Knowing Arky

This might not matter to anyone else, but Tuesday night I was watching a little bit of the Kansas City Royals game on television. I still try to catch Royals’ broadcasts at times because of my friend Ryan Lefebvre; I consider him a superb broadcaster. I almost wrote “superb young broadcaster,” but it occurs to me now that this is Ryan’s 16th year broadcasting the Royals. Man, none of us are as young as we used to be.

Anyway, at some point during the game, the Royals broadcast went to one of those trivia questions, and I will admit here that the trivia question is one of my favorite parts of any baseball broadcast. A good trivia question can get the announcers talking about something fun and unrelated to the game, maybe a little bit of history, maybe it leads to a cool story, and I love that. I also will say that the trivia questions chosen for baseball broadcasts are often terrible — boring, inconsequential, silly, sometimes even wrong. I actually think that coming up with television trivia questions is my true life’s calling. In this case, the question was a really good one.

Q: What shortstop since 1900 had the highest batting average for a full season?
A. Honus Wagner
B. Arky Vaughan
C. Nomar Garciaparra
D. Luke Appling

The question might not have been phrased or ordered exactly like that, but that was the general gist of it. And it was a marvelous trivia question in my mind because it offered the three keys to great trivia:

1. The question was not obscure. I remember hearing a trivia question at a minor league ballgame once: Who did the Houston Astros get when they traded first baseman Lee May? I believe the person who came up with the trivia question messed it up; the question should have been: Who did the Houston Astros trade for Lee May? The answer there is Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. That makes sense. But the people involved insisted that, no, they got the question right. The answer — which nobody even came close to getting right — was Rob Andrews and Enos Cabell. That’s not a trivia question. That’s a TRIVIAL question. There’s nothing interesting or educational there. It bothered me way more than it should have (as should be obvious since I still remember it 30 years later).

2. The question was related to the game. The Royals were playing Colorado and, as you know, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is hitting something close to .400 these days.

3. The answer will probably surprise you. The answer is Luke Appling, who hit .388 in 1936 for the White Sox.

Now, it is possible that the trivia question creator here got a little bit carried away — he probably should have thrown a familiar name into the possible answers, thrown in a a Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez or Cal Ripken. True, none of them is even close to the right answer. Still, when crafting a trivia question like this, it’s nice to throw a big name on there just to grab the casual fan.

But — and I respect this — the trivia creator instead put the four shortstops with the highest batting averages for a season:

1. Luke Appling, .388, 1936
2. Arky Vaughan, .385, 1935
3. Nomar Garciaparra, .372, 2000
4. Honus Wagner, .363, 1905

I was happy to see this question. Good one. Lots of history. Loosely related to the game but not ultra-related (I don’t like trivia question that are ridiculously team-centric like “Who is the Royals all-time record holder in balks?” or questions where the answer is always the other team’s manager). Good question.

And then, the Royals announcers started to talk about it.

Ryan Lefebvre’s color commentator these days is Rex Hudler. I’ve never met Rex. I’ve been told he’s a wonderful guy, and I have every reason to believe that. But I will not lie: He’s the reason I don’t watch the Royals broadcast regularly anymore. His voice hits me the way Mary Hart’s voice used to hit Kramer on Seinfeld. Well it’s not the voice itself — his voice is fine — it’s the stuff he says about baseball. I’m not going to go any deeper than that; he’s not my thing.

But I was listening here and Rex saw the list and said something to the effect of, “Wow Honus Wagner. He goes all the way back to the ’30s.”

The thirties. Yeah. Honus Wagner. who is probably most famous for the T206 baseball card of 1910 (or so) that has sold for about $3 million dollars, who was a childhood hero of Babe Ruth, who may have been the greatest deadball player ever … Rex had him playing in the 1930s. When he was 60. Ugh.*

*I’m told that later in the broadcast, Rex referred to the moon as a planet. I don’t know if this is true or if it was done as a joke. I was watching the Penguins-Rangers.

So, I grimaced there but was ready to move on. Then Ryan — my pal Ryan who I greatly admire and enjoy — started going on about how he had never heard of Arky Vaughan. Never heard of him. Well, more than that, Ryan did something that bugs me: He made it seem like NO ONE has ever heard of Arky Vaughan, like it was incredibly nerdy for his name to even be on this list. I realize Ryan was just trying to get a little comedy out of the moment, but I have to say I really don’t like that. I have a lifelong aversion to people who don’t know things acting like not knowing is the default position. In high school, I once had someone make me feel really dumb because I had read Moby Dick (it was a fluke, I admit; I had not read any other classics as a kid) … and it affected me. It really did. It made me think it was uncool to know things. It made me embarrassed to raise my hand and say something because not knowing was cooler. That sort of downward pressure drives me nuts.

It is bad enough that Ryan has not heard of one of the five greatest shortstops in baseball history (Bill James ranks him second) and the 73rd greatest baseball player ever on my list (Ryan, aren’t you reading me here?). He didn’t need to keep harping on it as if Arky Vaughan was the most obscure player in the history of mankind.

Here’s my question, though: Is knowing Arky Vaughan important at all for a Kansas City Royals announcer in 2014? Every so often, we will read a story about how ballplayers today don’t know their baseball history. You know those semi-outraged stories — there will be someone who didn’t realize that Frank Robinson played or thought that Al Kaline was a pitcher or confused Lefty Grove and Steve Carlton. And then there will be a mini-uproar by a few of us sportswriters — these ballplayers should know their history!

But does it matter? Ryan and Rex know the team they cover. They know the league. They know baseball — Ryan from broadcasting experience (calling, interviewing, listening) and Rex from playing the game. They are, I presume, experts of the day-to-day life of the ballclub they narrate. And they are certainly not ignorant of baseball history; they know most of the great players and their stories. Ryan’s father Jim played with Koufax and Drysdale, played against Aaron and Mays, Ryan knows baseball history. Hey, I’m aware: Lots of people have not heard of Arky Vaughan. He has long been an overlooked great (despite his excellence the Baseball Writers never came close to voting him into the Hall of Fame). Ryan has been around Major League Baseball stadiums all his life and the name never made any impact on him; that’s pretty telling.

Does it matter that he did not know Arky Vaughan?

I don’t know the answer to that. I suppose it’s all about your personal views. I guess I think of it this way: Ryan and I both idolize the same broadcaster, Vin Scully, and there is no doubt in my mind that Vin Scully could and would talk for a few minutes about the greatness of Arky Vaughan — and not just because he saw Vaughan play. It’s just inside him.

I remember that another of the broadcasting giants, Marv Albert, told me that he can tell a good broadcast based on all the things he never had time to say. I like that. It’s a life philosophy. It’s like Hemingway’s iceberg theory of writing — the real story is not in what you see, the tip of the iceberg. The real story is inside the giant mass of ice underneath. The story, the secret, the truth, the significance, the magic is in what is unwritten and what is unspoken and what you know but never have to say.

That’s very Zen, I suppose, but I buy it. There is no direct connection I can see between knowing Frank Robinson’s story and being a great hitter. There is no direct connection I can see between being a great golfer and knowing the remarkable story of Old Tom Morris. There’s no direct connection I can see between being a successful lawyer and knowing all about Clarence Darrow. But I believe there’s an indirect one. I believe players can help themselves by knowing the history of the sport they play … not to satisfy old guys like me but because it just might change them in slight and good ways they could never articulate.

And as for announcing — it just would have made me so much happier if Ryan had known Vaughan, if he had said something like this: “Hey, there’s Arky Vaughan, you know, he’s one of the most underrated players in baseball history. How about this for a season — I don’t remember the exact details but he had year for Pittsburgh where he almost hit .400, he hit with power, a lot of people have never heard of him but he was a great one.”

Would that have made it a better broadcast? In the grand scheme of things, no, probably not. I’m sure most people watching just moved right on or maybe even got a laugh out of the thing. I mean it IS Arky Vaughan, who died more than 70 years ago. I do think again about “A Few Good Men” and Colonel Jessep’s response when asked why Marine William Santiago, who was supposedly going to be shipped off the base, had not packed and had not called anyone. “I’m an educated man,” he said, “but I’m afraid I can’t speak intelligently about the travel habits of William Santiago.”

Maybe that’s Arky Vaughan too. Maybe speaking intelligently about him is utterly unimportant. Vaughan obviously had not come up for 20 years in Ryan’s career. And he might never come up again in Ryan’s long career as a broadcaster. Does it matter if a broadcaster can speak intelligently about Arky Vaughn? In a big way, no, it just doesn’t matter.

In a small way? I just can’t help but think that it does.

94 thoughts on “Knowing Arky

  1. Cuban X Senators

    Does it matter that Joe lists Nomar as hitting .372 in 1905? Enjoy that full planet up there tonight.

    Saw Luke homer. It was in questionable competition, but it happened.

    Reply
        1. Michael Green

          Actually, they played the game in DC–the Crackerjack Old Timers game. It was incredible. And here’s the cute part. There were four legendary umpires working the game. Tom Gorman had the plate and ran down the line behind Appling. At first, Jim Honochick slapped Appling on the back and at third, Larry Napp shook hands with him–I think that’s how it went. Al Barlick was at second and stood there with his arms folded across his chest, watching to make sure Appling touched each base. And Barlick is the only one of those four umpires in the Hall of Fame. Think about it.

          Reply
          1. nightfly

            That is a good story. I love how baseball always has something new for you no matter how long you’ve been around the game or following the game.

        2. murr2825

          At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man (well, I AM a grumpy old man) I wonder how many readers my side of 40 will intuit “iirc”? (If I Recall Correctly)

          I had to look it up after puzzling over it for…too long.

          I mean, how much longer does it take to write “as I recall”?

          Wtfdika?

          Reply
  2. royalsretro

    Great stuff Joe, Arky was indeed one of the greats and one of the most underrated players of all-time and it is cringe-inducing that people paid to talk about baseball on a nightly basis act like they’ve never heard of him. Even if you haven’t heard of him, Baseball-Reference is right at your fingertips and that could be a real opportunity to educate your viewers on a terrific ballplayer.

    Reply
  3. frank

    Knowing history does not make a make a person better at baseball, and this may be the only assertion JoPos has ever made where he did not throw out a stat or 14.

    But an announcer ought to know some history. What makes a game fun is how the specific relates to what generally ought to happen. How what is happening right now is special. You can’t know if something is special unless you know the stories of the past. That is why it is annoying when announcers just rely on stats like BA and ERA, because it is not a big enough story.

    Reply
  4. Jim B

    Arky Vaughn doesn’t fit in with what baseball broadcasts are trying to do, which is to cater to the lowest common denominator of baseball fans (viewers actually). You and I would like more Arky Vaughn and Roy Cullenbine and WAR but instead get the sideline hottie sampling the ballpark fare or interviewing a celebrity.

    Reply
    1. 18thstreet

      You know what? The games last THREE HOURS.

      There is plenty of time to discuss stadium food, a fuzzy anecdote about how Ball McPlayer is really seeing the ball better, how the third base coach is going to make a great manager someday, how no one appreciates how amazing the backup catcher is (but the team certainly knows it), and still have time left over to talk about Arky Vaughn and advanced statistics.

      Reply
    2. Cathead

      Obviously, this was not an issue about time. They took the time to bring the subject up in the first place. The announcer didn’t take the time to do it correctly. He did it flippantly. It shows a little something about the announcer’s character.

      Reply
  5. Darin

    Completely and utterly agree about Hudler…………I often have to watch with the sound off. Ryan took some getting used to but he is a joy to have now……dont see the same outcome from Hudler. “He’s got to go”

    Reply
    1. BeninDSM

      I room with a passionate Royals fan and am exposed to Rex from those broadcasts (I’m a Brewers guy). The weird stuff he comes out with is so darn funny it’s awesome.

      Reply
    2. dbradley88

      Agree about Hudler. His time with the Angels was painful. He could play himself on “Anchorman 3.”

      Reply
  6. Jim Hoffman

    I don’t think broadcasters need to know about Arky Vaughan. . .except when Arky Vaughan is brought up during the broadcast.

    Sit in the stands in any game, and you’re likely to hear someone jabber on about a rule or a statistic, or a trade, or a game result, and they’ll be confident and wrong about it.

    For a broadcaster, they’re not allowed to be that jabbering fan. It just makes them look bad themselves, hence the need for FireJoeMorgan and AwfulAnnouncing.

    Broadcasters are supposed to be smarter than their audience, not dumber.

    Arky Vaughan was a great baseball player who died young, and heroically, trying to save his fishing partner after their boat capsized. Unless, I’m just a jabbering fan, in which case, he didn’t.

    Reply
  7. DjangoZ

    The pride in being ignorant is always shocking to me too.

    More troubling is the way it has played out in a few of our presidential elections.

    Reply
  8. Sanford Sklansky

    It would be nice that the announcers had heard of players like Arky Vaughn. I am 67 and I was certainly aware of the name. But then I can not get enough of baseball history. I think guys like Scully and Costas are far and few between. I can’t even think of too many announcers that have even been in the business in the 70′s Scully and Uecker , Marty Brenneman. come to mind at the moment. I would include Al Michaels as I believe he was with the Reds during part of the big Red Machine era and was doing Monday Nigh Baseball in the 70′s.

    Reply
      1. Michael Green

        Michaels did the Reds from 1971 to 1973 and then the Giants for three years before going full-time with ABC. I think it’s fair to say he was a god in Cincinnati and, before turning 30, wanted a big contract and the Reds executive, Dick Wagner, didn’t believe in paying people. So he left for San Francisco.

        A trivia question for Joe that is relevant, too. We all know that, in his 65th year, The Vin has the longest tenure with any team. Who is #2 right now? Answer below.

        Sanford, Denny Matthews has been with the Royals since Day One in 1969. Dave Van Horne of the Marlins started in 1969 with Les Expos. Mike Shannon has been with the Cardinals since 1972. Dick Enberg of the Padres did the Angels from 1969 to 1978 (I’m glad he returned to baseball). Jon Miller of the Giants started with the A’s in 1974, then was out for three years before getting the Rangers job in 1978. Joe Angel of the Orioles started with the Giants in 1977. Joe Castiglione of the Red Sox did the Indians in the late 1970s. Ken Harrelson started doing the Red Sox in 1975 and left them to go butcher White Sox broadcasts. Eric Nadel started with the Rangers in 1979, I believe, and is still going.

        Trivia answer: Jaime Jarrin, the Spanish voice of the Dodgers. He started in 1959.

        Reply
  9. Jack

    The default position for me is watching games with the sound down, or just loud enough to hear some crowd noise. I still love Scully, but the Dodger Stadium No Dead Air Police keep playing loud sound effects between every pitch that’s even annoying to the TV viewer.

    Reply
  10. luke

    Yes it matters in a small way, but perhaps just a little bit more than that too. Because it’s the Royals.

    I don’t have to tell you the sad history of the last 20+ years of the Royals–you’ve told us all many times. So having another embarrassment in the broadcasting booth perhaps stings a little bit more. Rex calling the moon a planet, well that of course had to happen on a Royals broadcast. Perhaps that has to do with the Royals front office being more concerned with “being positive” than having a quality product. I wish I was only talking about the broadcasting booth.

    I live out of town and I watch all the games on the opposing broadcasting station if I can (except for the White Sox of course, because, Hawk). It has continually struck me how complimentary the other announcers are informing their fans about the certain aspects of the Royals. And, AND, they aren’t making excuses all the time. That more than anything drives me crazy the most.

    Reply
  11. kcshankland

    I suppose it is too much to ask for the Royals, who can’t seem to get the big things right, to hire non-cringe worthy announcers, but yeah. Even Denny is slipping, he called Morales ‘Gonzalez’ several times last night.

    I may well be in the minority but I enjoy Rex as former player-goofball guy. I have three young sons, and they are taken by him. I enjoy his enthusiasm.

    Physioc is a change-the-broadcast guy for me. I can’t stand him, he adds nothing.

    Reply
  12. Andrew

    If it was the trivia question for the night, there was pre-show prep for it. No excuse.

    Joe wrote, “that sort of downward pressure drives me nuts.” But really, it’s dumbward pressure. Everywhere we look, society seems to be rendering stupidity as cool — from the infantile husbands on typical TV sitcoms, to the level of political and social discourse that will spend weeks on missing airliners and Michael Sam when really important stuff goes unmentioned. But I am a proud bigot, and continue to favor smart people over dumb ones.

    Reply
    1. Larry

      This happened in middle school in the early ’70′s. Nothing new here. Heck, communist revolutions 50 years before that took it a lot further.

      Reply
    1. otistaylor89

      Love it!
      I wonder what HS produced the most HOF players?

      BTW, Frank Robinson and Ernie Lombardi went to the same HS (Along with Bill Russell, Vada Pinson, Paul Silas,Jim Hines, Wendel Haynes, etc)

      Reply
      1. Andrew

        All-Pro quarterback John Brodie went to McClymonds High too, playing a cannon-armed outfield spot next to Frank Robinson.

        Reply
      2. Pat

        Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey both went to Moeller High in Moeller, Ohio, and Griffey Sr. obviously went to the same high school as Musial… well, I guess it’s not obvious in light of potential segregation, but they did.

        Reply
      3. Pat

        … ha, a couple of near misses: Ted Williams went to Herbert Hoover High in San Diego right around the time Bob Lemon went to Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach (apparently in the “Every President Gets a High School” division). (Chet Lemon—evidently no relation?—went to Fremont High, same as Splinter’s teammate Bobby Doerr.) And Rickey Henderson went to Technical in Oakland, the same high school as Chick Hafey’s cousins Bud and Tom, but Chick Hafey went to Berkeley.

        Reply
    2. tayloraj42

      Fullerton Union Hish School (Walter and Arky’s alma mater) also produced Steve Busby and Del Crandall, as well as the ill-fated Willard Hershberger. 3 quality major leaguers from one high school has got be like the top 1% of all schools, right?

      Reply
  13. Don Drooker

    If your profession is “baseball announcer”, why not spend part of the off-season learning the history of the game? Somehow, it’s doubtful that they’re working at a hardware store in December. The days are gone when these guys just get to “show up” at the ballpark. Of course, I could be wrong…Harold Reynolds won an Emmy!

    Reply
  14. Crout

    I don’t know what is more sad…Ryan not knowing about Arky, or the reason he doesn’t know about Arky….cuz Arky didn’t play for a New York team.

    Reply
    1. mike

      Actually, he did play for a New York team for part of his career: Brooklyn. I know this because, after Ryan had droned on for a while about his ignorance of Arky, he finally mentioned that Arky apparently had been a Dodger. Later in the broadcast, he mentioned in passing that he was a Pirate, too.

      Reply
  15. Stephen

    Phil Rizzuto, on a 1980s Yankee broadcast when the producers showed a shot of the full moon rising:

    “Hey, look up at that moon, White! You can see Texas!”

    Seriously.

    Reply
    1. DB

      Come on now. That was his thing. You have to love Scooter (and I am a Red Sox fan). I loved those WPIX broadcasts.

      Reply
      1. mark

        If we’re going to quote the Scooter on the moon, let’s reference his work the night of the Thurman Munson game in 1979, when the Yankees beat the Orioles after attending Munson’s funeral. From the book of found poetry, “O Holy Cow!”

        “You know, it might,
        It might sound a little corny.
        But we have the most beautiful full moon tonight.
        And the crowd,
        Enjoying whatever is going on right now.
        They say it might sound corny,
        But to me it’s like some kind of a,
        Like an omen.

        Both the moon and Thurman Munson,
        Both ascending up into heaven.
        I just can’t get it out of my mind.
        I just saw the full moon,
        And it just reminded me of Thurman Munson,
        And that’s it.:”

        Reply
  16. Anon

    Rex Hudler story (since his name came up):

    I’m watching the Dbacks/Nats game 2 nights ago and Bob Brenly is the DBacks color commentator. Brenly of course had a good 10 year career as a player (sadly best known for the 4 errors in 1 inning when he really had a pretty decent career), managed the DBacks to a title, and has a been a longtime announcer for both the CUbs and the DBacks.

    Brenly says early in his career in the minors, he wasn’t sure where the whole baseball thing was going to go and he’s playing in Fresno. So he gets accredited to be a substitute teacher and decides to stick around town after the season since his wife had a good job at the time and he’s substituting at a local HS there in Fresno and one of his students is none other than. . . . . Rex Hudler!

    Reply
  17. JB

    Texas Rangers announcer radio Eric Nadel would’ve known about Arky Vaughn. A baseball announcer NEEDS to know these things. As a viewer and listener I insist they know these things.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      The Braves announcers, Joe Simpson and Don Sutton would know Arky Vaughn. Both are students of the game… Frustratingly, though, they talk about grit, small ball, two out hits, pitching to the score, not taking walks when runners are in scoring position and other old school garbage. I actually find the latter more annoying. Chip Carey doesn’t know anything and will otherwise agree with anything Don or Joe might say.

      Reply
  18. Stuart Shea

    It matters because he made knowing about Arky Vaughan seem stupid. And that’s inexcusable for a baseball announcer. I know that Lefebvre is better than that, and that this was a bad night for those guys. In fact, Physioc and Hudler have bad nights all the time.

    Reply
    1. MCD

      IMHO (and I am only a couple of years older than Lefebvre), for a professional baseball announcer to not know the name Arky Vaughan should be an embarrassment to both the announcer and his employer.

      But I agree that the most inexcusable part was making it sound like knowing Vaughan would somehow make *that* person the stupid one.

      Reply
  19. BigSteve

    Joe, you get to turn off Hudler and go watch hockey. Those of us who live in KC and want to follow the Royals are not so lucky. He’s just the worst. I was told that I would get used to him and/or that he would adapt and get better. No, he’s actually gotten worse, and I will never get used to his fake cheerleading. He’s just not very bright, and he’s not an articulate human. We are not amused.

    Reply
  20. AaronB

    Yes, the announcers should know about players like Arky Vaughan and the general history of the game. If they didn’t know anything about him, have the people working behind the scenes get them some info. It doesn’t have to be much, but just something.

    For Arky, they could have said, “Vaughan was considered one of the best, if not the best SS of the 1930′s playing for the Pirates and later with the Dodger’s. In 1935 Arky hit .385 with an OBP of .491 while slugging better than .600.” Short, to the point, and illustrates how good he was at the peak. If the listener wants more info, use Google or baseballreference.com

    Now it would have been nice had they been able to tell you more about Arky, but the above will at least given the audience some information.

    Why do I think it’s important? Because baseball is tied to it’s history more so than any other sport, and I believe that the broadcasters need to weave that history into their broadcasts when appropriate. Not everyone reads books or blogs about baseball, so the broadcast is a prime way for many to get some information about that history.

    This is one reason I tend to like the radio broadcasts better than the TV ones, because they do a better job of telling stories about baseball. From it’s great players, to simple blurbs about Bob Ueker catching fly balls with a tuba. It’s all a part of the baseball history and how the game relates to us.

    That’s a pretty big fail by the Royals duo in my mind.

    Reply
  21. Herb Smith

    Here’s a criterion that I think works: Any player who has ever been “THE BEST PLAYER IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES” should not be forgotten.

    In 1935, Arky Vaughn was the best player in baseball. By a lot (according to both Baseball-Reference and Fangraph’s WAR). And you may say “Well, that was a long, long time ago.”

    Fine, but look at who were numbers 2-through-5 on the list that year:

    2. Lou Gehrig
    3. Jimmie Foxx
    4. Mel Ott
    5. Hank Greenberg

    Any of those names ring a bell?

    Reply
  22. Bob Post

    I HATE to be considered ignorant about anything, but I have to admit, I didn’t understand the pun. So I looked it up. For those of you that haven’t yet, among other things, one of the definitions is “either half of the triangular tail of a whale”. Whale sized kudos to you, tomemos, for catching that.

    Reply
  23. MarkH

    Hoe, the TV guys everywhere are getting worse. Local writer here in PA, Dave Jones, just wronte a nice peice about the decline in the Phillies booth. I don’t want to be entertained by the announcers, I want to be informed (which , to me, IS entertaining. Maybe I’m just different than most). Let the game itself be entertaining.

    Reply
  24. Michael

    “I almost wrote “superb young broadcaster,” but it occurs to me now that this is Ryan’s 16th year broadcasting the Royals.”

    Just three days ago — and you can hear it on MLB’s daily recaps — a Padres broadcaster gushed over Chris Denorfia as “a marvelous young ballplayer.” Denorfia is almost 34, the oldest Padres regular, is in his 5th season with the team and his 9th overall as a major leaguer.

    They don’t all know their own players, let alone their own league.

    Reply
  25. Herb Smith

    By the way, unlike Joe reading Moby Dick, Arky’s 1935 season was not a fluke.

    From the time he became a regular in 1933, until the time the Pirates traded him away after the 1941 season (a period of 9 years) Arky was the very best player in the National League. Mel Ott was second, and no one else is close.

    Reply
    1. Herb Smith

      That is, as per Fangraphs WAR. The overall #1 player in MLB during that 9-year period was Jimmie Foxx, by the way. Vaughan was second…ahead of, you know, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Lefty Grove, and every other human who played baseball in America.

      Reply
      1. Brett Alan

        Well, sadly, we don’t really know the WARs of some other humans who were very good at baseball…for example, I wonder whether Josh Gibson would have been ahead of Arky. Doesn’t really change your point, but it’s worth remembering.

        Reply
  26. Fin Alyn

    I don’t mind that he didn’t know Arky, but as someone else said, the then need to ridicule of knowing the player and his history was absurd and uncalled for. If he had just said “I’ve never heard of Arky Vaughn, as I’m sure many of you haven’t either, so let’s take a moment to find out about this player…and strike 2 to Gordon.” To me, that’s how a Harwell or a Scully (the two best I’ve ever listened to) would have handled it. Then after calling it up on the computer or the iPad, they’d have listed some of the accomplishments, and now a huge chunk of the audience knows about one of baseball’s great players.

    You don’t have a right to an opinion, you have a right to an informed opinion.

    Reply
    1. Brett Alan

      Well put.

      It’s one thing to not know something, but you have to at least acknowledge (to yourself) that you don’t know it. Don’t know who Arky Vaughan is? Fine. I’m sure there are important people (in baseball or wherever) of whom I’m ignorant. But I’m not going to just make something up, which essentially is what Lefebvre did by assuming he was an obscure player that most people wouldn’t have heard of.

      he wouldn’t even have to admit on the air that he didn’t know who he was. Just don’t say anything until you’ve had the chance to look it up. And, of course, if he was in the position where he had to admit he didn’t know who Vaughan was, don’t make it seem like there’s something wrong with those who do.

      Reply
  27. Robert Burns

    The Moon doesn’t fit the new definition of planet but Earth-Moon has often been described as a double planet. Its 2 and a half times bigger than Pluto and was so when Pluto was considered a planet. Calling the Moon a planet is not crazy.

    The glory of a Ernie Harwell called game was always the the baseball lore he wove into the play by play. Nobody around here does that anymore. He didn’t just cover the game – he covered the Game. I miss him.

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      1. Robert Burns

        There are size requirements or Pluto would still be considered a planet. I did mention that the Moon doesn’t meet the definition of planet. The moon does revolve around the sun – at the same rate as the Earth in fact. The definitions are constructed to keep the original planets and not have to include every Tom, Dick or Ceres.

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  28. Old Soul

    I am sure Vin Scully would know who Arky Vaughan was and not just because Scully knows the history of the game so well. Vaughan was practically a contemporary of Scully’s. Arky’s last season was with the Dodgers in 1948. Scully started with the team in 1950. Vaughan died in a car accident in 1952, so I am sure many of the people Scully worked with were deeply affected by the news of his passing.

    .

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  29. John Gale

    Yeah, I agree. To take just one (highly irritating–at least to me) example, it amazes me how many people out there mock others for actually having read the A Song of Ice and Fire series (which Game of Thrones is based on). Wanting to watch the show without foreknowledge is one thing (though these same people repeatedly and happily frequent comments sections that will almost certainly contain spoilers, and then they will complain–it’s almost like they *want* to be spoiled*). But don’t bash others because they took the time to read the books for whatever reason (in my case, it was to have a better understanding of the world and avoid the aforementioned spoilers). Just move along.

    *For the record, I’m not defending the jerks who spoil things for others. In an ideal world, everyone would avoid spoiling anything for anyone else. I’m just saying that we have to live in the real world. And in the real world, there are jerks who spoil things. Either avoid the places where these jerks hang out or inoculate yourself by reading the books.

    As for Arky Vaughan, I will admit that if it wasn’t for this blog, I’m not sure I would know who he is (as Joe points out, he’s been criminally underrated essentially forever). But a baseball announcer at he MLB level really has no excuse for not knowing a historically great player. And even if he *doesn’t* know, then the support staff needs to provide some brief information about him along with the answer to the trivia question. Just embarrassing all around.

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  30. Regular Reader

    Nice post. Certainly worth mentioning that your Baseball 100 post on Vaughn begins with, and dwells on, his obscurity. First thing that crossed my mind when Ryan blurted out that he had never heard of him was: “He isn’t reading Joe’s 100?”
    Truth be told: I first learned about Arky Vaughn a few months ago when you posted No. 73.
    Thanks for continuing education.

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  31. Matt Vandermast

    My gut reaction is: Ryan is a jerk. Ridiculing baseball history on a baseball broadcast is an obnoxious thing to do.

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    1. Matt Vandermast

      I’m having a bad day, a day in which clemenating* Ryan Lefebvre is a pleasurable distraction. Starting today, I vow to root against all teams that would even consider employing him.

      It may be stretching things to say that Ryan Lefebvre is the proudly snot-encrusted face of all the problems affecting the world today, and of all the evils of history – the history that he so callowly scoffs at. Then again, it may not be.

      Respect the game that so mistakenly employs you, bleephole.

      Let’s share the hate!

      [i]*A Joe Word.[/i]

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  32. Josh P

    It’s curious that in a post decrying the tendency to downplay things and act like that’s the default, Mr Posnanski is so idly dismissive of Nomar Garciaparra to the point that he doesn’t even consider him “a familiar name.”

    Jeter’s foil in countless media articles, star shortstop on a big market team, current national television analyst, part of the “holy trinity” of shortstops, 2 time batting champ, and 5 time top-10 MVP finish (including a runner up)? Not familiar.

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    1. Pat

      And thus the passage of time. Fifteen years ago, he would have been one of the first ten players named by any baseball fan; ten years ago, he was still SI cover material; five years ago, you might have given him a look as a backup in fantasy, if you chased pitching and corner spots with your first fourteen draft picks. Once he was in the holy trinity, but think of the shortstops since then… Reyes, Hanley, Tulo. Again, just the passage of time—taking nothing away from Nomar, but thus crumbles the cookie.

      And I say this as a Red Sox fan: If you asked most knowledgeable Boston fans to name the shortstop with the unusual first name, what do you think they would say?

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  33. Crout

    Unrelated, I know, but I am also reminded of the time years ago when I heard Tim McCarver make a reference to the battle of the Alamo and identified SAM Bowie as one of the storied heroes of the conflict.

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    1. MCD

      You don’t think Bowie’s blocked shot of Santa Anna’s layup attempt at the first half buzzer wasn’t clutch?

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  34. Mike Schilling

    Tim Powers’s (amazing) novel The Anubis Gates has one character named Ozzie Smith, another named Arky, and a third named Vaughn. I think this is a coincidence.

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  35. McKingford

    Chapter MCXXVI in why I love Joe:

    I have a lifelong aversion to people who don’t know things acting like not knowing is the default position

    So much, this. And it kills me that for these guys, they have a specific and narrow job: know about baseball. I’m just a guy – my living in no way depends on baseball, but *I* know about Arky Vaughan.

    It reminds me of why I can’t listen to sports radio. For most guys, the idea of being paid to shoot the shit on air for 2-3 hours a day about sports would be the dream job. So it wouldn’t kill you to know a little bit beyond the most superficial. I remember shaking my head listening to some sports talk guy laughing about his ignorance of the NBA salary cap. Now, OK, it isn’t quite as easy to describe as a free throw, but it isn’t exactly the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle either. I mean, one quick read through on the Wikipedia page, and now I’m relatively conversant about the Mid-level exception, and what have you. And as I say, I’m just a guy.

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  36. urosian

    What’s a little ironic is that about 75% of people misspelled Arky Vaughan’s name…..even Joe did, near the end of his post. Yes, I realize I’m being an insufferable know-it-all :P

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  37. NevadaMark

    Ryan and Rex have now shown themselves to be fully qualified to vote in Hall of Fame elections.

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  38. Michael Green

    I posted in response to a couple up there, but I need to add a couple of things. I am a history professor and have done some work on the history of baseball broadcasting (there’s a book in me). I grew up wanting to work with Vin–or maybe wanting to BE Vin; I’m not sure.

    Does anybody remember that when Fox got MLB in 1996, David Hill, who ran the sports department, said he didn’t want anybody talking about Babe Ruth. He claimed to be joking but I really don’t think he was. Part of what makes baseball the greatest sport is that its history is so important. I may be wrong, but it strikes me that neither football nor basketball fans get quite so into so-and-so breaking the interception record, for example (or as Vin once said of broadcasting football, which he did well, when he was asked about switching to a sport with a lot of scoring, isn’t a 21-14 football game just 3-2?). We get away from that when we end up with Vin being the only one who works alone. EVERY team, including the Dodgers on radio and, when Vin isn’t there, on TV, has to have two guys on, as mentioned above, to talk about their golf game and hotel food. I don’t want constant baseball, but I want some baseball mixed in.

    There are exceptions, and the references to Phil Rizzuto are an example of that. A broadcaster should have a style. If that style means, like the Scooter, wandering off onto a discussion of Italian food, and that’s what the audience wants, fine. But even Rizzuto could stick to the game and, when it was on the line, did (if he hadn’t taken off in the 7th). I do make an exception for Hawk Harrelson, who makes fingers on a blackboard sound beautiful.

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  39. KHAZAD

    It seems odd that Joe is so fond of Lefebvre. He calls the action pretty well, but has always had his head in the sand when it comes to baseball knowledge, and he is especially scornful of sabermetrics. When he first started, we used to have a drinking game where we did a shot every time he mentioned his dad or his own time playing in college at Minnesota. Now, he is almost like a Royals PR guy, a shill pumping out the company line, with a focus on finding every opportunity to praise whatever players Dayton Moore is taking the most criticism for. He seems to prefer productive outs over actual production and is the king of using a tiny sample size (such as one game or one inning) as proof while ignoring say, a three month period that shows otherwise.

    One of my favorite Ryan moments was at the end of Alex Gordon’s career year in 2011, when Gordon may have had the most all around (hitting and defense) productive season for the Royals in 20+ years, and was clearly the Royal’s best player- his rWAR was 7.2. Ryan was interviewing Moore favorite Jeff Francouer (who was actually pretty decent in 2011- 3.1 rWAR. Of course, afterwards Moore signed him to an ill fated extension where he put up -2.4 rWAR in a year and a half before being released. Ryan was his champion right up to the end) during one of the season’s final games and gushed that in Ryan’s eyes he was the clear MVP of the 2011 Royals and there was really no other choice that came close.

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  40. Derek

    I have known of Arky going back to my childhood, thanks to a set of baseball cards I had. I think they were part of a series “baseball’s best”-power hitters, hitters pitchers, etc. Might have read a bit from Bill James’ Abstracts in the mid 80′s as well.

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  41. Rick Rodstrom

    Rex Hudler is, hands down, the worst baseball announcer I have ever listened to. Or rather, didn’t listen to, as I could only stomach him for a few minutes at a time on Angels broadcasts. I remember one time, early in the season, when another player was batting .400, Rex said that he couldn’t keep it up, because no player had ever batted .400 for a full season. His partner gently corrected him, but it was amazing to hear a professional baseball announcer say something like that.

    But it wasn’t just his ignorance of baseball history that galled me, it was that he knew nothing of what was happening on the field. His color commentary consisted of things like “He’s due for a dinger. Wouldn’t it be great if he homered right here?” Rah-rah stuff like that. He always made sure to be holding a baseball during his appearances on air, though, as if to prove that he really was a major league baseball player. Of course, my dog can hold a baseball too, and he knows more about the game than Rex Hudler.

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  42. Dave

    Ryan is no Fred White, and never will be. I’m still amused by the time the Royals were playing in Minneapolis and Ryan mentioned that the Mississippi river ran from there to Kansas City.

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  43. edfromyumaaz

    Great post as usual. And you have some great readers too. I missed the Moby Dick fluke pun and I have read that book probably 10 times.

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  44. Mark Daniel

    Arky Vaughan wasn’t inducted into the HoF in the 40s or something, he was inducted in 1985. This is during Ryan Lefebvre’s lifetime. To be a guy who focuses on Major League baseball for a career, more specifically to be a guy who is supposed to talk about baseball as a career, and who has done this for 16 years at the major league level, it is hard to believe he has never heard of a major league baseball hall of famer.

    The reason this is disconcerting is because it suggests a lack of effort. It suggests that Lefebvre has a particular skill in doing his job, but beyond that he doesn’t care about or love the game as much as guys like Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell or Jack Buck. Of course, there’s a reason some announcers are legendary and some are not.

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  45. Jim

    Arky Vaughan is in the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, having played his only minor league season in Wichita.

    I’m sure Ryan Lefebvre would tell you this was a gaffe on his part and something he will not repeat, with all the resources available to him. But the guy deserves a mulligan. He is a wonderful announcer with a vocabulary and story-telling ability way beyond the norm. Like Denny Mathews, his descriptions of balls in play are smooth and marvelously descriptive, allowing you as a listener to truly “see” the play.

    Then there is Rex Hudler. And Steve Physioc. Hudler obviously weighs down Lefebvre (or any announcer with whom he works).

    So why does Hudler have a job? Because teams at all levels are looking for that presence that will appeal not just to baseball heads, but to the larger fanbase. They’re looking for another Harry Caray. And that’s what the young announcers have raised themselves to be — ESPN-catchphrase guys who get hired because they are NOT going to be “boring” the audience with insider stats and stories about the 1903 New York Highlanders.

    But back to the point. Ryan Lefebvre is one of the good ones, headed toward becoming one of the great ones. This episode aside, listen to him for a while and tell me I’m wrong.

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  46. Thile

    Went back to re-read #73 Arky Vaughan. Kind of ironic that Joe talks about how unknown he is in the article. I knew the name, but could not really tell you much about him, before, or anything (I am not a professional base ball announcer tho…)

    I think that has been one of the great things about the Top 100 is that Joe has also veered off into sidebars on other stories as well.

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  47. Mike Rosensky

    Sorry, Joe, but you’ve got an O’s fan here who remembers well the offseason of 1974 when the O’s traded for Lee May (and Ken Singleton!). Enos Cabell went on to have a pretty productive career with the Astros and Lee May was a force for the O’s first at 1b and then as a DH (he gave up his position at 1b to a young Eddie Murray). I’m not sure the trade was entirely trivial given its effect on the futures of both teams. (Not to mention the fact that I saw Gene Tenace hit into a Brooks-Bobby Grich-Enos Cabell triple play (Reggie and Deron Johnson on base) in 1973 in the first game I ever attended!).

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  48. Rick Johnson

    Sorry, Joe, but the problem with Rex Hudler starts with his voice, ends with the content. He sounds like a pro-wrestling commentator, full of affectations and false emphasis. And it isn’t particularly pleasing to hear either. I usually have to turn off the game because his ineptness makes me embarrassed for him, almost empathetically anxious, as though I am the one screwing up in front of the whole town. Who picked this guy anyway?

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