Bob Hazle – A Milwaukee Hero Who Stormed the National League

Always a Braves' fan-atic.

Always a Braves’ fan-atic.

Heroes are more often born out of circumstances than planning.  That was the case with one of my boyhood baseball heroes, who – aided by circumstance – took the National League by “storm” in 1957.   I’m talking about Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, who more than held his own in terms of heroics on the Milwaukee Braves’ 1957 pennant (and World Series) winning squad.  In fact, for a couple of months that year, Wiffle (R) Ball games in and around Milwaukee saw as many youngsters emulating Bob Hazle as were patterning their stances after Braves’ stars and future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews.  Note: I was a six-year-old baseball fanatic and Milwaukee native when the Braves became Milwaukee’s team in 1953 – and a fan-atic by 1957. 

 What can you say about Hurricane Hazle? He came up to the Braves at the end of July, and for the rest of the year, nobody could get him out. I’ve never seen a guy as hot as he was – ever. …. I don’t know what happens to suddenly make a minor league ballplayer into Babe Ruth, but Hazle was right out of “The Twilight Zone.” We were hanging in there pretty well before he arrived, but he just picked us up.

                         Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews

                       From the book “Eddie Mathews and the National Pastime”

Hurricane Hazle’s Milwaukee Story

Bob "Hurricane" Hazle ... still a treasured autograph.

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle … still a treasured autograph.

On July 11, 1957, the Milwaukee Braves – who had finished just one game behind the NL Champion Dodgers in 1956 – brought a 44-35 record (three games behind the league-leading Cardinals) into a game against the Pirates (in Pittsburgh).  One the very first play in the bottom of the first inning, Braves center fielder Billy Bruton, chasing down a fly ball to shallow left by Pirates’ lead-off hitter Bill Virdon, collided with shortstop Felix Mantilla (the ball fell in for a double). Both Mantilla and Bruton were knocked out of the game. Mantilla was back on the field in a few weeks, but Bruton – who had an eight-stitch cut on his lip and, even worse, a torn ligament in his right knee – was out for the season and headed for surgery.

Braves’ fans (including this soon to be ten-year-old) were devastated.  Bruton was the team’s leadoff hitter and a slick fielding center fielder, who had led the NL in stolen bases three of the past four seasons. The hopes for catching the Stan Musial-led Cardinals now seemed out of reach.

Bruton’s injury led to a series of moves that saw 2B Red Schoendienst move to the leadoff spot, Hank Aaron move to center field, Andy Pafko to right field and journeyman outfield Nippy Jones (who hadn’t played in the majors since 1952) move from the Triple A Sacramento Solons (PCL) to a reserve (1B/OF) role with the Braves. Even catcher Del Crandall found himself taking a few turns in the outfield. Also in the mix was emerging power hitter Wes Covington, a stabilizing regular in left field.

Bob Hazle first picked up the nickname “Hurricane” during a 1954 stint in the Venezuelan winter league; a response to the fact that his home state of South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Hazel that October.  The nickname resurfaced when he took the National League “by storm” in 1957.

Still the Braves’ felt they needed more. So, in late July, they called up Bob Hazle, a 26-year-old outfielder who was hitting .279-12-58 at with the Triple A Wichita Braves. The 6-foot, 190-pound left-handed hitter was initially slated to spell the 36-year-old Pafko (the Braves’ outfield was now Covington in left, Aaron in center and Pafko in right).  Hazle got in his first game on July 29 – as he sacrificed in a pinch-hitting role.  On July 31, with the Braves (59-41, and one tie) in basically a dead heat with the Cardinals (58-40),  Hazle got his first start in right field.

Hazle went one-for-four in his first start in right field for the Braves (a 4-2 win over the Pirates), but there was much more to come. In 21 August games, Hazle hit .493 (33-for-67), with four home runs, 21 RBI, 16 runs scored and 11 walks versus just eight strikeouts. By the end of August, the Braves were 79-48 – and held a 7 ½ game lead over the Cardinals.

Kept the card, too!

Kept the card, too!

Hazle slowed down a bit in September, but still hit over .300 (.317), with two home runs, 10 runs scored and five RBI (seven walks and seven strikeouts) for the month.  The Braves, with the help of their new right fielder, finished the season at 95-59, eight games up on the Redbirds. (In the games in which Hazle appeared, the Braves played .659 ball, while their winning percentage in games – for the entire season – in which Hazle did not appear was .591.)

Hazle ended the season hitting .403 in 41 games with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, 26 runs scored and 18 walks versus just 15 strikeouts – as well as praise from his teammates for playing a key role in bringing the World Series to Milwaukee – not to mention a lot of love from Wiffle Ball-playing youngsters.

Unfortunately, like many hurricanes, things calmed down considerably once the storm blew through. Hazle hit just .154 in the World Series, but did go two-for-four with a run scored (from the leadoff spot) in the decisive Game Seven – won by the Braves 5-0 behind Lew Burdette.  He got off to a slow start in 1958 – hampered by a couple of beanings and an ankle injury – and his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers on May 24. At the time, he was hitting just .179, with no home runs and five RBI in 20 games.  With the tigers that season, he put up a  .241-2-5 line in 43 games. Hazle spent 1959 and 1960 back in the minors, before retiring as a player at the age of 30.  Notably, he did retire with a .310 career average (in 110 games over three seasons).

 Bob “Hurricane” Hazle – The Back Story 

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle was born. Robert Sidney Hazle, in Laurens, South Carolina, on December 9, 1930. He was the last of six children (four sons) in the Hazle family. Of the four Hazle sons, three (Robert, Joseph and Paul) signed professional baseball contracts, but only Bob made it to the major leagues.  (Paul made it as high as the Norfolk Tides (B-level, Piedmont League), while Joe made to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association.  

Bob Hazle was a Hurricane long before he got the nickname – earning sixteen sports letters in high school (baseball, football, basketball and tennis). Hazle, who graduated from high school in 1949, signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1950 (reportedly choosing to pass on a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee).  While in the Cincinnati system, he was selected to the Texas League all-star team in 1951), when he hit .280 with the Double A Tulsa Oilers as a 20-year-old. 

Military service, however, interrupted this promising start (and a potential callup to the Reds), as Hazle spent two years in the Army – returning to Tulsa in 1953, where he hit .272 with three home runs in 57 games. In 1955, Hazle hit just .224 with four round trippers at Triple A Indianapolis in 1954 – a discouraging season.  However, he bounced back with a .314 average and 29 home runs at Double A Nashville in 1955  – earning a late-season callup to the Reds (three hits in just 13 MLB at bats.)

Prior to the state of the 1956 season, Hazle and pitcher Corky Valentine (who had a 6-14, 4.81 MLB record over 1954-55) were traded to the Milwaukee Braves for 34-year-old first baseman George Crowe (who had hit .281 with 15 home runs the previous season). The Braves assigned Hazle to their Triple-A team in Wichita, where he hit .285-13-46 in 124 games – despite a mid-season knee injury that hampered his mobility. He was back at Wichita in 1957 and was hitting .279-12-58 when the Braves called him up following Billy Bruton’s injury. And the rest, as they say, is history.

BBRT Note: Bob Hazle died on April 25, 1992, in Columbia, South Carolina, of a heart attack.  

 

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Grounding Into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to HOF?

Chase utley Dodgers photo

Photo by apardavila

In 2016, Dodgers’ second baseman Chase Utley became the first qualifying player (502 plate appearance) since 1997 to complete an MLB season without grounding into a single double play. Ironically, Utley accomplished this feat in the first year of enforcement of what is informally known as the “Chase Utley Rule” – establishing new restrictions related to slides intended to break up double plays. The 37-year-old Utley hit .252 in 565 plate appearances (512 at bats), with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.  (See an explanation of the circumstances behind and impact of the new rule at the end of this post.)

Using a combination of baseball-reference.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) resources, BBRT was able to find only nine qualifying batters (at least 3.1 plate appearances per game played by their teams) who completed a season with zero double plays grounded into (GIDP). Three of those came during the strike-shortened 1994 season. Note; GIDP records only go back to 1933 in the NL and 1939 in the AL.   Here’s the complete list – sorted by number of plate appearances – with each player’s batting statistics for the year.

Augie Galan, OF, Cardinals, 1939 … (748 Plate Appearances/646 At Bats) .314-12-79, with a league-leading 133 runs scored and an NL-best 22 stolen bases.

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros (NL), 1997 … (744 PA/619 AB) .309-22-81, with 47 stolen bases and a league-leading 146 runs. Biggio played in all 162 games that season and also led MLB in hit-by-pitch (34).

Dick McCauliffe, 2B/SS, Tigers, 1968 …. (658 PA/570 AB) .249-16-56, with a league-leading 95 runs scored.

Chase Utley, 2B, Dodgers, 2016 … (565 PA/512 AB) .252-14-52.

Pete Reiser, Dodgers, OF, 1942 …. (537 PA/480 AB) .310-10-64, with 89 runs scored and a league-leading 20 steals.

Rob Deer, OF/1B/DH, Brewers (AL), 1990 … (511 PA/444 AB) .209-27-69.

Ray Lankford, OF, Cardinals, 1994* … (482 PA/ 416 AB) .267-19-57.

Otis Nixon, OF, Red Sox, 1994* …. (461 PA/398 AB) .274-0-25, with 42 steals.

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s, 1994* … (376 PA/296 AB) .260-6-20, 22 steals.

*=Strike-shortened season.

Very Honorable Mention – Norm Cash

cashTigers’ 1B Norm Cash broke into the major leagues on June 18, 1958.  From that date until his third at bat in the second game of a May 9, 1961 double header, Cash did not ground into a single double play.  From the start of his major league career, he played 214 games (and part of a 215th), logging 663 plate appearances and 543 at bats, without grounding into a single twin-killing. In 1960, Cash played in 121 games without grounding into a double play, but his 428 plate appearances fell short of making the above list of “qualifying” batters.

On the other side of the coin, no one has grounded into as many double plays in a season as Red Sox’ outfielder Jim Rice, who hit into a record 36 twin killings in 1985.  Rice followed up that season by grounding into 35 double plays in 1985 (MLB’s second-highest total). Rice was an All Star in both years, hitting  .280-28-122 in 1984 and .291-27-103 in 1985. Rice, in fact, led the league in GIDP four consecutive seasons (1982-85), but made the All Star team in three of them. In 1983, he led the league in GIDP (31), but also led in home runs (39) and RBI (126), while hitting.305.  To put some perspective around Rice’s record 36 GIDPs in 1984, Don Buford grounded into just 34 double plays in his 10-season MLB career (1,286 games, 5,347 plate appearances, 4,553 at bats) – an MLB record career-low of one GIDP every 134 at bats,

Phillie’s OF Richie Ashburn led the league in fewest times grounding into double plays (among qualifying hitters) a record six times (1951-52-53-54-58-60). The speedster, for you trivia buffs, also led all MLB hitters in base hits in the decade of the 1950s (1950-59) and led all MLB outfielders in putouts over that same period. For more on this Hall of Famer, click here.

Sixteen-season MLB infielder Miguel Tejada led his league in most times grounding into double plays a record five times – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009. Notably, 2007 – the year that breaks the string of GIDP leading years – is the only year between 2004 and 2009 that Tejada did not make the All Star team.

Grounding into Double Plays – Well Worn Path to the Hall of Fame

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

Lots of games equal lots of GIDP.

A list of career leaders for grounding into double plays can, of course, be misleading – since their leadership is based on the length of their careers. Cal Ripken, Jr. leads the way with 350 GIDP in 21 MLB seasons.  The active leader is Albert Pujols, with 336 GIDP in 16 seasons (the only active player in the top five overall). Also in the top five are Pudge Rodriguez (337 in 21 seasons), Hank Aaron (328 in 23 seasons) and Carl Yastrzemski (323 in 23 seasons).  Notably, seven of the top eight players on the GIDP list are in the Hall of  Fame (Rodriguez going in this year).  The exception is the still active Pujols, and there is little doubt the Hall is saving him a spot. In addition, those already named, the GIDP top eight includes Hall of Famers: Dave Winfield (319 in 22 seasons); Eddie Murray (315 in 21 seasons); and Jim Rice (315 in 16 seasons). At numbers nine and ten are Julio Franco (312 in 23 seasons) and Harold Baines (298 in 22 seasons).

Three players have hit into a record four double plays in a single game: Tigers’ LF Goose Goslin (April 28, 1934 – in four at bat versus the Indians); Mets’ 3B Joe Torre (July 21, 1975 –  in four at bats versus the Astros); and Tigers’ DH Victor Martinez (September 11, 2011-  in four at bats versus the Twins).

The San Francisco Giants hold the team record for hitting into double plays in a nine-inning game – seven on May 4, 1969 (versus the Astros).  The Giants hit into inning-ending double plays in the first, third, seventh and ninth innings; and additional double plays in the fourth, fifth and eighth. Third Baseman Bobby Etheridge hit into two double plays, while C Dick Dietz, RF Frank Johnson, LF Jim Ray Hart, 2B Ron Hunt and P Juan Marichal hit into one each.   The Giants out hit the Astros 9 to 6, but lost 3-1.

The 1990 Red Sox hold the MLB team record for double plays grounded into in a season (175), while the 1945 Cardinals grounded into an all-time low (since records were kept) 75 double plays. Every member of the 1990 Red Sox starting linup hit into at least 10 double plays (led by Tony Pena with 23), while the 1945 Cardinals had only one player on the entire team that hit into 10 double-killings (Whitey Kurowski, ten).

THE “CHASE UTLEY” RULE

In the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Two of the 2015 Dodgers/Mets National League Division Series, the Dodgers (trailing 2-1) had Enrique Hernandez on third and Chase Utley on first – with no outs and Howie Kendrick at the plate. In what would turn out to be a controversial play, Hendrick hit a groundball that was taken by Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy. Murphy flipped to SS Ruben Tejada, who was taken out of the play by Utley – with a slide some thought was well wide of the bag. (Utley was originally ruled out, but – on review – the call was reversed.) After the play, Tejada was taken from the field with a broken leg. After the season, MLB put a new rule into place (to protect fielders). The rule, informally known as the “Chase Utley Rule,” requires that base runners breaking up potential double play “make a bonafide attempt to reach and stay on the base” – basically prohibiting runners from altering their path to the bag for the purpose of making contact with the fielder.

 

 

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Inside the Park Home Runs – Prince Fielder over Rickey Henderson

Prince Fielder – had as many inside-the-park home runs in his career as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills combined.

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the inside-the-park home run – a mad dash around the bases, often ending in a head-first slide, as outfielders scramble for the ball and infielders try to make the perfect relay to the plate. In this post, Baseball Roundtable would like to take a look at some of the interesting statistics surrounding this exciting play.

As noted in the header, Prince Fielder had as many career inside-the-park homers (two) as Rickey Henderson (one) and Maury Wills (one) combined.  Henderson and Wills, however, recorded 1, 992 stolen bases to Fielder’s 18.

Here are just a few bits of inside-the-park home run trivia.

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett. Photo; Charles M. Conlon

Jesse Burkett holds the record for career inside-the-park (ITP) home runs with 55.  The left-handed hitting outfielder hit 75 total home runs over sixteen MLB seasons (1890-1905), with 55 of those being ITP. Note: Hall of Famer Burkett was a three-time batting champ, who topped .400 twice while with the NL Cleveland Spiders (.405 in 1895 and .410 in 1896). The AL career ITP home run record belongs to Ty Cobb (46), while the NL record goes to Tommy Leach (48).

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Tom McCreery holds the record for most ITP home runs in a game with three – for the NL Louisville Colonels on July 12, 1987.  McCreery hit a total of five home runs that season. In addition to McCreery, forty-five MLB players have hit two ITP home runs in a game, but only four have accomplished that feat more than once (twice each): Dan Brouthers; Jesse Burkett, Ed Delahanty and Roger Bresnahan.

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Ed Delahanty, playing first base for the Philadelphia Colts (Phillies) on July 13, 1896, earned a place in the record books by blasting a record-tying four home runs in a single game. To date, only 16 players have accomplished that feat. Delahanty’s four-homer day is unique in that two of his round trippers were inside-the-parkers.  He is the only one of the 16 members of the four-homer club to have ITP homers included in their one-game total. Twenty of Delahanty’s 101 MLB home runs (16-season MLB career) were of the inside-the-park variety.

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Known for power (not speed), Babe Ruth had ten inside-the-park home runs and ten steals of home; while teammate Lou Gehrig has ten inside-the-park homers and 15 steals of home.

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Roger Bresnahan is the only player to hit two ITP home runs in a single game in both leagues – May 30, 1902, for the AL Baltimore Orioles and June 6, 1904, for the NL New York Giants. Bresnahan hit a reported 13 ITP home runs out of 26 long balls in a 17-season (1897-1915) MLB career.

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Luke Stuart of the St. Louis Browns and Johnny Lemaster of the San Francisco Giants are the only two players to hit ITP home runs in their first MLB at bats (August 8, 1921 and September 2, 1975, respectively.)

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ClementeThere have been plenty of inside-the-park walk-off (run-off?) home runs, and plenty of inside-the park Grand Slams, but there has been only one inside-the-park walk-off Grand Slam – and that belongs to Roberto Clemente. It came on July 25, 1956, with the Pirates’ Clemente batting against the Cubs’ Jim Brosnan in the bottom of the ninth and the Pirates trailing 8-5. There were no outs and Pittsburgh’s Hank Foiles, Bill Virdon and Dick Cole were on base.  Clemente drove a ball to deep left that hit near the light standard and rolled along the warning track to center.  All three runners scored and Clemente ran through the coach’s stop sign at third base, beating the relay (Solly Drake to Ernie Banks to  Hobie Landrith).

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Pete Milne had a brief MLB career (three seasons, 47 games, 65 plate appearances) with the Giants (1948-50). He hit only one home run in the majors, but it was a significant. It was the only pinch hit, inside-the park Grand Slam ever (April 27, 1949).

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The most recent player to hit two inside-the-park homers in a single game was Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Greg Gagne (October 4, 1986). This, of course, means Gagne had as many ITP home runs in that game as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills had in their combined careers.

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Ichiro Suzuki hit the only inside-the-park home run in an All Star Game (2007).

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Sam Crawford holds the single-season record for inside-the-park home runs, with 12 ITP home runs (of his NL-leading 16 dingers for the Reds in 1901. Fifty-one of Crawfords 97 career home runs stayed in the park. As  you might expect, the AL record for a season (9) belongs to the Tigers’ Ty Cobb. In 1909, he led the AL with nine homers and all nine were inside-the-park.  Overall, 46 of Cobb’s 117 home runs were of the ITP variety.

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Ten players have hit ITP home runs in the World Series. The most recent was hit by Kansas City Royals’ SS and leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, who hit it on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning of the first game of the 2015 World Series.

For my Twins Fan Readers

The first Twins’ inside-the-park homer was hit by none other than Harmon Killebrew (July 4, 1961). Killebrew, by the way, recorded as many career inside-the-park home runs as teammate and speedster Rod Carew – one. Tony Oliva, Tom Brunansky and Greg  Gagne share the team career lead with three each.  Sam Rice holds the franchise record, with 21 ITP home runs for the old Washington Senators.

In 2016, there were 5,610 home runs hit during the MLB regular season. Of those, just nine were inside-the-park.  Who had them? Byron Buxton, Twins; Stephen Drew, Nationals; Brett Lawrie, White Sox; Eduardo Nunez, Twins; Tyler Naquin, Indians;  Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; Jean Segura, Diamondbacks; Dansby Swanson, Braves; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.

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Here are the inside-the-park totals for a few of MLB’s biggers home run hitters (600+). Barry Bonds (762, three inside-the-park); Hank Aaron (755, one  inside-the-park ); Babe Ruth (714, ten inside-the-park); Alex Rodriguez (696. zero inside-the-park ); Willie Mays (660, six inside-the-park); Ken Griffey, Jr. (630,  three inside-the-park ); Jim Thome (612, zero inside-the-park  ); Sammy Sosa (609, two inside-the-park  ).

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Final note: Changes in the game – smaller ballparks, bigger gloves, livelier baseballs, speedier outfielders and more –  have made the inside-the-park home run an increasingly rare occurence. A Society of American Baseball Research study, in fact, found that the percentage of home runs that were of the inside-the-park variety dropped from about 35 pecent in 1901 to to less than 25 percent by 1920 to between three and four percent by the 1950s to one percent (or less) since the 1960s.  So, if you happen to see an inside-the-park round tripper, savor that rare bit of excitement.

Info Sources:  Baseball-reference.com;  Baseball-almanac.com; Society for American Baseball Research.

 

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They’ll Do – In a Pinch

Saint Louis Cardinals photo

Home of baseball’s most prolific 2016 pinch hitters. Photo by Stefan Ogrisek

On April 8 of this past season, the Cardinals put major league baseball on notice that 2016 was going to be the Year of the Pinch Hitter in Saint Louis.  On that day, the Cardinals came to the plate in the top of the seventh inning trailing the Braves 4-3. Here’s what followed:

  • In the seventh, with one out and the bases empty, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny sent Jeremy Hazelbaker up to pinch hit for pitcher Jaime Garcia. Hazelbaker homered to right on a 1-0 count, tying the game.
  • In the eighth, with the scored tied (4-4) and Cardinals’ 1B Matt Adams leading off, Matheny went to the bench again – sending Aledmyz Diaz up to pinch hit for Adams. The result? A home run to left on a 1-0 count, giving Saint Louis the lead.
  • In the top of the ninth, with one out and no one on, Matheny again called on a pinch hitter. This time it was Greg Garcia hitting for pitcher Kevin Siegrist. Garcia hit a 2-1 pitch to right field for the Cardinals’ record-breaking third pinch hit homer of the game.

Hazelbaker, Diaz and Garcia were the only pinch hitters used by Matheny that day, and they all went deep.  It was rookie Hazelbaker’s second MLB home run; rookie Aledmys Diaz’ first MLB round tripper; and Garcia’s first homer of the year and just the third home run in his three MLB seasons.  Talk about pushing the right buttons!

The record for pinch hitters used by a team in an MLB games is nine, shared by three teams.

Dodgers (versus Cardinals) on September 22, 1959 – In this contest, won by the Cardinals 11-10, the Dodgers used nine pinch hitters over the final five innings. Those pinch batters went three-for-eight (with a walk), scored two and drove in five. The big blow was a three-run pinch homer by Frank Howard in the top of the nint

Expos (versus Pirates) on September 5, 1975 – Montreal used nine pinch hitters in a 5-2 loss to the Pirates in the second game of a double header. The first pinch hitter was called upon in the fifth inning. Overall, the pinch batters went two-for-eight (both singles) with one walk and one run score

Braves (versus Expos) on September 21, 1993 – In their 18-5 trouncing of the Expos ( in Montreal), the Braves apparently wanted to give everyone a chance to play. They didn’t use their first pinch hitter until the sixth inning – when they were already leading 14-3; and they used six pinch batters in the seventh, when they scored four times to stretch their lead to 18-5. Overall, Braves’ pinch batters went three for six (two doubles) with one hit-by-pitch and two walks.  The pinch batters scored four runs and drove in three. Note: Seven of the Braves’ nine pinch hitters stayed in the game. The only defensive position not occupied by pinch hitter at some time during the game were pitcher and catcher.

That April 8, 2016, trio of pinch-hit home runs for the Cardinals were the first three of the Cardinals’ MLB-record 17 pinch-hit home runs during 2016.  For the season, ESPN.com stats show the Cardinals led all of MLB not just in pinch-hit home runs, but also in pinch hits (81), pinch-hitting average (.333), PH RBI (51), pinch hitters’ on base percentage (.393) and runs scored by pinch hitters (46). At the other end of the spectrum, no team had fewer pinch hits in 2016 than the Minnesota Twins (9-for-62), while the lowest team PH average belonged to Tampa Bay (.124). The White Sox, Royals, Rangers and Reds also completed the season without a single pinch-hit home run; with the White Sox getting an MLB-low three RBI from pinch hitters.

How dominant were the Cardinals pinch hitters? Saint Louis’ .333 pinch hitting average was 49-points higher than the second-best Mets (.282); and 124-points higher than the 2016 MLB pinch-hitting average.  The Mets also finished second to St. Louis in PH home runs (with 13, four behind the Cards) and PH RBI at 51 (ten behind the Redbirds).  The NL team pinch-hitting average production was seven homers and 33 RBI; while the AL (with the DH) averaged two homers and 11 RBI. The Cardinals’ 81 pinch hits were 20 more than runner-up Colorado and their 151 PH total bases outdistanced the runners-up (Mets and Rockies) by 49.

Now, let take a look at a few 2016 individual pinch hitting stats.

Phil gosselin photo

Phil Gosselin – led MLB with 20 pinch hits in 2016.Photo by Keith Allison

Most pinch hits:  Phil Gosselin, Diamondbacks – 20 hits. (77 PH at bats – .263 PH average); Ichiro Suzuki, Marlins, 15 pinch hits (57 PH at bats – .255 PH average).

Pinch-hit home runs: Jeremey Hazelbaker, Cardinals – 4; Matt Joyce, Pirates – 4.

Pinch-hit RBI: Matt Joyce, Pirates – 15; Matt Adams, Cardinals – 13.

Pinch-hit average (minimum 10 PH at bats); Brandon Nimmo, Mets – .500 (six-for-12); Tyler White, Astros  – .462 (six-for-13).

 

Werth Every Penny

Jayson Werth, deserves special recognition for delivering in the pinch in 2016.  In four pinch hit appearances, Werth delivered three hits – including one double, two home runs and six RBI.

Here are your single-season all-time pinch hitting record holders.

Pinch hits in a season: John Vander Wal, Rockies, 1995 – 28.

Pinch-hit HR in a season: Dave Hansen, Dodgers, 2000 – 7; Craig Wilson, Pirates, 2001 – 7.

Pinch-hit RBI in a season: Joe Cronin, Red Sox, 1943 – 25; Jerry Lynch, Reds, 1961 – 25; Rusty Staub, Mets, 1983 – 25.

Lenny Harris – 212 Pinch Hits

harrisLenny Harris may be the king of the pinch hitters. Harris holds the records for: most pinch hit appearances and PH at bats in a single season (95 and 83, Mets, 2001). He also holds the career records for pinch-hit: at bats (804); and hits (212 – no other player has more than 175). In an 18-season, eight-team, MLB career (1988-2005), Harris appeared in 1,903 games, 883 of those (46.4 percent) as a pinch hitter. He was a true utility player playing 50 or more games at every position except CF (three games), pitcher (1 game) and catcher (zero).  Harris does not, however, hold the record for career pinch-hit home runs.  That belongs to Matt Stairs with 23 (MLB career,1992-2011).

 

Gene Stechschulte – a Rarity.

In MLB history, 119 players have hit a home run in their first-ever MLB at bat. Of those 119,  29 hit that long ball on the first MLB pitch they ever saw. Out of that 29, six were pinch hitters.  Finally, our of that six, Gene Stechschulte of the Cardinals is the only pitcher to hit a home run, as a pinch hitter, on the very first MLB pitch he saw.

It came on April, 17, 2001 – as you might expect – in a blowout. The Cardinals were trailing the Diamondbacks 15-1 in the sixth inning, when Redbirds’ manager Tony La Russa sent Stechschulte to the plate with one on and two out. It was only Stechschulte’s second professional at bat – and the two-run dinger was his second professional extra base hit.  Stechschulte had one minor league at bat (in 204 games) and hit a double. In his MLB career, Stechschulte batted just five times – collecting a home run and a single.   Stechchulte was no stranger to the batter’s box, however. In 1995, as a pitcher/shortstop at Ashland University, Stechschulte hit .391, with 15 home runs and 58 RBI.

 

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Richie Ashburn – Stats and Stories from a “Rich” Career

“To be voted the most valuable player on the worst team in the history of major league baseball is a dubious honor for sure.  But I was awarded a 24-boat with a galley and sleeping facilities for six. After the season ended, I docked the boat in Ocean City, New Jersey, and it sank.”

Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn – 1962 NY Mets (40 wins-120 losses) MVP

ashburnToday (December 8, 2916) is the 55th anniversary of the day the New York Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn from the Chicago Cubs. It’s also the first anniversary of Baseball Roundtable’s initial blog post about Ashburn – truly one of the great characters of our national pastime. BBRT has come across a few additional facts and tales about Richie Ashburn – also known as Putt-Putt, Whitey and the Tilden Flash.  With that in mind, BBRT is presenting an expanded look at the career of this talented Hall of Famer – a career that is rich not only in statistics, but in uniquely entertaining stories.  So, read on if you’d like to learn more about the player  who led all of MLB in base hits in the 1950s and is also credited with hitting a foul ball that broke a female fan’s nose and then (in the same at bat) rapping a second foul ball that hit her as she was being carried from the stands on a stretcher.

Ashburn’s MLB  career covered 15 seasons with the Phillies (1948-59), Cubs (1960-61) and Mets (1962). The 34-year-old outfielder was nearing the end of his MLB career when he joined the Mets (in fact, his 1962 season with the Mets would be his last in the major leagues), but he brought significant credentials to the expansion franchise. Ashburn was a four-time All Star, two-time batting champion and had led the NL in walks four times, on-base-percentage four times, hits three times, triples twice and stolen bases once. BBRT Note: For a look at MLB’s expansion drafts – and the early and interesting picks, click here.

Richie Ashburn was noted for his speed, bat control and sparking outfield defense.  In his fifteen-year MLB career (12 with the Phillies), he achieved a .308 average and collected 2,574 hits (2,119 singles), but only 29 home runs. He topped 200 hits three times, hit over .300 nine times, stole 234 bases (topping 25 in three seasons) and legged out 109 triples. Here are a few stats that caught BBRT’s eye:

  • Ashburn’s 1,875 hits were the most by any player in the 1950s. (Nellie Fox was second and Stan Musial third.) Ashburn led the league in hits three times during that span
  • Ashburn played more games than any other player in the 1950s – 1,523 – leading the league in games played twice
  • The speedy center fielder also recorded more outfield put outs than any other MLB outfielder in the decade (4,496) – leading the league in OF puts outs in eight of the ten years
  • During his career, Ashburn led the NL in outfield put outs nine times, OF assists three times and OF double plays three times
  • 27.6 percent of Ashburn’s career home runs (eight of twenty-nine) were inside-the-parkers
  • In 14 of his 15 seasons, Ashburn hit more triples than homers.

For the Mets, Ashburn proved a valuable pick-up – literally, since after the season, he was chosen as the MVP of the 40-120 Mets, who finished 60 1/2 games behind the Giants. (The Mets’ dismal performance has been suggested as part of the reason for Ashburn’s decision to retire.)  In his final season, Ashburn was also the Mets’ only All Star team selection. He finished the year with a .306 average in 135 games, collected 119 hits (102 singles) and 81 walks (for a .424 on base percentage) and surprised a lot of people with a career-high seven home runs. The 1962 season was, in fact, the only year in which Ashburn didn’t hit more triples than round trippers.

Richie Ashburn is the only player in MLB history with four seasons of at least 500 outfield put outs.  

But all of this (not to mention Ashburn’s 3 ½ decades as a Phillies’ broadcaster), is not the sole reason BBRT is featuring him in this post.  The fact is, Ashburn’s career is “rich” in unique baseball stories.

  • Ashburn began his minor league career (at the age of 18) as a catcher with the Utica Blue Sox of the Class A Eastern League. Ashburn’s father had groomed him as a catcher, figuring that position offered the fastest path to the major leagues. Ashburn, however, proved too “fast” for that path. The story has it that on one groundball hit to the right side, Ashburn tossed off his mask, came out from behind the plate and didn’t just back up the play at first base, but beat the runner there and took the throw for the putout. It wasn’t long before Ashburn was moved to the outfield.

In his two minor league seasons, Richie Ashburn hit .342, with 245 singles, 38 doubles, 18 triples and four home runs. (305 hits in 243 games).

  • On August 17, 1957, as the Phillies took on the Giants in Philadelphia, Ashburn lined a foul ball into the Press Box behind third base – hitting Alice Roth (wife of the Philadelphia Bulletin’s sports editor Earl Roth) in the face, breaking her nose. The game was stopped momentarily as Mrs. Roth was attended to – and eventually taken from her seat on a stretcher. Play resumed and on the very next pitch, Ashburn hit another foul ball – which hit the now prone, stretcher-bound Alice Roth in the leg.
  • Ashburn made it to the Phillies as a 21-year-old in 1948 and was the only rookie on the NL All Star team. Ashburn hit lead-off, collected two hits (singles, of course), stole a base and scored a run in the NL’s 5-2 loss.  Ashburn hit .333 in 117 games his rookie campaign (a broken finger cut into his playing time), collected 154 hits (131 singles), played outstanding defense and led the NL with 32 stolen bases. He finished three in the Rookie of the Year balloting – won by Braves SS Alvin Dark.
  • On June 12, 1958, Ashburn – known for heads up play in the field – helped engineer a shortstop-catcher-third base-center field double play.  The Phillies were playing the Dodgers and, in the bottom of the third, the Dodgers had 1B Gil Hodges at the plate with RF Carl Furillo on at third base and C Johnny Roseboro at second. Hodges grounded to Phillies’ SS Chico Hernandez, who threw to the plate to get Furillo, Roseboro had made a move toward third and catcher Joe Lonnet fired to third baseman Willie Jones. Meanwhile, Ashburn had come in from center field (behind the retreating Roseboro) and took a throw from Lonnet – tagging Roseboro to complete a 6-2-5-8 double killing.

 

Yellow Tango, Outfield Tangle

In his final MLB season (as a Met), Ashburn found himself playing in center field, often behind second baseman/shortstop Elio Chacon, who did not speak English. Despite Ashburn’s calls of “I got it.  I got it.”, there were times when Chacon would range into center field, resulting in a misplay or collision.  Finally, Ashburn picked up the phrase “Yo la tengo” – the Spanish equivalent of “I got it.”  The problem appeared solved – until a game in which a fly ball was headed for the no-man’s land in short left-center.  Ashburn rushed in, pounded his glove and confidently declared, “Yo la tengo.” As expected, Chacon pulled up. Unfortunately, left fielder Frank Thomas continued charging in, colliding with Ashburn, while the ball fell in between them. As they got to their feet, the story goes, the non-Spanish-speaking Thomas asked “What the *** is Yellow Tango?”, while Mets’ manager Casey Stengel just shook his head in the dugout.  BBRT note:  The incident is credited as being the inspiration for the name of the alternative rock band Yo La Tengo – originally established by long-time Mets’ fan Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley.

After retring as a player, Ashubrn enjoyed a long career (more than three decades) as a Phillies’ broadcaster and also wrote baseball columns for the Philadelphia Bulletin and Philadelphia Daily News. (Ashburn passed away on September 9, 1997 – heart attack – after broadcasting a Phillies/Mets game in New York.) He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 1998, the Phillies established the Richie Ashburn Special Achievement Award recognizing a member of the Phillies’ organization for exhibiting the loyalty, dedication and passion demonstrated by Ashburn during his career (both on- and off-the-field) with the Phillies.

Richie Ashburn’s MLB Record

Games Played – 2,189; hits – 2,574; average – .308; doubles – 317; triples – 109; home runs – 28; runs – 1,322; RBI – 586; stolen bases (234); walks – 1,198.  

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Hall of Fame – Today’s Game Era Ballot

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Baseball Hall of Fame photo

Photo by candyschwartz

In addition to the traditional Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Hall of Fame voting, each year a group of candidates is considered by one of the Hall’s “Era” Committees, which include: Today’s Game (1988-present); Modern Baseball (1970-87); Golden Days (1950-69); and Early Baseball (1871-1949). This year, the Today’s Game Era Committee is considering a group of five players, three managers and two executives for membership in the Hallof Fame.

In this post, BBRT will look at the Today’s Game candidates, commenting on how BBRT would vote (if I had a ballot) and speculating (predicting) on the Committee’s likely action.  If you would like BBRT’s detailed take on this year’s traditional ballot (34 players), click here.  

First, the Election Process—

Before getting into the Today’s Game nominees – a bit of background on the process.  The BBWAA Historical Overview Committee is responsible for identifying the ten candidates on each ballot and election requires that the candidate be name on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16 members of the Today’s Game Era Committee –  To be eligible for consideration by the Today’s Game Era Committee, candidates must have made their greatest contribution to the national pastime between 1988 and 2016.  In addition:

  • Players must have played in at least ten major league seasons and no longer be eligible for the traditional BBWAA ballot;
  • Managers and umpires must have served at least ten years in MLB and be retired for at least five years or over the age of 64 and retired for at least six months; and 
  • Executives must be retired from MLB for at least five years, although active executive over age 69 are also eligible.

Nominees for consideration by the Today’s Era Committee are:

  • Players … Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire.
  • Managers … Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella.
  • Executives … John Scheurholz, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner.

Now, let’s look at each candidate and how BBRT sees thier chances.  Spoiler Alert:  If BBRT had a ballot, I’d vote for: Lou Piniella, John Scheurholz and (as a Minnesotan, reluctantly) Bud Selig.  I anticipate the same results in the Comittee vote,with Harold Baines as a possible dark horse candidate.

PLAYERS—–

Harold Baines (OF/DH) – 1980-2001

Harold Baines photo

BBRT would love to see a HOF Class that included Baines (Harold Baines, above) and (Tim) Raines. Photo by Keith Allison

Harold Baines had a 22-season MLB career. He was a six-time All Star and two-time winner of the Designated Hitter of the Year Award. He is in the top 50 players all time in hits with 2,866 (45th) and RBI with 1,628 (32nd). Baines, with a .289 career average, hit .300 or better in nine seasons. He was a steady source of power with 384 home runs, never reaching 30 in a season, but hitting 20-29 home runs in ten campaigns.  He drove in 100+ runs in three seasons and scored 1,299 runs in his career. Baines hit .324, with five home runs, 16 RBI and 14 runs scored in 31 post-season contests.  Harold Baines played for the White Sox (1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001); Rangers (1989-1990); A’s (1990-1992); Orioles (1993-1995, 1997-2000); and Indians (1999).

Tough call here.  I’d like to see a year in which (Tim) Raines and Baines made the Hall of Fame – and Baines has some strong overall numbers.  However, the fact that he played more than half his games at DH works against him.  (To be elected as a DH, BBRT contends you to be more than a very good hitter, you have to be an exception batsman.) Close call, but BBRT would pass on Baines this year. I believe future Era Committees – after more DH’s (like, perhaps, Edgar Martinez) make the Hall – may give Baines stronger consideration. Still, Baines is my dark horse candidate.  If the Committee is inclined to select a player, I believe it will be Baines – it’s hard to ignore 22 seasons and nearly 2,900 hits.

Harold Baines’ best season:  Baines’ best MLB campaign may have been 1999, when – at age 40 – he made his final All Star team and hit .312, with 25 home runs and 103 RBI, playing for the Orioles and Indians. That season, Baines also hit .357 (5-for-16), with one home run and four RBI in four post-season (ALDS) games. 

Albert Belle (OF) – 1989-2000  Nickname: Joey

Albert Belle was a five-time All Star in a 12-season MLB career.  Belle was a power hitter who could also put the ball in play (381 career homers, .295 average). He led his league in runs scored once, doubles once, home runs once, RBI three times, total bases three times and slugging percentage twice.  He is the only player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same seasons (1995 – 52 doubles and 50 homers, both league-leasing). He hit 30 or more home runs and drove in 100+ runs in eight straight seasons. He retired with 1,239 RBI and 974 runs scored. Belle also hit .405-6-14 in 18 post-season games.  Belle played for the Indians (1989-1996); White Sox (1997-1998); and Orioles (1999-2000).

A degenerative hip condition cut Belle’s career and chances on the traditional Hall of Fame ballot short (not to mention corked bat and issues with the media).  Those same factors would keep BBRT from voting for Belle and I also believe are likely to preclude his getting the 75 percent vote he needs from the Committee. Two or three more solid seasons (getting to the 1,500 RBI or 450 home run mark) would have been helpful.

Albert Belle’s best season:  In 1995, Belle hit .317 and led the AL in home runs (50); RBI (126); runs scored (121); doubles (50); total bases (377); and slugging percentage (.690). Note:  The following season Belle went .311-48-148, with 124 runs scored – but only led the league in RBI.  But what a pair of powerful campaigns.

Will Clark (1B) –  1985-2000  Nickname: Will the Thrill

Will Clark was a six-time all Star and one-time Gold Glover in 15 MLB seasons.  He was a career .303 hitter, with 2,176 hits, 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI.  He led his league in runs and RBI once each.  Clark hit a career high 35 home runs in 1987 and topped 20 home runs six times and 100 RBI four times.  He hit .300 or better ten times, including .301 in his final season (130 games split between the Orioles and Cardinals). In that final campaign, he hit .344-2-6 in eight post season games for the Cardinals. Overall, Clark played in 31 post season games, hitting .333-5-16.Clark played for the Giants (1986-1993); Rangers (1994-1998); Orioles (1999-2000); and Cardinals (2000).

Clark had a fine career, but BBRT thinks he’ll fall short of the 75 percent mark.

Will Clark’s best season: In 1989, with the Giants, Clark hit .333, with 23 home runs, 111 RBI and a league-leading 104 runs scored – finishing second in the NL MVP balloting. He was also MVP of the NL Championship Series, hitting .650, with two home runs and eight RBI in five games.

Orel Hershiser (SP) – 1983-2000   Nickname:  Bulldog

Orel Hershiser logged 18 season on the MLB mound – winning 204 games (150) losses, with a 3.48 ERA and 2,014 strikeouts in 3,130 1/3 innings.  Hershiser capturing the 1988 Cy Young Award (23-8, 2.26). He led his league in wins once, winning percentage once, complete games once, shutouts twice and inning pitched three times. Hershiser also won a Gold Glove in 1988 and a Silver Slugger Award in 1993 (when he hit .356 in 34 games for the Dodgers).  Hershiser was a 20+ game winner once and won 15 or more games in six seasons. He was a strong 8-3, 2.59 in 22 post-season games (18 starts).

BBRT does not see Hershiser getting 75-percent support. From 1985-1989,Hershiser was one of the top pitchers in  the game. Over those five seasons, he was 87-56, with a 2.69 ERA. He was, indeed, a “Bulldog” or, maybe more accurately, a workhorse. He pitched more than 230 innings in each of those seasons,  leading the league in innings pitched in 1987, 1988 ansd 1989.  All that work may have contributed to his 1990 shoulder surgery.  Then, from 1990-2000, Hershiser went 106-86, 4.17.  Note: Hershiser also led his league in losses twice and was above .500 in just nine of his 18 seasons. Hershiser played for the Dodgers (1983-1994, 2000); Indians (1995-1997); Giants (1998); ansd Mets (1999).

Hershiser may fall a handful of victories short of the Hall.

Orel Hershiser’s best season:  In 1988, Hershiser led the NL in wins with 23 (eight losses), complete games (15), shutouts (8), innings pitched (267), while recording a 2.26 ER and 178 strikeouts. That season he also set an MLB record, throwing 59 consecutive scoreless innings and earned the NL Championship Series and World Series MVP Awards.

Mark McGwire (1B) –  1985-2001  Nickname: Big Mac

No doubt about McGwire’s numbers: 583 home runs, 1,414 RBI, 1,167 runs scored (.263 average).  McGwire was the 1987 Al Rookie of the Year, a 12-time All Star, a three-time HR champ (a high of 70 in 1998, followed by 65 in 1999). He also led his league in slugging percentage four times, total bases four times, on base percentage twice – and even won a Gold Glove in 1990.  Yes, the numbers are there – but so is the PED controversy.  BBRT doesn’t think the voters are yet ready to forgive and forget.  McGwire played for the A’s (1986-1997) and Cardinals (1997-2001).

Mark McGwire’s best season: In 1998, McGwire hit .299, with a league-leading 70 home runs and 147 RBI.  He also led the NL in walks (162); on-base-percentage (.470) and slugging percentage .752).

MANAGERS —–

Davey Johnson (1984-2013 … 17 seasons) 

After a 13-season playing career, Davey Johns managed 17 seasons in the majors. He put up a 1,372-1,071 won-lost record and his .588 winning percentage is 12th among managers with at least ten seasons at the helm. Johnson led the Mets to the 1986 World Series Championship – and made the post-season a total of six times.  He was name NL Manager of the Year in 1972 and 2012.  He finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting seven times. During his playing career, Johnson was a four-time All Star and athree-time Gold Glover (2B). He finished with a .261 average, 136 home runs and 609 RBI. In 1973, Johnson hit 43 home runs, 42 as a second baseman (the single season record for the position).

I think the presence of Lou Piniella on the ballot (with nearly 500 more managerial victories than Johnson) dampens Johnson’s chances for election.

Lou Piniella (1986-2010 … 23 seasons)   Nickname: Sweet Lou

Lou Piniella photo

Photo by mikelachance816

Lou Piniella managed (Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays, Cubs) for 23 seasons.  His 1,835 wins (1,713 losses) are the 14th most wins by a manager in MLB history. He led the Reds to the 1990 World Series Championship and his teams made seven post-season appearances.  He also managed the Mariners to an AL record 116 wins in the 2001 season.  Piniella was named AL Manager of the year in 1995 and 2001 (with the Mariners) and the NL Manager of the Year in 2008 (Cubs). He finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting six times.

Piniella also had an 18-season MLB career as a player, hitting .291, with 1,705 hits, 102 home runs and 766 RBI. He was the 1969 Rookie of the Year with the Royals and made the post-season five times with the Yankees (two WS Championships). Piniella hit .305-3-19 in 44 post-season games.

Adding Piniella on-the-field career to his 1,835 wins and three Manage of the Year Awards and BBRT would vote him in.  (Actually, he’d get my vote on his managerial record alone).  I believe the Committee will also vote him in, but it will be close.

EXECUTIVES—–

John Schuerholz

jOHN sCHUERHOLZ BRAVES photo

John Schuerholz built winners in Kansas City and Atlanta. Photo by The SABR Office

John Schuerholz began his MLB front office career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1967 as an Administrate Assistant to Minor League Clubs. He later spent 22 years in the Kansas City Royals’ operation: Farm Director (1967); Scouting Director (1977-1980); Assistant General Manager (1981); and General Manager (1982-1990).   While he was GM in Kansas City, the Royals became the first AL expansion team to win the World Series (1987).  Scheurholz went to the Atlanta Braves as General Manager in 1990 and held that position until 2007.  From 2008-2016 (when he became Vice Chairman of the team), he held the position of Braves’ President.  While Schuerholz was GM of the Braves, the team won 14 Division titles and the 1995 World Series Championship (making Schuerholz the first GM to win the WS title in both the American and National Leagues).

Schuerholz built consistent winners – and he would get BBRT’s vote for the Hall.  I predict the Today’s Game Era Committee will agree.

Bud Selig

Allan “Bud Selig” was MLB’s ninth Commissioner – serving as Acting Commissioner from 1992-1998 and Commissioner from 1998-2015.  Selig presided over two rounds of expansion, the establishment of interleague play, the creation of the Wild Card, strong increases in MLB revenues and attendance, and the development of the World Baseball Classic.  He also headed MLB during the 1994 baseball strike, had to deal with the PED issue, and introduced revenue sharing.

Selig’s tenure was not without controversy. The 1994 players strike led to the cancelling of the World Series for the first time since 1904. In 2001, Selig also voiced support for the contraction of two teams.  Selig also was criticized for declaring the 2002 All Star Game a “tie” after 11 innings and for not being proactive enough, early enough on the PED issue.

Other notable changes in MLB during Selig’s tenure as Commissioner: World Series home field advantage going to the league that wins the All Star Game (2003); introduction and expansion of instant replay (2008/2014); and the transfer of the Milwaukee Brewers from the American League to the National League (1998) and the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League (2013).

Before becoming Commissioner, Selig was team owner and president of the Milwaukee Brewers. (In 1970, he purchased the failing Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee.)  Under Selig’s leadership, the Brewers won seven Organization of the Year Awards.

BBRT predicts Bud Selig will get voted into the Hall – his years as Commissioner were truly historic.  BBRT, however, would cast my vote for Selig with reluctance.  (As a Minnesotan, I still have not forgiven Selig for that “contraction” episode.)

George Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees in 1973 – and led the team until his death in 2010.  Under his ownership the vaunted Yankee franchise won 11 American League Pennants and seven World Series Championships.  Steinbrenner, known as a “hands-on” owner, was no stranger to controversy.  He  changed managers twenty times in his first 23 seasons as owner; he was a free-spender, credited (or criticized) by many for driving up the free agent market; he was quick to criticize players publicly if they did not live up to his expectations; he was suspended from baseball twice. How controversial was Steinbrenner?  In the summer of 1990, Steinbrenner was featured on the cover of NEWSWEEK magazine, heralded as the “most hated man in baseball.”

You cannot argue with Steinbrenner’s success on the field.  As an owner, he did what it took to buiild winning teams.  However, his leadership style and the controversies that surrounded him will likely keep him from getting 75 percent of the Committee’s votes.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member: The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

Heavy Metal – A Gold Glove and Sliver Slugger in the Same Season

Ivan Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards in the same season a record six consecutive years. Photo by raisethejollyroger dot com

Ivan Rodriguez won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards in the same season a record six consecutive years.
Photo by raisethejollyroger dot com

It’s MLB’s awards seasons and we are all hearing a lot about the major awards like Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award and MVP.  In this post, I’d like to look at some of the recognitions that have garnered less publicity – the Silver Slugger (for the season’s best offensive performance at each position) and the Gold Glove (for the season’s best defensive performance at each position). If you follow BBRT, you know that I am particularly partial to players that can flash “leather and lumber.”  So, this post will focus primarily on players who, in 2016, captured what BBRT terms “MLB’s Heavy Metal Double Play” – winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season.

Note: If you’d like to see BBRT’s key award predictions (made in October before the finalists were announced), click here.

This past season, four players earned both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger:  Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado; Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo; Royals’ C Salvador Perez; and Red Sox’ RF Mookie Betts.  Let’s take a look at the performance of each of these well-rounded athletes – as well as players who have won a Sliver Sluggers and Gold Glove in the same season in the past.

Nolan Arenado – Third Base, Rockies

Nolan Arenado photo

Nolan Arenado – fourth consecutive Gold Glove, second straight Silver Slugger. Photo by jenniferlinneaphotography

Let me start off by saying that the Rockies’ 25-year-old 3B is my current favorite player.  I’ve always been partial to third base – Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews was my childhood hero and remains my favorite player of all-time – and nobody plays the hot corner better than Arenado.  This is his fourth MLB season and his fourth Gold Glove. This season, he led all 3B in assists (378) and Defensive Runs Saved (20). In addition, he won the Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive 3B in MLB and had the highest (very statistically driven) SABR Defensive Index (SBI) among National League 3B (only the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre had a higher SBI).

On offense, Arenado earned his second straight Silver Slugger Award by hitting .294, while leading the league (for the second season in a row) in both home runs (41) and RBI (133). He also finished second in the NL in runs scored (116).

 

 

Anthony Rizzo, First Base, Cubs

Anthony rizzo cubs photo

Anthony Rizzo joins the “Leather and Lumber” club. Photo by apardavila

The 27-year-old Cubs’ 1B picked up his first Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger in his sixth MLB season. In the field, he led all MLB 1B in assists (125) and Defensive Runs Saved (11). Like Arenado (see above), Rizzo also won the Fielding Bible Award as the game’s best defensive 1B in 2016 and had the highest SABR Defensive Index among first sackers.

At the plate, the left-handed hitting Rizzo hit .292, with 32 home runs and 109 RBI – making his third straight All Star squad.  It was Rizzo’s third straight year with 30+ home runs and second consecutive seasaon of 100+ RBI.

Salvador Perez, Catcher, Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Sal;vado Perez – fourth Gold Glove, first Sliver Slugger. Photo by Keith Allison

In 2016, Royals’ backstop, 26-year-old, Salvador Perez picked up his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and made his fourth consecutive All Star team. Perez led all MLB C in assists (77), had the AL’s second-best caught stealing percentage 42.9%) and was second only to the Giants’ Buster Posey in Defensive Runs Saved (11 to Posey’s 12). He also had the highest Society for American Baseball Research Defensive Index among catchers (tied with the Tigers’ James McCann at 8.7).

At the plate, Perez earned his first Silver Slugger Award, hitting .247, with 22 home runs and 64 RBI.

 

 

 

 

 

Mookie Betts, Right Field, Red Sox

Mookie Betts photo

Mookie Betts – Does it all. Photo by Dennis Heller

Mookie Betts (now 24-years-old) won his first Gold Glove and his first Silver Slugger award in his third MLB season (second full season). Betts led all MLB RF in putouts with 346 and was second in assists with 14.   He led all of MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at 32, ten ahead of second-place finisher, White Sox’ RF Adam Eaton.

At the plate, Betts hit .318, with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs scored and 26 steals – a true five-tool star.

 

 

 

 

 

So, there are your 2016 “Heavy Metal Double Play” winners.  Now, here’s an update on those who have won both awards in the same season in the past. (The past, by the way, goes back to 1980, when the Silver Slugger Award was established.  Since 1980, the combination of a Gold Glove/Silver Slugger has been achieved 178 times by 98 different players.  You’ll find a complete list of the players who have earned recognition as the offensive and defensive leader in their respective leagues later in this post. (I’m also including lists of 2016’s individual Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winners). Since the Silver Slugger is awarded to three outfielders annually regardless of their position (LF, CF, RF), the Silver Slugger and GG/SS combo lists in this post do not break outfielders out by position.

  • The fewest GG/SS combo winners in a single season is one – Dodgers’ 1B Adrian Gonzalez in 2014.
  • The most players to achieve the GG/SS combo in a season is nine – back in 1984: Lance Parrish, C, Tigers; Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets; Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles; Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs; Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers; Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies; Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers; Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees; Dale Murphy, OF, Braves.
  • Ivan Rodriguez (C), Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) and Barry Bonds (OF) each won the double (Silver Slugger/Gold Glove) crown in a season an MLB-record seven times.
  • Ivan Rodriguez won the SS/GG combo for his position a record six consecutive seasons (1995-1999).
  • Roberto Alomar (2B) is the only player to win the single-season Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo with three different teams (Blue Jays-1992; Orioles-1996; Indians-1999, 2000)
  • Mike Hampton is the only pitcher to win the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season (Braves – 2003).
  • Scott Rolen (3B) is the only player to win the SS/GG combo in a season in which he played for two different teams (2002, Phillies/Cardinals). Rolen was traded from the Phillies to the Cardinals on July 29. He played 100 games for the Phillies and 55 for the Cardinals in his only SS/GG combo season.
  • Adrian Gonzalez (1B) and Matt Williams (3B) are the only players to capture a SS/GG single-season combination in both the AL and NL. Gonzalez – Dodgers-2014; Red Sox-2011. Williams – Indians-1997; Giants-1993-1994.
  • The only team to have three SS/GG winners in the same season is the 1993 Giants (Robby Thompson (2B), Matt Williams (3B), Barry Bonds (OF).
  • Outfielders have achieved the SS/GG combo most often (66 times), but if you factor in the potential to outfielders to achieve three combos each season, second baseman have been most successful, putting up 28 SS/GG seasons.
  • The top team in terms of SS/GG seasons is the Yankees (13).
  • In the NL, the Rockies, Nationals/Expos, Giants, Cubs and Cards have each had a league leading nine SS/GG winners.
  • The White Sox are the only teams to never have a player win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in the same season.

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Full List of Same Year Gold Glove/Silver Slugger Winners by Season

2016

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Mookie Betts, Of, Red Sox

Salvador Perez, C, Royals

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs

2015

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

Dee Gordon, 2B, Marlins

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants.

2014

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers

2013

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles

2012

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Chase Headley, 3B, Padres

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates

2011

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Jacob Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

2010

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Carl Crawford, OF, Rays

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies

2009

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Mark Tiexiera, 1B, Yankees

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

Torii Hunter, OF, Angels

2008

Joe Mauer, C, Twins

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians

2007

Russell Martin, C, Dodgers

Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers

David Wright, 3B, Mets

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2006

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets

2005

Jason Veritek, C, Red Sox

Mark Tiexierea, 1B, Rangers

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs

Andruw Jones, OF, Braves

2004

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cardinals

2003

Brett Boone, 2B, Mariners

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

Mike Hampton, P, Braves

2002

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals/Phillies

Eric Chavez, 3B, A’s

Edgar Renteria, SS, Cardinals

Alex Rodriguez, SS, Rangers

2001

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners

2000

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Indians

Darin Erstad, OF, Angels

1999

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Robert Alomar, 2B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

Shawn Green, OF, Blue Jays

1998

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Rangers

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1997

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Chuck Knoblauch, 2B, Twins

Matt Williams, 3B, Indians

Larry Walker, OF, Rockies

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1996

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Orioles

Ken Caminiti, 3B, Padres

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr. OF, Mariners

1995

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Craig, Biggio, 2B, Astros

Barry Larkin, SS, Reds

1994

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Rangers

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, Astros

Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Wade Boggs, 3B, Yankees

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1993

Robby Thompson, 2B, Giants

Matt Williams, 3B, Giants

Jay Bell, SS, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Giants

Ken Griffey, Jr, OF, Mariners

1992

Roberto Alomar, 2B, Blue Jays

Larry Walker, OF, Expos

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1991

Will Clark, 1B, Giants

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Cal Ripken, Jr., SS, Orioles

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ken Griffey, Jr., OF, Mariners

1990

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Kelly Gruber, 3B, Blue Jays

Barry Bonds, OF, Pirates

Ellis Burks, OF, Red Sox

1989

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

1988

Benito Santiago, C, Padres

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Andy Van Slyke, OF, Pirates

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1987

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ozzie Smith, SS, Cardinals

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Eric Davis, OF, Reds

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

Andre Dawson, OF, Cubs

1986

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Frank White, 2B, Royals

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres

Kirby Puckett, OF, Twins

1985

Don Mattingly, 1B, Yankees

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Tim Wallach, 3B, Expos

George Brett, 3B, Royals

Willie McGee, OF, Cardinals

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1984

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Mets

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Ryne Sandberg, 2B, Cubs

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Buddy Bell, 3B, Rangers

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

1983

Lance Parrish, C, Tigers

Eddie Murray, 1B, Orioles

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

1982

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Robin Yount, SS, Brewers

Dale Murphy, OF, Braves

Dave Winfield, OF, Yankees

1981

Gary Carter, C, Expos

Manny Trillo, 2B, Phillies

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Rickey Henderson, OF, A’s

Dwight Evans, OF, Red Sox

Dusty Baker, OF, Dodgers

1980

Keith Hernandez, 1B, Cardinals

Cecil Cooper, 1B, Brewers

Andre Dawson, OF, Expos

Willie Wilson, OF, Royals

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Your  Gold Glove/Silver Slugger combo winners listed alphabetically:

Alomar, Roberto … 1992; 1996; 1999; 2000

Altuve, Jose … 2015

Arenado, Nolan … 2015; 2016

Baker, Dusty … 1981

Bagwell, Jeff … 1994

Bell, Buddy … 1984

Bell, Jay (SS) … 1993

Beltre, Adrian (3B) … 2011

Beltran, Carlos (OF) … 2006; 2007

Biggio, Craig (2B) … 1994; 1995; 1997

Mookie Betts (OF) … 2016

Boggs, Wade (3B) … 1994

Bonds, Barry … 1990; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997

Boone, Brett … 2003

Brett, George … 1985\

Burks, Ellis … 1990

Caminiti, Ken … 1996

Cano, Robinson … 2010; 2012

Carter, Gary … 1981; 1982

Chavez, Eric … 2002

Clark, Will … 1991

Cooper, Cecil …1980

Crawford, Brandon … 2015

Crawford, Carl … 2010

Dawson, Andre … 1980; 1981; 1983; 1987

Davis, Eric … 1987; 1989

Edmonds, Jim … 2004

Ellsbury, Jacob … 2011

Erstad, Darin … 2000

Evans, Dwight … 1981

Goldschmidt, Paul … 2015

Gonzalez, Adrian … 2011; 2014

Gonzalez, Carlos … 2010

Gordon, Dee … 2015

Green, Shawn … 1999

Griffey, Ken Jr. … 1991; 1993; 1994; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999

Gruber, Kelly … 1990

Gwynn, Tony … 1986; 1987; 1989

Hampton, Mike … 2003

Hardy, J.J. … 2013

Headley, Chase … 2012

Helton, Todd … 2002

Henderson, Rickey … 1981

Hernandez, Keith … 1980; 1984

Hunter, Torii … 2009

Jeter, Derek … 2006; 2009

Jones, Adam … 2013

Jones, Andruw … 2005

Kemp, Matt … 2009; 2011

Knoblauch, Chuck … 1997

Larkin, Barry … 1995; 1996

LaRoche, Adam  … 2012

Lee, Derrek … 2005

Martin, Russell … 2008

Mattingly, Don … 1985; 1986; 1987

Mauer, Joe … 2008; 2009; 2010

McCutchen, Andrew … 2012

McGee, Willie … 1985

Molina, Yadier … 2013\

Murphy, Dale … 1982; 1083; 1984; 1985

Murray, Eddie … 1983; 1984

Palanco, Placido … 2007

Palmeiro, Rafael … 1998

Parrish, Lance … 1983; 1984

Pedroia, Dustin … 2008

Salvador, Perez … 2016

Phillips, Brandon … 2011

Puckett, Kirby … 1986; 1987; 1988; 1989; 1992

Pujols, Albert … 2010

Renteria, Edgar … 2002

Ripken, Cal, Jr. … 1991

Anthony Rizzo … 2016

Rodriguez, Alex … 2002; 2003

Rodriguez, Ivan … 1994; 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; 1999; 2004

Rolen, Scott … 2002

Rollins, Jimmy … 2007

Sandberg, Ryne … 1984; 1985; 1988; 1989; 1990; 1991

Santiago, Benito … 1988; 1990\

Schmidt, Mike … 1981; 1982; 1983; 1984; 1986

Sizemore, Grady … 2008

Smith, Ozzie … 1987\

Suzuki, Ichiro … 2001; 2007; 2009

Thompson, Robby … 1993

Tiexiera, Mark … 2005, 2009

Trillo, Manny … 1981

Tulowitzki, Troy … 2010; 2011

Van Slyke, Andy … 1988; 1992

Varitek, Jason … 2005

Walker, Larry … 1992; 1997; 1999

Wallach, Tim … 1985

White, Frank … 1986

Whitaker, Lou … 1983; 1984; 1985

Williams, Matt … 1993; 1994; 1997

Wilson, Willie … 1980

Winfield, Dave … 1982; 1983; 1984; 1985

Wright, David … 2007; 2008

Yount, Robin … 1982

Ryan Zimmerman … 200

 

2016 Silver Slugger Award Winners

Catcher:  Salvador Perez, Royals/Wilson Ramos, Nationals

First Base:  Miguel Cabrera, Tigers/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Astros/Daniel Murphy, Nationals

Third Base:  Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

Shortstop:  Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox/Corey Seager Dodgers

Outfield:

Mike Trout, Angels/Mark Trumbo, Orioles/Mookie Betts, Red Sox

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies/Christian Yelich, Marlins/Yeonis Cespedes, Mets

Pitcher:  Jake Arrieta, Cubs

DH:  David Ortiz, Red Sox

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2016 Gold Glove Winners

Catcher:  Salvador Perez, Royals/Buster Posey, Giants

1B:  Mitch Moreland, Rangers/Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

2B:  Ian Kinsler, Tigers/Joe Panik, Giants

3B:  Adrian Beltre, Rangers/Nolan Arenado, Rockies

SS:  Francisco Lindor, Indians/Brandon Crawford, Giants

LF:  Brett Gardner, Yankees/Starling Marte, Pirates

CF:  Kevin Kiermaier, Rays/Ender Inciarte, Braves

RF:  Mookie Betts, Red Sox/Jason Heyward, Cubs

Pitcher:  Dallas Keuchel, Astros/Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

 

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John Wesley Donaldson – A Hall of Fame Worth Legacy … Built on 400+ Victories

Leroy “Satchel’ Paige – Bullet Joe Rogan – Bob Gibson – Fergie Jenkins – Smokey Joe Williams – John Wesley “Cannon Ball” Donaldson.  Six great Black hurlers, who all brought lightening to the mound.  Six ferocious competitors who could strike fear in the hearts and minds of batters.  Six moundsmen who drew crowds and piled up strikeouts at an impressive pace. Six pitchers consistently discussed as among the best of their time by those who took the field against them. FIVE members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

John Wesley Donaldson Photo: Courtesy of The Donaldson Network.

John Wesley Donaldson
Photo: Courtesy of Bertha (MN) Historical Society and The Donaldson Network.

In this post, I’d like to take a look at the career of the only one of the above-mentioned pitchers not in the Baseball Hall of Fame – John Donaldson – but whose legacy is clearly Hall of Fame worthy.  I should add that this reflection would not be possible without the years of research conducted by Peter Gorton and The Donaldson Network – an organization dedicated to generating the recognition (and Hall of Fame plaque) that Donaldson deserves. The article was, in fact, prompted by a recent presentation Gorton made before the Halsey Hall Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research.  For even more information, I suggest you visit The Donaldson Network’s page at johndonaldson.bravehost.com or (after reading this post, of course) click here.

 

 

 

DONALDSON FANS SIXTEEN MAJOR LEAGUERS

The date was December 9, 1917 and the Los Angeles White Sox were facing the California Winter League defending Champion San Pedro Merchants in San Pedro.  (BBRT note: The California Winter League is generally recognized as the first U.S.  integrated league in the 20th Century. The teams themselves were not integrated, but all-Black teams were included in the league.)

On the mound for the LA Team was John Wesley “Cannonball” Donaldson, star hurler from the barnstorming All Nations squad – considered by many to be “the greatest colored pitcher of his time.”  Starting for San Pedro was Pete Schendler – a 20-game winner for the Cincinnati Reds during the 1917 National League season. The San Pedro lineup, in fact, was made up of all major leaguers.

The Los Angeles squad emerged as 5-3 victors.  Of even more significance is the performance of Donaldson against San Pedro’s all-white, all-major league squad. Donaldson pitched a complete-game, six-hitter, fanning sixteen batters.

John Donaldson was a well-traveled practitioner of the baseball arts. His playing career touched four decades (1908-1941) and he wore the uniforms of at least 25 teams and took the mound on more than 550 ball fields.  Donaldson’s collection of home jerseys stretched from coast-to-coast and in between – Brooklyn Royal Giants, Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Los Angeles White Sox. Here in BBRT’s home state of Minnesota, Donaldson twirled his mound magic for teams in Bertha, Lismore, Madison, Melrose, Arlington and St. Cloud.  He also starred internationally, pitching for several Canadian squads.

Over his 34-year career, Donaldson pitched pretty much wherever he could draw a crowd and a paycheck and against pretty much anyone willing to step in the batter’s box and face him. The Donaldson Network has documented 401 victories (157 losses) and 4,987 strikeouts for the lean and limber Donaldson – as well as 14 no-hitters, two perfect games and 25 games of 20 or more strikeouts.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

John Wesley Donaldson was born February 20, 1891 in Glasgow, Missouri. It’s reported that he was a good student and a superb athlete. (Donaldson graduated from the integrated Evans High School with honors and attended George Smith College in Sedalia, Missouri before deciding to concentrate on baseball.) He began pitching in grade school and, as a sixth-grader, led his school’s team to the regional championship.

As a teenager, Donaldson pitched for the Missouri Black Tigers (Higbee, MO) in 1908 and the Hannaca Blues (Glasgow) in 1909-1910.  Donaldson, however, really began building his reputation as the “greatest colored pitcher of his time” when he left college and joined the Black barnstorming Brown’s Tennessee Rats in 1911. During that season, Donaldson won 41 games against just three losses – foreshadowing a long and successful career on the mound.

JOHN DONALDSON GOES 18 INNINGS – FANS 31

On September 14, 1911, John Donaldson took the mound for the barnstorming Brown’s Tennessee Rats versus a team from Humboldt, Iowa.  The Rats won 4-3 in 18 innings, with Donaldson tossing a complete game, fanning 31 batters and giving up no hits after the sixth inning. BBRT note: Just three days later, in LeHigh, Iowa, Donaldson pitched a complete-game, 19-strikeout, shutout.

donaldsonposterIn 1912, Donaldson moved to the All Nations multi-racial team operated by future Hall of Fame baseball executive J.L. Wilkinson. The All Nations team – composed of Black, White, Native American, Latino, Hawaiian and Asian players – was one of the country’s most successful barnstorming clubs. Donaldson proved one of the most dominant pitchers in the game while with the All Nations squad.  In his first two seasons, he won eighty games, while losing only five – consistently racking up double-digit strikeout totals.

Baseball Hall of Fame (enshrined in 2006) executive/entrepreneur J.L. Wilkinson termed John Donaldson, “One of the greatest pitchers that ever lived – white or black.” 

The year 1917 was a notable one for Donaldson.  It was the year the major leagues came calling. Reports show that Donaldson was offered $10,000 to travel to Cuba, change his name and return to the U.S. to play big league ball as a Cuban.  The major league offer required him to renounce his family and all association with “colored” people in order to maintain his “Cuban” identity. Donaldson flatly refused the offer and, with that refusal, lost his only shot at the all-white hallowed fields of the major leagues. That same year, the impact of World War I reached America.  The baseball season closed and the All Nations team was dissolved. Pressure from the looming Railway Control Act grounded the ability of barnstorming clubs to travel. For the next few years, Donaldson’s career “settled” and he enjoyed “home field advantage” for the first time since his teenage years (although with a number of different established clubs.)

Just as Donaldson’s on-field life settled in 1917, he settled in off the field as well – marrying Eleanor Watson of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Donaldson’s marriage lasted until his death in 1970 and had an impact on both his baseball career and Minnesota’s baseball history.

Donaldson’s next contracts were signed with a series of top-notch All-Black teams including the Brooklyn Royal Giants, New York Lincoln Giants, Indianapolis ABC’s and Detroit Stars.  When the Negro League was officially formed in 1920, Donaldson was again paired with his old boss, J.L. Wilkinson, who signed him for the Kansas City Monarchs. Donaldson would become one of the best centerfielders in the league. He anchored the Monarchs with his five-tool ability, pitching less and presiding over a club that would become the most successful franchise in the history of Negro League baseball. During his tenure with the Monarchs (1920-23), Donaldson also played for and managed the revived All Nations barnstorming team, now traveling by automobile.

In 1924, Donaldson returned to his wife Eleanor’s home state of Minnesota – signing a contract with the semi-pro Bertha Fisherman for the princely sum of $325 per month. (BBRT note: It is reported the Donaldson received $1,478 for his season’s work – $18 more than the combined salary for the rest of the Bertha squad.)  It was a solid investment, as the team won games, drew large crowds and turned a profit behind Donaldson’s electrifying left arm. For the season, the team (Central and Northwest Minnesota Champions) went 21-5 (with one tie). Donaldson’s record was 21-3 (yes, he recorded all 21 Bertha victories), and he struck out 325 batters in 211 innings. Donaldson also led the team with a .439 batting average.

MINNESOTA PRIDE

Minnesotans should take special pride in John Donaldson’s accomplishments. He played for or against teams in more than 130 towns and cities across the state. Nearly 150 of Donaldson’s documented victories (147 to be more exact) were recorded on Minnesota ball fields, as were 1,871 of his documented 4,987 strikeouts.  In 189 documented games pitched in Minnesota, Donaldson averaged just over 9.9 strikeouts per contest. Segregation in the major leagues forced Donaldson to seek baseball stardom in the Gopher State and Minnesota benefitted.   

Video of John Donaldson. Courtesty of W.T. Oxley and the Donaldson Network.

Video of John Donaldson. Courtesty of W.T. Oxley and the Donaldson Network.  TO VIEW VIDEO, CLICK http://Vimeo.com/173608869

Donaldson followed up with a stellar season for Bertha in 1925, before moving on to the Lismore (MN) Gophers in 1926.  Lismore signed the profitable lefty for $450 a month, the use of a furnished house and the opportunity to pick up extra money pitching for other teams on off-days.  Not to be repetitious but – continuing to go where he could make the best living on the mound – from 1928 to 30, Donaldson racked up wins and strikeouts for teams in towns like: Bertha; Melrose, Minnesota; Scobey, Montana; and St. Cloud, Minnesota; as well as for barnstorming squads like the Colored House of  David.

In the early 1930’s, Donaldson – now entering his forties – played for such squads as his own John Donaldson All Stars (1931-33); The Kansas City Monarchs (1931 and 1934); Joe Green’s Chicago Giants (1934-37); and even Satchel Paige’s All Stars. Even as his career wound down, he continued to display the skills that had made him one of the most sought after ballplayers over the previous two decades.

JOHN DONALDSON RECORDS 23-STRIKEOUT GAME … AT AGE 43

On June 3, 1934 – the then 43-year-old John Donaldson – went to the mound for Joe Green’s Chicago Giants against the People’s Club in Rockford, Illinois. Donaldson threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout, fanning 23 batters on the way to a 3-0 win.

Just how good was John Donaldson?  Here are comments from a few who saw him pitch:

  • Hall of Fame shortstop and manager John Henry “Pop” Lloyd said Donaldson was the greatest pitcher he ever faced.
  • Negro League ambassador Buck O’Neil said; “John Donaldson … showed Satchel (Paige) the way, and the fact is, there are many people who saw them both who say Donaldson was just as good as Satchel.”
  • Hall of Famer manager John McGraw said “I think he is the greatest I have ever seen.”

A FEW OF JOHN DONALDSON’S DOCUMENTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • 401 victories
  • 4,987 strikeouts
  • 14 no-hitters; two perfect games
  • A 31-strikeout game (18 innings)
  • 24 games of 20 or more strikeouts
  • Three consecutive 500-strikeout seasons

*You can put an “at least” in front of all these statistics. These are just the victories and strikeouts documented thus far by The Donaldson Network.

While Donaldson clearly made history on the field, he is also credited with making it off the field.  In 1949, the Chicago White Sox hired Donaldson as the first full-time African-American scout in the major leagues.  The White Sox drew on Donaldson’s half-century of experience in segregated baseball to help connect the team to the untapped talent of the Negro Leagues and Black baseball.

PETE GORTON … AND THE DONALDSON NETWORK

BBRT note:  Again, this post would not have been possible without the much appreciated past efforts and current assistance of Pete Gorton and the resources of The Donaldson Network.

Peter Gorton tells the John Donaldson story. at the Halsy Hall SABR Chapter meeting.

Peter Gorton tells the John Donaldson story. at the Halsy Hall SABR Chapter meeting.

Pete Gorton is the founder of The Donaldson Network, which has collected contributions from more than 550 authors, researchers and historians in the rediscovery of the lost legacy of John Wesley Donaldson.  Gorton, who lives in Minneapolis, is a speech consultant and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Negro Leagues Committee. He has studied the career of John Donaldson for the past 15 years; and shared in the SABR/ Sporting News Research Award for his chapter on Donaldson in the book Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota. He also received the 2006 Coates Memorial Award for outstanding research in the field of Black baseball and the 2011 Tweed Webb Lifetime Achievement Award (recognizing long-term contributions to the field of Negro League research).  

The Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research called The Donaldson Network: The most extensive research project that has ever been undertaken related to Black baseball.

___________________________________

EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH PETE GORTON:

1) What set you on this “Mission?”

I began looking into the story of John Donaldson in 2000 for a book my former high school Social Studies teacher was putting together. His project chronicled the history of Black baseball in Minnesota. I was a freelance television photographer at the time and had opportunities to dig into a story he pitched to me as a difficult challenge. He told me a couple of other established writers had turned it down because documenting John Donaldson’s story was “too difficult.”

I had a connection – sort of – to John Donaldson. My hometown of Staples is 13 miles from Bertha, Minnesota, where Donaldson played three seasons (1924-25 and 1927.) Growing up, I had never heard of him …. I was curious how such a great player could be so unknown.

I made an appointment to go to the Bertha Historical Society. When I visited, the curator at the time showed me their collection of scorebooks, photographs and scrapbooks. There was a broadside poster on the wall that advertised “JOHN DONALDSON – GREATEST COLORED PITCHER IN THE WORLD.”  …  I knew then I needed to keep on the story and figure out why people did not know his name.

I continued to look for every mention of Donaldson in papers everywhere I traveled and began amassing a file collection that I knew people would eventually want to see. Meanwhile the book Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota came out and I had written the Donaldson chapter. This led to an invitation to attend a ceremony in Chicago.  That invitation came from the Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project, who had discovered Donaldson was buried in an unmarked grave. They had raised funds, with a major contribution from Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the White Sox, to have a marker designed and built to honor John Donaldson.

While attending the ceremony, I stood with some of the most renowned Negro League baseball historians in America. We stood over Donaldson’s final resting place and I asked “What do we really know about John Donaldson?” I figured someone must have put his story together. The answer was “not enough” and, at that moment, we started in earnest to document the remarkable career of John Donaldson.

The legacy of John Donaldson is an example of what happens when a great human being is marginalized by segregation: history forgets.

2) What do you see as John Donaldson’s most significant achievement?

In my opinion, John Donaldson’s most significant achievement was his ability to survive in the times in which he lived. I do not want to sound too melodramatic, but life for a black man in the early Twentieth Century was difficult. The average life expectancy for a black male in 1900 was 35 years.

Donaldson was born in February of 1891 in Glasgow, Missouri. Just a few weeks prior to having, her first child, Ida Donaldson endured the lynching of a Black man in the streets of Glasgow. Imagine being eight-months pregnant and having this atrocity take place in your city. Incredible! John Donaldson knew from a very early age what it took for a Black man to survive in the segregated world. He went on to do so many wonderful things despite a society that did not think he was worthy of anything significant. He was a great ballplayer, but his life is an extraordinary example of what it was like to be Black in America. He endured his father being murdered by a railroad cop in 1923. His ability to navigate the miles and play baseball in at least 25 states and over 550 cities meant he showed exceptional courage to merely survive.

So, I believe John Donaldson’s greatest achievement includes baseball, but baseball is not his most resounding contribution. Donaldson’s ability to excel on the field and survive off of it to become one of the all-time greatest ballplayers is his most significant contribution not just to baseball, but to society.

MISSOURI SPORTS HALL OF FAME NOMINATION

John Donaldson is a 2017 nominee for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame due, in large part, to the work of The Donaldson Network.

3) What has been the most challenging aspect of the research?

The most challenging aspect of researching John Donaldson is the sheer amount of information we have been able to amass, yet people do not seem to easily grasp how significant he was.

We have nearly 6,000 newspaper articles that are relevant to the career of John Donaldson. As I sit here today, there are at least 250 more that have yet to be processed. Each gives further detail to a story that encapsulates what Negro League baseball was all about. From the beginning to the end of the segregated era, John Donaldson was in the middle of it all.  The neglect of Donaldson’s legacy in the annals of not only Negro League baseball history, but the entirety of baseball history, is a glaring omission.

BBRT agrees, it is indeed time for John Donaldson to take his well-earned place in Cooperstown. 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

Member:  Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

2016 MLB AWARDS POST

It’s baseball awards season.  BBRT made its predictions for the major awards before the finalists were announced.  For a look at whom BBRT likes and why, click here.

2016 World Series Game Seven – A Century of Heartache is Over

Roller coaster photoIt’s over, the Chicago Cubs 108-year World Championship drought has come to an end – in a Game Seven that had more twists and turns than a carnival ride.  The Cubs topped the Cleveland Indians (whose own World Series Championship drought now stretches to 69 seasons) 8-7 in ten innings.  Was it a “classic” Game Seven?  No, I’ll leave that designation for games like Jack Morris’ ten-inning complete game shutout that brought the 1991 World Series crown to Minnesota.  Was it one of the most exciting Game Seven’s ever?  Definitely – even without its historic significance for both teams.  Let’s look at just a few unexpected developments in this contest:

  • In a Game (and Series) considered a showcase for MLB’s best young talent, three of the four Game Seven home runs were hit by players in their thirties, including one by a 39-year-old retiring catcher (Cubs’ David Ross).
  • Two runs scored on a single wild pitch – by 2016’s likely NL Cy Young Award winner Jon Lester.
  • Indians’ ace Corey Kluber, who averaged better than a strikeout per inning in both the regular season and post season (up to Game Seven), lasted just four innings, giving up four runs and failing to get a single strikeout.
  • Neither starting pitcher was on the mound at the end of the fifth inning.  (Kluber, of course, was pitching – again – on short rest.  Insert “insert second guess” here.)
  • The Cubs’ seemingly untouchable closer – Aroldis Chapman – came into the game and quickly gave up a double and game-tying home run – but got the win in his least effective post-season appearance.
  • There were a handful of sparkling defensive plays, as well as four errors (three by the Cubs), a hit batter, a costly wild pitch and a flubbed safety squeeze.
  • The Indians came back from a 5-1 deficit after 4 ½ innings, to tie the game 6-6 in the eighth.
  • There was a 17-minute rain delay.
  • Both teams scored in the tenth.
  • The eventual winning run was scored by a player who was intentionally walked.

2016 World Series MVP

Cubs’ LF Ben Zobrist, who drove in the go-ahead run with a double in the tenth inning of Game Seven took home World Series MVP honors. (The Cubs ended up needing the insurance run driven in by C Miguel Montero.)  For the Series, Zobrist hit .357 (10-for-28), with two doubles, a triple and two RBI.

Old Guys Rule

The game and the Series were considered to be a showcase for some of MLB’s best young talent: Francisco Lindor (22-years-old); Jose Ramirez (24); Kyle Schwarber (23); Kris Bryant (24); Addison Russell (22) – to name just a few of the twenty-something stars on the two rosters. In Game Seven, however, there were four home runs – three by players in their thirties.

  • Thirty-year-old CF Dexter Fowler got the Cubs off to a good start – and an immediate lead – with a booming lead-off home run in the first inning.
  • In the sixth inning, Cubs’ 39-year-old catcher David “Grandpa Rossy” Ross, playing in his last major league game, homered to left off Indians’ relief ace Andrew Miller – giving the Cubs a 6-3 lead and becoming the oldest player to homer in Game Seven of a World Series.
  • In the bottom of the eighth, the Indians’ 36-year-old CF Rajai Davis took Cubs’ closer Aroldis Chapman deep – tying the game 6-6 on a two-run shot.
  • One of the youngsters did appear in the long ball parade. The Cubs’ 23-year-old 2B Javier Baez hit a solo shot off Indians starter Corey Kluber in the fifth.

Hope You Remember this Performance

The Indians’ Brandon Guyer did not get into the game until the sixth innning; pinch-hitting and taking over righ field from Lonnie Chisenhall. (He would later move to LF.)  All Guyer did was record a single, double and walk, along with two runs scored and an RBI, in three plate appearancs.

Wild Thing, You Make My Heart Sing

Jon Lester cubs photo

Jon Lester – Wild pitch plated two runs, but he gave the Cubs three much-needed innings. Photo by apardavila

The Indians started the fifth with two quick outs against Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks, who appeared to be well in control.  Then DH Carlos Santana walked and Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon – after just 63 pitches – pulled Hendricks in favor of 19-game winner and strong Cy Young Award candidate Jon Lester. (Before the game, Maddon had said he preferred to bring Lester in at the start of, rather than in the midst of, an inning.  Good place to second guess here.). Lester gave up a dribbling single toward the mound to Indians’ 2B Jason Kipnis. The ball was played by catcher David Ross, whose off target (error) throw to first let Kipnis move up to second and Santana to third. Then, with SS Francisco Lindor at the plate, Lester bounced a wild pitch in the dirt that allowed both Santana and Kipnis to come home – bringing the score to Cubs 5 – Indians 3. Lester got Lindor on a swinging strikeout and went on to pitch a scoreless sixth and the seventh.  He was replaced by closer Aroldis Chapman with two outs and one on in the eighth.

Turning Point

Hard to pick a turning point in a game with so many twists and turns, but I’ll take the 17-minute rain delay between the ninth and tenth innings.  The Cubs were reeling a bit.  The bottom of the eighth had seen the Indians rally to tie the game at six off Cubs’ (overworked) closer Aroldis Chapman (another chance to second guess), who came on with two outs and one on and gave up a run-scoring double to RF Brandon Guyer; a game-tying two-run homer to CF Rajai Davis; and a single to LF Ben Zobrist before striking out C Yan Gomes to end the inning.

Then, in the top of the ninth, with RF  Jason Heyward on third and one out, Cubs’ 2B Javier Baez fouled off a two-strike safety squeeze (bunt) attempt that could have scored the go-ahead run. CF Dexter Fowler followed with a short-to-first ground out and the scoring opportunity was lost.  Fortunately for the Cubs, Chapman settled down to record a 1-2-3 ninth – and then the rain delay gave the Cubs a chance to calm down, regroup (have a team meeting) and right the ship – sailing it into a two-run top of the tenth.

The game-tying home run given up by Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning was the first round tripper he had surrendered since joining the Cubs on July 25.

Stars of the Game

Cubs’ CF Dexter Fowler started the game with a home run and collected three hits. Cubs’ DH Kyle Schwarber continued his remarkable comeback from surgey with three hits.  Despite initial difficulties, starter-turned-reliever Jon Lester gave the Cubs three solid – and much needed – innings; one run, on two hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. Kyle Hendricks gave up two runs (one earned) in 4 2.3 innings.

For the Indians, CF Rajai Davis had two hits – including a game-tying home run – and drove in three.  Brandon Guyer, who didn’t enter the game until the sixth inning, had a double, a single, a walk,  two runs scored and an RBI – in just three plate appearances. Cody Allen threw two scoreless innings – no hits, one walk, two strikeouts.

The Improbable Tenth –Both Teams Score

Cubs’ DH Kyle Schwarber led off the tenth (Bryan Shaw on the mound for the Indians) with a single to right – and was immediately replaced at first base by pinch runner Albert Almora. 3B Kris Bryant followed with a long drive to center caught by Rajia Davis.  Almora made a heads up running play – tagging and going to second to eliminate the force play. The Indians countered by walking 1B Anthony Rizzo intentionally.  Almora’s advance to second – which led to the Rizzo walk – would prove consequential. Next, LF Ben Zobrist cemented his World Series MVP Award with a run run-scoring double – Almora crossing the plate and Rizzo moving up to third. Shaw then intentionally walked SS Addison Russell to both set up the double play and get to Miguel Montero, the Cubs’ third catcher of the game.  Montero singled the intentionally walked Rizzo home with what would prove to be the winning run.  At this point, Trevor Bauer replaced Shaw and got RF Jason Heyward and 2B Javier Baez to end the inning. Cubs 8 – Indians 6.

The Indians, however, were not done yet.  Carl Edwards replaced Aroldis Chapman on the mound to start the tenth and got two quick outs (1B Mike Napoli on a swinging third strike and 3B Jose Ramirez on a groundout to short.) Victory seemed to be right there, but this ride wasn’t done spinning yet.  Brandon Guyer drew a walk and moved to second on defensive indifference.  He then scored on a single by CF Rajai Davis, cutting the lead to one.  At this point, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon brought in Mike Montgomery, who got RF Micheal Martinez on a grounder – third to first.

Whew! It was finally over.

 

World Series Stats Leaders

Addison Russell cubs photo

Cubs’ SS Addison Russell drove in one-third (9 of 27) of the World Series runs scored by the Cubs. Photo by apardavila

AVERAGE

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo – .360

Indians:  – Jose Ramirez – .310

HITS

Cubs: Ben Zobrist – 10

Indians: Jason Kipnis – 9

HR

Cubs: Kris Bryant and Dexter Fowler – 2

Indians: Jason Kipnis and Roberto Perez – 2

RBI

Cubs: Anthony Russell – 9

Indians: Roberto Perez – 5

RUNS SCORED 

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo – 7

Indians: Jason Kipnis – 6

STOLEN BASES

Cubs: Jason Heyward – 4

Indians: Rajai Davis – 3

PITCHING WINS

Cubs: Jake Arrieta – 2

Indians: Corey Kluber  – 2

STRIKEOUTS

Cubs: Jon Lester – 16

Indians: Corey Kluber – 15

ERA (starters)

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks – 1.00

Indians: Corey Kluber – 2.81

INNINGS PITCHED

Indians: Corey Kluber – 16.0

Cubs: Jon Lester – 14.2

SAVES

Cubs: Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery – 1

iNDIANS: Cody Allen – 1

 

I tweet baseball @David BBRT

Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Reliquary; Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

2016 World Series Game Six – Next, It’s Heartbreak or Heaven

Game Six of the 2016 World Series was all Cubs – a 9-3 victory that fueled the anticipation of a Game Seven.  It seems appropriate, somehow, that two teams with a combined 176-year title drought would see the difference between continued heartbreak and hardball heaven go down to a Game Seven.  Game Six did have some highlights, mostly for the Cubs:

  • Cubs’ SS Addison Russell had a double and a home run (Grand Slam) in five at bats – tying a World Series Single-Game record with six RBI;
  • Cubs’ 3B Kris Bryant had four hits – including his second homer of the Series to start the Cubs’ scoring;
  • Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo had three hits, including an “insurance” two-run home run in the top of the ninth;
  • Indians’ 2B Jason Kipnis had three hits, including his second home run of the Series; and.
  • Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta went 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks with nine strikeouts.

Looking to the Future

The Cubs’ starting offensive nine in Game Six included seven players under the age of 28. The Indians’ starting lineup had five players under 28.  Both teams seem to be looking toward a bright future,

Turning Point

Josh Tomlin Indians photo

Josh Tomlin was one pitch away from a 1-2-3 first. Photo by Keith Allison

The turning point in Game Six of the 2016 World Series came at a time that was both early and unexpected.  Indians’ starter Josh Tomlin got off to a good start, retiring Cubs’ CF Dexter Fowler on a liner to third, DH Kyle Schwarber on a grounder to second and then getting 3B Kris Bryant down no balls-two strikes.  Tomlin was one good pitch away from a 1-2-3 first.  He didn’t get it, as Bryant took the 0-2 offering deep to center to give the Cubs an early 1-0 lead.

But that wasn’t the turning point – one run was not likely to win this contest.  And, the Cubbies weren’t done.  1B Anthony Rizzo and LF Ben Zobrist followed with a pair of singles, putting runners on first and third (with Tomlin still one out away from a one-run inning).  Then – wait for it, wait for it – came the turning point.  SS Addison Russell hit what appeared to be an inning-ending soft fly ball to right center.  In an apparent bout of miscommunication, CF Tyler Naquin and RF Lonnie Chisenhall (both seemingly in hot pursuit) let the ball drop in between them for a two-run double. To add insult to injury, Russell took third base on a throwing error by 2B Jason Kipnis.  Cubs’ C Wilson Contreras then flied out to center to end the inning, but the damage was done: 3-0 Cubs and the Indians hadn’t batted.  That “turning point “ inning had several effects: It took the crowd out of the game; put the Indians “under pressure” in the field and at the plate; most likely dampened Cleveland’s aggressiveness on the bases; and impacted how Indians’ manager Terry Francona used his usually fierce bullpen.

Star of the Game

Addison Russell Cubs photo

Photo by apardavila

The star of Game Six was Cubs’ 22-year-old SS Addison Russell with a double, home run and World Series record (tying) six RBI.  Russell’s six runs driven in tied the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (Game Three, 2011); Yankees’ Hideki Matsui (Game Six, 2009); and Yankees’ 2B Bobby Richardson (Game Three,1960).  Russell’s Grand Slam was the first by a shortstop in the World Series and made him the second-youngest player to hit a Grand Slam in the Fall Classic (only Mickey Mantle was younger).

 

 

Pitching Decisions Questioned

The depth of the Cubs’ rotation came into play as Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta started on his usual rest (the Cubs used a four-man rotation in the Series), while Josh Tomlin (the Indians’ went with a three-man rotation) started on short rest (and gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings).  The Indians’ Danny Salazar – who went 11-6, 3.87  in 25 starts, but came down with a right forearm strain late in the season – came in to pitch two scoreless innings (one hit and four strikeouts).  Salazar’s performance led to some speculation that a Salazar start and game-by-committee (given Cleveland’s sparkling relief corps) might have better served the Indians.  (Hindsight, however, is always 20/20 and Salazar was a big questins mark, while Tomlin has pitched well this post season.)  Now, the Indians have ace Corey Kluber going in Game Seven, like Tomlin, on short rest.

Still the Indians have the bull pen advantage, as Cleveland Manager Terry Francona did not use any of his “lights-out” bullpen trio of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw in Game Six.  Five innings out of Kluber may be enough for the Tribe to take the finale.

Meanwhile, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon surprised a lot of folks by using his two most trusted relievers – Mike Montgomery and closer Aroldis Chapman – in Game Six, despite a big lead.

The most engaging questions seem to be:  1) How effective will Kluber be pitching once again on short rest?  2) Has Maddon overused Chapman?.  One thing for sure, there will be some intrigue.

Game Seven Starters

Let’s look at the Game Seven starting pitchers.

Corey Kluber – Cleveland

Kluber has been the Indians’  “ace” all season and in the post season.  On the season he was 18-9, 3.14, with 227 strikeouts in 215 innings.  His home and away stats were relatively even:  10-5, 3.24 at home and 8-4, 3.03 on the road. In the post season, he is 4-1, 0.89. with 35 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.  And, while Kluber is going on short rest for the second straight start, he has a well-rested bullpen (Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw) behind him.  This post season, that trio has pitched 38 innings, giving up just four runs (0.95 ERA), while fanning 62.  Five quality innings from Kluber may be enough.  BBRT will be watching Kluber’s early pitch count closely.

Kyle Hendricks – Chicago

The Cubs’ Kyle Kendricks wnet 16-8, with MLB’s lowest ERA (2.13) this season.  During the regualr season, he fanned 170 batters in 190 innings.  He was 9-2 1.32 at Wrigley and a still good, but less impressive, 7-6 2.95 on the road. Backing up Hendricks are likely a combination of starter Jon Lester and relievers Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman.  Lester, with a 1.93 ERA in five 2016  post-season starts could come in if Hendricks should falter early. Montgomery and Chapman – who both pitched yesterday – have made 22 appearances this postseason (28 1/3 innings), with a 2.86 ERA and 30 strikeouts.  The Cubs need Hendricks to go deep in this game.  If he could get into the seventh, it would make Maddon’s job a lot easier.

 

World Series Flashback – My Favorite Game Seven 1960

Game Seven of the 1960 World Series is my favorite World Series contest – which is saying a lot since I was in the park for Jack Morris’ 10-inniing shutout win in Game Seven of the 1991 Fall Classic.  To understand why this is my favorite, it helps to set the stage:

  • There were only 16 major league teams. If you didn’t finish with the most victories in your league, you went home.
  • No one had ever heard of the designated hitter, the wild card, WAR or even WHIP.  
  • Home Run Derby was on TV – in black and white, with power hitters pairing off at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.
  • Ted Williams finished his career with a home run in his last at bat that season and Brooks Robinson won his first Gold Glove.
  • MLB held two All Star Games.
  • The 1960 White Sox became the first team to put players’ names on uniforms.
  • Warren Spahn threw his first no-hitter taht season  and won a league-leading 21 games – at age 39.
  • Juan Marichal threw a one-hitter in his major league debut at age 22.
  • Roger Maris won his first MVP Award in his first year as a Yankee (after being traded from the Kansas City Athletics).

I was thirteen and an avid baseball fan.  The Game of the Week (in black and white), the radio – especially the radio – and an occasional trip to the ball park were my tickets to the national past time.

MIckey Mantle photo

Mickey Mantle and the Yankees were a baseball dynasty going into the 1960s. Photo by Tony Fischer Photography

At the time, the Yankees were baseball’s dynasty.  Since my birth in 1947, the Bronx Bombers had been to 11 World Series (including the 1960 Series, tied 3-3) and had won eight World Championships.  Fans from pretty much everywhere but New York had made Yankee-hating a tradition.  I was no exception.  Milwaukee-born, I was a steadfast Braves fan, still smarting from the Yankees’ 1958 World Series comeback, when they downed my Braves after trailing three games to one. 

The prognosticators had predicted a Yankee win in five or six games.  They pointed out that the Yankees, with a 97-57 record (the Pirates were 95-59-1) came into the Series with the momentum of a 15-game, season-closing winning streak, while the Pirates lost four of their final seven.  They also lauded the Yankees’ post-season experience and, they heralded the Yankees power (the Yankees led the AL with a record 193 home runs and 746 runs scored, while the Pirates led the NL with 734 runs scored, but only 120 round trippers) – the Yankees’ Game One starting lineup had belted 152 regular season homers to 98 for the Pirates’ starters.  When it came to mound work, things appeared more balanced, maybe even a shade in favor of the Pirates.  While the Yankees’ 3.52 ERA was the lowest in the AL, the Pirates’ NL third-best ERA (at 3.49) slightly bettered the Bomber mark.  The Pirates did have the clear advantage in strikeouts (811-712) and fewest walks allowed (an NL low of 386 to an AL worst 609 for the Yankees). They also boasted the Cy Young Award winner in Vernon Law (20-9, 3.08), backed up by Bob Friend (18-12, 3.00), while no Yankee starter had topped 15 wins.  The top relievers for the two teams were Elroy Face, with 24 saves for Pittsburgh and Bobby Shantz, who saved 11 for the Yanks.

YANKEE OFFENSE LEADING THE CARGE

To further set the stage, going into Game Seven (October 13 at Pittsburgh), the Series was tied 3-3, despite:

  • The Yankees outscoring the Pirates 46 to 17 over the first six games;
  • The Yankees out-hitting the Pirates 78 to 49 in the first six games; and
  • The Yankees out-homering  the Pirates eight to one in the first six games.

Still,  the Pirates were looking forward the  chance to win the Series at home behind Vernon Law (winner of Games One and Four.)  The Yankees countered with Bob Turley, who, despite winning Game Two, had given up 13 hits and three walks in 8 1/3 innings.  The Pirates also had their top left-handed hitter, Bob Skinner (injured in Game One), back at the number-three spot in the order, while the Yankees were missing Elston Howard (broken finger, Game Six).

PIRATE POWER TO THE LEAD

The Yanks went meekly in the top of the first inning (liner, popup, foul out), and the Pirates, homerless since 2B Bill Mazeroski’s blast in Game One, got a two-run homer from 1B Rocky Nelson (whom Murtaugh chose to start at first base over regular Dick Stuart).

In the second, Law set the heart of the Yankees down in order –CF Mickey Mantle, fly to center; LF Yogi Berra, grounder to third; 1B Bill Skowron, grounder to short.  Pirates’ C  Smoky Burgess started the bottom  inning with a single and Yankee manager Casey Stengel immediately pulled starter Bob Turley in favor of the rookie Bill Stafford (who had stifled the Pirates for five innings in Game Five).  The move, second-guessed by many, did not pay off.  Stafford walked 3B  Don Hoak and Mazeroski beat out a bunt single.  Vernon Law was now at the plate (the Pirates’ pitcher was two for four, with a double, run scored and RBI in Games One and Four).  Law hit back to Stafford for a pitcher-to home-to first double play, but CF/lead-off hitter Bill Virdon followed with a two-run single and a 4-0 Pirates lead.  The Yankees were on the ropes.

YANKEE BATS WARM UP

Law handcuffed the Yankees through four innings, giving up only two singles.  In the fifth, YankeeS’ 1bMoose Skowron made the score 3-1 with a lead-off homer just inside the right field foul pole.  Law did not let the round tripper upset him, retiring C Johnny Blanchard, 3B Clete Boyer and P Bobby Shantz (who came on to pitch for New York in the third) in order.

The Yankees closed the gap – and then some – in the top of the sixth.  Pesky New York 2B Bobby Richardson (who already had nine hits in the series) led off with a single to center, and SS Tony Kubek followed with a walk.  With the Bombers appearing on the verge of a rally, Murtaugh replaced Law (who, it turns out had been pitching on a sore ankle throughout the Series) with his top reliever Elroy Face.   Face got RF Roger Maris on a foul pop to 3B Don Hoak, but Mickey Mantle followed with a “seeing eye” single up the middle, scoring Richardson. Yogi Berra followed with a upper deck home run (like Skowron’s just inside the right field foul pole) to give New York a 5-4 lead in what was shaping up to be a nail biter.  Veteran Bobby Shantz, meanwhile, was baffling the Pirates – giving up only a single and a walk from the third to the seventh innings.

In the top of the eighth, the Yankees appeared to put the game away – using a walk, two  singles and a double to produce two more runs and a 7-4 lead.   Notably, Stengel’s  pitching decisions again came into play.  He let Shantz bat with two out and runners at second and third (Boyer and Skowron) and a chance to extend the Yankee lead.  Shantz flied out and the living-room and press-box managers were quick to point out:  1) The lost scoring opportunity; 2) The fact that Stengel left Shantz in for a sixth inning of work, despite the fact that Shantz had not gone more than four innings in the regular season.

A PEBBLE SENDS WAVES ACROSS THE DIAMOND

In the bottom of the eighth, things unraveled for the Yankees, thanks to a poorly placed pebble.  Gino Cimoli pinch hit for Face and stroked a single to right-center field.  Shantz, who had already induced two double plays appeared to have worked his magic again, as CF Bill Virdon hit a hard ground ball right at  Yankee SS, sure-handed Tony Kubek.  Just as Kubek was ready to field the ball, it appeared to hit a pebble (the Yankees had already been critical of the condition of the Forbes Field infield) and ricocheted into Kubek’s throat.  Kubek went down, gasping for air and spitting up blood, with his windpipe rapidly swelling (doctors on the scene at first thought an emergency tracheotomy might be necessary).  The end result?  Kubek sent to the hospital and replaced by Joe DeMaestri and the Pirates had two on and no outs, instead of none on and two outs.  (Read: Aha, the turning point.)

Pirates’ shortstop Dick Groat took advantage of Kubek’s mishap and lined singled to left, scoring Cimoli.  Stengel came to the mound and replaced Shantz with right-hander Jim Coates (despite the fact that lefty Bill Skinner was coming to the plate).  The righty-lefty matchup made little difference, as Skinner sacrificed the runners up one base.  Next was Rocky Nelson, who flied out to medium right, with the Pirates choosing not to test Roger Maris’ arm.   So, two outs, two on and the Yankees still in front 7-5.   That brought up the Pirates’ best hitter, RF Roberto Clemente, who had been held hitless in his first three at-bats. Coates made a good pitch, getting Clemente to hit a weak ground ball toward first.  A hustling Clemente beat both Coates and Skowron’s throw to the bag, while Virdon scored and Groat moved to third.  Now, 7-6 and the Pirates still had life. 

That brought up backup catcher Hall Smith (who had come into the game in the eighth after Joe Christopher ran for starting catcher Smoky Burgess in the bottom of the seventh).   Smith took a 2-2 Coates’ pitch over the left-field wall for a 9-7 Pittsburgh lead.  The Pirates, with only one round tripper in the first six games had homered twice for five runs in Game Seven.

YANKEES NEITHER GIVE IN NOR GIVE UP

To protect the lead  in the ninth (and with Elroy Face already out of the game), Pirate Manager Danny Murtaugh called on starter Bob Friend, who had lost Games Two and Six, giving up seven earned runs in six innings (and had pitched in relief only once all season).  Yankee lead-off hitter Bobby Richardson started off the ninth with a single to left.  Veteran and former-Pirate Dale Long, pinch hitting for Joe DeMaestri (who had replaced the injured Kubek) singled to right and Friend was gone, replaced by Game-Five starter Harvey Haddix.  Haddix got Roger Maris on a foul out, but Mickey Mantle drove in Richardson with a single to right center.   Yogi Berra followed with a ground ball down the first base line.  Rocky Nelson made a nice backhanded stop, but was out of position for a first-to second-to first, game-ending double play. Nelson took the sure out, stepping on the first base bag and retiring Berra, while Gil McDougald (pinch running for Long) headed toward home.  It was at this point that Nelson realized Mantle had not run to second.  Mantle, sizing up the situation, was returning to first (with the force at second now off). It was an unorthodox base-running move, but as Mantle dove head first back to the bag (avoiding Nelson’s desperate attempt to tag him), McDougald scored the tying run.  Skowron then grounded out to Mazeroski (forcing Mantle) to end the inning in a 9-9 tie. Still, Mantle’s heads up baserunning had kept the Yankees in the game.

THE FIRST WORLD SERIES-ENDING WALKOFF HOME RUN

bILL mAZEROSKI photo

Bill Mazeroski’s Series-winning home run has been immortalized in Pittsburgh. Photo by daveynin

Stengel, like Murtaugh, was now using starters in relief, bringing Game Four-loser Ralph Terry in to pitch the ninth.  Number-eight hitter Bill Mazeroski led off the inning.  Terry’s first pitch was a high and inside fastball.  The second pitch, another fastball, was in the strike zone and Mazeroski deposited it over the 406-foot marker in left center.  Not sure the ball would carry out in the deep part of the park, Mazeroski ran full speed with his head down to first and toward second, before seeing the umpire making the circular home run signal.  Mazeroski removed his helmet, waving his way to home plate where his team mates awaited the first player in major league history to end the World Series with a walk-off home run.

Trivia Tidbit:  The seventh game of the 1960 Series is the only World Series game in which neither team recorded a single strikeout.

FINAL: Pirates 10 – Yankees 9; Pirates 4 games – Yankees 3 Games. M

When the Series was over, Pirate pitching made the difference, but you could never tell from the stats line:

  • The Yankees scored a Series’ record 55 runs to 27 for the Pirates,
  • The Yankees collected a Series’ record 91 hits to 60 for the Pirates.
  • The Yankees hit a Series’ record .338 to .256 for the Pirates
  • The Yankees collected a Series’ record 27 extra base hits to 15 for the Pirates.
  • The Yankees out-homered the Pirates 10-4.
  • The Yankees’ pitchers put up a 3.54 ERA to 7.11 for the Pirates.
  • Bobby Richardson of the Yankees won the Series MVP award, hitting .367 with a Series’ record 12 RBI. The only player on a losing team to ever win the Series MVP Award.
  • The Yankees’ Whitey Ford was the Series’ most effective pitcher, throwing two complete game shutout in two starts.

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