Last Blog? Need Your Help Dec. 2018

FEEDBACK:

This is the month I need to decide if I want to pay for another year of keeping my web site. I’m not getting a whole lot of “views” and the blogs are somewhat time consuming (considering the number of people reading them). Here’s where I need your help.

If you don’t find the blogs all that interesting, let me know and tell me what could be done to make you want to visit the site each time a new blog is posted.

If you have the time, could you go on social media to spread the word, especially to good sports fans, about the website.

Any other ideas on how to get more exposure, please feel free to contact me. You can leave a comment or email me at wstew@roadrunner.com.  Thanks!

DEC. ITEMS:

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIV. ITEMS: Looking through an old book (so some of these stats, facts, and records may be outdated) I came across some interesting items. The Brigham Young record for passing yards in a game belongs to John Walsch (619), but Ty Detmer owned the season and career records. He also won a Heisman and set 62 NCAA records. He finished first or second in QB efficiency from 1989-1991.

Other QBs out of BYU who weren’t exactly slouches: Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, and Steve Young to name three who come quickly to mind…From 1922-1971, BYU got shutout 72 times. From 1972-2000, under LaVell Edwards, they were blanked just once while averaging 32 points a game over a span of 361 contests.

In 1923, the school went with Cougars for their nickname and they obtained a live cougar and her two cubs. Throughout the latter part of the 1940s live animals were on the field’s sideline and they lived on campus. However, according to my copy of the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia, one time the cougars got loose and killed two dogs. The school then decided to change their mascot from those live animals to using students wearing Cosmo the Cougar costumes.

OPINION ON NCAA— The hypocrisy of some of the things the NCAA does gets to me. They insist that the media, for example, call college players “student-athletes” when I’ve heard that many of, say, the football players actually quit their colleges after their season is over. Not sure if that still holds true, but I did read that some time ago. Of course, many of these kids are far removed from being true scholars, and we know there have been many instances where cheating has gone on to help kids get into and stay in college.

It also bothers me, even though I live in Ohio, that a team like the Buckeyes can play poorly and, for instance, nearly lose to Maryland, but still be in the running for the national title. Again, this is based on things I’ve heard, but I believe the committee craves having teams like the popular Ohio State squad to make it to big bowl games and/or the playoffs. Just my opinion on all of this, but to me an early season scare to one of those weak teams in a sort of tune-up game or a near-defeat to a team like Maryland should count against a major team A LOT.

Rip Sewell was the most famous pitcher of the ephus ball in baseball history. The pitch was basically a lob, one which attained heights of around 25 feet in the air. Batters had to supply their own oomph when hitting the ball and many whiffed as they tried to deposit the ball over distant fences. Ted Williams famously is the only man to homer off the gimmick pitch (in the ’46 All-Star Game, a blow that traveled 20 rows deep into the Fenway Park right field bleachers). The next batter got an ephus, too. He popped it up to end the inning and Sewell was showered with a standing ovation. By the way, prior to his homer, Williams had missed on an ephus, but asked Sewell to throw him another one–that time, he didn’t miss.

Sewell knew his pitch (often called a blooper pitch) frustrated hitters. He said they often popped it up no higher than a living room ceiling and he said sometimes “they’d miss it by two feet.” He joked in an old Baseball Digest article that, “If I pitched today, I’d make Catfish Hunter look like a pauper. Sewell was much more than a man who threw a gadget pitch. He won 21 games in 1943 and 1944 and in 1948, he went 13-3.

Dizzy Trout threw a blooper to Sewell once, only to see Sewell blast a double down the left field line. Another frustrated player was Whitey Kurowski who spit at the pitch every time Sewell threw him one. The 1975 BBD article said Ernie Lombardi once fanned on three straight ephus balls then begged the umpire to give him one more strike. Eddie Miller of the Braves hated the pitch and he used to scream at Sewell that he was going to get him. Sewell recalled that one day Miller snapped. ” . . . he just reached out and caught the ball as it came over the plate. He threw it up into the air and lined it right back at me. I caught it . . .” The umpire did not allow the play or the catch to stand. Instead, he called a strike on Miller.  [from Baseball Digest’s “Remember Rip Sewell and the ‘Ephus Ball’?” by Joe Falls from July 1975]

Sewell threw the pitch up to 15 times per outing and only one National League player ever got an extra base hit off it. That man, and this will make Donora, Pa. natives glad to hear, was The Man— Stan Musial.

APPEARANCE:  On Dec. 15th I’ll be signing some of my books at Mindfair, a book store inside the Ben Franklin store in Oberlin, Ohio, located at 13 West College Street (from 1:30 until 3 pm).

Football and More Mid-Nov. 2018

Boise State has a unique field and it will stay that way according to a book I read. The field is artificial turf and what makes it different is that it is blue in color. The book says it is the only blue field in college football and, due to a rule banning the use of any color other than green for fields, it will remain the only blue field in the game.

The Arkansas football program produced two coaches, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, who won a NCAA title and a Super Bowl championship. Both won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys who were owned by another Arkansas product, a former player by the name of Jerry Jones. In addition, four men from the 1964 undefeated team went on to win a national title as a coach: Johnson and Switzer along with Frank Broyles and Johnny Majors.

Arnold “Pope” Galiffa tied for the most letters ever won at Army (I believe it was 11). I never saw his college stats until today. He led the Black Knights in passing three seasons in a row (1947-1949). Remember, passing stats back then are much different than in more recent years, but Galiffa was impressive enough to be featured on the front cover of a national magazine.

Stats: 1947– 22 of 49 for 295 yards; 1948– 44 of 95 for 701 yards; 1949– 50 of 97 for 887 yards. I believe there were many factors for the passing game not being as prolific as it later became including the fact that the ball itself was shaped differently making it more difficult to throw. The game has changed, but Galiffa, for his time, was clearly something special. There’s a story about when he fought in Korea and heaved a hand grenade a great distance, accurately taking out enemy positions. Reportedly, he could throw a grenade around 75 yards.

More on MLB strikeouts (see other blogs for original info on this topic): In 2018, 22.3% of all plate appearances resulted in a strikeout. I remember as a kid if a batter in a crucial spot struck out, to me it was a dramatic moment (especially if he took a called third strike–like maybe he froze on a curve or a beautifully placed fastball). Now K’s are so commonplace, I almost expect rallies or big moments to end with a whiff. The 22.3% is the highest in MLB history.

Plus, 33.7% of all plate appearances end in either a strikeout, a walk, or a home run. Everyone swings from the heels it seems. No wonder some fans are turned off by the lack of activity on the diamond–all the walks and K’s can become tiresome and the over abundance of homers waters down it’s dramatic input (I think). The 33.7% is also the highest rate ever.

November’s First Blog: Quick Items

BOB PRINCE…Spoke with Steve Blass recently and he had nice things to say about Bob Prince, Pirates broadcasting legend. As a kid I remember listening to Prince and I learned a lot of baseball from him. I think he interviewed G.M. Joe Brown and from that show I learned that in most baseball games the team which wins will have scored as many or MORE runs in one inning than the losing team scored in the entire game.

Who else besides Prince would mention some facts, nicknames, and even middle names of players often enough that, to this day, I remember that Willie Stargell’s full name is Wilver (not a misspelling) Dornell Stargell or that the Pirates once had a pitcher named Alvin O’Neal McBean! Prince liked to call reliever Billy O’Dell, Digger O’Dell (if my memory holds true), Billy McCool became “Cool” Billy McCool, and he would speak of a Braves pitcher as “Cecil Upshaw and His Band,” or something along those lines.

Prince often made it a point to inform his audience that the term “ground rule double” was used incorrectly at times. If a ballpark had a quirk which resulted in special ground rules being enforced, THAT was a ground rule for THAT park. However, if a rule that is, in fact, in the rule book for ALL parks–notably a fly ball which bounces into the stands results in an automatic double–then THAT is a BOOK (not a ground) RULE.

WHY I HATE THE WILD CARD…There are many reasons why I hate the wild card although I know why it came into being which is mainly because of money–baseball is, of course, a business. That aside, here’s one prime example of why I, as a traditionalist, hate it: in 1992, the Padres went 82-80, a mediocre record for sure. The ’87 A’s and the ’84 Angels both played .500 ball all season long (81-81).

All of these teams played back when there were two divisions in each league. The teams that proved themselves over the long grind of a 162-game schedule were rewarded with a playoff berth–everyone else went home for the winter. Of course, I actually liked it better before division play, back when you either won your league and went to the World Series or, too bad, you didn’t earn a right to play for the championship.

Now, here’s the thing: beginning in 1994, MLB split teams into three divisions in both leagues and suddenly, not two or four teams were in the playoffs. Now, the total rose to eight, and you no longer had to win your league or division to have a shot at the world championship. So, getting back to the Padres, A’s, and Angels mentioned earlier, an article I read stated that those teams, had they played under wild card rules set up in ’94, would have made the playoffs! Consider, too, the ’73 Mets who did win their division but with a record dangerously close to .500 (at 82-79) proving to me that once baseball went to multiple divisions in 1969, there would be teams I felt didn’t deserve to go to the World Series who could and would go–AND by 2018, many teams like that have won it all. Too watered down for me as a purist!

DIRTY PLAYERS…There was lots of talk about Manny Machado being a dirty player. If you can recall others such as Ty Cobb who were worse, you might send a comment to my site.

 

Mid-October ’18 Trivia and Quiz

CHANGES IN BASEBALL: In the last blog I mentioned how rare complete games are nowadays–only 42 were thrown in 2018. By way of contrast, consider this: in 1972, Steve Carlton racked up 30 CG on his own (during an incredible season for “Lefty.” Remember, this was the year his Phillies won just 59 times and he owned 27 of those wins, a staggeringly high percentage). After researching Carlton, I chose three pitchers who I figured had a lot of CG: Fergie Jenkins, Bob Gibson, and Juan Marichal and found that over a two-year span they had 54, 56, and 57 CG respectively. Sandy Koufax had 54 CG over his final two seasons. I’m sure if I dug more I would find even better totals for a pitcher, totals that would make the MLB total of a paltry 42 for all 30 teams combined look utterly ridiculous. And I’m not talking about ancient baseball–after all, the record for the most CG in a season is 48, set by Jack Chesbro in 1904, the year he also set the modern day record for the most wins, 41. Final note: “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity started both ends of three double headers in August of 1902, a month when many pitchers are wearing down. He won all six of the contests, and went the distance in each of the six games.

MORE ON CARLTON: His 1972 also included such glittering stats as his having worked 346 1/3 innings, a total never to be seen again with the way the game is now played, and his 310 K’s and 1.97 ERA.

MORE ON CHANGES: In the 2018 NLCS, Milwaukee pitcher logged 65 2/3 inning pitched in all. In days gone by, the amount of those IP which were worked by starters would have been quite high. This time, Brewers starters accounted for a mere 20 1/3 of that total meaning the bullpen provided the staff with 45 1/3 IP. Granted, the numbers are skewed some because one starter faced one batter, walked him, then departed from the game, officially working zero innings. Regardless, the actions of teams such as Milwaukee and Tampa make one wonder if this is a new trend or something which will die out.

NO NEED TO HUSTLE? Manny Machado was guilty of some dirty play according to many experts. Not only did he twice make questionable slides into second base to attempt to break up possible double plays (he was called out on one of the slides), but he also kicked Jesus Aguilar as he crossed the first base bag, infuriating some Brewers. On top of that, he didn’t run out a ground ball in Game #2 of the NLCS, stating that hustling was “not my cup of tea.” Here he is fighting to advance to the ultimate goal, the World Series, but the idea of simply running out a ground ball is not his style. Like Pete Rose or not, those words would never have been uttered by a man who truly wanted to win all of the time. Apparently, he doesn’t care about winning or even his teammates all that much. After his Dodgers clinched, he was asked if he felt as though he had the last laugh on the Milwaukee fans who had rained down boos on him for his dirty plays. Smugly, he shot back, “What do you think?” Can’t say I’m a fan of this guy.

QUIZ: Football has seen some great and/or colorful nicknames over the years (feel free to share your favorites by making a comment on this blog). We’ve had Billy White Shoes Johnson, Eugene Mercury Morris, Roger the Dodger Staubach, and many more. Your question is this–what was the real name of the 5′ 10″, 210 pound running back known as The Human Bowling Ball? He was from Ravenna, Ohio, and attended the nearby Kent State University. When Larry Csonka left the Dolphins and headed to the WFL, this runner stepped in and finished in the Top 10 in the NFL fo rushing TDs from 1974 through 1976.

TRIVIA: Walter Johnson was involved in 64 1-0 games over his career. He won 38 of them for what was often a poor Washington Senators team…In 1962, 1 out of every 76. stolen bases in the N.L. were rung up by Maury Wills who set a new record with his 104 steals…From a graphic I saw during the playoffs: the longest postseason game in Dodgers history (based on innings played) is 14, set back in 1916 when they lost to the Red Sox. In that contest Babe Ruth went the distance for a 2-1 victory. Now, how’s this for another change in baseball? That game took 2:32 to play. Contrast that to the 13 inning game the Dodgers (then called the Robins) played in the 2018 postseason–that one took more than twice as long at 5:15. No TV commercials back in 1916, of course, and only two pitchers appeared in that contest while 16 worked in the 2018 game.

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.