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Bob Friend Trivia and More

Here’s a sneak peek at some info on Bob Friend from my upcoming book on the 1960 Pirates:

Friend led the league in starts from 1956-1958. He won 22 to top the NL in 1958 then suffered through a frightful season in which he went 8-19 to lead the league in defeats, for a hellacious dip. Back on his game in ’60, he won 60% of his decisions, winning 18 in all to go with a 3.00 ERA.  

Baseball is a peculiar game. Some big name pitchers, often for reasons they have no control over such as a lack of run support and the type of defense they have behind them, actually wind up with lifetime records which are sub-.500.  Some well known pitchers who suffered that ignominy include Friend (197-230), Bobo Newsom, Don Larsen of World Series perfect game fame, Johnny Vander Meer who threw back-to-back no-hitters, and both Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger, the men who hooked up in and completed the major’s longest game ever in terms of innings, 26, back on May 1, 1920. Imagine their pitch counts! One estimate was between 250-300 for each weary man at the end of the game which was called in 1-1 tie. The game ran a mere 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Upon Friend’s retirement in 1966, he was also one of just 17 pitchers to lose 200 games and one of just a few pitchers to lose that many while finishing a career with a record below .500. That does not mean he wasn’t a quality pitcher because he was. As Roger Craig, who lost 24 games with the 1962 expansion Mets and 22 more the next season, observed, “You’ve got to be a pretty good pitcher to lose that many.” His logic was no manager is going to let a lousy pitcher play long enough to acquire tons of losses. As a trivia note, Friend holds the distinction of giving up Pete Rose’s first big league hit.

1960 Pirates

I’m currently wrapping up a book I hope will come out next year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of what may well be the most stunning upset in World Series play–if it’s not that, it was certainly the most lopsided Series, even if the lopsided scores (and crazy statistics/records) went in favor of the losing team, the Yankees.

If, by any chance, you have a good story or any info about that season, any of the players involved, etc. let me know and I’ll consider using it in the book (although, to give you fair warning, there’s not much room left for such material).

Here’s a quick tidbit that will be in the book from some research and an interview I did with a baseball expert/author:

Rich Westcott said, “A lot of people think Murtaugh should be in the Hall of Fame. Danny was nothing spectacular as a player—he did lead the league in stolen bases one year—but people regard him very highly.” His winning percentage of .540 is higher than 11 of the 22 managers in the Hall and it’s tied with Leo Durocher. It is also better than Casey Stengel’s .508 and way better than Connie Mack’s .486 (only he and Bucky Harris are in Cooperstown with a percentage below .500).

I was surprised to learn that two managers in the Hall lost more games than they won yet got honored for their longevity and/or ability to win some World Series. Harris, who won three championships, won his first as a rookie player/manager while Mack, a man whose teams often were either great or lousy, won five championships. For the record, Murtaugh, who spent four stints with the Pirates (and no other club), won two.

Baseball Items July

Things I came across: Christian Yelich’s great-great grandfather was a running back in the NFL. His name was Fred Gehrke and he is the man who designed the logo for the L.A. Rams.

The son of actors Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon is named Deacon and that was done to honor a relative of Ryan’s–Deacon Phillippe who was the first pitcher to win three games in a World Series. In fact, he did that in the first modern World Series ever, the 1903 best-of-nine Series won by the Pirates over the Boston Pilgrims.

Coincidentally, 57 years later, a man with the nickname of the Deacon, Vernon Law, came very close to winning three in the Series versus the Yankees. The 1960 World Series was the most lopsided, wildest one ever in the opinion of many. The Bucs lost three games by scores of 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0 (two shutouts by Whitey Ford) but won it all in seven thanks to the famous walkoff homer by Bill Mazeroski. The Yanks’ stats destroyed those of the Pirates which led Gino Cimoli of the Pirates to quip after the deciding contest, “They set all the records and we won the game.”

Al McGuire’s Greatest Players

From a 1984 Inside Sports magazine: Al McGuire picked his “Blue Chippers” teams including his All-Americans. His all-time All-American was Oscar Robertson and his five for the ’84 draft featured just one senior Kevin Magee. He rounded out his picks with Sam Bowie, Terry Cummings, Ralph Sampson, and James Worthy.

His All-Blur team: all-time pick was Calvin Murphy. The ’84 selections included Dwight Anderson and Rocket Foster. How many of the men mentioned so far have you remembered vividly?

All-Radar: all-time best shooter was Rick Mount; others included Trent Tucker, Byron Scott, Quintin Dailey, and Randy Wittman.

All-Slam-Jam-in-Your Face: all-time pick was Bill Russell. Also on the list were Sam Perkins, LaSalle Thompson, and Dominique Wilkins. By the way, McGuire had a rule that no man could be on more than one list.

His all-time power forward was Larry Bird. His ’84 picks included Antoine Carr, Michael Cage, and Clark Kellogg.

All-time take charge guy: Bob Cousy. From ’84–Sleepy Floyd, John Paxson, and Doc Rivers

Best freshman ever was Magic Johnson. From ’84–Pat Ewing and Michael Jordan.

He had some dubious picks for ’84 first-round NBA picks such as Kevin Magee, Fred Roberts, Darren Tillis, Corny Thompson, Rory White, and Alvis Rogers. I’ll be honest, I can’t recall most of those men.

Big Red Machine’s Underrated Cog: Griffey Sr.

The MLB network selected their greatest teams ever based on what they accomplished in one season. The #1 team was the Yankees of 1998–that team won 114 games and was stacked with talent.

However, being from Donora, Pa. (and knowing many followers of this site are from there), I thought it was worth sharing that the Reds of ’75 (they won 108 games, most in their league since 1909) came in second and that Donora’s Ken Griffey Sr. was highly instrumental in that success.

Only Pete Rose and Joe Morgan scored more runs than Griffey’s 95 (#6 in the NL) and he hit .305 that season as well. He stole 16 bases, ripped 9 triples (#6 in the league), and his on-base percentage, which was nearly .400, was the tenth best in the NL (the next year he jumped up to the fourth highest OB% in his league). Plus, he did all of that in just 132 games at the age of 25, and in his first full season in the majors.

He was so durable and skilled, he lasted until 1991–and in his final two seasons only four players were older than him. Frankly, some of the stats I examined were a surprise to me–for example, I never realized he finished so high in on-base percentage or that one season his on-base percentage plus slugging placed him in the #7 slot in the entire NL!

To see all of his stats and how he ranked among league leaders (and more), go to:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/griffke01.shtml

Howard Cosell & deGrom item

One last deGrom stat that I found noteworthy from 2018. Yes, he ended his Cy Young season at 10-9, but did you know the Mets record in his 32 starts was 14-18? I know there are many reasons for that such as poor run support and I know he DID have some incredible stats, but I still have a hard time with a CYA winner with 10 wins!

Do you recall the time Howard Cosell was working a Monday Night Baseball game in 1977 and suddenly the audience could clearly hear a voice saying, “Howard, the entire state of Texas hates you,” and “You stink, Howard [or was it Howie].” It turned out the voice was coming from a 16-year-old batboy who was near a live microphone on or near the field. He claimed he didn’t know his comments would be heard on TV. The youngster was earning $8 per game. He was also suspended for his actions–even though so many of us thought he was correct.

Cosell was woefully lacking in baseball knowledge. One day the Phils were trailing by, I believe it was, three runs late in the game with slugger Mike Schmidt at the plate and two men on. The count ran to 2-0 or 3-0 and Schmidt took a big cut prompting Cosell to say he just couldn’t believe a batter wouldn’t be taking in that situation! Schmidt saw a pitch he felt he could drive–maybe even far enough to tie the game up with one swing–and he took that chance. After all, how many chances were the Phillies going to get to come back in that game and here’s your top power man at the plate awaiting a pitch that just might be grooved to him. You can bet he had a green light if the pitch was to his liking, but Cosell, with his limited knowledge, didn’t see it.

I recall another time Johnny Bench got fooled on a pitch and swung late, making just enough contact to hit the ball into the opposite field for a weak single. Cosell bellowed out something like, “Look at Bench. What a hitter. He purposely went with the pitch and guided it into right field.” It all makes me wonder just how many good sports fans really liked him? Did you?