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Quiz, Pittsburgh Pirate Items, and More

Want to read about a time a modern player kind of helped “throw” a game? It wasn’t a “fix” like the 1919 World Series Black Sox scandal, but this player supposedly made an error on purpose. See below for more on this.

QUIZ: Name the two brothers who combined for more HR than any other brother duo. Then name the two teammates who combined for more HR while teammates, than any other twosome.

Which major league players earned the most admiration from their peers? Among others, Stan Musial stood out in that regard. Vernon Law stated, “Everybody really respected Stan. He wasn’t a griper, he didn’t give umpires a bad time, he was even tempered. If you did hit hit, he’d just drop the bat and go down to first base. He was kind of a man’s man, and just an outstanding personality.”

Remember the Old Time Pirates? Some of the Pirates from the 1959 team were unlucky in that they were not also on the 1960 squad. One such player was pitcher Ron Kline. He was traded from the Pirates to the St. Louis Cardinals on December 21, 1959, for the fun loving Gino Cimoli and Tom Cheney. Kline would return to the Pirates for one full season in 1968 (and a portion of the following season). In 1968, he enjoyed a great season going 12-5 for a sky high winning percentage of .706 to go along with his ERA of 1.68, but despite playing from 1952-1970, he never made it to a World Series. In fact, during his early years with the Pirates he also experienced the anguish of twice leading the National League in losses with 18 in 1956 and 16 in 1958.

Remembering the ’71 Pirates: Merv Rettenmund was with the pennant winning Orioles in 1971. He said of the Pirates, “They had a good team. A dangerous team, you know. We just didn’t play well. I liked a lot of their players because they did a fantastic job of drafting excellent athletes. They had some great athletes and they also had some people that could really handle them. I think Danny Murtaugh did a fantastic job.” Murtaugh, of course, was a Pirate staple with several stints as their manager. Plus, he pulled off that miraculous World Series win in ’60.

Sometimes Spring Training Is Vital ONLY to non-established players: Ken Barbao, a native of Stan Musial’s hometown (Donora, Pa.), spoke about a time when the difference between the attitude of a veteran and a player with much less pro experience became, he thought, evident. “We went to play the Phillies in, I think, Clearwater. The score was tied, 2-2, in the ninth inning and our manager told me to warm up. I said, ‘Well, we don’t have a catcher who can catch the knuckleball.’ So he said I should just throw my other stuff. 

“Without the knuckleball, I pitched the tenth, the eleventh, and the twelfth innings. In the twelfth inning a veteran who knew we play 154 games that count, and this one didn’t count for anything, and we’re playing extra innings. There were two outs and a guy hit a ground ball to him and he threw it over Dale Long’s head at first and the guy went to second.

We had taken Clemente out of right field and put Roman Mejias out there and the next guy up hit a routine fly ball to right field and Mejias misjudged it, so they won, 3-2. The next day I got a plane ticket to New Orleans. I never thought about it until a couple years ago when I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s what the veteran did. He did that [made an error] on purpose.’”

Quiz Answers: the brothers were Hank and Tommie Aaron. The teammates were Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews who shattered the record once held by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

World Series Observation on How Baseball’s Changed

Kevin Cash defended his decision to yank his Game 6 starting pitcher Blake Snell, but to me it just displayed what a contrast there is between the way the game was once played and the game’s strategy nowadays. For example, in the final game of the 1964 World Series , Bob Gibson faced a critical spot. Many managers would’ve pulled him for reliever, but his manager, Johnny Keane, stuck with him and a visibly fatigued Gibson did indeed get out of the ninth inning jam to win the game. After the game the manager was asked why he had stuck with Gibson and he replied, “I had a commitment to his heart.” In other words he trusted his starter and his reputation.

That way of thinking has disappeared—and I understand that to some extent, but Snell had a great pitching line going for him on the night. In addition, he was about to face the top of the lineup if Cash had stuck with him, and Snell had held those guys to 0-for-6 with six strikeouts.

I would have trusted my ace, a Cy Young winner who was in a groove, on top of his game that night. To me, you go with the hot hand because relievers, as good as many of them are, may falter as opposed to, again, a pitcher who’s still mowing them down. Plus, he had only thrown 73 pitches (48 for strikes) and given up just one run on two hits (both singles) with 9 K’s against no walks. So he works 5 1/3 and has a 1-0 lead, but a one-out single and he’s pulled.

I recall great pitcher such as Gaylord Perry (especially when he pitched on poor clubs like the Cleveland Indians) saying he virtually refused to come out of games after working, say, eight innings, only to hand the game and his fate over to someone else. The greats wanted to be responsible for their own outcomes and they hated to come out of games. So, yes, things have changed a lot. Now you even hear big name pitchers work, for instance, six innings and proclaim, “I did my job.” The bar has clearly been lowered; it’s a brand new ball game to purists/old timers.

Oct. 2020 Trivia

BASEBALL: Pirate fans recall how Matty Alou won a batting crown while with the Bucs, but here are some interesting trivia items I came across dealing with him and his brothers Felipe and Jesus.

Most fans also know about the day (9/10/63) when the Giants outfield was composed of three brothers–yes, the three Alous. However, I didn’t know that just five days prior to that they also made baseball trivia history when they accounted for all three outs in a single inning.

When Matty won his crown in ’66, he hit .342 after managing a weak .232 batting average the year before. His 111 point improvement marked the biggest jump ever by a every day player from one season to the next. [Source: The Bibliographical History of Baseball] Credit for his increase was largely given to Pirate Harry “The Hat” Walker who was the team manager that year.

As for Jesus, a big trivia claim to fame came on July 10, 1964, when he banged out six hits in a game versus the Cubs–and did so versus six different pitchers (back in an era when it was unusual for that many men to work in a game). After he came through with his 1,000th hit, that feat made the Alous the only brother trio act to each reach that plateau. Plus, they wound up with the most combined hits for any group of three or more brothers: they compiled 5,094 hits. The three DiMaggios had 4,853 while a family of five brothers, the Delahantys, managed 4,217.

COLLEGE SPORTS: A few of my favorite team nicknames: Ramblin’ Wreck (better than Yellow Jackets, I think); Crimson Tide; Runnin’ Rebels, Scarlet Knights, Ragin’ Cajuns; Paladins (I guess it conjures up the old TV show for me); and I kinda like the Stetson Mad Hatters. Overall, I guess I’m partial to two-word nicknames.

On the other hand, I could never quite conceive of these nicknames as being either intimidating, logical, or very interesting in a sports related way (especially for football): the Gentlemen, the Vandals, the Banana Slugs, the Anteaters, the Fighting Camels (doesn’t ring the same bell as Fightin’ Irish).

There are a lot more such as a high school team from a town named Polka–they went with the nickname Dots. And I think there was a high school in a town which housed a prison which used Convicts as their nickname. However, this list is enough for now.

Football Meets Baseball

I’ve always felt this is one of the best times of year for sports, the time when baseball is racing toward the climax of the season (albeit a short, strange one this year) and football kicks off. So here’s a blend of the two sports.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: The following items are ones I found interesting as I read ESPN’s College Football Encyclopedia. The early years of the sport were so violent that in 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt insisted upon changes in football, or else . . . Many injuries and deaths led to his ultimatum and changes were needed–players didn’t even wear helmets until the sport was “two decades into its existence.” Even then, the early helmets were a joke. If I recall, the leather helmets were often folded up and placed in players’ back pockets at times.

In 1988, one especially loud roar of the LSU crowd during a defeat of Auburn caused a Richter scale at the college to record/register the disturbance…The ESPN book states that during Nebraska home games at Memorial Stadium, the crowd is so large it makes the venue, in effect, the third largest “city” in the entire state…The book also says that when Boise State created a blue playing field, some birds, mistaking the field for water, crashed onto the surface…The first use of instant replay in football took place on Dec. 7, 1963 during an Army-Navy game, just 16 days after the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. Of course, if was very unsophisticated, but, just think, instant replays have been a part of sports for almost 60 years now…The first college band to spell out “OHIO” in script was, of all schools, Michigan. They did this in 1932 as a welcoming gesture. The idea to do this at OSU began with their band director, Eugene Weigel, who said he was inspired by the “rotating sign above Times Square” which he saw when he visited New York City. He also said seeing airplanes perform skywriting also helped him come up with his idea…Speaking of Michigan, their unique helmet design had a purpose behind it–to help their QBs spot receivers.

BASEBALL: Recently the 30th anniversary of the back-to-back homers swatted by the father-son Griffey duo took place. ESPN ran a nice, little piece on that historic event…Opinion: I can’t help it, to me this baseball season lacks legitimacy and I wonder how many readers agree. I still watch the games and read up on the sport, but the stats seem almost meaningless, and how legit will the league leaders be or the major award winners, given the fact that they will not have stood the normal test of 162 games…Someone brought up this issue: If, for example, the Indians would win it all, after their long drought, would the title seem as meaningful and gratifying to them and to the fans? One answer I heard quite a bit was a resounding yes, as they would still have had to battle not only throughout the (shortened) season but they would also have had to survive through many rounds of postseason play. However, I also wonder how many non-Indian fans (or fans of whatever teams wins the championship) will place the same value on the 2020 title as they normally do. Got an opinion? Make a comment on this site.

FINAL NOTE: In a few months I will have to decide if I want to keep this site going or not. I am pretty sure if I don’t get more Followers I will call it quits and devote my writing to my books. So I’m asking you to please become a Follower if you aren’t already AND pass the word to sports fans among your friends. Thanks!

Bryan Reynolds, New Daddy; Stan Musial, Always THE Man; and Lou, the Iron Horse

REYNOLDS: While I’m old school and dislike pre-planned, excessive on-field celebrations/demonstrations, I like what Bryan Reynolds did on Sept. 3, 2020. He had returned to the Pirates after being on the paternity list for the birth of his first child. He doubled and hit a three-run homer and celebrated by pretending to rock a baby to sleep.

Contrast that to what Prince Fielder once did. As I recall, he had instructed his teammates to cluster around home plate the next time he hit a dramatic home run and then wait for him to ceremoniously stomp on the plate. When he did that, his teammates fell over backwards as if Fielder’s leaping onto home plate was equivalent to the plunging of a detonator, setting off an explosion. That was too much for this old school baseball fan to accept.

MUSIAL: I came across a new trivia item about Stan the Man that I had never heard of before. I saw a list of the top 10 batters for each decade based upon most hits. For example, Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner had more hits from 1900-1909 than any other big leaguer. The most hits over one decade was 2,085 by Rogers Hornsby in the Twenties, 40 more than the only other man to top 2,000 hits in a given decade, Pete Rose.

Now, I haven’t double checked the list, but if I didn’t make a mistake, Musial is the ONLY man to be in the top ten for two decades. In the 1940’s, his hit total ranked fourth in MLB and in the Fifties he held down the #3 slot on the list.

LOU GEHRIG: In the history of baseball through 1978 only Hornsby, Chuck Klein, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Gehrig ever had two or more seasons which including 200+ hits and 40 or more HR. Hornsby, Foxx, and Klein achieved this twice; Ruth three times, but the Iron Horse managed this feat a remarkable five times! Meanwhile, I read that Lloyd Waner once compiled 223 hits in a season and all but 25 were singles, good for an incredible modern era record 198 singles. That mark has been broken twice by Ichiro with a high water mark of 225 singles of 262 hits in 2004.