 9-3 record. Now Bonham did pitch very well, but worked only 99 1/3 innings over 12 games while Feller had 37 starts and threw 320 1/3 innings. However, because Bonham had his 10 complete games, he “earned” the ERA title. But wait, while he did qualify for that honor, league officials realized how unfair giving him the title over Feller was so they declared Rapid Robert to be the ERA champ. That was the only time he led his league in that department. Incidentally, if the 10 complete game standard was still in effect today, nobody would cop the ERA crown. From 203-2017 the totals that led the majors for complete games were: 5, 6, 4, 6, 5.
- Did you know there was once a pitcher who was given the nod to start Game #7 of a World Series even though during the regular season he went 4-5 and had an inflated ERA of 5.88. It was Hal Gregg (I never heard of him, did you?) and the year was 1947.
- The average game in 1951 took 2:23 to play. By 1960 an average game ran 2:38. That’s a jump of 15 minutes or a bit over 10%. Tying in with that stat, the number of games completed in under two hours fell from 166 (c. the 50s) to just 41 in around 10 years– and the trend kept going up (more on this below). Just as there are new rules now which are trying to speed things up, according to the great baseball researcher and writer Bill James, the rule which limited managers from making more than one trip to the mound per inning (unless he replaced his pitcher) stems from the 1960s when the need to speed things up had become apparent. [Information from The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract of 2001]
JULY 2018 MATERIAL
Facts about the 1960 World Series– Did you know that Bob Friend was the only big league pitcher to lose 200 games without winning at least 200? That and other interesting facts came from my research and from Jim O’Brien’s book, Fantasy Camp.
The Pirates won it all, but with a staff ERA of 7.11, the worst since the ’32 World Series. Friend worked in three games (two starts) and had an ERA of 13.50! The hero of the Series, Bill Mazeroski (age 24) was an unlikely hitting star as he was hitting in the eighth slot in the lineup and, going into the Fall Classic he had hit just 11 homers. However, he hit a game-winning blast in Game #1 and topped that with his historic walk off home run in Game #7. The Pirates went without a home run in every game but the first and the last one.
The Yankees set World Series records for runs scored with 55; for hits (91); extra base hits at 27; and team batting average (.338). That prompted Pittsburgh’s Gino Cimoli to comment, “They set all the records, but we won the game.”
Game #7 was the first one in Series history to feature nobody striking out. In O’Brien’s 2005 book, he wrote that, through 2004, the last time a regular season game ended with no K’s being recorded was in 1985.
In Game #2, the Buccos belted out 13 hits but they produced only three runs. The Yanks, who won that contest, 16-3, pounded out 19 hits so the combined 32 hits set a new Series mark.
The MVP of the Series was New York’s Bobby Richardson, marking the only time a member of the losing club won that award. He set two records that year: most RBI in a World Series game (6) and for an entire Series (12). Like Maz, but even more so, Richardson was far from being a slugger–he had hit just one homer all year long during the regular season, but his grand slam in the third game helped New York cruise to a 10-0 win.
Going into Game #7, the Yanks had scored 46 runs to 17 for the Pirates. Further, in the Yankees three wins to that point they had outscored Pittsburgh, 38-3! Despite that lopsided stat, New York was destined NOT to become World Champions.
In the final game, the Pirates scored 10 times and stranded only one man on base. Every spot in the lineup featured a man who scored a run–either the starter in a given lineup slot or a replacement, even the number nine spot.
Trivia: In the O’Brien book, Bill Mazeroski stated he was an All-State basketball player in high school and came in second to hoop legend Jerry Lucas (Middletown, Ohio) for the highest points per game output at 28.5. Maz said he did that as a 5′ 11″ center back when many tall players weren’t very athletic (according to the Hall of Fame second baseman).
Trivia: Another basketball note– Dick Groat of the ’60 champion Pirates won the MVP that season, but he was also a standout basketball player at Duke. He was second team All-American as a junior and on the first team the following season when he was also named the College Basketball Player of the Year. Over his final two seasons as a Blue Devil he averaged more than 25.2 and 26.0 ppg. One source I came across stated he led the nation in both scoring and assists but that rare feat (I believe, a “first”) wasn’t recognized because assists were not considered to be an official stat back then.
1960 Series Quiz: What Pirate hit a home run before Maz hit his Series-winning shot in the ninth inning–a homer which, though, nearly as vital as the one Maz hit, but one which is often overlooked because of the dramatic shot by Mazeroski. Clues: he went 1-for-1 with a three-run blast to overcome a Yankee 7-4 lead in the eighth inning. The answer follows the next item.
EARLY JULY 2018 ITEM: Sam McDowell said he threw not two (like Johnny Vander Meer), but three consecutive no-hitters. Of course, in McDowell’s case his came in high school games as opposed to Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-nos in the majors. Still, Sudden Sam also said that in his high school’s state title game he fanned 18 batters in nine innings. Furthermore, he won that game, 1-0, and he drove in the lone run with a homer (he stated that he hit almost .500 in high school).
Vander Meer, by the way, a lefty who batted both ways, was only 23 when he tossed his consecutive no-hitters. He won 13 other games that season (and lost 10) while posting a 3.12 ERA. Without his no-hitters he was four games below .500 for his career–with them he finished his days at 119-121 (3.44) over 13 seasons in the majors. I read that when he retired, he stood #1 on the Reds all-time strikeout list. Since 1931, only five National League pitchers have managed to lead their league in K’s three or more straight years: Randy Johnson, Dizzy Dean, Tim Lincecum, Warren Spahn, and Vander Meer.
The Pirate who hit a key eighth inning homer was Hal Smith, and, no, not the same Hal Smith who played Otis Campbell on the old Andy Griffith show.
Your Next Quiz: 1. What college did both Bill Russell and Gino Marchetti attend?
2. Who is the only running back in NFL history to average 100+ yards per game on the ground for his entire career?
3. Name as many of the runners who fill out the next five spots on the list of most yards per game over a career.
4. How many NBA championships did Jerry West win: a) none b) one c) three d) five
5. What Pittsburgh Pirate won an MVP trophy after having been a standout basketball star in basketball.
Answers follow the next item below.
All About the Fastball
Here’s some interesting items (with info updated through May 2018) which I learned from watching a show called Fastball on Netflix:
In 1987, Nolan Ryan became the first man who was 40-years-old (or older) to lead his league in strikeouts. He did so with 270 strikeouts. He then proceeded to lead his league again for the next three consecutive seasons, reaching 301 K’s at the age of 42 and topping his league for the final time when he was 43! In all, he led the league in strikeouts 11 times.
Throwing as hard and as often as he did, Ryan didn’t expect to be throwing into his 40’s–when he was 27, he said he didn’t expect to be around longer than another five seasons.
Baseball is constantly evolving so maybe the way management is now handling pitch counts is the way to go. However, maybe experts such as John Smoltz and Nolan Ryan disagree about pampering pitchers. Ryan was as durable as he was awe inspiring. These facts attest to both his accomplishments and his endurance. In 1974, for the first time ever, a pitcher (Ryan) had the speed of his pitches during a game. This reading was not perfect, but was more scientific than earlier attempts to measure the speed of Walter Johnson and Bob Feller.
The speed of Ryan’s pitches were measured by the Rockwell company, checking the speed when it reached about ten feet in front of home plate. Ryan’s fastest pitch, 100.8 mph, was recognized as the fastest pitch ever thrown. Amazingly, he threw that fastball in the ninth inning after he had already thrown a ton of pitches–by the end of the game he had amassed 159 pitches thrown.
Ryan said he pitched a game on August 12, 1974, versus Luis Tiant in which he threw about 232 pitches. He fanned 19 that day and he walked 10, helping to account for his high pitch count. He contends that over his career he averaged somewhere between 150-175 pitches per start. That’s unfathomable nowadays– of course, ancient pitching records such as the 59 wins recorded by Old Hoss Radbourn in 1884, or the modern era’s record of 41 wins by Jack Chesbro’s are also as untouchable as they are incomparable to the way the game is played now.
Once, after throwing 15 innings in a game on a Monday, Ryan was due to pitch again on Friday. His manager asked him if he wanted to push his start back one day. Ryan refused the extra day of rest, took the hill on his regular day of work, and threw a 1-0 shutout.
Whitey Herzog said that Ryan worked in 77 in which he had the lead in the seventh inning. Ryan not only won all 77, he finished each and every one. Ryan’s attitude, like many of the old time pitchers such as Gaylord Perry was, “It’s my game to win or lose. I didn’t go this far to turn it over to a reliever who might blow it.” So, said Herzog, Ryan was, in effect, his own fireman, closing out his games.
Ryan wound up with seven no-hitters, almost double the former record of four no-hitters by Sandy Koufax. His final no-no came when he was the oldest man ever to throw a no-hitter in the majors–he was 44. When he broke Johnson’s record for the most career strikeouts, he toppled a record which had lasted longer than virtually every major baseball record, and that includes Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Johnson’s record had endured for 56 years.
Ryan ended his pitching days with 5,714 strikeouts, an astonishing 2,205 more than Johnson. That means he had 63% more strikeouts than the man who, for decades, had been the greatest strikeout pitcher of all-time. Ryan didn’t squeak by Johnson. He didn’t merely break the old record, he absolutely shattered it.
Ryan lasted until he was 46, forced to quit when a serious injury finally got to him. The last fastball he ever fired to home plate was measured at 98, a speed which a slew of young, talented pitchers today can’t touch.
Today, every pitch is measured when it’s 50′ away from home plate. Using that method, a pitch from Aroldis Chapman once hit 105.1 mph. Scientist then went back to re-evaluate the speeds of Johnson, Feller, and Ryan, adjusting their top fastballs using today’s method. Formerly, it was believed that Johnson’s best fastball was only 83.2 mph, but after having that speed adjusted to confirm to today’s measuring, the speed would be 93.8 mph. Feller’s top speed was adjusted to 107.6 mph, while Ryan’s new best speed ever checked in at 108.5.
A recent newspaper article said that the fastest recorded pitch in ’18 (through late May) came from Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals. Like Chapman, he topped out at 105.1 mph. Therefore, Ryan remains the strikeout king in many respects.
Answers to July Quick Quiz: 1) San Francisco University 2) Jim Brown–he averaged 104.3 yards in every one of the 118 games he played from 1957-1965. I read somewhere that he never sat out an entire series of downs (or maybe it was he only did that once). As durable as he was rugged, he may still reign as the greatest runner ever. 3) Trailing Brown are–Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Adrian Peterson, Eric Dickerson, and Walter Peyton at 88 yds. per game. The only men who were active in 2017 who made the top 10 were Peterson and Le’Veon Bell (86.1). 4. West won one NBA crown, in 1972. His Lakers made it to the Finals nine times, but this was an era of Celtic domination and few other teams won many titles back then. 5. Dick Groat who was a huge star at Duke and the N.L. MVP in 1960.
Two of my works are included in a Ron Kaplan book entitled 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die. One is entitled The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations (with an introduction by famed writer Roger Kahn). This book contains quotes from men ranging from Hall of Famers to the colorful, witty players who may not have been stars, but whose words have added much to baseball’s lore. Writers, star pitcher, hitters, managers– you name it, their words of wisdom, insight, and humor are all covered. (Skyhorse Publishing)
The other book which made the list is You’re the Umpire, also put out by Skyhorse. The version discussed in 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die has since been updated with new scenarios to test readers’ baseball knowledge. Real life situations covering easy, medium, and difficult rules are presented to the reader, making the plays really come to life.