Dotel, Bautista, Youngblood – Kings of MLB “Journey-men”

Trades, Free Agency, Waiver Wire – There are lots of ways to move from team to team on a player’s major league journey.  In this post, BBRT will take a look at a handful of players who could be considered the kings of that journey.  I’m talking about the MLB record holders for teams played for in a career, a season and a single day.

Octavio Dotel – 13 MLB Teams Played For in His MLB Career

Photo by" Jon Dawson

Photo by: Jon Dawson

Dominican-born Octavio Dotel traveled a long way to get to the major leagues.  And, after spending four of his first five MLB seasons with the Houston Astros, his travels were just beginning. The 6-foot, 230-pound right-handed pitcher would take the mound for 11 more teams over the next ten seasons – and holds the record for the most MLB franchises played for in a career at 13. Dotel, who retired at the age of 40, appeared in 758 games; put up a 59-50 record, with 109 saves; and struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings (1,143 whiffs in 951 innings pitched).

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the career of major league baseball’s “King of the Road.”

Dotel signed with the Mets in 1995 (at the age of 21). Between 1995 and 1999, he worked his way through the Mets’ minor league system, pitching in 102 games (92 starts), with a 44-23 record, a 3.27 ERA and 613 strikeouts in 560 2/3 innings.

Dotel’s work earned him a promotion to the Mets in June of 1999 and he appeared in 19 games for New York (14 starts). He managed an 8-3 record, despite a 5.38 ERA – helped no doubt by his 85 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings pitched. In December of 1999, Dotel was traded (along with minor league pitcher Kyle Kessel) to the Astros for OF Roger Cedeno and LHP Mike Hampton. It would be the first of many moves for Dotel. It was also probably the most fortuitous, because it ultimately led to another  move – from the starting rotation to the bullpen.

In 2000, Dotel began the season in the Astros’ rotation and, in 16 starts, went 1-5 with a 5.84 ERA. An injury to Astros’ closer Billy Wagner, however, sent Dotel to the bullpen, where he notched two wins and 16 saves in 34 appearances (4.24 ERA). Dotel’s days as a starter were basically over.  (During the next 13 seasons, Dotel would make only four starts in 689 appearances.) Over the next three-and-a-half seasons, Dotel was a fixture in a solid Astros’ pen – going 19-17, with 26 saves, a 2.42 ERA and 410 strikeouts in 324 innings.

Then, on June 24, 2004, Dotel began his “MLB Journey” in earnest. On that day, as part of a three-team trade, Dotel moved from the Astros to the A’s (where he added six wins and  22 more saves in 45 appearances)  Over the next eight seasons, Dotel (as a result of four trades and six signings as a free agent) would pitch for the Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Tigers. In 2010 alone, he would take the mound for three MLB teams – the Pirates, Dodgers and Rockies.

Dotel also pitched in the post season for the Mets (1999), Astros (2001), White Sox (2008), Cardinals (2011) and Tigers (2012). In 26 post-season appearances, he went 3-1, with a 3.86 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. Dotel – traveling MLB’s “Long and Winding Road” was a valuable addition to a dozen bullpens – as he racked up innings and strikeouts for a record 13 MLB teams.

MOST MLB FRANCHISES PLAYED FOR IN A CAREER

Octavio Dotel (RHP) – 13 franchises in 15 seasons (1999-2013)

Mike Morgan (RHP) – 12 franchises in 22 seasons (1978-2002)

Matt Stairs (OF/1B) – 12 franchises in 19 seasons (1992-2011)

Ron Villone (LHP) – 12 franchises in 15 seasons (1995-2009)

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Jose Bautista – Four MLB Teams Played for in a Single Season

Photo by: Keith Allison

Photo by: Keith Allison

 

While Octavio Dotel currently holds sole possession of the record for most franchise played for in a career, the record for MLB teams played for in a season (four) is shared by thirteen players. I’ll provide the whole list, but let’s look in more detail at the most recent (and, arguably, best known) player to accomplish this feat. In 2000, 19-year-old Jose Baustista was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round of the MLB draft. He played in the Pirates’ minor league system until 2003. In those three seasons, Bautista took the field in 349 games, hitting .287, with 24 home runs and 100 RBI – never rising above High A ball. The Pirates left Bautista unprotected in the 2003 Rule Five Draft – and thus began his record-tying odyssey.

Picked up by the Orioles, Bautista started the 2003 season on the Baltimore roster, but seldom left the bench. In fact, by early June, he had only 11 at bats – and the Orioles placed him on waivers.  Bautista was claimed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on June 3, but got only 12 at bats with the Rays between then and June 28, when his contract was purchased by the Kansas City Royals. Within a month (and 25 at bats), the Royals traded Bautista to the Mets, who put him on their major league roster and then (on the same day) included him in a trade with the Pirates (Remember them – Bautista’s original team).  The Pirates kept him on the major league roster for the remainder of the season (40 more at bats). So, Bautista took the field that season for the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals and Pirates.

Remember that brief stint with the Mets (no games played, traded on the same day he was acquired)?  While he didn’t play for the Mets, his brief time on the Mets’ roster means Bautista was on a record five different major league rosters in one season. (There may be a second player to appear on five MLB rosters in a season; although he only played on three teams.  BBRT is working to confirm this. See the statistical note at the end of this post. )

How did Joey Bats do in his four-team/five-roster season?  He played in 64 games, had 88 at bats, a .205 average, zero home runs and two RBI.  From that highly traveled and inauspicious start, Bautista HAS gone on to make a name for himself as a Toronto Blue Jay and one of the AL’s most feared power hitters.

MOST MLB TEAMS PLAYED FOR IN A SINGLE SEASON … FOUR

Jose Bautista (OF/3B) – 2004 (Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals, Pirates)

Dan Miceli (RHP) – 2003 (Rockies, Indians, Yankees, Astros)

Dave Martinez (OF/1B)  – 2000 (Devil Rays, Cubs, Rangers, Blue Jays)

Dave Kingman (1B/OF/3B) – 1977 (Mets, Padres, Angels, Yankees)

Mike Kilkenny (LHP) – 1972 (Tigers, A’s, Padres, Indians)

Wes Covington (OF) – 1961 (Braves, White Sox, Athletics, Phillies)

Ted Gray (LHP) – 1955 (White Sox, Indians, Yankees, Orioles)

Paul Lehner (OF/1B) – 1951 (Athletics, White Sox, Browns, Indians)

Willis Hudlin (RHP) – 1940 (Indians, Senators, Browns, Giants)

Frank Huelsman (OF) – 1904 (White Sox, Tigers, Browns, Senators)

Tom Dowse (C) – 1892 (Louisville Colonels, Senators, Reds, Phillies)

Harry Wheeler (OF/RHP) – 1884 (Browns, Kansas City Cowboys, Chicago/Pittsburgh, Baltimore Monumentals)

George Strief (2B/SS/3B/OF) – 1884 (Browns, Chicago/Pittsburgh, Cleveland Blues, Athletics)

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A Triple Play – Taking the Field for Two Teams in a Single Day

YoungbloodThree players share the record for the most franchises played for in a single day at two. The first two to accomplish this feat were Max Flack and Cliff Heathcote, who were traded for each other between games of a Memorial Day 1922 Cubs/Cardinals doubleheader. The two outfielders each suited up against their previous team for Game Two. Both went hitless in game one of the doubleheader and both collected hits for their new teams in the second game (Flack a single in four at bats, Heathcote a pair of singles in four trips to the plate).

Joel Youngblood tied the record for teams played for in a single day in 1982, adding a twist – he played for and recorded hits for two different teams in two different cities on the same day.  Let’s look at Youngblood’s unique achievement.

On August 4, 1982, Youngblood started his day as a member of the New York Mets, who were playing an afternoon game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Youngblood opened the game in center field, batting third.   After striking out in the first inning, Youngblood drove in two runs with a single in the top of the third. Youngblood was unexpectedly replaced in center field by Mookie Wilson in the bottom of the fourth – and told by Mets’ manager George Bamberger that he had been traded to the Expos (for a player to be named later).

The Expos were scheduled to play in Philadelphia in Philadelphia that night, and Youngblood immediately set out to join his new team. He managed to catch a 6:05 p.m. flight to Philadelphia – eventually arriving at Veterans Stadium with the game in progress. To his surprise, there was an Expos uniform, with his name already sewn on the back, waiting for him.  The Expos wasted no time getting there newest player into the game. Manager Jim Fanning sent Youngblood into right field and the number-two spot in the batting order (replacing Jerry White) in the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, Youngblood singled in his first Expos’ at bat.  Thus, Youngblood collected base hits for two different teams in two different cities in one day.

Youngblood’s feat is even more startling when you consider the pitchers he touched for his two safeties. In Chicago, it was future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins; while in Philadelphia, it was future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.

MOST MLB TEAMS PLAYED FOR IN A SINGLE DAY

Max Flack – May 30, 1922: Cubs (RF); Cardinals (RF).

Cliff Heathcote – May 30, 1922: Cardinals (CF); Cubs (RF).

Joel Youngblood – August 4, 1982: Mets (CF); Expos (RF).

BBRT STATISTICAL NOTE: There may be a second player (besides Jose Bautista) to appear on a record five MLB rosters in a single season (although he played for just three teams).  I am still working to confirm this one.  Casper Wells finished the 2012 season with the Mariners. Wells was designated for assignment on March 31, 2013 by the Mariners. He was picked up by the Blue Jays (off waivers) on August 10. On August 22, the A’s purchased his contract from the Blue Jays.  Then, on August 29, the White Sox purchased Wells from the A’s. Finally, on August 8, the Phillies picked him up (off waivers from the White Sox.). During the season, Well actually played for only three teams – the A’s, White Sox and Phillies.  But depending on timing, he could have been on a record-tying five MLB rosters during the course of the season. When a player is designated to assignment, they are dropped from the team‘s 40-man MLB roster.  Now, the Mariners designate Wells for assignment on March 31 (opening day of the 2013 season). The question is:  Was he dropped from the roster before the season officially opened? I have a query into the Mariners to find out the specifics and determine if Wells matches Bautista’s five-roster, single-season record.

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

If you like baseball trivia and haven’t tried a BBRT trivia quiz (each is 99 questions), click here for Quiz One and here for Quiz Two. 

 

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Twenty Strikeouts in an Outing – and Then Some

Max Scherzer photo

Photo by Keith Allison

On May 11, 2016 Max Scherzer tied an MLB record by fanning twenty batters in nine innings – joining Roger Clemens, Kerry Wood and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to accomplish that feat.  The topic has been “trending “ all over the traditional and social media.  BBRT would like to add what is, hopefully, a little unique perspective to that “conversation” – followed by a brief look at each 20-strikeout outing, as well as a couple of hurlers who have done that accomplishment at least one better.  A few factoids.

  • Roger Clemens is the only pitcher to reach 20 strikeouts in nine-innings twice – and he did it ten seasons apart.
  • Despite the ten-year span between Roger Clemens’ nine-inning 20-whiff performances, he is neither the oldest, nor the youngest, pitcher to accomplish the feat. The youngest is the Cubs’ Kerry Wood (who did it in his rookie season at age 20). The oldest is the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson, who fanned 20 in nine-innings at age 37.
  • The most pitches in a 20-strikeout performance is 151 (by Clemens in 1996), the fewest is 119 by Scherzer.
  • Scherzer is the first pitcher to fan 20 hitters in nine innings without fanning every member of the opposing starting lineup at least once.
  • Randy Johnson is the only pitcher to notch 20 strikeouts in an MLB game – and not throw a complete game.
  • No pitcher to notch twenty strikeouts in nine-innings has ever given up a walk in the contest. That’s right: 45 innings, 100 strikeouts, zero walks.
  • Scherzer gave up the most hits (6), most runs (2) and most home runs (2) ever in a nine-inning, 20-strikeout performance.

Here’s a bit of detail on MLB’s nine-inning, twenty-strikeout performances.

April 29, 1986 – Roger Clemens, Red Sox, topped the Mariners 3-1 in Boston.  Clemens gave up three, hits, zero walks, while fanning twenty.  The only run for Seattle scored on a home run by Mariners’ DH Gorman Thomas in the seventh inning.  Clemens threw 138 pitches, 97 for strikes. He struck out all nine members of the Mariners’ starting lineup at least once; LF Phil Bradley four times.  Clemens was 23-years-old at the time.  He went on to win 24 games (leading the AL), the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP.  Clemens finished the season second in the AL in strikeouts with 238 in 254 innings.

September 18, 1996, Roger Clemens, Red Sox, topped the Tigers 4-0 in Detroit. He gave up five hits, zero walks, no runs. Clemens struck out all the members of the Tigers’ starting lineup at least once; SS Travis Fryman four times. Clemens threw 151 pitches, 101 strikes. That season, Clemens finished 10-13, 3.63, but led the AL in strikeouts with 257 in 242 2/3 innings. Clemens was 34-years-old.

May 6, 1998, Kerry Wood, Cubs, beat the Astros 2-0 in Chicago. Wood gave up just one hit, zero walks. He threw 122 pitches, 84 strikes. Wood struck out every member of the starting lineup at least once; 1B Jeff Bagwell, 3B Jake Howell and CF Moises Alou three times each. Wood was a 20-year-old rookie at the time.  He went on to a 13-6 season, with 233 strikeouts in 166 2/3 innings. Wood was the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year.

May 6, 2001. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, whiffed 20 in nine innings as the D-backs topped the Reds 4-3 in eleven innings (in Arizona). Johnson was relieved in the 10th (by Byung-Hyun-Kim) with the score tied 1-1.  Johnson gave up three hits, one run, zero walks. The lone run off Johnson scored in the fifth inning on a single by 3B Aaron Boone, a stolen base and a single by CF Ruben Rivera. Johnson threw 124 pitches, 92 for strikes, in his nine innings. Johnson struck out every member of the starting lineup at least once; SS Barry Larkin and RF Alex Ochoa three times each. He went on to a 21-6 season, leading the league with 372 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings and won the NL Cy Young Award. He was 37-years-old at the time.

May 11, 2016, Max Scherzer of the Nationals topped the Tigers 3-2 in Washington. He gave up six hits and two runs, with zero walks.  Both runs scored on home runs – by SS Jose Iglesias in the third inning and RF J.D. Martinez in the ninth. Scherzer struck out everyone in the Detroit starting line up at least once EXCEPT DH Victor Martinez, who collected three hits (all singles) in four at bats. Scherzer threw 119 pitches, 96 strikes. Scherzer is 31-years-old.

 

DOING ONE OR MORE BETTER.

Tom Cheney struck out a record 21 hitters in a single (extra inning) major league game – a 16-inning contest between the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles (in Baltimore) on September 12, 1962.  For the full story, click here.

 

The record for strikeouts in a professional game at any level stands at 27  – Ron Necciai (netch-eye). For that story, click here. 

 

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

Old Guys Rule – Bartolo Colon, with a Nod to Julio Franco

Yesterday (May  7), 42-year-old Bartolo Colon picked up his third win of the season – going 6 2/3 innings (three earned runs, six hits, one walk, five strikeouts), as his Mets topped the Padres 6-3 in San Diego.   Colon also made a bit of history – at age 42 and 348 days, in his 19th MLB season, Colon connected for his first MLB home run. It came in the top of the second inning (off Padres’ starter James Shields) and made Colon the oldest major leaguer ever to collect his first round tripper – breaking Hall of Famer Hurler Randy Johnson’s record (40 years and nine days).

BBRT would note. however, that when it comes to age-related home run records – Julio Franco remains the king.  Franco is the oldest player to homer in an MLB game, the oldest to hit a Grand Slam, the oldest to hit a pinch-hit home run and the oldest to record a multi-home game.  For details on these – and more of Franco’s career accomplishments, click here.

Haven’t tried BBRT’s Trivia Quizzes yet?  Quiz One, click here.  Quiz Two, click here.

 

Looking for a great summer baseball tour – Independent, A, AA, AAA and major league stops, click here. 

I tweet baseball@DavidBBRT

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

Baseball Reliquary – 2016 Shrine of the Eternals Electees Announced

reliquaryWhat do the following have in common – a one-armed major league outfielder, a pitcher who once threw a no-hitter while high on LSD, a team owner who sent a midget to the plate, a man in a chicken suit, a member of Major League Baseball’s 3,000-hit club, an MLB manager who won eight World Championships, a baseball card designer, a surgeon, a labor leader, a statistical wizard and more than one best-selling author?

Stumped?  These diverse individuals are all past electees to The Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals – an honor intended to recognize individuals who have had impact on our national pastime that goes beyond statistics and touches upon the culture and character of the game – with a particular focus on the fans’ point of view.

The Baseball Reliquary this week announced its 2016 Shrine of the Eternals electees:

  • a former Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award Winner, MVP and first African American 20-game winner;
  • an MLB All Star outfielder, NFL Pro Bowl running back and media/marketing icon;
  • a sportswriter who “wrote the book” on first-person accounting of baseball games, penned hundreds of articles and more than two dozen books, and was named Magazine Sportswriter of the Year.

Before we take a detailed look at this year’s electees (and BBRT’s ballot), I’d like to provide readers with a brief overview of both the Baseball Reliquary and its Shrine of the Eternals.

The Baseball Reliquary (BBRT is a proud member) is a free-spirited organization dedicated to celebrating the human side of baseball’s history and heritage.  The Reliquary is truly a fan-focused organization, committed to recognizing baseball’s place in American culture and to honoring the character and characters of the national pastime. The Reliquary pursues that mission through its collection of artifacts, traveling exhibitions, ties to the Whittier College Institute for Baseball Studies and (perhaps, most visibly) through its own version of the Baseball Hall of Fame – the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals.  For more on the Baseball Reliquary, and why you should become a member, click here.

Now, to the Shrine of the Eternals. Here’s what the Reliquary has to say about this honor.

Similar in concept to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Shrine of the Eternals differs philosophically in that statistical accomplishment is not the principal criterion for election. The Baseball Reliquary believes that the election of individuals on merits other than statistics and playing ability will offer the opportunity for a deeper understanding and appreciation of baseball than has heretofore been provided by “Halls of Fame” in the more traditional and conservative institutions.

Criteria for election shall be: the distinctiveness of play (good or bad); the uniqueness of character and personality; and the imprint that the individual has made on the baseball landscape. Electees, both on and off the diamond, shall have been responsible for developing baseball in one or more of the following ways: through athletic and/or business achievements; in terms of its larger cultural and sociological impact as a mass entertainment; and as an arena for the human imagination.

Each year, the Baseball Reliquary submits a list of candidates to its members and the top three vote-getters are honored.  Note: The induction ceremony for this 18th Shrine “class” will take place Sunday, July 17, 2016 at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena (California) Central Library.

So, let’s take a look the 2016 electees – Don Newcombe, Bo Jackson and Arnold Hano. Voting percentage for all the candidates can be found at the end of this post.

DON “NEWK”  NEWCOMBE

Photo: Courtesy of Baseball Reliquary.

Photo: Courtesy of Baseball Reliquary.

Elected to the Shrine of the Eternals in his first year on the ballot, Don Newcombe began his baseball career in 1944, as an 18-year-old pitcher with the Negro National League Newark Eagles. By 1946, he was a Brooklyn Dodger farmhand (Thank you, Mr. Rickey) and, by 1949, he was a starting pitcher for the Dodgers – going 17-8, 3.12 and winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award.  Remember, this was 1949 and “Newk” was facing many of the same racial pressures and prejudices as Jackie Robinson. Newcombe answered those considerable challenges with his arm and his competitiveness – becoming one of those most feared and respected pitchers in the game. His success helped pave the way for future Black major leaguers – particularly pitchers. Newcombe won 19 games (11 losses) in 1950 and, in 1951, became MLB’s first African American 20-game winner (20-9, 3.28). Then, after losing two prime years to military service, Newcombe returned for seven more MLB seasons.  Ultimately, he was a 20-game winner three times – including 1956, when he went 27-7, 3.06, won the first-ever Cy Young Award and was selected the NL MVP.  Notably, Newcombe was also no slouch at the plate. He hit .271, with 15 homers in his MLB career, and was, at times, used as a pinch hitter.  (After his MLB career ended, Newcombe played one year in Japan – as an outfielder/first baseman). Note: Newcombe is credited as the first former major leaguer to play in the Japanese League.

Newcombe not only found himself facing off against opponents in the batter’s box, he also faced (an admitted) fight with alcohol.  He eventually won that battle – and is credited with using his success to help others meet the challenge of substance abuse.  Newcombe ended his career a four-time All Star – with a 149-90, 3.56 record. In 1970, Newcombe was picked by the Dodgers to run baseball’s first Community Relations program. Newcombe also has received the “Beacon of Hope” award, presented at the Annual MLB Civil Rights Game. He remains in baseball and with the Dodgers as a Special Advisor to the Chairman. Congrats to this deserving new member of the Shrine of the Eternals.

VINCENT EDWARD “BO” JACKSON

Photo" Courtesy Baseball Reliquary

Photo” Courtesy Baseball Reliquary

Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson remains one of the most recognizable names in American sport – more than 20 years after he left the playing field, or more accurately playing fields.  Jackson was a multi-sport star – an MLB All Star outfielder (1989) and an NFL Pro Bowl Selection (1990) at running back (an injury kept him out of the game). He was also a Heisman Trophy winner (recognizing the year’s most outstanding collegiate football player) for Auburn University in 1985.  At Auburn, Jackson lettered in football, baseball and track.

After college, Jackson would go on to play four seasons at running back with the Los Angeles Raiders (1987-90), averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring 16 rushing and two receiving touchdowns.  Jackson’s football and baseball careers overlapped – as Jackson patrolled the outfield (and DH-ed) for the  Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and California Angels from 1986-94 – becoming known for spectacular outfield play, long home runs and speed on the bases. It was Jackson’s versatile athleticism, in fact, that led to his gaining status as a marketing icon.

In 1989, the Nike athletic shoe company began one of the most successful ad campaigns in history with a series of “Bo Knows” television spots. These featured Jackson being lauded for his athletic versatility by stars from other sports – “Bo Knows Baseball,” “Bo Knows Tennis,” “Bo Knows Cycling,” etc.  Jackson was acknowledged as knowing a range of sports including (but not limited to) baseball, football, basketball, tennis, running, cycling, weight lifting. There was even a shot of Jackson playing guitar – and doing it rather badly – with Bo Diddley commenting ”Bo, you don’t know Diddley!”  The spots proved extremely popular – and made Jackson one of the most recognized individuals in all of sports.

It clearly appeared that “Bo Knew” the sky was the limit.   He was a MLB All-Star, NFL All Pro, college football legend, and a media and advertising icon.  In 1991, however, things (including Jackson’s hip) took a turn for the worse. In a 1991 playoff game between the NFL Bengals and the LA Raiders, Jackson sustained a career-threatening (eventually career-ending) hip injury on what appeared to be a routine tackle at the end of a 34-yard run.  After surgery and rehab, Jackson made a baseball comeback with the White Sox.   In his first at bat back in the majors (1993), he belted a home run against the Yankees. He would go on to hit 16 home runs in 85 games and win the 1993 Comeback Player of the Year Award.  However, the hip injury has blunted a couple of key weapon in his arsenal – his electrifying speed and spring. Before his injury, Jackson had stolen 81 bases in 534 games. In 160 games after his return to MLB, he stole just one. Jackson retired as a member of the Angels during the 1994 baseball strike.  Is final season, Jackson his .273, with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in 75 games. In his eight MLB season (694) games, Jackson hit .250 with 141 home runs 416 RBI and 82 steals – and a penchant for the dramatic. Now, Bo Knows The Shrine of the Eternals. And, we still don’t know what might have been.

For more on Bo Jackson, you might try the book “Bo Knows Bo” by Bo Jackson.

ARNOLD HANO

Photo: Courtesy Baseball Reliquary

Photo: Courtesy Baseball Reliquary

Perhaps no individual play has been more “immortalized” in baseball history than Willie Mays’ over the shoulder catch of a deep drive off the bat of the Indians’ Vic Wertz in Game One of the 1954 World Series.  And, one of the best – actually the description most often credited as being “the” best – accountings came from the pen of Arnold Hano. It’s included in Hano’s book A Day in the Bleachers – an eyewitness report of that game that is said to have changed the face of first-person sports writing/reporting. Hano’s prose is as classic as the play itself. If you haven’t already read this one, you might want to give it a try.

And, there was no one better to undertake that task than Arnold Hano – a nearly life-long Giants fan (after a brief affection for the Yankees), whose infatuation with writing and editing came almost as early as  his love of the national pastime.  Hano’s literary career began as an eight-year-old, when he and his older brother began a mimeographed neighborhood newspaper. Hano followed that passion for wordsmithing into an early career as an editor in the book publishing world –  a career path that changed after that September 29, 1954 World Series contest. (Much to the benefit of baseball fans.)

BleachersIn fact, the critical success of Hano’s A Day In the Bleachers – with new editions published in 1982, 2004, 2006 – catapulted Hano to the top echelon of sport writers. Over the years, Hano’s work has appeared in the likes of Sport, Sports Illustrated, True’s Baseball Yearbook, the Saturday Evening Post and major news media like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. He’s written more than 500 articles and more than two dozen books (more than one million copies sold) – including biographies of such stars as Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente. He was also a regular contributor to the annual Baseball Stars series of biographies and, in 1967, published his own volume of baseball bios – The Greatest Giants of Them All. In 1964, Hano was named the Magazine Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Hano’s career is documented in the recently released film – Hano! A Century in the Bleachers.

Notably, Hano was more than a sportswriter. He was instrumental in civil rights and environmental protection efforts and, in 1953, he won the Sidney Hillman prize for a piece on the plight of California’s immigrant population. A writer who changed the face of sports writing – and worked to change our culture as well – Hano got my vote.

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So there’s the 2015 Shrine of the Eternals inductees.  Now here’s a look in alphabetical order) at those who got BBRT’s vote, but didn’t make the final three. (I did cast a vote for Hano.)

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Reuben Berman (1890-1977)

On May 16, 1921, during a game between the Giants and Reds played at New York City’s Polo Grounds, Reuben Berman captured a foul ball that was hit into the stands. The custom at the time was to return the ball to the playing field. In fact, some teams even employed security guards to retrieve balls if the fans declined to return them. In some extreme cases, arrests were made and charges (larceny) filed.  On that day in May of 1921, Berman, refused to return a foul ball – and, when confronted, tossed the ball deeper into the stands. After what some reported as an exchange of profanities and a minor scuffle, Berman was ejected from the Polo Grounds.  Berman, however, was not done with the Giants.  He filed a lawsuit against the club asserting he was illegally detained and had suffered mental anguish and a loss of reputation because of the incident.  The case went all the way to the New York Supreme Court, which found in Berman’s favor, granting him the sum of $100 (he had asked for $20,000). The $100 victory is not what got Berman my vote for the Shrine of the Eternals, it was the impact on fans of his stubbornness – and what became known as “Reuben’s Rule” or “Berman’s Law.” Berman’s case was the most important step in establishing the fans’ right to that precious souvenir – an official, game-used baseball. Every time we see a scrum (for a baseball) in the stands, or a one-handed (beer or baby in the other hand) catch of a foul ball, or a smiling youngster showing off his white, red-stitched prize, we can than Reuben Berman.

Ted Kluszewski (1924-1988)

I love to recognize players who do something we are not likely to see again (last year, I cast a ballot for Denny McLain, MLB’s last 30-game winner).  This year, I voted for Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski – perhaps the last of the true power hitters who also practiced exceptional plate discipline.  In 1954, for example, Big Klu hit .326, with 49 home runs and 141 RBI – a season made even more remarkable by the fact the Kluszewski struck out only 35 times (versus 78 walks). I doubt if we’ll ever see another player top 40 home runs, without reaching 40 whiffs.  Kluszewski, in fact, had a streak of four seasons (1953-56) when he hit over .300, drove in 100+ runs, bashed 35+ home runs – and struck out no more than 40 times in any season.  In those four season, Kluszewski hit 171 home runs – and fanned 140 times (average 43 HR’s and 35 whiffs a season). It should also be noted that Kluszewski led NL first baseman in fielding percentage every year from 1951 through 1955. Unfortunately, a back injury in 1956 hampered his performance (he played until 1961).

Kluszewski is also noted for adding a bit of flair to the game, making his own intimidating fashion statement. Klu complained that his uniform jersey was too tight for his large and powerful biceps. He went on to have the sleeves cut from his jersey – exposing his bare arms from the shoulder.  (This was considered a bold move at that very conforming time in the game’s history.)

Kluszewski only appeared in one post-season – hitting  .391, with three homers and ten RBI in the 1958 World Series (for the White Sox).  True to his form – Big Klu did not strike out even once (25 plate appearance) in the Series.  For trivia buffs, left unprotected in the  1960 expansion draft, Kluszewski hit the first-ever home run for the expansion Angels (a two-run shot in the first inning of the Angels’ first game –  April 11 versus the Orioles). He added a punctuation mark, by hitting the Angels second–ever home run (a three-run shot) the very next inning. The Angels won 7-2, and Kluszewski did not strikeout. It was the first game of his last MLB season. Ultimately, however, what we all remember is those sleeveless jerseys and muscular arms.  This four-time All Star – whose last name also ends with “ski” – got my vote for the Shrine.

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson (1935 – *)

Mamie Johnson was one of three females to play for the Indianapolis Clowns during the declining days of the Negro Leagues (and the only woman ever to pitch in the Negro Leagues).  Johnson took the mound to the Clowns for three seasons (1953-55), running up a 33-8 record.  Her exploits are chronicled in the children’s book A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, by Michelle Y. Green.

Effa Manley (1900-81)

The first woman enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, during the 1930s and 1940s, Effa Manley ran the day-to-day operations of the Negro National League Newark Eagles (owned by her husband Abe Manley) – at a time when baseball, on the field and in the executive offices, was considered a “man’s domain.”  Effa, often thought of as a light-skinned black, was actually white.  She, however, grew up with a black stepfather and mixed-race siblings and was active in the New Jersey branch of the NAACP and Citizen’s League for Fair Play.  Effa Manley deserves recognition for overcoming both racial and sexual barriers as she exercised leadership in the national pastime. Multiple books have been written about Manley’s accomplishments. BBRT recommends:” Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles, by James Overmyer;

David Mullany (1908-90)

David Mullany was the inventor of the Wiffle® Ball (1953), which ultimately changed backyard baseball for millions of young (and old) players and fans. I know I loved my white perforated plastic ball and yellow plastic bat – and played more than one backyard World Series opener with them (without shattering a single window).  Today, there are Wiffle Ball fields, leagues and tournaments.  The company is still operated by the Mullany family and you can learn more by visiting their website (www.wiffle.com)  You might also be interested in Wiffle Ball: The Ultimate Guide by Michael Herman.

Pete Reiser (1919-81)

Combine Willie Mays’ skill set (younger folks, think Mike Trout) with Pete Rose’s hustle and Yasiel Puig’s on-field abandon and you have Pete Reiser. In his first full MLB season (CF, Dodgers), a 22-year-old Reiser dazzled defensively and led the NL in runs scored (117), doubles (39), triples (17), batting average (.343), total bases (299) and hit by pitch (11) – tossing in 14 home runs and 76 RBI for good measure. Unfortunately, unpadded outfield walls, helmet-less at bats (the fiery Reiser was a frequent target) and aggressiveness on the base paths (Reiser twice led the NL in stolen bases) took their toll.

In his ten-season career, Reiser endured five skull fractures, a brain injury, a dislocated shoulder and a damaged knee.  He was carted off the field 11 times during his career (six times unconscious) and once actually given last rites at the stadium – and he played on. The three-time All Star retired as a player with a .295 career average, playing in 861 games over ten seasons. No telling what he might have done with padded outfield walls and batting helmets.  Pete Reiser was a true – and talented – gamer. For more on Reiser, try Pete Reiser: The Rough and Tumble Career of the Perfect Ballplayer, by Sidney Jacobson.

I

Rube Waddell (1876-1914)

Rube Waddell is pretty much granted the title of the zaniest player in MLB history – but he also was one of the best (at least when he was focused on the game). Waddell was known to wrestle alligators, leave a ball game to chase a fire engine, miss a game he was scheduled to start because he was fishing or playing marbles with neighborhood kids, bring his outfielders in to sit on the grass and then proceed to fan the side – and frequently do battle with owners and managers.  Waddell was more interested in the freedom to enjoy life and do things his way than money.  But, when Waddell was on his game, he was arguably the best pitcher of his time. The 6’1”, 195-lb. lefty led the AL in strikeouts six consecutive seasons (1902-1907) – by a wide margin.

How good was Waddell?  In 1902, he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in June – making his first start on June 26 (with just 86 games left in the season). Waddell proceeded to win 24 games (the league’s second-highest total) against seven losses, with a 2.05 ERA.  Despite his shortened season, he led the AL with 210 strikeouts, fifty more than the runner-up (none other than Cy Young).

In 1904, Waddell set a modern (post-1900) MLB record with 349 strikeouts that stood until 1965.  Waddell, elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946, finished with a 193-143, 2.16 stat line – leading the AL in strikeouts six times, ERA twice, wins once and complete games once. For more on Waddell, BBRT suggests: Rube Waddell: The Zany, Brilliant Life of a Strikeout Artist, by Allan Howard Levy and Just a Big Kid: The Life and Times of Rube Waddell, by Paul Proia.

John Young (1949-*)

A 6’3”, 210-pound, left-handed first baseman, John Young hit .325, with four home runs, 60 RBI and 26 stolen bases (in 29 attempts) in 99 games at Single A Lakeland (Tigers’ farm team) as a twenty-year-old (in 1969). The first-round draft choice (16th overall in the 1969 draft)  truly looked like a player with promise – and, in fact, enjoyed a big league cup of coffee with the Tigers in 1971 (two games, four at bats, two hits, one run, one RBI, one double). A wrist injury derailed his playing career, but didn’t dampen his love for the game and he went on to a long career as a scout. It was during his scouting days that Young developed a concern for the decline of baseball among young people – particularly in the inner cities.  In response, Young came up with the concept for the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program. Officially launched in 1989, the RBI program is now supported by all thirty MLB clubs and is active in approximately 200 communities – with more than 250,000 participants annually.  Overall, MLB teams have donated more than $30 million to the program. (The program also includes educational and life skills components.) A few RBI alumni in the major leagues include: Carl Crawford, Justin Upton, CC Sabathia, James Loney, Manny Machado and Yovani Gallardo.

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THE SHRINE OF THE ETERNALS:  2016 VOTING PERCENTAGES

Don Newcombe – 42.0%

Bo Jackson – 38.0%

Arnold Hano – 26.0%

Chet Brewer – 25.3%

Charlie Brown – 24.7%

Charlie Finley – 24.7%

Bob Costas – 24.0%

Rocky Colavito – 23.3%

Luke Easter – 22.7%

Charles M. Conlon – 21.3%

J.R. Richard – 21.3%

Effa Manley – 20.7%

Nancy Faust – 19.3%

Ernie Harwell – 19.3%

Hideo Nomo – 19.3%

Pete Reiser – 19.3%

Jose Canseco – 18.7%

Lisa Fernandez – 18.7%

Mamie Johnson – 18.7%

Dr. Mike Marshall – 18.7%

Bert Campaneris – 18.0%

Denny McLain – 17.3%

Rube Foster – 16.0%

Fred Merkle – 16.0%

Annie Savoy – 16.0%

Ted Kluszewski – 15.3%

Tug McGraw – 14.7%

Bing Russell – 14.7%

Rube Waddell – 14.7%

Reuben Berman – 14.0%

Joe Pepitone – 14.0%

Rusty Staub – 14.0%

Margaret Donahue – 13.3%

Phil Pote – 13.3%

Vic Power – 13.3%

Charley Pride – 13.3%

John Young – 13.3%

Octavius V. Catto – 12.0%

Daniel Okrent – 12.0%

Steve Wilstein – 12.0%

Dave Parker – 11.3%

Chris Von der Ahe – 11.3%

Mike Hessman – 10.7%

Dan Quisenberry – 10.7%

John Montgomery Ward – 10.0%

Wayne Doba – 7.3%

Isabel Alvarez – 6.7%

Emilio Cordova – 6.7%

Billy Scripture – 4.0%

Dr. David Tracy – 0.7%

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For a full list of past Shrine of Eternals honorees, click here.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

MLB Expansion Drafts – Each Team’s First and Most Interesting Picks

More then you’ll ever need (want?) to know about MLB’s Expansion Drafts – and the first and most interesting players taken by baseball’s 14 “new” franchises.

Eli Grba - first player taken in MLB's first expansion draft.

Eli Grba – first player taken in MLB’s first expansion draft.

Expansion drafts have fascinated BBRT since I was just a kid – drafting Strat-O-Matic teams with my baseball buddies. That interest was reenergized recently when I picked up an expansion team in a fantasy league – having to choose from players left unprotected by established teams. In this post, BBRT would like to take a look at MLB’s real expansion drafts – particularly the first player drafted by each expansion team and how those selections worked out.  In addition, I’ll (totally subjectively) comment on the players I think were the most interesting selections by each team in each draft.

Notably, first-pick selections in MLB’s seven Expansion Drafts ranged from a utility player with only 13 MLB at bats (Bob Bailor) to a former AL MVP (Bobby Shantz). And, when you further examine Expansion Draft first picks, you also find a pitcher who had started Game Four of the previous season’s World Series (Tony Saunders) and a veteran outfielder with a .292 career average (over seven seasons) who would go on to a 20-season MLB career (Manny Mota). But enough teasers, let’s take a look at each expansion team’s first and most interesting Expansion Draft picks.

1960 EXPANSION DRAFT – For 1961 Season ———————-

Eli Grba – RHP – First pick of the Angels, taken from the Yankees.

Eli Grba was the first-ever Expansion Draft selection (the Angels had first pick). The 26-year-old Grba had appeared in a total of 43 games (15 starts) and 131 major league innings for the Yankees in the 1959-60 seasons – going 8-9 with a 4.74 ERA and one save. He was considered a solid prospect (who already had some seasoning), coming off a 1960 season in which he went 7-1, 1.80 at Triple A before putting up a 6-4, 3.68 line for the Yankees.  Grba had a good season for the Angels in 1961 – winning 11 and losing 13, with a 4.25 ERA in 211 2/3 innings pitched.  Grba, however, was out of the major leagues by 1964, finishing with a 28-33, 4.67 (4 saves) record over five seasons.

Angels’ most interesting pick – 20-year-old RHP Dean Chance, taken from the Orioles. 

The Angels grabbed Chance from the Baltimore Orioles’ organization with the 51st pick in the draft.  Chance was clearly a “prospect pick.” Just 20, he already had two minor league seasons behind him (in which he had gone 22-12, with a 3.06 ERA). Chance spent most of 1961 at Triple A, getting into just five games with the Angels at the end of the season (0-2, 6.87 in 18 1/3 innings). In 1962, he was a 14-game winner for the Angels and, by 1964, he was an All Star and AL Cy Young Award winner (20-9, 1.65 with 11 complete-game shutouts).  A nice pick who had an 11-year MLB career, six seasons with the Angels.

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Bobby Shantz – LHP – First pick of the Senators, taken from the Yankees.

As much as the Angels went for potential, the expansion Senators appeared to go for experience – using their first pick on 35-year-old lefthander Bobby Shantz; a 12-year MLB veteran, three-time All Star and 1952 AL MVP.  Shantz, however, never played for the Senators. He was quickly traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Bennie Daniels, 3B Harry Bright and 1B R.C. Stevens. The players the Senators received for Shantz did provide some value. Daniels led the Senators in wins in 1961, going 12-11, 3.44. He stayed with the team four more seasons, picking up 25 more victories. Harry Bright hit .240-4-21 in 72 games for Washington in 1961, then set career highs at .273-17-67 for the team the following year (after which he was traded to the Reds). R.C. Stevens played in only 33 games for the Senators – hitting .129 in his last of four MLB season.

Senators’ most interesting pick – LHP Bobby Shantz (see the full Shantz story below).

Bobby Shantz – The Most Interesting Player in TWO MLB Expansion Drafts

Bobby Shantz - Boyhood Hero.

Bobby Shantz – Boyhood Hero.

Like the Dos Equis beer campaign’s “most interesting man in the world,”  Bobby Shantz was the most interesting player in not one, but two, MLB Expansion drafts – at least in BBRT’s estimation.

First, a disclaimer. As a youngster, I had a personal interest in the 5’ 6 “ Shantz.  My Dad was just 5’ 1” and it looked like I might follow in his (short stride and) footsteps.  Luckily, a growth spurt in my teens got me past my Dad’s mark to an average 5′ 9″. Before that growth spurt, however, Shantz was my assurance that the vertically challenged could succeed in the national pastime.

Let’s take a look at this most interesting of Expansion Draft picks (actually one of the more interesting MLB players period). Shantz – who was still under five-feet tall when he graduated from high school – was a natural athlete, excelling in everything from baseball to diving to gymnastics to ping pong. Still, when it came to professional opportunities, he was considered too small. Fortunately, a late growth spurt (some of which occurred during his military service) pushed Shantz up to 5’ 6″ and just shy of 140 pounds. After his discharge, some excellent results in sandlot ball earned Shantz a contract with the Philadelphia Athletics (most teams passed on Shantz due to his size).  In his first season of pro-ball (1948 … for the Class A Lincoln A’s), Shantz went 18-7, with a 2.82 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 214 innings – showing great control and a baffling curve ball. Shantz was on his way. By 1951, he was an All Star for the Athletics, finishing the season 18-10, with a 3.94 ERA. The following season, he reached his peak. While the Athletics finished barely above .500 (79-75, fourth place), Shantz went 24-7, 2.48 – leading the league in wins and winning percentage and throwing 27 complete games in 33 starts.  The campaign was topped off when Shantz was named the AL MVP.

The following season, however, Shantz fell victim to a shoulder injury that would create problems for him on-and-off for the remainder of his career. In 1957, Shantz was included in a 13-player trade (Athletics and Yankees). He proved a valuable addition to the Bronx Bombers, going 11-5, with a league-low 2.45 ERA (30 games, 21 starts). That year, he made his third and final All Star squad. He also started Game Two of the 1957 World Series, taking the loss in a 4-2 Braves victory.

In addition to making it to the World Series, Shantz also started an enviable streak in 1957.  Remember the earlier note that Shantz was a natural athlete? Well, in 1957, the first Gold Gloves were awarded. In that initial year, one Gold Glove was awarded for each position (not one for each position in each league) and Shantz was the first pitcher to earn a Gold Glove. The following season, Gold Gloves were awarded by league and Shantz won the AL Gold Glove for pitchers in each of the next three seasons. He moved to the NL in 1961, and won four more consecutive Gold Gloves (1961-64).

So, as we look to the 1960 Expansion Draft, we find Shantz – at the time a former MVP, three-time All Star and four-time Gold Glover unprotected by the Yankees. Shantz was the first pick of the Senators, who – two days later – traded him to the Pirates. As a reliever and spot starter for Pittsburgh, Shantz went 6-3, 3.32, with two saves (43 games, six starts).

Then came the 1961 draft. The Pirates did not protect Shantz and the former MVP was again a “draftee,”  selected by the Houston Colt .45’s with the number-21 pick.  Shantz started the first-ever game for Houston (April 10, 1962), beating the Cubs 11-2 on a complete game five-hitter.  He got three starts for Houston (1-1, 1.31) before a May 7 trade to the Cardinals (for OF Carl Warwick and P John Anderson). Shantz had a solid season as a reliever for Saint Louis – 5-3, 2.18 with four saves, and finished out his career as a reliever with the Cardinals, Cubs and Phillies He retired after the 1964 season with a 119-99, 3.38 record (48 saves) in 16 seasons – and BBRT’s vote as the most interesting player in the first – and second – Expansion Drafts.

 

1961 MLB EXPANSION DRAFT ——————————–

Eddie  Bressoud – SS/2B/3B – First pick of the Colt. .45s, taken from the Giants.

The 29-year-old Bressoud had been utility infielder with the Giants (1956-61) – versatile and capable in the field, with a .239 career batting average. Like Bobby Shantz (see above), Bressoud was not to play a single game for the team that made him their first draft pick.  He was traded to the Boston Red Sox for shortstop Don Buddin – which proved an unproductive move.  Buddin played in 40 games for the 1962 Colt .45s, hitting just .163 n 80 at bats before being moved to the Detroit Tigers for cash in mid-season. The slick-fielding Bressoud remained in the major leagues for six more seasons, making the AL All Star team in 1964, when he hit .293 in 158 games as the regular shortstop for the Red Sox. Bressoud closed out his MLB career as a member of the 1967 World Champion Cardinals.

Colt .45’s most interesting pick – Bobby Shantz, taken from the Pirates (see full story in box above).

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Hobie Landrith – C – First pick of the Mets, taken from the Giants.

Hobie Landrith had a dozen MLB seasons under his belt (primarily as a backup catcher, although he did play in 100+ games in 1956 and 1959) when the Mets made him their first Expansion Draft pick.  When asked about the reasoning behind this first pick, Met’s manager Casey Stengel is famously said to have replied, “You have to have catchers or you’re going to have a lot of passed balls.”  Like so many of these first expansion picks, Landrith was not long for his new team.  He played in just 23 games for the Mets (.289-1-7) before being traded to the Orioles for future Mets’ “legend” Marvelous Marv Throneberry. Landrith only played one more season in the big leagues. Throneberry was with the Mets in 1962 and 1963 (his last MLB season) – hitting .240 with 16 home runs and 50 RBI in 130 games. Marvelous Marv later gained fame as a spokesperson for Miller Lite beer.

Mets’ most interesting pick – 1B Gil Hodges, taken from the Dodgers. 

The Mets took 37-year-old veteran 1B Gil Hodges from the Dodgers with the 14th pick of the 1961 draft – bringing a Brooklyn Dodgers fan favorite back to New York. Hodges was an eight-time All Star, all with Brooklyn. He was also a three-time Gold Glover – one with Brooklyn, two with Los Angeles.  At the time he was drafted, Hodges had a .276 career average, 361 home runs and 1,254 RBI.  Hodges got in just 65 games in two seasons with the Mets, hitting .248, with nine homers and 20 RBI.  Hodges, appropriately, did hit the first home run in Mets’ history – on April 11, 1962. He was traded to the Washington Senators (for OF Jimmy Piersall) on May 23, 1963 – immediately retiring as a player to take over as the Senators’ manager (the purpose of the trade.)

1968 EXPANSION DRAFT ————————————–

Ollie Brown – RF – First pick of the Padres, taken from the Giants.

Ollie “Downtown” Brown, a plus defender with a strong arm, was the first pick of the expansion Padres – and it worked out well for Brown and the team.  A part-timer with the Giants (181 games from 1965-68), Brown became a staple in the outfield for the Padres.  In 1969, he played in 151 games for San Diego, hitting .264, with 20 HR’s and 61 RBI.  He did even better the following season – .292-23-89 in 139 games. He was a regular in the Padres’ OF until he was traded to Oakland in 1972. Brown stayed in the majors through 1977 (13 seasons), putting up a career average of .265, with 102 home runs and 454 RBI.

Padres’ most interesting pick – 1B Nate Colbert, taken from the Houston Astros.

The Padres took Nate Colbert with the 18th pick of the 1968 Expansion Draft and, while he had a .133 average in 39 games with the Astros (1966 & 1968), he immediately began living up to his potential with the Padres. (In 1967-1968, Colbert had hit 42 home runs at Double A and Triple A). The 23-year-old hit .255 with 24 home runs and 66 RBI in his first season in San Diego and went on to earn three All Star berths and hit 163 home runs in six seasons for the team. His best season was 1972, when he went .250-38-111 for the Padres. Colbert gained further fame on August 1, 1972, when he hit a record-tying five home runs in a double header.  Adding to the “interest factor” for BBRT is the fact the only other time that feat was accomplished (by Stan Musial on May 2, 1954), Colbert (then 8-years-old) was in the stands.

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Manny Mota – LF – First pick of the  Expos, taken from the Pirates.

Manny Mota, the Expos’ first-pick in the 1968 draft, played only 31 games for the team before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mota and Expos’ SS Maury Wills were traded to the Dodgers for OF/1B Ron Fairly and IF Paul Popovich in mid-June of the 1969 season. Mota was with the Dodgers until 1982 (an All Star in 1973), becoming one MLB’s most adept pinch hitters; while Wills (who started his career with the Dodgers) stayed with LA through the 1972 season. Fairly was a Montreal regular (and a 1973 All Star). In six seasons with the Expos, he hit .276, with 86 home runs and 331 RBI. Popovich was immediately traded to the Cubs for OF Adolfe Phillips and RHP Jack Lamabe. (Phillips hit .216 in 58 games for the Expos that season, Lamabe spent the season in the minors and never pitched in the major again.)

Expos’ most interesting pick – Maury Wills, taken from the Pirates.

The Expos selected Dodger SS Maury Wills with the 21st pick of the NL Expansion Draft.  The 36-year-old Wills was a five-time All Star, two-time Gold Glover, 1962 NL MVP and had led the NL in stolen bases six times. He’d spent most of his career with the Dodgers, but in the year preceding the Expansion Draft, he had hit .278, with 52 steals for the Pirates – who did not protect him in the draft. (Wills was traded by the Dodgers to the Pirates after the 1966 season, reportedly over a disagreement over payment for a team post-season tour of Japan.)  The 36-year-old Wills got into 47 games for the Expos (.222, 15 steals), before being traded back to his original team (the Dodgers), where he hit .297 with 25 more steals. Wills retired as a Dodger in 1972, with a .281 average and 586 stolen bases.

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Roger Nelson – RHP – First pick of the Royals, taken from the Orioles.

Roger Nelson had gone 4-3, 2.41 in 19 games (six starts) for the Royals in 1968 – after starting the season 3-0, 1.29 at AAA Rochester. At 24-years-old, he already had 6 years of professional experience when the Mariners made him their first choice.  Nelson started 29 games for the Royals, going 7-13, 3.31. He was with the team for three more seasons, his best being 1972, when he went 11-6, 2.08 at a starter and reliever. After the 1972 season, he was traded (along with OF Richie Scheinblum) to the Reds for Of Hal McCrae and RHP Wayne Simpson. McCrae would spend 15 seasons with Kansas City, compiling a .293 average for the team, earning three All Star selections and leading the  AL in doubles twice (54 in 1977 and 46 in 1982) and RBI once (133 in 1982).

Royals’ most interesting pick – RHP Hoyt Wilhelm from the Chicago White Sox.

Future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm was already 46-years-old, a four-time All Star and had appeared in more than 900 games when the Royals made him the 49th pick in the AL Expansion Draft. Who would have thought the ageless knuckleballer still had four seasons (including one All Star campaign) left in his arm. Apparently not the Royals, who quickly traded Wilhelm to the California Angels for a pair of catchers – Ed Kirkpatrick and Dennis Paepke. Kirkpatrick hit .248 with 56 home runs in six seasons with the Royals, while Paepke got in just 80 games (.183 average) in four Royals’ seasons. Wilhelm split the 1969 season with the Angels and Cubs, going 7-7, 2.19 (14 saves) in 52 appearances. In 1970, he split time with the Braves and Cubs, going 6-5, 3.40 with 13 saves and making his final All Star game. Wilhelm retired after the 1972 season (his 21st MLB campaign) having appeared in 1,070 games (none for the Royals), with a 143-122 record, 228 saves and a 2.52 career ERA.

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Don Mincher – 1B – First pick of the Pilots, taken from the Angels.

Don Mincher had established himself as a steady source of power when the Seattle Pilots made him their first choice in the 1968 Expansion Draft. In nine MLB seasons (Washington/Minnesota/California), Mincher had hit .248, with 130 home runs (despite averaging just 98 games per season), topping 20 homers in a season three times. The 31-year-old played in 140 games for Seattle in 1969, hitting .246, with a team-leading 25 home runs and 78 RBI (second on the Pilots to Tommy Davis’ 80). The Pilots, of course, moved to Milwaukee (to become the Brewers) in 1970 – but Mincher did not make the trip. The Pilots’ leading source of power was traded (along with infielder Ron Clark) to the Oakland A’s for pitchers Lew Krausse and Ken sanders, OF Mike Hershberger and C Phil Roof.

Pilots’ most interesting pick –OF Lou Piniella taken from the Indians. 

Wow, the Pilots had several interesting picks – Mike Marshall, who would go on to set records for relief appearances in a season in both the NL and AL; two-time batting champ Tommy Davis; and a 28-year-old outfielder named Tommy Harper, who would lead the AL in stolen bases for the Pilots with 73 in 1969 and join the 30-30 (HR/SB) club in 1970.

For BBRT, their most interesting pick was a 25-year-old outfielder named Lou Piniella, taken from the Indians with the 28th pick. The Pilots traded Piniella to the Royals (appropriately on April Fool’s Day) before the season opened (for RHP John Gelnar and OF Steve Whitaker).  The Pilots looked a bit foolish when Piniella went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors with the Royals – and then enjoyed an 18-season MLB career (.291 average, 102 home runs, 766 RBI), as well as a long career as an MLB manager.

1976 EXPANSION DRAFT —————————–

Ruppert Jones – CF –  First pick of Mariners, taken from the Royals.

Ruppert Jones began his professional career at age 18 (1973), hitting .301 in 61 games for the Royals’ rookie-level Billings (Montana) Mustangs. The next season – at Class A – he hit .320 with 21 home runs and 24 stolen bases.  In 1975 and 1976, he held his own at AAA (.243-13-54, with 12 steals; .262-19-73, with 16 steals). In 1976, he was called up to the Royals and made his MLB debut in August, but hit just .216 in 28 games.  The Mariners, however, recognized Jones’ potential and made him their first choice.  In his initial season with Seattle, Jones got in 160 games, hitting .263, with 24 home runs, 76 RBI and 13 steals – earning his first of two All Star selections (he was also an All Star with the 1982 Padres). Jones was with the Mariners for three seasons, before being traded to the Yankees in a six-player deal in November of 1979. Jones hit.250 with 147 home runs and stole 143 bases in a 12-year MLB career.

Mariners’ most interesting pick – Outfielder Dave Collins, taken from the Angels.  

The Mariners used their number-14 pick in the 1976 Expansion Draft to add some speed to their roster – in the form of 24-year-old, switch-hitting outfielder Dave Collins. Collins had spent a good portion of the 1975-76 seasons with the Angels, getting into 192 games and hitting .265 with 56 stolen bases. In 1977, he hit .239 (120 games) for the Mariners, and swiped 25 bags.  After the season, the Mariners traded Collins to the Reds for LHP Shane Rawley. Collins went on to a 16-year MLB career in which he hit .272, with 395 steals (a high of 79 for the Red in 1980.)  Collins hit over .300 thee times, with 1980 his best overall season – .303 average, 79 steals, 94 runs scored.) What makes Collins most “interesting” to BBRT is that he is one of a handful of players who played in the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association (for retired and released players over age 35) and made it back to the major leagues.  (For the story on the SPBA, click here.)

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Bob Bailor – Utility – First pick of the Blue Jays, taken from the Orioles.

In 1975 and 1976, Bob Bailor got the proverbial ”cup of coffee” in the big leagues – 14 games and 13 at bats with the Orioles. The versatile player had put up some pretty good minor league numbers – with a solid average and plenty of speed.  (In 1975, he hit .293 and swiped 21 bases at AAA.) Toronto made Bailor their first choice in the 1976 Expansion Draft and he responded with arguably his best MLB season, In 1977, Bailor put up a .310 average, with 5 home runs and 15 steals in 122 games; while playing all three OF spots and shortstop. Bailor hit.264 over an 11-year MLB career (four seasons with the Blue Jays) in which he spent time at every position except pitcher, catcher and first base.

Blue Jays’ most interesting pick – DH Rico Carty, taken from the Indians.  

While the Blue Jays went with diversity (of positions) with their first pick, their most interesting pick might have been a more limited player taken at number ten – Designated Hitter and former batting champ (.366 for the Braves in 1970) Rico Carty. Now here’s where (and why), it gets interesting – and yo-yo like.  The 37-year-old Carty was traded by the Blue Jays TO the Indians (for OF John Lowenstein and C Rick Cerone). Carty went on to a .280-15-80 season as the Indians’ primary DH. Then, during Spring Training 1978, the Blue Jays traded LHP Dennis DeBarr to the Indians FOR Carty.  The DH hit .284-20-68 for Toronto in 104 games before being traded TO the Oakland A’s (for DH Willie Horton and RHP Phil Huffman) in August.  In 41 games for Oakland, Carty hit .277 and added another 11 round trippers. That gave the DH a respectable .282-31-99 season. Then, in October 1978, the Blue Jays again ACQUIRED Carty (for cash this time). In 1979, with Toronto – his last MLB season –  Carty hit .256-12-55.  Carty probably should have retired one year earlier. In his 15-season MLB career, Carty hit .299 (204 home runs, 890 RBI). a .300 average would have been nice.

1992 EXPANSION DRAFT ———————————–

David Nied – RHP – First pick of the Rockies, taken from the Braves.

By the time of the 1992 draft, David Nied looked like a true prospect. In 1992, he had gone 14-9, 2.84 at Triple A and then 3-0, 1.17 in a call up to the Braves.  (In five minor league seasons, Nied had a 57-36 record, with a 3.26 ERA). The Rockies couldn’t resist and made Nied their number-one choice in the Expansion Draft. That first season, the 24-year-old Nied went 5-9, 5.17.He did start the first-ever Rockies’ game and pitch Colorado’s first-ever complete game and shutout.  The following year, he improved to 9-7, 4.80. Then in 1995, an elbow injury proved the first step in shortening his career (he was out of baseball by age 28).  In parts of four seasons with the high-air Rockies, Nied went 14-18, 5.47.

Rockies’ most interesting pick –  Vinny Castilla, taken from the Braves.

The Rockies used the number-forty pick to take a promising young (25-year-old) shortstop with just 21 games MLB experience from the Braves. His name was Vinny Castilla and in 105 games at SS for the Rockies in 1992, he hit .255, with nine home runs and 30 RBI – but there was much, much more to come. Castilla was moved to 3B and, in nine seasons with the Rockies, hit .294 with 239 home runs and 745 RBI – topping 40 HR’s three times and 100 RBI five times. Castilla had a 16-season MLB career, hitting .276, with 320 home runs and 1,105 RBI.

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Nigel Wilson – OF – First pick of the  Marlins, taken from the Blue Jays.

Being the Mariners’ first choice in the 1992 Expansion Draft was one of the highlights of Nigel Wilson’s MLB career – which was comprised of 22 games and 36 plate appearances, over three seasons (1993-95-96) with three teams (Marlins, Reds, Indians). That’s not to say Wilson had not shown promise.  In 1992, he hit .274, with 26 home runs and 13 stolen bases at Double A Knoxville.  This after a .301 season (12 homers, 27 steals) at High A Dunedin in 1991.  In 1993, Wilson got in only seven games for the Marlins, going zero-for-sixteen – although he did hit .293 with 17 home runs and eight steals for the Marlins’ AAA farm club.  Somehow, that minor league success never translated to the majors. Wilson’s final MLB line shows a .086 average (3-for-35) with two home runs and five RBI. Wilson did go on to have three seasons of 30+ home runs in Japan.

Marlins’ most interesting pick – RHP Trevor Hoffman, taken from the Reds.

Yes indeed, the Reds left Trevor Hoffman (who would go on  log 601 MLB saves) unprotected in the 1992 draft – and the Marlins grabbed him with the number-eight pick. Hoffman had not yet pitched in the major leagues and, in 1992, he had gone 7-6, 3.41 as a starter and reliever at Double A and Triple A. While the Reds didn’t protect him, the Marlins didn’t keep him. (Two wrongs don’t make a right.) Hoffman got in 28 games for the Marlins (2-2, 3.28, 2 saves) before being traded to the Padres (along with two minor league pitchers) for Gary Sheffield and relief pitcher Rich Rodriguez. The rest is history, 601 career saves (552 with San Diego), seven All Star selections, 14 seasons of over 30 saves, with a high of 53 in 1998.  I don’t think Hoffman will be wearing a Marlins’ hat when the HOF finally calls.

1997 EXPANSION DRAFT ——————————————–

Tony Saunders – LHP – First Pick of the Devil Rays, taken from the Marlins.

Signed by the Marlins in 1992, Tony Saunders made it t0 the major leagues in 1997 – after several strong minor league seasons. Between 199 and 1996, Saunders went 34-15, with a 2.85 ERA in nearly 400 minor league innings.  In 1997, he went 4-6, 4.61 in 22 games (21 starts) for the Marlins – and got a start in both the National League Championship Series and World Series. In his first season with the Devil Rays, Saunders went 6-15, 4.12 in 31 starts. The following year, his last in the major leagues, he went 3-3, 6.43 – before a broken arm (May 26) cut his season (and eventually his career) short. (In 2000, he broke the arm again during a rehab assignment.)

Devil Rays’ most interesting pick – Brooks Kieschnick, taken from the Cubs.

Okay, I thought of going with Saunders – based on his pitching in the World Series shortly before being given up in the draft. However, I was afraid you’d think I was getting lazy (this is a pretty long post), so I went with Kieschnick.  You’d be right to ask why, particularly since Kieschnick spent all his time with the Devil Rays in their minor league system. Kieschnick piqued my interest because he was a bit of a jack of all trades.  In 2003, while with the Brewers, Kieschnick became the first player to hit home runs as a pitcher, designated hitter and pinch hitter in the same season. For his MLB career, Kieschnick played 784 games at pitcher, 50 in the outfield, four at DH and two at 1B – and none for the Devil Rays.

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Brian Anderson – LHP – First pick of the Diamondbacks, taken  from the Indians.

Twenty-five-year-old southpaw Brian Anderson already had 58 major league appearances (20-16, 5.25 ERA) under his belt when the Diamondbacks made him their first choice in the 1997 draft. Like Devil Rays’ first pick Tony Saunders, Anderson pitched in the 1997 post season – making a combined six appearances in relief in the American League Championship Series and World Series. He pitched well in both, going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in ten innings. Still, like Saunders, he was left unprotected. The southpaw had a solid season for the expansion team in 1998, going 12-13, 4.33 in 32 starts. He stayed with Arizona for four more seasons ending his Diamondbacks’ tenure with a 41-32 record and 4.52 ERA. Anderson pitched for four teams in 13-season MLB career, going 82-83, 4.74.

Diamondback’s most interesting pick –  LHP Brian Anderson.

This is based on his World Series’ performance (see above) – just weeks before he was left unprotected in the draft.  Kind of a cop out, but I did need to recognize that the 1997 draft included two pitchers who, just weeks before, had been on the mound in the World Series.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Why We Watch Baseball – Always Something to See

 

clev2seatsThere are plenty of reasons to watch baseball.  You know what I’m talking about: The powerful bats of Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson; the glove work of Andrelton  Simmons and Kevin Kiermaier;  the speed of Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon; the mound work of Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arietta.  There are also the unfolding “stories” of rookies like Kevin Story and Jeremy Hazelbaker or veterans like Bartolo Colon and David Ortiz.

Yesterday, April 22, we saw examples of another group of reason we watch baseball –and should never leave early. I’m talking about those unique events and plays that make so many games memorable.

  • Fans in Chicago saw their White Sox complete a unique 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play. For those of you who don’t keep score, that means the ball went from the right fielder to the first baseman to the catcher to the shortstop back to the catcher and, finally, to the third baseman. It all started with the Texas Rangers having the bases loaded with no outs. The hitter (Mitch Moreland) lashed what looked to be base hit to right, only White Sox’ right fielder Adam Eaton ran it down. The runners were moving (assuming the safety), so Eaton fired to first baseman Jose Abreu, who put the tag on Texas’ returning base runner Ian Desmond (who overran the bag and was tagged out in foul territory). Abreu then threw to White Sox catcher Dioner Navarro (to prevent the runner on third from scoring). Navarro saw a Rangers’ base runner Adrian Beltre (who started the play on second base) stranded between second and third and fired to White Sox shortstop Tyler Saladino. At that point, Prince Fielder, the Texas runner at third, broke for home. So, Saladino threw back to Navarro, who threw to third baseman Todd Frazier to get the retreating Fielder for the final out of the triple play.  Great play, cast of thousands. THAT was worth the price of admission. (The White Sox, by the way, won the game 5-0.)

Any triple play news reminds BBRT of the time (July 17, 1990) that the Twins completed two traditional 5-4-3 triple plays in a game (the only time a team has achieved two triple play in  a single game) – and still lost 1-0. For the price of one admission, Boston fans got to enjoy the Fenway atmosphere, witness a home team victory and see history made.

  • Yesterday, fans in New York saw a little better base running than those in Chicago, as Yankees’ CF Jacob Ellsbury completed a clean steal of home in New York’s 6-3 win over the Rays. The steal came in the fifth inning off Rays’ starter Matt Moore.  With two out, Ellsbury and NY SS Didi Gregorius singled – and then were moved up to second and third on a balk. With LF Brett Gardner at the plate, the infield playing back and Moore pitching out of a full windup, Ellsbury saw an opportunity.  On a 3-1 count,  he broke for the plate as Moore went into his lineup.  Ellsbury was safe on a diving slide, and the pitch was ball four.  Again, that one play well worth the cost of a ticket.

Straight steals of home take BBRT back to 1969 when I was privileged to see Rod Carew steal home at old Met Stadium. (He swiped home seven times that season – one short of Ty Cobb’s AL and MLB record.) It also reminds me of the ironic (or iconic) fact that Babe Ruth stole home more times than Willie Mays or Maury Wills.

  • While fans in New York were treated to Ellsbury’s speed, Pittsburgh put on a power display last night. The Pirates 8-7 win over the Diamondback in Arizona featured home runs by SS Jordy Mercer, RF Gregory Polanco and 3B Sean Rodriguez. The special treat? They were three of the six longest home runs hit so far this season (as measured by Statcast). Mercer’s was the year’s longest at 466.1 feet; Polanco took over the number-five spot at 460.7 feet; and Rodriguez  powered in at number six at 458.5 feet. How likely was this? It was the first homer of the year for Mercer and Polanco and just the second for Rodriguez. Worth the price of admission? Maybe not in Arizona, but still a sight to see.

Back on September 14, 1987 – in an 18-3 win over the Orioles (in Toronto) – the Blue Jays hit a single-game record 10 home runs. The hitters:   C Ernie Whitt – 3 HR’s; 3B Rance Mulliniks – 2 HR’s; LF George Bell – 2 HRs; CF Lloyd Moseby; CF (replacement) Rob Ducey; DH Fred McGriff.  Love to have had that ticket.

Even as I write this post – while watching the Twins on TV – a unique point of interest is emerging. National’s starter Tanner Roark is pitching a two-hit shutout.  No so unusual, but he’s also fanned a dozen in just five innings.  And, he has already fanned every Twin in the starting lineup at least once.  History being made? Who knows.  Clearly a performance worth watching.

Interested is some baseball trivia and haven’t taken the BBRT quizzes yet?  Click here for Quiz One and here for Quiz Two.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Rookies with 35 or More Home Runs – Could this be a Trevor Story?

StoryOne of the top “stories” (pun intended) of the 2016 MLB season has been Colorado Rockies’ rookie shortstop Trevor Story – just 14 games into the season, Story has an MLB-leading eight home runs. That got BBRT to thinking: How many long balls would Story need to put himself into a top-ten spot on the all-time rookie leader board?  It appears a season of 35 home runs would do it – and that reaching the mark can portend a pretty long and successful career.  Let’s take a look at the past rookies who have reached 35 home runs.

 

 

 

 

ALL TIME ROOKIE SEASON HR LEADERS

49 HR … Mark McGwire, 1B,  A’s, 1987 – Age at start of rookie season: 23

Mark McGwire, who played in just 18 games for the A’s in 1986 (three home runs, nine RBI), retained his rookie status for 1987 – and he made the most of it.  McGwire played in 151 games, hitting .289 with an MLB (and AL) rookie-record 49 home runs and 118 RBI.  His performance was good for an All Star berth and the AL Rookie of the Year award.  Note: In 1985 and 1986, McGwire had hit 47 home runs and driven in 218 at A-AA-AAA.

McGwire went on to hit 583 home runs and collect 1,414 RBI in 16 MLB seasons – leading his league in HR’s four times (high of 70 HR’s in 1991) and RBI once (high of 147 in 1998 and 1999). McGwire was a 12-time All Star.  Nickname: Big Mac.

A little known fact about Mark McGwire – he was an AL Gold glove winner in 1990.

38 HR … Wally Berger, LF, Braves, 1930 – Age at start of rookie season: 24

Although he moved to CF in 1931, Wally Berger started out in LF with the Braves. He made the team in 1930 – after hitting .355 with 40 round trippers in the Pacific Coast League (then AA) the year before.  In his MLB rookie season, Berger hit .310, with 38 home runs (tied for the NL Rookie record) and 119 RBI. The 38 home runs was Berger’s career high. Berger was a four-time All Star in his 11-season MLB career – during which he hit .300, with 242 HR’s and 898 RBI. In 1935, he led the NL with 34 HR and 130 RBI.

Berger was the starting CF for the NL in the first MLB All Star game (1933).

38 HR …. Frank Robinson, OF, Reds, 1956 – Age at start of season: 20

Frank Robinson broke onto the MLB scene as a 20-year-old in 1956 by hitting .290, with 38 home runs (tied for the NL rookie record) and 83 RBI.  (In three minor league seasons, Robinson hit .320, with 54 home runs.) Robinson was an All Star and NL Rookie of the Year in 1956 – and he never looked back, earning his way into the Hall of Fame.  He ended his career in 1976 with a .294 average, 586 home runs and 1,812 RBI. He was an All Star in 12 seasons and won just about every award possible: NL Rookie of the Year (1956); NL Most Valuable Player (1961); AL MVP (1966); World Series MVP (1966); All Star Game MVP (1971); AL Triple Crown (1966); Gold Glover (1958). Nickname(s): The Judge; Pencils.

Robinson was the first African-American manager in both the AL (Indians 1975) and NL (Giants 1981).

37 HR … Al Rosen, 3B, Indians, 1950 – Age at start of rookie season: 26

Rosen’s strong minor league numbers, .328 average and 86 homers in five minor league seasons, earned him a call up to the Indians in 1947-48-49.  His service was brief, however, 54 at bats in 35 games – and he retained his rookie status when he opened the 1950 campaign with Cleveland. Rosen clearly delivered on his promise in that rookie season – .327-37-116; and he scored 100 runs and drew 100 walks. Rosen played ten MLB seasons, hitting .285, with 192 HR’s and 717 RBI. His best season was 1953, when he hit .336, with 43 HR’s and 145 RBI – all career highs. Rosen was an All Star in four seasons and the 1953 AL MVP. He led the AL in runs scored once, home runs twice and RBI twice.  Nickname(s): Flip; The Hebrew Hammer.

How the (All Star) game has changed. In the 1954 All Star contest, Al Rosen played 1B and 3B, had three hits and a walk in five plate appearances, scored twice, drove in five runs and hit two homers – all while playing with a broken finger. Rosen is one of only five players to hit two home runs in an All Star Game (Arky Vaughn -1941; Ted Williams – 1946; Rosen- 1954; Willie McCovey – 1969; Gary Carter – 1981) and one of only two players to drive in five runs in an All Star Game (Ted Williams – 1946; Rosen – 1954).

37 HR … Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals, 2001 – Age at start of rookie season: 21

Albert Pujols started the 2001 season with the Cardinals – following just one minor league campaign (A – High A – AAA) in which he hit .314 with 19 homers and 98 RBI. The 21-year-old rookie did even better at the major league level, hitting .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI – earning a spot on the All Star team and the NL Rookie of the Year award. That began a string of ten consecutive seasons of a batting average of .300+, 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. He almost has an eleventh. In 2011, the string was broken when he went .299-37-99. As this post is being prepared, Pujols is still active (16th season), has been an All Star in ten seasons, NL MVP three times (2005, 2008, 2009) and a Gold Glover twice.  He has led his league in runs scored five times, hits once, doubles once, HR’s twice, RBI once and batting average once.  He has a career average of .311, 562 home runs and 1,708 RBI (all those may change by the time you read this.)  Nickname(s); Prince Albert; The Machine.

In 2002, Albert Pujols played first base, third base, shortstop, left field, right field and designated hitter for the Cardinals.

36 HR … Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox, 2014 – Age at start of rookie season: 27

Jose Abreu joined the White Sox in 2014 after ten seasons as a star in Cuba (640 games, .341 average, 178 home runs, 583 RBI). The White Sox’ investment paid immediate dividends, as the 27-year-old MLB rookie hit .317, with 36 home runs and 107 RBI – making the All Star team and earning AL Rookie of Year honors. Abreu, still active, followed that up with a .290-30-101 campaign in 2015.

In 2010, playing for Elefantes de Cienfuegos, Abreu hit .453 (66 games), with 33 homers and 93 RBI.  His batting average and home run totals for 2009-10-11 were, respectively: .399-30 in 89 games; .453-33 in 66 games; and .394-35 in 87 games.

35 HR … Hal Trosky, 1B, 1934 – Age at start of rookie season: 21

In 1933, Hal Trosky blossomed at AA Toledo, hitting .323 with 33 home runs in 132 games – earning a call up to the Indians during which he hit.295 in 11 games.  Still a rookie in 1934, Trosky got into 154 games and hit .330,with 35 home runs and 142 RBI. He went on to an 11-season MLB career, hitting .302, with 228 homers and driving in 1,012 runs.  His career-best season was 1936, when he hit.343, with 42 HR’s and 162 RBI.

Hal Trosky never made an All Star team – blame the likes of Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

35 HR … Rudy York, C/1B/3B, Tigers, 1937 – Age at start of rookie season: 23

Rudy York showed his power potential early.  As a 21-year-old he hit .301, with 32 home runs at A-level Beaumont; then, at 22, he hit .334 with 37 home runs at Milwaukee (AA). In 1937, he was in the big leagues to stay – and he responded with a .307 average, accompanied by 35 home runs and 101 RBI – all in just 104 games. York went on to a 13-year MLB career in which he was an All Star in seven seasons and hit .275 with 277 home runs and 1,149 RBI. In 1943, he led the AL in home runs (34) and RBI (118), while compiling a .271 average.

Rudy York has the distinction of being the only hitter ever struck out by Ted Williams. On August 24, 1940, Williams came in from the outfield and pitched the final two innings of a 12-1 Red Sox loss to the Tigers (in Boston). It was Williams’ only career pitching appearance (he gave up one run on three hits) and was historic for Rudy York because he became the only player ever struck out by Ted Williams (on three pitches). Ironically, York went 4-5 with a double, two singles, a home run, three runs scored and five RBI off the regular members of the Red Sox’ mound staff before facing Williams.

35 HR … Ron Kittle, OF, White Sox, 1983 – Age at start of rookie season: 25

In 1983, White Sox rookie OF Ron Kittle started off his MLB career with a bang – a .254-35-100 season and the AL Rookie of the Year award. Despite a steady show of power over 10 MLB seasons, Kittle would never again reach 35 homers or 100 RBI. He wrapped up his career in 1991, with a .239 average, 176 home runs and 460 RBI.

The year before Ron Kittle made the major leagues to stay, he destroyed Triple A pitching,  In 127 games for the Pacific Coast League Edmonton Trappers, he hit .345, with 50 home runs and 144 RBI.

35 HR … Mike Piazza, C, Dodgers, 1993 – Age at start of rookie season: 24

In 1992, Mike Piazza earned the proverbial cup of coffee in the major leagues by hitting .350, with 23 home runs and 90 RBI at AA and AAA.  In 21 games with the Dodgers, he hit .232 with just one home run. 1993 would be a different story.  Piazza hit .318, with 35 homers and 112 RBI for the Dodgers – earning All Star recognition and NL Rookie of the Year honors. The ride continued for 14 more seasons – all the way to the Hall Of Fame.  While he never led his league in any category, Piazza was an exceptional offensive performer – an All Star in 12 seasons and nine-times a Silver Slugger Award winner. He retired after  the 2007 season with a .308 career average, 427 home runs and 1,335 RBI. Piazza topped 30 HR’s nine times, 100 RBI six times and a .300 average ten times. He holds the record for home runs as a catcher at 396.

Mike Piazza is lowest MLB Draft pick to make the Hall of Fame. He was chosen in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft – which means 1,389 played were chosen ahead of him.

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Immaculate Innings and More – Pounding the Zone

They’re called immaculate innings – striking out the side on nine consecutive pitches. Not that rare a feat – it’s been accomplished by 75 different pitchers. Rare, however, is the hurler who pitches an immaculate inning more than once in a career. That list is limited to four – and they are all Hall of Famers: Lefty Grove – who did it for the Athletics; Sandy Koufax – Dodgers; Nolan Ryan – Mets & Angels; and Randy Johnson – Astro & Diamondback). BBRT note:  Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher to throw an immaculate inning in both the AL and NL.  The Astros were in the NL when Johnson threw his for them.

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SANDY KOUFAX TOSSED A RECORD THREE IMMACULATE INNINGS

Why bring this up today?  Because April 18 is the anniversary of the date (in 1964) when Dodgers’ great Sandy Koufax became the first – and still only – pitcher to throw three immaculate innings in his career.  Koufax’ third  nine-strike, three-strikeout inning came in the third inning of a 3-0 loss to the Reds in LA and his victims were the 7-8-9 hitters: SS Leo Cardenas, C Johnny Edwards and P Jim Maloney.  Koufax gave up three runs on three hits and three walks (and six strikeouts) in that game.

Immaculate on the Big Stage

The only pitcher to throw a nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning in the World Series is the Royals’ Danny Jackson. On October 24, 1985, Jackson started Game Five of the Series against the Cardinals. He threw a complete-game, five-hitter in beating the Redbirds 6-1.  He walked three and struck out five, including 3B Terry Pendelton, C Tom Nieto and PH Brian Harper on nine pitches in the seventh inning. Jackson had gone 14-12, 3.42 in the regular season He had taken the loss in Game One of the Series, despite giving up only two runs (four hits, two walks, seven strikeouts) in seven innings. His Game Five win pulled the Royals to 3-2. They eventually won the series four games to three.

Koufax’  third immaculate inning came almost a year-to-date  after his second such inning. It happend on  April 19, 1963 – when he fanned Houston Colt .45’s 3B Bob Aspromonte, C Jim Campbell and P Turk Farrell (yes, the 7-8-9 hitters again) in the fifth inning  of a 2-0 home win over Houston.  In that contest, Koufax went the distance in a two-hit, two-walk, 14-strikeout victory. The southpaw’s first immaculate inning came on June 30, 1962. That time, he worked the top, rather than the bottom, of the order.  It came in the first inning of a 5-0 no- hit victory over the Mets (in LA) and the victims were LF Richie Ashburn, 3B Rod Kanehl and 2B Felix Mantilla.  Koufax walked five and struck out 13 in what was the first of four career no-hitters.

Pounding the Strike Zone

On April 18, 2012, the Oakland Athletics’ Bartolo Colon had a stretch of 38 straight strikes (from the second pitch of the fifth inning to seventh pitch of the eighth).  The stretch included 17 called strikes, 10 foul balls, 10 balls put into play – and, notably, only one swinging strike. Over the stretch, Colon recorded four ground outs, two strikeouts (one swinging), three fly outs, one pop out and two hits (a single and a double). For the game (he got the win), Colon went eight innings, giving up four hits and no runs, with no walks and five strikeouts.  The A’s topped the Angels 6-0.

IMMACULATE EXTRA INNINGS

Only two  immaculate innings have been thrown after the ninth inning:

  • Sloppy Thurston, White Sox, August 22, 1923 … Thurston, who came on in the 11th inning, threw and immaculate 12th before giving up a run in the 13th and taking the loss in a 3-2 Athletics victory.
  • Juan Perez, Phillies, July 8, 2011 … Perez came on (against the Braves) in the top of the tenth of a 2-2 game and fanned the side. The Phillies scored on a Raul Ibanez HR in the bottom of the inning to give Perez the win.

BBRT side note for Twins fans: While no Twin has ever thrown an immaculate inning, former-Twin LaTroy Hawkins tossed one for the Cubs (against the Marlins) on September 11, 2004. Hawkins came on in the ninth inning to save a 5-2 Cubs win and used just nine pitches to fan three tough hitters: 1B  Jeff Conine, RF Juan Encarnacion and SS Alex Gonzalez.  Here’s a list of pitchers who have thrown an immaculate inning while  facing only three batters in a game – in the ninth inning unless otherwise noted:

  • Jim Bunning, Tigers … August 2, 1959
  • Doug Jones, Brewers … September 23, 1977
  • Pedro Borbon, Reds … June 23, 1979
  • Jeff Montgomery, Royals … April 29, 1990
  • Stan Belinda, Royals … August 6, 1994
  • Todd Worrell, Dodgers … August 13, 1995
  • Ugueth Urbina, Expos … April 4, 2000
  • Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals …. April 13, 2002
  • Rafael Soriano, Rays … August 23, 2010
  • Juan Perez, Phillies, 10th inning … July 8, 2011
  • Steve Delabar, Blue Jays, 8th inning … July 30, 2013
  • Rex Brothers, Rockies, 8th inning… June 14, 2014
  • Sergio Casilla, Giants … May 7, 2015

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

 

 

Twins Home Opener – and MLB’s First Week

A look at the Minnesota Twins Home Opener – And, at the end of the post, some unique events from the first week of the MLB season.

 

 

“There is NOTHING like baseball’s Opening Day. The day drips with symbolism and elicits emotions across our community, our region, and our nation. Every opener should  be a day game. Every kid should have the opportunity to attend. In my view this, is a national holiday.”

                                                                   Dave St. Peter, Minnesota Twins President

 

od2016The first game of a new season (whether it’s part of MLB’s Opening Day or your team’s Home Opener) does indeed elicit strong emotions.  That may be especially true here in Minnesota, where the return of baseball is one of the most valued rewards for surviving the frigid winter.  Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there is no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Here in Minnesota we take a more active approach to winter, but from what I saw on the faces of fans heading for Target Field yesterday, Minnesotans have been eagerly anticipating the return of baseball, their Twins and spring.

Now, BBRT will not ignore the elephant in the room – the Twins’ seventh straight loss to open the season, a not very well-played game and a disappointing outcome for players and fans. This post, however, is more about the opening of a new season and the joy (and optimism) that surrounds the return of baseball each spring.

I’ll also take a look at a few events of Week One (and a day) of the 2016 MLB season that caught my attention.  Here’s a teaser of the kinds of observations you can expect.

The San Diego Padres started out the season by being shutout in their first three games (MLB record), including the most lopsided Opening Day shutout ever – a 15-0 loss to the Dodgers.  Conversely, the Dodgers tied a record, throwing three consecutive shutouts to open the season (full story, click here.)  That caught BBRT’s attention, and I was further intrigued by the fact that after scoring zero runs in their first three games, the Padres turned around and scored 29 in their next two (16-6 and 16-3 wins over the Rockies).

Now to the Twins’ home opener.

PRE-GAME

Home Opener festivities started at 6:00 a.m.  Yes, for those of you from other MLB cities, we “open” pretty much everything we do early here in the Minnesota.  Yesterday, between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m., approximately 1,200 fans made their way to the Target Field (by car, light rail, bus, bicycle and even on foot) to enjoy a complimentary baseball breakfast of brats, hot dogs and coffee – and perhaps share a high-five Twins’ mascot TC Bear.

Twins Fans Elizabeth Wallace and Paul Christensen from Edina showed true Minnesota spirit - enjoying cold pre-game beverages "al fresco," despite chilly temps and a brisk breeze.

Twins Fans Elizabeth Wallace and Paul Christensen from Edina showed true Minnesota spirit – enjoying cold pre-game beverages “al fresco,” despite chilly temps and a brisk breeze.

As game time grew closer, downtown Minneapolis parking lots, local eating and drinking establishments and the Target Field Plaza began to fill – despite a crisp 40-degree day (29-degree wind chill) – with fans wearing a variety of Twins’ gear, as well as an eclectic array of gloves, mittens, bomber hats, ear muffs and hoodies.

By noon the heart of Twins Territory was once again beating in downtown Minneapolis – as was the booming base of DJ Mad Mardigan, who was spinning lots of upbeat tunes for the large, festive crowd that had already gathered in the Target Field Plaza –  in anticipation of the 1:00 p.m. gate opening (3:10 game time). Plaza concession stands were open and doing an ironically (given the weather) “brisk” business and, as is always the case, there were plenty of fans taking photos with the statues outside the ballpark (Harmon Killebrew seemed the most popular), as well as sitting in the giant-sized baseball glove near Gate 34.

At one p.m., another Target Field tradition was honored as the ball park gates were opened to fans (and a new season of baseball) by a host of Twins’ legends, including Bert Blyleven, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Tom Kelly, Jack Morris, Dan Gladden, Rod Carew, and Catherine and Kirby Jr. representing the Puckett family.  Once fan got through the gates and past the bag check and  metal detectors, each was handed a free Twins hooded sweatshirt – a truly Minnesota-focused promotion that many fans immediately put to good use.  For a look at BBRT’s post on 2016 Twins’ promotional items, click here.

"Cluck and Moo" Bloody Mary..

“Cluck and Moo” Bloody Mary.

Once inside the ball park, early arrivals made their way to locations like Hrbek’s, Barrio, The Town Ball Tavern and Two Gingers Pub. At Hrbek’s (near Gate 14), the Prime Rib Sliders were popular and it seemed everyone with a smart phone wanted to take a selfie with the new Buffalo Chicken Wing or “Cluck and Moo” Bloody Mary’s. (Try to imagine a large Bloody Mary topped with a Bacon Cheeseburger on a stick and a chicken wing apparently trying to escape the glass.) One of the more popular early gathering spots was the new Minnie and Paul’s pub in center field – featuring food offerings from Pizza Luce and Red Cow, as well as plenty of beverage options.

The fact is, the Twins have done a great job of making a food and beverage experience part of the fans’ baseball experience.  I highly suggest you go to the game hungry.  Note:  BBRT would recommend the Chicken Tikka from Hot Indian Foods, washed down with a Mango Lassi (non-alcoholic) or Longfellow Lemonade (adult beverage). For a look at some of the new foods and beverages for 2016, click here.

The new Minnie and Paul's pub and The Catch in center field were popular - and in the sun.

The new Minnie and Paul’s pub and The Catch in center field were popular – and in the sun for the whole game.

After a bit of grazing, I made my way to my seat – Section 123, Row 20 Seat Five. Nice lower deck, not too far beyond third base. Other than the chilly breeze (“icy-cold wind” if you prefer), there was plenty of sun and a bright blue sky with just a few start white clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoyed the usual Opener activities (and a few unusual ones). Just a few highlights:

  • An MLB video explaining 2016 rule changes.
  • The introduction of staff, coaches and players from both teams (the largest rounds of applause went to Twins’ coaches Eddie Guardado and Tom Brunansky; manager Paul Molitor; and players Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and Trevor Plo-u-u-u-uffe.
  • The National Anthem, performed by local singer Caroline Smith, followed by an impressively low flyover by a pair of F-16’s from the Duluth-based 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard.

odIntroThen came what would prove to be the emotional highlight of the day – the ceremonial first pitch. Twins’ hero, Hall of Famer and seven-time batting champ Rod Carew – who suffered a near fatal heart attack in September  – received a long and warm standing ovation as he made his way to the infield to do the honors. The ovation continued as another Twins’ legend, three-time batting champion and former Carew roommate Tony Oliva delivered the ball to “Sir Rodney.”  Catching the pitch was another three-time batting title winner, Twins’ 1B Joe Mauer.  It was genuinely a feel-good moment – not indicative of what was to come once the pitching began in earnest.

MISCELLANY

Before we get into the game, a few other observations from 2016’s Game One at Target Field:

  • I know why they needed to add the expanded safety netting. Lots of fans were more interested in their cell phones than the action on the field.
  • Conversely, for the first time in quite awhile, I found myself surrounded by fellow scorecard keepers. (At least four within five or six seats of me.) That was reassuring.
  • Yay, a scorecard is still just a buck – and the Twins Magazine is still free.
  • Stadium blankets come in every imaginable color.
  • It seems everything is “sponsored” these days. We witnessed the “RentersWarehouse Challenge” in the eighth inning.
  • Minnesotans are extremely polite when it comes to standing in line and waiting your turn.
  • A fan near me documented the weather by using her phone to take a video of the steam rising from the wild rice soup she purchased mid-game.
  • Appropriately, one of the between innings songs was Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Unfortunately, they missed the chance to cue up “Cold As Ice” by Foreigner.

THE GAME

Okay, let’s be honest.  It was not a good game for the home squad – a seventh straight loss (the worst start in the team’s Minnesota history). On the offensive side of the ball, we saw the Twins go zero-for-six hitting with runners in scoring position, botch a bunt (resulting in a double play) and deliver some questionably conservative base running (at least in the fans’ eyes). On the defensive side, a wild pitch, a hit batsman, five walks, an error, and two unearned runs. Then, of course, there was the sunny – but chilly and windy afternoon. The fans’ frustration emerged with a scattering of un-Minnesota-like boos and a considerable number of empty seats by the eighth inning. The end result was a 4-1 loss to the visiting White Sox. (There, I told your I wouldn’t ignore the elephant in the room – but I am personally giving the Twins a mulligan on this one.)

THERE’S A LONG WAY TO GO

Needless to say, I have been reading and hearing a lot of post-game doom and gloom.  Let me just say, it is a long season.

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

                                                               Halll of Fame Pitcher Bob Feller

Stats folks have been quick to point out that of the thirty-eight teams that started an MLB season 0-7, only two were able to regroup and finish above .500; that the Twins have scored only 13 runs in seven games and are hitting an MLB-low  .091  with runner in scoring position; and that Twins’ hitters  and have more strikeouts than hits and walks.  (Then again, the Twins had only one win after seven contests last season and finished in second place at 83-79.)  Yes, it’s a depressing way to start the season – but there are 155 games to go.  Oh, and for those who wonder about such things, the worst start to a season in history belongs to the 1988 Orioles, who lost their first 21 games.

Cold Starts Can Be Overcome

In 1991, The Twins – coming off a last-place finish in a seven-team division – got off to a slow start.  As of April 20, they had a 2-9 record (worst in MLB), were 5 ½ games out of first, were riding a seven-game losing streak and had been outscored by 21 runs on the season. By season’s end the Twins had won 95 games – and had become the first MLB team to go from last place one season to World Series Champions the next.

What of 2016?  Well, it’s time for the Twins to dig deep and put a few wins on the board.

“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once  in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.”

                                                             Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

So, it’s time for the Twins to go out and prove something.

With that, let’s look at a few unique happenings  from the 2016 season’s first week.

A FEW OPENING WEEK OBSERVATIONS

  • Pinch Hitter(s) indeed – a record falls.

On April 8, the Cardinals used three pinch hitters against the Braves and set an MLB record by launching three pinch-hit home runs in a single game (several teams shared the previous record at two). It started with one out in the top of the seventh and the Redbirds trailing the Braves 4-3. Jeremy Hazelbaker pinch-hit for pitcher Jaime Garcia and tied the game on a home run to right-center off Matt Wisler. In the top of the eighth, Aledmys Diaz pinch hit for 1B Matt Adams to lead off the inning – and gave the Cardinals the lead (5-4) on a home run to left off Eric O’Flaherty. Then, with one out in the top of the ninth, Greg Garcia pinch-hit for pitcher Kevin Siegrist and homered to right off John Gant.  The final?  Cardinals 7 – Braves 4.  How likely was this combination? Garcia had two career MLB home runs coming into the game; Hazelkbaker had one; and Diaz had zero.

  • Pinch-hitter, indeed – another record falls.

The Tigers opened the 2016 season on April 5 in Miami. That meant playing by National League rules, putting designated hitter Victor Martinez in an uncomfortable spot – on the bench. That didn’t stop Martinez was putting himself on the AL home run leader board.  According to the Tigers, Martinez became the first player to go deep as pinch-hitter in the first two games of the season (for at least as far back as the research goes – 1914).

Martinez’ Opening Day homer came in the top of the ninth, a solo shot to center (pinch-hitting for pitcher Mark Lowe) that gave Detroit a 7-4 lead.  It turned out to be meaningful blast, as the Marlins tied it at seven in the bottom of the inning. (The Tigers went on to win 8-7 in 11 innings).

The next day, Martinez was called upon to pinch hit for pitcher Justin Wilson with one on and two out in the top of the eighth (Tigers leading 5-2). This time he delivered a two-run shot to left-center.  (Detroit won the contest 7-3).

  • A Storybook beginning.

Colorado SS Trevor Story staked his claim as a Rookie of the year candidate right out of the gate. On Opening Day (April 4). The rookie went two -for-six, with two home runs and four RBI – becoming the first rookie to homer twice while making his debt on Opening Day. The very next day, he went one-for-four – with a solo home run. Then on April 6, he added a fourth home run – a two-run shot in the first inning. After an off  day, he continued his power surge on April 8, being two more round trippers.  At week’s end (end of play Sunday), Story had played in six games, held a .357 average, with seven home runs and 12 RBI.  For more on some of the records Story set or tied and a look at four other players who homered in the first four games of a season, click here.

  • More Why I Hate the DH.

On April 9, Giants fans settled in for an epic pitching duel – as San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner faced off against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.  They got the expected mound battle, as the Giants loss to the Dodgers 3-2 in ten innings; with the two starters going a combined 14 innings, giving up three runs and fanning 13. What caught BBRT’s eye was Bumgarner’s  home run off Kershaw in the second inning.  It was Madbum’s second career homer off the Dodgers’ ace – making him one of only 15 players to take Kershaw deep twice.  It was also Bumgarner’s twelfth career homer – tying him with Yovani Gallardo for the most among active pitchers.

On April 10, last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, not only earned his second win of the week (Cubs 7 – D-backs 3), but also hit a 440-foot, two-run home run to left center – the culmination of an eight-pitch at bat against Shelby Miller.

  • An Unruly situation.

Only a week into the season and the new infield slide rule has already had a significant impact on the outcome of two MLB games – prompting early calls for its adjustment.

  • A few team stats over the first week (and a day) – stats through Sunday:
    • The Cardinals led all of MLB in fielding miscues – 10 errors in six games. The Nationals, Tigers and Giants had committed just one error each (Giants in seven games, Tigers and Nats four games).
    • The Cardinals also led MLB in free passes, issuing 31 walks in six games, while the Mets walked just seven in five contests.
    • Toronto pitchers fanned the most hitters (64 in seven games), while Clevelands hard-throwing staff fanned the fewest (28, but in only only four games).When you factor in innings pitched, the Orioles were your K leaders with 10.8 per nine innings, while the Rangers are at the bottom at 5.69.
    • Baltimore had MLB’s lowest team ERA at 1.80; Colorado the highest at 7.98.
    • Colorado led all teams in home runs (17 in six games), while the Angels were on the bottom with just one (six games).
    • Minnesota batters struck out an MLB-leading 72 times (does not include Monday’s Home Opener) – exactly twice as many at San Francisco (36 whiffs in seven games).

A Final Thought on Opening Day

On Opening Day, the sun seems a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, the grass a deeper shade of green. Once the game begins, the ball hops off the bat with an especially sharp crack, the pitches seem to have more zip and whir-r-r than ever and the fielders move with a unique combination of grace and energy.  In the stands, the beer is crisp and cold and the hot dogs steam in the cool of early spring.  The fans cheer on their old and new heroes and follow this opening contest with pennant race intensity – the most intense among them logging each play in the new season’s first scorecard.   Baseball Is Back!

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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

Everyone Loves a Good (Trevor) Story

Last April, BBRT featured a blog post about the historic start to Kansas City outfielder Paulo Orlando’s MLB career. On April 9, the 29-year-old rookie collected his first major league hit – a triple to deep center.  Orlando’s next start came on April 12.  In that game, he collected two hits in five at bats (and scored three runs). Not really unusual, unless you consider the fact that both his hits were triples –  making Orland0 the first player ever to log triples for his first three MLB hits.  Notably, in his next two games, Orlando added two more hits – a triple and a single.  So, after four MLB games, Orlando had five hits, four of them triples.

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This season, we’ve all been reading about a rookie who has gone Orlando one base, two games (and more) better. I’m talking, of course, about Rockies rookie SS Trevor Story, who has homered in each of this season’s four Rockies’ contests (which also happen to be Story’s first four MLB games.  In those for games, Story has gone 7-for-19 (.368), with six home runs (his first four MLB hits were homers), six runs scored and 11 RBI. In the process, Story has become the:

  • First player to hit two home runs in an Opening Day MLB debut (the fifth to hit two round trippers in his debut regardless of the day of the season).
  • First player whose first four major-league hits went yard.
  • First player to homer in his first four MLB games.
  • Fifth player to hit home runs in the first four games of a season: Willie Mays, Giants (1971); Mark McGwire, Cardinals (1998); Nelson Cruz, Rangers (2011); Chris Davis, Orioles (2013).
  • First player to hit six home runs in the first four games of a season.

Homers in First Four Games of a Season

Willie Mays (1971)

 7-for-18 (.388); five runs; one double’ one triple; five home runs; nine RBI.

Mark McGwire (1998)

7-for-16 (.438); five runs; one double; fuor home runs; 12 RBI.

Nelson Cruz (2011)

5-for-14 (.357); five runs; four home runs; four RBI.

Chris Davis (2013)

9-for-15 (.600); five runs; three doubles; four home runs; 16 RBI.

Trevor Story (2016)

7-for-19 (.368); six runs; six home runs; 11 RBI.

Next stop of the list?  The record for consecutive games with a home run is eight: Dale Long, Pirates (1956); Don Mattingly, Yankees (1987).

So, today, the Story continues.