Monday, September 29, 2014

Willie Mays Makes The Catch During Game One of the World Series September 29, 1954

On this day in Baseball History September 29, 1954: With Game One of the 1954 World Series underway at the Polo Grounds, the stage was set for one of the most dramatic catches in Baseball History. The Cleveland Indians were coming off of an impressive 1954 campaign where they compiled a 111-43 record. Their opponents were the New York Giants who won the National League pennant with a 97-57 record. Indians first-baseman Vic Wertz was virtually the offense for the Indians finishing the game 4-for-5, for half of the Indians hits for the day, with a double and a triple that drove in the two runs scored by the Indians.

It was the top of the eighth inning in front of 52,751 spectators when Vic Wertz made his way up to the plate with two runners on against Giants reliever Don Liddle. To get an idea of how amazing this play way, I'll let the writing of John Drebinger in his article Giants Win in 10th From Indians 5-2, On Rhodes' Home Run from the September 30, 1954 edition of the New York Times tell the tale:
Wertz connected for another tremendous drive that went down the center of the field 450 feet, only to have Willie Mays make one of his amazing catches. 
Traveling on the wings of the wind, Willie caught the ball directly in front of the green boarding facing the right-center bleachers  and with his back still to the diamond
Here is how the newspaper captured the catch in four images:

To see the play unfold in real time, check out the following video:

The Giants would hold off the Indians and win the game on a three-run walkoff home run by Pinch hitter James "Dusty" Rhodes off of twenty-three game winner Bob Lemon. The Giants would ride the momentum of this victory and sweep the Cleveland Indians 4-0 to win their last World Series in the city of New York.

Though many of today's fans will think this catch to be passé and ordinary (read the comments after the video on the YouTube page for more proof of this), this catch came at the hands of a 21-year old rookie who on the biggest sports stage of them all caught the ball with his back to the field, running full speed ahead and arcing his head back to see the ball and then fired the ball in keeping the two runs on base from scoring. I know haters are going to hate but damn.

What did Willie Mays think of this play? The interview of Willie Mays from the Academy of Achievement website has Mays telling us in his own words about this play:
I think the key to that particular play was the throw. I knew I had the ball all the time. In my mind, because I was so cocky at that particular time when I was young, whatever went in the air I felt that I could catch. That's how sure I would be about myself. When the ball went up I had no idea that I wasn't going to catch the ball. As I'm running -- I'm running backwards and I'm saying to myself, "How am I going to get this ball back into the infield?" I got halfway out. As I'm catching the ball I said, "I know how I'm going to do it." I said, "You stop..." -- I'm visualizing this as I'm running. It's hard to tell people that -- what I'm doing as I'm running. I know people say, "You can't do all that and catch a ball." I said, "Well, that's what I was doing. Okay?" I was running, I was running. I'm saying to myself, "How am I going to get this ball back in the infield? "So now as I catch the ball -- if you watch the film close -- I catch the ball, I stop immediately, I make a U-turn. Now if I catch the ball and run and turn around -- Larry Doby which is on second, Al Rosen on first -- Larry can score from second. Because Larry told me -- I didn't see this, Larry had told me many times -- "I was just about home when you caught the ball, I had to go back to second and tag up and then go to third." So he would have scored very easily. So I said, well -- as I'm running, I've got to stop and make a complete turn. You watch the film and you'll see what I'm talking about. I stopped very quickly, made a U-turn, and when I threw the ball I'm facing the wall when the ball is already in the infield. So when you talk about the catch, more things went into the play than the catch. The throw was the most important thing because only one guy advanced, and that was Larry, from second to third. Al was still on first. And that was the key. To me it was the whole World Series.
Want to see a different view of the catch to see how hard it must have been for Mays? The article Photo of Day II: An uncommon angle on 'The Catch' by Willie Mays by Dayn Perry of the CBSSports Eye on Baseball page dated January 10, 2014 shows us the following view:

Folks, this is not an ordinary catch. That's all I have to say.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access the 1954 Cleveland Indians page from Baseball
- Click here to access the 1954 New York Giants page from Baseball

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ted Williams Finishes With a .406 Batting Average September 28, 1941

On this day in Baseball History September 28, 1941: Entering the last day of the 1941 season, Ted Williams led the league with a .39955 batting average. Sitting out the doubleheader to end the season against the Philadelphia Athletics would have given Williams a .400 average. Instead of being given the achievement, Williams decided to play both games going 4 for 5 in the first game and 2 for 3 in the second game finishing the season with a .4057 batting average rounded up to .406. In doing so, Williams became the first Major League to hit .400 or more since Bill Terry of the New York Giants hit .401 in 1930. Williams became the first American League player to hit .400 or more since Harry Heilman did so in 1923.

The article Star Gets 6 Hits As Red Sox Split from the September 29, 1941 edition of the New York Times states:
Williams made his thirty-seventh home run and three singles in five chances in the opener, and a double and a single in three attempts in the second encounter.

For the season he batted in 120 runs, scored 135 and walked 151 times. He struck out twenty-six times. Williams is the sixth American Leaguer to bat .400. Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, George Sisler, Joe Jackson and Heilman were the others. Jackson hit .408 for Cleveland in 1911, but lost the batting title to Cobb, who finished with .420.
Here are the boxscores for the two games played by the Boston Red Sox against the Philadelphia Athletics on September 28, 1941:

What did Ted Williams think about his chase for .400? On pages 85 and 89-90 of the book My Turn At Bat: The Story of my Life by Ted Williams with John Underwood, Williams describes what he felt that fateful day:
It came to the last day of the season, and by now I was down to .39955, which according to the way they do it, rounds out to an even .400. We had a doubleheader left at Philadelphia. I'd slumped as the weather got cooler, from a high of .436 in June, down to .402 in late August, then up again to .413 in September. In the last ten days of the season my average dropped almost a point a day. Now it was barely .400. The night before the game Cronin offered to take me out of the lineup to preserve the .400. They used to do that. Foxx lost a batting championship to Buddy Myer one year when he sat out the last game and Myer got two hits.

I told Cronin I didn't want that. If I couldn't hit .400 all the way I didn't deserve it. It sure as hell meant something to me then

Now it was the last day of the 1941 season, and it turned up cold and miserable in Philadelphia. It had rained on Saturday and the game had been rescheduled as part of a Sunday doubleheader. They still had 10,000 people in Shibe Park, I suppose a lot of them just curious to see if The Kid really could hit .400. I have to say that I felt good despite the cold. And I know just about everybody in the park was for me. As I came to bat for the first time that day, the Philadelphia catcher, Frankie Hayes, said, "Ted, Mr. Mack told us if we let up on you he'll run us out of baseball. I wish you all the luck in the world, but we're not giving you a damn thing."

Bill McGowan was the plate umpire, and I'll never forget it. Just as I stepped in, he called time and slowly walked around the plate, bent over and began dusting it off. Without looking up, he said, "To hit .400 a batter has got to be loose. He has got to be loose."

I guess I couldn't have been much looser. First time up I singled off Dick Fowler, a liner between first and second. Then I hit a home run, then I hit two more singles off Porter Vaughn, a left-hander who was new to me, and in the second game I hit one off the loudspeaker horn in right field for a double. For the day I would up six for eight. I don't remember celebrating that night, but I probably went out and had a chocolate milk shake. During the winter Connie Mack had to replace the horn.
The last player to come close to the .400 plateau was Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres. Gwynn hit .3938 during the strike shortened 1994 season. The last player to come close during a full season was George Brett of the Kansas City Royals. Brett hit .3898 during the 1980 season.

Williams narrowly missed winning the American League Triple Crown (2nd in RBI to Joe DiMaggio's 125 RBI) and would follow his 1941 campaign with the American Triple-Crown in the 1942 season. He would be the runner up in the American League MVP race to Joe DiMaggio and Joe Gordon of the Yankees. Williams would join the war effort, losing three full seasons before returning to play in the 1946 season where he continued with his hitting finally winning the American League MVP award. Williams was truly an amazing player and I wish that I had the opportunity to have watched him play in person.

Getting four hits out of every ten at-bats over the course of an entire season is a daunting task. Hitting .400 for the season, let alone reaching Williams' .406 seems to be one of those records that will probably not get broken in this era of free swinging hitters, batters who don't choke up and defend the plate with two strikes and high strikeout totals. Will we ever see .400 or more in our lifetime? I wouldn't bet on it but with the game of baseball, you just never can tell.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Ted Williams' career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? by Richard Ben Cramer from Esquire Magazine dated January 8, 2013 originally published in the June 1986 issue of Esquire

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Detroit Tigers Play Last Home Game At Tiger Stadium September 27, 1999

On this day in Baseball History September 27, 1999: The Detroit Tigers defeated the Kansas City Royals by a score of 8-2 in their last home game at the ballpark located at 2121 Trumbull Avenue once known as Navin Field, later changed to Briggs Stadium, before finally being called Tiger Stadium.

Tiger Stadium opened the same day as Fenway Park, April 20, 1912 which was five days after the sinking of the Titanic. Tiger Stadium was the second ballpark to sit on the site. The article Tiger Stadium by Scott Ferkovich from the SABR Baseball Biography Project describes the first ballpark as so:
Photo Courtesy of
The Tigers’ new home was actually the second ballpark built at “The Corner.” From 1896 to 1911, they played their games in rickety wooden Bennett Park. Prior to that, the plot of land in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood had been a combination hay market and dog pound. Bennett Park had been built when the Tigers were in Ban Johnson’s Western League. In 1901, Johnson changed the circuit’s name to the American League, and declared it a second major league, in direct competition with the established National League. The Tigers played host to three World Series in Bennett Park, from 1907 to 1909. Starting in 1909, however, with the construction of Shibe Park in Philadelphia, closely followed by Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, a new wave of steel-and-concrete baseball palaces were being built. It was clear that Bennett Park had outlived its usefulness, and Frank Navin, principal owner of the Tigers, wanted his club to have a brand-new stadium that would allow it to compete with other teams.
The article Tiger Stadium by Dan Austin of the Historic Detroit website states:
Tiger Stadium was designed by the father and son team of Frank C. Osborn and Kenneth H. Osborn. Frank Osborn founded Osborn Engineering in Cleveland in 1892. The company pioneered in the use of reinforced concrete and built municipal and industrial facilities throughout the country. The firm designed more than 100 sports stadiums, including Fenway Park in Boston and Yankee Stadium in New York. Bernard Green of the same firm also designed Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Photo Courtesy of
The yard was expanded several times and had its name changed to Briggs Stadium in 1938 — the same year it was expanded to a capacity of 53,000. In 1961, a scoreboard was installed in center field, but it was later moved to left field after hitters complained that it was in their line of sight. That same year, 1961, also was the year the ballpark finally became Tiger Stadium. For many Detroiters, however, the place was known simply as The Corner.
The Austin article also states the following:
In his farewell remarks following the final game, Ernie Harwell noted that the Corner hosted 6,873 regular season games, 35 postseason contests and three All-Star Games — in 1941, 1951 and 1971. The location was unique because, as a charter member of the American League, every American League starting player from 1900-1999 — from Babe Ruth to Ted Williams to Alvaro Espinoza to Jim Walewander — played at Michigan and Trumbull. There also were 10 no-hitters pitched at Tiger Stadium, but only two were by Tigers: Virgil Trucks in 1952 and George Mullin in 1910.
The 100 millionth fan entered Tiger Stadium on July 6, 1994.
Baseball wasn't the only sport played at the ballpark. The first football game was held there on Oct. 9, 1921, when Detroit (also called the Tigers) squeaked by Dayton, 10-7. The Detroit Panthers would roam the Corner from 1925 to 1926 before the Lions set up shop at Briggs Stadium in 1938. Except for 1940, the Lions called the Corner home until Nov. 28, 1974, when they lost, 31-27 to Denver.
The stadium became a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1975 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Though it Tiger Stadium was partially demolished, the field itself still remains at the Corner. Volunteers currently mow its lawn to keep the grass at the Corner looking pristine as it did during game days.

As recent as July of this year, things look positive for the old Tiger Stadium site. According to the article Old Tiger Stadium site in Detroit moves a step closer to getting a new baseball field by David Muller from the MLive website dated July 15, 2014 the plans call for:
The Detroit Economic Development Corporation approved a plan on Monday that would preserve the baseball field at the former Tiger Stadium site in Corktown while turning a large piece of the property over to Detroit Police Athletic League, a youth sports organization.
George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Development Corporation (DEGC) was quoted in the article Detroit PAL moves ahead with development plan for old Tiger Stadium site said in a statement by Kirk Pinho from Crain's Detroit Business dated July 16, 2014:
“Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy had an idea to preserve the site’s place in baseball’s past; Detroit PAL works with young baseball players to give them a better future. Together they have the opportunity to create a very active place. With the mixed-use development we also expect, this site will be significant in the continuing revitalization of Corktown.”
The field might no longer have the men wearing the "Old English D" on their uniforms running on its grass and dirt. But hopefully this field will be used by youth leagues and kids for generations to come.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Detroit Tigers Attendance, Stadiums, and Park Factors from Baseball
- Click here to access the post Tiger Stadium from the Ballparks of Baseball website
- Click here to access the post Bennett Park/Navin Field/ Briggs Stadium/Tiger Stadium: At the corner of Michigan and Trumbull southwest of downtown Detroit from the Detroit website
- Click here to access the article Closing Down Tiger Stadium in 1999 from the MISC Baseball blogpage dated August 22, 2010
- Click here to access the article Tiger Stadium by Scott Ferkovich from the SABR Baseball Biography Project
- Click here to access the article Old Tiger Stadium site in Detroit moves a step closer to getting a new baseball field by David Muller from the MLive website dated July 15, 2014
- Click here to access the article Detroit PAL moves ahead with development plan for old Tiger Stadium site said in a statement by Kirk Pinho from Crain's Detroit Business dated July 16, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

What A Magical Night In The Bronx September 25, 2014

Normally the words Magical and the Bronx aren't normally heard together in the same sentence. But sitting in my seats at Yankee Stadium last watching the events of the evening unfold in such a storybook manner were truly magical. You couldn't write the ending to that game any better. It was amazing to see the normally reserved Derek Jeter show some emotion. The ballpark was rocking, even after the Orioles tied the game in the 9th inning. People knew that they would get one last chance to see Jeter at the plate. He didn't disappoint.

Now I know what Yankees fans felt when Mickey Mantle walked off into the sunset. I know some of you will say that I am exaggerating when I say this but for Yankees fans like me who lived through the dark years of the late 80's and early 90's and the subsequent dynasty years of 1996-2001, Derek Jeter is our generation's Mantle. We saw him debut as a fresh faced prospect and walk away and elder of the game. The franchise now has to rebuild. The team has no face to it. No Captain. In essence the team has a clean slate. But I digress. I had the privilege as a season ticket holder of watching both Mariano Rivera's and Derek Jeter's last game in Yankee Pinstripes. Those were two experiences that I wouldn't trade for the world.

Thank you Derek Jeter for all the effort and moments you gave us Yankee fans during your twenty year career. Going to the ballpark in the Bronx next year will not be the same without you.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dodgers Play Last Home Game as Brooklyn Dodgers September 24, 1957

On this day in Baseball History September 24, 1957: In front of 6,702 fans, the Brooklyn Dodgers blank the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 behind Danny McDevitt's second shutout of the season. This would be the last Dodgers home game played as the Brooklyn Dodgers. Here is the box score for the September 24, 1957 game between the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Brooklyn Dodgers from the September 25, 1957 edition of the New York Times.

Though the move to Los Angeles would be made official by Walter O'Malley notifying the National League on October 8, 1957, many fans held out hope that the rumored move would not happen. Unfortunately for the Brooklyn faithful it was not to be so. The Dodgers would open their season against the San Francisco Giants at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on April 18, 1958.

Photo Courtesy of Baseball in Early Los Angeles
The demolition of Ebbets Field would begin on February 23, 1960, to be replaced with a housing development.

This photo depicts where Ebbets Field would be in relation to the
Jackie Robinson Apartment complex in Crown Heights. (Photo Courtesy:
The irony of the entire move is that area that O'Malley wanted to build his new stadium is the location of the Barclays Center which opened in 2012. Robert Moses vehemently opposed the move to that location. He would half-heartedly offer O'Malley the spot in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park which would eventually become home to the New York Mets in 1964: Shea Stadium. O'Malley left for the greener and sunnier pastures of Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Dodgers fans were left S.O.L.

The rest is Baseball History...

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Monday, September 22, 2014

Andre Dawson Steals His 300th Base September 22, 1990

On this day in Baseball History September 22, 1990: Andre Dawson of the Chicago Cubs steals his 300th base off of Ron Darling and Mackey Sasser of the New York Mets. The 300th stolen base is significant since it allowed Dawson to join Willie Mays as the only players to have hit 300 home runs, 300 stolen bases and 2000 hits.

Dawson hit his 300th home run against Ron Darling of the New York Mets on April 23, 1989 and gets his 2,000th hit against pitcher Jim Clancy of the Houston Astros at the Astrodome August 18, 1989.

Dawson would retire at the end of the 1996 season. He would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 with 78% of the vote (420/539 ballots).

Since Dawson joined Mays on the 300 Hit, 300 Stolen Base, and 2000 hit club, a number of other players have joined them. Who are they? I'll keep that one in the bag for a future post.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Andre Dawson's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article '89 brought milestones, playoffs for Dawson by Carrie Muskat from dated June 21, 2010
- Click here to access the article 1990: Andre Dawson of the CUBS stole his 300th base in an... from the Chicago Tribune dated September 22, 2004
- Click here to access the post Andre Dawson by Dan D'Addona for the SABR Baseball Biography Project
- Click here to access the blogpage Hawk 4 The Hall

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bob Welch Wins His 25th Game of the Season September 21, 1990

On this day in Baseball History September 21, 1990: Bob Welch of the Oakland A's defeats the Detroit Tigers at the Oakland Coliseum to become the first pitcher in a decade to win 25 games in a season. The last pitcher to win 25 games in a season was during the 1980 season when Steve Stone of the Baltimore Orioles reached the 25 win plateau.

Welch would go on to win 27 games with only 6 losses en-route to the American League Cy Young award. The Oakland A's would be upset in the 1990 World Series by the Cincinnati Reds. The last four pitchers to come close to the 25-win mark were Justin Verlander 24-6 (2011), Randy Johnson (2002), John Smoltz (1996) and Frank Viola (1988).

Bob Welch passed away earlier this year on June 9, 2014 at the age of 57

With Justin Verlander coming close to reaching 25 wins in 2011, will we see another pitcher come close to the 25 win plateau any time soon?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Bob Welch's career statistics from Baseball
- Click here to access the article Last 10 pitchers to win 25 games in a season by the Atlanta Journal Constitution
- Click here to access the blogpost 24-game winners over the last 24 years by Bill Chuck from the Billy-Ball blogpage on September 19, 2011