Scooter Joins Rocky, The Iron Horse and the Hammerin’ Hoosier – 4-HR Games

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Players who rap four home runs in a game (which, by the way is rarer than a pitcher’s perfect game) usually have (well-earned) nicknames like Rocky, The Iron Horse or The Hammerin’ Hoosier.  Yesterday (June 6), an uncharacteristic “Scooter” was added to the list (now 17 players long) of major leaguers with four home runs in a single game.  I’m talking, of course, about the Reds’ Ryan “Scooter” Gennett – the 27-year-old (5’10”, 185-pound) utility player who went four-for-five, with four home runs, four runs scored and ten RBI as the Reds’ topped the Cardinals 13-1 in Cincinnati.  Gennett came into the game with three home runs on the season. Let’s look at how Gennett and his big game compare to others on the four-homer list.

  • Gennett blasted his four long balls in front of a home crowd; 12 of the 17 four-homer games have been achieved “on the road.”
  • Gennett’s ten RBI were the second most in a four-homer game. The Cardinals’ Mark Whiten’s 12 RBI (September 7, 1993) are the record, not just for a four-homer game, but for any MLB game (tied). The Mariners’ Mike Cameron (May 2, 2002) is the only player to drive in the minimum four runs in a four-homer game.
  • Gennett and Mark Whiten are the only players to include a Grand Slam in their four-homer contest.
  • Gennett came out on the winning end of the Reds/Cardinals matchup, only two players – the Phillies’ Ed Delahanty (July 13, 1896) and Braves’ Bob Horner (July 6, 1986) hit four home runs in a losing cause.
  • At 27-years-old, Gennett is the seventh-youngest player to hit four homers in a game. The youngest is the White Sox’ Pat Seerey (July 18, 1948) at 25 years -four months – one day.  The oldest is the Blue Jays’ Carlos Delgado (September 25, 2003) at 32-years-old.
  • Gennett, a utility player, was in left field for the game – the second left fielder to accomplish the feat. Four-homer games have been achieved by: six first baseman; four center fielders; three right fielders; two left fielders; one third baseman; and one second baseman.
  • Gennett was batting fifth in the order. Fourth (appropriately cleanup) is the most popular lineup spot for a four-home contest – seven times. Other spots: third – four times; fifth – twice; sixth – twice; seventh – once; leadoff – once.
  • Gennett scored four times and had 17 total bases. The Dodgers’ Shawn Green holds the top spot for four homer-games with six runs scored and 19 total bases (also the MLB record for total bases in any MLB game).
  • Gennett had a total of 38 career homers before his four-homer game, tied with Mark Whiten for the fewest ever for a player at the time he notched a four-homer contest. (Whiten ended his career with 105 homers).
  • Gennett now has a total of 42 career home runs (he is in his fifth MLB season). The Giants’ Willie Mays (April 30, 1961) has the most career home runs of a player with a four-homer game at 660. The player with the fewest is the Beaneaters’ Bobby Lower (May 30, 1894) with 71.
  • The fewest home runs hit by a player in the season in which he had a four homer game is 13 by Ed Delahanty, who went .397-13-126 in 1896. (The 13 HR’s did lead the league.) The most home runs hit by a player in a season in which he had a four-homer game is 43 by the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton in 2012.
  • Three players have won the home run crown in the year of their four-homer games: the Phillies’ Ed Delahanty (1896); Indians’ Rocky Colavito (1959); Phillies’ Mike Schmidt (1976).

Below is a list – and brief  wrap up – of the 16 players in big league history to record a four-homer game before Scooter Gennett.

Josh Hamilton, CF, Rangers, May 8, 2012 …. Hamilton (hitting in the number-three spot) went five-for-five (four home runs and double), scored four and drove in eight as his Rangers topped the Orioles 10-3 in Baltimore. The homers were his 11th-14th of the season. The 6’4”, 240-lb., 30-year-old outfielder finished the 2012 season at .285-43-128 and his nine-season MLB career at .290-200-701.  Hamilton had a career-high 43 home runs in 2012 and also had two seasons of 30+ round trippers.

Carlos Delgado, 1B, Blue Jays, Sept. 25, 2003 … Delgado (batting cleanup) went four-for-four, scored four and drove in six as his Blue Jays bested the Devil Rays 10-8 in Toronto. The homers were his 38th-41st of the season. The 6’3”, 215-lb., 31-year-old finished the 2003 season at .302-42-145 and his 17-season MLB career at .280-473-1,512.  Delgado had a career-high 44 home runs in 1999 and had 11 seasons of 30+ round trippers (three of 40+).

Shawn Green, RF, Dodgers, May 23, 2002 … Green (batting in the number-three hole) went six-for-six (four homers, one double, one single), scored six times and drove in seven as the Dodgers beat the Brewers 16-3 in Milwaukee. The homers were his sixth-ninth of the season. The 6’4”, 190-lb., 29-year-old finished the 2002 season at .285-42-114 and his 15-season MLB career at .283-328-1,070.  Green had a career-high 49 home runs in 2001 and had four seasons of 30+ round trippers (three of 40+).

Mike Cameron, CF, Mariners, May 2, 2002 … Cameron (batting cleanup) went four-for-five, scored four and drove in four as the Mariners blasted the White Sox 15-4 in Chicago. The homers were his sixth-ninth of the season. The 6’2”, 210-lb., 29-year-old finished the 2002 season at .239-25-80 and his 17-season MLB career at .249-278-968.  Cameron had a career-high 30 home runs in 2004; and had seven seasons of 20 or more.

Mark Whiten, CF, Cardinals, Sept. 7, 1993 … Whiten (batting in the seventh spot) went four-for-four, scored four and drove in 12 as the Cardinals battered the Reds 15-2 in Cincinnati. The homers were his 19th-22nd of the season. The 6’3”, 210-lb., 26-year-old finished the 1993 season at .253-25-99 and his 11-season MLB career at .259-105-423.  Whiten’s 25 home runs in 1993 were a career high, he had just one other campaign of 20+ long balls.

Bob Horner, 1B, Braves, July 6, 1986 … Horner (batting cleanup) went four-for-five, scored four and drove in six as his Braves lost to the Expos 11-8 in Atlanta.  The homers were his 14th-17th of the season. The 6’1”, 195-lb., 28-year-old finished the 1986 season at .273-27-87 and his 10-season MLB career at .277-218-685.  Horner had a career-high 35 home runs in 1980 and had three seasons of 30+ round trippers.

Mike Schmidt, 3B, Phillies, April 17, 1976 Schmidt (batting sixth) went five-for-six (four homers and a single), scored four and drove in eight as his Phillies edged the Cubs 18-16 in Chicago – in a game that featured 43 combined hits and nine homers. The homers were Schmidt’s second-fifth of the young season. The 6’2”, 195-lb., 26-year-old finished the 1976 season at .262-38-107 and his 18-season MLB career at .267-548-1,595.  Schmidt had a career-high 48 home runs in 1980 and had 13 seasons of 30+ round trippers (three of 40+).

Willie Mays, CF, Giants, April 30, 1961 … Mays (batting third) went four-for-five, scored four and drove in eight as his Giants beat the Braves 14-4 in Milwaukee. The homers were his third-fifth of the season. The 5’10”, 170-lb., 29-year-old finished the 1961 season at .308-40-123 and his 22-season MLB career at .302-660-1,903.  Mays had a career-high 52 home runs in 1965 and had 11 seasons of 30+ round trippers (two of 50+ and another four of 40+).

Rocky Colavito, RF, Indians, June 10, 1959 … Colavito (batting fourth) went four-for-four (one walk), scored five and drove in six as the Indians topped the Orioles 11-8 in Baltimore. The homers were his 15th-18th of the season. The 6’3”, 190-lb., 25-year-old finished the 1959 season at .357-42-111 and his 14-season MLB career at .266-374-1,159.  Colavito had a career-high 42 home runs in 1959 and had seven seasons of 30 or more round trippers (three of 40+).

Joe Adcock, 1B, Braves, July 31, 1954 … Adcock (batting fifth) went five-for-five (four home runs and a double), scored five runs and drove in seven, as the Braves beat the Dodgers 15-7 in Brooklyn. The homers were his 16th-19th of the season. The 6’4”, 210-lb., 26-year-old finished the 1954 season at .308-23-87 and his 17-season MLB career at .277-336-1,122.  Adcock had a career-high 38 home runs in 1956 and had two seasons of 30+ round trippers.

Gil Hodges, 1B, Dodgers, Aug. 31, 1950 … Hodges (batting sixth) went five-for-six (four home runs and a single), scored five times and drove in nine as the Dodgers bested the Braves 19-3 in Brooklyn. The homers were his 20th-23rd of the season. The 6’1”, 200-lb., 26-year-old finished the 1950 season at .283-32-113 and his 18-season MLB career at .273-370-1,274.  Hodges had a career-high 42 home runs in 1954 and had six seasons of 30+ round trippers (two of 40 or more).

Pat Seerey, LF, White Sox, July 18, 1948 … Seerey (batting fourth)  went four-for-seven (also had a walk), scored four times and knocked in seven runs as his White Sox topped the Athletics 12-11 in the first game of a double header in Philadelphia. The homers were his eighth-eleventh of the season. The 5’10”, 200-lb., 25-year-old finished the 1948 season at .231-19-70 and his seven-season MLB career at .224-86-261.  Seerey had a career-high 26 home runs in 1946 – his only season of 20 or more.

Chuck Klein, RF, Phillies, July 10, 1936 … Klein (batting third) went four-for-five, scored four and drove in six as the Phillies beat the Pirates 9-6 in Pittsburgh. The homers were his 11th-14th of the season. The 6’, 185-lb., 31-year-old finished the 1936 season at .306-25-104 and his 17-season MLB career at .320-300-1.201.  Klein had a career-high 43 home runs in 1929 and had four seasons of 30+ round trippers (two of 40+).

Lou Gehrig, 1B, Yankees, June 3, 1932 … Gehrig (batting cleanup) went four-for-six, scored four and drove in six as the Yankees outlasted the Athletics 20-13 in Philadelphia. The homers were his 8th-11th of the season. The 6’, 200-lb., 28-year-old finished the 1932 season at .349-34-151 and his 17-season MLB career at .340-493-1,995.  Gehrig had a career-high 52 home runs in 1927 and had 12 seasons of 30+ round trippers (seven of 40 or more).

Ed Delahanty, 1B, Phillies, July 13, 1896 … Delahanty (batting cleanup) went five-for-five (four homers and a single), scored four and drove in nine as his Phillies lost to the Colts (Cubs) 9-8 in Chicago. The 6’1”, 170-lb., 28-year-old finished the 1896 season at .397-13-126 (the 13 home runs led the NL) and his 16-season MLB career at .346-101-1,466.  Delahanty had a career-high 19 home runs in 1893.

Bobby Lowe, 2B, Beaneaters, May 30, 1894 … Lowe (batting leadoff) went five-for-six (four home runs and a single), scored four and drove in six as his Beaneaters (Braves) beat the Reds 20-11 in Boston.  The 5’10”, 150-lb., 28-year-old finished the 1894 season at .346-17-114 and his 18-season MLB career at .273-71-989.  Lowe’s 17 homers in 1894 were his career high.

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

 

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MLB in May – The Astros, The Long Ball, Rocky Mountain Surprise

The Astros did a lot of celebrating in May. Photo by Keith Allison

The Astros did a lot of celebrating in May.
Photo by Keith Allison

It’s June 1, and that means it’s time for Baseball Roundtable’s second monthly wrap up of the 2017 season. We’ll be taking a look at leaders and losers (statistically – for May and season-to-date), as well as unique events and trends that caught BBRT’s attention.

Two things jumnp out when I reflect on May in the Major Leagues – the Houston Astros and the long ball.

 —- The Astros —-

First, the Astros. May was, indeed, their month. How dominate were the boys from Houston? In May, the Astros:

  • Went 22-7 – the only team to reach twenty wins and the only team to play .700+ball (.759).
  • Led all of MLB with 180 runs scored and gave up MLB’s sixth-fewest (and the AL’s second-fewest) runs at 113.
  • Had and MLB-best plus-67 run differential.
  • Led MLB in batting average (.280), base hits (281), and home runs (52, tied with the Rays) and total bases (502).
  • Led all of MLB in pitchers’ strikeouts (299) and had the AL’s lowest ERA (3.60).
  • Tied for the MLB lead in shutouts (3).
  • Led MLB in saves (11, tied with the Rays).

All in all, a good month if you were an Astro.

— The Long Ball — 

Major Leaguers mashed 1,060 home runs in May – the second-most of any month in MLB history.  The only month with more long balls was May of 2000 … and, of course, we have a special designation for that “era.”

Looking at the month, Minnesota’s Target Field was the site of the most May roundtrippers (66), while the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays propelled the most baseballs out of the park (52 each). The Marlins’ Justin Bour did more for the near-record than any other player, going deep eleven times.  The A’s Yonder Alonso and Rays’ Logan Morrison also reach double digits in home runs during the month.

— A Few Additional Observations —

During May:

  • The Rockies Charlie Blackmon split up his extra base hits  pretty evenly: six doubles, six homers and an MLB-leading five triples. As of May 31, he leads MLB with eight three-baggers; no one else has more than four.
  • The Rangers ran off a season’s-best ten game winning streak – in which ten different pitchers recorded victories.
  • Joe Maddon notched his 1,000 career win; Albert Pujols his 599th home run.
  • We saw the second and third “immaculate innings” (three strikeouts  on nine pitches).
  • With eight saves in May, the Rockies’ Greg Holland is now 19-for-19 in 2017 save opportunities.
  • The Red Sox needed FOUR strikes in the ninth inning of a game against the Rangers to tie the record for K’s in a nine-inning contest – and they got them.

These events –  and more on the month and season – covered as you read on. 

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First, a look at Baseball Roundtable’s Players and Pitchers of the Month for May.

—–BBRT PLAYERS/PITCHERS OF THE MONTH (MAY 2017)—–

AL Player of the Month – Carlos Correa, SS, Astros

Carlos Correa mlb photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Carlos Correa, the Astros’ 22-year-old SS (already in his third MLB season), had an outstanding month of May, putting up an MLB-best  .386  average, with 22 runs scored, an AL-leading 26 RBI and seven  home runs. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year – one of the current crop of good young MLB shortstops – just seems to keep getting better (and he has a solid line up around him to help him on that journey). Coming in a close second was Blue Jays’ veteran RF Jose Bautista, who came off a terrible start (.178-1-7 in April) to go  .317-9-21 in May. Bautists also scored 23 runs, and even tossed in a pair fo stolen baes.  Others in the  running were:  Yankees’ LF Brett Gardner (.327-9-21) and  Astros’ LF Marwin Gonzalez (.382-7-22).

AL Pitcher of the Month – Lance McCullers, Astros

Houston righty Lance McCullers went 4-0 (six starts), but more importantly, notched a 0.99 ERA over 36 1/3 innings pitched (37 strikeouts, 21 hits, 10 walks).  In the running were: Twins’ RHP Erwin Santana (3-2, 2.57 in May) and Red Sox’ southpaw Chris Sale (5-0, 4.24, with an AL-high 58 May strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings pitched).

NL Player of the Month – Charlie Blackmon, CF, Rockies

Rockies’ CF Charlie Blackmon put it all together in May – .359 average, six home runs, 24 runs scored and 22 RBI, not to mention five triples and three steals in four attempts. The seven-season MLB veteran (with a .300 career average) is a good part of the reason Colorado is fighting for the lead in the AL West. Finishing close beind were: the Marlns’ 1B Justin Bour, who led MLB in May home runs with 11, adding a .344 average and 21 RBI; and the Reds’ Adam Duvall (.291, with seven homers and an MLB-leading 28 RBI.

NL Pitcher of the Month – Alex Wood, Dodgers

WoodDodger lefty Alex Wood got off to a rough start in May – giving up five runs (four earned) in five innigns against the Giants on May 2. Still, his Dodgers scored 13 runs for the southpaw and he got the win.  Things turned around after that. The 26-year-old Wood (in his fifth MLB season) reeled off four more wins in May (the only NL pitcher to notch five victories in the month) and did not give up a single earned run in his final four May starts. Wood went 5-0 in May, with a 1.27 ERA and 41 strikeouts (versus seven walks) in 28 1/3 innings.

Unfortunately, he ended the month on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Woods now stands 6-0, 1.69 on the season (10 appearances/eight starts). His best season was 2013 – 11-11, 2.78 with 170 strikeouts in 171 2/3 innings for the Braves. Others in the running: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (4-0, 2.78, 43 strikeouts in 32 ½ innings) and Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks (3-2, 2.56, with 45 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings).

ROCKIES’ SURPRISES – SOMETHING OLD/SOMETING NEW

A couple of Rockies players have surprised me this season – a 33-year-old veteran and a 22-year-old rookie.  Let’s start with the rookie – RHP Antonio Senzatela. Name not ring a bell?  Check the top of the MLB  leaderboard in wins. Zenzatela finished May at 7-2, 3.49.  In his sixth season in the Rockies’ system (in 2012, as a 17-year-old, he went 5-2, 0.72 in the Domincan Summer League), Senzatela made the jump from Double A to the big leagues. In five minor league seasons, he was 41-19, 2.45.

Now the veteran. In his eleventh MLB season, Mark Reynolds has played for the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Yankees, Brewers, Cardinals and, now, the Rockies. He’s been known as a low-average, but dependable, source of power.  (He also led his league in strikeouts four straight seasons – 2008-2011 – and holds the record for most whiff in a season at 223 in 2009). In his first nine seasons, Reynolds put up a .230 average, with 237 home runs and one strikeout for every 2.75 at bats. Colorado seems to agree with Reynolds – averaging .291 with one strikeout for every 3.64 at bats since joining the Rockies in 2016.  So far this season (through May 31), Reynolds stands at .308-13-44). 

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TEAM PERFORMACE/STANDINGS

Now. lets check on team performance and standings. (More on individual stats later.) If the season ended at the close of play May 31, your playoff teams would be:

AL: Astros, Yankees, Twins or Indians. Wild Cards: Red Sox; Orioles, Twins or Indians.

The Astros have a comfortable 11-game lead in the AL West – where they not only have MLB’s best winning percentage AT .704, but are the only team in their division playing above .500 ball. The closest AL race is in the Central, where the Twins and Indians are tied atop the standings.

The Astros, as noted in the opening paragraphs, were the best team in the AL (all of MLB, really) in May – and expanded their division  lead from three games to eleven. The Blue Jays did make a surge in May, with the AL’s sscond-best record (18-10), thanks to a revival of the team’s power bats.  They still, however reside in last place in the East.  The Orioles, who led the East on May 1, slumped to 12-16 – and third place – in May. The Twins and Indians are tied at the top of the Central, despite each going just one game over .500 for the month.

NL: Nationals; Brewers; Dodgers.  Wild Cards: Rockies; Diamondbacks.

As of May 31, the NL West would put three teams into the post-season (Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks) and they all have winning percentages of .600 or better.  In the NL East, Washington is coasting with an 9 1/2-game lead, and boasts the NL’s top winning percentage (33-19, .635).  The other two division are close, with one major surprise – the Brewers are leading the NL Central by 1 ½ games over the Cardinals, with the defending World Series Champion Cubs trailing by 2 ½.

The Dodgers –  behind solid pitching (May lowest-ERA at 2.94) and offense (an NL-leading 159 May runs) – had the NL’s best May recrord at 19-9, moving from third place to first.  They were, in effect, the NL verson of Astros-lite.  Tne surprising Rockies  and the Diamondback each won 17 games (12 and 11 losses, respectively) and sit just 1/2 game back.  The only other NL team with more than 15 May wins was the Nationals at 16-11.  They expanded their lead from 5 games to 9 1/2.  In the Central, the Brewers (15-12) and Cardinals (13-13), both moved passed the Cubs (12-15) in May.  The Phillies continued to flounder, with only six May wins (fewest in baseball) against 22 lossses.  Ouch.

FULL STANDINGs AND OVERALL AND MONTH-OF-MAY WON-LOST RECORDS

AT THE END OF THIS POST. 

 

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Now here are the stats that are behind May and season-to-date team performance.  If you are not a stat person, scroll ahead to the stories and events of the month. 

— TEAM BATTING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF MAY — 

RUNS SCORED (MLB average – 130)

NL: Dodgers – 159; Rockies – 157; Mets – 153

AL: Astros – 180; Red Sox – 159; Rays – 154

AVERAGE (MLB average – .254)

NL: Rockies – .278; Reds – .271; Marlins – .270

AL: Astros – .280; Red Sox – .269; Mariners – .267

HOME RUNS (MLB average – 35)

NL: D-backs – 43; Reds – 40; Cubs – 38

AL: Astros – 52; Rays – 52; Blue Jays – 49

STOLEN BASES (MLB average – 14)

NL: Reds – 34; Nationals – 19; Brewers – 18

AL: Angels – 30; Red Sox – 22; Rangers – 21

Three teams stole five or fewer bases in May: Cubs, three (in six attempts); Mets, four (in seven attempts); Orioles, five (in six attempts).

WALKS DRAWN (MLB average – 94)

NL: Cubs – 112; Dodgers – 110; Pirates – 102

AL: Rays – 120; Tigers 118; Red Sox – 116

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

Only three teams tallied fewer than 100 runs in May: Padres (88); Giants (96); Philies (99). At the bottom of the AL were the Indians (110). The Cubs had MLB’s lowest May batting average at .216; trailing in the AL were the Angels at .233.

MOST BATTERS’ STRIKEOUTS (MLB average – 231)

NL: Dodgers – 259; Padres – 249; D-backs – 244

AL: Rays – 319; Tigers- 270; Rangers – 261

FEWEST BATTERS STRIKEOUTS

NL: Mets – 197; Marlins – 209; Nationals – 212

AL: Blue Jays – 186; Astros – 189; Red Sox – 195

—TEAM PITCHING LEADERS FOR THE MONTH OF MAY—

EARNED RUN AVERAGE  (MLB average – 4.29)

NL:  Dodgers – 2.94; D-backs – 3.38; Cardinals – 3.47

AL: Astros – 3.60; Indians 3.82; Rays – 3.95

STRIKEOUTS (MLB average – 231)

NL: Cubs – 264; Dodgers – 261; Nationals – 256

AL: Astros – 299; Red Sox – 275; Indians – 268

SAVES

NL: Cardinals – 9; Giants 9; Rockies 9

AL: Astros – 11; Rays – 11; Royals 9;

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

Four teams had earned run averages over five for the month of May: Phillies (5.49); Twins (5.25); Reds (5.12); Mets (5.06).

YOU’LL FIND SEASON TO DATE STATS, AFTER THE STANDINGS AT THE END OF THIS POST. 

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Some BBRT observations from May.

Streaking Over .500

On May 9, the Rangers were 13-20.  They broke out of a slump, however, with an 11-0 pounding of the Padres (at San Diego).  Texas went on to fashion the MLB’s longest winning streak so far this year – 10 games from May 9 through May 21. During the streak, they won two on the road and eight at home, outscoring opponents 64-27.  Notably, ten different pitchers picked up a victory each over the ten-win stretch.

On Sale Today – Double-Digit Whiffs

ChrisSaleFrom April 10 to May 19, Red Sox Southpaw Chris Sale made eight starts with ten or more strikeouts in each outing – tying a record he already shared with Pedro Martinez for consecutive games with double-digit K’s.  Here are the steak totals:

  • Pedro Martinez, Red Sox, August 19-September 27, 1999: 61 innings; 107 strikeouts; six wins (one loss); 1.18 ERA.
  • Chris Sale, White Sox, May 23-June 30, 2015: 60 innings; 97 strikeouts; three wins (three losses); 1.80 ERA.
  • Chris Sale, Red Sox, April 10-May 19, 2017: 58 2/3 innings; 88 strikeouts; four wins (two losses); 2.45 ERA.

 

 

A Different – More Positive – Five-for-Twenty

On May 25, The Boston Red Sox used five pitchers to tie the MLB record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game – notching 20 K’s in a 6-2 win over the Rangers. Starter Drew Pomeranz fanned 11 in six innings; Heath Hembree, two in two-thirds of an inning; Robby Scott, one in one-third inning; Matt Barnes, two in one inning; and Craig Kimbrell, four in one inning.

The Red Sox needed a four-whiff ninth inning to reach the record-tying 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Closer Craig Kimbrel provided it. He came in with the Red Sox up on the Rangers 6-2 and promptly fanned Texas RF Nomar Mazara, who reached first on a wild pitch. Kimbrel then got C Jonathan Lucroy looking, DH Rougned Odor swinging and 1B Mike Napoli swinging.

This made Kimbrel just the fourth pitcher to throw a four-strikeout inning AND an “immaculate” inning (three K’s on nine pitches in their careers.  The others are: A.J. Burnett, Kenley Jansen, Felix Hernandez and Justin Masterson.

This was the sixth 20-strikeout, nine-inning contest in MLB history – four of which were completed by a single pitcher (Roger Clemens, Red Sox 1986 & 1996; Kerry Wood, Cubs, 1998; Max Scherzer, Nationals, 2016.)  The Dodgers also used five pitcherS in a 20-strikeout, nine-inning contest September 25, 2012 .  On May 8, Randy Johnson (D-backs) fanned 20 batters in nine innings, but left with the score tied 1-1. Five relievers added one strikeout as the D-backs topped the Reds 4-3 in eleven innings.

In Memorial … Started with the Phillies, Ended Up with the Senators

BunningOn May 26, baseball lost Hall of Famer Jim Bunning (complications from a stroke).  Bunning not only had a seventeen-season, HOF-worthy baseball career, but went on to become the only Hall of Famer to serve in Congress.  Bunning pitched in the major leagues from 1955 through 1972 (Tigers, Phillies, Dodgers, Pirates). After leaving baseball, Bunning, who had a degree in Economics from Xavier University, served as the U.S. Congressional Representative for Kentucky’s Fourth District from 1987-99 and as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky from 1999-2011.

I … thought that being able to throw a curveball never was a bad skill for a politician to have.”

      Jim Bunning, Baseball Hall of Famer/United States Senator

The 6’ 3” side-armer was known as an intimidating presence on the mound – once leading the NL in hit batters for four consecutive seasons (1964-67). He was a 20-game winner (20-8, 2.69 in 1957) and a four-time 19-game winner.  A few more Bunning baseball facts, he:

  • Was 224-187, with a 3.27 ERA and 2,855 strikeouts over his career;
  • Pitched a no-hitter with the Tigers (July 20, 1958);
  • Pitched a perfect game for the Phillies (June 21, 1964);
  • Was a nine-time All Star;
  • Led his league in wins once, strikeouts three times, and shutouts twice;
  • Threw an “immaculate” inning (nine pitches, three strikeouts) on August 2, 1959.

Another Immaculate Inning

On May 18, Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen closed the door on the Miami Marlins in the Dodgers’ 7-2 win.  Jansen threw the third “immaculate” inning (three strikeouts on the nine pitches) of the 2017 season. Jansen came on in the bottom of the eighth with the Dodgers up 5-2 and got the final out by fanning catcher J.T. Realmuto on five pitches (which would seem inefficient in the ninth). In the bottom of the frame Jansen beat out an infield single (more #WhyIHateTheDH), as the Dodgers up the lead to 7-2.

In the ninth, Jansen fanned 3B Derek Dieterich on three pitches (all looking); SS J.T. Riddle on three pitched (swinging, looking, looking) and pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki on three pitches (looking, foul ball, swinging).  On April 17, the Reds’ reliever Drew Storen also threw an immaculate inning – while on May 14th, the Nationals’ Max Scherzeer accomplished the feat.

IMMACULATE INNINGS ON THE RISE

There have been 83 “immaculate” innings (three strikeouts on nine pitches) in MLB history –accomplished by 77 pitchers.  Sandy Koufax holds the MLB the record with three such frames. The emergence of fireballing relievers is reflected in the fact that 36 of the 83 occurrences have come since 2000. By contrast the 1950’s and 1960’s saw only 11.

More #WhyIHateTheDH … The Short and the Long of It

On May 18, the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman – who hardly ever gets a chance to step in the batter’s box – hit his first career home run.  It came in the fourth inning of Blue Jays 9-0 win over the Braves in Atlanta. (Stroman pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.)  The home run was just the 5’8”, 180-pound Stroman’s second career hit (12 at bats) – both this season – a double and the home run.   The last Blue Jays’ pitcher to homer before Stroman was at the other end of the height spectrum – 6’9”, 240-pound  Mark Hendrickson – who went deep back in 2003.

A Grand Occasion

On May 16, Cubs manager Joe Maddon reached a significant milestone – notching his 1,000th career major league managerial win as his Cubs topped the Reds 9-5.  Maddon is a three-time Manager of the Year and, of course, broke the Cubs’ curse last season – with a 103-win campaign and a World Series Championship.

Slump-Breaking 101 – Do it in Style

Tigers’ outfield Tyler Collins knows how to break a slump. Going into the Tigers’ May 17 game against the Orioles, Collins was in a zero-for-thirty slump (his last hit had come on May 1). During the slump, his average had dropped from .304 to .216  On the 17th, he broke out in a big way – going three-for-four with two home runs, a double and four RBI (getting his average back up to .238). Unfortunately, that game looks like an outlier – Collins got only two more hits in May (29 at bats) and ended the month at an even .200.

THE NAME GAME

In 2013, Christian Arroyo  graduated from Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Eighteen year earlier another Arroy0 – Bronson Arroyo (no relation) graduated from Hernando High as was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  On May 5, the 21-year-old rookie Arroyo (Christian) was playing 3B and batting sixth for the Giants, while the now 40-year-old Arroyo (in his 16th MLB season) was on the mound for the Reds. The first time they faced each other, youth won the day, as Christian homered off Bronson. (It was Christian Arroyo’s only hit of the day. Bronson, however, could leave the contest with a smile – he got the win, as the Reds topped the Giants 13-3.)

On May 6, as the Dodgers faced off against the Padres, CLAYTON Kershaw was on the mound, throwing to battery mate AUSTIN Barnes. The Padres countered with CLAYTON Richard on the mound and AUSTIN Hedges behind the plate. Are those monikers really that popular?  Note: Clayton (the Kershaw one) got the win, while Clayton (the Richard one) took the loss, as the Dodgers triumphed 10-2. The Dodgers’ Austin (Barnes) also outperformed his counterpart Austin (Hedges) – going two-for-four to Hedges’ zero-for-three with a walk.

Finally, The Chicago White Sox have had occasion this season to start an outfield lineup of Avisail GARCIA, Leury GARCIA and Willy GARCIA – not related.

The Big Ouch

On May 29, the Twins went into the eighth inning with an 8-2 lead over the Houston Astros (in a battle of division leaders). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Astro were 0-659 in their history when trailing by six or more runs after six innings.  Make that 1-659, Houston scored 11 in the eighth and and three more in the ninth for a 16-8 win.

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Now individual batting and pitching leaders for May.

MONTH OF MAY BATTING LEADERS

AVERAGE (minimum75 at bats)

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies – .359; Matt Kemp, Braves – .357; Buster Posey, Giants – .344

AL: Carlos Correa, Astros – .386); Marwin Gonzalez, Astros – .382; Eric Hosmer, Royals – .367

HOME RUNS

NL: Justin Bour, Marlins- 11; Jake  Lamb, D-backs – 9; Cody Bellinger, Dodgers – 9

AL: Yonder Alonso, Oakland – 10; Logan Morrison, Rays – 10; four with nine

RBI

NL: Adam Duvall, Reds 28; Cody Bellinger, Dodgers – 27; Jake Lamb – D-backs – 24

AL: Carlos Correa, Astros – 26; four with 22

RUNS SCORED

NL: Billy Hamilton, Reds – 27; Michael Confroto, Mets – 25; Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs – 25

AL: Corey Dickerson, Rays – 27; four with 23

STOLEN BASES

NL: Billy Hamilton, Reds – 18; Dee Gordon, Marlins – 12; Trea Turner, Nationals – 9

AL: Camerin Maybin, Angels – 10; Elvis Andrus, Rangers – 7; five with six

WALKS

NL: Joey Votto, Reds – 28; Matt Carpenter, Cardinals – 19; Kris Bryant, Cubs – 19

AL: Mike Trout, Angels – 22; Camerin Maybin, Angels -21; two with 18

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

The lowest May average (minimum 50 at bats) goes to the Tigers’ Tyler Collins at .108 (7-for-65). In the NL, the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber hit .120 in May (10-for 83).

The MLB leader in whiffs for May was the Orioles’ Chris Davis (46 strikeouts in 99 at bats), while the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger  led the NL with 40 May strikeouts (106 at bats). Still, Davis put up a .222-8-16 line, while Bellinger was even more productive at .245-9-27.  I’d call these Dave “Kingman Country.”

—MAY INDIVIDUAL PITCHING LEADERS—

WINS

NL: Alex Wood, Dodgers – 5-0, 1.27; six with four wins

AL: Chris Sale, White Sox – 5-0, 4.24; four with four wins

EARNED RUN AVERAGE (minimum 25 innings)

NL:  Carlos Martinez, Cardinals  – 2.03; Zack Goldley, D-backs – 2.20; Max Scherzer, Nationals, 2.27

AL: Lance McCullers, Astros – 0.99; Michael Fulmer, Tigers – 2.19; Derek Holland. White Sox – 2.56

STRIKEOUTS

NL:  Max Scherzer, Nationals – 60 (43 2/3 IP); Jeff Samardzija, Giants – 49 (40 2/3 IP); Jacob deGrom, Mets – 48 (36 1/3 IP)

AL: Chris Sale, Red Sox – 58 (40 1/3 IP); Chris Archer, Rays – 58 (40 IP); two with 45

The May leader (among starters) in strikeouts per nine innings was Chris Archer of the Rays at 13.05, followed closely by the Dodgers Alex Wood at 13.02.

SAVES

NL: Greg Holland, Rockies – 8; Fernando Rodney, D-backs – 7; Jim Johnson, Braves – 7

AL: Alex Colome, Rays – 10; Kelvin Herrera, Royals – 9; three with eight

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

The highest May earned run averages (minimum 25 innings pitched) goes to the Phillies’ Zach Elfin and D-backs’ Pat Corbin – both at 9.00. (Corbin, however, went 2-2 on the month.) Dylan Covey of the White Sox came close in the AL at 8.87.

Individual stats through May follow the standing and team stats below.

StatsMay

____________________________________________

—TEAM OFFENSIVE STATS THROUGH MAY 31—

RUNS SCORED (MLB average – 239)

NL: Nationals – 286; Rockies – 276; Dodgers – 271

AL: Astros – 292; Yankees – 268; Rays – 265

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

Only three teams scored fewer than 200 runs through May 31: Royals (178); Giants (183); Padres (190). No surprise, those same three teams were at the bottom in terms of average as well: Padres (.221); Giants (.228); Royals (.231).

AVERAGE (MLB average – .251)

NL: Nationals – .275; Marlins – .265; Rockies – .264

AL: Astros – .277; Red Sox – .269; Yankees – .266

HOME RUNS (MLB average – 64)

NL: Nationals – 77; Brewers – 74; D-backs 74

AL: Rays – 83; Astros – 82; Yankees 76

The Rays led all of MLB with 83 home runs through May.  This free-swining group also topped MLB in strikeouts over that period at 577. The Brewers were next at 496.

The Red Sox and Giants were the only two teams to not reach 50 home runs through May 31 – sitting at 48 and 42, respectively.

WALKS DRAWN  (MLB average – 175)

NL: Dodgers – 209; Cubs – 208; Pirates  – 189

AL: Rays – 218; Tigers – 208; Twins – 205

STOLEN BASES (MLB average – 27)

NL: Reds – 57; D-backs – 48; Brewers – 43

AL: Angels – 43; Rangers – 43; Mariners – 34

The Rockies and Orioles stole the fewest sacks through May. The Orioles had 12 (in just 16 attempts) and the Rockies 12 (in 24 attempts.) The Rockies’ 50 percent success rate was MLB’s lowest, while their Reds led the way with an 82.6 percent success rate.

 

—TEAM PITCHING LEADERS THROUGH MAY 31—

EARNED RUN AVERAGE  (MLB average – 4.20)

NL: Dodgers – 3.20; D-backs – 3.59; Cardinals –  3.75

AL: Astros – 3.49; Yankees – 3.82; Rays – 3.83

STRIKEOUTS (MLB average – 433)

NL: D-backs – 506; Dodgers – 503; Cubs – 479

AL: Astros – 537; Red Sox – 504; Indians – 504

FEWEST WALKS (MLB – average – 239)

NL: Dodgers – 147; Pirates – 151; Nationals – 159

AL: Red Sox – 132; Indians – 146; Yankees – 150

 

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

The NL’s worst earned run average through May belonged to the Phillies (4.95); while the Tigers were at the bottom of the AL (4.70).

The six worst starting rotation ERA’s belonged to NL team, with the Phillies at the bottom (5.95). Cleveland was at the bottom of the AL (4.79).

Two teams had bullpen ERA’s of 5.00 or higher through May: Twins (5.33) and Rangers (5.00). The worst bullpen ERA in the NL belonged to the Nationals at 4.82.

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Now let’s looik at individual leaders.

—BATTING LEADERS THROUGH MAY 31—

AVERAGE (minimum 150 at bats)

NL: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals – .368; Buster Posey, Giants – .348; Zach Cozart, Reds – .347.

AL: Jean Segura, Mariners – .344; Corey Dickerson, Rays- .341; Mike Trout, .337

HOME RUNS

NL: Scott Schebler, Reds – 16; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals – 15; Bryce Harper, Nationals- 15; Justin Bour, Marlins – 15

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 17; Mike Trout, Angels – 15; – Khris Davis, A’s – 16;  Joey Gallo, Rangers – 16

RBI

NL: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies – 46; Adam Duvall, Reds – 45; Jake Lamb, D-backs – 45

AL: Nelson Cruz, Mariners – 42; Miguel Sano, Twins – 39; Albert Pujols, Angels – 38

RUNS SCORED

NL: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs – 46; Bruce Harper, Nationals – 44, Eric Thames, Brewers – 42

AL: Corey Dickerson, Rays – 40; Aaron Judge, Yankees – 40; George Springer Astros – 39

STOLEN BASES

NL: Billy Hamilton, Reds; – 28 Dee Gordon Marlins -16; Jose Pereza, Red – 14

AL: Jarrod Dyson, Mariners – 14; Cameron Maybin, Angels – 13; Lorenzo Cain, Royals – 12; Elvis Andrus, Rangers –  12

EXTRA STAT OF THE DAY

Through May, no hitter has been hit by more pitches than Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo (12). In the AL, the leader is the Angels’ Martin Maldanado with eight. If you are interested, “Brawlin’ Bryce Harper has been plunked once.

WALKS

NL:  Joey Votto, Reds – 39; Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs – 39; Kris Bryant, Cubs – 35

AL: Mike Trout, Angels – 36*; Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – 31; Miguel Sano, Twins – 31

*Ten of Mike Trout’s 31 free passes have been intentinal – which leads all of MLB.

Your strikeout “kings” through May are: Orioles’ Chris Davis – 79 whiffs in 175 at bats to go with a .223-10-18 line; and (in the NL) Brewers’ Kedon Broxton – 67 strikeouts in 161 at bats to go with a .248-5-15 line.

—PITCHING LEADERS THROUGH MAY—

WINS

NL: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 7-2, 2.37; Antonio Senzatel – 7-2, 3.49; four with six

AL: Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 8-0, 1.81; Erwin Santans,Twins – 7-2, 1.75; six with six

EARNED RUN AVERAGE (Minimum 50 innings)

NL: Mike Leake, Cardinals – 2.24; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – 2.37; Max Scherzer, Nationals – 2.56

AL: Erwin Santana, Twins – 1.75; Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 1.81; Derek Holland, White Sox – 2.37

STRIKEOUTS

NL: Max Scherzer, Nationals – 100 (77 1/3 IP); Jacob deGrom, Mets – 92 (68 IP); three  with 84

AL: Chris Sale, White Sox – 110 (78 IP); Chris Archer, Rays – 95 (79 1/3 IP); Marco Estrada, Blue Jays – 78 (68 2/3 IP)

SAVES

NL: Greg Holland, Rockies – 19; Fernando Rodney, D-backs – 13; Seung-Hwan Oh, 12

AL:  Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox – 15; Alex Colome, Rays – 15; two with 14

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

The worst ERA among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched belongs to the Braves’ Bartolo Colon at 6.99. In the AL, the worst ERA  (again, at least 50 IP) goes to Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimebnez at 6.66.

Among the sources for this post: ESPN.com; MLB.com; SABR; Baseball-Reference.com

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2017 John Paciorek Award to Chris Saenz

JPA2In 2014, BRT launched its own baseball recognition – The John Paciorek Award (JPA). The JPA recognizes players who have had short, most often very short, major league careers, but whose accomplishments, nonetheless, deserve recognition.  (Note: Information on John Paciorek’s career – the inspiration for the JPA – can be found at the end of this post. Paciorek’s day in the sun constitutes arguably the best one-game MLB career ever.)

________________ 2017 JPA Winner – Chris Saenz _______________

SaenzThis year, BBRT honors right-handed pitcher Chris Saenz with the JPA – for making his one-game stint on the MLB pitcher’s mound truly memorable. Saenz’ big day came on April 24, 2004 and was made possible by a combination of an injury to Brewers’ starting pitcher Chris Capauno, an overworked Brewers’ bullpen and the fact that Saenz had started at Double A five days earlier, so a spot start for the Brewers would keep him on his pitching schedule. It was, in a way, the perfect storm for an unexpected MLB debut.

Saenz – a Brewers top-30 prospect in his fourth pro season – was called up from Double A Huntsville (where he was 1-1, 3.86) to make a spot start against the Saint Louis Cardinals, whose powerful lineup included the likes of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders.  (The Cardinals would lead the NL in runs scored, batting average and finish second in home runs that season, while making it to the World Series.) Let’s look at how things went for Saenz, before we examine how the 6’3”, 200-pound righty worked his way to the mound that day – and the factors that made it his only MLB appearance.  

The first MLB batter Saenz faced was Cardinal second baseman Bo Hart and the Milwaukee pitcher got his MLB career of to a good start, fanning Hart (swinging) on three pitches. (No surprise there, Saenz consistently struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors.) Saenz then seemed to pick up a minor case of MLB-debut jitters, sandwiching a single and a pair of walks around a foul pop out, before getting Redbirds’ SS Edgar Renteria to fly out – ending a shaky, but scoreless, first big league inning.

When he came out for the second, Saenz seemed to have settled down and found his proverbial groove. He recorded a 1-2-3 second, with two strikeouts.  In the third, the only batter to reach was Pujols (hit by pitch) and Saenz picked up a fourth strikeout. The Cardinals went down in order in the fourth and fifth innings, with  Saenz notching two more strikeouts.  Pujols managed a single off Saenz in the sixth, but was the only base runner in the inning. Saenz walked Renteria (on a 3-2 pitch) to open the seventh – and his first day (and career) in the majors was done.

Not a bad day’s work (yes, it was a day game) for a raw rookie: six innings pitched, two hits, three walks, no runs and seven strikeouts.  For those who track such things, Bo Hart faced Saenz three times that day (first, third and fifth innings) and struck out swinging all three times.  Two was a lucky number for Saenz, as the Brewers scored two times (on two hits) in the first inning to ensure Saenz the win (Milwaukee 3 – St, Louis 1); Hart, Saenz’ most frequent strikeout victim was playing at the two-bag for the Cardinals; and the game was played in front of an announced attendance of 22,222 fans.

A ONE-OF-A-KIND …  SINGLE-GAME CAREER …  PERFORMANCE

While statistics before 1900 can be sketchy, baseball-reference.com shows that Saenz is the only pitcher to complete a one-game MLB career of at least five innings pitched, without giving up a single run (earned or unearned). Five pitchers before 1900 had one-game careers of at least five innings that resulted in a 0.00 ERA, but they all (Jack Keenan, Frank Kreeger, Clay Fauver, George Snyder and George Stultz) gave up unearned tallies in those efforts.

There was some speculation (primarily among sportswriter and fans) that Saenz’ performance might earn him another start or two, but two days after his debut, he was on his way back to Huntsville.  For the year at Huntsville, he went 5-5, 4.15 with 84 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, his season included a September elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and set his career back (eventually ending it.)

So, how did Saenz earn his day in the major leagues? He was signed by the Brewers (28th round of the 2001 Major League Draft) out of Pima Community College in Tucson Arizona.

Saenz started his pro career (at age 19) with the Pioneer (rookie) League Ogden Raptors.  He showed solid potential, appearing in 21 games (four starts) and going 3-1, 4.24 with 14 walks and 48 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.  His ability to fan at least a batter an inning would be a trademark of his professional career. In 2003, Saenz moved up to the Low A Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League – where he pitched 37 games (all in relief) and went 3-5, with eight saves and a respectable 3.51 ERA. He did walk 32 batters in 74 1/3 innings, but his 99 strikeouts (12 per nine innings) were impressive. The following season (2003) saw Saenz work primarily as a starter (26 starts in 27 appearances) mostly with the High A High Desert Mavericks of the California League – although he did get in one game with the Double A Huntsville Stars of the Southern League. Saenz went 9-9, 5.04, working on command issues (59 walks in 134 innings), but maintained his bat-missing stuff (142 strikeouts).

Then came 2004, his early season call up to the Brewers, his return to Huntsville and his Tommy John surgery.  After missing the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Saenz attempted a comeback,  signing with the Angels in 2007 and playing with the  Arkansas Travelers of the Double A Texas League – where things did not go well (1-7, with an 8.41 ERA and 31 walks versus 24 strikeouts in 46 innings). The Angels released Saenz and he finished the season with the Reno Silver Sox of the Independent Golden Baseball League, where he found more frustration – 0-4, 8.10 with 16 walks and 22 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.  Saenz gave it one last try in 2008, with the independent Northern League Schaumburg Flyers, where he went 1-1, 8.42, with 15 walks and 18 whiffs in 25 2/3 innings.  He retired from professional baseball at the age of 26.  Still, Saenz is one of the fortunate few to have their day in the major league sun – and to have proven on that day that he truly belonged.

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PAST JOHN PACIOREK AWARD WINNERS:

2014 – Brian Scott Dallimore

In his first start (not his first game) for the 2004 Giants, Dallimore had two singles, a Grand Slam (his first MLB hit and only MLB home run), a walk and a hit by pitch.  For the full JPA take on Dallimore’s 27- game MLB career, click here.

2015 – Roy Gleason

Gleason played in just eight MLB games, had a double in his only MLB at bat – but also earned a World Series ring (1963) and a Purple Heart. Ultimately, he was the only ballplayer with MLB experience to serve on the front lines in Vietnam. For the full JPA take on Gleason, click here. Note: Gleason’s life is detailed in the book “Lost in the Sun – Roy Gleason’s Odyssey from the Outfield to the Battlefield.”

2016 – John Allen Miller

Miller played just 32 MLB games (during the 1966 and 1969), taking the field (at 1B/LF/3B/2B) for the Yankees and Dodgers. Miller collected ten hits in 61 MLB at bats (.164 average) and hit just two home runs – but he made those long balls count.  Miller made his MLB debut with the Yankees on September 11, 1966 and hit a two-run homer in his first big league at bat –  making him (surprisingly) the first Yankee ever to homer in his first MLB at bat. (Little did Miller know he would not get another home run or RBI until the final at bat of his MLB career.)  Miller’s final at bat came as a Dodger (September 23, 1969) and he stroked a solo home run.  That narrow “body of work” made Miller one of just two players in MLB history to homer in their first and final official appearances in a major league batter’s box. For more on Miller, click here.

 

INSPIRATION FOR THE JPA

pACIOREKJohn Paciorek – signed out of Saint Ladislaus High School in Hamtramck, Michigan (where he had starred in football, basketball and baseball) – appeared in his first major league game on the final day of the 1963 season (September 29) at the age of 18.  The 6’ 1”, 200-pound outfielder had spent the 1963 season with Class A Modesto Colts. The Colts’ parent club, the Houston Colt .45s (that was the current Astros’ franchise name back then), was suffering through a difficult season. The team was 65-96 going into that final game.  Looking to the future, Houston had, in fact, fielded an all-rookie lineup (average age 19) on September 27. Youth was still being served two days later when John Paciorek started his first MLB game. The results were surprising – and worthy of recognition.

 

paciorekPaciorek, by the way, went on to become a high school teacher and multi-sport coach and is the author of two books (Plato and Socrates – Baseball’s Wisest Fans and The Principles of Baseball: And All There Is To Know About Hitting.) You also can enjoy Paciorek’s prose (and expertise) directly at his blog “Paciorek’s Principles of Perfect Practice” by clicking here. You can find out even more about Paciorek in Steven Wagner’s 2015 book Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder.”  (See the review of “Perfect” by clicking here.)

A final note. John Paciorek’s insight into the national pastime should come as no surprise. Paciorek comes from a true “baseball family.”  He was the first born of eight siblings and was followed to the big leagues by younger brothers Jim and Tom Paciorek.  (Like John, Jim’s MLB career was short – 48 games for the Brewers in 1987. Brother Tom, however, achieved a .282 average over an 18-season MLB career.)

 

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

MLB Games – the Long(est) and Short(est) of It

Chasen Shreve Yankees photo

Chasen Shreve went the final three innings fanning five –  for the win as the Yankees topped the Cubs in 18 innings.  Photo by Keith Allison

It’s kind of appropriate that today (May 8, 2017), BBRT is looking back at yesterday’s Cubs/Yankees tilt – an 18-inning, six-hour and five-minute battle that will, ultimately, be most noted for the fact that the 15 pitchers who took the mound fanned an MLB single-game record 48 batters.  (FYI- The Yankees won it 5-4.)  The game fell well short of MLB’s longest in terms of time (which began on this date in 1984) or innings.  Later in this post, we’ll look at MLB’s longest and shortest games.  First, however, a few “factoids” from yesterday’s tilt.

 

  • Yankee pitchers fanned 26 hitters, Cubs’ hurlers whiffed 22. Strikeouts accounted for 44 percent of the total outs.
  • Two hitters accounted for 36 percent of the Yankee batters’ strikeouts – outfielder Aaron Hicks and third basemen Chase Headley each fanned a game-high four times (no other Yankee whiffed more than twice, while the Cubs had five players with three strikeouts).
  • A lot of bats were missed; there were 38 swinging strikeouts versus ten called.
  • The Cubs went into the bottom of the ninth down by three, but tied it up against Yankees’ star closer Aroldis Chapman on three singles, two walks, and a hit batter. There was no more scoring until the 18th.
  • The first ten batters in extra innings went down on strikes.
  • Both starting pitchers (Yankees’ Luis Severino and Cubs’ Jon Lester) went seven innings and notched nine strikeouts.
  • Three strikeout innings were notched by the Cubs’ Wade Davis (10th); Yankees’ Tyler Clippard (10th); Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr. (11th); and Yankees’ Jonathan Holder (14th).
  • The Yankees left 22 runners on base, the Cubs stranded 30.

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Now for the long and short of MLB games. 

LONGEST GAME (BY TIME)

May 8, 1984 – Brewers/White Sox – 8 hours and 6 minutes – with an asterisk*

Tom Seaver's only win in relief came in MLB longest-ever game (time-wise).

Tom Seaver’s only win in relief came in MLB longest-ever game (time-wise).

MLB’s longest-ever (time-wise) game started on May 8, 1984 and, like yesterday’s Yankees and Cubs contest, it was played in Chicago.  This time it was at (old) Comiskey and the home town White Sox prevailed 7-6 in 25-innings, taking a record-long eight hours and six minutes.  I do give and asterisk to this one – since it was not continuous play.  The game started at 7:30 p.m. and was suspended after seven innings (at 1:05 a.m.) due to the MLB curfew rule then in force.  It finished up the next day.

There were plenty of chances for this one to end earlier. The game was tied 1-1 going into the ninth, when the Brewers scored twice to take the lead. The White Sox came back with two of their own in the bottom of the inning – and the teams played on.  No one scored again until the top of the 21st, when the Brewers put up a three-spot.  The White Sox, however, scored three of their own in the bottom of the inning – and the teams played on. Finally, with one out in the bottom of the 25th White Sox’ RF Harold Baines hit a walk off home run (making it, of course, the latest walk-off long ball ever) against Chuck Porter (starting his eighth inning of relief) to win it for the ChiSox.  A few tidbits:

  • White Sox’ CF Rudy Law, C Carlton Fisk and 2B Julio Cruz, as well as Milwaukee DH Cecil Cooper each had 11 at bats in the game.
  • Chicago’s Dave Stegman, who came on as a pinch runner for DH Greg Luzinski in the 8th and stayed in to play LF, struck out a game-high five times in eight at bats.
  • The teams used a combined 14 pitchers (six for the Brewers, eight for the White Sox).
  • Two relievers went seven or more innings: losing pitcher Chuck Porter of the Brewers (7 1/3); Juan Agosta of the White Sox (7 innings).
  • The winning pitcher was future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who pitched the 25th inning for the ChiSox. It was Seaver’s only relief appearance of the season (one of just nine in his career) and his only career win in relief (he also had one save and two losses in that role).
  • Five future Hall of Famers played in the game: for the White Sox – catcher Carlton Fisk and winning pitcher Tom Seaver; for the Brewers – starting pitcher Don Sutton, SS Robin Yount and closer Rollie Fingers (who blew the save in the ninth).
  • Outside of Harold Baines’ walk-off home run, White Sox’ LF Tom Paciorek was (arguably) the hitting star of the game, going five-for-nine, with one run and three RBI (no one else had five safeties). LF Ben Ogilvie went two-for-ten for the Brewers, but added a home run and four RBI.

LONGEST GAME BY INNINGS – AND HOW THE GAME HAS CHANGED

On May 1, 1920, the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) and Boston Braves locked up in the longest MLB duel ever – by innings – playing to a 1-1 ties over 26 innings.  This one gets a special nod, since it is also the longest game in which both starting pitchers were on the mound for the entire game. (My, how the game has changed.)

Starting pitchers Leon Cadore of Brooklyn and Joe Oeschger of Boston each threw more than 300 pitches (analysts estimate Cardore at 345 and Oeschger at 319) in completing their 26-inning, record-setting starts. Cadore gave up 15 hits and five walks, while fanning seven; while Oeschger allowed only nine hits and four walks, while also striking out seven batters.   Oh, and here’s another sign of how the game has changed, the time of the 26-inning contest was only 3 hours and 50 minutes.  The Robins scored their lone tally in the fifth, the Braves in the sixth – followed by 20 innings of scoreless ball.

LONGEST CONTINUOUSLY PLAYED GAME (BY TIME)

Perry

BBRT give special recognition to the second-longest MLB game ever – and the longest in terms of continually play – The San Francisco Giants 8-6 win over the New York Mets on May 31, 1964.  This one took seven hours and 23 minutes – and was the second game of a doubleheader.

  • Each team used six pitchers in the contest.
  • Tom Sturdivant and Larry Bearnath of the Mets pitched in both games of the doubleheader – with Bearnath throwing seven scoreless innings after giving up one run in two innings in Game One of the Twin bill.
  • Galen Cisco, who took the loss for the Mets, pitched nine innings in relief (giving up two runs on five hits).
  • Gaylord Perry got the win for the Giants, tossing ten scorlesss innings in relief (seven hits, one walk, nine strikeouts). Bob Hendley got the save.
  • Five Mets and three Giants notched ten at bats in the game.
  • Gil Garrido, Jim Davenport and Willie Mays also spent some time at SS for the Giants during the game.
  • The list of pinch hitters used by the Giants was pretty impressive: Duke Snider; Willie McCovey; Matty Alou; Del Crandall; Cap Peterson. Mets’ pinch hitters were not as well known: rJesse Gonder; George Altman; Dick Smith; Hawk Taylor; John Stephenson.
  • Four hitters collected four hits: Giants – RF Jesus Alou (four-for-ten, one run, two RBI) and C Tom Haller (four-for-ten, one run, one RBI); Mets- RF Joe Christopher (four-for-ten, two runs, three RBI and the game’s only homer) and 3B Charley Smith (four-for-nine, one RBI).
  • The Giants led 6-1 after three innings, but the Mets tied it with two in the sixth and three in the seventh. Then there was no scoring until the top of the 23rd.
  • Five future Hall of Famers played in the game for the Giants – Gaylord Perry, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Duke Snider.
  • The first game went just nine innings and two hours and 29 minutes. It does mean fans got nine hours and 52 minutes of baseball for the price of one ticket – which, by the way, is the longest MLB double header ever in terms of game time. (Note: The longest double header ever in terms to total time came on July 2, 1993.  The Padres and Phillies split a pair of games in Philadelphia. Game One: SD 5-2 over Philadelphia. Game Two: Philadelphia 6-5 over the Padres.  It took a total of 12 hours and five minutes, including two rain delays totalling 4 four hours and 44 minutes and a 25-minute break between games).

 

SHORTEST GAME EVER – NINE INNINGS IN 51 MINUTES

LIKE SPEED DATING

On September 28, 1919, the Phillies took on the Giants in New York, with Philadelphia’s Lee Meadows (12 wins and 19 losses) taking on New York’s Jesse Barnes (24-9).  The outcome was as expected, Giants 6 – Phillies 1. The game featured a total of 18 hits and three walks.  None of this is surprising.  What is surprising, however, is that it took just 51 minutes to play the entire nine innings.  Now, THAT is pace of game.

SHORTEST DOUBLEHEADER

The shortest doubleheader (game time) ever was completed in two hours and seven minutes of game time.  It was September 26, 1926 in Saint Louis – but did not involve the Cardinals.   In Game One, the Saint Louis Browns topped the Yankees 6-1 in 1 hours and 12 minutes.  The Browns also won Game Two, this time by a 6-2 score, in just 55 minutes.

Baseball-almanac.com, baseball-reference.com and the Society for American Baseball Research proved valuable resources for this post.

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Member: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); The Baseball Relilquary; The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum; Baseball Bloggers Alliance. 

Baseball Reliquary 2017 Honorees – Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, Charlie Brown

I’ve asked this before, but it’s clearly the best way to introduce the Baseball Reliquary and its Shrine of the Eternals.

What 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?

ReliquaryNewThese diverse individuals are all past electees to The Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals – an honor that recognizes individuals who have had impact on our national pastime that goes beyond statistics and touches upon the culture and character of the game.  In essence, the Shrine of the Eternals is our national pastime’s fan-focused hall of fame. (And this year, you can add a broadcasting legend, a pop-culture icon and a cartoon character to the list. More on that in a bit.)

The Baseball Reliquary this week announced its latest (2017) Shrine of the Eternals electees, who will be enshrined during ceremonies slated for 2:00 p.m., Sunday July 16th, at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium, Pasadena Central Library, 285 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena, California. (For more information, call 626-791-7647.)  The honorees for this Shrine of the Eternals 19th indusction ceremony include:

  • Vin Scully, who spent 67 years as a Dodgers’ broadcaster and whose voice became as much a sound of the game as the crack of the bat meeting the ball, the slap of the horsehide sphere into a leather mitt, the unique whirr of a good curveball and the shouts of beer and hot dog vendors.
  • Bob Uecker, former MLB player who translated his knowledge of the game, .200 career batting average and self-deprecrating sense of humor into an off-the-field career as a broadcaster, actor, comedian and (pun intended) pitchman.
  • Charlie Brown, a cartoon character whose love the game and enduring sense of optimism taught us some important life lessons from atop the pitcher’s mound.

Before taking a closer look at this year’s electees (and BBRT’s ballot), I’d like to provide a brief overview of both the Baseball Reliquary and its Shrine of the Eternals. Let me begin by saying, if you are a baseball fan, I would highly recommend you consider membership in the Baseball Reliquary – a truly free-spirited (if somewhat eccentric) organization dedicated to celebrating the human side of baseball’s history and heritage.  The Baseball Reliquary is an open and fan-focused organization, committed to recognizing baseball’s place in American culture and to honoring the character and characters of the national pastime. It 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.

The Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals

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.  With that background behind us, let’s take a look at the 2017 honorees.   Note: voting percentages for all the candidates can be found at the end of this post.  For more on the Shrine of the Eternals, click here

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2017 SHRINE OF THE ETERNALS HONOREES

Vin Scully (1927-  ) – 59.5%

Photo courtesy of The Baseball Reliquary/

Photo courtesy of The Baseball Reliquary/

If anyone’s career is appropriate to a spot in the Shrine of the Eternals, its Vincent Edward “Vin” Scully – whose career as a baseball broadcaster was a close to eternal as anyone has ever come – 67 years behind the microphone. (Note: Scully’s total of 59.5 percent of the vote is the highest figure since the annual Shrine of the Eternals election process was inaugurated in 1999, topping the 53 percent totals of Bill “Spaceman” Lee in 2000 and Buck O’Neil in 2008.)  Scully was the voice of the Dodgers from 1950 until his retirement after the 2016 season, as well as NBC’s lead television broadcaster for much of the 1980s and the voice of the World Series for CBS radio in the 1990s.

“Let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball. I’m going to sit back, light up, and hope I don’t chew the cigarette to pieces.”

               Vin Scully calling the final inning of Don Larsen’s 1956                   World Series perfect game.

I have never seen an exact count of the number of games Scully “called” during his career, but we do know he was on the broadcast team for 28 World Series, 21 no-hitters and three perfect games.  The fact is, the fluid sound of Scully’s voice and his often poetic anecdotes, became as much the sound of major league baseball as the crack of the bat, the slap of leather ball into leather glove or the shouts of vendors eager to part with hot dogs or beer.

It may sound corny, but I enjoyed listening to Vin call a game almost more than playing in them.

                                                          Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax

How impressive are Vin Scully’s credentials?  Here are just of few of the recognitions he has received: Baseball Hall of Fame Ford Frick Award (1982); Lifetime Achievement Emmy and induction into National Radio Hall of Fame (1995); three-time national Sportscaster of the Year (1965, 1978, 1982); American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame (1992) and Sportscaster of the Century (2000) recognitions; MLB Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (2014); and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016). Again these are just a few of his recognitions. (Scully, for example, was also named California Sportscaster of the Year 32 times, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and more than one street named after him.)  And now, he will take his place in the Shrine of the Eternals.  Can’t wait for the speech.  For more on Scully, you might try The Vin Scully Story, by Carl Smith (2009).

Bob Uecker (1934- ) – 37%

Photo courtesy of The Baseball Reliquary/

Photo courtesy of The Baseball Reliquary/

Dubbed “Mr. Baseball” by TV talk show host Johnny Carson for his tongue-in-cheek approach to the national pastime, Bob Uecker will finally get his seat “in the front row” – at this year’s Shrine of the Eternals induction ceremony.

Uecker has clearly made baseball his life and Milwaukee his hardball home.  Born and raised in Milwaukee, Uecker grew up watching the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers and signed his first professional contract with the major-league Milwaukee Braves (1956). Uecker – a catcher by trade – made his big league debut with the Braves in 1962 (after six minor league seasons, during which he played 557 games and hit .274, with 78 home runs and 254 RBI). In six major league seaons (Braves, Cardinals, Phillies), Uecker played in 297 games and hit an even .200, with 14 home runs and 74 RBI.

Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. To last as long as I did with the skills I had, with the numbers I produced, was a triumph of the human spirit.

                                               Bob Uecker, reflecting on his MLB career

Uecker retired as a player after the 1967 season and began a full-time career as play-by-play announcer for Milwaukee Brewers in 1971 – a position he still holds. Over the years, he has also served as a baseball color commentator for ABC (1970s) and NBC (1990s); hosted a pair of syndicated sports television shows; appeared as broadcaster Harry Doyle in the “Major League” movies; and played a key character in the sitcom Mr. Belvedere. Uecker received the National Baseball Hall of Fame Ford C. Frick Award for his work as a baseball broadcaster in 2003.

What separates Uecker from many former players-turned-broadcasters is his dry and self-deprecating sense of humor. For example, of his original signing, he says “I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for three-thousand dollars. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn’t have that kind of dough. But he eventually scrapped it up.”   Or there’s his comment on catching the knuckleball, “I found the easy way to catch a knuckleball, just wait until it stopped rolling and then pick it up.”

Uecker’s wit (and knowledge of and love for the game) not only earned him a spot in the broadcast booth, but also pop-culture stardom through dozens of appearances on the Tonight Show and a starring role in a series of Miller Lite commercials (as well as his movie and TV roles).

In addition the Ford Frick Award, Uecker was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame (2001); the Braves Wall of Honor (2009); and  on August 31, 2012, the Brewers erected the Uecker Monument outside Miller Park – alongside the statues of  such heroes as Hank Aaron and Robin Yount. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named Uecker as Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year five times and inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2011.  For more on Uecker, try his book “Catcher in the Wry.”

Charlie Brown (1950-    ) – 25.5%

Image courtesy of The Baseball Reliquary.

Image courtesy of The Baseball Reliquary.

Charlie Brown – created ty the late Charles M. Schulz – takes the field (the mound actually) for the love of the game – and in the process teaches us a lot about humanity and grace (under pressure and in the face of disappointment).

Brown is both the manager of the Peanuts baseball team and, almost always, its pitcher. While he imagines himself as possessing a blazing fastball, sharp-breaking curve and devastating change up, he usually ends up literally being upended and undressed by line drives up the middle.  Still, he shows up and takes his turn on the mound – with optimism – game after game, loss after loss, come rain or shine.   Despite decades of disappointment, Charlie has never lost hope – nor waned in his love of the game.  There is always the next contest or the coming season.

Brown is truly the underdog’s underdog – even his favorite player reflects his approach to the game (and life).  It’s not Mantle, nor Mays, nor Trout, but rather little-known Joe Shlabotnik.  Yet, in his enduring passion for the game and his unbreakable spirit (in the face of what some say is close to 1,000 losses versus single-figure wins), we can all learn a lesson about the importance of optimism, perspective and  perseverance in the face adversity. Note:  At their peak, Charlie Brown and his team’s exploits appeared in more than 2,500 newpapers in 75 countries.

There’s somethng lonely about a ball field when it’s raining.

                                                                                Charlie Brown

As is noted in the final line of Charlie Brown’s Shrine of the Eternals nomination “Yes, Charlie Brown may be a blockhead, but in his unshakeable belief in himself and his imagination, he will always be a winner.”  He clearly won enough hearts to take a place in the Shrine of the Eternals.

Scully, Ueker and Brown join 54 previous inductees to the Shrine of the Eternals. For the full list, click here.

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BBRT’S BALLOT

Now, here’s a look at the candidates BBRT voted for who didn’t make the final three.  Let me add here that one of my favorites – who garnered my vote in past elections – is (sadly) no longer on the ballot.  That would be David Mullany (1908), inventor of the Wiffle® Ball (1953). The basis for my support is that Mullany’s Wiffle Ball changed backyard baseball for millions of young (and old) players and fans – including me. Here are the 2017 nominees that got my vote, but did not receive enough support for 2017 election.

Ted Kluszewski (1924-1988)

I love to recognize players who do something we are not likely to see again. Therefore, I again cast a ballot 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 seasons, 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 in th later years of his career (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 (of course) Kluszewski did not strikeout.

Ultimately, however, Big Klu is best remembered for those sleeveless jerseys and muscular arms.  This four-time All Star – whose last name,like mine, ends with “ski” – got my vote for the Shrine.

Mike Marshall (1943-  ) 

I should probably say Doctor Mike Marshall, since this former major league reliever (14 seasons … 1967, 1969-81) earned three college degrees, including a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from Michigan State University. Kinesiology is the study of muscle movement and Marshall used his knowledge to develop his own exercise program focused on minimizing stress, reducing injury and accelerating recovery time.  While his unorthodox methods, advanced education and outspoken approach often had him at odds with baseball’s traditionalists (and may be part of the reason he pitched for nine teams in 14 seasons), they did get the job done.

The fact is, we never saw a closer quite like Mike Marshall before he came along – and we’re not likely to see one like him again. In 1974, as a Dodger, he put up the grand-daddy of all relief seasons – setting the record for appearances with 106 and innings pitched in a season in relief at 208 1/3. He finished the campaign 15-12, with a league-topping 21 saves and a 2.42 ERA.  That season, Marshall was called on to go more than one inning in 74 games (68.5 percent of the time); and he toiled three or more innings 22 times. He also relieved in 13 consecutive regular season games – an MLB record later tied (1986) by the Rangers’ Dale Mohorcic. His efforts won him the 1974 Cy Young Award and Sporting News NL pitcher of the year.

Marshall holds the MLB and NL record for games pitched in relief in a season (106 – Dodgers, 1974), as well as the AL record (89 in relief – Twins, 1979 – he also had one start that year).  The Blue Jays’ Mark Eichhorn tied Marshall’s AL record in 1987. Marshall led his league in games pitched four times and saves three times – finishing 97-112, 3.14 with 188 saves.

Marshall currently teaches exercise physiology and operates pitching clinics in Florida. A true “fireman” from an era when closers came in to put out fires and stayed on the mound to ensure they were no flare ups, Marshall got my vote for the Shrine.

Rube Waddell (1876-1914)

Rube Waddell is almost universally recognized as 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 t0: leave a ball game to chase fire engines; 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; wrestle alligators in the off-season; and (frequently) do battle with owners and managers.  Waddell simply was more interested in the freedom to enjoy life and do things his way than in money or professional stability.  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.

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, Effa Manley – during the 1930s and 1940s –  ran the day-to-day operations of the Negro National League Newark Eagles (owned by her husband Abe Manley).  She took the reins 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

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 beanball target) and aggressiveness on the base paths (Reiser twice led the NL in stolen bases and holds the NL record for steals of home in a season at seven) took their toll.

In his ten-season career, the switch-hitting 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.

Reuben Berman (1890-1977)

On May 16, 1921, during a game between the Giants and Reds 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.  Some teams even employed security guards to retrieve balls if the fans declined to return them. In 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 thank Reuben Berman.

John Young (1949-2016)

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) looked like a player with great 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.  His good works on behalf of baseball’s future earned my vote.

Bing Russell (1926-2003)

Okay, you are probably more aware of Bing Russell for his role as Deputy Clem Foster on Bonanza, as Robert in the original Magnificent Seven movie or for his volume of work on the big and small screen (including more than two dozen movies and even more television roles.) Or, maybe you are aware that his is actor Kurt Russell’s father.

Bing Russell, however is here because his passion for acting was equaled (perhaps even surpassed) by his passion for our national pastime. He’s also here because, as a baseball fan, he got to “live the dream” – owning his own baseball team. Russell’s infatuation with baseball began as a young boy growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida – spring training home of the Yankees. He became the team’s unofficial Florida mascot and errand runner – becoming friends with the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez and Lou Gehrig.  With that friendship came a life-long passion for the national pastime.

Later in life – the early 1970s – Russell translated his acting success into ownership of the independent (Class A) Portland Mavericks – a team whose roster emerged from tryouts involving (as his Shrine of the Eternals nomination points out) “a collection of misfits, reprobates, hangers-on and washouts.”

This collection of last-chance or only-chance players turned professional baseball on its ear, having fun while also taking the measure of its major league-affiliated Northwest League opponents.  The team lasted from 1973-77; never had a losing season; won their Division in 1973, 75, 76 and 77; developed a rabid, involved and fun-loving fan base; and set a short-season minor-league attendance record in 1977 (3,787 per game). Russell also is credited with hiring the first female General Manager – Lanny Moss – in professional baseball; which also turned some heads among baseball’s conservative owners.

Side note: Russell’s players with Portland included Jim Bouton and Russell’s son Kurt Russell – who followed Bing’s passion for baseball and acting.

MLB baseball regained its interest in the Portland area (the Mavericks were born after the Pacific Coast League Portland Beavers moved to Spokane in 1972) and worked to reclaim the territory – an effort that ultimately went to arbitration and earned Russell the highest payout ever (at the time) for minor league territorial rights.

For a great look at this remarkable and entertaining story – check out the 2014 documentary film The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

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THE SHRINE OF THE ETERNALS:  2016 VOTING PERCENTAGES

Vin Scully … 59.5%

Bob  Uecker … 37.0

Charlie Brown … 25.5

Leo Durocher … 24.8

Bob Costas … 23.5

Octavius V. Cato … 23.o

Effa Manley … 23.0

Chet Brewer … 22.0

Charles M. Conlon … 22.0

Charlie Finley … 22.0

J.R. Richard … 22.0

John Young … 20.0

Rocky Colavito … 18.0

Luke Easter … 18.0

Lisa Fernandez … 18.0

Ernie Harwell … 18.0

Mamie Johnson … 18.0

Denny McLain … 18.0

Hideo Nomo … 18.0

Rube Foster … 17.0

Mike Marshall … 17.0

Fred Merkle … 17.0

Pete Reiser … 17.0

Bert Campaneris … 16.0

Ted Kluszewski … 16.0

Bing Russell … 15.0

Annie Savoy … 15.0

Rusty Staub … 15.0

Chris Von der Ahe … 15.0

Tug McGraw … 14.0

Phil Pote … 14.0

John Thorn … 14.0

Dave Parker … 13.0

Nancy Faust … 12.0

Oscar Gamble … 12.0

Dave Okrent .l. 12.0

Joe Pepitone … 12.0

Vic Power … 12.0

Charley Pride … 12.0

Rube Waddell … 12.0

Reuben Berman … 11.0

Jose Canseco … 10.0

Mo’ne Davis … 10.0

Mike Hessman … 10.0

Manuel Perez … 10.0

Margarets Donahue … 8.0

Manny Ramirez … 8.0

Sam Nahem … 7.0

Steve Wilstein … 7.0

Babe Dahlgren … 6.0

 

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

 

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

April 2017 Wrap – April Showers of Long Balls

April17Well, April is behind us and, while April didn’t necessarily provide the kind of showers that will bring May flowers, it did bring showers of home runs – including three-homer games by Yoenis CespedesMatt Kemp and Anthony Rendon; home runs as part of three cycles (Wil Myers, Trea Turner, Carlos Gomez); double figures in home runs for the month by Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman, Khris Davis and Aaron Judge; and even a home run hit by a pitcher being used as a pinch hitter (Michael Lorenzen).

So, let’s get on to BBRT’s traditional review of the previous month of the MLB season. I hope you enjoy this look back at April – and come across a highlight or two you may have missed.  (Note:  April is always the easiest month to “wrap,” since monthly and year-to-date leaders are the same. Future wrap ups will look at month and year-to-date stats.) Before we get into detailed highlights and statistics, here are a few quick observations – events or stats that particularly caught BBRT’s eye. (Appreciation to great sources: Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, ESPN.com, Statcast and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.)

  • The Washington Nationals scored more runs in April (170) than the Kansas City Royals had base hits (161).
  • Despite the DH, only one American League team (Yankees) finished among MLB’s top five teams in runs scored.
  • Washington RF Bryce Harper set a new MLB record for runs scored in April (32) – and was arguably not even the best hitter on the Nationals.  In addition to scoring 32 runs, Bryce hit .391, with nine home runs and 26 RBI. Nats’ 1B Ryan Zimmerman, however, put up a .420-11-29 line for the month (topping MLB in average, home runs and RBI, as well as hits and slugging percentage).
  • Run support counts: The Red Sox’ Chris Sale finished April with MLB’s highest strikeout total (52) and second-lowest ERA (1.19) – but won only one game (against two losses).  The Twins’ Phil Hughes and Brewers’ Wily Peralta both went 4-1 for the month – despite ERA’s north of five (5.06 and 5.19, respectively).
  • On the final day of the month, the Nationals’ 3B Anthony Rendon not only had a three-homer day, but also became just the 13th MLB player to drive in ten or more runs in a game – going six-for-six, with three home runs, a double, two singles, five runs scored and ten RBI.  It was a bit of a surprise; Rendon came into the game hitting .226, with no home runs, just five RBI and five runs scored.  In one game, he doubled his runs, tripled his RBI, raised his batting average 52 points – and how do you put a percentage on going from zero home runs to three?  Oh yes, the Nationals pulled out a squeaker over the Mets 23-5.
  • Home cookn’ was good in April. Home teams went 205-165 (.553). More important: Only seven of 30 teams finished the month below .500 at home, while 19 teams finished below .500 on the road.  The Royals were the best example of this – going 5-5 at home and 2-11 on the road.
  • A pair of 32-year-old veterans were the only two batters to finish April with averages north of .400 – the National’s Ryan Zimmerman (.420) and the Dodgers’ Justin Turner (.404).
  • The Twins Erwin Santana was the only qualifying pitcher to record an ERA under 1.00 for the month.  Santana gave up just three runs in five starts, going 4-0, 0.77.  In 35 innings pitched, he gave up just 13 hits.
  • The Rockies have been outscored by six runs this season – but stand six games over .500 (16-10); while the Rangers have outscored their opponents by eight runs, but are three games under .500 (11-14).
  • Only four players reached 25 RBI in April (good start toward that century mark) and three of them hit back-to-back-to-back in the middle of the Nationals’ order. Your 25-RBI guys: Nationals’ 1B Ryan Zimmerman (29 RBI), RF Bryce Harper (26); 2B Daniel Murphy (26).  The outlier on the list? The Twins’ Miguel San0 (25 RBI to go with a .316 aveage and seven homers.)
  • The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel got six starts in April and made the most of them, going 5-0 (April’s only five-game winner) with a 1.21 ERA.
  • Mets’ reliever Hansel Robles finished April tied for second in victories (four), going 4-0, 1.84, while pitching a total of 14 2/3 innings in 13 appearances.

—-LET’S LOOK AT TEAMWORK—-

No team won more games in April than the Nationals – 17-10, .680 – and they literally bludgeoned their opponents into submission. The Nats led MLB in runs scored with 170 (29 more than the second-most productive D-backs); batting average .295 (the Astros were second at .272); hits (265); doubles (58);  on base percentage (.369); and slugging percentage (.510).  The Nationals were  second  in home runs with 43 (two behind the Brewers). Meanwhile, their ERA (4.40) was 24th among MLB’s 30 teams.  Three teams came in with 16 wins on the month: the Astros (16-9);  Rockies (16-10); and D-backs (16-11).

At the othe end of the spectrum, the Royals had April’s worst record 7-16, .304 – with middle-of-the-pack pitching (4.18 ERA, 18th) and a woeful offense.  The Kansas squad was last in MLB in runs scored (63), batting average (.210), hits (161), on base percentage (.270) and slugging percentage (.336). They finished the month on a nine-game losing streak, with a lineup that featured  five hitters batting under .230. Two other teams finished April with less than ten wins: the Giants (9-17) and the Blue Jays (8-17).  Full standings are in a chart at the end of the post.

Nationals RUNning Away from Opponents in April

The Nationals put up the strongest run differential in April, outscoring opponents by 48 tallies.  The only other team to reach even top a plus-30 differential was the Yankees (+43). At the other end of the standings, the Royals had MLB’s worst April run differential at minus-37.  Two other teams came in at minus-30 or worse: the Padres (-31) and Giants (-33). 

IF THE SEASON ENDED APRIL 30, THE PLAYOFF TEAMS WOULD BE:

NL: Nationals, Cubs, Rockies. Wild Cards: D-backs, Dodgers.

AL:  Astros, Orioles or Yankees, Indians. Wild Cards: White Sox, Orioles or Yankees.

Surprises Thus Far

The injury-strapped Mets and undeerperforming Giants and Blue Jays (29th and 28th in runs scored), all in last place in their respective divisions – and the NL West Division Rockies; fifth in rus scored, but 26th in ERA, somehow getting the job done (16-10), despite being outscored 125-119 through April).

________________________________________

BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE PLAYERS AND PITCHERS OF THE MONTH

Ryan Zimmerman photo

Photo by Keith Allison

National League Player of the Month – Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals …  Hard to go against MLB’s top hitter on the season (.420). The 32-year-old Zimmerman – coming off a series of injury-hampered seasons  – has been healthy and scorching hot for the Nationals. Through April he was .420-11-29 – leadinG  MLB in all three Triple Crown categories.  (It’s a great start for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.)  For the 2014-15-16 seasons, Zimmerman averaged 90 games, .242 average, 12 home runs and 53 RBI.  Others in the running  were: Nationals’ Bryce Harper (.391-9-26, with an MLB-best 32 runs scored) and Nationals’ 2B Daniel Murphy (.343-5-26). 

American League Player of the Month – Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees … This big rookie (6’7″, 280-pounds) is playing big for the surprising Yankees.  His April numbers were .303-10-20.  His ten April roundtrippers tied for the AL lead and matched  the MLB rookie record for the month.  Judge also led the AL in runs scored with 23. Others in the running: White Sox RF Avisail Garcia (AL-leading .368 average, five home runs, 20 RBI) and Twins’ 3B Miguel Sano (.316, seven home runs, league-leading 25 RBI).  

National League Pitcher of the Month – Greg Holland, Closer, Rockies … Holland is one of the main reasons the Rockies stand atop the NL West with a 16-10 record. Holland saved 11 of the Rockies’ April victories (in 11 save opportunities) – leading all of MLB in saves.  He pitched in 12 games, with a 1.50 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched. Also in the running: Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 1.80) and Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (4-1, 2.29, with 39 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings). 

American League Pitcher of the Month – Erwin Santana, Starter, Twins ... Santana went 4-0 in five April starts, averaging seven innings per outing, with an MLB-low 0.77 ERA and .116 batting average against  In 35 innings pitched, Santana has given up just 13 hits and three earned runs, while walking ten and fanning 26.  Also in the running: Rockies’ Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.21) and Mariners’ James Paxton (3-0. 1.39).

—-TEAM STATISTICS – APRIL 2017 —-

MOST RUNS SCORED (MLB Average – 109)

NL: Nationals – 170; D-backs – 141; Brewers 135

AL: Yankees – 128; Mariners – 119; Tigers 118

FEWEST RUNS ALLOWED (MLB Average – 109)

NL: Dodgers – 92; Phillies – 100; Marlins – 103

AL: White Sox – 83; Yankees – 85; Astros – 89

BATTING AVERAGE (MLB Average – .247)

NL: Nationals – .295; D-backs – .269; Braves – .263

AL: Astros – .272; Red Sox – .270; Yankees – .266

HOME RUNS (MLB Average – 29)

NL: Brewers – 45; Nationals – 43; Mets – 37

AL: Yankees – 37; Rangers – 34; A’s – 31; Rays – 31

STOLEN BASES (MLB Average – 13)

NL: D-backs – 32; Brewers – 25; Reds -23

AL: Rangers – 22;  Mariners – 21; Yankees – 18

The Need for Speed

The Rockies swiped an MLB low four bases (eight attempts) in April. 

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

No team has put fewer runners across the plate then the Royals (63). The second-lowest tally belongs to the Giants (87 runs.) As you might expect the Royals were also at the bottom in April batting average (.210).  Their 24 home runs, however, topped seven other teams – with the Big Papi-less Red Sox hitting the fewest April round trippers (15). The Red Sox lack of power led to the sixth-fewest runs among the 30 MLB teams. .

TEAM EARNED RUN AVERAGE (MLB Average – 4.09)

NL: Dodgers – 3.50; Cubs – 3.77; D-backs – 3.81

AL: White Sox – 3.11; Yankees – 3.35; Astros – 3.38

BEST STARTING STAFF ERA FOR APRIL – Cardinals (3.32)

WORST STARTING STAFF ERA – Red (5.96)

BEST BULLPEN ERA FOR APRIL – White Sox (1.94)

WORST BULLPEN ERA – TIGERS (6.43)

STRIKEOUTS (MLB Average – 202)

NL: D-backs – 252; Dodgers – 242; Mets – 239

AL:  Astros – 238; Indians – 236; Angels – 236

FEWEST WALKS ALLOWED (MLB Average – 81)

NL: Phillies – 65; Nationals – 67; Dodgers – 73

AL: Yankees – 65; Indians – 66; Twins – 69

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COING

The worst team Earned Run Average in April  belonged to the Tigers at 5.19 – the only team over 5.00. The Padres and Angels gave up the most April home runs (38). The fewest pitchers’ strikeouts: Twins (153) and Braves (158). In terms of control, no team has walked more batters than the Orioles (99), although the Reds can see their tail feathers (98 walks allowed). 

______________________________________________

INDIVIDUAL PLAYER PERFORMANCE

Now, let’s take a look at some individual player highlights for April, followed by the statistical leaders.

Here Comes the Judge

Aaron Judge YANKEES photo

Photo by apardavila

On April 29, Yankees’ rookie outfielder Aaron Judge bashed his tenth homer of the month, tying the April record for MLB rookies (Jose Abreu, 2014 and Trevor Story, 2016). The 6’7”, 280-pound Judge finished the month  at .303-10-20.

Here Comes the Vet

Angels’ 1B/DH Albert Pujols – in his 17th MLB season – put up a .24o average, with three home runs and 22 RBI in April.  The three home runs put him at 594 for his career – six shy of 600 and 13 behind Sammy Sosa for the number-eight spot all time.  The 22 RBI gave him 1,839 for his career and moved him past Al Simmons, Manny Ramirez, Dave Winfield, Rafael Palmeiro, Ken Griffey Jr. and into a tie with Ted Williams for number-fourteen all time.  Side note: Pujols started his career with ten consecutive seasons of a 300+ average – 30+ home runs – 100+ RBI.

OUCH!  OUCH! OUCH!  REALLY?

On April 4, Cardinals’ RF Stephen Piscotty had a tough – if somewhat shortened – day at the office.  It all started with one out in the fifth inning of the Cardinals 2-1 loss to Cubs. First, Piscotty was hit by a pitch (right elbow) by Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta.  Piscotty then took second base on a wild pitch, but was hit on the left elbow by catcher Wilson Contreras’ throw to the bag.  Cardinals’ 2B Kolten Wong followed with a slow grounder to Cubs’ second sacker Javier Baez, who bobbled the ball – leading Piscotty to round third and scoot for home. Piscotty did  score, but was hit in the head by Baez’ throw the plate. The three “hits” left the Cardinals’ outfielder stunned, shaken up and lying face down near home  plate (and, ultimately, helped from the field and out of the game).

THINGS ARE HOPPING IN SEATTLE

The Mariners 2017 home opener took place on April 10 – and, like most teams, they had some new concession offerings.  One of the most popular new concession was the Chapulines ($4) – grasshoppers roasted and tossed in chili-lime salt. How popular were they?  They sold out – 312 orders per game (reportedly in honor of Edgar Martinez’ career batting average) – at all three games of the opening home stand (roughly 18,000 grasshoppers).

Cycles Built For Three

April saw three players hit for the cycle: the Padres’ 1B Wil Myers (April 10), Nationals’ SS Trea Turner (April 25) and Rangers’ CF Carlos Gomez just under the wire (April 29).

Myers, in the Padres April 10th 5-3 victory over the Rockies (in Colorado), singled to right field  in the first, hit an RBI double to left  in the second, homered to right in the sixth and tripled to left center in the eighth.   He finished the game four-for-four with two runs scored and two RBI.

Turner’s cycle came on April 25 – fueling the Nationals 15-12 win over the Rockies (also at Coors). Turner singled to right in the first inning, hit a two-run double to left in the second inning, smacked a two-run homer to right in the sixth and drove in three more  with a bases-loaded triple in the seventh.  For the day, Turner was four-for-six, with four runs scored and seven RBI.  The very next night, Turner almost became the first player to hit for the cycle two games in a row.  Again facing the Rockies – after striking out in the first and grounding out to third in the second – Turner hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, singled in the seventh and doubled in the eighth.

Carlos Gomez baseball photo

Carlos Gomez – Two cycles to his name.  Photo by Keith Allison

Gomez’ April 29th cycle – in a 6-3 win over the Angels in Texas – was the second of his career. Gomez doubled to left in the first inning; lined a single to the right side in the third; hit an RBI triple to right-center in the fifth (later scoring on a Rougned Odor’s home run); and hit a two-run homer to center in the seventh.  Gomez finished the game four-for-four, with two runs scored and three RBI. Gomez’ first cycle came nine seasons ago – May 7, 2008 – when he was with the Twins.

 

Four-For-Three

Only four players have hit for the cycle three times in a career: the Reds’ John Reilly (1890 and twice in 1893); the Yankees’ Bob Meusel (1921, 1922, 1928); Babe Herman (Brooklyn Robins twice in 1931 and Cubs in 1933); Adrian Beltre (Mariners in 2008 & Rangers in 2012 and 2015).

An Immaculate Inning

On April 18, Reds’ reliever Drew Storen became the 78th MLB pitcher to throw whats is referred to as an immaculate inning – striking out the side on nine consecutive pitches. Storen came on in the top of the ninth (with the Reds leading the Orioles 9-3) and fanned Jonathon Schoop, J.J. Hardy and Hyun Soo Kim.  For more on immaculate innings and those who have thrown them, click here.

Tough to Fan

Mookie Betts photo

Mookie Betts – Doesn’t miss much,  Photo by Dennis Heller

On April 19, Boston RF Mookie Betts did something he hadn’t done in 129 regular-season plate appearances (dating back 29 games to September 12, 2016) – strikeout. It came in the top of the fourth inning of the Red Sox’ 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays – on a 2-2 slider from Francisco Liriano. It was the longest “strikeout-free” MLB streak since the Marlins’ Juan Pierre went 147 plate appearances without a K in the scorebook in 2004.

 

 

PUTTING THE BAT ON THE BALL

The longest “strikeout-free” stretch in MLB history belongs to outfielder Joe Sewell. Sewell went from May 19 to September 19, 1929 – a streak of 115 games – without striking out. During his 115-game streak, Sewell racked up 516 plate appearances and  436 at bats without making the post-K “walk of shame” to the bench. The 5’6”, 155-pound Indians’ third baseman also collected 143 hits (.328), with 27 doubles, two triples, seven HR and 56 RBI during the whiff-less streak.   On the season, Sewell fanned just four times in 578 at bats – and it wasn’t even his best campaign in terms of at bats/per whiff.   That would be 1932, when Sewell struck out just three times in 503 at bats – or once each 167.7 at bats (the post-1900 MLB record). For his career (14 seasons/Indians and Yankees), Sewell fanned 114 times in 7,132 at bats – or once each 62.6 at bats.

Side note: In 1927, Sewell had a tough year on the base paths.  He was caught stealing in a league-leading 16 times (in 19 attempts).  Notably, he was successful in 17 of 24 attempts the season before and seven of eight attempts the season after.

YA GOTTA SEE THIS!  HOW ABOUT AN UNASSISTED DOUBLE PLAY BY A PITCHER?

More #WhyIHateThe DH

On April 6, Reds relief pitcher Michael Lorenzon was sent to bat for fellow pitcher Cody Reed with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the sixth inning of a 4-4 game (Philadelphia at Cincinnati). Lorenzon delivered a go-ahead home run to right center (the Reds eventually won 7-4). Through April 2017, Lorenzen is a .244 MLB hitter (11-for-45, with two home runs and eight RBI.)  Ironically, the Reds did not have a single pinch hit homer in 2016 – and it took a pitcher to break the hex.

On April 21, Cardinals’ pitcher Adam Wainwright blasted a 96-mph fastball from the Brewers’ Wily Peralta into the second deck in left field for a third-inning, two-run home run. The very next inning, he added a two-run single, giving him four RBI in the Cardinals 6-3 win in Milwaukee.  (Wainwright got the win, giving up two runs on six hits in five innings – while fanning nine.) Side note: Wainwright is one of only thirty MLB players to hit a home run on the first MLB pitch they ever saw (May 24, 2006). Notably, eight of those 30 were pitchers.

Run Don’t Walk

Must we track everything?  On April 22,  Oakland A’s 33-year-old SS Adam Rosales  led off the first inning with a home run off the Mariners’ Ariel Miranda.  Miranda’s embarrassment didn’t last long as Rosales rounded the bases – according to Statcast – in just 15.90 seconds.  Statcast notes that this is the fastest over-the-wall home run trot (gallop?) ever.  How fast? Well, Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies hit an inside-the-park home run the night before – and Blackmon’s dash around the bags was less than four-tenths of a second (0.36 seconds to be exact) slower than Rosales’ “leisurely” trot.  Note:  The A’s topped the Mariners 4-3, while the Rockies bested the Giants 6-5.

Walk Don’t Run

Pirates’ starter Ivan Nova hadn’t given up a walk since last September 13 (146 batters faced without a free pass), when he started against the Yankees on April 23. And, he continued his streak – striking out the side in order in the first inning, retiring the side in order (one strikeout) in the second and getting the first two batters in the third (streak now at 154  consecutive batters faced without a walk).  That brought Yankees’ starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery to the plate for his for his first-ever MLB at bat (in fact, his first professional plate appearance at any level).  What happened?  Nova walked him on a 3-2 count.  Nova went seven innings in the contest, giving up four hits and one runs, striking out seven and walking only Montgomery.  As of April 30, Nova has pitched 36 innings in 2017, with just the one walk and 22 strikeouts.

Run or Walk … Just Don’t Ride

On April 20, San Francisco Giants staff “ace” Madison Bumgarner went down (possibly until the All Star break) with rib and shoulder injuries- sustained in a dirt-bike accident.  Ouch!

Just Like Little League

Remember in Little League, when the coach would move pitchers on and off the mound  in a close game – maybe bringing the shortstop in to pitch to a hitter and then moving him back to shortstop? On April 30, the Yankees did something similar. Yankee reliever Bryan Mitchell had come on to pitch a scoreless top of the ninth, with the Yanks down to the Orioles 4-2. The Bombers came back to tie it in the bottom of the inning.  In the top of the tenth, New York went to closer Aroldis Chapman, but instead of sending Mitchell to the bench, they moved him to first base. Chapman pitched a scoreless tenth.  Then, protecting the closer’s arm (I assume), in the top of tjhe eleventh, Greg Bird came in to play first base and Mitchell went back to the mound. (Unfortunately, this  story does not have a Cinderella ending, Mitchell gave up three runs and took the loss.)

Surprise Player of the Season (So Far)

Brewers’ 1B/OF/DH Eric Thames – a 30-year-old outfielder returning the MLB after three seasons in Korea – is one of the first surprises of the 2017 season. (We can expect plenty of surprises … good and bad … between now and October. That’ why we love the game, isn’t it?).  In reality, Thames’ power stroke should not come as a total surprise.  (Although, he did hit just .263, with one home runs and five RBI in 22 Spring Training games.)

Thames – who played college ball in California for West Valley Community College and Pepperdine University (where, in 2008, he hit .407 with 13 round trippers) – was a seventh-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2008.  Thames showed his power potential in the Blue Jays’ minor league system. In 2010, for example, he played in 130 games for Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats and hit .288, with 27 home runs and 104 RBI.  He started the 2011 season with the Triple A Las Vegas 51s, hitting .342-6-30 in 32 games before a callup to Toronto.  He was up and down between Toronto and Las Vegas, finishing his first MLB season with a .262-12-37 line in 95 games. In 2012, he spent time with the Blue Jays and Mariners (he was traded to the Mariners in July), hitting .232, with nine roundtrippers and 25 RBI in 86 MLB games.  He then spent the entire 2013 season in the minors (the Mariners had acquired outfielders Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay in the off season) and was traded by Seattle to the Orioles on June 30, 2013.  The O’s designated Thames for assignment in September and he was picked up by the Astros (who assigned him to Triple A Oklahoma City).

Thames then played in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he was scouted and signed by the NC Dinos of the Korean League.  Thames played in Korea for three season – hitting .348, with 147 homers and 382 RBI.  Oh yes, and tossed in 64 stolen bases.  He was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2015 – when he hit  .481-47-140, and swiped 40 bags.

In November of 2016, the Brewers signed Thames to a three-year 16 million dollar deal – which has been a bargain thus far – through April, his stat line was .345-11-19 – with 28 runs scored.

_______________________________________

Now the Stats

BATTING AVERAGE (among qualifiers)

NL:  Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals – .420; Justin Turner, Dodgers – .404; Bryce Harper, Nationals – .391.

AL: Avisail Garcia, White Sox – .368; Mike Trout, Angels – .364; Starlin Castro, Yankees – .352

The lowest April average, among players with at least 50 plate appearances, goes to the Yankee’s Greg Bird at .107 (6-for-66). Another New Yorker, the Mets’ Curtis Granderson has the lowest average (at least 50 plate appearances) for April in the NL at .128 (11-for-86).

HOME RUNS

NL: Eric Thames, Brewers – 11; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals – 11; Bryce Harper, Nationals and Freddie Freeman, Braves – 9

AL: Khris Davis, A’s – 10; Aaron Judge, Yankees – 10; seven with 7.

RBI

NL: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals – 29; Bryce Harper, Nationals – 26; Daniel Murphy, Nationals – 26

AL:  Miguel Sano, Twins – 25; Nelson Cruz, Mariners – 23; Albert Pujols, Angels – 22

RUNS SCORED

NL: Bryce Harper, Nationals – 32; Eric Thames, Brewers – 28; Adam Eaton, Nationals – 24.

AL: Aaron Judge, Yankees – 23; Mitch Haniger, Mariners – 20; Francisco Lindor, Indians – 20

STOLEN BASES

NL: Billy Hamilton, Reds – 10; A.J. Pollock, D-backs – 10; five with seven

AL: Jarrod Dyson, Mariners – 8; Jose Altuve, Astros – 7; Lorenzo Cain, Royals and Jacob Ellsbury, Yankees – 6

WALKS DRAWN

NL: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs – 22; Bryce Harper, Nationals – 22; Brandon Belt, Giants and Eric Thames, Brewers – 18

AL: Brad Miller, Mariners – 18; Miguel Sano, Twins – 18; Edwin Encarnacion, Indians – 17

STRIKEOUTS

NL: Trevor Story, Rockies – 39 (90 AB’s); Jonathan Villar, Brewers – 37 (107 AB’s); Kyle Schwarber, Cubs – 35 (93 AB’s)

AL: Edwin Encarnacion, Indians – 35 (85 AB’s); Danny Espisosa, Angels – 34 (88 AB’s); Chris Davis, Orioles -33 (80 AB’s);

—-PITCHING—-

ERA (qualifiers)

NL: Mike Leake, Cardinals – 1.35; Ivan Nova, Pirates – 1.50; Gio Gonzalez, Nationals – 1.62

AL: Erwin Santana, Twins – 0.77; Chris Sale, Red Sox – 1.19; Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 1.21

WINS

NL: Jeremy Hellickson, Phillies – 4-0; Hansel Robles, Mets – 4-0; Clayton Kershaw Dodgers (4-1); Wily Peralta, Brewers – 4-1

AL: Dallas Keuchel, Astros – 5-0; Erwin Santana, Twins – 4-0;  Phil Hughes, Twins – 4-1; Andrew Triggs, A’s – 4-1

STRIKEOUTS

NL: Jacob deGrom, Mets- 44 (31 2/3 IP); Zack Greinke, D-backs – 40 (36 2/3 IP); Max Scherzer, Nationals – 40 (33 2/3 IP)

AL: Chris Sale, Red Sox – 52 (37 2/3 IP); Danny Salazar, Indian – 42 (29 IP); Yu Darvish, Rangers – 41 (38 2/3 IP)

OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

WALKS ALLOWED: Wade Miley, Orioles  – 19 (31 IP) and Marty Perez, Rangers – 19 (31 2/3 IP).

HOME RUNS ALLOWED: Jered Weaver, Padres – 10 (28 2/3 IP).

ERA (minimum 20 innings): Josh Tomlin, Indians – 8.87  (23 1/3 innings). 

SAVES

NL: Greg Holland, Rockies – 11 (11 ops); Kenley Jansen, Dodgers – 7 (7 ops) Tony Watson, Pirates – 7 (7 ops)

AL: Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox – 8 (9 ops.); Brandon Kintzler, Twins – 7 (7 ops); three with six

STANDINGS – CLOSE OF PLAY APRIL 30

Standing

 

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Twins in First Place – and other Opening Day Musings

THE LAST TIME THE TWINS WERE ON TOP OF THE CENTRAL

Okay the headline may be a bit “over the top.”  But, when was the last time you might have read a headline touting the “First Place Twins?”  Not as long ago as you might think.  That would have been the morning of June 9, 2015 – as the Twins started the day with a 33-24 record, tied with the Royals for first place in the AL Central.  The Twins lost that day (to the Royals) 2-0, to slip out of the lead.  So, Opening Day 2017 was a clash of early June 2015 AL Central Division titans.  This time, however the Twins came out on top.  Side note:  It may seem longer since the Twins topped the Central Division standings since 2015 is the only season between 2011 and 2016 that the Twins avoided 90 losses.  

Here’s BBRT take on yesterday’s game – and other Opening Day musings. (What I chose to highlight may give you some idea about how I watch – and score – a ball game.)

You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.

                                                                       Joe DiMaggio

Yes, indeed, something wonderful can happen on Opening Day.  This year, the Twins topped the Royals 7-1 and ended the day tied for first place.  Compare that to a year ago, when the Twins loss their eighth straight Opening Day game on their way to nine straight season-opening losses and a 59-103 record. No wonder yesterday’s victory seemed truly wonderful.

Opening Day is the most hopeful and optimistic day of each year.  At least for this one day, every team is a contender, every rookie a potential “phenom,”  every fading veteran a potential “Comeback Player of the Year,” and every new face in the lineup or on the bench a welcome addition.

                                                Baseball Roundtable – March 26, 2013

20171The weather, however, was not as wonderful – the low fifties, overcast (the F-16 fly-over was cancelled) with a stiff wind (at least in the second deck where I was seated).  The hooded “Twins Tees” proved handy and the hot chocolate vendors did a “brisk” business.  Still, despite the overcast, it was 51 degrees – although it felt more like 42. (We Minnesotans have a built in sensor for what the day’s temperature “feels like.”)

 

PRE-GAME

Long lines of fans - anxious for the return of baseball - waited for the Target Field gates to open.

Long lines of fans – anxious for the return of baseball – waited for the Target Field gates to open.

Fans were clearly ready for the return of baseball and the Twins (a sell-out crowd).  Nearby watering holes were packed before the game and long lines of festive fans crowded the Plaza as DJ Advance provided pre-game music.  There was plenty of Twins gear in evidence and, if you weren’t wearing something “Twins,” there was a Twins hooded tee for the first 30,000 through the gates. (For more on Twins – and other unique MLB – give-aways for 2017, click here.)

Once in the park, the pre-game  festivities included a solid rendition of the national anthem by a brass quintet from the Minnesota Orchestra – without scheduled singer Dessa (illness).

Grey sky, no flyover, no Dessa – almost seemed like a bad omen.  But former Twins’ coach Rick Stelmaszek (gotta love a guy with a “Z” in his name) and current coach “Everyday Eddie” Guardado turned it around. Stelly, who spent 32 years with the Twins, tossed out the first pitch (to Guardado) to a notable ovation. There were also a host of traditional Opening Day activities: the introduction of both teams along the sidelines (with mini-fireworks added for Twins’ players); season ticket holders unveiling a giant American flag in the outfield;  a pair of bald eagles at home plate; and 94-year-old World War II veteran Henry Langevin raising the American Flag during the anthem.  In addition, the pregame included a memorial tribute to members of the Twins’ family who passed away since last season’s opener – ending with special recognition of Twins’ pitcher Yorman Landa and Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura, who both lost their lives in off-season automobile accident.

THE GAME – THE TWINS STROLLED (WALKED) AWAY WITH IT

Those who follow BBRT know of my contention that there is always something new and/or interesting to see at a ballgame.  This one was no exception.  Here are just a few observations:

  • Twins’ batters struck out 11 times to the Royals four, but still outscored Kansas City 7-1.
  • Twins’ starter Erwin Santana had zero strikeouts over six innings, then fanned the side in the seventh (his final inning).
  • At one point in the deciding bottom of the seventh, the Twins had the bases loaded and three runs across in the inning – and had hit just one ball out of the infield (more on that later).
  • Twins’ Designated “Hitter” Robbie Grossman came to the plate five times, scored once, had an RBI and never put the ball in play (two walks, three strikeouts).
  • Twins’ SS Jorge Polanco went two-for-three in the game – with both his hits coming in the same inning.
  • The sixth inning saw the Twins benefit from their first challenge of the season and their first intentional walk under the new (just wave ‘em to first – like in softball) rule. No-o-o!
  • The Twins revived the bunt as an offensive weapon.
  • In the seventh and eighth, all attempts by fans in left field to start “The Wave” died out quickly. (Yesss!)

THE SEVENTH INNING – A TRUE STROLL (WALK) IN THE (BALL) PARK

In the top of the seventh inning, Twins’ starter Erwin Santana (who had not struck out a single batter – but also had given up just two hits and a walk) walked CF Lorenzo Cain to start the inning and then fanned 1B Eric Hosmer, C Salvador Perez and DH Brandon Moss in order.

In the bottom of the inning, things really got strange. Twins’ SS Jorge Polanco opened the frame with a single to center (off Royals’ reliever Matt Strahm).  It was a 1-1 game at the time, so manager Paul Molitor sent RF Max Kepler up to bunt.  Kepler laid down a beauty to the right of the pitcher’s mound – and beat it out.  (Although it did require Target Field’s first challenge of the season to reverse the original “out” call.) Eddie Rosario (LF and number-nine hitter) was called on to move the runners up, and executed a nice third-to-first sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter 2B Brian Dozier was intentionally walked (waved) to first to load the bases. (Apparently, MLB did not publicize the new rule very well, as fans all around me were asking “What happened – How did he get on base?”)  DH Robbie Grossman then walked to drive in Polanco.

That was all for Strahm, with Peter Moylan coming in from the pen to face CF Byron Buxton. Moylan fanned Buxton and was relieved by Travis Wood, who walked 1B Joe Mauer and 3B Miguel Sano – enabling Kepler and Dozier to stroll to the plate uncontested. So, at this point the Twins had three runs in, based loaded – and only one ball out of the infield. New catcher Jason Castro got the game back on a more traditional path with a two-run (Grossman and Mauer scoring) single to left.  Polanco then rapped his second hit of the inning – a single to right which scored Sano. Finally, Kepler fanned to end the carnage.  Twins 7 – Royals 1.  And that was pretty much the ball game.

Just a few other observations:

  • Attendance was 39,615 – Minnesota fans have truly been waiting for baseball to return.
  • BBRT loves double plays and the Twins rewarded me with a 6-4-3 twin killing in the second inning and a 4-6-3 version in the ninth.
  • The Twins used a line up that had a lead off hitter who, last season, hit 42 home runs and drove in 99 – and a cleanup hitter who went .261-11-49 a year ago.
  • For those who like home runs: Mike Moustakas poled one to right-center in the fourth inning to give the Royals a 1-0 lead; and the Twins’ Miguel Sano scorched oen to left in the fourth inning to tie the game.
  • If defense if your game:  two diving catches (highlight reel stuff) by CF Byron Buxton and 2B Brian Dozier’s glove scoop and flip on a bunt.
  • During the Kiss-Cam, only two “gentleman” removed their caps before the kiss.
  • The free Twins Magazine now includes a scorecard – saved a dollar.
  • BBRT likes to rate each park’s Bloody Mary (a full look at Twins concessions, click here.  )  I tried the Bloody Mary at Two Gingers (second deck) and it passed muster.  Not just mix and vodka, but solid spices added and two large olives ($10.50).

A FEW MLB OPENDING DAY TIDBITS

Madison bumgarner photo

Photo by andyrusch

MADBUM GOES DEEP

The first MLB 2017 regular season game produced a first of its own – as San Francisco Giants’ “Ace” pitcher Madison Bumgarner became the first pitcher to slam two home runs on Opening Day (giving him the 2017 MLB lead). Bumgarner was also perfect on the mound through five innings (he retired the first 16 batters in order, striking out eight) before giving up three consecutive hits and three runs with one out in the sixth.

Bumganer ended the game two-for-two with a walk at the plate and threw seven innings of six-hit, three-run ball – striking out eleven and walking no one.  He got a no-decision, as the D-backs won 6-5 on shortstop Chris Owings’ walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.  The Giants’ new closer Mark Melancon – acquired to reinforce a leaky bullpen – took the loss, giving up two runs in the bottom of the ninth.

MOST HOME RUNS IN AN OPENING DAY GAME

When Giants’ mound “Ace” Madison Bumgarner crushed a pair of home runs in the opening game of the 2017 season, he came within one of the MLB Opening Day record.  Three players – the Blue Jays’ George Bell, Cubs’ Tuffy Rhodes and Tigers’ Dmitri Young share the record for home runs in an opening day game with three.

On April 4, 1988, George Bell – batting clean-up and serving as the DH – became the first major leaguer to hit three home runs in an Opening Day game as his Blue Jays topped the Royals 5-3 in Kansas City. 

On a windy April 4, 1994, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes (leading off and playing CF for the Cubs in Chicago) hit three solo shots off Mets’ starter Dwight Gooden. Rhodes also had a single and a walk in five plate appearances. Despite Rhodes’ record-tying performance, the Cubs lost to the visiting Mets 12-8. 

On April 4, 2005 the Tigers’ Dmitri Young rapped three Opening Day home runs – as the Tigers topped the Royals 11-2 in Detroit. 

On the other side of the coin (or plate), on March 31, 1996, White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice set an MLB Opening Day record by striking out five times as Chicago lost 3-2 in Seattle.

METS LOVE OPENING DAY

The Mets topped Atlanta on Opening Day 2017, running their season opener record to 36-20 – that .643 Opening Day winning percentage is the best in MLB.

MORE #WhyIHateTheDH

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson tripled and drove in a run as his Phillies topped the Reds 4-3 on Opening Day 2017 in Cincinnati.  Hellickson got the win.

LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED

Phillies’ 2B Cesar Hernandez and Astros’ CF George Springer each led off their teams 2017 opening game with home runs –  becoming the 34th and 35th players to do so. Only Astros’ OF Terry Puhl accomplished the feat twice – 1978 and 1980.

AN OPENDING DAY TIDBIT JUST FOR TWINS FANS

AlyeaBeing a Twins fan, one of my favorite Opening Day records is seven RBI in game one of the season – shared by the Twins’ Brant Alyea and the Cubs’ Corey Patterson.

On April 7, 1970 – in his very first game as a Twin – LF Brant Alyea became the first player (and still only American Leaguer) to drive in seven runs in an Opening Day game – as Minnesota topped the White Sox 12-0 in Chicago. Batting fifth, Alyea went four-for-four, with two home runs, two singles and two runs scored.  The game, it turned out, would foreshadow a strong April for Alyea.  In 17 April games, he hit .415, with seven runs, 23 RBI, four doubles and five home runs.

Thirty-three seasons later – on March 31, 2003 – Cubs’ CF Corey Patterson tied Alyea’s record. In a 15-2 win over the Mets in New York, Patterson, batting seventh, drove in seven runs, going four-for-six with two home runs and two runs scored.  Patterson, a career .252 hitter (12 seasons), was an Opening Day All Star. In seven Opening Day appearances, Patterson hit .440, with seven runs, 12 RBI and three home runs.

A LOOK AT THE TRUE KINGS OF OPENING DAY

TED WILLIAMS

Ted Williams photo

Photo by Wicker Paradise

Perhaps no one looked forward to Opening Day more than Ted Williams – the king of the Opening Day batter’s box.  A career .344 hitter, Williams was even better on Opening Day.  Teddy Ballgame played in fourteen openers and was never held hitless.  He compiled a .449 Opening Day average (22 hits in 49 at bats), with three home runs, eight doubles, one triple, nine runs scored, 14 RBI and eleven walks.  His Opening Day on-base percentage was .550 and his season-opener slugging percentage was .837.

WALTER JOHNSON

The Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson can be crowned king of the Opening Day hill.  On his first-ever Opening Day start (April 14, 1910), the 22-year-old Johnson tossed a 3-0 one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Athletics.  Sixteen years (and 13 Opening Day starts) later, a 38-year-old Johnson fulfilled his last Opening Day assignment with a 15-inning, complete-game, 1-0 win (6 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts) over the A’s.  Johnson holds the record for Opening Day pitching victories with nine (against five losses) and also threw a record seven Opening Day shutouts.

A FINAL THOUGHT

20172I never have minded the naming of ballparks after sponsors – Target Field actually works for me.  But now, it seems like everything at the ballpark has a sponsor – from the challenge/replay to the foul lines (see poto). 

 

 

 

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

New 2017 Target Field Concessions – From Kale to Cookies and Bratwurst to Black Beans

AABloody3

The latest Bloody Mary at Hrbek’s Pub (Section 114). – the Triple Sausage Sampler. Wowza!

Today (March 30), Baseball Roundtable again took part in a new rite of spring. No, it wasn’t the first robin, the day we first heard “Pitchers and Catchers Report,” the Minnesota lakes ice-out, or even MLB’s Opening Day.  It was the Twins’ Eighth Annual Media Food and Beverage Preview.  Sponsored by the Minnesota Twins and Delaware North Sportservice (the team’s exclusive food and beverage partner), this annual event features a look at (and taste of) the upcoming season’s new Target Field food and beverage offerings.

I have neither the space, nor the time, to touch on all the new food and beverage items that were unveiled this afternoon. (They ranged from a traditional Shrimp Broil to an Indian Chicken Tikka Salad to a Shaved Smoked Beef Sandwich.) However, I would like to share a comment or two on some I found especially tasty, interesting or both. For the Twins’ concessions guide, which lists the full and most up-to-date (locations, prices could change) slate of concessions, locations and prices, click here.

WHEN IT COMES TO BALLPARK FOOD – THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS!

Those who follow BBRT know, when it comes to the national pastime, I can be a bit “old school” – looking back fondly on the days of two-hour ball games, regularly scheduled double headers, high stirrups, complete games, two-dollar bleacher seats and fans who, when they looked down, were filling in a scorecard, not checking their smartphones.  There is, however, one thing I do not memorialize as part of the baseball’s good old days – ballpark food. When it comes to ballpark concession options, these are the good old days – and they just keep getting better.

When I first started attending MLB games, standard fare consisted of hot dogs (not always that hot), beer and soda (not always cold), peanuts, cotton candy, Cracker Jack® and, if you were lucky, maybe ice cream (usually frozen malt cups with a not-so-tasty wooden spoon) or licorice ropes. The culinary tour that was part of the 2017 Target Field Food and Beverage Preview provided ample evidence of just how far ballpark food has come. 

Let’s look at some of Target Field’s new concessions for 2017.

AABloodyThe Triple Sausage Sampler and Double Threat Bloody Mary’s.  If you follow BBRT, you know that I review the Bloody Mary’s at every ballpark I visit.  Of one thing I can assure you, when it comes to Bloody Mary’s, Hrbek’s Pub (near Section 114 at Target Field) continues to raise the bar.  We’ve seen such offerings as the Bigger Better Burger, College Daze, and Cluck and Moo Bloody Mary’s.  For 2017, they are putting forward what I consider the best Bloody yet – The Triple Sausage Sampler Bloody Mary.  Okay, I’m a sausage guy (I am of Polish descent, after all).  This one – $19.95 at Hrbek’s – comes with a healthy portion of skewered Kramarczuk’s Bratwurst, Polish and Andouille sausages (all perfectly spiced), ripe olive, sweet pepper, cheddar and Swiss cheeses and a beef stick – as well as a dill pickle spear and celery stalk. There is also, of course a beer chaser.  Wow! Oh yes, for four dollars more they’ll add a cheeseburger slider. A meal in a glass –with a chaser.

Shrimp Boil samples ready for tasting. It was, indeed, a feeding frenzy.

Shrimp Boil samples ready for tasting. It was, indeed, a feeding frenzy.

4 Bells Shrimp Boil. If you’re hungry and want something a little different at the ballpark, try 4 Bells (Section 114) Shrimp Boil. A generous portion of peel-and-eat shrimp, Butcher and the Boar ® Sausage, red potatoes and corn on the cob – with Creole seasoning. ($14.50 for a generous portion of true southern comfort.)

 

 

 

 

 

AAAllNationsRoots for the Home Team “All Nations Lake Street Salad.”  I was particularly fond of the fresh and light taste of the Roots for the Home Team (Near Gate 34 on weekends) All Nations Lake Street Salad – collard greens; red and yellow pepper; roasted corn; tomatoes; carrots; black-eyed peas – with a Tomatillo Lime Cilantro dressing and Crumbled Queso Fresco Cheese topping. Thinking outside the box or want something a little lighter at the ballpark?  The All Nations Lake Street Salad is one of nine new salads that Root for the Home Team has created for 2017.  ($9 of $11 with chicken.) Note: Roots for the Home Team partners with youth garden programs in the Twin Cities to give multicultural teens the opportunity to develop business and entrepreneurial skills.

AAHotIndiaHot Indian Chicken Tikka Salad.  Okay, I’ve got a soft spot for ethnic foods and “Hot Indian Foods” knows how to reach it – even at the ballpark. For this season, they’ve added a Hot Indian Chicken Tikka Salad – baby kale, shredded paneer, crispy chickpeas, superbly spiced chicken.  (Worth a stop at Section 120 – $12.50).

 

 

 

AAcookieCookie Cart.  Dessert, aah, sweet dessert!  Why not stop at the Cookie Cart. Twelve kinds of cookies – six packs for $8 and $3 for a frosted cookie.  These are cookies like grandma used to make (chocolate chip, peanut, oatmeal, they are all here) – and the organization provides areas teens with the opportunity to develop work, life and leadership skills while working with an urban non-profit bakery.  If you are craving a sweet, the Cookie Cart has just what you are looking for.  They will operate in Section 101 during Saturday and Sunday games.

 

 

 

 

AAZimmernAndrew Zimmern’s Canteen (Section 114) Skewers. These tasty skewers come in Braised Boneless Beef Short Rib; Mediterranean Chicken; and Braised Pork Shoulder – on flat bread, with roasted eggplant spread, herbed yogurt sauce and tomato-cucumber (served with chips).  Easy to eat, and easier to enjoy ($14.50 each). The Canteen’s new 2017 offerings also include a Frozen White Chocolate Mousse ($7.50) for dessert.   I finished the Mousse before I could get a photo of it (dulce de leche, lady fingers, white chocolate) – and then licked away every drop that had slipped from spoon to fingertips.

 

AAButcherVegan Sriracha Brat. Vegan anyone? For vegan readers, there is “The Herbivorous Butcher” and the Vegan Italian Sausage and Vegan Sriracha Brat (each $12.50).  I preferred the extra “bite” of the Sriracha Brat.  If you’re vegan at the ballpark, this is probably the way to go.  They also carry Hebrew National Kosher Hot Dogs in pairing with MSP Kosher Hot Dog.  (Look for both in Section 129.)

The barrio crew at work,

The barrio crew at work.

Barrio Adobe Grilled Chicken Burrito. Barrio continues to deliver its own special taste to Target Field (Sections 105 and 305).  This year, they are featuring the Adobe Grilled Chicken Burrito (black beans, rice, Monterey Jack, avocado-tomatillo Pico, Pico de Gallo, salsa, fresh jalapeno) – as a Burrito or in a bowl ($11.00). Delicioso!  Add a margarita and you’re ready for extra innings.

 

 

 

 

AACAPKurd-Marczuk’s (cart in Section 101) is  offering a Twins baseball cap filled with cheese curds, chopped Polish sausage, topped with gravy.  These were tasty, chewy, and easy to carry – I’d buy them without the souvenir mini-cap. (Prices here range from $9.50-$20.00.)

 

 

 

 

 

Murray's Shaved Smoked Beef samples ready to go.

Murray’s Shaved Smoked Beef samples ready to go.

Murray’s Shaved Smoked Beef. Murray’s new offering for 2017 is the Shaved Smoked Beef Sandwich on a toasted bun, featuring Murray’s garlic butter and house-cut, dill-seasoned chips.   For all the beef eaters out there, garlic and beef make a pertty good ballpark combo. Murray’s will have a new cart in Section 116. ($14.50.)

 

 

These are just some of the new items. There are also such offerings as Buffalo Chicken Poutine; Boneless Barbeque and Buffalo Wings; Barrio Barbacoa Tacos; and Andrew Zimmern’s Sloppy Ko (Korean barbeque). In addition, lots of favorites are back at locations like: Pizza Luce; Red Cow; Minnie and Paul’s; Izzabella’s Gelato; Mac’s Walleye and Chips AND MANY MORE.  Again, for the full list of offering, prices and locations, click here.

If you’re planning a trip to Target Field  and wondering about promotions, event and “deals,” click here.

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

Baseball Roundtable 2017 “Watch List”

Spring Training is winding down, and it’s the time of year when Baseball Roundtable picks a few MLB prospects to keep an eye on in the coming season.  In this post, we’ll take a look at a handful of young players truly poised to make an MLB splash this season, a few others who have a chance to showcase their skills at the major league level – and add a couple of side trips to view a top prospect we won’t see this year and a trio of Yankee youngsters who could change the outcome in the AL East.  (Statistics through March 20.)

POISED TO MAKE SPLASH AT THE MAJOR LEAGUE LEVEL

  1. ANDREW BENITENDI (OF, RED Sox)

BenIf there was ever a can’t miss prospect, it’s Red Sox’ OF Andrew Benitendi.  The 22-year-old, 5’10”, 170-pound fly chaser has been at the top of his game wherever he’s played.  His senior year in high school, he hit .564-12-57 with 38 steals and was the 2013 Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year and ABCA/Rawlings National High School Player of the Year.  In 2015, his sophomore season at the University of Arkansas, he hit .380 with 19 home runs and was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Baseball America Player of the Year, as well as the winner of the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award.

The Red Sox made Benitendi the seventh overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft – and 14 months later, he was playing at Fenway. (He hit .312-20-107, with 26 steals in 151 minor league games, before his 2016 call up – where he hit .295-2-15 in 34 games for Boston.) This spring, he’s kept right on hitting – .308-2-8 in fourteen games (with six walks against just four strikeouts). Look for Benitendi to patrol LF at Fenway and do some damage with his left-handed bat as well.

  1. DANSBY SWANSON (SS, Braves)

Dansby Swanson, the 2014 College World Series Most Outstanding Player (Vanderbilt University) was the first overall pick (Arizona Diamondbacks) in the 2015 MLB (June) draft.  Just six months later, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves (see box below), the fastest any first-overall draft choice was ever moved. A mere eight months after that (August 2016), he was in the major leagues – getting just enough at bats to keep his rookie status for 2017.  (Side note:  Both of the top two prospects on this list took just 14 months to get their first taste of the major leagues.) But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before the D-backs/Braves trade – in fact, before his first-ever professional game at any level – Swanson was hit in the face with a pitch in a simulated game (delaying his 2015 pro debut by about a month). He went on to play in 22 games at Class A Hillsboro, going .289-1-11. The following season, now in the Braves’ system, Swanson hit .275-9-53, with 13 steals, in 105 games at High A and Double A. He was called up August 17 and went .302-3-17 in 38 games for the Braves.  The 6’1”, 190-pound, 23-year-old is not known for flashy skills, but rather for “veteran” defensive instincts and reliability, a quick bat, good plate discipline and the potential to add power to his game.  This spring, Swanson was sidelined for a couple of weeks with a side strain, and has gone .389-1-4 in 18 at bats (seven games).  Look for him to be a surprisingly steady (for a rookie) influence in the Braves infield.

BRAVES’ MAKE HAUL IN MILLER TRADE

In the NL West, the Diamondbacks seem to consistently find themselves chasing the pitching rich Dodgers and Giants. In 2015, they went “all in” to close the mound gap. Early that December, they signed free-agent Zack Greinke – a former Cy Young Award winner, who led the NL (as a Dodger) in winning percentage (19-3, .864) and ERA (1.66) in 2015. At almost the same time, they added Shelby Miller to the rotation in a trade with the Braves.  Miller had been an All Star in 2015. He also led the NL in losses (6-17), despite a 3.02 ERA. The Diamondbacks also got minor league pitcher Gabe Speier in the deal; while sending number-one overall draft pick SS Dansby Swanson, OF Ender Inciarte and minor league pitcher Aaron Blair to the Braves.

What was the outcome? For the Diamondbacks, Miller had an off year, going 3-12, 6.15 (although he did show improvement; 3.98 ERA in the second half). Speier went 4-2, 2.62, while moving from Rookie League to Double A. The Diamondbacks finished fourth – 22 games off the pace. The Braves fared better – w-a-a-ay better. Inciarte hit .291-3-29 with 16 stolen bases and won a Gold Glove for his play in center field.  Swanson moved up to the Braves (see prospect description above) and seems set to be their shortstop for the long-range future.  Blair went 5-4, 4.65 at AAA, and 2-7, 7.59 with the Braves. The rebuilding Braves did finish last – 26 1/2 games out.

  1. HUNTER RENFROE (OF, Padres)

I like Hunter Renfroe a lot – and I’m convinced “13” (Renfroe was the 13th overall selection in the 2013 MLB draft) will be a lucky number for the Padres.  Renfroe played college ball at Mississippi and in 2013 won the C Spire Ferriss Trophy as the best college player in Mississippi. In 2011-12, he also played for the Bethesda team in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League – where his number was retired after a 2012 season when he set new team records in runs scored, runs batted in, home runs and total bases. In four minor league season (438 games), the 6’1’, 220-pound right-handed hitter hit .281, with 77 home runs, 283 RBI and 23 steals.

Before a September 2016 call up to the Padres, he was hitting .306-30-105 at Triple A El Paso. In 11 late season games for San Diego, Renfroe hit .371-4-14. In 15 Spring Training games, he’s hitting .304, with two homers and seven RBI. Look for him in RF in San Diego.

  1. Yoan Moncada (2B, White Sox)
Yoan Moncada photo

Photo by apardavila

The key player in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada was signed out of Cuba by the Red Sox in 2015. As a teenager in the Cuban National Series, Moncada hit .277-4-28 in 101 games. The 21-year-old made his MLB debut in 2016, going four-for-nineteen in eight games with the Red Sox.  Considered one of MLB’s top-five prospects, he hit .287-23-100, with 94 stolen bases over two minor league seasons. This spring, the 6’2”, 205-pound infielder is hitting .317-3-13 in 17 games.  Reports indicate the rebuilding White Sox won’t rush Moncada to the major leagues, but BBRT is guessing he’ll force his way to “The Show” before season’s end.

 

 

 

  1. JOSH BELL (1B, Pirates)

Pirates’ first baseman Josh Bell is less of a can’t miss prospect than the first four on this list – more because of health concerns than performance expectations. The 24-year-old Bell, at 6’2”, 240-pounds, looks like the prototypical power-hitting first baseman. To this point, he’s shown power potential, but has been more of a line-drive hitter.  In five minor league seasons (487 games), Bell has hit .303, with 44 home runs and 285 RBI (and he’s tossed in 23 steals, not bad for a 240-pounder).

Bell was signed by the Pirates (out of high school) in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft. In his senior campaign for Jesuit College Preparatory School (Dallas, Texas), Bell hit .548, with 13 home runs and 54 RBI, earning a spot on the USA Today All-USA High School Team, Gatorade/ESPN Texas Player of the Year honors and a scholarship offer from the University of Texas.  Bell began the 2016 season at AAA Indianapolis, going .295-14-60 before a call up to the Pirates.  He got in 45 games for Pittsburgh, hitting .273-3-19.  Bell should be a fixture in the Pirates lineup this season.

Oh, about that health issue. In 2012, Bell had significant (left) knee surgery (meniscus) and then, this February, had minor surgery to remove what was termed a loose body from the same knee.  Bell is back with the team, but has only two hits in seven spring games (21 at bats). He’s got some catching up to do, but he should be in the line upon Opening Day.

THREE YOUNG YANKEES THAT COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE

The Yankees are seeing a changing of the guard and – at least to BBRT – it looks pretty good.  Consider what these three youngsters could mean to the Bronx Bombers’ future. 

Catcher Gary Sanchez (24-years-old) made his MLB debut last season and went .299-20-42 in 53 games. He’s maintaining the momentum this spring, with a .361-4-13 line in 13 games. 

Then there is 1B Greg  Bird (24-year-old), who showed a power bat in the minors and came up last year to hit .261-11-31 in 46 games for the Yanks.  This spring, Bird is .421-4-6 in 16 games.

Finally, there is OF Aaron Judge (also 24), who hit .270-19-65 at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre last season (93 games) before going .179-4-10 in 27 games for the Yankees. New York still expects good things from this top prospect, who is at .286-2-3 in 17 spring games.

ALSO ON THE BBRT WATCH LIST

MITCH HANIGER  (OF, Mariners)

Mitch Haniger photo

Photo by Keith Allison

Haniger’s 19 hits leads all hitters this spring. The 26-year-old has nine extra bases hits (six doubles, one triple and two home runs) and eight RBI. Haniger (6’2”, 215-pounds) ripped up Double A and Triple A last season (.321-25-94 in 129 games) and then hit five home runs and drove in 17 (but hit only .229) in a brief call up to the Diamondbacks.  After playing college ball at Cal Poly, where he earned Big West Conference Player of the Year and All American honors in 2012, he was drafted by the Brewers as a supplemental pick (end of first round) in 2012. He was traded to the D-backs in 2014 and then to the Mariners in November of 2016. Haniger has strong minor league numbers (.290-61-268 over 455 games). He’s also a plus defender who may very well have played his way into a starting role this spring.

 

 

PETER O’BRIEN  (OF/1B,  Royals)

As of this writing (March 20), Peter O’Brien is tied for the Spring Training lead in home runs (six) with a more familiar name (Bryce Harper). Through Monday, the 6’4”, 235-pounder was hitting .333-6-13 and opening some eyes.    O’Brien was a second-round pick (Yankees) in the 2012 MLB Draft, traded to the Diamondbacks in 2014 and then to the Royals (who liked his power bat) this January. He played college ball for Bethune-Cookman and the University of Miami and was named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2010 and All Atlantic Coast Conference in 2011. O’Brien’s best minor league seasons were 2015 (.284-26-107 at Triple A) and 2014 (.271-34-74 at three levels). In a brief 2016 call up to the Diamondbacks, he hit .141-5-9 in 28 games. Despite a solid spring, O’Brien – who still needs to work on plate discipline – is expected to start the season in the minors. Still, BBRT expect to see him in a Royals’ uniform soon.

BROCK STASSI  (1B, Phillies)

Brock Stassi (6’2”, 190-pounds) has been a run-producing machine this spring, with an MLB-leading 15 RBI in just 17 games. The 27-year-old’s line in 43 Spring Training at bats is .326-5-15. Stassi may be THE surprise of Spring Training. A 33rd-round draft pick (2011).  Stassi has a .263 average, with 42 home runs and 271 RBI in 580 minor league games (six seasons). He played college ball for the University of Nevada and was a First-Team All-Western Athletic Conference pick during his senior season. He’s had a solid spring, but the Phillies may find it hard to take him north – or even free up a spot on the forty man roster. It doesn’t help his cause that 24-year-old Tommy Joseph, who surprised the Phillies with 21 home runs in 107 games after being called up last season is penciled in for the first base slot – although Stassi’s left-handed bat could be valuable off the bench. Keep an eye on him as the season progresses.

ONE TOP PROSPECT WE WON’T SEE

ALEX REYES  (RHP, Cardinals)

aLEX rEYES CARDINALS photo

Photo by Corn Farmer

Twenty-two-year old Alex Reyes (6’3”, 175-pounds) looked to have a lock on a spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. With a high-90s fastball (with movement), a power curve and a solid changeup, he earned a call uP last August and went 4-1, 1.57 with 52 strikeouts in 46 innings (12 appearances/five starts). This followed four minor league seasons in which he went 20-21, 3.50 with 449 strikeouts in 334 innings pitched.  BBRT was anxious to see what Reyes – signed as an amateur free agent in 2012 – could do in a full season for St. Louis. It was, however, not to be.  In February, he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery.  See you in 2018.

 

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

Bobbles to Bangles – 2017 MLB Team Giveaways

MLB’s regular season is closing in fast and, as is BBRT’s tradition, it’s time to take a look at the ballpark “extras” fans can expect – promotions, giveaways, theme nights, special discounts and more.  Being from Minnesota, I will put a little “extra” emphasis on the Twins; but I’ll share some information on unique giveways across MLB.

DISCLAIMER:  Keep in mind, promotional items and schedules are subject to change without notice. For a complete list and up-to-date details regarding 2017 Twins promotions (including dates, numbers of items, activities and eligibility) click here  For details on promotions and events across MLB, visit each team’s website.

This year’s team  promotions range from bobbles (bobbleheads, that is) to bangles (like the Hanley Ramirez Chain and Diamondbacks’ Mothers’ Day “Clutch”).  They also range from traditional (baseball caps, jerseys and gloves) to hi-tech (the Phillies are literally giving away a “Tech Kit,” as well as a cell phone wallet and “texting” gloves) to super practical (Mariners’ Potting Soil Night).  And, they salute players new (like Dansby Swanson and Michael Fulmer) and old (like Hank Aaron and Whitey Ford).  In addition, they celebrate a range of individual and team events from Rod Carew’s 1977 MVP season to the Cubs’ 2016 World Series win. Even mascots like the Phillie Phanatic, Fredbird and T.C. Bear are getting into the act. There is truly something for everyone. The giveaway BBRT is most excited about, however, is something new that the Twins are offering to young fans.

BASEBALL ROUNDTABLE 2017 MOST UNIQUE NEW BALLPARK GIVEAWAY

TwinsTThis season, on April 23, the Twins’ are introducing a truly personal touch to ballpark promotions – a customizable Twins Youth T-Shirt.  That’s right!  The Twins Tee will come with iron-on letters and numbers, so youngsters can have their very own personalized Twins outfit (or maybe wear the name and number of their favorite player).  The first 5,000 youngsters 14-and-under will receive T-Shirts, so get there early. Plus, Sunday is Kids Day, so young folks can get a player autograph before the game; enjoy a half-price Kids Meal ($4 for a hot dog; chips or apple sauce; and milk, soda or juice) during the game; and can run the bases after the game.  Now, that is kid- and parent-friendly day at Target Field.  BBRT Note: Among the runners-up for most unique promotional item were the Phillies “texting” gloves and a singing Francisco Cervelli bobblehead from the Pirates. 

In the remainder of this post, BBRT will take a look at some of the most popular or unique items in the MLB’s “Gift Bags” for the year – listing my top five (hometown) Twins promos, as well as a featured promotional item from each team’s 2017 collection.  Since bobbleheads remain the king of ballpark promos, I’ll also list the bobbleheads (and dates) for each team. Then, I’ll also take a look at the Twins’ special Theme Days and Nights, as well as discounts on tickets and concessions. (Twins fans may want to be sure to read – or scroll – past the team-by-team section to take in the Twins-specific events and bargains.)  I’ll finish up with BBRT’s 2017 All-Bobblehead All Star Team. And, again remember, before finalizing your plans, check each team’s website for details (dates and promotions may change) on dates, numbers, eligibility, etc.

BOBBLEHEADS ARE STILL THE TOP MLB GIVEAWAY

2017 bobblehead giveaways range from the unique (Robin Yount Motorcyle) to the traditional (Gary Sanchez' swing.)

2017 bobblehead giveaways range from the unique (Robin Yount Motorcyle) to the traditional (Gary Sanchez’ swing.)

The king of MLB giveaways remains the bobblehead.  This year, teams are slated to hand out 133 different bobbleheads – totalling more than 2.25 million individual bobblers.  (An exact count is difficult, as some teams list totals for giveaways as “all fans” or “as long as supplies last” – 2.25 million is a conservative estimate. Smith and Street’s Sports Business Journal – in a November 30, 2015 article – reported that MLB teams distributed 3.17 million bobbleheads in 2015.) I would also note that the BBRT estimate does not include bobbleheads to be distributed as part of theme nights that require special tickets.

One final thought on bobbleheads.  If bobbleheads are the royalty of ballpark giveaways, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the King of the court.  This season, the Dodgers will handout approximately 400,000 bobbleheads (10 different bobbblehead days) – the most in MLB.

 

MINNESOTA TWINS TOP-FIVE 2017 GIVEAWAYS

This season, the Twins will handout a treasure trove of team-identified baseball merchandise, including:

  • 40,000 bobbleheads
  • 40,000 Twins caps
  • 40,000 stocking caps
  • 30,000 long-sleeve, hooded t-shirts
  • 20,000 baseball card packs
  • 25,000 T-shirts
  • 10,000 fur trapper hats
  • 10,000 1987 World Series Steins
  • 10,000 Twins Hall of Fame commemorative pins
  • 10,000 pairs of socks
  • 10,000 plastic bat & ball sets
  • 10,000 magnetic schedules
  • 10,000 tote bags
  • 7,500 beach towels
  • 5,000 beach totes

gold radial gradationNow, here are BBRT’s five favorite 2017 Twins giveaways. For more details and a complete list of Twins giveaways, theme nights and special ticket or concessions offerings, click here

 

 

  1. Twins Long Sleeve Hooded Tee (30,000 – April 3) … Twins hoodies are rapidly becoming an Opening Day tradition.  A very nice Twins wearable – and, after all, what’s better than something free on Opening Day?
  2. Twins Customizable Youth Tee (5,000 – April 23) … See box  and photo near the top of this post.
  3. Rod Carew Bobblehead (10,000 – August 18) … This bobblehead is part of a Twins’ celebration of Rod Carew’s Summer of’ ’77; when Sir Rodney led the league with a .388 average, 239 hits, 128 runs scored and 16 triples.  He added 14 home runs, 100 RBI and 23 stolen bases on his way to the AL Most Valuable Player Award.  If you score only one bobblehead this season, this is the one. (Oh yes, there’s also post-game fireworks.)
  4. Twins 1987 World Championship Stein (10,000, must be 21+ – July 22) … Great way to recognize that surprising 1987 World Series win (especially if you fill it with your favorite beverage).  As a bonus, it’s part of the July 21-22 1987 World Series Championship Reunion Weekend.
  5. Tie: Twins Fur Trapper Hat (10,000 – April 15) and Twins Red Cap (20,000 – April 22) … Twins Senior Manager for Marketing and Promotions Julie Vavruska indicated the fur trapper hats have been especially popular with Twins’ fans and, from BBRT’s point of view, you can never have too many Twins baseball caps. This season, I prefer the red one.

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Now let’s move to a look at one unique item – and the bobblehead list – for each team.

Arizona Diamondbacks

DiamondbacksclutchThe BBRT-featured Diamondbacks promo will be given out on Mother’s Day (May 14) – a Diamondbacks Clutch.  Swee-ee-t!  Arizona’s bobbleheads include: Jake Lamb (April 8); Paul Goldschmidt (June 24); Robbie Ray (July 22); Sugar Skull (September 9).

 

 

 

Atlanta Braves

The Braves featured item honors one of MLB’s all-time greats – a Hank Aaron Replica Statue (August 18).  The team is also giving away five bobbleheads, honoring returning players and newcomers: Ender Inciarte Game Ender Catch (May 19); Bartolo Colon (June 9); Dansby Swanson (June 16); Matt Kemp (July 14); Freddie Freeman (August 25).

Baltimore Orioles

OriolesThe Orioles’ BBRT-featured giveaway is a Replica Stadium recognizing the 25th Anniversary of Orioles Park at Camden Yards (August 19) – although the Oriole Bird Bobblehead Toothbrush Holder (September 24) also caught my eye.  Orioles’ 2017 bobbleheads include: Zach Britton (July 1); Jonathan Schoop (August 5).

 

 

Boston Red Sox

RammyThe featured Red Sox item truly qualifies as baseball bling – A Hanley Ramirez Chain (May 1).  The featured bobbleheads for 2017: Rick Porcello Cy Young Award (April 5); Mookie Betts (April 14); Craig Kimbrel (May 24); Chris Sale (June 12); Manny Ramirez (June 27); Jackie Bradley, Jr. (August 3).

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs trophyWe’ll give a little more space here to the Cubbies, who are celebrating the end of the curse (and, of course, a World Series Championship).  The Cubs’ featured item is the Replica 2016 World Series Trophy (April 15.)  However, fans can also pick up a Replica WS Championship Banner (April 12); Replica 2016 NL Champions Pennant (May 21); Championship Wall Flag (June 11/13-and-under); and Championship Parade Confetti Globe (June 20).  The Cubs’ bobbleheads: “The Final Out” (May 20); “World Series MVP” (June 8); “Turning Two” (July 5); “Starting Aces” (August 17).

Chicago White Sox

WhiteSoxClockThe ChiSox, this season, are treating fans to a Hawk Harrelson Alarm Clock (May 13). Their 2017 free bobbleheads: Southpaw (June 25); White Sox Stormtrooper (August 26).

 

 

 

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds’ top giveaway (from BBRT’s perspective) is actually a bobblehead – a triple bobblehead to be exact.  On  Spetember 16, the team will handout a Past and Present Bobblehead featuring Tony Perez, Sean Casey and Joey Votto. That’s a home run!  (Note: One of my favorite bobblers of all time was the Reds’ 2015 triple, featuring the “Nasty Boys” bullpen of Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton, who helped the Reds claim the 1990 World Series Championship.) Also on the Reds’ 2017 bobblehead list: Adam Duvall (May 20); Anthony DeSclafani (June 3); Billy Hamilton (July 15); Raisel Iglesias (August 5); Homer Bailey (August 26); Fan Vote (September 23.)

Cleveland Indians

IndiansTrophyThe Indians are showing off Cleveland pride with their BBRT-featured giveaway – a Replica of the 2017 American League Championship Trophy (May 24)They are also a great source for that coveted Indians’ jersey, as their promotional schedule includes a: Carlos Santana jersey (June 10); Cody Allen jersey (June 24); Andrew Miller jersey (July 8); Edwin Encarnacion jersey (August 26); and a 1977 jersey (September 9). Bobbleheads for 2017: Jose Ramirez (May 27); Francisco Lindor (July 4); Jason Kipnis (July 22); Terry Francona (August 23).

Colorado Rockies

EarthDayOkay, I admit it, I’m a John Denver fan – which helps make choosing the Rockies’  Earth Day 2017 T-shirt (April 21) as the BBRT-featured Rockies’ Giveaway easy- although the Jon Gray Hair Hat (June 16) was tempting.  The Rockies’ bobbleheads for this season: DJ LeMahieu NL Batting Champ (April 8); MARVEL Super Heroes (July 8); Adam Ottavino Star Wars (July 22); Nolan Arenado (August 19).

 

Detroit Tigers

TigersHarThe Tigers featured giveaway reflects the weather of the Motor City – the “April in the D” Trapper Hat (April 8, when the fans will probably need them). The Tigers’ bobblehead giveaways: Michael Fulmer Rookie of the Year (June 16); James McCann (July 29); Alan Trammel (August 19).

 

 

Houston Astros

AstrosGnoemBBRT’s pick-to-click Astros’ giveaway is the Lance McCullers “Glow in the Dark” Gnome (May 20) – for a couple of reasons: 1) Who wouldn’t want a glow in the dark gnome?; and 2) It’s sponsored by Nolan Ryan Beef.  Astros’ bobbleheads: Jose Altuve (April 8); Carlos Correa (July 15); Jeff Bagwell Batting Stance (August 5); Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Hampton Triple Bobblehead (August 19); George Springer Diving Catch (September 16). The weekend of August 4-5 should be exciting in Houston, it’s Jeff Bagwell Hall of Fame Weekend at the ballpark – and you could score a Replica 1997 Bagwell Jersey (August 4) and a Bagwell bobblehead (August 5), while also enjoying fireworks (August 4) and a pregame Hall of Fame ceremony (August 5).

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City has a rich baseball history – as well as the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum – and  BBRT really likes their May 7 Kansas City Monarchs Jersey giveaway. Royals’ bobbleheads for this season: Kelvin Herrera (April 29); Danny Duffy (May 13); Alex Gordon (June 3); Eric Hosmer (July 22); Kevin Appier (August 19); George Brett (September 30).

Los Angeles Angels

AngelsCaracasKeeping a focus on unique items, BBRT is featuring the Angels’ Cinco De Mayo giveaway – Angels’ Maracas (May 5, of course). The Angels’ bobbleheads feature a Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer.  Mike Trout is featured on a series of three bobbleheads honoring his 2016 MVP season (May 16, August 4, August 22); Trout will also be recognized with a MVP Double Bobblehead (July  18); and Nolan Ryan will be honored with a August 25 bobblehead promo.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

DodgersPhoneThe Dodgers are not only the king of bobbleheads (10 different bobblehead giveways), they may very well be the royalty of MLB promotions.  In 2017, 65 of the Dodgers’ home games will feature some type of giveaway, theme or event. BBRT chose to feature a unique item – the Dodgers Phone Charger (April 4); but I could easily have picked from a  long list of promotional items,  headlined by such giveaways as the ten Great Dodger Moments Coins; the Vin Scully Commemorative Microphone Statue (May 3); the Dodgers Chips and Salsa Dish (May 8); and the replica Jackie Robinson Statue (April 15).  As for bobbleheads, the Dodgers’ 2017 lineup includes: Corey Seager (April 29); Kenley Jansen (May 10); Joc Pederson (May 23); Justin Turner (June 6); Andre Ethier (June 21); Dave Roberts (July 6); Clayton Kershaw (July 26); Gil Hodges (August 15); Adrian Gonzalez (September 6); TBD (September 26).

Miami Marlins

U.S. engineer/inventor Charles Kettering once said “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. ” With that in mind, the Marlins’ promotional giveaway featured in this post is the Fortune Teller Baseball (which I predict will be given to the first 10,000 fans on September 4). Marlins’ 2017 bobblehead lineup: Don Mattingly (April 14); Felo Ramirez (May 28); Giancarlo Stanton 2016 HR Derby (June 3); Dee Gordon (July 29); J.T. Realmuto (August 25); Christian Yelich (September 17).

Milwaukee Brewers

EuckerThe Brewers will literally be putting Bob Eucker behind (actually on) the 8-Ball on August 13, when they hand out their Bob Eucker 8-Ball promotional item.  Also unique is the May 28 giveaway Robin Yount Bobblehead (on a motorcyle), which recognizes the Baseball Hall of Famer’s passion for motorcyle and auto racing. (See photo at the top of the post.) Other bobbleheads: Jonathan Villar (April 23); Zach Davies (July 2)

 

New York Mets

HarveyA review of MLB giveaways wouldn’t be complete without at least a couple of garden gnomes, so here’s the Mets’ Matt Harvey Garden Gnome (April 22)  – although the Noah Syndergaard Hair Hat (May 6) and Yeonis Cespedes Compression Sleeve (July 23) also were tempting.  The Mets’ team of 2017 bobblehead giveaways includes: Asdrubel Cabrera (July 1); Noah Syndergaard/Thor (July 22); Yeonis Cespedes (August 19).

 

 

 

 

 

New York Yankees

The Yankees featured giveaway commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the team’s 1977 World Series win  – a replica of the 1977 World Championship Ring (September 17). Yankee bobbleheads for the season celebrate the old and new when it comes to player selections: Gary Sanchez (April 30); Reggie Jackson (June 9); Whitey Ford (July 9); Aroldis Chapman (August 27 – this one should go “fast.”)

Oakland A’s

AsWatchThe A’s are ready to offer fans a good time on May 7, with their Sean Manaea LED Wrist Watch. (No need for Manaea to buy a vowel that’s for sure.)  On the bobblehead front: Bob Melvin (May 6); Khris Davis (June 3); Miguel Tejada & Bary Zito (July 1); G-Eazy (July 28).

 

Philadelphia Phillies  Go Tech

PhilllieTextingglovesFor the Phillies, BBRT decided to go for unique, something no other ball club was giving away – Phillies Texting Gloves (April 25). Social media, here comes the Phanatic. The Phillies, BTW – might as well go all the way with this – are also giving away a Phillies Cell Phone Wallet (April 12) and a Phillies Tech Kit (earphones, charging/power plugs, case – May 22);   Phillies bobbleheads: Mike Schmidt (July 8). Phillie Phanatic Solar Bobble Body (July 30).PhilliesPhonePhilliesTech

Pittsburgh Pirates

PiratesCervelliThe Pirates are one of only two teams – the other is the Reds – which have a bobblehead as the BBRT-featured giveaway.  But really, how can you resist a Francisco Cervelli “That’s Amore” Singing Bobblehead (April 8).  Additional Pirates’ bobbleheads for 2017: Bob Walk Chair Tip (May 20); Jody Mercer (June 17); Gregory Polanco El Coffee (August 19).

 

 

 

 

Saint Louis Cardinals

DogBowlBark in the Park, Pups in the Park, Dog Days at the Park, whatever you call it, take your dog to the ballgame day is pretty popular around MLB.  In St.Louis, it’s Purina Pooches in the Ballpark (May 20).  And, even if your pooch can’t make it to the game, you can go home with a Cardinals Pet Bowl.  Don’t have a pet, show up on September 10 for a Build-A-Bear Cardinals Pup.  Oh yes, and here are the Redbirds’ bobbleheads for the season:  Yadier Molina (April 8); Carlos Martinez and Matt Carpenter Double (April 29); Orlando Cepeda (June 9); Bob Gibson Final Out #1 (June 24); Kids Fredbird (June 25); Tim McCarver Final Out #2 (July 8); Mystery HOF Manager (August 25); Scott Rolen (September 30).

San Diego Padres

The Padres’ 2017 promo schedule is, once again, bobble-less. Still, there is the popular Padres and Puppies Calendar (April 23).  Who can resist puppies?

San Francisco Giants

GiantsCableUnique to the Giants is the September 3 San Francisco Cable Car Replica giveaway – a bit of Bay Area history. The Giants’ 2017 bobbleheads include: Johhny Cueto Shimmy (April 15); Giants Retro (June 24); and Charlie Brown (July 22).  I’d also like – ‘er love – to get one of the  June 25 promo 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love blankets.

 

 

Seattle Mariners

MarinersTBBRT was especially fond of the Mariners’ (July 21) I “Club” New York T-Shirt giveaway because it was the only one I came across that actually referred to the opposing team.  (I like that spirit.)  The Mariners were pretty big on bobbleheads as well (seven players/165,000 bobbleheads): Ichiro Dual Bobblehead (April 19); Felix Hernandez (May 6); Jay Buhner (May 20); Nelson Cruz (June 3); Kyle Seager (July 8); Edgar Martinez (August 11); Robinson Cano (September 9). August 11-13, the Mariners are planning plenty of action around the retirement of Edgar Martinez’ number: Edgar Martinez Bobblehead (August 11, 45,000); Edgar Martinez number-retirement ceremony and Replica Number Plaque (August 12, 45,000); Edgar Martinez Replica Jersey (August 13, 45,000).  The Mariners were also the only team with a “Potting Soil Night.” 

Tampa Bay Rays

RayspillowThe Rays are right up to date, with the giveaway BBRT has chosen to feature – the Chris Archer Emoji Pillow (July 23).  I must admit that the Bubble Blowing Evan Longoria (May 6) figure also  intrigued me.  The Rays’ bobbleheads: Kevin Kiermaier Gold Glove (April 8); Matt Duffy Double Play (June 10); Kevin Kiermaier Star Wars (June 24); MARVEL Iron Man (August 5); Blake Snell (September 16).

 

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers’ most unique item would seem to be the Jonathan Lucroy Chest Protector Backpack (August 20)  Among the bobbleheads for the coming season: Adrian Beltre Dancing Legs (April 29); Elvis Andrus/Rougned Odor High Five #1 (May 13); Cole Hamels Super Hero (June 3); Elvis Andrus/Rougned Odor High Five #2 (July 29); Pudge Rodriguez Hall of Fame (August 12).

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays’ BBRT-featured giveaweay is a Blue Jays Sleeved Blanket, presented at the final home game (September 24).  Blue Jays’ bobbleheads: Marco Estrada (May 14); Josh Donaldson (June 4); Aaron Sanchez (July 9);

Washington Nationals

NationalsScherzerGlobeTop Nats’ giveaway goes to the Max Scherzer Snow Globe  (May 24), honoring the ace of the staff and 2016 Cy Young Award Winner. The Nationals are featuring three bobblehead giveaways: Daniel Murphy (April 14);  Trea Turner (May 12); Tanner Roark (June 9).

 

 

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Now, for Twins fans, a look at …
TWINS SPECIAL EVENTS AND THEME NIGHTS

Wine, Women and Baseball … May 5, July 7, August 29

1 (1)Back in the Days of the Metrodome, the Twins launched their Wine, Women and Baseball event  – which still sells out (approximately 400 for each event). Twins Senior Manager for Marketing and Promotions Julie Vavruska said the original event was held in tents on the Plaza outside the Metrodome.  It’s now held (pregame) at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel – where attendees enjoy wine tastings, light appetizers and desserts, and “Pamper Yourself” stations (manicures, massages, hair styling, etc.). You can expect Twins wives to drop in, and each participant also receives a Twins Cross Body Bag. Topping it all off, of course, is an evening at Target Field.

The Twins have a host of special events slated this season, including the: 1987 World Series Championship Reunion Weekend (July 21-22); Diversity Day (August 3); T.C.’s Summer Bash and Mascot Softball Game (August 6); Rod Carew Summer of ’77 Tribute (August 18); and Twins Hall of Fame Weekend (August 19-20).  Twins Marketing and Promotions executive Julie Vavruska indicated there would be a range of special activities and promotions linked to those events.

“We’ll be giving out our first-ever, at-the-gate T.C. Bear bobblehead at the T.C. Summer Bash,” she said. “And you can expect photo and autograph opportunities related to the 1987 World Series team reunion.”

Vavruska was also excited about this season’s Diversity Day tumbler giveaway (August 3), which makes use of a computer-generated program to make each of the 5,000 tumblers to be handed out unique. “You’ll know that the tumbler you received is a one-of-a-kind item,” she said.  “No one will have the same one.”

Vavruska also discussed the Twins’ ambitious Theme Night/Day schedule, noting that theme events – which require a special ticket – enable the team to reach specific groups.

“We started with just a handful of events in 2015, with a goal of bringing in people who hadn’t been to the ballpark before,” she said. “We got great feedback and results.  In 2015, 70 percent of the theme-event participants were first-time visitors to Target Field.”

The Twins have since expanded the theme concept, which both attracts fans (new and old) and generates a sense of community at the ballpark.   For full details, check out the Twins promotional schedule on the team website. Here, however, is a list of Theme Events and the promotional items that go with the special ticket.

  • University of Minnesota Night … May 5 (Maroon and Gold Twins cap)
  • MARVEL Super Heroes Day … May 6 (“Guardians of the Infield” T-shirt)
  • Scrubs Night … May 16 (Twins hospital scrub top)
  • Faith Day … May 28 (Post-game program)
  • University of St. Thomas Night  … June 20 (Purple and Gray Twins cap)
  • Star Wars Night  … June 21 (Brian Dozier “A Force 2B Reckoned With” Stormtrooper bobblehead)
  • University of North Dakota Night … July 7 (Green and White Twins cap)
  • College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University Night … July 18 (Red and White Twins cap)
  • Sportsmen’s Night … August 5 (Blaze Orange/Camo reversible Twins beanie)
  • North Dakota State University Night … August 15  (Yellow and Green Twins cap)

 

On Cancer Awareness NIght, participating fans will be able to select a Twins cap in colors that reflect the cancer charity of their choice.

On Cancer Awareness Night, participating fans will be able to select a Twins cap in colors that reflect the cancer charity of their choice.

  • Cancer Awareness Night … August 30 (Unique Twins caps in colors reflecting the cancer charity each attendee would like to support)
  • Minnesota Wild Night …. September 12 (Exclusive co-branded Wild/Twins cap)
  • Love Your Melon Night … September 14 (Twins Love Your Melon beanie)
  • Zubapalooza Night … September 29 (A pair of Minnesota Twins Zubas)

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WE ALL LOVE A BARGAIN – TWINS’ DEALS

Anyone who knows me personally, knows how I love a bargain.  Here are a few of my Twins’ favorite Bargains.

EVERY GAME

Cub Family Section … Free hot dog and soda with each ticket in the alcohol-free family section. Hot dog and soda available at Hennepin Grille (Section 311).

EVERY MONDAY THROUGH THURSDAY GAME (excluding Opening Day)

Military/Veterans Appreciation … Active Military or veternas with valid ID can purchase up to four Home Plate View tickets at half price.

ALL WEEKDAY DAY GAMES

Treasure Island Senior Day … Fans 55 and over receive a $5 discount on Field Box and Treasure Island Cove seats.

EVERY SUNDAY

Kids Day … Kids Meals (Hot Dog – Chips or Apple Sauce – Beverage) are half-price ($4); Pregame player autograph opportunity for kids 14-and-under; Kids can run the bases post game. Kids Meals at Hennepin Grille (Section 311) and Taste of Twins Territory (Section 124).

EVERY TUESDAY

U.S. Bank Meal Deal … Free hot dog and soda with each U.S. Bank Home Run Porch View ticket. Hot dog and soda at Hennepin Grille (Section 232), The Deck Section U, and Taste of Twins Terrioty (Section 234).

EVERY WEDNESDAY

Schweigert Dollar-A-Dog Day … Hot dogs for $1 at the Hennepin Grille and Taste of Twins Territory concession stands. (limit two person, total of 20,000 per game).

Student Day … Ballpark Access tickets for students for $5, and students can download a free Metro Transit Ride Pass. One ticket per student with valid ID

THE BIG FINISH – YOUR 2017 MLB ALL BOBBLEHEAD ALL STARS

C – YADIER MOLINA, CARDINALS

1B – PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, DIAMONDBACKS

2B – JOSE ALTUVE, ASTROS

3B – NOLEN ARENADO, ROCKIES

SS – FRANCISCO LINDOR, INDIANS

LF – ALEX GORDON, ROYALS

CF – MIKE TROUT, ANGELS

RF – GIANCARLO STANTON, MARLINS

SP – CLAYTON KERSHAW, DODGERS

CL – ZACH BRITTON , ORIOLES

MGR – TERRY FRANCONA, INDIANS

THROWING OUT FIRST PITCH – WHITEY FORD, YANKEES

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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