Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hank Aaron Passes The Babe April 8, 1974

"I have never gone out on a ballfield and given less than my personal best. When I hit it tonight, all I thought about was that I wanted to touch all the bases." - Hank Aaron


Amid the stress of trying to pass eternal fan favorite Babe Ruth on the All-Time Home Run List, Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron was finally able to connect for his 715th home run in front of the Hometown crowd at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, 40 years ago today. Under the cover of a light misty rain and facing a 1-0 count in the fourth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers starter Al Downing, Aaron was able to hit a 400-foot homer over the left-center field fence to step alone onto the main pedestal for the record that many had claimed would never be broken.

For video footage with interviews with Hank Aaron and Al Downing, watch the following video:


Aaron faced many obstacles on his road to 715. His path was littered by hate mail, threats to his family and life and the resistance by many people who refused to believe that a man of color could or should eclipse the Babe's hallowed record. But as the fastball that Downing offered to Aaron sailed over the fence, we saw a change in the game that started with World War II veteran and fellow Negro Leaguer Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson and continued with Arron rounding the bases with two white fans running side-by-side with him, not to harm him but to pat him on the back. To congratulate him on his achievement. To bask with Aaron not in a black or white thing but as fans, as people, as decent human beings.

Writing that just gave me goosebumps. The game of Baseball has not always been perfect when it came to race relations but Aaron reaching 715 was indeed a new step not only for Baseball but for many in this country who were still living with hatred and racism on a daily basis. But enough with the waxing poetically and being overly sentimental. :)

With Aaron's fourth inning homer, the game would be tied 3-3 and would eventually be won by the Braves 7-4. Here is the box score from the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. The Atlanta Braves, April 8, 1974:


Aaron would play for two more seasons, making the move to the American League with the Milwaukee Brewers. He would retire with 755 homers. Happy Anniversary Hammering Hank!!!!!

Until Then Play Ball

Monday, April 7, 2014

What Happened to Ricky Romero

Watching the Yankees vs. Blue Jays this past weekend made me wonder what had happened to Blue Jays pitcher Rickey Romero. Romero was touted as being one of the best young starters in the game when he came up with the Blue Jays in 2009. Romero showed constant improvement with each season following his call up.

Romero posted a 13-9 record and a 4.30 ERA in 2009, 14-9 record and 3.73 ERA with 3 complete games and 1 shutout in 2010 and an even better 2011 with a 15-11 record with a career best 2.92 ERA with 4 complete games and 2 shutouts as an American League All-Star selection. Based on those first three seasons, hopes were high on the left-handed Romero. But the wheels seemed to come off of the proverbial bus.


In 2012 Romero seemed to have regressed with a 9-14 record with a 5.77 ERA. In 2013, Romero seemed to hit rock bottom by starting the season in the minors. When he was finally called up, Romero put up two lackluster starts and was once again demoted to the minors. Romero went 5-8 with a 5.78 ERA in 22 starts with the Buffalo Bisons of the AAA International League. Romero was called up in September pitching twice in relief.

Romero seemed to not have done enough this Spring Training to warrant making the trip up from Dunedin. On March 19, 2014 Romero was sent down to Minor League camp and is currently on the roster for the 2014 Buffalo Bisons. What I find telling is that Romero is not on the 40-man roster for the Toronto Blue Jays.

This makes his road back to the majors that much more difficult. In order for Romero to be promoted to Toronto while not being on the 40-man roster, the Blue Jays would have to make room for him by waiving someone on the current 40-man roster. I'm not sure if the Blue Jays are willing to make that kind of choice based on the way Romero is pitching. This might mean a longer stay in the minors for Romero. For more on the 40-man roster, click on the article The 40-Man Roster: How Does It Work? From the Brew Crew blog page from January 4, 2009.

I would think that the best situation for Romero would be a change of scenery with a new organization. It seems that with Romero being signed through 2015 and with a 2016 $13.1 million dollar team option with $600k buyout might not be part of the Blue Jays organization past 2015. We'll have to wait and see what transpires.

Hopefully Romero can bounce back and make his way back to the majors.

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading
- Click Here to Access Ricky Romero's Career Major League Statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to Access Ricky Romero's Career Minor League Statistics from Buffalo Bisons website from MiLB.com


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hank Aaron Ties The Babe April 4, 1974

From the NYTimes Front Page
April 5, 1974
On April 4, 1974, 40 years ago at Riverfront Stadium in the National League city of Cincinnati, Ohio Henry "Hammering Hank" Aaron launched a pitch by Reds starter Jack Billingham during the first inning over the left-center field fence that would tie him with the man who simply went by the nickname of: The Babe.

The 400-foot line drive, 3-run home run tied Aaron at 714 career home runs with Ruth in front of a sellout crowd of 52,154 spectators. Aaron's 714th home run came in his 11,289th major league at-bat compared to Ruth reaching 714 in 8,399 major league at-bats.

What I never knew until reading the Dave Anderson article (whose PDF you can access on the link below) is that this was Opening Day, 1974.

Here is video footage of Aaron's home run from MLB's Youtube Channel:


The Braves would end up losing the game 7-6 in extra innings. Aaron would eventually pass Ruth three days later against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium.


Here is the box score for the April 4th game from the New York Times, April 5, 1974:


On April 8th, I will honor Aaron with a post on his passing Babe Ruth on the All-Time career Home Run List with his 715th career home run.

Until Then Play Ball,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Daniel Murphy's Paternity Leave Decision

First off I would like to extend Congratulations to Daniel Murphy on the birth of his first child earlier this week. It's the choice that he made by leaving the team for two games (three days) to be with his wife and child that has been criticized by a number of New York sports radio hosts. As a father of two, I find the comments to be irreprehensible and insensitive. Murphy did nothing wrong. The Paternity leave rule was collectively bargained in 2011 and calls for a 1-3 day leave on the birth of a child. For a radio host to make the following a statement it just shows how out of touch he is:
"One day I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help...What are you going to do? I mean you are going to sit there and look at your wife in a hospital bed for two days?” he mocked. “Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days; you know that you’re not doing much the first couple days with the baby that was just born."
It really is amazing how some announcers make themselves bigger than a story:
"I guarantee you are not sitting there holding your wife’s hand. . . . I had three kids. . . I was at the birth and was back to work the next day. I didn’t see any reason not to be working. Harrison (Francesa’s son) was born at nine in the morning. I worked that day. What was I gonna do, sit with my wife in the hospital?"
Well, that's great for you Mr. Francesca. I'll make sure to send you a Father of the Year card this Father's Day. Not to be left out of the jackassery, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said this:
“have a C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day, I’m sorry.”
Man, he's come a long way from that caring dad we saw in those commercials for cystic fibrosis years ago. Both of my kids were C-section babies and while my daughter was a planned C-section, my son wasn't. He was the first C-section child, the decision to do the C-section came after many hours of trying to get my son to be born naturally. So for a first born child as Murphy's child was, it's not that easy to say to just "have a C-section before the season starts." 

And following Esiason's comments came his partner, Craig Carton:
"Assuming the birth went well, the wife is fine, the baby is fine, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.”
Ok, enough of the douchiness. I think former Mets pitcher and current Mets announcer Ron Darling said it best before the start of today's the Mets' game against the Washington Nationals:
"Murphy does a really nice job of maneuvering around silliness that comes to him sometimes. He does a great job. Its 2014, it's not 1944. You're not sweating in a waiting room waiting to hand out cigars. It's a family thing you want to be together he was and I think it's great. Better families, better husbands, better the fathers. That's cool."
Amen. Thanks Ron for the logical and intelligent words. Blessings for Daniel Murphy, his wife and their new arrival.

On a side note, I wonder if people will say the same about Jimmy Rollins if he decides to take three days on his paternity leave.

Until Then Play Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading






Monday, March 31, 2014

Four Players to Play for the New York Yankees and Yomiuri Giants

I was watching the opening day game between the fabled Japanese league rivals Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants on One World Sports (@ONEWorldSports) when the announcer Ed Cohen (@edcohensports) mentioned that Giants legend Hideki Matsui was in the announcers booth at the Tokyo Dome. Cohen would talk about Matsui's career in Japan as well as his career with the New York Yankees (2003-2009). Cohen would mention that there have been four players to play for both the New York Yankees and the Tokyo/Yomiuri Giants.

1. Roy White
Photo Credit Japanese Baseball Cards
Roy White played his entire career with the New York Yankees (1965-1979) with a quiet style that contrasted to the legendary "Bronx Zoo" Yankees teams of the mid to late 1970's before making the trip over the Pacific to play for the Giants.

White played three seasons in Japan starting in 1980 (1980-1983) and would play alongside Japanese leagues legend Sadaharu Oh. White would make history when he hit three homers in the same game. One was a game tying homer and the last a game winning homer. White, being a switch hitter homered from both sides of the plate. Here is a video showing his homeruns.


White would help the Giants win Central League pennant and the Japan Series in 1981 and would retire from professional baseball after the 1982 season in Japan. Here are White's Japanese statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.com


2. Jesse Barfield
Photo Credit Japanese Baseball Cards
Barfield was a player with a cannon for an right arm while forming a dominant duo with George Bell on the Toronto Blue Jays teams in the mid-1980's. Barfield would be traded to New York in what seemed to be an unending series of trades that had the Yankees trading young prospects for veteran players. On April 30, 1989, Barfield was traded to the Yankees for pitcher Al Leiter and played in New York until 1992. Barfield would sign to play in Japan for the 1993 season.

According to the Random Jays Stuff tumblr post Jesse Barfield Yomiuri Giants 1993 BBM card:
the Yomiuri Giants gave him a chance in 1993, and signed him for a reported $1.7 million for the season. Jesse hit a two-run HR in his debut to help the Giants to victory, but by the All Star break he was only hitting .185. He wound up with a .215 average in 104 games, missing a month with a relapse of the wrist injury. He did manage to hit 26 HR (6th in the Central League) and his cannon arm still impressed, but had only 53 RBI and led the league in strikeouts with 127.

Still, the crosstown (Tokyo) rival and Central League pennant-winning Yakult Swallows offered Jesse a contract for the 1994 season, thinking they detected and could correct a big flaw in his swing, and he verbally agreed to a deal.

However Barfield was living in Houston in those days and when the Astros invited him to spring training for 1994 he took the risk (the Swallows offer was guaranteed, the Astros’ was not) and accepted the Houston offer instead. This displeased the Swallows’ management greatly, but Jesse ended up writing the team president a letter of apology. Jesse was projected to be the Astros’ opening day RF by some (James Mouton ended up playing the most games in RF that year), but again injuries held him back and he retired before the season began.

Interesting note on the 1993 Giants: Jesse’s teammates included Lloyd Moseby and a 19 year old Hideki Matsui.
Here are Jesse Barfield's statistics from his one season in Japan courtesy of Baseball Reference.com:


3. Mariano Duncan
Duncan was the man who was quoted as saying "We play today, we win today. That's it." while playing second base for the 1996 Yankees. Duncan has spent his entire career in the National League with the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies before signing as a free agent with the Yankees for the 1996 season. After he got into a public issue with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner during the 1997, Duncan would be traded to the Toronto Blue Jays (after a voided trade with Kenny Rogers to the San Diego Padres for slugger Greg Vaughn). Duncan would end up signing with the Tokyo Giants for the 1998 season. His contract was deemed to be between $1.5-million and $2.0-million dollars. Duncan did not have a very successful season in a limited role with the Giants.

In the article Mariano's Journey to the Far East Not Far Enough to Forget Boss by Rafael Hermoso from the New York Daily News website dated February 25, 1999, describes the difficulties Duncan had adjusting to the Japanese game:
Duncan's attempt to forget the Boss took him to Japan last season, a decision he now regrets and blames on his now being a non-roster invitee. "I wanted to go to Japan because I wanted to get my mind straight, I wanted to clear my mind of all the problems I went through in New York," Duncan said. "To tell you the truth, I think I made the wrong decision. For me, going to Japan almost cost my career.

" Duncan asked to be traded and was, twice. First he went to the Padres in the aborted Greg Vaughn deal, then to the Blue Jays for outfielder Angel Ramirez. Duncan's problems followed him to the Yomiuri Giants, where hit .232 with 10 home runs in 207 at-bats last season, saying he never adjusted to the Giants' strict management style. "Those guys are very difficult to play for," Duncan said. "They don't communicate with you. I only talked to the manager one time in seven months and that's not right. I wanted to know what was going on and nobody would tell me anything.

" "The politics of baseball," is what Bobby Valentine, who managed in Japan in 1995, called it. "They make it difficult.
Duncan would be a non-roster invitee with the New York Mets for the 1999 season and would not make the team and retired. Here are Mariano Duncan's Japanese statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.com:


4. Hideki Matsui
Photo Credit Japanese Baseball Cards
Matsui came over from the Yomiuri Giants in 2003 with a legendary reputation as a major home run hitter and major superstar in Japan. Matsui was a three-time Central League MVP award winner (1996, 2000, 2002) with nine all-star appearances in Japan and three Japan Series championship with MVP awards honors in the 2000 Japan Series. Here are Hideki Matsui's Japanese statistics from Baseball Reference.com:


During the exhibition series in Japan following the 2002 season, Matsui and Barry Bonds locked up in a homerun hitting contest with Bonds winning the event eight homers to Matsui's five. Here is the newspaper article Bonds beats Matsui in home run hitting contest from the Ludington Daily News from November 15, 2002 from the Google News Website:


The Yankees signed Matsui to a three-year $21-million dollar deal on December 19, 2002.  contract on December 19, 2002. Instead of the slugger the Yankees expected to sign, they received a complete player who never complained and let his bat and abilities in the field speak for him. They would later sign/extend him to a four-year $56 million dollar deal on November 15, 2005. According to Tyler Kepner in his article Matsui Signs With Yankees Just Before Deadline from the New York Times website dated November 16, 2005:
Matsui's previous contract stipulated that the Yankees had to release him and allow him to become a free agent if they did not sign him by Nov. 15. They would have then lost their rights to re-sign Matsui for six months...In signing before last night's deadline, Matsui forfeited his chance to test the free-agent market; he would have been among the best players available.
Matsui was a two-time All-Star (2003-2004), runner up for the 2003 American League Rookie of the Year award (which he should have won) and would end up winning the 2009 World Series MVP award in his last season with the Yankees. He would play for three more seasons before signing a one day contract with the Yankees and retiring as a Yankee in 2013.

(***AUTHOR'S NOTE I originally posted that the Yankees signed Matui to a six-year $73 million dollar contract in 2002. I was thankfully corrected by +Patrick Newman of the blogsite NPBTracker.com. He is also a regular contributor to the website JapaneseBaseball.com. Feel free to check out both sites to keep up with news and points of view on the world of Japanese Yakyū.)

If I happen to miss any other players to don the New York Yankees and Yomiuri Giants uniforms, please feel free to let me know. Happy Opening Day!!!!!

Until Then Play Ball
Baseball Sisco




Friday, March 28, 2014

Tony Mullane: The Apollo of the Box

I often wonder if the fans of the future will look back at today's players in the same way I look back of the players of yesteryear. I love reading stories of the characters that played the game back in the dead ball era. It seems to me that players today are so image conscious that genuine characters are few and far between. In reading The Emerald Diamond: How The Irish Transformed America's Greatest Pastime by Charley Rosen, One such character that I came across from the dead ball era was Anthony John "Tony" Mullane (January 30, 1859-April 25, 1944).

Now Mullane was a 13-year veteran of the American Association (Louisville, St. Louis, Toledo and Cincinnati) and National League (Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland) who compiled a 280-222 record with a 3.05 ERA winning 30 games in five consecutive seasons played (1882-1884/1886-1887). In 555 games started, he had 502 decisions with 468 complete games and 52 games finished out of the bullpen. He would strike out 1803 batters, walk 1408 and give up 4195 hits in 4531.1 innings pitched for a WHIP of 1.237. Pretty impressive. No? Well, it gets better.

According to Rosen:
Prominent among these Irishmen was Tony Mullane, who won 30 games in five consecutive seasons. During the 1880's, Mullane's excellence was rewarded with a average salary of $6,000 (equal to $85,000 in today's economy), which rightly placed him among the top earners of the time.
Because of his stylish clothes, his magnificent handlebar mustache, and his way with the ladies, Mullane had several nicknames, most notable "The Count" and the "Apollo of the Box." His incredible athleticism was proven both during and after he injured his right arm in throwing a baseball the prodigious distance of 416 feet, 7 3/4 inches, to demonstrate his strength. This feat was all the more remarkable since the leansome 5'10" Mullane only weight 165 pounds.
Mullane responded by pitching left-handed, with only minimal loss of effectiveness, until his right arm was fully healed.
The Apollo of the Box. Think about that. That meant that Mullane was a good looking dude to be compared to the Greek God Apollo. Check him out for yourself. What do you think. Back to the ambidextrous story.

In the article Two-Handed Approach: Ambidextrous pitching star Tony Mullane to be considered by Pre-Integration Era Committee By Bill Francis dated November 20, 2012 from the national Baseball Hall of Fame website, Mullane is quoted as recovering from his injury as follows:
“I simply put on two heavy sweaters, and although it hurt me even to raise my arm, I went to work and pitched ball after ball,” is how Mullane explained his method of recovery. “Great streams of perspiration poured off me, and it hurt me so badly that I had to grit my teeth. It was a case of grin and bear it. I was bound to work it out and I succeeded. The sweat did me good. Although the pain was intense I persevered and the soreness left me. The arm was a little weak at first, but now it’s as good as ever. Had I sat around nursing my sore arm, I am confident that I would not now be solid as a pitcher.”
Players today would have sat on the DL nursing the sore arm. Francis also states:
Among Mullane’s other notable pitching achievements was tossing a no-hitter for Louisville against Cincinnati on Sept. 11, 1882, and going all 20 innings, the record at the time for a big league contest, for Cincinnati against Chicago’s Ad Gumbert, who also went the distance, in a 7-7 tie on June 30, 1892.
I came across an article Cork’s Tony Mullane remains longshot for Hall of Fame by Dave Hannigan dated February 16, 2011 from the Irish Echo webpage that describes Mullane's chances at being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (he was not inducted). One angle the article touches on is how Mullane was a racist. While it was not right, it was not rare for the era. I'll let you read on that for yourselves if you feel so inclined to do so.

Mullane would end up retiring from the game in 1894 and served as an umpire before joining the Chicago Police Department, rising to the rank of Detective. He would pass away on April 25, 1944 at the age of 85.

As I come across some of the more colorful members of the professional baseball fraternity, I'll post about them for your reading pleasure.

Until Then Play Ball,
Sisco Kid


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joe Quinn The First Australian Major Leaguer

With the recent two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. The Arizona Diamondbacks played at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground, I wanted to take a look at someone I came across from reading The Emerald Diamond: How The Irish Transformed America's Greatest Pastime by Charley Rosen. Rosen highlights that in the late 1890's, one of the most popular baseball players of the era was an Australian-born Irishman by the name of Joe Quinn. Quinn not only was the first Australian-born major leaguer, he was also the first Australian-born manager of a major league team.

Born on Christmas Eve, 1864 in Sydney, Australia Joe Quinn would make his debut for the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association Baseball League in 1884. Quinn would bat .270 in his rookie season for the Maroons. Baseball politics of the era caused the rapid rise and falls of leagues and the Union Association (UA) was no different. Surviving for only one season, the UA's best team was the St. Louis Maroons that finished their initial season with a 94-19 record. Being the best of a dying league, the National League added the Maroons. In a sign of how weak the UA was, in 1885 the Maroons finished in dead last with a 36-72 with Quinn batting .21. He would play another season for the Maroons before being inactive for the 1887 season.

Quinn would return to professional baseball with the Boston Beaneaters in the National League for the 1888-1889 seasons before jumping ship to the Players League in 1890. Quinn was a tireless champion for players rights. According to the article Joe Quinn, the Australian baseball legend you’ve never heard of by Alex Brown of the Couriermail.com.au from March 21, 2014:
Nicknamed “Ol’ Reliable”, Quinn was a tireless campaigner for players’ rights during an era of rough-and-tumble industrial relations. Perhaps the best example of this was his role in a player rebellion against the draconian labour restrictions placed upon athletes by major league owners in 1890. He was a frontman, a mouthpiece, for the breakaway Players’ League and communicated their objectives to the press in defiance of the millionaire owners of National League ballclubs. The press respected him, the players loved him, the owners feared him.
The Players League came about due to the players bristling at the lack of freedom and options that they available to them due to the reserve clause. According to Scott Simkus author of Outsider Baseball: The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe 1876-1950:
In order to curb escalating salaries, big-league owners formally adopted the first official version of the reserve clause in December 1879. During this era, all players signed one-year contracts, but under the new clause, teams were able to "reserve" the services of a certain number of players for the upcoming season, even after their contracts had expired. By 1885, the reserve clause was expanded to include everybody. players were forbidden from shopping their services to other clubs or leagues and therefore had almost zero leverage when negotiating compensation issues with their employers. About the only thing players could do, when dickering over contract details, was threaten to hold out. At the time, it was either shut up and sign the contract or hunker down in a nerve-racking one-man player strike.
In one season for the Boston franchise in the Players League, Quinn would bat .301 . Upon the demise of the Players League after their only season, Quinn would return to the National League Boston Beaneaters for two more season before being traded to the St. Louis Browns for the 1893 season. It was during this season, that Quinn was recognized by the Sporting News as being the most popular Baseball Player in America. Quinn would become the player/manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1895 leading the team to a 11-28 record. Quinn would play in St. Louis until part of the 1896 season when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in the National League (not the same Baltimore Orioles franchise that exists today in the American League). 

Quinn would return to player/managing with the Cleveland Spiders in 1899. The team is arguably the worst professional baseball team to play for any league. The Spiders would finish the 1899 season with a 12-104  record (.103 winning percentage). Alex Brown sheds light on why this team was so bad in his article Joe Quinn, the Australian baseball legend you’ve never heard of by Alex Brown of the Couriermail.com.au:
Quinn had the dubious distinction of captain/coaching the Cleveland Spiders to a 12-104 season record - finishing a whopping 84 games out of first place. The 1899 Spiders, nicknamed “The Misfits” by the local press, are considered the worst team in major league history. But fault can hardly be levelled at Quinn. The team’s fate was effectively sealed when team owner Frank Robison sent all Cleveland’s best players to the St Louis Cardinals, who he also owned.
Quinn play for a handful of National League teams before jumping ship to a new rival of the National League: Ban Johnson's American League. Quinn would finish his playing career with the Washington Senators in 1901 with a .252 average. In seventeen seasons, Quinn would have a lifetime .262 batting with a slash line of .302/.328/.631. Quinn would score 893 with 1800 hits (228 2B/70 3B/30 HR) with 796 RBI, 268 stolen bases, 365 walks and 294 strikeouts. Quinn would also have a 23-132 record in (.148 winning percentage) two seasons as a manager.

Last year Quinn was inducted into the Australian Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Australian journalist and librarian Rochelle Llewelyn Nicholls will have a biography of Joe Quinn released later this year entitiled “Joe Quinn - Among The Rowdies”.

For Further Reading
- Click Here to access Joe Quinn's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to read the article Australian Baseball: A Brief History by official MLB historian John Thorn dated March 3, 2014