BBRT ‘s Top College Baseball Player – All Time

THE BEST NCAA BASEBALL SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE EVER

It was May 9, 1999 and the Florida State Seminoles’ baseball squad was facing the University of Maryland Terrapins at Shipley Field, College Park, Maryland.  The sun was shining, the wind was blowing in and college hardball history was about to be made.

Playing second base for the Seminoles that day was 6’1”/200-pound, right-handed hitting Marshall McDougall – who was in his first season at Florida State after playing two seasons for Santa Fe Community College.  McDougall’s day started off innocently enough with a first-inning single- but things were about to change.  As the Seminoles charged off to a 26-2 win, McDougall’s day looked like this:

1st Inning – Single

2nd Inning – Solo home run

4th Inning – Three-run homer

6th Inning – Two-run long ball

8th Inning – Grand Slam

9th Inning – Three-run home run

That’s right, seven-for-seven with six home runs in a Division 1 contest.  In the process, McDougall set (and still holds) the NCAA records for home runs in a game (6); consecutive home runs (6); RBI in a game (16); and total bases in a game (25).  He also achieved a rare “home run cycle” (solo, two-run, three-run and Grand Slam HR in a game).  Side note: Only one HR Cycle has been achieved at the professional level – by Tyrone Horne.  For that story, click here.

McDougall finished the 1999 NCAA season with a .419 average, 28 home runs,  NCAA season-leading totals of 106 RBI and 104 runs, and 22 steals in 25 attempts (all in 71 games) – earning All American and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year honors.   He followed that up with a .346-15-67 campaign in 2000.

McDougall was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the ninth round of the 2000 MLB draft. He played professionally from 2000-2012, and appeared in 18 games for the Texas Rangers in 2005 – collecting a double and two singles in 18 MLB at bats.  

I started this post with the Marshall McDougall story because today’s focus will be on Baseball Roundtable’s selection for the  top three college baseball players of all time.  Clearly, there is plenty of  room for debate – “all time,” after all, covers a lot of ground and leaves ample space for discussion. Still,  I think I’ve picked a trio of pretty darn good ones.  I’m also including side note on a couple of additional college players who were in the running.

  1. Pete Incaviglia – Oklahoma State  University – 1983-84-85

InkyIn 1985, Pete Incaviglia had what may be the best offensive season in Division 1 history, In 75 games, he hit .464, cranked 48 home runs, drove in 143 and even tossed in 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts.  In the process, he set several single-season NCAA Division 1 records that still stand: home runs (48); RBI (143); total bases (285); and slugging percentage (1.140).  It was the final season of a three-campaign college career that saw “Inky” play 215 games, hit .397, bash a Division 1 career record 100 home runs and drive in 324.

Picking the 6’ 1”, 230-pound outfielder/DH at number-one was not a difficult task.  In 1999, Incaviglia – a two-time first-team All-American and member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame –  was named the Baseball America Player of the Century.  Who knows, he might also have been the High School Baseball Player of the Century as well.  He was a three-time High School Player of the Year in California.

Incaviglia was selected in the first round of the 1985 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos, who traded him to the Texas Rangers (reportedly because Incaviglia wanted to jump directly to the major leagues). On Opening Day of the 1986 season (April 8), Incaviglia successfully completed the leap from college campus to major league stadium – starting in right field and batting cleanup for the Rangers in a 6-3 home win over the Blue Jays. He went on to play 153 games in his rookie season, hitting .250, with 30 home runs (his only 30-HR MLB season) and 88 RBI. In a 12-season MLB career, he hit .246, with 206 round trippers and 655 RBI.

JOHN OLERUD – A COLLEGE BABE RUTH?

John Olerud was one of the finalists as I pared my list down to three – largely because of his 1988 season for Washington State – when the 6’5” first baseman/pitcher dominated on the hill and in the batter’s box.  As a hitter, Olerud went .464-23-81 that season.  On the mound he was 15-0 with a 2.49 era.  That performance makes him the only college player to hit 20 home runs and record 15 pitching victories in the same season.  For his college career, Olerud went .434-33-131 in the batter’s box, and 26-4, 3.17 as a pitcher. He went on to a 17-season MLB career, during which he won a batting title (.363 for the Blue Jays in 1993), was a two-time All Star and three-time Gold Glover. He retired with a .294 MLB average, 255 home runs and 1,230 RBI.

2. Derek Tatsuno – University of Hawaii – 1977-78-79

TatsA 5’10”, 175-pound southpaw hurler, Derek Tatsuno was the first college pitcher to achieve 20 victories in a single season. (There has been just one 20-win season since – by Mike Loynd 20-3 for Florida State in 1985.)  Tatsuno did it in 1979, when he went 20-1 (in 22 starts), with a 1.86 earned run average and an NCAA single-season strikeout record of 234 (in 174 1/3 innings pitched).

For his college career, Tassuno went 40-6, with a 2.04 earned run average and 541 strikeouts in 402 1/3 innings. He led NCAA Division 1 pitchers in strikeouts in each of his three college seasons.  The two-time All American was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tatsuno’s college mound success was not really a surprise to those who knew him.  He went 27-1 as a high school pitcher – his only loss being a 1-0, 11-inning heartbreaker.

Tatsuno was drafted by the Padres in the second round of the 1979 MLB draft (with a $100,000 offer), but got a better offer to pitch in the Japanese amateur leagues. He continued to be drafted by MLB clubs and  and finally signed the sixth time he was drafted – when the Brewers selected him 25th overall in the January 1982 draft. Tatsuno never played in the major leagues. In four minor league seasons, he went 20-16, with a 4.59 earned run average. Note:  The card pictured is from hit timeeith the minor league Hawaii Islanders.

ROBIN VENTURA – MAKE ROOM JOE DIMAGGIO

The fight for the third spot on my list was a tough one – between the eventual winner (Rickie Weeks, discussed next) and 16-season MLB 3B/1B Robin Ventura. Ventura, who played Division 1 ball for Oklahoma State University for three seasons (1986-88) – hit .428 for his college career. He never hit under .391 for a season, never hit fewer than 21 home runs (68 over three seasons) and drove in 95 or more runs in each campaign.   In addition, in 1987, Ventura achieved what is still the NCAA’s longest hitting streak – 58 games.  Ventura was a three-time All American and winner of both the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award. He was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

3. Rickie Weeks – Southern University – 2001-2003

weeksI am putting Southern University second baseman Rickie Weeks at number-three on my All Time College Baseball Players list. Weeks played for Southern University in 2001-02-03. Over his three-season career, he hit at an NCAA Division 1 career record .465 pace (minimum 200 at bats), with 50 home runs, 233 RBI, 245 runs scored – and a remarkable 65 stolen bases in 66 attempts.  He won consecutive Division 1 batting titles (2002-2003), with averages of .495 and .479 and finished his college career with an NCAA Division 1 record .927 slugging percentage. Weeks was a two-time All American and winner of both the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Award.

Weeks was selected second overall (by the Brewers) in the 2003 MLB draft – and made his MLB debut in September of 2003.  Still active in 2017, after 14-MLB campaigns, Weeks has a .246 MLB average, with 161 home runs, 474 RBI, 733 runs scored and 132 stolen bases His best MLB season was 2010, when he hit .269, with 29 home runs, 83 RBI and 112 runs scored.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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Member:  Society for American Baseball Research; the Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Billy Goodman – No Position? No Problem!

goodmanThroughout most of his MLB career, Billy Goodman was a player without a position.  In 1950, for example, Goodman (with the Red Sox) played 45 games in left field, 27 at third base, 21 at first base, five at second base and one at shortstop (12 as a pinch hitter). Okay, a good utility man is not that unusual.  In 1950, however, Goodman became the first (and still only) true utility player to capture a league batting title. Goodman played in 110 games and raked at a .354 pace (150 hits, 91 runs scored, four home runs, 68 RBI – second place in the AL MVP voting).  It didn’t seem to matter where he played or where in the lineup he batted, Goodman just continued to hit. In fact, if you exclude positions on defense or in the lineup in which he played just one game, 1950 saw him hit .300 or better wherever he played and wherever he batted.

GoodChartABilly Goodman set the stage for his major league utility role early in life – reportedly playing all nine positions over the course of his high school career.  (Note: I prefer to call it his MLB versatility role.) His versatility as an athlete went beyond the baseball field, as he was also top player on his high school basketball and football squads.

Billy Goodman averaged a nice, round .300 over a 16-season MLB career.

Once he began his professional career, there was little double that Goodman was going to hit for average. In 1944, as an 18-year-old – playing at High A for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, the 5’11’, 165-pound (he wasn’t going to be a power hitter) Goodman got into 137 games and hit a healthy .336 (the league batting average was .279). After a year off for military service, Goodman was back at Atlanta (now Double A) hitting .389 in 86 games.

Then, in 1947, he started slowly (as a part-timer with the Red Sox), before going down to Triple A Louisville, where he hit .340 in 89 games. He was back in Boston, full-time, in 1948 – where he eventually took over the first base position and hit .310 as a rookie.  Despite his steady bat, Goodman seem to be constantly challenged for playing time (usually by hitters with more power), but thanks to his versatility, he also seemed to consistently “work” his way into the lineup. One thing was for sure, with Goodman around the Red Sox had little to worry about when it came to slumps or injuries – they could just slot Goodman into the position of need and count on him to handle the glove and bat with high professional skill.

In his 16-season MLB career, Goodman played for the Red Sox (1947-57). Orioles (1957), White Sox (1958-61) and Astros (1962).  He appeared in 623 games at second base, 407 at first base, 330 at third base, 69 in left field, 42 in right field, seven at shortstop and 227 times as a pinch hitter. He hit over .300 five times and over .290 eleven times (ten times in the eleven seasons in which he played at least 100 games). He was a two-time All Star. His final line was 1,623 games played, 1,691 hits (.300 average), 807 runs scored, 591 RBI, 19 home runs and 37 stolen bases.

GodochartB

Following his 1962 season with the Astros, Goodman served as player-manager of the Class A Durham Bulls – where (in 1963-64) he managed/co-managed the team to second- and fifth-place finishes, while playing in 114 games and hitting .345.  After that he held a number of scouting, instructional and minor league managing roles (until retirement from baseball in 1977).  He passed away in 1984 (cancer) –  at the age of 58.

Primary Resources:  Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Refeence.com

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Follow/Like the Baseball Roundtable Facebook page here.

Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Ballpark Tours for 2018 – Get On Board for Baseball Adventure

BPTLOGOBallpark Tours (BPT) based out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been offering baseball fans busloads of hardball fun since 1982.  The tour group, which grew out of the “Save the Met” (outdoor stadium) organization, has taken groups of fans on baseball “treks” of three-to-ten days, ranging as far north as Duluth, as far south as Chattanooga, as far west as Colorado,  as far east as New York City – and simply “as far away” as Cuba. More details later in this  post, but for 2018,  BRT is offering a pair excursions:

 

  • A six-day trip (June 28-July 2) that includes a trio of games at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, as well as minor league tilts in Davenport, Iowa and Geneva, Illinois.
  • A ten-day trip that includes three games at Denver’s Coors Field, two games at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium and a pair of minor league contests in Omaha, Nebraska.

DenverA Ballpark Tours trip (I’ve been on 29 of them) is the perfect way to enjoy the national pastime – good times with good friends (old and new) who share a passion for baseball, fun and adventure.  Note:  this is an unsolicited endorsement. As Baseball Roundtable has noted in the past “Once you get on the Ballpark Tours bus, every mile is a memory.”   You also get a chance to create new memories inside and outside the ballpark – great baseball and, as always, Ballpark Tours stays in equally great downtown hotels – close to the action and attractions – and schedules time to enjoy the  local food, arts and entertainment.  To get the flavor of a BPT trek, you can browse reports from past trips by clicking here.

Now, here’s a brief rundown of the 2018 Ballpark Tours offerings, for more info and sign-up, click – link.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH REDUX – AUGUST 3-12.

Coors field photo

Photo by Max and Dee

My personal choice … seven games in three cities in ten days – and the opportunity to enjoy plenty of blues, brews and baseball with a typical Ballpark Tours crew.  I was on the original Denver BPT trek and, let me assure you, Coors Field and downtown Denver are well worth the trip.  (Lower Downtown is 28 square blocks of restaurants, clubs, bars and brew pubs.) And, you’ll get to see the Pirates and Rockies in the launching pad that is Coors Field. Free-time in Denver? Choose from among the likes of the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum, as well as – more to my taste – a variety of brewery and distillery tours.

Satchel Paige pitches to Martin Dihigo, with Josh Gibson catching - on the Field of Legends at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Satchel Paige pitches to Martin Dihigo, with Josh Gibson catching – on the Field of Legends at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

In Kansas City, there is the Cards/Royals I-70 rivalry. And, what’s your free-time pleasure?  The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a must-see if you haven’t already been there – and there’s a great blues and barbeque place practically across the street.  In addition, you can choose from among the likes of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Arabia Steamboat Museum or the Airline History Museum. More sedentary?  How about the Boulevard Brewing Company?  More adventurous?  Kansas City has the Swope Park Zip Line and (this is not a misprint) indoor sky-diving.

And, of course, there is Omaha – featuring the Salt Lake Bees and Omaha Storm Chasers.  From my last BPT trip to Omaha, I fondly remember the foods, fun and shopping in the Old Market area. (Spent a great deal of time, a bit of change, there.)

Time to explore all this? Four nights in Denver, three in Kansas City and two in Omaha.

All in all, a great trip.  A chance to create some unique memories that stretch from the bus to the ballpark and from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to Omaha’s Old Market.  And, I understand, the tour master is exploring the opportunities for some adventures as we cross Nebraska.

I am not gonna miss this one.

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WINDY CITY HIATUS … BLEACHER BUMS XXXVI … JUNE 28 – JULY 2

The Kane County Cougars and Quad City Bandits, as well as three Twins/Cubs tilts in Wrigley Field – AND four nights at Chicago’s fabulous Palmer House Hilton.

bWrigleyThis a bit like the Cadillac – or probably Tesla – of baseball tours. Great baseball wrapped up in a package that includes: Wrigleyville; Chicago’s diverse opportunities for dining; the chance to take in lots of live music (with an emphasis on blues), comedy and theater; museums ranging from The Art Institute of Chicago to the Shedd Aquarium to the Museum of Science and Industry (my personal favorite).  Plus, of course, the usual BPT comradery and hoopla.  Do the Windy City and Twins/Cubs baseball in style!

 

Again here’s a link to your opportunity (to sign up) for a great baseball excursion – click here. 

More photos from past trips:

5 ballpark7bbq8singbptprogfild

5 scoreboard

MLB’s all-.400 Outfield – Best-hitting Garden Ever?

256px-1894_Philadelphia_Phillies

MLB has seen a total of 20 players put up a total of 28 (qualifying) .400+ batting average seasons – none, of course, since Ted Williams .406 in 1941. Fifteen of those 28 .400+ campaigns took place before 1900.  Even given the fact that slightly more than half of the .400+ seasons took place before 1900, the chance that four players on any one team would top the .400 mark in the same season seems unlikely. But that is exactly what happened in 1894, when the Phillies had an “all Hall of Fame” regular outfield, who all hit over .400 – LF Ed Delahanty (.405); CF Billy Hamilton (.403); RF Sam Thompson (.415).

What is somewhat surprising is that none of these .400-hitting regular Philadelphia fly-chasers led the National League – or even the Phillies – in batting average.

 

There were, in fact, a single-season MLB-record five qualifying .400 hitters in 1894.  Leading the National League, with an all-time MLB-record .440 average, was Boston Beaneaters’ center fielder Hugh Duffy (another future Hall of Famer). Second in the league was Phillies’ fourth/reserve outfielder Tuck Turner, who (in his second MLB season) played in 82 of the Phillies 132 games and hit .418. The third, fourth and fifth highest averages went to the Phillies mentioned aboce – Thompson, Delahanty and Hamilton.

The 1894 Phillies set a still-standing MLB record by hitting .350 as a team – 41 points above the NL team average (that season, eight of the 12 NL teams hit above .300).  Regardless of those offensive stats, the Phillies were – and remain – the only team ever to have four .400 hitters in a single season.  That season, Philadelphia’s four outfielders collected 757 hits (for a .409 combined average), had a combined .485 on base percentage, scored 555 runs, drove in 456 and stole 160 bases. Again, all in just 132 games.  They included the NL leaders in RBI (Thompson, 149), runs scored (Hamilton, 198), slugging percentage (Thompson, .696), on-base percentage (Hamilton, .521), walks (Hamilton, 128) and stolen bases (Hamilton, 100). Oh yes, the Phillies finished fourth, at 71-57 (with four games designated as no-decision), 18 games behind Baltimore.

Here are the players in the Phillies’ 1884 outfield.

Left Field – Ed Delahanty – Hall of Fame, 1945

DelehantyThe 6’1”/170-pound right-handed hitter – whose size earned him the nickname “Big Ed” –  was 26-years-old and in his seventh MLB season (six in the NL, one in the Players League) in 1894.  That season, he hit .405, collecting 200 hits, scoring 148 runs and driving in 133 (in 132 games). Delahanty hit four home runs and stole 22 bases that season.

Delahanty hit .346 over a 16-season MLB career (1888-1903), leading the league in hits once, doubles five times, triples once, home runs twice, RBI three times, total bases twice and stolen bases once. He is one of only three players to hit .400+ in three seasons (the others are Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby).  Delahanty was also known as a fleet outfield with a strong arm – an all-around player.

His .346 career average if the fifth highest in MLB history and he is also one of only 18 players to hit four home runs in a game. Ed was one of four Delahanty brothers to play in the major leagues – Ed (1888-1903); Frank (1905-09, 1914-15); Jim (1901-02, 1904-12, 1914-15); Joe (1907-09); Tom (1894, 1896-97).

ED DELAHANTY’S MYSTERIOUS DEMISE

Ed Delahanty died – at the age of 35 – during the 1903 baseball season. Delahanty was with the Washington Senators at the time – and had been caught in an AL/NL contact dispute. (Delahanty had signed contracts with both the AL Washington Senators and the NL New York Giants.)  On July 2, the Senators had lost a 1-0 game to the Tigers in Detroit, dropping to 16-43 on the season.  It was the final game of the Detroit series and the team was set to board a train for Washington D.C. and a 21-game homestand. An apparently disgruntled (or despondent) Delahanty jumped the team and boarded a train headed from Detroit to New York City (a train crossed through Canada on the trip) – mysteriously leaving his belongings in his Detroit hotel.

On the journey to New York, Delahanty, who was known to have issues with alcohol, became increasing disruptive and was put off the train at Bridgeburg, Ontario (now Fort Erie) – near the International Bridge over the Niagara River.  Delahanty decided to cross the International Bridge on foot and, while on the bridge, was confronted by a night watchman.   Exactly how it happened is not clear, but Delahanty apparently escaped the watchman’s grasp and ended up in the Niagara River. His body was found about a week later 20 miles downstream, below the Horseshoe Falls (the Canadian portion of Niagara Falls.) It was never determined whether Delahanty was pushed, fell or jumped to his death.

At the time, Delahanty – the 1902 AL batting champ – was hitting .333, but had played in just 42 of the Senators 59 games.

Center Field – Billy Hamilton – Hall of Fame, 1961

HamiltonThe center fielder in the Phillies’ all-.400 outfield was 5’6”/165-pound speedster Billy Hamilton – whose daring on the base paths earned him the nickname “Sliding Billy.”  The 28-year-old was in his seventh major league season and had already led his league (American Association and National League) in stolen bases three times, in addition to having the 1891 batting title under his belt. In 1894, in 132 games played, the left-handed hitter hit .403 and collected 225 hits – while also leading the NL in runs scored (an MLB all-time high of 198), walks, (128), stolen bases (100) and on-base percentage (.521).

Side note: In baseball’s early days, stolen bases were not awarded in the same way as post-1900. At times, players were credited with a stolen base for moving up a base on a fly out, advancing more than one base on a hit and advancing on an error. Under those rules, stolen bases were considerably more prevalent.  Still, Hamilton’s base-running was renowned and he did lead his league in stolen bases, under the rules of the day, five times.

Hamilton played 14 major league seasons, putting up a .344 lifetime average (tied with Ted William for seventh-best all time) and capturing a pair of batting titles. Hamilton was also an on-base percentage machine.  He led the league in walks five times (four consecutively from 1894-97) and in on-base percentage five time.  His career on-base percentage of .455 is the fourth-highest all time (behind Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and John McGraw). In addition, Hamilton led his league in runs scored four time and hits once.  He finished his 14-campaign MLB career with 1,697 runs scored in 1,594 games.  He also tallied 2,164 hits, 95 triples and 914 stolen bases (although various sources credit him with 912 or 937 steals).  His total bases rank third all time.

A GOOD START A (POSSIBLY) EVEN BETTER FINISH

Billy Hamilton is one of only six major leaguers – and the first ever – to open a game with a lead-off homer and end it with a walk off round tripper. He did it on May 17, 1893, as the Phillies topped the Senators 11-9 in ten innings.  Others to accomplish this feat are: Vic Power (Kansas City A’s – May 7, 1957); Darin Erstad (Anaheim Angels – June 25, 2000); Reed Johnson (Toronto Blue Jays – June 15, 2003); Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers – June 19, 2009); Chris Young (Arizona Diamondbacks – August 7, 2010).

Right Field – Sam Thompson – Hall of Fame, 1974

ThompsonRight field on the 1994 Phillies was held down by another big man (for his time), 6’2”/207-pound left-handed hitting Sam Thompson. Thompson, who played in 15 MLB seasons and put up a .331 career average, had his best campaign in 1894, hitting .415, with 13 home runs and a league-leading 149 RBI in just 102 games. He came into the 1894 season already holding one batting title, one home run crown, one RBI crown and having led the league in hits twice. As with Big Ed Delahanty, Thompson’s size and power earned him the moniker “Big Sam.”  He was also known as a solid fielder with a rifle arm – and is still ranked number-12 all-time in outfield assists.

In his career, Thompson led the league in hits three times, doubles twice, triples once, home runs twice, RBI three times and batting average once,. He finished with a .331 average, 1,308 RBI, 1,261 runs scored, 126 home runs and 232 stolen bases (in 1,410 games).

20/20 VISION

Sam Thompson was the first player to reach 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season.

Outfield Reserve – Tuck Turner

TurnerLittle (5’6”/155-pound) switch-hitting George “Tuck” Turner was the surprise of the Phillies’ all-.400 outfield in 1894.  The 27-year-old was in just his second MLB season (he hit .323 in 36 games for the Philies in 1893) and played 82 games (56 in LF, 22 in RF, three in CF and one on the mound). In those 82 games, Turner hit .418 (second in the NL and highest on the Phillies), collected 145 hits, scored 95 runs and drove in 84,  Turner followed that up with a .386 average (59 games) in 1895 – giving him a .388 average over his first three MLB campaigns. Turner played three more MLB seasons, but hit only .260 (202 games) – and left the majors after the 1898 season with a .320 career average. (According to news reports at the time, Tucker was plagued with bouts of malaria during those final three seasons.)

THE OLD SWITCHEROO

Tuck Turner’s .418 average in 1894 is the highest MLB season average ever for a switch hitter.

Primary resources:  Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Reference.com; Baseball-Almanac.com; MLB.com

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Follow/like Baseball Roundtable’s Facebook page here.

Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Cyclone, Boomer, Big Unit, King Felix and more … All About Those 23 Perfect Games

Cy Young, appropriately, pitched the first perfect game at the modern 60'6" pitching distance.

Cy Young, appropriately, pitched the first “perfecto” at the modern 60’6″ pitching distance.

Sometimes, when you are looking for one bit of informatiom, it opens a path to a treasure trove.  For example, I was examining the scores of MLB’s 23 officially recognized perfect (27 up/27 down) games.  I found that the most popular score of a perfect game is 1-0, with seven of the 23 perfect outings (30.4 percent) resulting in a 1-0 final score That’s not totally unexpected, but – as I examined MLB’s perfect pitching performances – I learned even more.  I was surprised to find out that in six of those seven 1-0 outcomes, that sole run scored by the winning squad was “unearned.”  At any rate, looking into those 1-0 outcomes led me to keep digging into the history of perfect games – and I’d like to share a few facts I found of interest as I looked into “the best” work of players known by such names as Boomer (Wells), Big Unit (Johnson), Catfish (Hunter), Gambler (Rogers), King Felix (Hernandez), El Presidente (Martinez), Doc (Halladay) and more.

 

  • 16 perfect games were pitched in the winning pitcher’s home park, only seven on the road. (Side note: When the Providence Grays’ John Montgomery Ward totally white-washed the Buffalo Bisons in Providence on June 17, 1880, Buffalo was the”home” team – at the time home team designation was determined by a coin toss.)
  • Fifteen perfect games belong to right-handers, eight to southpaws.
  • Fourteen AL hurlers and nine NL pitchers have fashioned “perfectos.”

FORESHADOWING?

Cy Young, who would toss a perfect game for Boston in 1904, pitched for the 1899 National League Saint Louis team known as the “Perfectos.”  They would become the Cardinals in 1900.

  • Twelve perfect games have occurred in American League games, nine in National League contests, one in an interleague tilt and one in the World Series.
  • David Cone of the Yankees threw the only perfect game in an interleague contest (through 2017), when he stopped the Expos 6-0 on July 18, 1999 at Yankee Stadium.
  • The largest crowd to witness a perfect game was for Don Larsen’s Yankee Stadium 1956 World Series’ performance against the Big Apple rival Dodgers – 65,519.  The smallest crowd was an estimated 1,800 for John Montgomery Ward’s June 17, 1880, 5-0 win for Providence over Buffalo.
  • The youngest pitcher to toss a perfect game was 20-year-old Providence righty John Ward (1880); the oldest was 40-year-old Diamondbacks’ southpaw Randy Johnson (2004).

A BIT OF BALANCE

There are those who question the validity of the two 1880 perfect games – Lee Richmond’s very first MLB perfect outing on June 12 and John Montgomery Wards’ just five days later.  The rules were different then – 45-foot pitching distance and eight balls to draw a walk.  However, that is balanced by the fact that pitchers couldn’t bring their arms above the shoulder in the windup and fielders were primarily gloveless. Consider that, in 1880, there were an average of 8.9 errors per game (both teams combined) and that of the 3,191 runs scored that season, 1,591  (49.9 percent) were unearned. Under those conditions, a perfect game was still quite the accomplishment.

  • Only two players under six-feet tall have pitched perfect games and they were the first two to accomplish it: Worcester’s Lee Richmond (5’10”) and Providence’s John Ward (5’9”).
  • The tallest player to pitch a perfect game was 6’ 10” Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks, the heaviest 6’2”, 240-pound Mark Buehrle of the White Sox

GOOD TIMING

dAVID cONE BASEBALL photo

Photo by clare_and_ben

Yankee righty David Cone pitched a perfect game against the Expos on July 18, 1999 (a 6-0 New York win). To make it even more “perfect,” it was Yogi Berra Day and the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by former Yankee Don Larsen – author of the only World Series perfect game.

 

 

 

  • The fewest pitches tossed in a perfect outing was 74 – by Addie Joss in his October 2, 1908 perfect outing, as he led his Cleveland Naps over the White Sox by a score of 1-0. As you might expect, his three strikeouts that day are also the fewest K’s in a perfect game.
  • The most pitches in a perfect game were the 125 thrown by Matt Cain as his Giants topped the Astros 10-0 in San Francisco. That ten runs is the most ever scored in support of a perfect game on the mound.
  • The most strikeouts recorded in a perfect outing are 14 – Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax (September 9, 1965 versus the Cubs) and Giants’ Matt Cain (June 13, 2012 versus the Astros).

HE’LL DO IN A PINCH

aDDIE jOSS photo

Photo by guano

The Cleveland Naps’ Addie Joss had to retire three ninth-inning pinch-hitters to complete his October 2, 1908 perfect outing against the White Sox – Doc White (for Al Shaw), who grounded out short to first; Jiggs Donahue (for Lee Tannehil), who fanned swinging; and John Anderson (for Ed Walsh), who grounded out to third. The only other pitcher to face three pinch hitters in the course of a perfect game was the Phillies’ Jim Bunning. In his June 21, 1964 perfecto against the Mets, he faced one pinch batter in the sixth and two in the ninth. (The final two outs of the game saw Bunning facing pinch hitters George Altman and John Stephenson – who both struck out swinging.)

 

  • The quickest perfect game took place on May 5, 1904, as Cy Young and his Boston Americans topped the Philadelphia Athletics 3-0 (in Boston) in a reported 85 minutes. (Some reports list the game at 83 minutes, either way it is the quickest.)
  • The longest perfect game took two hours and forty minutes, as David Wells and the Yankees bested the Twins 4-0 in New York.

TWO GREAT PLAYS TO SAVE TWO GREAT GAMES

Here is BBRT’s take on the two top perfect game-saving plays.

In Lee Richmond’s MLB first-ever perfect game (1880) for Worcester, the Buffalo Bisons’ slow afoot first baseman Bill Phillips appeared to break up the perfecto in the top of the fifth with a hard liner that found the grass in right field.  Worcester right fielder Alonzo Knight charged the ball, picked it up on the hop and fired to Providence first baseman Chub Sullivan to nip Phillips at first.  The perfect game was saved on a seldom seen 9-3 assist/putout.

Number-two. With Chicago’s Mark Buerhle having  eight perfect innings against the Rays under his belt (July 23, 2009), White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen brought speedy outfielder DeWayne Wise in to play center field.  It immediately proved to be a “wise” move.  The first batter in the ninth, Rays’ RF Gabe Kapler, ripped a drive to deep left-center.  Wise, who had been playing shallow to avoid a bloop hit, took off.  He hit the center field wall hard, gloved hand extended above the fence (in home run territory) and snagged the drive.  After hitting the fence, the ball was jarred loose and Wise corralled it with his bare hand as he fell to the ground – saving the perfect outing.  Buehrle went on to retire the final two batters (strikeout/groundout to short) to complete the perfect game.  See the video of Wise’s catch below.

  • The White Sox and Dodgers franchises have been involved in the most perfect games – four each. (Note: The White Sox won three of their four; the Dodgers lost three of their four.)
  • The White Sox and Yankees staffs have pitched the most perfect games – three each.
  • The Rays and Dodgers have been the most frequent victims of perfect outings – three each. (Three of the six most recent perfect games have been pitched against the Rays).
  • Cleveland squads going by the names the Blues, Naps and Indians have been involved in perfect games.

COME ON – JOIN THE PARTY!

Twenty-three of the current thirty MLB franchises have been involved in perfect games (on either the winning or losing side). The following teams have never been on the field for a perfecto: American League – Royals and Orioles. National League – Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Rockies and Padres.

  • Nine of the 23 perfect game pitchers logged 200 or more major league wins, led (of course) by Cy Young’s 511.
  • The list of perfect game pitchers includes seven Hall of Famers: John Ward, Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Cattish Hunter and Randy Johnson.
  • Seven of the hurlers who caught fire on the mound and achieved perfection for a game had career won-lost records under .500.
  • Seven of the perfect hurlers have more than one no-hitter (including the perfect game) on their resumes: Sandy Koufax (4 no-hitters); Cy Young (3); and two each for Jim Bunning, Mark Buehrle, Randy Johnson, Addie Joss and Roy Halladay.
  • The perfect games tossed by David Cone (1999), Mark Buehrle (2009), Philip Humber (2012) were the only complete game each threw in their perfecto season.

AVAILABLE ONE TIME – AND ONE TIME ONLY

Philip Humber threw just one complete game in his career - but it was "perfect."

Philip Humber threw just one complete game in his career – but it was “perfect.”

Phil Humber has the fewest career wins of any pitcher who has tossed a perfect game.  Humber finished an eight-season MLB career with a record of 16-31 and a 5.31 earned run average.  His perfect outing in 2012 was HIS ONLY COMPLETE GAME in 51 career starts. He finished the 2012 season at 5-5, 6.44 – notching the fewest wins and highest ERA ever for a pitcher in a season in which he reached perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The most wins recorded by a pitcher in a season in which he three of perfect game was 39 – John Montgomery Ward, 39-24, 1.74 in 188o.
  • The most losses in a season in which a pitcher tossed a perfect game was 32 – Lee Richmond, 32-32, 2.15 in 1880.
  • 2012 was a banner year for perfect games with three – the most ever in a season.

GETTING AN EARLY START ON HISTORY

Charlie Robertson, who threw his perfect game for the White Sox against the Tigers on April 201922, was rather unique among perfect game hurlers. He pitched his gem earlier in his career than any other perfect game pitcher – in just his fourth MLB start and fifth career game. (By comparison, Randy Johnson was in his 17th season and Cy Young seeking his 380th victory when they threw their perfect games.) Robertson is also the only pitcher to throw a perfect game – and also finish below .500 for every season of his career (eight campaigns – career record 49-80, 4.44). In addition, he is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game against a team that batted over .300, as a team. In 1922, the Ty Cobb-led Tigers hit .306  – with six .300+ hitters in the everyday lineup, led by Cobb’s .401.   (The Tigers were shut out only five times that season).

  • No pitcher did more to help his cause (offensively) in a perfect game than Jim Hunter. As he shut down the Twins 4-0 on May 8, 1968, Hunter went 3-4 (double and two singles) with three runs batted in – recording the most hits, total bases and RBI by a pitcher in game in which he was perfect on the mound.  (One more hit and he could have been perfect at the plate as well.)
  • Jim Bunning is the only pitcher to record a save in the outing immediately before his perfect game. Three days befre his June 21, 1964 perfect game agasint the Mets, Bunning was brought in to get the last two outs in a 6-3 Phillies win over the Cubs.
  • David Cone (1999), Len Barker (1981) and Tom Browning (1988) all completed their perfect games without ever reaching ball three to any batter.
  • On September 16, 1988, Tom Browning almost became the first pitcher to start a perfect game on one day and finish it on another. The start of the game was delayed nearly 2 1/2 hours (starting just after ten p.m.) – and it wrapped up at about seven minutes to midnight.

WANT TO READ ABOUT PERFECT GAMES LOST WITH TWO OUTS IN THE NINTH INNING (OR LATER)?  Click here. 

 

———-MLB PERFECT GAMES LIST———

June 12, 1880 …. Lee Richmond, Worcester … Cleveland Blues 0 – at Worcester 1

Richmond’s 1880 record: 32-32, 2.15.  Career record: 75-100, 3.06.

June 17, 1880 … John Montgomery Ward, Providence Grays … Providence 5 – versus Buffalo Bisons 0

Wards’ 1880 record: 39-24, 1.74.  Career record: 164-103, 2.10.

May 5, 1904 … Cy Young, Boston Americans … Philadelphia A’s 0 – at Boston 3

Young’s 1904 record: 26-16, 1.97.  Career record: 511-316, 2.63

October 2, 1908 … Addie Joss, Cleveland Naps … Chicago White Sox 0 – at Cleveland 1

Joss’ 1908 record: 24-11, 1.16.  Career record: 160-97, 1.89.

April 30, 1922 … Charlie Robertson, Chicago White Sox … Chicago 2 – at Detroit Tigers 0

Robertson’s 1922 record: 14-15, 3.64. Career record: 49-80, 4.44.

October 8, 1956 … Don Larsen, New York Yankees … Brooklyn Dodgers 0 – at New York 2

Larsen’s 1956 record: 11-5, 3.26.  Career record: 81-91, 3.78.

June 21, 1964 … Jim Bunning, Philadelphia Phillies … Phillies 6 – at New York Mets 0

Bunning’s 1964 record: 19-8, 2.63. Career record: 222-184, 3.27.

September 9, 1965 … Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers … Chicago Cubs 0 – at LA 1

Koufax’ 1965 record: 26-8, 2.04. Career record: 165-87, 2.76.

May 8, 1968 … Jim Hunter, Oakland A’s …. Minnesota Twins 0 – at Oakland 4

Hunter’s 1968 record: 13-13, 3.35. Career record: 224-166, 3.26.

May 15, 1981 … Len Barker, Cleveland Indians … Toronto Blue Jays 0 – at Cleveland 3

Barker’s 1981 record: 8-7, 3.91. Career record: 74-76, 4.34.

September 30, 1984 … Mike Witt, California Angels … California 1 – at Texas Rangers 0

Witt’s 1984 record: 15-11, 3.47. Career record: 117-116, 3.83.

September 16, 1988 … Tom Browning, Cincinnati Reds … LA Dodgers 0 – at Cincinnati 1

Browning’s 1988 record: 18-5, 3.41. Career record: 123-90, 3.94.

July 28, 1991 … Dennis Martinez, Montreal Expos … Montreal 2 – at LA Dodgers 0

Martinez’ 1991 record: 14-11, 2.39. Career record: 245-193, 3.70.

July 28, 1994 … Kenny Rogers, Texas Rangers … California Angels 0 – at Texas 4

Rogers’s 1994 record: 11-8, 2.46. Career record: 219-156, 4.27.

May 17, 1998 … David Wells, New York Yankees … Minnesota Twins 0 – at New York 4

Wells’ 1998 record: 18-4, 3.49.  Career record: 239-157, 4.13.

July 18, 1999 … David Cone, New York Yankees … Montreal Expos 0 – at New York 6

Cone’s 1999 record: 12-9, 3.44.  Career record: 194-126, 3.46.

May 18, 2004 … Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks … Arizona 2 – at Atlanta Braves 0

Johnson’s 2004 record: 16-14, 2.60. Career record: 303-166, 3.29.

July 23, 2009 … Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox … Tampa Bay Rays 0 – at Chicago 5

Buehrle’s 2009 record:  13-10, 3.84. Career record: 214-160, 3.18.

May 9, 2010 … Dallas Braden, Oakland A’s … Tampa Bay Rays 0 – at Oakland 4

Braden’s 2010 record: 11-14, 3.50. Career record: 26-36, 4.16.

May 29, 2010 … Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies …. Phillies 1 – at Marlins 0

Halladay’s 2010 record: 21-10, 2.44.  Career record: 203-105, 3.38.

April 21, 2012 … Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox …. Chicago 4 – at Seattle Mariners 0

Humber’s 2012 record: 5-5, 6.44.  Career record: 16-23, 5.31.

June 13, 2012 … Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants … Houston Astros 0 – at San Francisco 10

Cain’s 2012 record: 16-5, 2.79, Career record: 104-118, 3.68 (through 2017).

August 15, 2012 … Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners …. Tampa Bay Rays 0 – at Seattle 1

Hernandez’ 2012 record: 13-9, 3.06.  Career record: 160-114, 3.20 (through 2017).

Primary resources: Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Reference.com; MLB.com; Baseball-Almanac.com

 

I tweet Baseball @DavidBBRT

Follow/Like Baseball Roundtable’s Facebook page here.

Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliqauary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Weird and Wild …Some Early Baseball Equipment and Rules … A Guest Post

BB REviewsBaseball Roundtable is pleased to bring readers a guest post from Chris Moskowitz of Baseball Reviews – thebaseballreviews.com – a solid source of information and opinion on baseball equipment from bats, to gloves, to shoes and more.  This youthful blogger is a lifelong baseball fan, who has played at the Recreational, Traveling Team, Competitive Club and High School level. He currently works for the Somerset Patriots (Bridgewater Township, New Jersey) of the Atlantic League (Independent).  You’ll find a link to The Baseball Reviews web site on the right-hand side of the BBRT home page.

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THE WEIRD BEGINNINGS OF BASEBALL

by Chris Moskowitiz … thebaseballreviews.com

Yes, baseball has developed into an amazing and almost perfect sport. It is fair, fun, and an awesome choice for exercise and competition at any level. This is exactly why it is America’s favorite pastime.

But baseball hasn’t always been so great. Imagine playing baseball with a bat that is curved, facing a pitcher just 15 yards away from home plate. Consider handling a hot line drive without the aid of a fielder’s glove or crouching behind the plate without a catcher’s mask. Or imagine how long a game would take if it took nine balls outside the strike zone to produce a walk. All of these things seem a little far-fetched today, but this is how it was at the beginning of baseball.

FIELDERS’ GLOVES

Let’s talk about the gloves first. Gloves in baseball used to be nonexistent. Yes, you read that right, baseball gloves used to not be there to protect your hands. I would hate to have gone out to a position on the field in the era when there were no baseball gloves. A lot of people take something as simple as a baseball glove for granted. I know I did.

Imagine playing without a baseball glove and having to cleanly handle pop-ups or speeding grounders. It seems impossible. Especially when it’s cold out. Fall ball couldn’t be a thing in those times because there would have been too much pain in the joints of the hands of fielders. Imagine the sting you feel when you grab a sinking line drive with a glove. Now imagine the pain gloveless fielders must’ve gone through.

So how did they do it? Well, the answer is they would use smart techniques to stop the ball before fielding it. Some of these tactics include blocking the ball with their feet, slapping it down with their hands, or just letting it roll by, hoping the teammate behind them would stop it. I totally understand this, and would probably have done the same.

As the pain apparently mounted, innovation came. At first, fielders’ gloves looked pretty much like today’s batters’ gloves. Small, thin and not meant for catching or scooping. The main purpose of these earliest gloves was to knock the baseball down. Once the fielder could get the ball to stop, he could pick it up and throw it. Smart back then, now this is just a fielding exercise.

Fun Fact …

In the early days of baseball, there was considerable stigma attached to the use of a glove. One of the first group of confirmed players to don protective hand gear, first baseman Charlie Waitt, reportedly used a tan (near flesh-colored) glove, so as not to draw attention to the added gear. (Waitt played in the mid-1870s and early 1880s.)

The next step in innovation was to add the thumb and index finger pockets. I know that some baseball players like to stick their index finger out.  I don’t. The main purpose for that is to gain more control of the glove. As you can imagine, the thumb and finger pockets represented a big step forward for baseball gloves – and the art of fielding.

The next version of the baseball glove had a “pocket” in the palm of the glove to actually enable fielders to catch and field ground balls. That advance was a real game changer.

Glove

 

Since these early innovations, gloves have continued to gain in quality and craftsmanship. New, more pliable and durable materials have been introduced; gloves have been shaped and sized for specific positions (catcher, first base, infield, outfield); and manufacturers have even added flashy colors that allow you to match your fielder’s glove to your team colors.

 

 

Fun fact …

spaldingDo you know who the creator of Spalding Sporting Goods (a popular sports supplies company) was? It was Albert Spalding, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Red Sox and White Sox.  Spalding – who led his league (the National Association and National League) in wins for all six of his full major league seasons. Spalding was well respected among players, and that respect was influential in the popularity of the baseball glove. When Spalding started wearing a baseball glove, a lot of others followed. After the popularity of the baseball glove started booming, he co-founded A.G. Spalding, a sporting goods company that is still very prominent today. He ran this company with his brother, Walter, and grew the company, while he grew baseball as well.  For example, in 1874, Red Sox owner Harry Wright charged Spalding with organizing the first foriegn tour by American baseball players – who played both baseball and cricket overseas. Later, as a baseball executive, Spalding is also credited with such innovations as Spring Training, efforts to bring more discipline to the sport and with organizing additinal “world tours” to promote the game. 

Also, did you know that the NBA official basketball is Spalding? Basketball wouldn’t be the same without baseball!

Note: Spalding played seven major league seasons (1871-1877), won 252 games and lost just 65, led his league in wins six times and put up career best numbers of 54-5, with a 1.59 earned run average in 1875.

BASEBALL BATS

Unlike baseball gloves, baseball bats were always in the picture, just not like we now know them.  At first, for example, all baseball bats (for any level of play) were wood. The technology was not developed enough to have metal baseball bats. It was easy just to use a machine to spin a piece of wood into a bat.

Fun Fact …

In the early days of baseball – before there were equipment manufacturers – players used to make their own bats (without restricutions on size, weight, etc.).  That must have made for some interesting sticks. 

Did you know that some baseball bats used to have two knobs on them instead of one? We are all used to the one knob at the end of the bat, so the bat doesn’t fly out of your hands.  When baseball was still in its early stages, some players used a two-knob bat, with the lower hand between the knobs and the upper hand resting on the top knob. Players like Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie (pictured below), who liked to “choke up” on the bat, were also known to use two-knob bats, resting the lower hand on the upper knob.    I wonder just how comfortable that was and what the impact was on bat control and power.

Embed from Getty Images

Another weird thing with baseball bats actually still goes on today. Bone rubbing is a very old technique to fill in the pores of your baseball bat with a hard enough material. This meant that the bats broke less, and were considerably stronger, which was a big advancement. Baseball greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig applied this bone treatment to their prized bats for countless hours.

One of the most outrageous baseball bat designs ever was the curved bat shape of the 1890s. Not all of the bats of the era were curved, but the unusually shaped sticks were popular among some players.  The purpose of this design was to enable hitters to put extra spin on the ball.  The thought was that if you could increase spin, the ball would fly farther – and, when the fielder got to the ball, the strong spin would make it harder to keep in the hand or glove.  This was true if the ball was hit perfectly with this bat, which was an extreme task because of the way the bat was shaped.  The degree of ball spin was less coming off regular baseball bats, which is why some players liked this bat. History shows us this bat design did not make it very far and is now primarily an example of experimental equipment design from long ago.

CATCHERS’ MASKS

In the earliest days of the national pastime, about the only piece of protective gear a catcher had was a rubber mouthpiece (similar to what boxers use). Of course, at that time, catchers had more leeway in terms of positioning. Most stood well behind the hitters, grabbing pitches and foul tips on the bounce. As the rules changed, requiring third strikes to be caught on the fly, catchers moved closer to the plate – and more protection was needed.

The catcher’s mask showed up in 1876 – a fencing mask modified by a fellow name Fred Thayer and used by the Harvard baseball squad. It was so popular (and much needed) that, by 1878, Thayer’s patented mask had secured a place in the popular A.G. Spalding Sporting Goods catalog. Over the years, protection for catchers has continued to improve – mitts, chest protectors, shin guards are all part of a modern-day catcher’s prized gear.

 

 

BASE ON BALLS

Not only has baseball equipment changed dramatically, we’ve also seen rules improvement from the early days of our national pastime. In the late 1870s, it took nine balls outside the striking zone to earn a walk. Imagine the effect of that rule on “pace of game.” In 1880, the figure was dropped to eight balls; it slid down to six in 1884; five in 1887; and the current four-ball rule came into play in 1889.

Fun Fact …

Here’s a fun, and kind of weird, fact.  In 1887, baseball experimented with a “four strikes and you’re out” rule.  This (what now seems weird) rule lasted only one season.

PITCHING DISTANCE

The last crazy part of baseball’s beginnings that I’ll share has to do with the distance between the pitcher and the batter. Nowadays, you’re probably used to the pitcher being 60-feet/six-inches away from home plate. However, that distance is lot more generous than the batter-to-pitcher path of baseball’s early days.

When baseball first started, the pitcher actually had no set length to pitch from. You could theoretically pitch from second base or just three-feet away. When baseball first “fixed” the pitching distance, the pitcher would stand 45-feet away from the batter. This seems like a pretty hazardous distance to me. It would be hard for any batter to avoid an errant (or purposeful) inside pitch and equally difficult for a pitcher to field a line drive smashed back at him.

The reaction time of a pitcher is one of the most important things in baseball. If the ball comes off the bat too fast or the pitcher is too close, the rules have to change. This is why  the distance is now 60-feet/six-inches and also why we see bat regulations. One of the bat regulations used now is BBCOR – or “Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution – a measure of how much energy is lost (retained) when the bat makes contact with the baseball.

Well, all of these things had to come before we could witness the almost perfect baseball that we know today. All of these advancements have helped to make baseball more comfortable, safer and more enjoyable for players and fans.

Hope you enjoyed this guest post and, if you have a deeper interest in the equipment that is shaping today’s game, you can check out our equipment reviews at thebaseballreviews.com

Primary Resources: Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Reference.com; Baseball-Almanac.com; Smithsonianmag.com; 19cbaseball.com

If you have some specific interests, here are links directly to related reviews.

BATS: Click here.

GLOVES: Click here. 

CLEATS: Click here. 

OTHER GEAR: Click here. 

In addition, the “Guides” link has posts on everything from choosing a bat, to joining an adult league to caring for a baseball glove.

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Baseball Roundtable tweets baseball @DavidBBRT

Follow/Like the Baseball Roundtable Facebook page here. 

More baseball commentary, blog post notifications, prizes. 

Member: Society for American Baseball Research; The Baseball Reliquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. 

Multi-tool MLB Players – Princes of Power & Sultans of Speed

Baseball Roundtable loves multi-talented players.  For example, among my current favorites are Rockies’ “Lumber and Leather” 3B Nolan Arenado (two home run titles and five Gold Gloves in five MLB seasons); Angels’ “Power and Speed” CF Mike Trout (youngest player to each 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases); and Astros’ “Is there anything he can’t do?” 2B Jose Altuve.  You get the idea.

BBRT recently focused on players that deliver exceptional offense and defense. You can see my post on MLB players who have won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove in the same season by clicking here.  In this post, Baseball Roundtable will focus on players who combined power and speed on offense – beginning with those who have led their league in home runs and stolen bases in the same season and working my way down to the kings of the 30/30 (HR/SB) Club.

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Power and Speed Factoid One:  Only three times in MLB history has a player led his league in both home runs and stolen bases in the same season.  Here they are:

Ty Cobb, Outfield, Detroit Tigers – 1909 – Nine home runs and 76 stolen bases

Ty Cobb, in just his third full MLB season (fifth MLB campaign overall) already had two batting titles and one stolen base crown under his belt.  Then, in 1909, he led the American League with nine home runs and 76 stolen bases – as well as with 216 base hits, 116 runs scored, a .377 average and 107 RBI.

Cobb, by the way, won just the one home run crown in his MLB career (1905-1928), but also earned six stolen base crowns and 12 batting titles – and led the AL in hits eight times, runs scored five times, RBI four times, triples four times and doubles three times. The Hall of Famer’s final (24 seasons/3,034 games) stat line was .366-117-1,944; with 4,189 hits, 2,244 runs scored and 897 stolen bases.

Ty Cobb is the only the only player to lead his league in home runs and stolen bases without ever hitting the ball over the fence or out of the park.   In 1909, all of Cobb’s AL-leading round trippers were of the inside-the-park variety.  

Jim Sheckard, Outfield, Brooklyn Superbas – 1903 – Nine home runs and 67 stolen bases

SheckIn his 17-season MLB career (1897-1913), Jimmy Sheckard won just one home run crown and a pair of NL stolen base titles. In 1903, he hit .332, with nine home runs, 75 RBI and 67 steals.  Considered one of the finest fielding outfielders of his time, Sheckard’s career stat line was .274-56-813, with 465 steals in 2,122 games. Sheckard’s best season was 1901, when he reached career highs in average (.354), base hits (196), home runs (11), RBI (104), doubles (29) and triples (a league-leading 19).

 

 

 

 

 

Chuck Klein, Outfield, Philadelphia Phillies – 1932 – 38 home runs and 20 stolen bases

ChuckChuck Klein successfully defended his 1931 home run crown (31 round trippers) with a league-topping 38 in 1932 – and he tossed in an NL-best 20 stolen bases. It was one of only two seasons in a 17-campaign career (1928-44) that the Hall of Famer reached double digits in thefts. In that 1932 season, Klein also led the NL in hits (226) and runs scored (152), while driving in 137 runs – a performance that earned him Most Valuable Player recognition.

Klein’s career stat line was .320-300-1,201, with 79 stolen bases. He also recorded 2,076 base hits and scored 1,168 runs. He led his league in runs scored three times, hits twice, doubles twice, home runs four times, RBI twice and batting average once.

 

 

Chuck Klein won a Triple Crown in the only season to feature Triple Crown winners in both the AL and NL – and from the same city no less.  In 1933 (the season after his home run/stolen base leadership), the Philadelphia Phillies’ Chuck Klein won the National League Triple Crow – hitting .368, with 28 home runs and 120 RBI. That same season, Philadelphia’s AL entry (Athletics) also featured a Triple Crown winner, Jimmy Foxx (.356-48-163).

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Power and Speed Factoid Two:  Only six players have won both a home run crown and a stolen base title during their careers.  Let’s take a look at them.

You start, of course, with the three players from Factoid One – Ty Cobb, Jim Sheckard and Chuck Klein – then add:

Harry Stovey, Outfield/First Base – Worcester Ruby Legs, Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Reds, Boston Beaneaters, Baltimore Orioles, Brooklyn Grooms

StoveyPlaying from 1880 to 1893 (National League, American Association, Players League), Harry Stovey won five home run titles and two stolen base crowns. He led the NL in home runs in 1880 (six for Worcester) and 1891 (16 for Boston). Stovey also led the American Association in long balls in 1883 (14), 1885 (13) and 1888 (19) – all for Philadelphia. His two stolen base crowns came in 1886 (68 for Philadelphia of the AA) and 1890 (97 for Boston of the Players League). Over his career, Stovey hit .288, with 122 home runs, 912 RBI and 509 steals. In addition to his home runs and stolen base titles, he led his league in runs scored four tmes, doubles once, triples four times and RBI once.

 

 

 

Ed Delahanty, Outfield/First Base/Second Base – Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies, Cleveland Infants, Washington Senators

DelEd Delahanty enjoyed a 16-season MLB career (National League, American League, Players League). He twice led his league in home runs – both times for the Phillies – with 19 in 1893 and 13 in 1896. He led the NL in stolen bases (Phillies) with 58 in 1898. The Hall of Famer also led his league in hits once, batting average three times, doubles five times, triples once and RBI three times.  His career stat line was .346-101-1,466, with 456 steals and 1,600 runs scored.

Delahanty hit over .400 three times in his career – .405 in 1894; .404 in 1895; and .410 in 1899.

 

 

 

Willie Mays, Outfield – New York/San Francisco Giants, NY Mets

WillieThe “Say Hey Kid” won four home run crowns and four stolen base titles in his career – all of them with the Giants – just never in the same season. He led the NL in home runs in 1955 (51), 1962 (49), 1964 (47) and 1965 (52). He topped the league in stolen bases in 1956 (40), 1957 (38), 1958 (31) and 1959 (27).

In his MLB career (1951-73), the Hall of Famer also led the NL in hits once, runs scored twice, triples three times and batting average once.  His final stat line was .302-660-1,903, with 338 stolen bases, 3,283 hits and 2,062 runs scored in 22 seasons (2,992 games). He was the 1951 NL Rookie of the Year and the NL MVP in 1954 and 1965.  Mays, a true five-tool player, also earned 12 Gold Gloves.

So, there are your six players who have won both a home run title and a stolen base crown: Ty Cobb, Jim Sheckard, Chuck Klein, Harry Stovey, Ed Delahanty and Willie Mays.

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Power and Speed Factoid Three: Only two players have both a 50-home run and a 50-stolen base season on their major-league resumes – Brady Anderson and Barry Bonds. 

Barry Bonds – 52 stolen bases for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990 and 73 home runs for the San Francisco Giants in 2001

Barry Bonds photo

Photo by kevinrushforth

No surprise here. Barry Bonds, the all-time MLB home run leader (762), reached forty or more home runs eight times in his 22-season MLB career (1986-2007 … Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants) and stole forty or more bases three times.  What might be a surprise is that he only reached the fifty mark once in each category.

Bond’s career stat line: .298-762-1,996, with 514 stolen bases.  He also had 2,935 hits and 2,227 runs scored.  He led his league in home runs twice, RBI once and runs scored once. He was also a seven-time league MVP, 14-season All Star and eight-time Gold Glover.

 

Brady Anderson – 53 stolen bases for the Orioles in 1992 and 50 home runs for the Orioles in 1996

Brady Anderson photo

Photo by Keith Allison

A bit of a surprise here, since Brady Anderson’s second-highest season home run total was just 24 and he only reached 20 home runs three times in 15 MLB seasons (1988-2002 … Red Sox, Orioles, Indians). Anderson did top 20 steals in seven seasons. Anderson, a three-time All Star, put up a career stat line of .256-210-761, with 315 stolen bases.  His best season was 1996, when he hit .297, with 50 home runs, 110 RBI and 21 steals.

 

 


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Power and Speed Factoid Four: Only four players have hit 40 home runs and stole 40 bases in the same season. 

Okay, everyone pretty much knows this, but since there are no 50-50 seasons, the 40-40 list needs to be here.  I will, however, be brief.

Jose Canseco, Outfield, A’s – 1988 – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases

In 1988, Jose Canseco hit  .307-42-124, with 40 steals – earning the AL MVP Award. His final stats (17 seasons … 1985-2001) were .266-461-1,407, with 200 stolen bases. He was a six-time All Star, 1986 Rookie of the Year and a two-time home run champ.

Barry Bonds, Outfield, Giants –  1996 – 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases

In 1996, Barry Bonds hit .308, with 42 home runs, 129 RBI and 40 steals. For more on Bonds, see Factoid Three.

Alex Rodriguez, Shortstop, Mariners – 1998 – 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases

Alex Rodriguez hit .310, with 42 home runs, 124 RBI and 46 stolen bases for the Mariners in 1996. In a 22-season MLB career (1994-2013/2015-2016 … Mariners, Rangers, Yankees), Rodriguez hit .295, with 696 home runs, 2,086 RBI and 329 steals. He was a 14-time All Star, three-time MVP and two-time Gold Glover. During his career he topped 40 home runs in a season eight times (with 50 or more three times) and stole 20 or more bases six times.  He led the AL in home runs five times, runs scored five times, hits once, doubles once and batting average once.

Alfonso Soriano, Outfield, Nationals – 2006 – 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases

Alfonso Soriano barely missed the 40-40 club in 2002, when he hit 39 home runs and swiped a league-leading 41 bases for the Yankees. He joined the club four year later with a .277-46-95, 41-steal season for the Nationals.  In his 16-season MLB career (1999-2014 … Yankees, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs), Soriano hit .270, with 412 home runs, 1,159 RBI and 289 stolen bases. He was a seven-time All Star and led his league in runs, hits and stolen bases once each (all in 2002, when he hit.300-39-102, with 41 steals for the Yankees). He topped 30 home runs in seven seasons and exceeded 20 steals in five campaigns.

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Power and Speed Factoid Five: Two players share the record for most times in the 30-30 (home runs/stolen bases) Club – and they are a father-son combination.

Going into the 1950s, MLB’s 30-30 Club had only one member – Saint Louis Browns’ outfielder Ken Williams, who hit .332, with 39 home runs, 155 RBI and 37 stolen bases in 1922. (He led the AL in home runs and RBI.) It was the only season that Williams (who finished a 14-season MLB career with 196 homers and 154 steals) ever reached thirty in either category. Williams retired with a .319-196-916 stat line.

The next 30-30 season was recorded by Willie Mays in 1956 (he did it again in 1957); then Hank Aaron joined the group in 1963; and Bobby Bonds earned his membership in 1969.  By 1978, there had been ten 30-30 seasons in MLB – and Bobby Bonds had five of them.  Through 2017, 38 players have acheived a total of sixty 30-30 seasons.  Only two have five 30-30 campiagns on their resume:   Bobby Bonds and his son Barry Bonds.

 

Bonds

Key resources; Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Reference.com; Baseball-Almanac.com

 

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Men of Steal – Players with 100 or More Stolen Bases in a Season

Baseball Roundtable would like to devote this post to MLB’s Men of Steal – at least those who excelled (and accelerated) on the base paths to the tune of 100 or more steals in a season since 1900. 

Round Number Relevance

Since 1900, there have been eight seasons of 60 or more home runs – and eight campaigns of 100 or more stolen bases.

Why 100 or more steals?  Just an arbitrary decision, but it’s both a nice round number and one that made sense once I started looking into which MLB players could meet the “century” standard.

Why since 1900?  In baseball’s early years, the definition of a stolen base was significantly different than in the modern era.  At times, players were awarded a stolen base not just for what we now consider a “steal,” but also in such instances as moving up a base on a fly out, advancing more than one base on a hit and advancing on an error. Under those rules, stolen bases were considerably more prevalent.  In 1887, for example, the 16 major league (National League and American Association) teams averaged 397 stolen bases, with the American Association Saint Louis Browns swiping an MLB-high 581 bases in 135 games. (No team recorded fewer than 221 steals.) As for individual stolen base statistics –  in 1887, six players stole 100 or more bases, led by the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ (American Association) Hugh Nicol’s 138.  I’ll provide a list of those early 100+ steal players at the end of this post, but the bulk of this article will focus on post-1899. Note: Baseball rules on stolen base statistics generally aligned with modern rules in 1898.

There have been only four players to reach 100 steals in a season since 1900: Maury Wills, Lou Brock, Vince Coleman (three times) and Rickey Henderson (three times). From BBRT’s perspective Wills is the single-season “Man of Steal,” while Henderson is the career superhero when it comes to wreaking havoc on the base paths.

100Seasons

Let’s take a look at the “thieves of the century (mark).”

Maury Wills, Dodgers

1962 – 104 stolen bases

WillsIn 1962, Maury Wills had what BBRT considers the most dominant single-season performance on the base paths ever. The 29-year-old Dodgers’ shortstop stole 104 bases to lead the National League – and all of MLB.  He added a .299 average, 130 runs scored, a league-topping ten triples, six home runs, 48 RBI and a Gold Glove to earn the National MVP award. Just how dominant was Wills as a base runner?

  • His 104 steals were more than every other team in MLB (there were 20 teams at the time) – marking the only season in MLB history where a player has “out-stolen” every other squad.
  • His 104 swipes were 37 above the MLB team average – one of just three seasons in which a player with 100 or more steals has outpaced the overall MLB team average.
  • He exceeded the stolen base total of the next best stealer (the Dodgers’ Willie Davis) more than three times over, topping Davis by 72 steals.
  • He stole as many bases as the number-two through number-five National League base stealers combined – Willie Davis (32); Vada Pinson (26); Julian Javier (26); Tony Taylor (20).
  • His 88.9 percent success rate was the third-best in MLB – and is the highest success rate ever in a 100+ stolen base campaign.
  • He was the first player to steal 100 bases in a season under modern rules.
  • He stole 0.63 bases per game played that season.

Team

Rickey Henderson, Outfield, A’s

1980 – 100 stolen bases

1982 – 130 stolen bases

1983 – 108 stolen bases

HendoRickey Henderson is easily BBRT’s career “Man of Steal.”  MLB’s all-time stolen base leader (1,406), by a margin of 463 bags swiped, reached 100 or more steals in three seasons.  He led his league in thefts 12 times (in 25 seasons) – the final time in 1998 at the age of 39.  He topped forty steals in a season in 17 times (reaching 75 or more stolen bases in seven seasons and fifty or more in 14 campaigns). He also stole over 30 bases in a season in four difference decades (from 33 stolen bases as a 20-year-old in 1979 to 31 as 41-year-old in 2000).

 

Speed & Power

Rickey Henderson was the most powerful of all the 100+ base stealers – and the only player to reach triple digits in steals and double-digits in home runs in the same season. Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982, while also hitting ten home runs.

Henderson hit 297 home runs in a 25-season MLB career. Totals for the other 100+ stolen base season players: Lou Brock – 149 home runs (19 seasons); Vince Coleman – 28 home runs (13 seasons); Maury Wills – 20 home runs (14 seasons).

Henderson topped 20 home runs in a season four times in his career, Lou Brock had one 20+ home run campaign. Maury Wills and Vince Coleman never hit more than six in any season.

Rickey Henderson’s 100 steals in 1980:

  • Reflected a 79.4 percent success rate;
  • Led the second-most prolific base stealer – the Expos’ Ron LeFlore – by three thefts;
  • Were more steals than ten of the other 25 MLB teams;
  • Were just nine shy of the MLB team average of 119;
  • Represented 0.63 steals per game Henderson played.

Henderson’s 130 steals in 1982:

  • Reflected a 75.6 percent success rate;
  • Led the second-most prolific base stealer – the Expos’ Tim Raines – by 52 thefts;
  • Were more than ten of the other 25 MLB teams;
  • Compared to an MLB team average of 122;
  • Represented 0.87 steals per game Henderson played.

Henderson’s 108 stolen bases in 1983:

  • Reflected an 85.0 percent success rate;
  • Led the second-most prolific base stealer – the Expos’ Tim Raines – by 18 thefts;
  • Were more than eight of the other 25 MLB teams;
  • Compared to an MLB team average of 128;
  • Amounted to 0.74 stolen bases per game played.

You Can’t Steal First Base

Rickey Henderson’s on-base percentage of .420 in 1980 is the highest-ever in a 100+ stolen base season (since 1900). He is the only one of the four featured post-1899 century mark base grabbers to achieve a .400 OBP in a 100-steal year – also reaching .414 in 1983. The lowest on-base percentage among these 100+ stolen base campaigns goes to Vince Coleman at .301 in 1986 (.232 batting average).  Lou Brock posted the highest batting average in a post-1899 100+ stolen base season at .306, when he stole 118 bases in 1974. The only other player on this list to reach 300 in his 100+ SB campaign was Rickey Henderson at .303 in 1980. 

Henderson, considered MLB’s best-ever lead-off man, finished his MLB career (1979-2003) with a .279 average (3,055 hits), 297 home runs, 1,115 RBI and an MLB-high 2,295 runs scored.  Inducted into the Hall of fame in 2009, Henderson was a ten-time All Star, a one-time Gold Glover and the 1990 American League MVP  (when he hit .325, with 28 home runs, 61 RBI, a league-topping 119 runs scored and a league-leading 65 steals).  In addition to his even dozen stolen base titles, Henderson led his league in runs scored, five times, hits once and walks four times. He hit .300 or better eight times, poled 20 or more home runs in four seasons and holds the record for lead-off home runs with 81. Although they say you should never walk a player who can turn a base on balls into a double, Henderson is second only to Barry Bonds in career walks – drawing 2,190 free passes, topping 100 walks in five seasons and leading the league in walks four times.

Next

 

Vince Coleman, Outfield, Cardinals

1985 – 110 steals

1986 – 107 steals

1987 – 109 steals

colemanThere was never any doubt about Vince Coleman’s ability to steal a base. Before he made it to the Cardinals as a 22-year-old rookie in 1985, Coleman had pilfered 289 bases in 328 minor league games.  In 1985, he translated a 110-stseal season into the NL Rookie of the Year Award. (He hit .267, with one home run, 40 RBI and 107 runs scored.)  In that campaign, Coleman became the first MLB rookie to steal at least 100 bags.

Let’s take a deeper dive.

Vince Coleman’s 110 steals in 1985:

  • Led the second most prolific base stealer – the A’s Ricky Henderson – by 30 steals;
  • Reflected an 81.5 percent success rate;
  • Were more than 12 of MLB’s of the other 25 MLB teams;
  • Compared to an MLB team average of 119;
  • Represented 0.73 stolen bases per game season.

Vince Coleman is the only player to steal 100 or more bases as a rookie, and the only player (since 1900) to steal 100 or more sacks in three consecutive seasons (his first three.)

Vince Coleman’s 107 steals in 1986:

  • Led MLB’s second-most prolific base stealer – the A’s Rickey Henderson – by 20 steals;
  • Reflected an 88.4 percent success rate – fourth-best in MLB;
  • Were more than nine of MLB’s other 26 teams;
  • Compared to an MLB team average of 127 steals;
  • Represented 0.69 stolen bases per game Coleman played.

Coleman’s 109 steals in 1987:

  • Led MLB’s second-most prolific base stealer – the Mariners’ Harold Reynolds –  by 49 bags;
  • Reflected an 83.2 percent success rate;
  • Were more than four of MLB’s other 25 teams;
  • Compared to an MLB team average of 138 steals;
  • Represented 0.72 stolen bases per game Coleman.

Vince Coleman is the only player to have a 100 stolen base season with zero home runs in that campaign. In 1986, Coleman hit .232, with no home runs in 600 at bats, while swiping 107 bases.

Coleman played 13 MLB seasons (1985-1997), finishing with a .260 average, 28 home runs, 346 RBI, 849 runs scored and 752 stolen bases (sixth all-time).  He led the NL in steals his first six seasons and topped 40 steals in a seasons eight times. He was a two-time All Star and the 1985 NL Rookie of the Year.

Success

Just as a point of reference: The current career mark for successful base stealing among players with at least 100 stolen bases is Chase Utley (151 steals/87.79% success rate); Carlos Beltran has the mark for those with at least 200 (or 300) steals with 312 steals and a 86.43% success rate; Tim Raines reigns among those with at least 400/500/600/700/800= steals with 808 steals and a 84.70% success rate; 900+ goes to Billy Hamilton (pre-1900) at 82.10% (914 stolen bases) or Rickey Henderson at 80.76% (1,406 steals). Henderson, of course, stands alone at 1,000/1,100/1,200/1,300/1,400+ steals.   Our four featured players line up like this career-wise: Vince Coleman – 80.95%; Rickey Henderson – 80.76%; Lou Brock – 75.34%; Maury Wills – 73.80%.

Lou Brock, Outfield, Cardinals

1974 -118 steals

BrockLou Brock, who led his league in steals eight times, reached the century mark in just one campaign. In 1974, at the age of 35, Brock swiped 118 bags (second-highest in a season, post-1899, all-time) for the Cardinals. That season, he hit .306, with three home runs, 48 RBI and 105 runs scored.

Lou Brock’s 118 steals in 1974:

  • Reflected a 78.1 percent success rate;
  • were double the second-most prolific base stealer’s – the Dodgers’ Davey Lopes – 59 thefts;
  • Were more than 15 of the other 23 MLB teams;
  • Exceeded the MLB team average of 104;
  • Represented 0.77 stolen bases per game Brock played.

 Brock, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, played 19 MLB seasons (1961-1979) and finished with a .293 average, 3,023 hits, 149 home runs, 900 RBI, 1,610  runs scored and 938 stolen bases (second all-time). He was an All Star in five seasons, led the NL in stolen bases eight times, doubles once, triples once and runs scored twice.  He hit over .300 in nine seasons and stole forty or more bases 13 times (12 consecutive seasons from 1965-1976).

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Pre-1900 Players with 100 or More Steals in a Season

Billy Hamilton, Outfield, Phillies

Hamilton gets a full write up because he was pretty much acknowledged as the top best runner of his era. Known as “Sliding Billy,” Hamilton stole 100 or more bases – under the statistical rules of the time  – four times. He led his league (American Association and National League) in steals five times in 14 major league seasons (1888-1901).

1889 – Billy Hamilton’s 111 steals (for the American Association Kansas City Cowboys):

  • Were 12 more than the second-most prolific base stealer – the Phillies’ (NL) Jim Fogarty;
  • Compared to an MLB (National League and American Association) team average of 301 steals. Every team stole at least 203 bases;
  • Represented 0.81 steals per game Hamilton played.

1890 – Billy Hamilton’s 102 steals (for the Phillies):

  • Were five more than the second-most prolific MLB base stealer – the Boston Reds’ (Players League) Harry Stovey;
  • Compared to an MLB (National League, American Association, Players League) average of 275 thefts;
  • Represented 0.83 steals per game Hamilton played.

1891 – Billy Hamilton’s 111 steals (Phillies):

  • Were five more than the second-most prolific base stealer – the Boston Red’s (American Association) Tom Brown;
  • Compared to an MLB team (National League and American Association) average of 245 steals;
  • Represented 0.83 steals per game played by Hamilton.

In his final 100-steal campaign (1894), Billy Hamilton led MLB with 198 runs scored (in just 132 games played), 100 stolen bases, 128 walks and a .521 on base percentage. He hit .403 (Hugh Duffy of the Boston Beaneaters led the NL at .440). Side note: The 1894 season saw five hitters top .400 (four of them on the Phillies). So, even at .403, Hamilton had the fifth-highest average in the league and fourth-highest on his own team.

1894 – Billy Hamilton’s 100 steals (Phillies):

  • Were 22 more than the second-most prolific base-stealer – the Baltimore Orioles’ (NL) John McGraw;
  • Compared to an MLB team (National League) average of 262;
  • Represented 0.76 steals per game Hamilton played.

Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961, Billy Hamilton won a pair of batting crowns (.340 for the Phillies in 1891 and .380 for the Phillies in 1893). He also led his league in steals five times, runs scored four times, walks five times and base hits once. In 14 MLB seasons, he put up a .344 batting average, with 40 home runs, 742 RBI, 1,697 runs scored and 914 stolen bases.

Additional Pre-1900 100-Stolen-Base Seasons.

Hugh Nicol

1887 … 138 steals (led league) for Cincinnati of the American Association

1888 … 103 steals for Cincinnati of the American Association

Arlie Latham

1887 … 129 steals for Saint Louis of the American Association

1888 … 109 steals (led league) for Saint Louis of the American Association

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Charlie Comiskey

1887 … 117 steals for Saint Louis of the American Association

Pete Browning

1887 … 103 steals for Louisville of the American Associaton

John Montgomery Ward

1887 … 111 steals (led league) for the New York Giants of the National League

Jim Fogarty

1887 … 102 steals for Philadelphia of the National League

Tom Brown

1891 … 106 steals (led league) for Boston Reds of the American Association

Primary Resources: Baseball-Reference.com; The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia (Gary Gillette/Pete Palmer); Society for American Baseball Research; Total Baseball (John Thorn); Baseball-Almanac.com

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The Unique and Grand Relationship Between Jim Gentile and Chuck Estrada

GentileEstradaIn 1961 – with Yankee sluggers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris dominating headlines in their chase of Babe Ruth’s record 60 home runs in a season – Jim Gentile of the Orioles quietly put up quite a season of his own. Gentile hit .302, with 46 home runs and a league-topping 141 RBI.  He also tied the MLB record and set a new AL mark (both since broken) for Grand Slams in a season with five bases-loaded long balls. In addition, he tied an MLB record with two Grand Slams in a game – May 9.  (The current record for Grand Slams in a season is six, reached by the Yankees’ Don Mattingly in 1987 and the Indians’ Travis Hafner in 2006.)

Orioles’ pitcher Chuck Estrada was the sole beneficiary of Gentile’s 1961 offensive outburst – every one of Gentile’s record-tying five four-run blasts was hit in a game started by Estrada (who, as you would expect, picked up a victory in all four contests).  Notably, Gentile hit only one other Grand Slam in his career (June 26, 1960) and – you guessed it – the starting and winning pitcher in that contest was Chuck Estrada.  Gentile went three-for-five in that game (a 9-2 Orioles’ win), with two home runs and seven RBI. So for Gentile, six career Grand Slams – all in games Chuck Estrada started and won.

In 1961, Gentile was pretty much an offensive juggernaut when paired with Estrada.  He played in 29 of Estrada’s 31 starts.  In those 29 games, he hit .356, with 15 home runs and 47 RBI. How potent is that?  Gentile played in 148 games in 1961, If he had hit in the other 119, like he did in the 29 Estrada starts he played in, he would have bashed 77 home runs and driven in 240.  Gentile played in all 15 of Estrada’s victories that season (and in eight of his nine losses). The Orioles scored 88 runs in Estrada’s 15 wins, with Gentile driving in 36 percent of those tallies. (Estrada went 15-9, 3.69.)

For those of you who like a little more – Don’t baseball fans always want that next fact or stat? – here’s some background. Gentile was in the majors with the Dodgers (1957-58), Orioles (1960-63), A’s (1964-65), Astros (1965-66) and Indians (1966). In nine MLB campaigns, he was an All Star in three seasons (1960-61-62) and 1961 was his best year. His career stat line was .260-179-549. That’s 1961 season saw Gentile reach his all-time career highs in nearly every offensive category.  It was the only season in which he reached a .300 batting average, 100 or more RBI and 40 or more home runs (he had a total of five seasons of at least 20 homers – including the 46 in 1961 and 33 in 1962).

Estrada’s best season was his rookie year (1960) with the Orioles, when the 22-year-0ld led the AL with 18 wins (11 losses and a 3.58 ERA). He finished second in the AL rookie of the Year balloting to his Orioles’ teammate, shortstop Ron Hansen, who hit .255, with 22 home runs and 86 RBI.  Estrada was an All Star in just one season – his rookie campaign –  in a career that saw him win 50 and lose 44, with a 4.04 ERA. He pitched for the Orioles (1960-64), Cubs (1966) and Mets (1967).

MORE GRAND SLAM FACTOIDS.

In 1987, Yankees’ first baseman Don Mattingly came to the plate with the bases loaded 21 times – picking up two singles, a double, six home runs and a pair of sacrifice flies. In those 19 plate appearances, he hit .474 and drove in 33 runs. Bases-loaded situations accounted for just 3.3 percent of his plate appearances that season, but 4.8 percent of his base hits, 20 percent of his home runs and 26 percent of his RBI.

Of even greater note, Mattingly’s six 1987 Grand Slams were a single-season MLB record (since tied) and Mattingly – despite a 14-season career that included 163 bases-loaded plate appearances – did not hit another Grand Slam before or after those record-setting six.

 Twins’ first baseman Rich Reese holds a share of the MLB career record for pinch-hit Grand Slams at three. Those three bases-loaded round trippers were the only Grand Slams of his ten-season MLB career – which included 210 pinch-hitting appearances out of a total of 2,224 plate appearances.

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Who Says Pitchers Can’t Hit?

Madison Bumgarner photo

Photo by andyrusch

On April 2, 2017, Giants’ ace right-hander Madison Bumgarner opened the season with a bang – not only did he fan 11 hitters in six innings of three-run ball (no decision), he also became the first pitcher to have a multi-homer game on Opening Day. Bumgarner went two-for-two (solo shots in the fifth and seventh) with a walk in three plate appearances. Bumgarner finished the 2017 season with a .206 average and three round trippers.  He has popped a total of 17 career homers, 15 of those over the past four seasons.

If you follow Baseball Roundtable, you know I am not the biggest fan of the designated hitter – and the tale that led off this post says a lot about my position.  This post provides a random sampling of pitchers who illustrate why I like to watch hurlers hit.  It takes a look at some (not nearly all) pretty good hitting pitchers from multiple  eras.  (Actually, I like watching solid-hitting pitchers, those weak-hitting moundsmen that occaisionally surprise and even futile swings and missed sacrifices. ) 

FOR THE RECORD

Wes Ferrell holds the record for career (MLB career 1927-41) home runs as a pitcher with 37 (he also had one as a pinch hitter), as well as the single-season record for pitchers at nine.

Walter Johnson – RHP … 417-279, 2.17 ERA

Walter Johnson earned his way into the Hall of Fame with his electric right arm (417 wins, 12 times led his league in strikeouts) – but he was no slouch with the bat. In his last season (1927), the 39-year-old Johnson hit .348 (16-for-46), with two home runs and ten RBI.  And, that was not his best season at the plate. Note: Johnson played his entire career (1907-1927) for the Washington Nationals/Senators.

Walter Johnson’s best season in the batter’s box: In 1925, Johnson posted a  .322 average (42-for-97), two home runs, 20 RBI, 12 runs scored and just six strikeouts (in 36 games). On the mound that year, he went 20-9, 3.07.

Johnson wrapped up his career with a .235 average, 24 home runs and 255 RBI in 21 seasons (934 games).

_________________

Micah Owings, RHP … 32-33, 4.86

As a 24-year-old rookie with Arizona in 2007, Micah Owings went 8-8, with a 4.30 earned run average in 29 games (27 starts) – and also won the Silver Slugger Award as the NL’s best-hitting hurler. In six MLB seasons, he went 32-33, 4.86 on the mound and .283-9-35 as a hitter.

Micah Owings’ best season at the plate: In 2007, Owings hit .333 (20-for-60), with four home runs and 15 runs batted in.  That performance is enhanced by the fact that 12 of his 20 hits went for extra bases (in addition to the four round trippers, he had seven doubles and a triple) – for a .683 slugging percentage. Owings followed up that first season with a .304-1-6 campaign at the plate. .

BRINGING ALL THE DUCKS HOME

On July 3, 1966, RHP Tony Cloninger started for the Braves (against the Giants) in San Francisco.  He not only picked up his ninth win of the seasons (against seven losses) with a complete-game seven-hitter, he also became the first National Leaguer (at any position) to hit two Grand Slam home runs in a game. He is still the only MLB pitcher to accomplish the feat. For the day, Cloninger was three-for-five with two runs scored and nine runs batted in (the single-game RBI record for pitchers).

Wes Ferrell – RHP … 193-128, 4.04 ERA

Wes Ferrell’s career stretched from 1927-1941 and he won 20 or more games in a season six times. He also was pretty darn good with the stick – finishing his career with a .280 average, a record (for pitchers) 38 home runs (one hit as a pinch hitter) and 208 RBI.

Wes Ferrell’ best season at the plate:  In 1935, Ferrell put a .347 average (52-for-150), with seven home runs and 32 RBI for the Red Sox.  Notably, that season, Ferrell made 35 appearances as a pinch hitter. On the mound, he went 25-14, with a 3.52 ERA, leading the AL in wins, starts, complete games and innings pitched.

___________________

Mike Hampton, LHP … 148-115, 4.06 ERA

In 2003, Mike Hampton won 14 games, a Gold Glove AND a Silver Slugger Award.

In 2003, Mike Hampton won 14 games, a Gold Glove AND a Silver Slugger Award.

As a pitcher, Mike Hampton was a two-time All Star and one-time 20-game winner (22-4 in 1999, when he led the NL in wins and winning percentage for the Astros). At the plate, he was a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner (1999-2003). Notably, he is also the only pitcher to win a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season (2003 for the Braves) – thus, for me, he will always be Heavy Metal Mike. In 16 seasons (423 games), Hampton hit .246, with 16 home runs and 79 RBI.

Mike Hampton’s best season at the plate: In 2001, (Rockies), Hampton hit .291 (23-for-79), with seven home runs, 20 runs scored and 16 RBI. He did have higher averages during his career (topping .300 four times), but in terms of overall offensive productivity, 2001 stands out.

 

 

___________________

George Uhle – RHP … 200-166, 3.99

George Uhle pitched in the majors from 1919 to 1936, picking up an even 200 victories and winning 20 or more games three times. He also put up a .289 career batting average (393-for-1,360), with nine round trippers and 190 RBI (722 games).

George Uhle’s best season at the plate: In 1923 (Indians), Uhle hit.361 (52-for-144), with no home runs, but 23 runs scored and 22 RBI.  That season, Uhle won an AL-leading 26 games (16 losses), with a 3.77 ERA.  Even in his final campaign – at age 37 – Uhle hit .381 in 21 at bats.

_________________

Carlos Zambrano – RHP … 132-91. 3.66

ZamCarlos Zambrano, in a 12-season MLB career (2001-2012), won 14 or more games in a season five times and led the NL in wins in 2006 with 16 (seven losses). The three-time All Star was a switch-hitter who three times hit .300 or better and bashed a total of 24 MLB home runs (16 between 2006 and 2009). Zambrano’s career batting stat line was .238-24-71 (693 at bats).

Carlos Zambrano’s best year at the plate: In 2008, Zambrano not only won 14 games for the Cubs, he hit .337 (28-for-83), with four home runs and 14 RBI.

 

DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS?

On June 23, 1971, Phillies’ right-hander Rick Wise took the mound against the Reds (in Philadelphia), looking for his eighth victory of the season (versus four losses). He got more than that. Wise tossed a complete-game, no-hitter – shutting out the Reds 4-0, walking one and fanning three.  But he did even more.  Wise also went two-for-three at the plate – hitting two home runs and driving in three of the Phillies’ four tallies. A no-no and a multi-homer game? Never done before, nor since.

Don Newcombe – RHP … 149-90, 3.56

NewkBig Don Newcombe threw righty, but hit from the portside.  As a pitcher, he won 149 games in ten seasons (1949-60, with two years lost to military service). He was a two-time twenty-game winner – and led the NL with 27 wins and a .800 winning percentage in 1956. At the plate, he hit .271 (238-for-988), with 15 home runs and 108 RBI.

Don Newcombe’s best season at the plate: In 1955 (for the Dodgers), Newk hit .359 (26-for-117), with seven home runs and 23 RBI (he also had nine doubles, a triple and a stolen base).

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Doc Crandall – RHP … 102-62, 2.92

Doc Crandall, whose MLB career went from 1908 to 1918) was the first hurler to be used primarily as a reliever (he also played second base). For example, from 1909 through 1913, he appeared in 185 games and started just 53 – finishing 120. His best season on the mound was 1915, when he went 21-15, 2.59 for the St. Louis Browns of the Federal League. That season he appeared in 51 games as a pitcher (84 overall), starting 33. As a hitter, Crandall finished his career at .285, (253-for-887), with nine home runs and 123 RBI.  He appeared in 302 games as a pitcher, 71 at 2B and 17 games at other defensive spots.

Doc Crandall’s best season at the plate: In 1914 (for the St. Louis Browns), Crandall hit .309 (86-for-278), with two home runs, 40 runs scored and 41 RBI  That season, however, he appeared in just 27 games as a pitcher, 63 at second base and 27 as a pinch hitter. In seasons in which he appeared primarily as a pitcher, 1910 was his best at the plate – .342-1-13 in 45 games, 42 as a pitcher (24 in relief.)

PITCHER WITH GOOD GENES

Ken Brett, brother of Hall of Famer and three-time batting champion George Brett, was a pitcher (83-85, 3.93 career record in 14 seasons) who could also swing the bat.  In 1973, Brett bashed home runs in four consecutive games – a record for pitchers.

On June 9, he started for the Phillies at home against the Padres, picked up a 4-1 win (7 1/3 innings of one run ball) and hit a solo home run in the fifth inning.

On June 13, he tossed a complete-game, five-hit, 16-3 win over the Dodgers in Philadelphia – and again hit a solo shot in the fifth inning.

On June 18, he gave up six runs to the Mets, but still got a complete-game, 9-6 win (at home) – and hit a solo home run in the fourth inning.

On June 23, we saw another Brett complete game, this time a 7-2 victory over the Expos on the road – and a a two-run homer in the seventh.

Terry Forster, LHP … 54-65, 3.23

Terry Forster, the 1974 AL saves leader, didn’t get a lot of at bats in his MLB career (1971-86), but he made them count. While he went 54-65, 3.23 with 127 saves on the mound, he hit a mighty .397 (31-for-78) as a batter.  Just five extra base hits, however, and seven RBI.

Terry Forster’s best season at the plate: In 1972, Forster went 10-for-19, a .526 average and struck out only twice in 22 plate appearances. In his only other season with 15 or more at bats (for the Pirates in 1977), Forster went 9-for-26 (.346).

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 Orel Hershiser, RHP … 204-150, 3.48

Hershiser was a three-time All Star and one-time twenty-game winner on the mound – leading the NL with 23 wins (eight losses) in 1988. His career stretched from 1983 to 2000. At the plate, he finished with a .201 average, with no home runs (50 RBI.) Not stellar numbers, but he makes this post based on his top season.

Orel Hershiser’s best year at the plate: In 1993 (Dodgers), Hershiser hit a healthy .356 (26-for-73), with 11 runs scored and six RBI – striking out only five times in 83 plate appearances. He was the MVP of the 1988 World Series, when he won two games – one a complete game 6-0 shutout and the other a complete game 5-2 win. He fanned 17 batters and gave up just seven hits in his 18 innings of work. Further, in the only game in which he batted (in the NL park, of course), Hershiser went three-for-three with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI – as the Dodgers topped the A’s 6-0.

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Don Drysdale, RHP … 209-166, 2.95

Don Drysdale photo

Photo by Ted Van Pelt

Don Drysdale made his living with his fastball, not his fast bat – but he did have one surprising season at the plate. In 1965, Drysdale hit .300 (39-for-130), with seven home runs and 19 RBI – the only .300 hitter (with at least 15 at bats) on the World Series Champion Dodgers’ squad. Drysdale also went 23-12, 2.77 on the mound that season.  Drysdale hit only .186 in 14 MLB seasons (1956-69), but the Hall of Famer twice reached the NL mark in home runs in a season for a pitcher (seven) and really raked in 1965.

 

 

 

TWO-FOR-THREE … IN A WAY

TobinOn May 13, 1942, the Boston Braves topped the Cubs (in Boston) 6-5 behind the arm AND BAT of right-hander Jim Tobin. Tobin not only threw a complete game five-hitter for his fifth win (against three losses), he also became the second pitcher to hit three home runs in a game – and the first (and still only) to hit three over the fence in a single contest.  Note: The big day in May was not indicative of Tobin’s 1942 season. While he ended that May 13 contest at 5-3, 2.32, with a .407 batting average, he ended his season with just 12 wins, a league-worst 21 losses and a 3.97 ERA. At the plate, he finished at .246, with six home runs and 15 RBI. For his career, Tobin went 105-112, 3.44 and .230-17-102. 

The only other pitcher to rap three home runs in a game was Louisville Colonels’ right-hander Guy Hecker, who started against the Baltimore Orioles on August 15, 1886. (It was an American Association – considered a major league – contest.) Hecker hit three inside-the-park home runs that day – and pitched a complete-game, four-hitter, as Louisville won 22-5.  Hecker, by the way, put up a 175-146, 2.93 record in nine seasons – including 52-10, 1.80 in 1884. He hit .282 for his career – and won a batting title (.341) in 1886, when appeared in 49 games as a pitcher, 22 at first base, and 17 in the outfield. (Yes, it was a different game back then.)

More good-hitting pitchers? The list could go on with the likes of Zack Greinke; Don Larsen; Bob Lemon; Red Ruffing; Dontrelle Willis; Earl Wilson; and more.

Primary resources:  Society for American Baseball Research; Baseball-Reference.com; Baseball-Almanac.com

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