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June 2019: Misc. Baseball Items

Things I’ve come across:

The 2018 Dodgers didn’t have one pitcher throw 162 or more innings. That’s how much the game of baseball has come to rely upon bullpens. That means not one Dodger qualified to league leadership in any category because rules state in order to do so a pitcher must work a total amount of innings that would equal the number of games their team played (normally, 162).

Last season also featured just the third player to top his league in hits and steals–Whit Merrifield, an underrated player. The other two men were Dee Gordon and Ichiro.

I read that Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who had an ERA of 1.70, was deserving of winning the Cy Young Award, but I have some trouble with that. Yes, some of his stats, including that tiny ERA, are very impressive, but a Cy Young winner with 10 wins?! That bothers me. Maybe that’s because I grew up in an era when a Cy Young recipient such as Sandy Koufax put up numbers such as a sizzling 25-5 record (.833 WL%), with a 1.88 ERA. The year I’m using as an example, 1963, wasn’t an aberration–it was one of five consecutive seasons in which he led his league in ERA. In fact, that season Koufax had more shutouts, 11, than deGrom had wins!! I know baseball has changed so I won’t dwell on the contrast between their complete games, but here it is in black and white– Koufax turned in 20 CG (two other times he hit a personal high of 27) while deGrom had ONE! Koufax’s .833 winning percentage puts deGrom’s .526 to shame. Guess I’m getting resistant to changing times, but, again, the thinking of recent voters for awards is perplexing to me.

Likewise, the reliance upon homers is troubling. On September 6, 2018, the Yankees who set a record for the most homers by a team in a season, became the first team ever to field a team which had each of their nine lineup slots filled with men who had already powered 20+ homers. Of course, as of this early June writing, they’re saying the 2019 Twins are slugging at a pace which would shatter the Yanks record.

Mookie Wilson became the first batting crown winner to join the 30 HR/30 SB club…The Red Sox were a juggernaut last year: in their three rounds of playoff action, they clinched wins against three pitchers who were Cy Young winners in CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw…I heard an interesting trivia item about Shohei Ohtani. It seems that he is the only man to homer off a reigning Cy Young winner and strike out the reigning MVP in 2019.

Flashback to a 1970 item. Cotton Nash set a University of Kentucky basketball scoring record with 1,770 points. That mark fell to Dan Issel, but Nash went on to play minor league baseball (and was up to the majors for a couple of cups of coffee–playing in 13 games). On August 3, 1970, he made Evansville (of the American Association) history when he drilled his 12th homer within a period of one month. Nash’s 25th homer tied a league record first set by Danny Walton and he went on to break Walton’s mark even though Nash got a late start in his quest for the record–his first blast didn’t come until May 7th. He wound up the year with 33 HR. Though he enjoyed quite a few years of power hitting in the minors, he never hit one in the majors.

The old record was shared by Leonard “Preacher” Williams and Lee Maye–how many of you remember him? He is NOT the Lee May (who spelled his last name without an “E”). That man compiled 354 homers with teams such as the Reds and O’s.

Lee Maye had a good career, lasting 13 seasons in the majors and collecting 94 HR and once leading the NL in doubles with 44. For doo-wop lovers, Maye also gained fame under the name of Arthur Lee Maye (mainly as an R & B/soul singer) long ago. As a high school student he sang with friends such as Jesse Belvin, who went on to record a hit in “Goodnight My Love,” and Richard Berry who wrote “Louie, Louie,” as well as Cornell Gunter who later sang with the Coasters. Maye formed a singing group called Arthur Lee Maye and the Crowns but also became a solo act. For those of you who are really into old music, here are a few of his titles: I’m Happy and In Love, Moonlight, and a version of Gloria.

Musial Item

From an old magazine: Larry King interviewed Stan Musial who displayed his modesty and his loyalty to his roots when he said, “Sometimes late at night, if I’m driving home from a function or something, I go by the [the Cardinals] stadium and look at that statue of me out front. I really get a kick out of it. Ya know, here’s a kid from Donora, Pa. with a statue of himself while he’s alive. Wow!”

I read somewhere else that Musial wasn’t too happy about the sculptor’s rendition of himself, but he was too nice to complain. I’ve seen it and I think the artist did a very poor job of capturing Stan’s appearance and his famous stance. Here’s a link to pictures of the statue. Let me know your thoughts, especially if you are, like me, a Donora native:

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrEeB1c4OJc5RoAGAAPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=stan+musial+statue+at+busch+stadium&fr=yhs-Lkry-SF01&hspart=Lkry&hsimp=yhs-SF01

Top 100 Baseball Players

This is from an old magazine I came across. The article which featured a list of the 100 greatest baseball players of all-time through 1999, had a great trivia item: Ty Cobb had a lifetime batting average of .367. Now, in the entire 20th century only eight players ever enjoyed seasons with an average higher than .367. So, it was nearly impossible for stars to top .367 in one year, yet Cobb averaged that for his long (1905-1928) career! Some of the men who did exceed .367 in a season were Ted Williams, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, George Sisler, and Bill Terry. Here’s a link to a great web site, my very favorite, and their list of the highest batting averages ever: https://www.baseballreference.com/leaders/batting_avg_season.shtml

The magazine’s top 100 had Ruth at the top followed by Gehrig, Ted Williams, Aaron, then Donor’a Stan Musial in the #5 slot. Number six was DiMaggio (I know he was great, but I think he was somewhat overrated, probably due to the New York City bias in the media–remember they’re the ones who contend Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning homer was more significant than Maz’s homer which won a World Series).

Cobb came in seventh, then Mays, Hornsby, and, to wrap up the Top 10, Honus Wagner.

BONUS TRIVIA ITEM:  From a 1990 item in The Sporting News– Minnie Minoso, then 67, was working out and playing in some Old-Timers games. His goal was to play for at least one at bat in a big league game in order to become the only man ever to play in the majors in six different decades. He stated that he was earning $1,000 for each Old-Timers games he attended. “By playing seven games a year,” he observed, “I make as much playing baseball now as I did in 1951 as a rookie.”

Quick Larry Bird Item

In June of 1985, a Boston newspaper writer was questioning Larry Bird’s shooting touch due to a sprained index finger on his right hand. Bird quieted his critic by challenging the reporter to a free throw shooting contest. To make it fair, Bird shot with a handicap–he taped together all five fingers on his shooting hand. The writer sank 54 of 100 foul shots; Bird drilled 86!

That gave him a shooting percentage of .860 for the contest. To put that in perspective, even with a taped up hand, Bird shot .886 over his career. He led the NBA in that department four times, shot over .900 in four of his final five full seasons (in this case, we’ll got with playing 45+ games as a “full season”), and he hit a personal high of .930 one year.

Quick Baseball Item: Dale Long hit a home run in eight straight games in 1956. For that, he got a raise of $2,300 which hiked his salary to $15,000. He held that record alone for 31 years until Don Mattingly tied it (Ken Griffey Jr. later tied this as well). When Mattingly accomplished this he was earning a bit more than Long had. His 1987 salary was $1,975,000. Of course, that sum is now petty cash, only about four times more than what today’s minimum salary is. Long was also famous for being one of a handful of men who caught at least one game in the majors even though he threw lefty.

Baseball Trivia

TRIVIA FROM RECENT READINGS (from the book Grand Slam Baseball):  Walter Johnson wound up with more wins (417) than anybody other than Cy Young, but if he had played for a good club, who knows how many more wins he would have racked up. He had 110 shutouts (a sure way to get a win) which is 20 more than the #2 pitcher on that list, but of the 64 games he pitched which ended in a 1-0 score, he lost 26. He lost 65 shutouts overall, getting lousy run support from his Senators. Still, he averaged 30 wins per year over a five-year stretch.

Babe Ruth died in 1948 and at that time, many years after he had quit pitching, he still owned the highest winning percentage of any other pitcher against the Yankees. Unless I missed someone, Ruth and Gehrig are among just 38 players to ever steal home 10+ times. In 1920, 14.6% of all American League homers came off the bat of Ruth. After Boston sold him to the Yankees, he hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox squad in 10 of the following dozen seasons.

The most productive states for producing big leaguers in the 20th century were: California with 1,828; Pennsylvania at 1,324; New York with 1,107; Illinois at 985; then Ohio with 956.

On May 16, 1902, William “Dummy” Hoy, who was deaf, faced Luther “Dummy” Taylor, marking the first time a deaf batter opposed a deaf pitcher. Their nicknames reveal the insensitive attitude of their times.

Juan Marichal was among the top 10 in ERA seven seasons and in the top five for wins six times. However, he went through the entire decade of the 1960s and never got a single vote for the Cy Young Award. The only time he cracked the top 10 was in 1971 the he came in 8th in the voting.

Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in ’42 and ’47 yet came in second in MVP voting both seasons…In 1951, a pitcher named Ned Garver won 20 games for his St. Louis Browns. The entire team won only 32 more games as he became the first man to win 20 on a team which dropped 100 or more games in a season…Carlos May asked to wear jersey #17 so that the back of his uniform top indicated his birthday of May 17…Albert Spalding once said that two hours was “about as long as an American can . . .” last for a baseball game. Yet games reaching 3 1/2, 4 hours, and longer happen now all too often.

Here’s a very trivial item: Luis Gonzalez was the first man to hit homers into two different bodies of water. He hit one which splashed down in the pool during a Diamondbacks home game in April of 2000 then blasted one which ker-plunked into McCovey’s Cove in the Giants ballpark in September.

Cy Young must have known when to quit as the last seven batters he ever faced hit a triple, three doubles, and three more singles. He later said he never had a sore arm until his last day in the majors. A great quote from Young to a young reporter: “Son, I won more games than you’ll ever see.”

Rod Carew is the only A.L. player to lead the league in hitting without once connecting for a homer (1972)…Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher to have his number retired by three different teams…Kerry Wood fanned 20 men in just his fifth career start, tying the record for a nine-inning game. In that game he became just the second pitcher to match his age with the number of K’s he recorded–the other man was Bob Feller who whiffed 17 in a game when he was 17-years-old. When Roger Clemens twice struck out 20, he did not give up a single walk.

 

Modest Stan the Man

Stan Musial was a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), a group many baseball fans and members of the media also belong to. I was a member and as such was provided with a phone directory of other members. The people who put the directory together sent out a form requesting our names, jobs, phone numbers, address, and areas of baseball expertise.

Musial’s entry listed his address unlike some famous people who did not submit, for example, their address or phone number. However, Musial always was a man of the people and a great supporter of his fans. For occupation, he modestly wrote “retired.”

I gave a little laugh when I came to what he wrote for his area of expertise. First, realize that almost everyone listed something like, “I specialize in old ballparks,” or “Negro Leagues,” or “New York Yankees.” What Musial wrote for his area of expertise was, “Hitting a baseball.” How true!

PERSONAL PLUG: The latest edition of my You’re the Basketball Ref book is out now and available at places like Barnes & Noble and on line there as well as at Amazon and other such sites. It features Lebron James on the cover and challenges readers to make the call on basketball plays, testing your knowledge of rules.