By In Baseball, History, Stuff

The Rose Ballot

One of the questions people ask all the time is this: Why won’t the Pete Rose thing just go away? Rose was banned from baseball 27 years ago. Over those 27 years, he has denied betting on baseball … admitted betting on baseball but not on the Reds when he was manager … admitted betting on the Reds as manager but never to lose. He has sold autographed baseballs in Cooperstown when the Hall of Fame ceremonies were going on. He has continued to gamble, even on baseball, and has wondered aloud why this would give baseball pause in considering his reinstatement. He has done all sorts of cheesy things that have not exactly redeemed him in the public’s eye.

In other words: Why is anyone still talking about this? (more…)

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By In Baseball, History, Joe Vault

Vault: The Willie Mays Hall of Fame

Today’s Vault addition: For Brilliant Reader John Williamson, who requested it.

Bob Costas on Wednesday said something I’ve heard a lot of people say through the years. But because he’s Bob Costas, and I think the world of the guy, his words inspired this post. Bob thinks the Baseball Hall of Fame is too big. He did not go into detail, but he made it very clear — and I believe the reference point was Bert Blyleven– that the Hall of Fame was supposed to be for the “great” and, over the years, it became for the “very good.” He did not elaborate out of respect for the very good players who are already in the Hall of Fame. But I suspect that if it could be done clandestinely — that is to say if it could be done without anyone noticing and without hurting anybody — Bob and a lot of other people would throw a lot of players out of their Baseball Hall of Fame.*

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By In Baseball, History

Pennant Porch and Great American

Before we get into the remarkable — and painful — dinger-dinged pitching season for the Cincinnati Reds, we should talk for a good while about Pennant Porch and the 1964 Kansas City Athletics.  We should always take time, every now and again, to talk about Pennant Porch.

No team had ever given up 200 home runs in a season before 1964. The closest had been … the 1962 Kansas City Athletics, who gave up 199. Well, the Kansas City Athletics did love to give up the the long ball. The 1956 Athletics still hold the record for most homers allowed to one team … you can guess the team. That was the year Mickey Mantle won the triple crown, and he hit nine of his 52 homers against the A’s. Even more impressively, Hank Bauer hit 10 of his 26 homers against the A’s, and Yogi Berra hit nine of his 30 homers against the A’s. All in all, the Yankees hit an astonishing 56 home runs in 22 games against Kansas City.


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By In Baseball, History

Do Geese See God?

Got a few changes coming — pretty big changes, I think. Exciting, I hope. We’ll talk about them as they come up.

In the meantime, based on a Brilliant Reader comment I saw on Facebook, I believe these are all the last-name palindromes in baseball history.

— Truck Hannah. He earned some fame as a catcher for the Yankees from 1918-20; he was generally known as the player who helped settle disputes between Babe Ruth and manager Miller Huggins. He played baseball forever; Hannah got his first at-bat when he was 20 in Tacoma, and he got his last at-bat 31 years later when he got six at-bats for the Memphis Chickasaws of the old Southern Association.

But the coolest Truck Hannah fact I can come up with is that his daughter, Helen, had one of the most remarkable lives imaginable. Someday, I have to write the Helen Hannah Campbell story. She was a high school friend of Richard Nixon (he may or may not have had a crush on her). She was a chaperone in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. And she was one of the first women to become a Marine. What a life.

— Johnny Reder got a few games in with the 1932 Boston Red Sox. The highlight of his career is probably the RBI infield single he got off of future Hall of Famer Red Faber. In the game, Reder got that single, two walks and scored twice.

— Eddie Kazak is one of the truly remarkable stories in baseball history. He, like Musial and dozens of other future Major Leaguers, grew up in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. He was working the mines when he got his chance to play Class D ball in Valdosta in 1940. A year later, he signed with the Cardinals and ripped up the Georgia-Florida league, hitting .378 with 118 RBIs for Albany. A year later, he cooled off while playing for Houston. And then he went to war.

Kazak became a paratrooper and was part of the D-Day invasion. He was stabbed by a bayonet and lost a lot of blood. A bit later, he was hit in the right elbow by shrapnel. He would spend 18 months in a hospital. He was done playing baseball.

Only, he wasn’t. Though he would feel searing pain in his right arm every time he threw a baseball, he kept on playing. First he went to Columbus and hit. Then he went to Omaha and hit. Then he went to Rochester and hit. When he was 27, the Cardinals called him up to play in a few games. When he was 28, he hit .304 in 92 games and made the All-Star team.

That was the highlight — he fell off in 1950 and was out of baseball by 1952. Still: What a career. He also hit .321 in 28 at-bats off fellow World War II vet Warren Spahn, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, but whose name spelled backward is Nhaps.

— Dick and Robb Nen. Dick was a first baseman for the Dodgers, Senators and Cubs in the 1960s. He homered off St. Louis’ Ron Taylor in the ninth inning of his first game to send the game into extra innings. And throughout his career, he owned Catfish Hunter. He hit .407 with three homers in 32 at-bats against the Catfish.

His son Robb had the nastiest of sliders, a pitch some called “The Terminator” for the way it would finish off hitters. He struck out 793 in 718 innings over his career, made three All-Star teams, led the league in saves once and utterly owned Todd Helton, who went 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts against forward-or-backward Nen.

— Toby Harrah. My favorite of the palindromes, Toby Harrah had a superb career. He had almost 2,000 hits, almost 200 homers, almost 1000 RBIs. It was like that. Harrah played 2,155 games — 712 of them for my beloved Cleveland Indians. He was traded straight up in 1978 for Buddy Bell, and while Buddy was the better player, Harrah was good, and anyway they were destined for the same fate. Combined they played 4,560 big league games … and not one postseason game.

Harrah was a legitimately great player in 1975. That year he hit .293 with 20 homers, he walked 98 times, he stole 23 bases and he played an excellent shortstop. He was never quite that good again, though he hit 27 homers and led the league with 109 walked in 1977, and he was an all-star in 1982 for the Tribe when he hit .304 with 25 homers, walked 84 times, stole 17 of 20 bases and scored 100 runs. I’m not sure if he’s in the Hall of Very Good but he should be …

He owned Vida Blue (.424 with a .644 slugging percentage), homered five times off Bert Blyleven and would be in the Hall of Fame if he could have just faced John Cumberland over and over. He faced Cumberland three times. Harrah hit two homers and a double.

— Mark Salas. Fernando Salas. Juan Salas. Marino Salas.

Mark was a backup catcher for six different teams in the 1980s and early 1990s. He actually had a surprisingly solid rookie season, hitting .300 and slugging .458; he had the same WAR as Ozzie Guillen, who won the Rookie of the Year award. He fell off from there, though he did hit .378 with some power for Minnesota in 1987 before the Twins dealt him to the Yankees for Joe Niekro. Salas, rather famously, did not get a World Series ring from that team for some reason. They gave him a watch instead. Salas crushed the knuckleball — he hit .433 with three homers in 35 plate appearances against Charlie Hough. Admittedly, he wasn’t quite as good against Tom Candiotti (.222 with a double).

Fernando was (and is) a substantial relief pitcher who saved 24 games for the 2011 World Series Cardinals. You might remember that the Cardinals went with Jason Motte as their closer in the postseason. One of my favorite little facts about Fernando Salas is that he was driven and inspired by one of my old childhood heroes, Sid Monge, who pushed Fernando when he was in the Mexican League. Andrew McCuthen has never gotten a hit off Fernando, though Cutch has walked four of the eight times the two have faced.

Juan pitched in 47 big league games, most of them with the 2007 Devil Rays. Remember when they were the Devil Rays? He faced Brian Roberts five times and got him out all five.

Marino Salas will forever be unbeaten — his career record is 1-0. He also will forever have an 8.47 ERA. The game he won for Pittsburgh was his first game against St. Louis. He came into the game in the bottom of the ninth with the scored tied. He walked Aaron Miles, gave up a sacrifice bunt to Adam Wainwright, intentionally walked Skip Schumaker (of course), struck out Brendan Ryan, semi-intentionally walked Albert Pujols and got Ryan Ludwick to fly out. The Pirates scored four the next inning to give him the victory.

— Dave Otto. Super-tall left-handed pitcher for four teams in the last 1980s and early 1990s. Otto grew up in Chicago and went to the University of Missouri — he was taken in the second round twice, first by Baltimore (didn’t sign) and then by Oakland. For such a tall pitcher, Otto hardly struck out anybody. In his last three years, when he was trying to put a relief pitching career together, he struck out just 81 in 193 innings. He did give Cal Ripken fits, though. Ripken went 0-for-8 against Otto — the only time he got on was an intentional walk.


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By In Baseball, History

Jackie and Pee Wee

From NBC SportsWorld:

You may have noticed that the blog has been a bit quirky the last couple of weeks. Apparently there was some malware affecting it, and then there was an issue with comments and so on. I really need to hire somebody to run this site. Of course, I don’t make any money off it, so …

Did Pee Wee Reese put his arm around Jackie Robinson during a game in Cincinnati in 1947? This has become a pretty big topic in the last month after Ken Burns’ “Jackie Robinson” documentary took the view that it’s a myth. All due respect to Ken Burns — and the documentary is quite touching — I don’t think that’s right. I’m not certain it happened. But I’m certain it’s not a myth.

The Embrace

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By In Baseball, History

The Murph

From NBC SportsWorld.

In the aftermath of the Goose Gossage and Mike Schmidt soliloquies on the death of respect in baseball, I called up a childhood hero, Dale Murphy, to ask him what he thinks about the state of the game and those darned kids today.

He was, to say the least, fantastic. I left that conversation feeling better about, well, everything.

Our Time was Our Time

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By In Baseball, History

Pete, Ty and 4,192

From NBC SportsWorld:

With Pete Rose back in the news, at least somewhat, it’s a great time to retell the deception of 4,192, the absurdity of the 1910 batting race and the day Pete Rose REALLY passed Ty Cobb to become the Hit King.

Set the Record Straight

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By In Baseball, History

The Koufax-Drysdale Gambit

From NBC SportsWorld

Fifty years ago, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale tried to take on the system.  They failed miserably.

Then and Now

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By In Baseball, History


Fair to say, I’m not a fan of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration efforts.

From NBC SportsWorld:

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems — SEEMS — like the Hall of Fame is going out of its way to once again celebrate that time when baseball refused to let African-Americans and dark-skinned players play. Maybe it seems that way because I look at the above press release and it has “PRE-INTEGRATION” on top of the page in all capital letters and repeats the phrase “pre-integration” 21 times in total on the page.


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By In Baseball, History

Koufax, Greenberg and Yom Kippur

proxy-1Meant to get this out BEFORE Yom Kippur was over but, you know …

From SportsWorld:

But there was perhaps a more interesting Yom Kippur World Series decision made thirty years earlier.

Hank Greenberg grew up in Orthodox Jewish family, meaning his childhood was very different from Sandy Koufax’s more secular upbringing. Koufax did not have a Bar Mitzvah, he did not go to temple, he was Jewish by birth and by the neighborhood where he grew up in Brooklyn. Greenberg’s parents, on the other hand, were Romanian immigrants who were observant Jews. They meant to name young Hank Greenberg “Hyman” – a derivative of the Jewish name Chaim, meaning life – but the hospital was unfamiliar with the name and wrote down “Henry” instead. They kept a kosher kitchen, spoke Yiddish to young Hy Greenberg, took him to synagogue on a weekly basis and raised him to fast on Yom Kippur and light the menorah on Hanukkah. At 13, he had his Bar Mitzvah.

“Quit that baseball already,” his father, David Greenberg, shouted at him. “It’s a game for bums.”

The Yom Kippur When Hank Wanted To Play

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