Monday, September 1, 2014

Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese player in MLB September 1, 1964

On this day in Baseball History September 1, 1964: Relief  pitcher Masanori Murakami becomes the first Japanese baseball player to play in the major leagues. Murakami pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the San Francisco Giants in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Murakami contractual rights were owned by the Nankai Hawks of the Nippon Professional League (NPB). The Hawks had established a prospect exchange program with the San Francisco Giants Nankai Hawks in a temporary prospect exchange program. Murakami would start his United States baseball career with the Class A Fresno Giants. He would put up an 11-7 record with a 1.78 ERA in Fresno before being called up to the big leagues.

Murakami’s first year in the majors proved to be successful, with a 1-0 record in nine appearances and a 1.80 ERA and one save. After the 1964 season the Nankai Hawks asked Murakami to return to Japan, but the Giants refused on the grounds they had Murakami under contract causing some ill feelings between the two leagues.

After reviewing the contract that were signed by the league and Murakami, the Japanese baseball commissioner intervened, negotiating a compromise. Murakami spent 1965 with the Giants, going 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA and eight saves in 45 relief appearances with 85 strikeouts to 22 walks. In 1966, he returned to Japan, to pitcher for the Nankai Hawks. He would play for the Hawks (1963/1966-1974), the Hanshin Tigers (1975) and the Nippon Ham Fighters (1976-1982) of the NPB.

For an in-depth biography on Murakami, click on the link Masanori Murakami from the Baseball Bullpen page. Here is the boxscore to the September 1, 1964 matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets from the September 2, 1964 edition of the New York Times:

Here is the MLB Network video Remembering Masanori Murakami:

It would be until 1995, that a Japanese-born player would don a uniform for a Major League team when Hideo Nomo joined the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Recently the San Francisco Giants honored Masanori Murakami before a Giants game. Though his MLB career was short, he helped to build the path that many Japanese baseball players are using today in the MLB. As customary the last few offseasons, we've been watching to see who is the next player to leave the NPB for the MLB. Who will it be this year.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's minor league statistics for the 1964 season from Baseball
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's major league statistics for the 1964-1965 seasons from Baseball Almanac
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's Nippon Professional Baseball statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Masanori Murakami's complete professional statistics (Japan/US) from
- Click Here to access Growing the Game: The Globalization of Major League Baseball by Alan M. Klein from Google Books
- Click Here to access Remembering Japanese Baseball by Robert K. Fitts from Google Books.
- Click Here to access The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2007-2008
 edited by William M. Simons from Google Books
- Click Here to access 50 Years Ago Today: Masanori Murakami Arrives in Arizona for Spring Training from Bill Staples Jr's blogpage dated March 14, 2014
- Click Here to access the article Japan’s Baseball Trail Blazer (Interview with Masanori Murakami by Matthew Hernon) from Tokyo Weekender dated March 8, 2012

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Griffeys Play In The Same Game For First Time August 31, 1990

On this day in Baseball History August 31, 1990: Father and son duo Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr., became the first father and son duo to play in the same game for the Seattle Mariners against the Kansas City Royals at the Seattle Kingdom. Griffey Sr. and Griffey Jr. batted second and third respectively in the lineup. The game also marked the first time that a father and son duo would both get hits, back to back as a matter of fact, in the same game.

The article Griffey Sr. and Jr. first to play together in MLB by Larry Schwartz for ESPN Classic from dated November 19, 2003 describe how Ken Griffey Jr., felt during that fateful game:
Aug. 31, 1990

Signed two days ago by the Seattle Mariners after being released by the Cincinnati Reds, 40-year-old Ken Griffey Sr. is about to make history tonight with his 20-year-old son. They are the first father-and-son tandem to play in a major-league game. Earlier in the day, Griffey Jr. tells family agent Brian Goldberg, "It's really going to be weird tonight, playing with my dad." Later that afternoon, Griffey Sr. tells Goldberg, "It's going to be weird tonight, playing with my son."

As the Griffey's trot to their positions, center-fielder Jr. gives his dad, in left, a quick wave. In the bottom of the first inning, Sr., batting second, singles, the 2,091st hit in his 18-year career. Jr. follows with a single (No. 275). Both score in the Mariners' 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

"I wanted to cry or something," Jr. says after going 1-for-4, same as dad. "It just seemed like a father-son game, like we were out playing catch in the backyard. But we were actually playing a real game.

"The weird thing was all the guys are yelling, 'Let's go, Ken,' and I'm yelling, 'Let's go, Dad.'"
The boxscore for that game can be found on the Baseball website: August 31, 1990 Kansas City Royals vs. Seattle Mariners

The MLB Network's Remembering Griffey dad and son:

The Griffeys would make more history in the 1990 season becoming the first father and son duo to hit back-to-back home runs off of California Angels starter Kirk McCaskill.

Here's video footage of the Griffeys hitting back-to-back homeruns:

Truly special moments in major league history. Will we ever see another father and son duo playing together in the major leagues? Only time will tell.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Ken Griffey Sr.'s career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Ken Griffey Jr.'s career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access the article Griffeys made home run history in '90: Father, son first to go back-to-back in Major Leagues by Patrick Brown from dated August 8, 2007

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ty Cobb Makes His Debut Against The New York Highlanders August 30, 1905

On this day in Baseball History August 30, 1905: Tyrus Raymond Cobb or simply known as Ty Cobb made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers against Jack Chesbro and the New York Highlanders at Detroit's Bennett Park at the age of 18. Now I could go on and wax poetically about how Cobb faced off against Chesbro in a battle of future Hall of Famers. But you know what, I'll let Mr. Cobb speak for himself on his debut day in the majors. From the pages 17-19 of the book Ty Cobb: My Life in Baseball with Al Stump:
Warming up for the New York Highlanders was the legendary Wee Willie Keeler, onlt 5 feet 4 1/2 inches and 140 pounds, but a placement hitter beyond compare. With his choked-up bottle bat, Keeler had averaged as high as .432. A fourteen-year veteran, he had yet to hit under .300. At second base was the great Kid Elberfield himself. The New York pitcher was Jack Chesbro, the original master of the spitball who'd won a record 41 games the season before. On our side was Wahoo Sam Crawford and Bobby Lowe, first man to hit four home runs in one game. And Germany Schaefer, who stole bases in reverse to demonstrate his genius. Until that day- my first in a big-time park -I'd never dreamed that men could field and hit so wonderfully. Such speed, class, style, speedy maneuvering, and lightning thinking! It seemed miles beyond anything that I could ever do. When the bell rang, I found myself in a duel by artists at the art of extracting every last inch of opportunity from every situation. And they went at it with a red-eyed determination I could not believe. On one play, Kid Elberfield tried to bump Schaefer off his running line as he raced for third, and Germany dumped him on his head for it. "Rowdy Bill" Coughlin, our third baseman, flew at umpire Silk O'Loughlin and was thrown out. Frank Delahanty of New York made a diving, somersaulting catch that left me wide-eyed. Later, Delahanty was carried away after tearing ankle tendons while trying to stretch a double into a triple. He was through for the season.
And in terms of his matchup against Chesbro?
When Chesbro cranked and fired his overhand spitter-loaded with slippery elm-it came up to the plate like a standard fastball, and then took a diabolical dive under your bat.

Armour had me, a babe-in-the-woods, batting fifth in the line-up!

What did they say about me the next day? The Detroit Journal of August 31, 1905, wasted few words: "Cobb, the juvenile outfield from Augusta, made his first appearance and was given a hospitable hand. He comes up to expectation."

The Free Press had a little more to say:

"Cobb got away well. For a young man anxious to get along in the world, it was not an auspicious situation as he faced Mr. Chesbro, the American League's finest twirler. In addition, Tyrus had the bad luck to confront Chesbro on two occasions when two men were out and a man waiting to score-a base hit being the only thing of value. First time up, Chesbro pour two fast strikes past the uneasy lad. But then the Georgian whaled the next one over Eddie Hahn's head and off the center field wall, for a delightful double that scored his man. Second time up he drew a walk and was thrown out stealing. In the field he was adequate
"Tyrus was well-received and may consider a two-ball pry-up a much better career opener than usually comes a young fellow's way."

We beat Chesbro 5-3, and I actually made a clean hit off the meanest delivery in the business. That night I was floating off the ground.
A few things stand out to me from the two italicized passages. One is that I love the use of the word "Twirler" to describe the pitcher. I'm going to try and bring that word back into usage. LOL. Second is how Cobb describes how Chesbro was the master spitballer. Cobb on page 57 goes into what pitchers used to gain mastery in the delivery of the spitter:
Pitchers dosed baseballs with licorice, talcum, slippery elm, and saliva flavored with tobacco until they came at the hitter so discolored that he could hardly pick them out of the shadows
It is always a treat for me to read the exploits of a by-gone era of Baseball History in the words of players that played the game. In today's era of the instant blurb and quip on social media and the 24-hour news cycle on a multitude of sports channels, to reach back into history for the exact feelings of a player such as Cobb is more than I can ever do in placing words down on this blogpost.

Well, there you go. Straight from the Georgia Peach's mouth. Here boxscore for Ty Cobb's debut in the majors August 30, 1905 from the New York Times August 31, 1905.

Regardless of how you personally feel about Cobb, there's no denying that we'll never see a player like him in today's baseball. Some might say thankfully so, but they definitely broke the mold when Cobb was made.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Ty Cobb's career statistics from Baseball

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Trio of Baseball Highlights on August 29

There were a few things of note that happened in Baseball History on August 29th.

August 29, 1972
San Francisco Giants pitcher Jim Barr retires the first 20 batters he faces in St. Louis against the Cardinals after he had retired the last 21 he retired in his last start against the Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco's Candlestick Park for a then major league (Mark Buerhle retired 45 in 2009) and until recently a National League record 41 in a row. Ironically, both the National League and the Major League records for consecutive retired batters in a row was just broken yesterday by Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit who retired 46 consecutive batters before allowing a hit.

For Further Reading:

August 29, 1977
Since I seem to have mentioned St Louis Cardinals speedster Lou Brock as of late, on today's date in 1977, Brock passed Hall of Famer Ty Cobb's 49-year-old career stolen bases record which stood at 893 in a 4-3 loss against the San Diego Padres in San Diego. Brock would finish his career with 938 stolen bases over an 18-year career and would be the All-Time stolen base king until Rickey Henderson would break his record on May 1, 1991.

For Further Reading:

August 29, 1987
Staying with another player that I have seemed to be writing about as of late, Nolan Ryan passes the 200-strikeout barrier for a record 11th time. Ryan set the record for the Houston Astros in a 7-strikeout game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh. Ryan would have another four 200+ strikeout seasons and set the bar at 15 seasons (Angels 7/Astros 5/Rangers 3) with 200+ strikeouts. Out of those 15 seasons, Ryan led the league in strikeouts 11 times. Roger Clemens with 11 and Tom Seaver with 10 are next on the list.

For Further Reading:

Well, these are three events in Baseball History out of probably an unlimited amount of events. As I keep coming across them, I'll keep posting them.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rickey Henderson Passes Lou Brock With His 119th Stolen Base August 27, 1982

On this day in Baseball history August 27, 1982: Oakland A's speedster Rickey Henderson steals second base on a pitchout against Milwaukee Brewers starter Doc Medich to pass Lou Brock on the single season stolen base list. Brock set his career high of 118 stolen bases in 1974. By the time the game was over, Henderson would steal four bases giving him 122 for the season. Rickey would finish the season with 130 stolen bases.

And here is where things get a little murky.

I grew up thinking that with Rickey Henderson's 119th stolen base, he became the single season stolen base leader. Getting a total of 130 steals for the 1982 season would be the benchmark that many players would have a hard time matching let alone eclipsing. Now, I'm going to ask that you go to either the page for the Single Season Stolen Base Record or the Baseball page for the Single Season Stolen Base Record. Who do you see listed at number 1 on that list. In case you don't want to check out the links, here are a few screenshots

Ok. Still don't believe what you see? Here's one more screenshot, this one from the Baseball Single Season Stolen Base list:

Some of you out there are thinking to yourselves: Who the hell is Hugh Nicol. High Nicol played for the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the old American Association (AA). The AA played alongside the National League from 1882-1891 before merging with the National League. Four National League franchises have roots in the old AA: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The article American Association remembered: MLB celebrates impact of the 'Beer and Whiskey League' by Mark Sheldon from dated May 2, 2007 states the following which might clarify things a bit:
Only the Cubs and Braves have been continuously in the National League since its 1876 founding. The Reds, Cardinals and Pirates remain NL Central Division foes and have one of sport's longest-lasting rivalries. The Dodgers, who were formed in 1884 as the Atlantics, also started in the American Association. Like the Reds, Brooklyn joined the National League for the 1890 season.

"All of these teams have their roots in the American Association," Nemec said. "Really, the National League actually has stronger roots in the American Association in some ways than it does National League roots."

Eventually, the American Association was recognized as a full-fledged Major League and all of its players' statistics and career highlights are counted accordingly in the annals of Major League history.
So there in is the A-HA!!! moment. The AA and their statistics are recognized by MLB as being accumulated as a Major League. In addition to the AA, the Federal League (1914-1915), the Players League (1890) and the Union Association (1884) are all recognized as being a Major League. The question I have is when were the statistics of the AA formally recognized by MLB.

I sent a tweet to Mr. John Thorn who is the official historian for MLB. Here is what he said:
My other question to Mr. Thorn was concerning the treatment of the AA's statistics as being "Pre-Modern" in the context of today's "Modern" stats:

That makes perfect sense. I'm sure there will be fans that will dispute this and say that Rickey Henderson is the single season stolen bases record holder and not Hugh Nicol who played for the American Association back in the 1880's. If so, then what can you do. Based on MLB's position in terms of its history and the fact MLB has Rickey as number two on the list behind Hugh Nicol then who am I to argue that.

Many thanks to Mr. Thorn for his actually getting back to me. There are many Baseball historians and experts on Twitter whom I have asked questions of and never gotten a response, let alone numerous prompt responses. Definitely give him a follow @thorn_john.

On an aside, if you want to know more of the "Beer and Whiskey" league that was the American Association, I recommend you pick up the book: The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game by Edward Achorn. It is quite the entertaining book and provides amazing insight to the early years of organized Baseball. I think you all will like it.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Rickey Henderson's career statistics at Baseball
- Click Here to access the article MLB's 200,000th game: How it was determined by John Thorn from dated September 23, 2011

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Walter Johnson's 16-Game Win Streak Ends August 26, 1912

On this day in Baseball History August 26, 1912: Walter "Big Train" Johnson's 16-game win streak ends in a 3-2 loss against the St. Louis Browns under controversial circumstances. Before I go into the particulars of the controversy, I wanted to touch upon the win streak itself.

Johnson was aiming for the Major League record of 19-straight victories which is held by Rube Marquard of the New York Giants who established the record earlier in that 1912 season. Johnson would tie for the American League record with Smoky Joe Wood of the Boston Red Sox who also won 16-straight games in 1912. Two other American League pitchers would reach the 16-straight wins plateau set by Johnson and Wood in 1912. Lefty Grove of Philadelphia Athletics did so in 1931 and Schoolboy Rowe's 16-game accomplished the feat in 1934 for the Detroit Tigers. For an interesting breakdown on winning streaks from 1900-1977, I recommend you read the article Winning Streaks by Pitchers by Ronald G. Liebman from the SABR Journal Research Archive. Now for the controversy.

I was lucky enough to be able to access the box scores of both the New York Times via its TimesMachine feature and Washington Times 1902-1939 through the Chronicling America website of the Library of Congress. This game shows us how different the game of Baseball was back in 1912 compared to today.

The Washington Senators were facing the St. Louis Browns and starting pitcher Tom Hughes be responsible for two runners in top of the seventh when Johnson came in to relieve him. Here is how the article Nationals Break Even in Double Bill With Browns from the The Washington times., August 27, 1912, LAST EDITION, Page 10, Image 10:
The seventh saw the final tally counted for the Climbers, and a batting streak nipped bv Burt Shotton. With one down Ainsmith bounced one past Austin. Johnson walked. Milan, after fouling to the right field fence close to the chalkline, breezed. Foster's clean single scored Ainsmith and put Johnson on second. Then came Laporte's great drive and Shotton's greater catch.

Wallace walked In the fifth and Krichell scratched a safety to Foster, who lost the ball In the sun. Hamilton's sacrifice sent them up a cushion, and Wallace scored on Shotton's single to right Krichell came over on Compton's long hoist to Shanks.

Again Wallace and Krichell did the dirty work in the seventh, scoring the runs that won the game. Wallace singled and Krichell walked. Hamilton's bunt was a little pop to Hughes close to the line, and then came Walter Johnson into the battle with one gone and two on. Shotton never saw the ball and fanned weakly. A wild pitch had put Wallace on third, and Krichell on second and both rushed over when Compton burnt a safety to center, Williams was called out on strikes.

After that seventh the Browns could do nothing with Johnson. But they had done enough for they had put Johnson's great winning streak in danger, and It will take mature reflection on the part of the league boss, conferences with Umpires Evans and Egan and a persual of the official score to determine whether or not the defeat should be charged to Johnson or Hughes.
Now it seems with the score 3-2 in favor of the Senators with two runners on base which were the responsibility of Hughes when Johnson came in. Now here is where the game was different then from now.

Senators manager Clark Griffith is bringing in his ace to shutdown the game in the seventh inning. To put that in a modern context, that would be similar to Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon bringing in Felix Hernandez to hold a lead in the seventh inning. What I find amazing is that Johnson was to start the next game on the August 27 against the Browns. Though by today's rules, the runs that scored would be charged to Hughes and the loss given to him. But in Ban Johnson's American League of 1912 that was not to be so.

In the article Johnson Explains Strange Decision by "The Senator" from the The Washington times., August 28, 1912, LAST EDITION, Page 10, Image 10:
Ban Johnson, the boss of The American League, and interpreter of its rules, has at last explained his line of reasoning in charging Monday's defeat to Walter Johnson instead of to Tom Hughes.

"While he did not allow the two men, who scored and thereby assured St. Louis its victory, to become base runners at his expense, Johnson was, nevertheless, responsible for the fact that they did score," says the archon of the league.

"He allowed a hit and was guilty of a wild pitch. He had a chance to win the game by saving it. He failed. Therefore, he is entitled to shoulder the blame. I have announced officially that Johnson's winning record concludes with his sixteenth straight triumph."

"I believe in pitchers earning their records. Naturally, I would like to see Johnson or any other pitcher in my league honor it with a record, but he must earn it if he does. I will stand for no subterfuge."
And people complain about Bud Selig. Imagine a decision like this coming down today in the era of social media and instant news. To further add to the point, The Senator continues:
The painful thing about Ban Johnson's decision is that what he says goes. Johnson must rest with his sixteen straight games, even though Hughes is responsible for Monday's defeat in the minds of all fair-minded fans. He rules contrary to precedent of years in the National League, the parent body of the national game.

John A. Heydler, of this city, secretary of the National League and a recognized authority on the interpretation of baseball rules, says that it has been an invariable rule to charge such a defeat to the retiring pitcher. When it comes to an issue between Heydler and Johnson, few followers of baseball will lean toward the boss of the American League. They believe that Heydler knows more about the matter than does Johnson.

"My ruling In such cases has always been just opposite," said Heydler today. "I have always held that if a first pitcher leaves the game with a man on base one or more and a score is made by the men off the second pitcher it is charged against the first."

"That is my rule and always will be. I don't know of any exact precedent. If President Johnson says the record is broken it is broken. He is the one to decide in his league."
What did Walter Johnson think of the decision? The Senator continues:
Walter Johnson, who stood an excellent chance of bettering Rube Marquard's mark of nineteen straight victories, smiles and says nothing regarding the decision of Ban Johnson. Walter does not work for records particularly. He cares little whether or not he wins twenty in a row so long as he wins the twenty. That suits him. He refuses to discuss the decision, saying it has little interest for him.
Here is the box score for the controversial game:

 Published August 28, 1912 The WashingtonTimes 
In the end, Johnson would lose his next start the old fashioned way against the Browns. The New York Times listing for the game with box score describes the games activities. What I find interesting in this post (as you'll see down below) is that the post says that this loss broke Johnson's win streak, rather than the decision by Ban Johnson as I highlighted above from the Washington Times articles.

In the end, Johnson would finish the 1912 season with a 33-12 record with a 1.35 ERA. I could go into listing the incredible statistics that Johnson put up that season. I'll put it here as a picture courtesy of Baseball Just don't drool while you sit with you mouth open when looking over the stats ;)

Walter Johnson's Career Statistics from Baseball

Will we ever see another stretch like Walter Johnson's in term of a consecutive game winning streak by a starter? Guess we'll have to wait and see if it ever happens.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dr. K Becomes the Youngest 20-Game Winner August 25, 1985

On this day in Baseball History August 25, 1985: New York Mets pitcher Dwight "Dr. K" Gooden becomes the youngest 20-game winner in Major League Baseball history. Upon defeating the San Diego Padres 9-3 at Shea Stadium, Gooden was 20 years, nine months and nine days old. Bob Feller was 20 years and ten months and five days old when he won his 20th against the St. Louis Browns on September 8, 1939. At the time of his 20th win, Gooden had only three losses for the season and would only lose one more game which happened during his next start. His last six starts of the season would be just phenomenal.

Gooden would finish the season with four straight wins, of which three were complete games, two of those shutouts with two nine-inning starts (taken out after the ninth due to extra innings) and an eight inning start. He would finish with a 24-4 record with a league best 1.53 ERA, 16 complete games with 8 shutouts, 276.2 innings pitches. He gave up 198 hits with 268 strikeouts and only 69 walks for a WHIP of 0.965.

Gooden would follow his Rookie of the Year campaign and runner up for the National League Cy Young Award in 1984 with the National League Cy Young Award for the 1985 season and a fourth place finish in the National League MVP Race.

Too bad the fast life and drugs of the 1980's led to his eventual downfall. Even though I wasn't a Mets fan, watching a young Dwight Gooden was an event each and everytime.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click here to access Dwight Gooden's career statistics from Baseball