Misc. Items

In 2014, Khris Davis hit .244. Then, from 2015 through the end of this season, he did something that had never before been done (by a position player)–he hit exactly the same, .247, for four straight years! Cleveland’s John Lowenstein hit .242 in three out of four seasons once (1974-1977).

Jacob deGrom ended the season with a microscopic ERA of 1.70 to lead the NL. However, here’s a bar bet you would probably win: what Met had the lowest ERA over the second half of the season? It wasn’t deGrom–it was Zack Wheeler at 1.68 versus the 1.84 ERA deGrom posted.

In case you missed it: for the 11th straight season MLB set a new high for total strikeouts. 2018 marked the first year ever with more than 40,000 K’s and it was the eleventh consecutive season in which a new strikeout record was set! This season also was the first one ever with more strikeouts than hits (last year there were 2,111 more hits than K’s. The Yankees set a new single season major league team record with 267 HR. I don’t like the new brand of baseball with tons of upper cuts, a slew of homers, but so many strikeouts, often inning-ending, futile whiffs. There were 41,207 strikeouts, up 1,103 from ’17.

Tying in with the above item, baseball’s offense didn’t flourish–the overall batting average in the majors fell to its lowest point since 1972, partly due to a 30% hike over 2017 in defensive shifts and last year there were already quite a few shifts in play. The cumulative batting average in the majors in 2018 was .248, down 23 points from 1999 during the steroid era. In 2013, there were 6,882 shift used; in 2018, there were 34,673. Five teams doubled their shift usage.

Starting pitchers are giving way to the bullpen more and more, too. The average innings pitched by starters per game is down to 5.36 with the average pitches starters were permitted to throw by cautious managers was 88, down from 95 in 2012. An average of nearly seven relievers are used in each major league game played in ’18 (3.4 per team per game). Naturally, all those pitching changes slows the game down.

Complete games? A vanishing stat. This year was the fourth straight season in which the total of C.G. dropped–all the way down to 42, with only 19 complete game shutouts, the lowest total in the modern era and the lowest output since 1874 when there were eight teams in the majors (now we have 30).

Small ball? Forget it. Toronto had a record low five sacrifice bunts and three teams had just six. The Red Sox slugged away and had just seven sac bunts all year long. The overall MLB total was 823, the fewest since 1900, another year with only eight teams in Organized Baseball. Multiply 30 teams times 162 games and you get 4,860 games on a year’s MLB schedule. If I did my math right, that means a sac bunt took place so rarely that about six games went by before one was successfully laid down.

Oddity: On August 22, 1886, Cincinnati outfielder Abner Powell was chasing down a fly ball hit by a Louisville Colonels player with the unlikely name of Chicken Wolf (I’m not making that up– I read it in The Plain Dealer). Now, and I’m not making this up either, a dog had been napping by the outfield fence but during the play he woke up. He then chased after Powell, caught up to him, and bit him on the leg. The dog clung tenaciously to Powell so he was immobilized and Wolf dashed around the bases for a bizarre inside the park homer.

Trivia: Name a former big league pitcher whose last name, though spelled differently, is the same as an item of food. Clue: the man’s initials are B.V. and he was a teammate of another pitcher named John Lamb.  Answer will appear in a later blog.

October Items: MLB and NCAA Football

PET PEEVE: I have a dislike for players who have some power but whiff way too much and hit for low averages. Many of them are basically one or two-tool players. The fact that today’s game has so many players swinging for the fences with huge uppercut swings, is also alarming as the game has often turned into an extended version of Home Run Derby. This year’s All-Star Game, for example, had virtually no aspects of small ball. I can’t recall a stolen base attempt (maybe one?) or anything along the lines of a hit and run play and certainly there would not be a whiff of, say, a squeeze play–not with the swing from the heels style of play. There may have even been more homers than singles (if my memory is correct–and I’m too disgusted to bother to check on this, sorry).

Now, the 2018 season Chris Davis of the O’s just concluded was a prime example of what’s wrong with baseball today. He had 522 plate appearances and he fanned 192 times. Had he not been held out of a lot of games, he would have again reached the 200 strikeout level. He sat out 34 games, playing in just 128 contests. He struck out 37% of the time he appeared at the plate. Further, his pathetic .168 batting average set a new record for the lowest mark in big league history for a regular in a lineup. The old record was .179 set by Rob Deer, another all or nothing type player and Dan Uggla.

In addition, Davis, who had a high one year of 53 HR and 138 RBI, both tops in the A.L. and impressive enough to help him finish third in MVP voting, didn’t contribute much in 2018 when he did connect–and he connected for homers, his speciality, just 16 times for a mere 49 RBI.

NCAA ITEM: When Mike Singletary played for Baylor, he often collided with ball carriers with such force he broke his helmets. It got to the point where the team’s equipment manager took two extra helmets to games. The ESPN College Football Encyclopedia states that, in all, Singletary shattered 16 helmets. They also state that the two-time All-American made an astronomical 662 career tackles and that includes a staggering 33 in one game.

Another Baylor item: In 1923, Baylor took on Arkansas in a game played with rain drenching the field and causing horrible visibility. Baylor coach Frank D. Bridges, who had a reputation for being tricky, played 12 men on defense for the entire contest and the officials never spotted the rules violation.

You’re the Ref/Ump Challenges (and More)

ROLE PLAYING TIME: YOU MAKE THE CALL

Here’s a sports quiz in which you are presented with a scenario from real plays and you have to make the correct call. The items are from my books, You’re the Umpire, You’re the Ref, and You’re the Basketball Ref.

 

Q: Paul Richards managed the Chicago White Sox from 1951 through most of the 1954 season.  He was a man with a mind as sharp as the literal definition of his highly unusual middle name, Rapier.  

Richards had starting pitcher Billy Pierce, a lefty, on the mound when the opposition sent a right-handed hitter to the plate.  Richards wanted to bring in a righty reliever to face the batter, given the righty-on-righty advantage in that scenario.  However, Richards also wanted his starter to remain in the game.  Is there any way he can have it both ways?  

A: He simply didn’t remove his pitcher from the game–he made a move other managers have since done.  He had Pierce replace his starting first baseman, but only for the one out his relief pitcher, Harry Dorish, managed to record.  Then, the cagey manager simply moved Pierce from his spot at first, reinserted him now as a “reliever,” replacing Dorish.  Of course he did lose his starting first baseman, but was willing to do so in this situation. 

Q: On the 19th of September in 2009, Texas took on Texas Tech in Austin.  Longhorns’ quarterback, the man with an ideal name for a Texas QB, Colt McCoy, hit his favorite target, Jordan Shipley, with a pass.  Shipley, a receiver with hands like flypaper, then churned forward a bit before he was pushed back and jostled out of bounds by the defender.  Should the clock be stopped or kept running after Shipley was forced out of bounds?  

A: The key to this play is if Shipley went out of bounds while going forward or, as in this question, backwards.  A college ref said that if he was still heading forward, “then the clock stops.  If he comes to a certain [spot] and the defender hits him and drives him out of bounds and he’s still fighting, but he goes out of bounds behind his forward progress, then the play was over when his forward progress stopped—so his going out of bounds didn’t make any difference and the clock keeps going.  

“If you read the rule, the play is over and the ball is declared dead when a player’s momentum is such that his forward progress is stopped.  So if he’s going backwards, his forward progress is stopped.”

Q: A basketball player is leaning out of bounds while in possession of the ball. He’s got nowhere to go but out, and he has nobody open to pass the ball to. Off balance, he decides his only recourse is to shoot the ball, even though his position on the baseline means he has to arch the ball up over the rear of the backboard at just the precise, seemingly impossible angle to make it drop softly into the hoop. If the shot should fall, would it count?

A: No, and this actually happened in an NBA game. Larry Bird took and made the shot, which the refs waved off as illegal.

OPINION: BASEBALL PET PEEVES OF MINE:

There was a time when an umpire told big league teams that the league had actually approved the calling of a strike on a pitch which was the width of three baseballs out of the strike zone! Don Zimmer revealed this in his book, The Zen of Zim. I’m thinking, “Why do you think that area (and not anything OUTSIDE of that area) is called the STRIKE zone? Zimmer agreed, saying if they want to do that, why not simply make home plate wider!?

Perhaps worse to me was how many umpires after calling a pitch outside the strike zone a strike, would say, “Well, that’s MY strike zone.” NO IT’S NOT! It’s (or should be) the league’s strike zone, the one the RULEBOOK says to enforce.

The worst case of an umpire insisting he had the right to create HIS zone came during Game 5 of the NLCS when Livan Hernandez of the Marlins whiffed 15 Braves. Zimmer wrote that most of the strikeouts came on pitches a foot outside the strike zone. His book added that home plate Eric Gregg later explained his calls by saying word to the effect of, “They all know my strike zone,”–again the egotistical use of the word MY. And: “This is how I always call that pitch.” If that’s the case, then you’ve always been horrible at balls and strikes.

SURE WAY TO LOSE RESPECT OF TEAMMATES:

Long ago, Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez hit Braves slugger Joe Adcock with a pitch on the wrist. The two men exchanged bitter words before Adcock decided to charge the mound. Gomez threw at the fast-approaching 6′ 4″ Adcock again (it reminds me of the time during a skirmish that had, at first, been broken up, Larry Bird picked up the basketball and fired it at Bill Laimbeer causing more mayhem). At that point Gomez, no longer armed with a ball, fled–sprinting away from his pursuer, and toward his clubhouse. In the book The Zen of Zim, Don Zimmer wrote that after Gomez had made his escape, he reappeared brandishing an ice pick he had obtained. Zimmer also wrote of the time O’s pitcher Dennis Martinez knocked George Scott to the dirt then took off, running into the outfield.

 

 

College Football Trivia

I found some great stuff on college football from the book ESPN College Football Encyclopedia to share:

Not sure if he meant it ironically or humorously or not, but when the Oklahoma Sooners were in the midst of their 31-game winning streak from 1948-1950, the school’s president said, “We want to build a university the football team can be proud of.”

The Sooners once rattled off an even longer winning streak. From 1953-1957, they rattled off an incredible 47 consecutive wins.

Quiz item: Who wrote this famous line about Notre Dame? “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again.” Answer below.

Darrell Royal summed up football by saying, “Talk about X’s and O’s all you want, but most football games are won by angry people.”

Bear Bryant’s take on football was, “Offense wins games, defense wins titles.”

Quiz item: which of the famous Seven Blocks of Granite went on to become a legendary NFL coach?

Former USC coach John McKay once tried to put the game of football into a rational frame of reference, perhaps trying to calm his players down as they prepared for a clash versus number one ranked UCLA.  He told his squad, “Remember this, guys, No matter what happens today, there are 800 million Chinese who don’t give a damn.”

That reminded me of the time Dallas Cowboys running back Duane Thomas was being interviewed after the Super Bowl and said basically the same thing, diminishing the value of the sport which paid his salary while not exactly pleasing the TV people interviewing him and covering the Super Bowl.

Another time, when hearing an announcer refer to the Super Bowl as the ultimate game, Thomas shot back, “If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, how come there is another one next year?”

Then there was the time Tom Brookshier interviewed Thomas after a 24-3 Super Bowl VI win by Dallas over Miami. Brookshier spoke of what Thomas had accomplished in the game and, if I recall, said something like, “Some people said you weren’t all that fast, but you sure looked like you had a lot of speed today.” Then he fed Thomas an ordinary, trite question that should have evoked an answer such as, “Well, I try to get the job done,” or some such simple answer. What the announcer asked Thomas was, “Are you that fast?” Thomas answer was simple, all right. He replied, “Evidently.” That silenced Brookshier. What else was there to be said?!

Last question: What college features an end zone painted like a checker board?

Answers: 1st question–Grantland Rice  2nd question–Vince Lombardi   3rd question–Tennessee

My TV Interviews, Book Signing, and More Trivia

INTERVIEW INFO:

    If you’d like to check out two of the TV interviews I did regarding some of my books, please go to: http://wpcommunitymedia.org/search?search%5Bglobal%5D=wayne+stewart

You can then chose between two videos.

BOOK SIGNING: On September 15th, I will be signing copies of my two latest football books (see Home Page) at the Barnes and Noble store in Westlake, Ohio, at Crocker Park from 2:00-4:00.

TRIVIA:

Some interesting trivia from the book Baseball’s Bad Hops and Lucky Bounces by Mike Blake:

Quick Quiz: What three men formed a starting outfield for the longest stretch? Clue: the three men played in the NL and were together as starters for 8 seasons from 1956-1963. They won a pennant and their best player won a ton of batting crowns. Answer below.

Did You Know– Only two major leaguers have ever hit at least one home run as a teenager then also homered while in their 40s. The two men even had last names which rhymed: Ty Cobb and Rusty Staub.

Did You Know– The 1936 Yankees had more men who drove in 100 runs that season than any other team ever. Six Yanks led by Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio did this.

Did You Know that the worst major league team ever, based upon how many games they finished out of first place, was the Braves of 1906. They were a distant 66 1/2 games out of first (almost makes the 2018 Orioles look good–almost). The 1962 expansion Mets were 60 1/2 games behind the pennant winning Giants, but their WL% of .250 was pathetic– I believe it’s the worst of the modern era.

Did You Know that the worst lifetime hitter (based on 200+ at bats and based strictly upon the lowest batting average) was Ron Herbel, a pitcher with a career average of a nearly invisible .029. Meanwhile, the worst average for one season is owned by pitcher Bob Buhl who, in 1962, went hitless in 70 at bats! Also, the worst modern era pitcher for a single season, based only upon most defeats, was Vic Willis who lost 29 games.

ANSWER TO QUICK QUIZ: The Pirates outfield trio of Bob Skinner, LF; Bill Virdon, CF; and Roberto Clemente, RF.

 

September Trivia/Quiz

QUIZ:

  1. Three Pittsburgh Pirate pitchers made baseball history, see if you know any of them. First, this man pitched what was arguably the greatest game ever, a perfect game through 12 full innings against the Milwaukee Braves in 1959. Many years later through one of the dumbest rulings by a commissioner, this man was striped of being recognized as having thrown a “perfecto” despite retiring 36 men in a row, nine more than what is normally required to get credit for a no-hitter or perfect game. So, he goes BEYOND perfection yet has credit for this remarkable feat taken away from him. Even the opposing pitcher that day would go on to say, “I have to be the greatest pitcher who ever pitched because I beat the guy who pitched the greatest game ever pitched.”
  2. The next hurler compiled a record of 18-1 in 1959, an historic year for Pirates pitchers. That works  out to a blistering win-loss percentage of .947, the highest in baseball history (the second best percentage is .938 by Johnny Allen who went 15-1 in 1937). At 5′ 8″, the Pirate pitcher in question won 22 in a row dating back to 1958 over a span of 97 appearances. He began ’59 at 17-0 before dropping his first decision. A researcher determined he would also have had 10 saves that season if that stat had been kept back then.
  3. Our final pitcher spent only 12 games during the 1952 season in the majors, but what he had done as a minor leaguer defies belief. This man retired 27 men on strikeouts in a nine-inning contest. It should be noted that he did not throw a no-hitter, and one of the whiffs came on a batter who reached base when the third strike was not cleanly fielded– still, 27 strikeouts in a game is remarkable.

Answers:  1) Harvey Haddix, a.k.a. The Kitten (for his resemblance to a teammate he had on the Cardinals, Harry “The Cat” Brecheen) threw 12 perfect innings. Amazingly, the game featured only two pitchers as he and Lew Burdette both went the distance with “Nitro” Lew getting the 1-0 win. The Pirates were blanked despite having a three-hit inning in which they failed to score (one runner was thrown out at third base).

Not only would it be impossible nowadays for Burdette (and maybe even Haddix?? but I sure hope not) to go the route, but it also seems improbable or impossible for a 13-inning game to go as quickly as was the case in Haddix’s gem–that game was completed in under three hours at 2:54. Haddix went to ball three on only one batter–he threw 115 pitches with the most in an inning coming in the 12th inning when he threw just 14 pitches. Plus, only 33 of his pitches were out of the strike zone. In other words, 71% of his pitches were strikes.

If anyone wants more info on how he lost the perfect game in the 13th inning, contact me via Comments or email me at wstew@roadrunner.com  Likewise, there’s more to the stories about the next two pitchers which I can add later this month upon request.

2. Elroy Face

3. Ron Nicciai

Latest Books Now Out and a New Quiz

9781538101582_fcAbove: The cover of my latest book which can now be purchased in the usual places such as on line at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or through the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield.

The book covers nine of the greatest coaches who spent at least some time during the 1950s and/or 1960s coaching an NFL team. Those legends are: Tom Landry, Don Shula, Vince Lombardi (pictured), George “Papa Bear” Halas, George Allen, Paul Brown, Hank Stram, Bud Grant, and Weeb Ewbank.

The book also focuses on four great games from that era: the 1959 title game between the Colts and Giants (Unitas, Berry, Gifford, and tons of other Hall of Famers); the infamous Heidi Game; the Ice Bowl between the Cowboys and Packers; and the stunning upset of the Colts by Joe Namath’s Jets in Super Bowl III.

Almost all of the anecdotes and quotes in the book comes from exclusive interviews I did with many stars and superstars of the game such as Mel Renfro, Raymond Berry, Tom Matte, Gino Marchetti, Mike Ditka, Rick Volk, Don Maynard, Fred Cox, Floyd Little, Dave Robinson, Paul Warfield, and many more. Several of these men (such as Berry, Matte, Ditka, and Maynard) endorsed the book by providing blurbs for the cover.

The book is a follow-up, a sort of companion book to Remembering the Stars of the Glory Years of the NFL which focused on the roughest, toughest players of the time period (including Dick Butkus–he’s featured on the books cover in a great picture of him towering over a player he had just leveled), the superstars of the era, others who, though not superstars, were very, very good players, the humor of the game in the 1950s and 1960s, and the contrast between football then and now.

BELOW: A reminder that my America’s Cradle of Quarterbacks is also out now– and it includes an introduction by Western Pennsylvanian Mike Ditka.

Stewart_Wayne-Amazon

Bonus Quiz: Of the men listed above in the descripton of the Glory Years book, which of them– #1 was a running back at Syracuse   #2 was once called the greatest defensive end ever   #3 was a wide receiver who once (in the 1960s) broke a tremendous record held by another man on the list  #4 grew up on the same street as Joe Montana  #5 was mainly a running back in the NFL, but was a quarterback in college for OSU and Woody Hayes

 

Answers: 1 Little  2 Marchetti  3 Maynard broke some Berry records  4 Cox  5 Matte